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
H.P. Lovecraft’s not well known for his sense of humor, but he had one,as evidenced by this six-part 1922 serial (available in two parts below). It’s a novelette, featuring the titular character and his attempts to reverse the effects of death. The results of which are inevitably, and hilariously, recurrent.
Herbert West – Reanimator
By H.P. Lovecraft; Read by: Matt Bohnhoff
2 MP3s – Approx. 80 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: October 17, 2008
Convinced that death is merely mechanical failure, and that they can find a chemical mechanism to reboot the machine, West and our nameless narrator, are on the hunt for bodies–the fresher, the better. Through graveyards and laboratories, they want to find death, chase it, trap it, prod it, and defeat it. But when you chase something to within arm’s reach, it can reach back… First published, serially, in six issues of Home Brew, February-July 1922.
Posted by Jesse Willis
World War Z
By Max Brooks; Read by Full Cast
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: September 12, 2006
[ABRIDGED] 5 discs – 6 hours
Themes: / post-apocalypse / zombies / military / oral history /
The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.
Ranging from the now infamous village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, where the epidemiological trail began with the twelve-year-old Patient Zero, to the unnamed northern forests where untold numbers sought a terrible and temporary refuge in the cold, to the United States of Southern Africa, where the Redeker Plan provided hope for humanity at an unspeakable price, to the west-of-the-Rockies redoubt where the North American tide finally started to turn, this invaluable chronicle reflects the full scope and duration of the Zombie War.
I’ve broken my cardinal rule for reading books just before the movie comes out. My rule is not to read the book directly before the movie (at least 1 year before or it must be read after or just wait on the movies). The reason for this is that I want to enjoy the story through both mediums and if you read the book just before the movie, you’ve set yourself up to be a critic – analyzing everything and complaining about every detail that’s inevitably left out, but which is more often than not necessary for the medium. If you read the book at least a year before, at least with my shoddy memory, the movie becomes a happy time of fond remembrances. Oh yeah, I remember that part, so cool! Yay! Happy! In this instance, I hear the movie doesn’t quite follow the book exactly and what else can that mean than that it’s a typical zombie movie. I don’t think I’ve ruined much here.
You know, it could have been partly because of all the hype, but I didn’t love this book. I didn’t hate it either, which makes these the hardest reviews to write, but I think I have a few ideas why World War Z just didn’t work all that well for me.
Doesn’t really exist. Yeah, there’s a loose series of events that defines the book, or the Zombie War, but it’s told through interviews with different survivors from different countries. And they’re short too, I even checked this with the book (paper-form). Each interview amounts to a page or two, maybe 5 max. Each tends to discuss a certain important event, which ends up getting referred to by characters later in the book and often mentioned by the one directly following. It’s extremely clever and lets you see how well developed this whole idea is.
It’s extremely clever
Max Brooks has literally thought of everything when it comes to a war against zombies. I thought the same in my reading of The Zombie Survival Guide, and it goes just as well here. EVERYTHING! He goes into why tanks are all but useless against hordes of zombies – because you have to take out their heads! Anything else, and they’ll still shamble and probably even become more dangerous when you trip over them on the ground. The airforce is just as useless because it’s so much money and effort for such a little amount of good. Better spent on a bunch of soldiers with tons of ammo. He even goes into better strategies for fighting this war, why the zombies are such a good enemy – because they don’t need to be bred, fed, or led.
Very clever and not even pretentious about it. Just captivating. And this isn’t the only thing I liked although we’re getting into the middle ground because I didn’t love the audio either.
One of the things that got me excited to listen to this on audio was that it’s read by a full cast. That means they’re trying REALLY hard and that tends to be a good thing, especially if you don’t like one or two of the voices, it’s okay, it’s only temporary. With just one narrator, that can really kill a book. I mentioned that this is told through many different people in different countries and they have actors like Rob Reiner, John Turturro, and Mark Hamill. Even Max Brooks himself plays the part of the interviewer. Very cool…just up until the point of distraction. There are so many different countries represented that the accents started to distract heavily from the story. I found myself pondering why the German guy had such a heavy accent on his “R’s” and yet could perfectly pronounce “TH” every time. And this was just the one guy. One of the benefits of a single narrator is that even when they do an accent, it’s easier to understand because English is their primary language.
The audio’s great for the most part, outside of that little niggle about the accents, but one thing I absolutely HATE about it is…it’s abridged!
I would probably never forgive myself if I listened to this abridged audio version and never actually read the entire book if I actually thought that mattered. Maybe others are better sleuths than myself, but I can’t find a reading of World War Z that’s not abridged. At the same, after having read the book, the abridged version seems to do enough justice to the entirety of the novel, what with how it is organized, that it just cuts out a few of the interviews. Normally this is heresy, but I can live with it for this one time only.
