Review of Skin Game by Jim Butcher

June 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Skin Game by Jim ButcherSkin Game (Dresden Files #15)
By Jim Butcher; Performed by James MarstersPublisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 27 May 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 15 hours, 49 minutes

Themes: / Dresden Files / urban fantasy / parkour / magic / winter queen / mab / faerie /

Publisher summary:

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day….

Because as Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful.

He doesn’t know the half of it….

Mab has just traded Harry’s skills to pay off one of her debts. And now he must help a group of supernatural villains—led by one of Harry’s most dreaded and despised enemies, Nicodemus Archleone—to break into the highest-security vault in town so that they can then access the highest-security vault in the Nevernever.

It’s a smash-and-grab job to recover the literal Holy Grail from the vaults of the greatest treasure hoard in the supernatural world—which belongs to the one and only Hades, Lord of the freaking Underworld and generally unpleasant character. Worse, Dresden suspects that there is another game afoot that no one is talking about. And he’s dead certain that Nicodemus has no intention of allowing any of his crew to survive the experience. Especially Harry.

Dresden’s always been tricky, but he’s going to have to up his backstabbing game to survive this mess—assuming his own allies don’t end up killing him before his enemies get the chance….

It’s been 18 months give or take since Cold Days came out and I’ve been in withdrawal. While not quite as good as that book, Jim Butcher once again shows why he’s the king of Urban Fantasy and one of the best fantasy writers out there.

I tried to hold myself over with an Iron Druid and a Libriomancer. They just didn’t do the trick. In fact, I’ve decided that apart from Dresden Files, Urban Fantasy just really isn’t for me. Nothing else compares. Not even close.

I barely made it halfway through the first track and I was already laughing out loud. I had to spend an extra ten minutes deciding which one-liner was best to use for my status update, and just opted for one of the shorter ones because I had already stayed up too late listening.

We see a return of the Nicodemus and Order of the Blackened Denarius. By far one of the best villains of the series, if not all of fantasy. I was yelling at my book and Jim Butcher a few times.  My only real complaint is that many of the questions and issues created by Cold Days go largely unanswered. It almost feels like things were put on hold for a side story. That said, the book once again combines great characters, great dialogue and great action in a way that makes it nearly impossible to put down. I always hate waiting between books, but I can’t help myself from spending every free minute reading until I finish. It’s just that good.

James Marsters once again makes this series a must listen. It’s not even the fact that he does voices for the characters that makes it great. It’s the WAY he does the voices. The emotion when Harry casts a spell. Or him actually yelling PARKOUR! instead of simply reading it. He may not be the voice I originally expected for Harry, but he sure is now.

Anyone who reads the first few books and wonders what all the fuss is about, or balks at having to read a few books before the series “gets really good” is just missing out. If for some reason you still haven’t caught up on this series after Cold Days, consider this another recommendation to get on it.

Maybe I’ll take up Parkour!

Review by Rob Zak.

Recent Arrivals: Brilliance Audio, Full Cast Audio, Penguin Audio

November 16, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recent Arrivals 

SFFaudio Recent Arrivals

Which website has a stack of more than a dozen recently arrived audiobooks looking for reviews? Would you be surprised to learn it’s called SFFaudio.com? We knew you knew that.

Nearly 200 ratings on audible, where it premiered back in July, give this audiobook a score of 4.39 out of 5. Impressive. And, check it out, narrator Jay Snyder (aka Dan Green) is also the voice actor for Yugi Moto from the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime series.

Fantasy Audiobook - Day By Day Armageddon by J.L. BourneBeyond Exile: Day By Day Armageddon (book 2 in the Armageddon series)
By J.L. Bourne; Read by Jay Snyder
8 CDs – Approx. 10 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: August 10, 2010
ISBN: 9781441874863
Sample: |MP3|
START INTERCEPT – Armies of undead have risen up across the U.S. and around the globe; there is no safe haven from the diseased corpses hungering to feed off human flesh. But in the heat of a Texas wasteland, a small band of survivors attempt to counter the millions closing in around them. – INTERCEPT COMPLETE — Survivor, Day by day, the handwritten journal entries of one man caught in a worldwide cataclysm capture the desperation — and the will to survive — as he joins forces with a handful of refugees to battle soulless enemies both human and inhuman from inside the abandoned Hotel 23. But in the world of the undead, is mere survival enough?

