Review of Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

August 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

RANDOM HOUSE AUDIO - Dark Matter by Blake CrouchDark Matter
By Blake Crouch; Read by Jon Lindstrom
10 Hours 8 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: July 26, 2016

“Are you happy with your life?” Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

So, the only other experience I have with Blake Crouch is through the ridiculously insanely pulpy, Drakulas … written by three other authors. I can’t say I was able to tell who wrote what, so it really wasn’t a huge help. Other than that I had good feelings going in because Drakulas is amazing. Read it, do it.

Dark Matter is difficult to explain without spoilers, but let’s just say it involves … science. Wow, could this review get more boring than that. Okay, there’s got to be a minor amount of spoilers to get this review moving, so let’s say spoiler warning for the first quarter of the book.

Our protagonist, Jason Dessen, has the perfect life and, more importantly, the perfect family. Okay, his marriage isn’t perfect, but it’s a place he loves being in more than anything. In fact, it’s something he gave up a budding science career to pursue.

Like anyone, he always imagines what it would be like if he’d made different choices. The only difference is that he actually gets to see for himself.

While tightly plotted with one heck of a twist at the end (I thought), this book packs more of a punch in the psychological aspects. Considering the implications of the science (which I’m really trying not to spoil), the questions addressed by Dessen are what really got me. Thinking about what I would do in the same situation is what will keep this book in my brain for some time.

What would you do for your family? What lengths would you go to to be with them? To save them? To permit them to be happy? What if that choice makes you miserable?

4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)

Note on the narrator: Jon Lindstrom is one of those voices that really needs to fit the character if that makes any sense. I feel like there are some books that his voice wouldn’t work for. It worked for Jason Dessen. Craig Wasson (11/22/63 and many others) is one of those voices for me as well.

I received an audio copy from the publisher for review.

Posted by Bryce L.

The SFFaudio Podcast #422 – READALONG: The Running Man by Stephen King and The Prize Of Peril by Robert Sheckley

May 22, 2017 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast
The Running Man
The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #422 -Jesse, Scott Danielson, Paul Weimer, and Marissa talk about The Running Man by Stephen King and The Prize Of Peril by Robert Sheckley

