Review of Flesh and Blood by Daniel Dersch

May 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

fleshandbloodFlesh and Blood
By Daniel Dersch; read by Amy McFadden
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 4 March 2014
[UNABRRIDGED] – 7 discs; 8 hours

Themes: / Vatican / vampires / Nazis / horror / romance /

Publisher summary:

A veteran New York City journalist, Claire Hagen has learned not to trust everything she hears. So when her younger sister lands in a mental hospital after claiming a vampire is feeding off her blood, Claire is naturally skeptical. A search of her sister’s apartment convinces her: The delusions are a side effect of the drugs she discovers her sister had been taking.But a deeper investigation uncovers more than Claire bargained for. Why was a man who claimed to know her sister from an online vampire forum shot dead moments after Claire interviewed him? Why are her sister’s symptoms getting worse in the hospital? And why have agents from the Vatican taken a sudden interest in Claire?Consumed by doubt and growing paranoia, Claire barely has time to ponder her next move before a violent confrontation in her apartment changes everything. She quickly finds herself on the run with a mysterious stranger who says he wants to protect her but may not be quite what he seems. Can she trust him?

For a good portion of the story in this novel, I was entertained. But the longer the story progressed, the more detached and less interested I became. By the time the end rolled around, I just didn’t care about the characters. While various portions of the story intrigued me, the narrative’s main flow felt too streamlined, structured, and shallow. I also depart feeling that the storyline was compressed. This is fifty pounds of story jammed into a twenty-pound sack. But Daniel Dersch shows promise, and I will be curious to observe his writing improve. He already does what many of his contemporary counterparts fail to do, which is to have a subject performing a verb upon an object. Dersch’s sentence construction is pleasing, and for what it’s worth, this small attention to good writing practice aided my enjoyment factor.

I felt Clair Hagen was a little too stereotyped. She seems driven to prove her resourcefulness, but appears to yearn for a strong man. The “daddy” references got a little weird, but maybe we can chalk that up to this being a translated work. The chapters in this book denote a change in POV (point of view). At first I liked this alternating split narrative thing that Dersch pulls off. But the longer this unspooled, the shorter the chapters got, and all too soon the shortness of the intervals became a distraction.

Amy McFadden narrates the audiobook, and at first I struggled with her rhythm and delivery. In the beginning, I thought her voice was grating. But the longer I listened, the more I felt McFadden captured the essence of Clair. Somewhere in the middle, McFadden won me over, and I think she does a great job with this audiobook.

Fans of contemporary vampire stories will most likely enjoy this for what it is.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

The Parasite by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

April 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

The Parasite by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

First published in Harper’s Weekly November 10, 1894 this novella combines the two poles of Doyle’s personality – the skeptic and the dupe. Playing out like a combination of Guy de Maupassant’s The Horla and The Manchurian Candidate. The protagonist, Austin Gilroy, a professor of physiology, meets a woman at a party who can perform frightening feats of mesmerism.

Variously described as being a tale of a “psychic vampire” other editors and anthologists have classified it as “weird fiction” or “horror”

LibriVoxThe Parasite
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Read by Delmar H Dolbier
4 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 1 Hour 54 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: 2012

Podcast feed:

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

LibriVoxThe Parasite
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Read by Carl Vonnoh, III
4 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 1 Hour 58 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: 2006

Podcast feed:

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

And here’s an easy reading |PDF| version (41 pages)

Posted by Jesse Willis



TheSFFaudioPodcast600The SFFaudio Podcast #244 – Jesse, Jenny, and Seth talk about NEW RELEASES and RECENT ARRIVALS.