Here’s the follow up to The Unincorporated Man |READ OUR REVIEW|. The part I like most about this sequel is that it is slightly shorter than the original.

BRILLIANCE AUDIO - The Unincorporated War by Dani Kollin and Eytan KollinThe Unincorporated War
By Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin; Read by Eric G. Dove
19 CDs – Approx. 22 Hours 37 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: May 11, 2010
ISBN: 1441858016
Sample: |MP3|
The Kollin brothers introduced their future world, and central character Justin Cord, in The Unincorporated Man. Justin created a revolution in that book, and is now exiled from Earth to the outer planets, where he is a heroic figure. The corporate society, which is headquartered on Earth and rules Venus, Mars, and the Orbital colonies, wants to destroy Justin and reclaim hegemony over the rebellious outer planets. The first interplanetary civil war begins as the military fleet of Earth attacks. Filled with battles, betrayals, and triumphs, The Unincorporated War is a full-scale space opera that catapults the focus of the earlier novel up and out into the solar system. Justin remains both a logical and passionate fighter for the principles that motivate him, and the most dangerous man alive.

Neal Stephenson’s “Baroque Cycle” – no matter how you measure it – begins with this audibook. I’m always for starting at the beginning.

BRILLIANCE AUDIO Quicksilver by Neal StephensonQuicksilver
By Neal Stephenson; Read by Simon Prebble
12 CDs – Approx. 14 Hours 35 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: August 2010
ISBN: 9781441874962
Sample: |MP3|
Quicksilver is the story of Daniel Waterhouse, fearless thinker and conflicted Puritan, pursuing knowledge in the company of the greatest minds of Baroque-era Europe, in a chaotic world where reason wars with the bloody ambitions of the mighty, and where catastrophe, natural or otherwise, can alter the political landscape overnight.

This mortal, meaning me, plans on listening to this intriguing sounding book before the year is out. It was originally published, in a shorter version, under the title … And Call Me Conrad. Check out the fascinating Wikipedia entry describing its long an convoluted publishing history.

BRILLIANCE AUDIO - This Immortal by Roger ZelaznyThis Immortal
By Roger Zelazny; Read by Victor Bevine
6 CDs – Approx. 6 Hours 29 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: August 25, 2010
ISBN: 1441875018
Conrad Nomikos has a long, rich personal history that he’d rather not talk about. And, as arts commissioner, he’s been given a job he’d rather not do. Escorting an alien grandee on a guided tour of the shattered remains of Earth is not something he relishes – especially since it is apparent that this places him at the center of high-level intrigue that has some bearing on the future of Earth itself. But Conrad is a very special guy…

Narrator Christina Traister, in addition to narrating audiobooks, also teaches stage combat in the Department of Theatre at Michigan State University. That’s cool.

Fantasy Audiobook - Blood Trinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna LoveBlood Trinity: The Belador Code, Book 1
By Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love; Read by Christina Traister
11 CDs – Approx. 13 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: October 19, 2010
ISBN: 9781441863515
Sample: |MP3|
Atlanta has become the battlefield between human and demon. All her life, Evalle Kincaid has walked the line between the two. Her origins unknown, she’s on a quest to learn more about her past … and her future. When a demon claims a young woman in a terrifying attack and there’s no one else to blame, Evalle comes under suspicion. Now she’s on a deadly quest for her own survival. Through the sordid underground of an alternate Atlanta where nothing is as it seems to the front lines of the city, where her former allies have joined forces to hunt her, Evalle must prove her innocence or pay the ultimate price. But saving herself is the least of her problems if she doesn’t stop the coming apocalypse. The clock is ticking and Atlanta is about to catch fire…

Not only does the protagonist of Heaven’s Spite have unbelievably fake sounding name, so does the author. Lillith Saintcrow, however, insists that it is in fact her real name! Now considering how cool sounding it is I can entirely imagine someone having her name legally changed to Lillith Saintcrow. And, I’ve also got to hand it to any author/character combination who can use the word “Fuckwad” in the opening of her paranormal romance parkour novel! Check out how they made the cover for another of Saintcrow’s urban fantasy books too.

