Review of Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

May 15, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Cover Art for Grave MercyGrave Mercy
by Robin LaFevers; Read by Erin Moon
Publisher: Recorded Books
Publication Date: 3 April 2012
[UNABRIDGED] – 14 hours 14 minutes
Themes: / historical fiction / assassins / medieval / politics / young adult

Ismae, our protagonist, is a teenage nun assassin in fifteenth-century Brittany. That descriptor alone, issued by a guest on NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, was enough to hook my attention and reel me into listening to this book. The term “nun assassin” alone, evoking a strong sense of cognitive dissonance, is rife with narrative potential. Mix in some fantastic elements of ancient gods  masquerading as saints and set the whole thing against a late medieval backdrop, and you would seem to have all the ingredients for an entertaining, emotional, and perhaps even thought-provoking novel. Unfortunately, Robin LaFevers’s young adult novel Grave Mercy falls short in almost every regard.

The novel opens with great promise. Ismae finds herself rescued inexplicably from an arranged marriage and whisked away to the convent of Saint Mortain, who, in LaFevers’s universe, is the ancient Britonic god of death who lives on in the guise of a Catholic saint. She quickly gains acceptance as one of Mortain’s servants and begins her training as an assassin. We meet several of her Sisters in training, who show immense promise as complex, complicated characters. Ismae immediately shows promise in the deadly arts, especially in the brewing of poisons. The stage is set for a Potteresque term of training, comeraderie, and schoolyard intrigue. I very much wanted to read that book.

Unfortunately, we are soon whisked three years into the future just as Ismae receives her first assignment as a full-fledged assassin. Easily dispatching her first victim, she then undertakes a much more difficult assignment at the behest of the Abbess. This task throws her smack-dab in the middle of Brittany’s courtly circle, where the young Duchess struggles to fend off both French invaders and equally persistent suitors. Under the pretense of serving as mistress to Duval, the Duchess’s bastard brother, Ismae must try to sort out the tangled web of politics and allegiances.

Wait, what? Where’s my Bildungsroman? I was looking forward to a classic coming-of-age story, but instead find myself listening to a book of court intrigue. There’s nothing inherently wrong with court intrigue, of course, except that most of the members of court in Grave Mercy are utterly forgettable, and those who do show a spark of personality don’t receive much stage time. There are no Lannisters or Starks here. Characters from the novel’s tantalizing early chapters hardly receive a second mention. The plot simply doesn’t hold together.

My second complaint is more subjective: the novel just isn’t rooted enough in fantasy. Mortain, the ancient god of death who marks his targets for the sisters of the convent, is potentially a fantastic character, or at least a useful construct, but sadly we learn about him and him only indirectly. Had we been treated to more time at the convent, we might have learned more of his mysterious ways. The novel also hints that other old gods also live in LaFevers’s Brittany, and presumably the remaining novels in the His Fair Assassin series shed more light on their nature. This volume, however, resembles historical fiction more than fantasy.

Despite its medieval setting, there isn’t much in the writing and themes that bear much resemblance to the writing or thought of the Middle Ages. The prose, while capable and at times even captivating, feels thoroughly modern in its tone and diction. The characters converse in a colloquial style that feels sterile and devoid of even the veneer of medieval cultures that most authors apply when setting stories in this time period. Ismae is an empowered young woman of the 21st-century variety, and the undertones of trauma and survival also have a modern ring to them. LaFevers is writing for a young adult audience, which in theory should make these choices easier to swallow. I grew up reading authors like Tolkien and Kipling and even Shakespeare, though, so I don’t buy into the assumption that fiction should be diluted for young readers. I’m not saying that this was necessarily LaFevers’s explicit intension, but rather that the current YA culture subconsciously encourages these trends. The genre’s very existence, to some extent, proves my point.

Erin Moon’s mellifluous narration makes Grave Mercy a pleasant listening experience even if the story itself is uneven. She captures Ismae’s quavering sense of vulnerability, and gives distinct voices to the other characters, at least to the extent the writing allows. Her pronunciation of French place-names, with one or two minor exceptions, is pretty much spot-on. Nothing ruins an otherwise-perfect audiobook like even a few pesky mispronunciations. So even though I wasn’t always captivated by the story, Moon’s performance kept me listening to the end.

As I look back, I’ve tried reading several assassin-themed fantasy novels: Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice, Brent Weeks’s The Way of Shadows, and Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study. This is the first one I’ve actually finished. Assassins should make for compelling, dynamic characters spinning taut webs of dramatic tension. But for some reason they have always fallen short in this reader’s estimation. Maybe my subconscious finds them somehow inherently distasteful, or maybe the kinds of stories they find themselves in just aren’t to my liking. Take that into consideration in my review. If you like assassin stories, you’ll probably find much to enjoy about Grave Mercy.