Talked about on today’s show: Christmas-edition New Releases podcast; festivus; Seinfeld; Romulus Buckle and the Engines of War; pneumatic zeppelins (related to Led Zeppelin?) vs. non-pneumatic airships; Cherie Priest‘s Clockwork Century steampunk series; Gail Carriger‘s “tea-punk” Parasol Protectorate novels; Wizard of Oz: A Steampunk Adventure; HBO’s completely unrelated Oz television series; Seal Team 13, military vs. supernatural?; Lovecraftian horror vs. traditional horror; Call of Cthulhu role-playing game; World War Z; Overdraft: The Orion Exclusive; Jesse laments that neither Jenny nor Seth has seen Aliens; Sigourney Weaver; Gamadin: Word of Honor; Jesse loves audio drama; Night Vale; Blake’s 7; “audio drama is television or movies without pictures”; Visions of the Future now unabridged; limitations of the Star Wars spinoffs; R.A. Salvatore killed a beloved Star Wars character; Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey; a Star Wars Oedipus story?; When the World Shook by H. Rider Haggard; Haggard’s She; casual racism in turn-of-the-century fiction; Haggard is the English Edgar Rice Burroughs; Rumpole series (the actor narrates the audiobooks); Inspector Morse; Agatha Christie; Touch Me Eternally; X-Men; Silvered by Tanya Huff; are shape shifters the new vampires?; Charlaine Harris and True Blood; etymology of werewolf; were bat?; every Batman story has been done; Dangerous Women anthology; Lawrence Block; Legends anthologies; George R. R. Martin’s Dunk and Egg stories; Well of Echoes series; geomancy = crystal magic; ABC (the Australian one) book club; CSPAN’s Book TV; Reading Rainbow and the LaVar Burton revival; Herland; Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail and As Easy as ABC; Gungadin and “to carry the water”; Clark Gable; more on racism; White Man’s Burden; DreamScape Audio; The Poison Belt by Arthur Conan Doyle; sequel to The Lost World; similar to The Purple Cloud by M. P. Sheil; Jurassic Park; 1634 by David Weber and Eric Flint; time travel; George Guidall; Jonny Ive (and Seth’s bad Ive impression) read by Simon Vance; Chronicles of Light and Shadow by Liesel Schwartz; Waterlogged Holiday Collection; Kevin J. Anderson’s War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches; Robert A. Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters; Star Trek pancakes attack; Connie Willis especially To Say Nothing of the Dog; Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome; Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit Will Travel; The Great Gatsby audio edition including Fitzgerald’s letters; Audible translating George R. R. Martin; Latin translations of Harry Potter; Call Down the Stars; metafiction; the prehistorical sub-genre;  Clan of the Cave Bear; Ian Rutherford; James A. Michener; Harry Harrison; The Wonder Stick (spoiler: it’s a bow!); Jack London; A Quarter to Fear narrated by Mr. Jim Moon at Hypnogoria (Jesse actually bought it!); H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast; Audible Editor’s Picks; Audie Awards; Doctor Sleep by Stephen King won Audible Pick of the Year; The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker; American Gods by Neil Gaiman; Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia; The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Coraline by Neil Gaiman; Ender’s Game Alive; The Silo Saga; The Human Division by John Scalzi; The Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell; Zombie Fallout series by Mark Tufo; Peter Clines 14 and Ex-Heroes series; Roald Dahl’s Matilda narrated by Kate Winslet; tweeting coffee;

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #236 – AUDIOBOOK READALONG: The Hills Of The Dead by Robert E. Howard

October 28, 2013 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 


The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #236 – The Hills Of The Dead by Robert E. Howard, read by Paul Boehmer (courtesy of Tantor Media’s The Savage Tales Of Solomon Kane). This is a complete and unabridged reading of the story (60 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, Matthew Sanborn Smith, and Bryan Alexander