Fantasy Audiobook - Heaven's Spite by Lilith SaintcrowHeaven’s Spite: Book 5 in the Jill Kismet series
By Lilith Saintcrow; Read by Joyce Bean
7 CDs – Approx. 8 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: October 27, 2010
ISBN: 9781441886835
Sample: |MP3|
Jill Kismet has no choice but to seek treacherous allies — Perry, the devil she knows, and Melisande Belisa, the cunning Sorrows temptress whose true loyalties are unknown. Kismet knows Perry and Belisa are likely playing for the same thing — her soul. It’s just too bad, because she expects to beat them at their own game. Except their game is vengeance. Nobody plays vengeance like Kismet. But if the revenge she seeks damns her, her enemies might get her soul after all…

Cherie (aka BelovedBitterSea) sez: “genocide is bad and life should be fair” – You know I’m liking YouTube more and more if only for reviews like Cherie’s – it’s for Foundation, the novel preceding this audiobook…

Fantasy Audiobook - Intrigues by Mercedes LackeyIntrigues: Valdemar: Collegium Chronicles, Book 2
By Mercedes Lackey; Read by Nick Podehl
9 CDs – Approx. 10 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: October 5, 2010
ISBN: 9781423308003
Sample: |MP3|
Mags was an orphan and slave of ‘bad blood’ who toiled a gem mine all his young life. He would have died before adulthood, had he not been Chosen and taken to Haven to be trained in the new Herald Collegium. Now, Mags was never hungry and never cold. He slept in a real bed in his own room and, most importantly, he had Dallen, who was like another part of himself. And yet, aside from Lena and Bear, both loners like he was, he couldn’t relate to most of the Herald, Healer, or Bard trainees. He was the only trainee who came from what—to the others—was unimaginable poverty. There was another factor that contributed to Mag’s isolation. Foreign assassins, masquerading at court as envoys were discovered. As they fled from the Guard, one of them seemed to “recognize” Mags. Now, Mags was an object of suspicion. He had always been curious about his parents, but after the incident it became urgent for Mags to discover exactly who his parents were. And at Haven, he had access to the extensive Archives. Poring through the Archives, he got only incomplete information: his parents, found dead in a bandit camp, had been two of a number of hostages, some of whom had survived. The survivors had told the Guard that Mags’ parents spoke a language that no one understood or recognized. This information did not help, for the ForeSeers had been having visions of the king’s assassination by “one of the foreign blood”. Some had even Seen Mags with blood on his hands. How could Mags defend himself against a crime that hadn’t yet been committed?

Here’s the sequel to Sandman Slim. It’s a paranormal romance/urban fantasy told humorously in first person! Narrator MacLeod Andrews sounds very good while telling the story with what sounds like a conspiratorial smirk. Check out Kadrey’s video about the first book in the series too.

Fantasy Audiobook - Kill the Dead by Richard KadreyKill The Dead
By Richard Kadrey; Read by MacLeod Andrews
11 CDs – Approx. 13 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: October 5, 2010
ISBN: 9781441806642
Sample: |MP3|
James Stark, a.k.a. Sandman Slim, crawled out of Hell, took bloody revenge for his girlfriend’s murder, and saved the world along the way. After that, what do you do for an encore? You take a lousy job tracking down monsters for money. It’s a depressing gig, but it pays for your beer and cigarettes. But in L.A., things can always get worse. Like when Lucifer comes to town to supervise his movie biography and drafts Stark as his bodyguard. Sandman Slim has to swim with the human and inhuman sharks of L.A.’s underground power elite. That’s before the murders start. And before he runs into the Czech porn star who isn’t quite what she seems. Even before all those murdered people start coming back from the dead and join a zombie army that will change our world and Stark’s forever. Death bites. Life is worse. All things considered, Hell’s not looking so bad.

Narrator Ralph Lister reads with an English accent. If I had my drothers all aliens (and Nazis) would be played by English actors. First published in 1968.

Fantasy Audiobook - Priest-Kings of Gor by John NormanPriest-Kings Of Gor: Gorean Saga, Book 3
By John Norman; Read by Ralph Lister
11 CDs – Approx. 13 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: October 15, 2010
ISBN: 9781441849021
Sample: |MP3|
This is the third installment of John Norman’s popular and controversial Gor series. Tarl Cabot is the intrepid tarnsman of the planet Gor, a harsh society with a rigid caste system that personifies the most brutal form of Social Darwinism. In this volume, Tarl must search for the truth behind the disappearance of his beautiful wife, Talena. Have the ruthless Priest-Kings destroyed her? Tarl vows to find the answer for himself, journeying to the mountain stronghold of the kings, knowing full well that no one who has dared approach the Priest-Kings has ever returned alive….