Talked about today’s show:
What’s wrong with society?, Harlan Ellison talking about Stephen King and Robert Sheckley, so eloquent, dismissing Stephen King, The Long Walk, one of the best science fiction books of the 1980s, at the heart of it, the world, when King was hungry and angry, the introduction, giving it away, a pretty extravagant and great ending, he’s old and angry on Twitter now, he talks good, a distant anger, his attiotufe is what makes the book, The Prize Of Peril is a joke, Das Millionenspiel (1970), the Schwarzenegger, turning anger into a farce action comedy, not even a satire, so much hate, shocking lines, smash her and rape her, when King was very poor, Rage, uncomfortable, connections to actual school shootings, bizarre tie between fiction and action, I’m gonna come up to that floor and getcha, pulling books off the shelves, The Dead Zone, the Dead Zone TV show, the world fits this kind of character, psychological, Richard K. Morgan doesn’t write them this angry, Mr. Mercedes, Take The Money And Run, The Hunted, sticking it to the man, “the internet never forgets”, auto-pulldowns by robots, a disturbing show, Myke Cole, without the killing, so freaky, same ethics and motivation, poor people, Jimmy Dore, half of America is poor, Scott would dispute that, it seems high, American poor, healthcare, GoFundMe for healthcare, hoping to put my kids into college, Paul Bishop, everybody loses the money, Big Brother Canada, horror, becoming a homeless person for 30 days, distributing, why did I like this?, interviewing audience members, a War Of The Worlds-effect, cutting to the control room, former CIA, former FBI, former U.S. Marshall, former British intelligence, this isn’t stacked at all, economic incentive, the mother, the book readers are the heroes, The Prize Of Peril, Raeder = Reader, putting ourselves into this situation, the ultimate protagonist, Killian, stick close to your own people, mapping, May of 1958 (everybody’s doing great), real unemployment 24%, I work three jobs, clown for president, the 1970 movie existential interest in, Too Many Cooks, the sponsor of Das Millionenspiel is Stablelite, male enhancement, Stablelite = the stable elite, The Running Man (1987), tracking real-life trends, 1950s = isn’t this funny (a satire), Sheckley was a god in Europe, The Tenth Victim (adapted from Seventh Victim), an assassination game, keeping violence down, Black Mirror: White Bear, X-Minus One, about psychology, the death wish and the life wish, a suicide option, the voluntary suicide act, Prix De Danger, the Sheckley short story, “Hazard”, “Spills”, “Underwater Perils”, “Terroro”, why Marissa loves this podcast, if we go there…, CBC, CTV, remaking American shows, Canadian Idol, people wouldn’t accept, everything commercialized, even Netflix has this, poor loser helpless people, Fear Factor, you haven’t been poor and desperate enough, I’ll just shoot you then, part of the criticism, that feeling, this Stephen King book feels way more relevant today, air pollution, the media, Sam Harris, the attention economy, status, the environmental sub-plot, thinking about and talking about the environment, only for the lip readers, They Live (1988), a spiritual riff, desperately squeezing, the temptation to power motif, we could use you, a three year contract, standard for a network stalker, you do it to your own kind, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Eight O’Clock In The Morning by Ray Nelson, the trickle down economy, the network editing, agreeing on what real is, subtext, looking at SF causally, SF is reflective not predictive, framing, when a hospital gets bombed, Leonard Cohen, “I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons”, Brian Williams, how much in the context, humiliating interrogation by professionals, a Japanese game show, Trans-America Ultra Quiz, the look and the inspiration is from Japanese game show, The Hunger Games, what it’s all built from, ancient Rome, the tension, I have no idea what I’m supposed to feel, here’s this phenomenon, non-judgemental, the conclusion is not in the movie, you’re watching the host, through the host’s eyes, the Italian French Russian movie, Le Prix Du Danger (1983), surveillance cameras all over England, mailing in your tapes, at the homeless shelter, the meta-issue, Raeder is the first thing you see in the story, we become the Ben Richards, Richard Dawson, Harlan Ellison doesn’t give you his varnished opinion, The Pest, The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, battle royale style, Battle Royale, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, even a frying pan, the war of all against all, Thomas Hobbes, Paul is tribute, first person shooters, so funny so dark, Tag: The Assassination Game, Gotcha! (1985), thinking about fake news, a cartoon for stupid people, so great and stop stupid, Dweezil Zappa, Mick Fleetwood, Stephen King movies are mostly horrible, 1408, The Storm Of The Century, The Shining, The Mist, “Whitman, Price, and Haddad”, basking under the Maui sun, the big lie, when a revolution becomes show business, he’s a game show host, ultimate reality show, Scott has checked out, Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger two future governors wrestling each other, wrestling as ballet for big guys, set in 2017, when Killian gets his ending, when the truth is known the people will revolt, no agreement on what the truth is, agreeing on what the facts are, brainwashing, it’s not all bottom down, ignorance at the bottom, the school system is broken, teaching civics, getting a good SAT score, good job vs. good citizens, bubbles, the “freeview”, greater than Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 or The Veldt, subtlety in The Running Man movie, bread and circuses, healthcare too, vacation time, better education, grow our minds, some clean air (or water), automated manufacturing, technicians, robotics, what will society look like in 20 years?, an opportunity, truck driver, work through what it means, truck guard like Mad Max, the reason for pirates in Somalia, dignity, stepping on his own guts, a dignity in defiance, living with your mom in your 40s or 50s or 60s, food riots, nerve gas in the mid-east, protests did not work, a thin scythe, jellyfish slime, and he’s pimping out his wife, is anybody thinking about it, earlier industrial revolutions, a new Roosevelt with a new New Deal, analyzing art, buying literature written by A.I., kiosks and self checkouts, robots cooking the food, nursing the babies, all a prequel to Wall-E, the soft apocalypse, The Machine Stops, to feed their kid, medicine for the kid, people do that, that’s where the sex industry comes from, the power of a pseudonym, Thinner, Donald E. Westlake and Richard Stark, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, embarrassed about, 100% honest, admire them, The Long Walk, Misery, Steve Brown, 1985, real journalism, you can tell, one thing we know about writers is that they used to be readers, Ben Richards is really well read, fuck off and get me some books, a general atomics novel, book reviews, William Shakespeare, off center of Science Fiction, Stephen King is the gateway drug, The Dark Tower, The Gunslinger, Richard from Richard Stark, a Westlake novel about the pseudonym problem, The Hook, writer’s block, the hall of mirrors effect, King has a voice that is different than Koontz and Dick and Lovecraft, other Bachman books, Rage, Thinner, Misery, his biggest fan, writing the novel in the novel, meta, Roadwork, an interstellar bypass without the interstellar, The Bachman Books, Different Seasons, an official photo of Richard Bachman, Philip K. Dick, Four Past Midnight, The Langoliers, Kevin Kenerly was a terrific narrator, George Guidall, American Gods, damn good listen, damn good book, The Millions Game, after death beauty products, the Kling Klang knife company, a knife for killing your wife, Germany in the 70s was a very interesting place.