What I didn’t like
I think the thing that just makes this an okay to good book for me is that while it’s style and organization is unique and highly clever, it also takes away from my ability to care. Without just following one person or a group of people, there’s no attachment to any specific person.
After writing the above, I actually do think the movie will make it all better. It seems like it will be following one single person and that’s what this reader needs. The movie comes out in June of this year.
In the end
Let’s just say, if we ever do get into a Zombie War, you better have a copy of World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide on you. Someone’s already gone through the effort of thinking up EVERY situation that can occur, what’s effective, what’s not and put it down in words. No sense reinventing the wheel. While an entertaining idea and clever execution, these were the exact things that made World War Z a book only a mother could love I could never love. It’s worth a read if only to see how in-depth you have not thought about zombies.
3 out of 5 Stars (Recommended with Reservations)
Review by Bryce L.
Tales of the Red Panda: The Crime Cabal
By Gregg Taylor; Read by Gregg Taylor
Release Date: October 17, 2012
Playing time: 5 hours 53 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Themes: pulp / heroes / depression era / gangs / zombies / bombs / hypnotism / secret identities / roof tops / grapnel guns
Depression-era Toronto is the setting for Gregg Taylor’s pulp hero The Red Panda and his sidekick The Flying Squirrel. The novel opens with the last of the big gangs in the city being brought to Justice; Police Chief O’Mally railing against the masked vigilantes at loose in his city. While the Press love the hero: defender of the weak, the poor and the downtrodden of society.
Out from the ashes of the many gangs that our hero’s have crushed rises a new gang, The Crime Cabal. This new gang knows that for them to flourish, they must deal with The Red Panda once and for all. But there is more behind the Cabal than a simple gang. When the hulking enforcers of the gang turn out to be zombies it’s clear that this is no ordinary gang.
The Tales of the Red Panda: The Crime Cabal is the first novel set within the same setting as the podcast audio dramas, also written and produced by Gregg Taylor under the Decoder Ring Theatre banner. There is continuity between the podcast and the novel, but the novel does stand on it’s own, even providing an origin story for one of the long running supporting characters. The setting and characters are all introduced with enough background and flare to be fully formed within the novel alone.
Gregg Taylor does a commendable job with the narration and the characters. Of note are the character voices especially as I’ve listened to the audio dramas for some years. Taylor captures the essence of the voices of the characters as they have been portrayed by other actors. For several years in some cases. So, even if you have listened to the podcasts you won’t be disappointed by the the portrayal of familiar characters, and if you haven’t then they come out fully formed characterizations.
My only niggle is that in the first few chapters the narration feels just a little rushed in places, but this passes.
Posted by Paul [W] Campbell
Horror, romance, and zombies – kinda.
There’s also a terribly muddy recording, of a cool sounding CBSRMT adaptation too:
CBS Radio Mystery Theater #0548 – The Graveyard
Based on Was It A Dream? by Guy de Maupassant; Adapted by Elspeth Eric; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 46 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: CBS Radio
Broadcast: November 8, 1976
A man mourns for his lost love who died after riding out into a rain storm to buy a new dress. He learns the truth about her in a hard way.
Posted by Jesse Willis
It’s hard to imagine what SFFaudio was reporting on before podcasting started in earnest, around 2005, but we somehow managed pretty well. One such show, which I’ve posted about several times over the years, is Hour25. We don’t report on it much anymore. But to say that Hour25 has podfaded is to get things very wrong – Hour25 had never been podcast and it is still, only just barely, available in MP3 format.
But, Hour25 has had great content, and among the best of it is this recording done for Halloween 2001. I wrote about Night On Mispec Moor by Larry Niven |READ OUR REVIEW| back in 2004. I still like it. It has everything, it’s Military SF, plays out like sword-and-sorcery, technically it’s Science Fiction, but it feels more like fantasy and horror – and it has zombies that don’t suck!
Night On Mispec Moor
By Larry Niven; Read by Warren James
Intro |MP3| Part 1 |MP3|, Part 2 |MP3| – [UNABRIDGED]
Created: October 31, 2001
Tomás Vatch is an “outworld mercenary” who finds himself a lone survivor of his routed army. After fleeing into a moor, his pursuers suddenly stop, they dare not follow him into “Mispec” at night.
And to spice it up all the more, check out these beautiful George Barr illustrations from the first publication in Vertex: The Magazine of Science Fiction, August 1974:
Posted by Jesse Willis