Told in first person, by the chameleon voiced Phil Gigante, here’s the 1970 sequel to an audiobook I am listening to right now. I suspect I’ll be gobbling up this sequel soon too.

Science Fiction Audiobook - The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge by Harry HarrisonThe Stainless Steel Rat’s Revenge (book 2 in the Stainless Steel Rat series)
By Harry Harrison; Read by Phil Gigante
5 CDs – Approx. 6 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: October 12, 2010
ISBN: 9781441881144
Sample: |MP3|
DiGriz and Angelina are happily married and expecting the birth of their sons. The planet Cliaand is waging interstellar war, and against the odds, its Grey Men are invading and taking over planet after planet. The Rat is sent to Cliaand to start a one-man guerrilla campaign to put a stop to the plans of the planet’s leader, Kraj. He is aided by the Amazons, a force of liberated freedom fighters, and eventually by his wife who arrives to help him win the war and keep him out of the arms of the Amazons.

This audiobook asks: “King, Country, Crown. What would you die for?” Author Celine Kiernan is also, apparently, working on a graphic novel.

Fantasy Audiobook - The Rebel PrinceThe Rebel Prince (book 3 in the Moorehawke Trilogy)
By Celine Kiernan; Read by Kate Rudd
11 CDs – Approx. 13 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: October 18, 2010
ISBN: 9781441891679
Sample: |MP3|
Wynter Moorehawke has braved bandits and Loup-Garous to find her way to Alberon — the exiled, rebel prince. But now that she’s there, she will learn firsthand that politics is a deadly mistress. With the king and his heir on the edge of war and alliances made with deadly enemies, the Kingdom is torn not just by civil war – but strife between the various factions as well. Wynter knows that no one has the answer to the problems that plague the Kingdom – and she knows that their differences will not just tear apart her friends – but the Kingdom as well.

This series has a very interesting premise. In Rachel Aaron’s universe all inanimate objects, in addition to people (and perhaps animals), have spirits. I’m not sure if there have been any Fantasy novels that have used animism before this one. Although, now that I think of it, I guess one could take it a step further and give even abstract nouns spirits as well – but that’s a different zeitgeist altogether.

Fantasy Audiobook - The Spirit Rebellion by Rachel AaronThe Spirit Rebellion: The Legend of Eli Monpress, Book 2
By Rachel Aaron; Read by Luke Daniels
10 CDs – Approx. 12 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: November 1, 2010
ISBN: 9781441886576
Sample: |MP3|
Eli Monpress is brilliant. He’s incorrigible. And he’s a thief. He’s also still at large, which drives Miranda Lyonette crazy. While she’s been kicked out of the Spirit Court, Eli’s had plenty of time to plan his next adventure. But now the tables have turned, because Miranda has a new job — and an opportunity to capture a certain thief. Things are about to get exciting for Eli. He’s picked a winner for his newest heist. His target: the Duke of Gaol’s famous “thief-proof” citadel. Eli knows Gaol is a trap, but what’s life without challenges? Except the Duke is one of the wealthiest men in the world, a wizard who rules his duchy with an iron fist, and an obsessive perfectionist with only one hobby: Eli.

One tale, from this collection of Bruce Coville short stories, is available for FREE DOWNLOAD |HERE|.

Fantasy Audiobook - Oddly Enough by Bruce CovilleOddly Enough
By Bruce Coville; Read by various
4 CDs – Approx. 4 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Full Cast Audio
Published: October 2010
ISBN: 9781936223350
A collection of nine short stories about “vampires, werewolves, ghosts, unicorns.”

Here’s a new young adult novel, the first of three, set in a dystopian world in which boys and girls are matched by their society.