Talked about on today’s show:
Second-to-last Solomon Kane story chronologically, “Red Shadows” and “Wings of the Night” close contenders for Solomon Kane stories, the latter featuring harpies from Jason and the Argonauts, history of Solomon’s staff explained in other stories, fetishes (not THAT kind!), joojoo stick, magical weapons, Wandering Star edition illustrated by Gary Gianni, comic book adaptations, vampire-slaying, story uncharacteristically well-plotted including foreshadowing, “plains and hills full of lions” oh my!, lion sleeping habits, “Africa is full of never-explained mysteries” excuses plot holes, prefigures Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, Kate Beckinsale’s Underworld movies, one of few stories to depict ‘nation of vampires’, Kiss of the Vampire (film), Transylvania, homeopathic symbolism, sex sells, ‘Howardian damsel in distress’, voodoo, feminization of the jungle, homoerotic undertones, Howard biography Blood and Thunder by Mark Finn, post-Colonial critique, vampires in fiction oscillate between sexualized and homicidal, Stephen King slams Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight vampires, Nosferatu (relatively unknown at the time of this story’s writing) introduced the idea that sunlight kills vampires, the Devil as source of Kane’s lustful urges, “Howard doesn’t do metaphors very well”, vampire-zombie continuum, Howard as great visual writer, animal characteristics ascribed to Kull and Conan but not Kane, snake imagery (related to serpent in Garden of Eden?), Slave Coast, vultures, nature of the soul, “Rogues in the House” (written in one sitting while Howard had a headache), the dangers of over-interpreting Howard, Howard’s subconscious, early 20th-century magazines preoccupied with race, Cosmpolitan (it was once a literary magazine), race hierarchy, Solomon Kane less racist than Howard himself, racial hierarchy, Berbers, Solomon Kane’s conflicted personality, the New Model Army, Howard’s characters are solitary, Puritans, Kane has a death wish, Kane’s celibacy, significance of Solomon Kane’s name, Ben Jonson satirizes Puritan names (in Bartholomew Fayre), so does Terry Pratchett (in Lords and Ladies, Mormonism, concept of congregation of all believers, English Civil War and its sects, Grendel in Beowulf as descendant of Cain, Sandman comics, Kane is “always on the road”, Matthew Hopkins witchfinder general, wood imagery, we learn what a palaver is, The Dark Tower series, temptation, inquisition, H. P. Lovecraft, cohesion of Howard’s works, history of the English language, George Harrison’s coyright infringement, parallel evolution in fiction, Clark Ashton Smith, Charles Baudelaire, genocide, the importance of a shared reader-author premise, shared cultural values, Hitler, The King in Yellow, Woodrow Wilson was a racist, zombies vs. animals.

The Hills Of The Dead - Illustration by Greg Staples

The Hills Of The Dead by Robert E. Howard

The Hills Of The Dead

Solomon Kane's Fetish Staff

Solomon Kane in Africa

The Hills Of The Dead by Robert E. Howard

Posted by Seth Wilson

Review of She Returns from War by Lee Collins

July 9, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

She Returns from War by Lee CollinsShe Returns from War (Cora Oglesby #2)
By Lee Collins; Performed by Alison Larkin
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 hours

Themes: / western / fantasy / skin walkers / vampires /

Publisher summary:

Four years after the horrific events in Leadville, a young visitor from England, Victoria Dawes, sets into motion a series of events that will lead Cora and herself out into the New Mexico desert. They are in pursuit of Anaba, a Navajo witch bent on taking revenge for the atrocities committed against her people.

In this follow-up to The Dead of Winter, Lee Collins gives us a second installment of his “Cora Oglesby” saga.  She Returns From War tells the story of Victoria Dawes, an English woman finding her grit in the American West.  Lee Collins has improved his writing but not nearly enough to make this tale snap with electricity.  Collins does a great job in the early portion of this novel. The wheels don’t completely fall off until midway through chapter three.  The first three chapters are quite good.  I hope that Collins continues improving and polishing his craft.  If he does, I might be able to write a positive review of his work some day.  But that day is not today.

