In the Unnatural Quarter, golems slave away in sweatshops, necromancers sell black-market trinkets to tourists, and the dead rise up — to work the night shift. But zombie detective Dan Shamble is no ordinary working stiff. When a local senator and his goons picket a ghostly production of Shakespeare in the Dark — condemning the troupe’s “unnatural” lifestyles — Dan smells something rotten. And if something smells rotten to a zombie, you’re in serious trouble… Before his way of life, er, death, is destroyed, Dan wants answers. Along the way he needs to provide security for a mummified madame, defend a mixed-race couple (he’s a vampire, she’s a werewolf) from housing discrimination, and save his favorite watering hole, the Goblin Tavern, from drying up. Throw in a hairy hitman, a necro-maniac, and a bank robber who walks through walls, and Dan Shamble’s plate is full. Maybe this time, the zombie detective has bitten off more than he can chew.
This is book 2 of Kevin J. Anderson’s Zombie P.I. series. If you listened to the first book, you pretty much know what to expect from the second book. If you haven’t read the first book, this book is a hard-boiled detective novel with a silly, monster slant on it. The problems being investigated are unique to the “unnaturals” and tend to have some amount of humor involved in a Terry Pratchett/Douglas Adams kind of way. You can easily start with this book but if you care about spoilers, I would definitely recommend starting with the first book since the conclusion of that book is apparent in book 2.
If you like awkward or silly situations dealing with the paranormal, this is your book. If you like groan-worthy puns dealing with the paranormal and sex, this is definitely your book (I’m not kidding when I say I inadvertently groaned at some of them). If those kinds of things can get on your nerves, this may not be your kind of book. That said, the book keeps up a good pace and wraps up to a good conclusion at the end. There are quite a few threads in this book but they weren’t too difficult to follow (Reading the first book helped in knowing a decent number of the characters already). Most of the main characters are likable caricatures of what you’d expect in a typical hard-boiled detective story so they’re easy to relate to and understand.
The book has some themes related to current events within the past couple of years. Issues with the definition of marriage and picketing of events are portrayed in monster fashion here. If you’re tired of hearing about that stuff in the news, this may not be for you although Anderson puts a lighthearted spin on those issues.
All in all, I have to admit I liked this book better than the first one. It wasn’t as predictable and I think I’ve had some time to get over the fact that the main character was made a zombie by being shot in the head (I thought you shot people in the head to prevent them becoming a zombie?).
As for the audiobook performance, Phil Gigante did a fantastic job. He has several different types of voices (main character, nervous guy, werewolf, sultry female, etc) that are completely unique. I particularly like his werewolf voice! He was easy to understand and added a bit of a performance to the book. I would definitely listen to books read by him again.
Posted by Tom Schreck
The Night Watch
By Sergei Lukyaenko; Read by Paul Michael
15 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Themes: / Fantasy / Urban Fantasy / Magic / Good and Evil / Supernatural /
Sergei Lukyanenko is a science-fiction and fantasy author, writing in Russian, and is arguably the most popular contemporary Russian sci-fi writer. His works often feature intense action-packed plots, interwoven with the moral dilemma of keeping one’s humanity while being strong.
In The Night Watch, set in modern Moscow, the “Others” live among us, an ancient race of humans with supernatural powers who swear allegiance to either the Dark or the Light. A thousand-year treaty has maintained the balance of power, and the two sides coexist in an uneasy truce. But an ancient prophecy decrees that one supreme “Other” will rise up and tip the balance, plunging the world into a catastrophic war between the Dark and the Light. When a young boy with extraordinary powers emerges, fulfilling the first half of the prophecy, will the forces of the Light be able to keep the Dark from corrupting the boy and destroying the world?