Fantasy Audiobook - Matched by Ally CondieMatched
By Ally Condie; Read by Kate Simses
8 CDs – Approx. 10 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Published: November 30, 2010
ISBN: 9780142428634
Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate … until she sees Ky Markham’s face.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel

January 26, 2010 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon HaleSkybreakerSFFaudio Essential
By Kenneth Oppel; Read by a full cast
10 CDs – 11.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Full Cast Audio
Published: 2008
ISBN: 9781934180150
Themes: / Fantasy / Airships / Adventure / Parallel World / Romance / Alternate History / Zoology / Paris / Pirates / Parkour /

High in the sky, far above the normal lanes of travel, drifts a ghost ship carrying unbelievable treasure. Matt Cruise, hero of the wildly popular Airborn, is on the trail of that treasure, with the help of his charming society friend Kate de Vries and a mysterious gypsy girl named Nadira. With them flies Hal Slater, roguish captain of a boldly designed Skybreaker aircraft that can reach heights previously undreamed of. But between Matt and his destination stand ruthless pirates, and an even more ruthless businessman. And what Matt’s crew will find when they finally do reach the Hyperion is far more valuable, far more exciting, and far more dangerous than they ever imagined.

Do you love airships? I know I do. If I had my way I’d double the number of all science fiction and fantasy novels being written with airships. This one, set shortly after the events of Airborn |READ OUR REVIEW|, stars our returning hero Matt Cruse. At the opening of Skybreaker Matt has been attending the world’s premier airship academy in Paris. This last semester his practicum began as assistant navigator on an old cargo airship called the Flotsam. And it’s there, whilst high over the Indian Ocean, that Matt, and the crew of the Flotsam, spot a famous ghost airship called the Hyperion. Supposedly the Hyperion is loaded with the treasures of it’s notorious billionaire inventor (kind of a cross between Howard Hughes and Thomas Edison). Upon his return to Paris, Matt discovers there are several interested parties desirous of the Hyperion’s last known coordinates. Fatefully, this is information that now only Matt knows! Determined to cash in on the knowledge and hunt down the Hyperion’s treasure Matt teams up with a rougish sky-captain named Hal Slater. Slater is the owner of a recently commissioned “skybreaker” called the Sagarmāthā. (which is the nepalese name for Mount Everest). Skybreakers are high performance, high altitude airships. Matt will need one just like it to reach the high drifting Hyperion. But Matt won’t be alone as Paris is full of both dangers and would-be competitors in the hunt for Hyperion. And what kind of a novel set in Paris would be complete without some Parkour? Kenneth Oppel doesn’t disappoint there. When Matt meets Nadira, a girl wjho quite literally holds the key to the Hyperion’s treasure, the first thing do together is jump around, off buildings, running away from some bad dudes.

One thing to bear in mind while reading this fast paced adventure, Kenneth Oppel is far less interested in the rigors of telling a scientifically plausible story than in getting on with the storytelling itself. Despite this Skybreaker does have some rudimentary science in it, notably in the areas of fluid physics (displacement), biology (human adaptability to high altitude) and even some of the zoological sciences. And though the story contains no magic it is probably still best classified as a Fantasy novel due to some very unscientific realities. The lifting gas employed in the Skybreaker universe, for example, is non-flammable (like helium gas), naturally scented of mango (like no high lifting gas on our periodic table), naturally occurring (from deep within the earth and in some animals biologically) and absolutely non-existent in our universe. Some inventions that are featured in the story are not only implausible, but also long discredited in our reality (notably Phrenology). On the plus side it contains a fun Parkour sequence fairly early in the novel. Parkouring-up a scene like that is really cool. Thanks Mr. Oppel!

As with every Full Cast Audio production that I’ve hear I come away from the novel forgetting that it is an audiobook. Skybreaker feels like a full blown audio drama. This is a rather odd realization. There are no sound effects that would normally be created for an audio drama production – they are merely described by the narrator using the actual words written by Kenneth Oppel. One technical difference in the production, as compared with Airborn is what sounds like a bit more bed music. The actors who performed in the first book in this series all return, reprising their roles as appropriate but there are some new actors too. The addition of Hal Slater, for example, is a fine one, voiced by Mark Holt, he comes off very Han Solo-ish. The actress playing Nadira, Ailsa McCaughrean, would be a fine additon to future FCA productions, she portrays a young, brash and impulsive young woman. The actors playing the Sherpas, the crew of the Sagarmatha, present what sounds to my ears as a distinct and possibly even authentic accent. Malcolm Ingram, who plays a villonous sky-pirate turned sky-mercenary sounds a bit like Sean Connery. David Kelly (Matt) and Mark Holt (Hal) even have a chance to sing a sea-shanty turned sky-shanty. This is an aurally rich production that’s a must listen for any fan of airshippery and piratical daring do.

Posted by Jesse Willis