NEL - The Running Man by Richard Bachman
Signet - The Running Man by Richard Bachman
The Running Man (1987)
The Prize Of Peril by Robert Sheckley

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Change Agent by Daniel Suarez

April 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

PENGUIN AUDIO - Change Agent by Daniel SuarezChange Agent
By Daniel Suarez; Read by Jeff Gurner
Audiobook Download – 14.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Published: Apr 18, 2017

In 2045 Kenneth Durand leads Interpol’s most effective team against genetic crime, hunting down black market labs that perform “vanity edits” on human embryos for a price. These illegal procedures augment embryos in ways that are rapidly accelerating human evolution—preying on human-trafficking victims to experiment and advance their technology.

Executive Summary: Despite a bit of a bumpy start, I think this is my favorite book by Mr. Suarez since Daemon.

Audiobook: Jeff Gurner continues to be a good fit for Daniel Suarez books. He reads well, and does a few voices to add that little extra something to the audiobook. These are exactly the kind of books I think are well suited to doing in audio.

Full Review
I picked up Daemon a few years back on the recommendation of a co-worker. It was kind of remarkable that I hadn’t found it on my own earlier. That book was totally in my wheelhouse. A near-future sci-fi thriller about a computer program gone crazy? Yes please. However unlike many people I found the sequel Freedom™ to just be too over the top for me to read it without constantly rolling my eyes.

In fact, I’ve found most of his work after Daemon just a little too ridiculous at times for me, but always good for a fun quick listen. I’d say this book is no different, except I found myself enjoying this one a lot more by the end than the last few.

Bioengineering seems to be a pretty popular topic for near-future science fiction recently, but I found Mr. Suarez’s take on things to be pretty interesting and unique. I did struggle a bit in the beginning with the whole “Wrongfully accused Fugitive” trope. It felt too generic for me, and I found myself starting to grow bored.

However once things got past the setup, I found that the sci-fi elements that Mr. Suarez added in made his spin on the story unique enough to be quite enjoyable. As with most of his books, things start of in the realm of believability and end up veering into the realm of ridiculousness at times.

I sometimes struggled with Kenneth Durand as a protagonist, but overall I thought his story does a good job of posing interesting questions about how much of who we are is biology vs. our upbringing. The whole nurture vs. nature debate. The book as a whole brings up some interesting ideas of what should be allowed and what should be illegal in terms of biological engineering.

I don’t pretend to have the same level of comprehension about biology and what’s possible in that field as I do in computers, but some parts of the story were just a bit too much for me to not to roll my eyes. I’d be curious to find out if Biology folks will have the same kinds of issues with this book that I had with Freedom™. Maybe they’ll tell me that Mr. Suarez isn’t too ridiculous after all. I sure hope not, because it would be pretty terrifying.

Like all of his books, he takes interesting science, extrapolates on what might be, and uses that to frame an over the top thriller story. It was a fun book, and I’ll be eager to pick up his next book when that comes out as well.

Review by Rob Zak

Review of Sphere by Michael Crichton

March 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

sphereSphere
By Michael Crichton; Read by Scott Brick
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 13 hours

Themes: / aliens / ocean / thriller /

Publisher summary:

The gripping story of a group of American scientists sent to the ocean floor to investigate an alien ship, only to confront a terrifying discovery that defies imagination.

Executive Summary: A strong start and a pretty strong finish, but I found a lot of the last quarter or so on the slow side. This is a pretty solid 3.5 stars that could be rounded up or down depending on my mood at the time.

Audiobook: This book had been released in audio before, but for some reason Brilliance Audio seems to be (re)releasing a bunch of his books recently. Scott Brick does his usual quality job. Whenever you see Mr. Brick’s name on an audiobook, you know you’re going to get a good reading.

Full Review
I came into this book thinking it was a reread. I did a handful of books by Mr. Crichton when I was in high school, and I thought this was among them. As I got further into the book, I became convinced otherwise.

I found the beginning very interesting. A psychologist is brought in to help with a crash that turns out to be a spaceship on the bottom of the ocean. I liked the mystery and investigation aspect of the story, more than the viewpoint of the main character itself though.

As the plot develops and we learn more about not only the ship, but the sphere it contains, I found my mind starting to wander. I didn’t get attached to any of the characters. I found myself annoyed by most of the scientists. Several of them seemed to be more concerned about being published and/or their place in history than the actual investigation itself. I’ve always been more of an engineer than a scientist, but I don’t know why anyone would want to deal with that.

As with the other Michael Crichton books I’ve read, this one takes science and posits some plausible seeming possibilities. He always seemed to have a knack for the techno-thriller in a way that doesn’t feel cheesy and over the top.