Collins is clumsy with the female characters in his charge.  Either the women are two-dimensional drunks, classic western prostitutes, or prissy high-society types. He also includes a stereotypical Native American woman character who is a “skin walker” trying to reap revenge on the white man.  My issue isn’t with the choice of characters that Collins employs within his storytelling.  My problem is that Collins fails to provide his characters with enough depth and substance that his characters deserve.  As a result, we encounter a story jammed with cardboard cutouts lacking all sense of meaning.

Alison Larkin is the Narrator.  She uses an English accent for the most part since the story is inferred as Victoria’s story.  Larkin changes accents when doing American characters and I had a real issue here.  While the English accent works quite nicely for the character of Victoria, Larkin butchers all other accents in an over-the-top cartoonish rendition of cowboy-drawl gone bad.  If you can look beyond this, Larkin isn’t a half bad reader, though she would do well to back down the level of dramatic inflection.  There is a musical score that plays at the beginning and end of each audio CD.  Every time I heard this, I kept thinking it sounded like a second-rate retread of the Titanic soundtrack with a not so haunting female vocalist in the background lamenting some long lost love. If any of you ever find yourself in the position of choosing music to go in these spots in an audio production, please remember that less is truly more.  All that is needed is a simple single instrument that reflects the tone of the story where it is broken by the physical limits of the CD.

Aside from skin walkers and vampires, there’s not much new in the way of dark things that need to be killed.  We do encounter mysterious wolf-like things at the very beginning but these are only with us for a short while.

If you are contemplating giving Lee Collins a go, start here and see how you like his style.  I think Collins is at his best in the first three chapters.  If you like this story, then maybe take a gander at his first try The Dead of Winter… Though if’in it was up tuh me, I’d stop dead-in-my-tracks here.  It’s all downhill beyond this point.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

Review of Chicks Kick Butt

June 3, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Chicks Kick ButtChicks Kick Butt
Edited by Rachel Caine and Kerrie L. Hughes
Performed by Joyce Bean, Jennifer VanDyck, Justine Eyre, Khristine Hvam, Lauren Fortgang, Nicola Barber, Dina Pearlman, Piper Goodeve, Aimee Castle, Elizabeth Livingston, Christina Delaine, and Kim Mai Guest
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
13 hours [UNABRIDGED]

Themes: / urban fantasy / vampires / werewolves / demons / exorcisms / short stories /

Publisher summary:

Today’s women don’t stand around waiting for a hero. These days, women are quite capable of solving their own problems and slaying their own dragons (or demons, as the case may be). In this all-new anthology, Kerrie L. Hughes and New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine have collected original stories from thirteen of today’s most exciting urban fantasy and paranormal authors. Each story features a strong heroine who kicks butt and takes names in a dangerous world and makes that world a better place for everyone in it — except the bad guys, of course. And if she finds a bit of romance along the way, well, a little heat warms the heart and sharpens the mind . . . just as long as the man can keep up.

Chicks Kick Butt is an anthology of stories with strong, driven female protagonists written by women. I am pretty sure that I’ve never read anything by the majority of the authors, and it was the concept that made me pick it. Most of the stories involved characters or worlds from other, full-length novels. Please note there are spoilers in the individual reviews for the stories, so let me just say if you’re looking for a light entertaining read, I may not recommend this anthology. It was uneven in terms of writing quality overall, although the stories by Rachel Vincent and Lilith Saintcrow were quite good. I will be honest, some of the writing was so bad I couldn’t finish listening, and so the review is only for the first part of the story. The audio narration was similarly off, with some of the narrators’s over-the-top characterization taking me out of the story. There was a neutral male voice actor who gave each story’s relevant info. While the audiobook came on disks, I transferred it to digital for ease of listening. So it is not a flaw, but on each end track the audio would fade into music, there would be the instruction to switch disks, and then the last few sentences would be repeated before moving on.

On to the individual stories:
Shiny by Rachel Caine – *** Not really my thing, but pretty good. I am unfamiliar with this author’s other work, but she wove the explanations in really well. The story was really character driven over the sunny backdrop of Florida, and was definitely entertaining, with diamond bikinis, fast cars, and handsome men. I wouldn’t seek out her work, but I’d listen if she was included in another anthology. The car-obsessed main character, Joanne, has a great voice.