The book is three novellas, linked by their setting and the fact that each is told by Anton, a Light Other who is now getting field experience after being a file clerk for several years. As he gets more experience, the reader learns more about the subtleties and intricacies of the world between Light and Dark. Each of the stories is thoroughly engrossing and although they build upon each other, the first two stand alone fairly well. The third conclusion brings the book’s overall story arc to a conclusion.
The first page of the book has two messages, which are puzzling and amusing as an introduction. However when I had finished the book I realized they also served to sum up how the author uses the different stories and characters:
This text has been approved for distribution as conducive to the cause of Light. — The Night Watch
This text has been approved for distribution as conducive to the cause of Dark. — The Day Watch
Final result: simply fantastic. The way the three stories all look at Light and Dark, treaties and compromises, and even what it means to be unyielding on one side or the other … not only provides a gripping adventure, but food for thought about our own lives.
Audio Notes: I was delighted to find the audio CD available for only $10 and promptly began “rereading.” Narrator Paul Michael has a low key style in reading this book. His dialogue reading features what sound like authentic Russian accents which enhance the book greatly since Anton’s thoughts are read in a regular American accent.
However, I soon noticed that whenever a character spoke there is very little emotion portrayed, no matter how stressful the moment. There are plenty of stressful, action-filled moments and to have them all conveyed in such a subdued fashion drained the color and excitement of the story for me. Eventually, the entire book seemed so colorless that I stopped listening and picked up the print copy to read the third novella.
My husband regularly has conference calls with Russians. Upon hearing my comments, he mentioned that he has noticed a monotonous quality whenever the Russians are speaking English. He attributes it to the difficulty in speaking a foreign language and conducting business simultaneously. Although I was interested to hear this, I neither know nor care whether this is a universal Russian trait. Story narration requires some level of acting to convey the text properly to the ear.
Whatever the reason, I cannot recommend the audio if you want to experience the full flavor of the book.
Posted by Julie D.
Iced (A Dani O’Malley Novel)
By Karen Marie Moning; Read by Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
13 discs; 15 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Themes: / urban fantasy / faerie / Dublin /
Dani “Mega” O’Malley plays by her own set of rules — and in a world overrun by Dark Fae, her biggest rule is: Do what it takes to survive. Possessing rare talents and the all-powerful Sword of Light, Dani is more than equipped for the task. In fact, she’s one of the few humans who can defend themselves against the Unseelie. But now, amid the pandemonium, her greatest gifts have turned into serious liabilities.
Dani’s ex–best friend, MacKayla Lane, wants her dead, the terrifying Unseelie princes have put a price on her head, and Inspector Jayne, the head of the police force, is after her sword and will stop at nothing to get it. What’s more, people are being mysteriously frozen to death all over the city, encased on the spot in sub-zero, icy tableaux.
When Dublin’s most seductive nightclub gets blanketed in hoarfrost, Dani finds herself at the mercy of Ryodan, the club’s ruthless, immortal owner. He needs her quick wit and exceptional skill to figure out what’s freezing Fae and humans dead in their tracks — and Ryodan will do anything to ensure her compliance.
Dodging bullets, fangs, and fists, Dani must strike treacherous bargains and make desperate alliances to save her beloved Dublin — before everything and everyone in it gets iced.
The strict genre shelving in bookstores can be unfortunate for readers. I would guess that many fantasy fans have not read Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series because her books are shelved under romance even though the series is more Urban Fantasy than Paranormal Romance. The new Dani O’Malley series which is a sequel to the Fever series is even less qualified for the romance shelves. The first installment, Iced, has even less romance than the entire Fever series.
The walls separating Faerie and the human world have come down. Rifts in reality can send an unwary person to an entirely different time and place. Unseelie monsters roam the streets and the human race is decimated. There is no power and creatures called “shades” devour any living thing that ventures into the dark. The plants and animals are gone, so food is a problem. Now, there’s a new problem. Around the city, people and objects are being instantaneously frozen. The people seem to be unaware of their impending deaths. Anyone entering these tableaux will freeze to death very quickly.
