Review of Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig

December 20, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Mockingbird by Chuck WendigMockingbird (Miriam Black #2)
By Chuck Wendig; Read by Emily Beresford
Publisher: Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio
Published: 2012
Length: 9 hours [UNABRIDGED]
ISBN: 978-1-4692-0889-3

Themes: / fantasy / urban fantasy / psychic / powers / death /

Publisher Summary:

This whole “settling down thing” that Louis has going for her just isn’t working out. Still, she’s keeping her psychic ability – to see when and how someone is going to die just by touching them – in check. But even that feels wrong, somehow. Like she’s keeping a tornado stoppered up in a tiny bottle.

Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds was my favorite read of 2012, introducing the character Miriam Black and promising of further adventures. The book trailer featuring narration by Dan O’Shea really intrigued my interest as to the powerful oratory nature of the book’s narrative and convinced me that I should continue the series via the audiobook route. The audiobooks are narrated by Emily Beresford and at first the very pleasant tone defied expectations, but given the book’s initial divergent nature from the first volume I ended up finding the narration to serve quite well. I am sure if I had started this series on audiobook, I would have enjoyed the first installment equally.

Just one touch and Miriam Black can see the specific details of one’s death including the date and all the potentially gory details. Blackbirds introduces Miriam as a transient wandering from one death scene to another and exploiting her abilities for financial gain. After all, any attempts to intervene with the fate yield disastrous outcomes so why not profit from her ability? Without spoiling the details, the end of that book leads Miriam desperately trying to circumvent another future that has been written in stone, or at least written in her journal she keeps of all her deadly visions.

The outcome of this first novel leads Miriam to settle down and try to make it without the use of her powers at the onset of Mockingbird. Needless to say, events quickly transpire and she is called to use her powers and once again finds herself going head to head with fate and even an apparent serial killer joins the mix as well. The novel builds and expands on concepts and characters introduced in the first novel and I highly recommend to anyone who enjoyed the first installment. I did miss having an author’s afterword as in the first novel which serves as a bridge between the two novels. I hope that the afterword’s promise of many more potential Miriam Black novels is fulfilled.

Book Trailer for Blackbird and Mockingird:

Review by Dan VK

Review Of Mindstar Rising (Greg Mandel, #1) By Peter F. Hamilton

January 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Mindstar Rising (Greg Mandel, #1)
By Peter F. Hamilton; Read by Toby Longworth
Audible Download – 14 Hours 52 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible Frontiers
Published: December 1st 2011
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mystery / Global Warming / Psychic Abilities

It’s the 21st century, and global warming is here to stay, so forget the way your country used to look. And get used to the free market, too – the companies possess all the best hardware, and they’re calling the shots now. In a world like this, a man open to any offers can make out just fine.

A man like Greg Mandel for instance, who’s psi-boosted, wired into the latest sensory equipment, carrying state-of-the-art weaponry – and late of the English Army’s Mindstar Battalion. As the cartels battle for control of a revolutionary new power source, and corporate greed outstrips national security, tension is mounting to boiling point – and Greg Mandel is about to face the ultimate test.

This is an older Peter F. Hamilton novel, first published in 1993.  It’s relatively short compared to his later books.  Just this year it got reprinted in America with Quantum Murder as one book.  (I guess thick books sell more?)  It has also just gotten the audio treatment from Audible Frontiers.  Peter F. Hamilton is kind of a potboiler sf writer, and yet he’s really smart.  He seems to put a lot of research into his scenes, including some science.  Sometimes I feel like he’s giving too many details compared to someone like Joe Haldeman, and I get a little restless.   Maybe it’s my fault and I’m getting confused, which is easier to do in an audiobook.  But then something shocking or intense happens, and it keeps me going.  Plus his character development is above average for a genre writer.  And he doesn’t shy away from sex or violence as much as other writers.  I feel like he writes for adults.  If you thought the Night’s Dawn or Void trilogies had too many fantasy elements, you might prefer this series.  It is more straight science fiction.  That’s assuming you don’t consider psychic abilities to be fantasy.  At least they’re framed here in a scientific way.  You may encounter some libertarian political messages as well.  The setting is a post global warming world where a Leftist government has left England in shambles.  It will become important to the plot.

I happen to know that Hamilton is a plotter and outlines in advance.  I experienced the ‘Connie Willis effect’ while reading — I wasn’t sure why a certain character or location was introduced, but then it all tied together in the end.  The last three or four hours here really cooked.  He can describe beam weapons and explosions well.  (Compare the end of his The Neutronium Alchemist with the end of Samuel R. Delany’s Nova.)  Although I caution you there’s a somewhat grisly escape.  And I don’t like the word ‘tropes’, but some of the ‘cool stuff’ you’ll see in this novel are mind uploading, cybernetic brain enhancement, and genetically enhanced animals.

No messing.

Posted by Tamahome

 

Review of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

February 28, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audiobook - A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'EngleA Wrinkle in Time
By Madeleine L’Engle; Read by Madeleine L’Engle
5 CDs – Approx. 5 Hours 17 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House/Listening Library
Published: 2005
ISBN: 0307243230<
Themes: / Fantasy / Space travel / Family / YA / Psychic Abilities / Newberry /

The elementary school I attended as a kid had a big poster in the library showing the covers of all the Newberry Medal award winners. I remember A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle jumping off of the poster; the cover featured an almost photo-realistic mother-of-pearl centaur that was pretty damn cool looking to a ten year-old. I checked the book out, read it, and loved it, but my recent listen of the new audio edition of A Wrinkle in Time (Listening Library, 2005) made me wonder how much of the book I really understood as a kid. I’ve often thought that they should just come right out and say that books win the Newberry Medal not because they are outstanding children’s books, but rather outstanding children’s books for adults. A Wrinkle in Time definitely falls within this category. The fast-moving story and sympathetic characters definitely make it appealing to kids, but, like Philip Pullman’s stuff , there are thematic elements that are very mature, and maybe even a little subversive. If the book were any less intelligently or subtly written, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it show up on banned-book lists.

L’Engle reads the book herself, and does a fine job. She obviously has an intimate understanding of the material, and her expressive voice lets her keep the story flowing without having to use different voices to distinguish the characters. L’Engle apparently suffered a cerebral stroke in 2002, the effects of which are obvious in her voice; it’s slurred a lot like Johnny Cash’s on his later albums. The only criticism I have of this production is of the decision to use an echo effect for the dialogue of Ms. Which. In the book all of this character’s dialogue appeared in italics, but the in the audio book, the effect comes off as a little cheap.

The audiobook starts off with an introduction explaining how L’Engle read the story to her children as she was writing it. Those were some lucky kids. Hop in bed with A Wrinkle in Time, some cocoa and some good headphones and you’ll probably come pretty close to recreating that experience.