By Rob Mosca; Narrated by Bernard Setaro Clark
Publisher: ListenUp Audiobooks
Publication Date: June 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 hours, 3 minutes
Themes: / horror / drunk monkeys / psychotic clowns / zombies / Texas /
Welcome to Unity, Texas. Population: Bizarre. The only thing protecting the residents of Unity from a stream of nightmares is Laredo Beaumont, the town’s hard-drinking, ass-kicking sheriff, and Cicero, his knife-wielding chimpanzee deputy. It’s a thankless job that leaves Laredo drained and nearly broken. The only solace he can find is in the arms of his beloved Sally Mae, a ghostly soiled dove from a phantom bordello where only the most daring of men would think to step foot.
We’ve all heard that old saying about book cover judgments. Perhaps now it’s time we block out blurb-based reckonings. Rob Mosca’s High Midnight is bursting with criminally psychotic clowns, zombies with a twist, spectral prostitutes, and strange creatures. But it’s also a prime example of good, at times strong writing.
I’m uncertain into which genre High Midnight ought slide. More than likely, it’s a sub-subgenre. Something like Gritty Redneck Bizarro. In the beginning, the weird hyperbolic writing style and content is intriguing. When combined with crisp and skilled writing, you feel anxious and excited. Like a passenger on a hijacked locomotive, you feel your heart speed up to mirror the rushing landscape and you begin wondering where you’re going, and what will happen when you get there. But as the story progresses, we climax, reaching a point at which we can go no faster, further, or weirder, and everything beyond becomes a repetitive flatlining disappointment due to the lack of contrast.
I liked how Mosca would introduce a character, and then immediately leap back in time to show a slivered piece of the character’s history. This allows for a streamlining of exposition without getting bogged down in unnecessary detail. But this approach comes with a price. The story’s momentum becomes the engine, the driving force behind the storytelling. When this occurs, character submits to situation, preventing reader from forging strong bonds with character. Before we know it, and no matter how good the writing, the story is the situation acting upon character, rather than the characters reacting to situation. The result is uninteresting characters. And it’s difficult to create tension when I don’t give a damn if someone lives, dies, laughs, or cries. Situation will always grab our attention, but it is forever characters that maintain it.
High Midnight gets high marks for the audiobook. Bernard Setaro Clark is a name to remember. Clark narrates the audiobook, and captures the story’s voice. Whether it’s a clown’s ghastly giggle, drawling redneck sheriff, or explicit ghostly fornication, Clark delivers a tremendous reading. If you’re going to give this a read, I highly recommend listening to the audiobook.
Posted by Casey Hampton.
Follow this link for a list of our latest arrivals. Note that not all books listed are discussed in the podcast.
Talked about on today’s show: Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson, “minotaurpunk”; the Thirty Years War; 1634 by David Weber and Eric Flint; The New Food by Stephen Leacock; LEGOs!; “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”; we love narrator Jonathan Davis; Runcible spoon and vorpel sword; intentionality of names in Philip K. Dick’s work; place names in Sussex and Middle Earth; class structure from Plato to Huxley; Beyond Lies the Wub, Philip K. Dick’s first published short story; Screamers film based on Dick’s Second Variety; Jenny would like to be a rutabaga; American Gods and rereading books; The Status Civilization and Mindswap by Robert Sheckley; Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy; Metro 2033 became a video game; Aristotelian unity of time, place, and action in post-apocalyptic genre; non-Western tropes take us off the beaten path; The Queen of Air and Darkness by T.H. White; tattoos make urban fantasy; prevalence of science fiction and fantasy in YA; the rule of three in fiction and humor; books about books; Sex Criminals comic by Matt Fraction; the Comics Squee podcast discussed it; the singular strengths of the comics medium; The Prestige; mirroring in fiction; The Prisoner of Zenda; Lovecraft writing Houdini; Pinkerton and Blackwater; Second Hand by Rajan Khanna featured in Lightspeed podcast; Felix Gilman’s The Half-Made World; Robert Bloch’s Hellbound Train; Joe Abercrombie’s Red Country; space operas are repurposed westerns; westerns don’t feature enough women; Star Trek; westerns on Mars; The Audiobookaneers blog might drive us out of business; Jenny looks to the future of bleakness and paranoia; Best of all Possible Worlds by Karen Lord; Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross, reviewed by Jesse.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Themes: / Horror / Zombies / Terrorists / Covert Intelligence /
For years the Department of Military Sciences has fought to stop terrorists from using radical bioweapons—designer plagues, weaponized pathogens, genetically modified viruses, and even the zombie plague that first brought Ledger into the DMS. These terrible weapons have been locked away in the world’s most secure facility. Until now. Joe Ledger and Echo Team are scrambled when a highly elite team of killers breaks the unbreakable security and steals the world’s most dangerous weapons. Within days there are outbreaks of mass slaughter and murderous insanity across the American heartland. Can Joe Ledger stop a brilliant and devious master criminal from turning the Land of the Free into a land of the dead?