I’m not sure if I was disappointed with the truth of the Sphere, or if my detachment from the characters just got to me, but by about the 50% mark, I found my mind starting to wander a bit. The ending was pretty strong though, and probably saved it from me rounding down to a three.

I’ve been wanting to take a break from SFF this year, and while this is definitely still in the Sci-Fi wheelhouse, it’s more of a thriller with a sci-fi premise than a pure science fiction book. I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as Timeline or Jurassic Park, but I’m glad I finally read it.

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of Finders Keepers by Stephen King

August 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Finders Keepers by Stephen KingFinders Keepers (Bill Hodges Trilogy #2)
By Stephen King; Read by: Will Patton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: 2 June 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 13 hours, 5 minutes

Themes: / suspense / thriller / horror /

Publisher summary:

A masterful, intensely suspenseful novel about a reader whose obsession with a reclusive writer goes far too far—a book about the power of storytelling, starring the same trio of unlikely and winning heroes King introduced in Mr. Mercedes.

“Wake up, genius.” So begins King’s instantly riveting story about a vengeful reader. The genius is John Rothstein, an iconic author who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, but who hasn’t published a book for decades. Morris Bellamy is livid, not just because Rothstein has stopped providing books, but because the nonconformist Jimmy Gold has sold out for a career in advertising. Morris kills Rothstein and empties his safe of cash, yes, but the real treasure is a trove of notebooks containing at least one more Gold novel.

Morris hides the money and the notebooks, and then he is locked away for another crime. Decades later, a boy named Pete Saubers finds the treasure, and now it is Pete and his family that Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson must rescue from the ever-more deranged and vengeful Morris when he’s released from prison after thirty-five years.

Despite a bit of a slow start, I think I liked this one slightly better than Mr. Mercedes. It’s hard to put my finger on why. Morris Bellamy isn’t nearly as terrifying as Brady Hartsfield, but he’s still a fascinating character. I really enjoyed Pete Sauberg as well.

It might be the premise of this that I think is better. It all centers around reading, and obsession with fictional worlds/characters. That is something I can understand to a lot more than a crazy person with mommy issues.

The first half or so focuses largely on the new characters. For me, things really stepped up once we get back to Bill, Holly, and Jerome. I especially love Holly. She might be one of my favorite characters than Mr. King has written.

Much like its predecessor, this book is certainly more thriller or mystery than Horror. Often times people see Stephen King’s name on a book and assume horror.

The book geek in me really wants to read the Jimmy Gold novels. Or at least the plot summaries. We get dribs and drabs of it as the book unfolds, but not a ton. They sound more literary than my usual fare, but it would be interesting to see Mr. King do a more in depth write-up on the series within the series.

Will Patton is a perfect fit for this series. He does a bit of voices for some of the characters, but really it’s just his normal reading voice that is just the right tone.

Overall, another solid novel from King that makes for great summer reading, and I’m already looking forward to the final novel in the trilogy.

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

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

SFFaudio Review

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen KingMr. Mercedes
By Stephen King; Narrated by Will Patton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: June 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 14 hours, 22 minutes

Themes: / suspense / thriller / horror /

Publisher summary:

In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands.

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.

I think last year’s Joyland was one of my favorite Stephen King novels in awhile, meaning this book had a lot to live up to. I don’t this one is nearly as good, but I think most fans of Mr. King will find this enjoyable. Most of the novels by Mr. King I read have some sense of the fantastical to them. This one doesn’t. It’s straight up horror/thriller. No supernatural beings or unexplained phenomena here. That might be why I didn’t like it as much.

The premise is pretty straightforward. A decorated retired cop whose depression is suddenly shelved after being taunted by the perpetrator of one his most high profile unsolved cases. The killer murdered a crowd of people, including a baby using a big stolen gray Mercedes. They are a lot of psychological elements as both cop and criminal attempt to out think one another. While the majority of the story is told from Retired Detective Bill Hodges point of view, we are also given numerous chapters told from the killer’s perspective as well.

The story itself is nothing that special. Where this book shines (as usual) is in the characters. Mr. King always seems to write the most realistic and interesting characters. They aren’t necessarily someone you’d want to hang out with or even know, but they are the type that make it hard to look away (or in this case stop listening to the book).

Holly and Jerome are both memorable characters to add depth to the duel between our retired detective and the killer who got away. I especially enjoyed Holly’s character.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read, but far from a must read.

Will Patton seems to be an excellent fit for this story. His natural reading voice just seems to suit the tone of the book. He doesn’t really do voices, but you can tell his characters apart. I’m not sure how I’d like him as a narrator in general, but for this book, he’s an excellent choice.

Review by Rob Zak.

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