In Vino Veritas by Karen Chance – * So bad I had to stop listening. The narrator was pretty neutral, but the writing was just bad. Admittedly, I’m pretty picky with vampire stories, but I did try to give it a chance even after they came out with the ‘dhampire’ bit. I enjoy well-done daywalker stories. This just wasn’t one of them.

Hunt by Rachel Vincent – **** Powerful, slightly triggery with flashbacks to a sexual assault, threatened sexual assault, and violence. Werecat Abby goes on vacation with some friends only to have their camp invaded by several violent men. It is a story about finding the strength within oneself, and the narrator was a perfect match to the story. She relayed Abby’s emotional reaction to the events well without distracting from the story.

Monsters by Lilith Saintcrow – **** Characters, concept, narration, all of it was great. Perfect match between the tone of the narrator and the luridly poetic imagery. This story threw together a vampire and werewolf in a quest for revenge, but the depiction of both felt fresh, more visceral than most modern vampire stories. I would definitely read more by this author.

Vampires Prefer Blondes by P N Elrod -*** Surprised how much I liked it. Narrator really sold it, effortlessly falling into the main character and the verbal ticks of the noir novel. I had my doubts for the first track or two, but the story drew me in. It had a very solid universe that didn’t need much explanation, plus the realistic reactions of the characters was a refreshing change.

Ninth Tenths of the Law by Jenna Black – ** I was getting an Exorcist vibe from this (which is good, especially since it was about exorcism), but the ending was a bit weak. The build up was great, with a runaway rebellious teenage possibly possessed by a demon, an over-bearing religious fanatic, and a jaded protagonist, but then the world-building kicked in and overshadowed a really interesting story. I understand that Morgan having a demon inside her is from a series of novels, but here it felt like a cheap trick to resolve the plot. The narrator was great, completely hidden by the story.

Double Dead by Cheyenne McCray – ** I had to look this one up to see which one it was, and I still can’t really remember anything about it.

A Rose by Any Other Name Would Still be Red by Elizabeth A Vaughn – ** I really wanted to like this. It was probably the most violent of the stories, and the violence was described rather well. I couldn’t get a good handle on the main character or world. It felt like something that should be developed into a longer format.

Superman by Jeanne C Stein – * I couldn’t get into this at all. I listened to the whole thing, but found my mind wandering. Neither the narrator’s delivery nor the story were strong enough to hold my interest.

Monster Mash by Carole Nelson Douglas – **** Although I’m sure I missed a few references, I enjoyed this story quite a bit. There’s a lot to keep up with as Delilah tries to figure out who or what is haunting a supernatural casino, but it’s entertaining even if you’re unfamiliar with this universe. Narrator did an excellent job, with just enough characterization to make it fun.

Wanted Dead or Alive by L A Banks – *** Interesting (yes, I know, damning with faint praise). It was a little hard to follow, as the beginning was an infodump on the particulars of vampires in this universe, but I would give the author another shot with something longer. The characters were interesting, there was just a lot of explaining going on.

Mist by Susan Krinard – * I couldn’t finish this, and I LOVE Norse mythology. It may have been the combination of narrator and text. The voice actor droned a little while I was trying to parse which parts of the mythology they were using, and together it just lost my interest. I listened through to the fight scene in the park, but I figured I had enough when even a fight between a valkyrie and a giant couldn’t keep my attention.

Beyond the Pale by Nancy Holder – NR. At first the story was amazing, although the changeling bit made me snort out loud in surprise (Hitler and Manson as changelings instead of humans) but I let that part go. Then it got to the bit where faeries actually stole babies and the Nazis were blamed for it, and no. Just no. It kept nibbling at my mind while I was listening to what seemed to be a very well written story, so it would appear this isn’t the story for me.

Posted by Sarah R.

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