Code Zero, a Joe Ledger novel from Jonathan Maberry, is the exciting direct sequel to Patient Zero.
This is the worthy sequel to Patient Zero.
At one point, Rudy Sanchez says that “this has done something fundamental to the American people.”
I’ll tell you this. It did something fundamental to me.
It was exciting, suspenseful, terrifying, and haunted me in my dreams and at random moments in my day.
And it was satisfying. Very satisfying.
I’m not sure Maberry can top this. Though I’m already looking forward to his next attempt to try.
It’s been six years since Joe Ledger was secretly recruited by the government to lead a combat team for the DMS, a taskforce created to deal with problems that Homeland Security can’t handle. That story was told in Patient Zero. This was where we met a group of terrorists who had developed a bio-weapon that turned people into zombies.
Every year since then, like clockwork, Joe and Echo Team have returned to battle a variety of seemingly supernatural foes, all developed by villains who are somehow going to make boatloads of cash off of the terror.
The action-packed stories are full of evil super-villains, noble heroes, smart mouthed quips, a smattering of philosophy about “good guys and bad guys” and heart. Lots of heart. All this is told at a roller coaster pace that barely allows you to breathe until you get to the end.
I love them.
In many ways, this book is similar to the rest of the series. Mother Night, a villain you love to hate, is a super-genius anarchist who’s strewing chaos throughout the country over Labor Day weekend. She’s got the DMS’s computer tied up in knots and old evils that were defeated in previous books are now popping their heads up all over the country. Losses are high and the odds are very much against Ledger and his team. We know Joe will win. It’s watching it happen that makes it fun.
It is superior to the other books, I think, because the pacing is more measured and there is more character development. I also enjoyed the flashbacks into the DMS’s years before Joe joined them.
But in one very important way Code Zero was very different for me.
I felt a level of anxiety that was all out of proportion. Maberry is an expert at ratcheting up the stakes until you just can’t see how anyone decent is going to survive the maelstrom. I was used to that. But somehow this felt different. I got a bit jumpy. I couldn’t quit thinking about the horrific chaos during the day when I had to put the book down. Maberry has his finger on the pulse of the evil that Americans today know all too well … that lurks below the conscious level of our lives … violent chaos that can strike without a moment’s notice. Shootings at Fort Hood, restaurants, schools, and more have changed the mood of our country and made Mother Night’s chaos resonate more deeply than usual.
Along the way, he looks at why people choose good or evil. Code Zero is full of people choosing to save the world or burn it down. In most of the cases, the motivation comes down to something that Maberry does not name, but which I will make bold to label: love. We want to know we matter, that we make a difference, that someone “knows” us. Not for our accomplishments but simply because our “selves” matter.
Mother Night gives it a different name, and she may not tidily fall into this definition but, let’s face it, she’s super-villain crazy. I believe that her ultimate fate bears me out. It shows most in Maberry’s final scenario at the end of the book as the answer to Rudy’s statement that the chaos ”has done something fundamental to the American people.
Truly this is a great book, especially for the shoot-em-up genre. It is also probably one that can be read as a stand alone without reading the others that came before.
I listened to the audiobook read by Ray Porter who was superb, as usual, at portraying Joe and every other character along the way. In this book Porter dialed his urgent, driving, delivery down some and thank goodness for that. The action was intense enough without being shoved over the edge of the cliff by a continually urgent tone. Porter also was more nuanced and thoughtful in his reading than I recall in previous Joe Ledger books. If this sounds odd when considering our heroes are fighting off zombies, it actually worked to make me consider the full horror being faced. Once again, kudos to Ray Porter. He’s the reason I always choose audio for the Joe Ledger books.
Posted by Julie D.
Flesh Circus (Jill Kismet #4)
By Lilith Saintcrow; Performed by Joyce Bean
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 7 discs; 9 hours
Themes: / circus / urban fantasy / voodoo / zombies / magic /
When circus performers start dying grotesquely, Jill Kismet has to find out why, or the entire city will become a carnival of horror. She also has to play the resident hellbreed power against the Cirque to keep them in line, and find out why ordinary people are needing exorcisms. And then there’s the murdered voodoo practitioners, and the zombies. Jill Kismet is about to find out that some games are played for keeps.
The descriptions in Flesh Circus were memorable and fun, and touched on all the senses. Characterizations really told a lot about each individual and gave information about both them and the narrator. She was really snarky, selling toughness without overdoing it. There was some repetition in the action scenes, with guns and bones popping frequently. The author employs a liberal use of adverbs, and the plot relies heavily on elements that must have been established in earlier books. I could still follow along, though. The magical details were the best part.
Joyce Bean as narrator was great. She had a husky, slightly rough voice with an understated delivery that let the words really shine. Her characterization of side characters was great, making it easy to keep track of who was speaking.
Posted by Sarah R.
Filed under: Audio Drama, New Releases, Podcasts, 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 #237 – Jesse, Tamahome, Julie Davis, Seth, and Jimmy Rogers talk about podcasts.