Dani “Mega” O’Malley is a 14-year-old sidhe seer living on the streets of Dublin. She has some abilities that make her see herself as a superhero. She is very fast, very strong and is keenly observant. However, she’s also an adolescent girl with a disturbing and damaging past. The owner of a popular nightclub forces Dani to work with him to solve the problem of areas around the region getting “iced”. Because she can move at hyperspeed, she better able to move into the frozen areas without suffering hypothermia.
The story is told entirely in first person, 90% from Dani’s point of view. However there are some sections that are told by Kat, the new leader of the sidhe seers, and Christian, a young highlander who is transforming into a sex-addicted unseelie prince.
I really loved Dani and the way she interacted with the insane world in which she lived. In some ways, she was mature beyond her years because of the way she grew up and the world that was thrust upon her. In other ways, she was a very typical young teenage girl. She feels like she’s smarter than the adults around her. She’s becoming aware of her sexuality, vacillating between wanting her first time to be special and thinking that sex is really gross. She feels invincible. I found her to be a very convincing 14-year-old girl. I really liked that Moning seems to be letting Dani be a kid and won’t rush her into a sexual relationship before she grows up. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this series goes.
At this point, I must point out that this is NOT a young adult novel despite the age of the main character. While Dani may be a virgin, there is a lot of sex in this book, most of it destructive. It’s also fairly gruesome in places. I wouldn’t freak out if an older teen reads it, but I wouldn’t be recommending it to them.
As much as I enjoyed this book, I would not recommend the audio version. This production uses two narrators, Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross. By having both a male and female narrator, one would think that the male would do parts told from a male character’s point of view and the female would do the parts from the female points of view. However, over 90% of this book is told from a female first-person perspective, so Phil Gigante’s impressive skills would be wasted if all he had to read were the parts that Christian tells. Instead of the typical method of using two narrators, this production splices Gigante’s voice into every bit of dialogue spoken by a male character. This is really annoying because it throws the listener out to the mode of listening to someone tell a personal story. If I were to tell you about a conversation I had with my husband, I certainly would be using my own voice to tell you what my husband or son said, not having some guy say his words for me.
The female narrator, Natalie Ross, was a poor choice for this particular book. The main reason I didn’t like her narration was that she simply sounded too old to be a 14-year-old girl. She sounds like she’s over 30. There are plenty of female narrators can do teenage voices well, she isn’t one of them. Ross also attempts to use an Irish accent for both Dani and Kat, but she fails miserably. It sometimes sounds fake Irish and sometimes sounds like the American South. She would have been better off not using any kind of accent, just her real voice. There also wasn’t much of a difference in how she voiced Dani vs. Kat. I got confused when the first Kat scene came up and it took me a couple of minutes to realize that it wasn’t Dani speaking.
Overall, I highly recommend Iced to fans of Urban Fantasy. It’s one of the better entries in the genre. It leaves the reader wanting more, but doesn’t leave the primary story hanging. My only suggestion is to read the print version rather than listening to the audio.
Reviewed by Sandi Kallas.