Talked about on today’s show:
Jimmy’s Synthetic Voices, Jenny’s Forgotten Classics and A Good Story is Hard to Find, podcasts are a house of mirrors, we have reached the podcast singularity, Julie’s podcast highlight feature, Edgar Allan Poecast, Dickens and Hawthorn podcasts on Julie’s wishlist, Jimmy’s podcast group meetup, Washington Science Fiction Association, Jimmy’s segment on StarShipSofa, the value of curated podcasts about podcasts, Luke Burrage’s geek Venn diagram (see below), Julie on the intimate nature of podcast listening, Jesse on the rarity of finding people who speak like they write, podcasts invite listeners into the conversation, “Tam listens to all podcasts”, SFSignal, Sword & Laser, mainstream podcasts, Security Now, ABC News, Agony Column, Jesse wants to hit Margaret Atwood again, 99% Invisible funded by KickStarter, Julie scans the new releases section in iTunes, KCRW’s DnA and Martini Shot, Inside the New York Times Book Review Podcast, NPR’s Car Talk, Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me!, Nature podcast, Science Update, Encounters, 60 Minutes is tightly edited (and that’s how it is!), Vice podcast (HBO show tie-in) and Dennis Rodman, Freakonomics, Day 6, Dan Carlin’s Common Sense and Hardcore History, CBC embraces podcasters, Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac makes Seth sound smart, audio drama, the Lovecraftian Welcome to Night Vale, Nerdist podcasts, Twin Peaks, Wormwood, Decoder Ring Theatre‘s shows, Julie Hoverson’s 19 Nocturne Boulevard, Leviathan Chronicles, podiobooks, Scott Sigler‘s BloodCast and Rookie series, J.C. Hutchins, Mur Lafferty‘s Heaven series, We’re Alive zombie podcast, Julie educates us on the Texas definition of “fine”, The Monster Hunters is zany UK comedy (not related to Larry Correia‘s Monster Hunters International), Plants vs. Zombies, HG World (not related to H.G. Wells), Ace Galaksi features Douglas Adams humour, meritocracy in podcast recommendations, “podcasting makes anyone a celebrity”, so does blogging (Julie’s Happy Catholic blog), Seth is the new intern (but can’t afford the Night Vale intern shirt), CromCast discusses Robert E. Howard whilst eating Chinese food, the nature of an author’s writing informs the nature of podcasts about them, H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, Philip K. Dick Philosophical Podcast (not just on Facebook anymore), the importance of a well-researched podcast, Mr Jim Moon’s Hypnogoria, Peter Kushing, Chop Bard Shakespeare podcast, Julie challenges Jesse to do a podcast on The Tempest, SFFAudio’s Odyssey podcast series, Julie’s Genesis podcast series (based on Robert Alter‘s translation and commentary), Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Born Yesterday history podcast featuring an objective history of the gay bar, History According to Bob, British History Podcast, History of Philosophy without any gaps, Mike Duncan‘s History of Rome and Revolutions podcasts, When Diplomacy Fails, alternative iOS podcast apps, Stitcher, Swell Radio is Pandora for podcasts, Downcast ($0.99) is chock full of functionality, Huffduffer creates custom podcast feeds, if you don’t have RSS it’s not a podcast!, Free MP3 Downloader, fiction podcasts, Escape Artists Network (Escape Pod for SF, PodCastle for fantasy, and PseudoPod for horror), StarShipSofa’s Tales to Terrify, Clarkesworld Magazine, John Joseph Adams’s Lightspeed Magazine, Nightmare Magazine, DrabbleCast, different approaches to horror narration, Night of the Living Dead, don’t listen to horror before bed, Journey Into podcast, Seeing Ear Theatre on archive.org, Jimmy and Tam like to support creators of new content (but, asks Jesse, is new necessarily better?), CraftLit is way more than just knitting, podcasts about writing (Jesse hates them), Mur Lafferty’s I Should be Writing, Writing Excuses (Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal), NaNoWriMo, Neil Gaiman on writer’s block, writing podcasts offer writers a sense of community, Adeventures in Science Fiction Publishing, Terry Pratchett “just makes things up”, the importance of writers reading classic works, Jimmy argues that ‘short stories offer writers more opportunity to extemporize and gives readers a sense of immediacy’, writing for deadline, Adventure magazine, Lord of the Rings, Tolkien Professor Podcast, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jane Austen, the Budweiser frogs, advertising as a source of drama, commercialization and ownership of brands, Jimmy on how podcasts build community, an intense debate about layering spoken word audio over music, This Week at NASA, DribbleCast is a fan spin-off of DrabbleCast, The NoSleep Podcast just won Parsec Award for Best New Podcast, Classic Tales Podcast (links are ephemeral), we all love podcasts–surprise!, Warrior Queen of Mars by Alexander Blade, if Doctor Who were a podcast the audience could request an episode with tribbles, Rappuccini’s Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens, podcast production has left overhead than traditional media offering greater flexibility and responsiveness.
Posted by Seth Wilson