Filed under: Audio Drama, New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals
Talked about on today’s show:
Recent arrivals first, here’s Jenny’s list, Harry Harrison’s Deathworld, Speculative! Brilliance audiobooks (from public domain works), “he’s super clear”, author of Make Room! Make Room! (aka Soylent Green), Planet Of The Damned, “nice font”, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Telling is in the Hanish Cycle, the out of print Harlan Ellison version of A Wizard of Earthsea, The Lathe Of Heaven and the PBS TV-movie with Bruce Davidson (trailer), Work Of The Devil by Katherine Amt Hanna, “the devil has no time for long novels”, Joe Hill’s Horns and In The Tall Grass (with Stephen King), Philip K. Dick’s Vulcan’s Hammer, similar to Colossus: The Forbin Project (film), “goes Skynet on your ass”, The Game-Players Of Titan has slug aliens, good names for bands, Time Out Of Joint, Tears In Rain by Rosa Montera is inspired by Blade Runner (it has a female Rutger Hauer), translated from Spanish, The Woodcutter by Kate Danley has fairy tale characters, Beowulf, Jeff Wheeler’s Legends Of Muirwood series released all at once, House Of Cards is a great British show, Dead Spots by Scarlett Bernard sounds like one of those Lifetime movies, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke has a disturbing android romance, ewww!, Tam knows who Steven Erikson is (Forge Of Darkness), re-read of the Malazan series, we need urban fantasy and military SF people, Tenth Of December by George Saunders, prefers short stories, on Colbert, Vampires In The Lemon Grove by Karen Russell, her novel Swamplandia has been optioned by HBO, New releases start, Poe Must Die by Marc Olden, Ben Bova’s Farside comes out soon (hard SF), narrated by Stefan Rudnicki, Stefan’s Fantastic Imaginings, where’s James P. Hogan’s Inherit The Earth?, the movie Frequency didn’t star Kevin Bacon, the entire X Minus One radio drama run, short story audio collections having chapters and a table of contents, Star Wars audiobooks with enhanced sound, Bryce’s review of Star Wars: Scoundrels, more Star Trek novel audio books, more classic sf, Leigh Brackett, Jerry Pournelle, Harlan Ellison, Arthur C. Clarke, George R.R. Martin, “you’re welcome, Audible”, The Mad Scientist’s Guide To World Domination by John Joseph Adams, short fiction is back, Olaf Stapelton, like a science fiction The Silmarillion, SF Crossing The Gulf podcast will discuss Olaf Stapledon and others, Mary Doria Russell, where’s the audio version of Karen Lord’s The Best Of All Possible Worlds? (actually it came out the same day as the print version), Jenny loved it, what is the Candide connection Karen?, indie Scifi Arizona author Michael McCollum on Audible (Steve Gibson approved), the Audible Feb2013 Win-Win $4.95 sale, get the first in a series cheap, Sharon Shinn’s Archangel Samaria series, Image Comics’s first issue sale, The Red Panda audio drama becomes a comic (cover), John Scalzi’s The Human Division serial, wish science fiction authors in TV series, George R.R. Martin to develop more shows for HBO, football jerseys vs Star Trek uniforms.
Posted by Tamahome
Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1)
By Melissa F. Olson; Performed by Amy McFadden
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Release Date: 2012
Publisher summary: A woman with the ability to counteract magic is in a race against time–and the supernatural underworld–to catch a killer before another body drops.
Scarlett Bernard knows about personal space: step within ten feet of her, and any supernatural spells or demonic forces are instantly defused–vampires and werewolves become human again, and witches can’t get out so much as a “hocus pocus.” This special skill makes her a null and very valuable to Los Angeles’s three most powerful magical communities, who utilize her ability to scrub crime scenes clean of all traces of the paranormal to keep humanity, and the LAPD, in the dark.
But one night Scarlett’s late arrival to a grisly murder scene reveals her agenda and ends with LAPD’s Jesse Cruz tracking her down to strike a deal: he’ll keep quiet about the undead underworld if she helps solve the case. Their pact doesn’t sit well with Dash, the city’s chief bloodsucker, who fears his whole vampire empire is at stake. And when clues start to point to Scarlett, it’ll take more than her unique powers to catch the real killer and clear her name.
I snagged this audiobook to post about from the stack of urban fantasy because it was an author I had not heard of, the first of a series, and not previously published on Audible! Reviews I’ve seen so far are complimentary on the main character, and the complexity of the story.
Coincidentally, we are on the hunt for 1-2 paranormal romance or urban fantasy audiobook reviewers. If this kind of book is your kind of thing, please contact Jenny on the about page!
Posted by Jenny Colvin
Themes: / fantasy / urban fantasy / psychic / powers / death /
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