Posted by Seth Wilson

Review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

August 25, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Cover for The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil GaimanThe Ocean at the End of the Lane
By Neil Gaiman; Read by Neil Gaiman
Audible Download – 5 Hours 48 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio
Published: 2013
Themes: / Supernatural / Metaphysics / Parallel Universe/ Young Adult

When I learned a year or so ago of Neil Gaiman’s first novel for adults since 2005’s Anansi Boys, I was thrilled. Sure, that last novel didn’t do much for me, nor did most of his subsequent writing for children, but I’m a lifetime Gaimanophile–I’ll read pretty much anything the British expatriate puts out. This is because he established such a solid early track record for me with NeverwhereStardust, and especially American Gods.

Enter The Ocean at the End of the Lane, a whimsically evocative title that itself encapsulates much of what I love about Gaiman. The tale is told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator, looking back on a defining period in his childhood. The young boy, whose name we never learn, witnesses a suicide that unleashes some strange, powerful cosmic forces in rural Sussex, where the novel takes place. The child is aided in the conflict by the enigmatic and archetypal Hempstock family. Bizarre events ensue.

As with any Neil Gaiman work, the writing is top-notch. Description, dialog, and action all shimmer off the page. When shit gets weird, pardon my French, the events are still grounded in vivid, expressive language that makes it feel as though we might encounter them in our own backyards. The characters, particularly the Hempstock trio, also deserve high praise. To me they evoke the best traits of Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. In the descrepancy of their age (at least their apparent age), they also allude to the Fates of Greek mythology or the Norns of the Old Norse cosmos.

If I had never read a Gaiman novel before, I may have written an unbridled encomium for The Ocean at the End of the Lane, as indeed most high-profile book critics and publishing reviews seem to have done. The problem is that I’ve read this Neil Gaiman book before. I’ve read parts of it in Stardust and found splinters of it in his short stories. And from plot to tone to motifs, many elements of the novel have appeared in Gaiman’s fiction for children and young adults.

This perhaps is my biggest qualm with the book. When the book was announced and I read the phrase “first novel for adults,” visions of the deep, nuanced character development of American Gods, or at least the slightly grimier, lived-in setting of Neverwhere, danced through my head. With the exception of a suicide early on, though, I challenge you to find much in Ocean that couldn’t be digested by high school readers. To be fair, marketing may be more at fault than Gaiman himself, but the result is the same. I came away from the book feeling as though I had been duped.

The plot also feels rather thin, “like butter scraped over too mcuh bread” as Bilbo famously said. The story begins with promise: cosmic powers in conflict with nothing less than reality at stake. But the stakes are never really raised, at least not for the world at large. Sure, the main characters undergo their own crises and transformations requisite in good literature, but the scope of the threat is never fully illustrated. Part of my objections to the novel’s plotting may come down to personal taste, but at least some of them, I think, are justified.

In a Tor.com article, Leah Schnelbach recounts that, at an event, Gaiman explained that the story was originall intended as a novella.

I told my publishers there was a novella on the way, but then I did a word count at the end, and realized I just wrote a novel by accident! […] It wasn’t plotted. Things kept taking me by surprise. It’s not making things up, it’s getting into what did actually happen.

Gaiman’s approach to the creative process is beautiful, but in the case of Ocean, it just doesn’t work. I might have enjoyed this story in a Gaiman collection, but by the end of a full-length novel edition I confess I was weary.

In the usual “crap sandwich” style of my reviews, I will conclude with more praise. I “read” this book in audio form, narrated by Gaiman himself. Most authors lack the voice acting chops to narrate their own work, though many still try, but Gaiman’s mellifluous rhythms and upturned sentence endings fit the charming, surreal tone of this novel particularly well. With the possible exception of Stardust, the audio edition of The Ocean at the End of the Lane is perhaps the finest specimen of the author’s narration you’ll find. Oh, except for his reading of his poem “Instructions”.

My dissatisfaction with The Ocean at the End of the Lane has not caused me to lose faith in Neil Gaiman’s work. I simply hope that, as he did in his early career, he finds ways to reinvent himself and push the boundaries of his nearly boundless imagination.

Posted by Seth Wilson

Review of Fast Times at Fairmont High by Vernor Vinge

June 23, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fast Times at Fairmont HighFast Times at Fairmont High
By Vernor Vinge; Performed by Eric Michael Summerer
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 2 April 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 3 hours

Themes: / near future / virtual reality / young adult / techie /

Publisher Summary:

In a near future where wireless mind links and wearable computers blur the line between artificial reality and ‘real’ reality, it’s final exam time at San Diego’s Fairmont Junior High. Juan Orozco and his friends have a killer idea for their off-line project. But can a bunch of 13-year-olds really figure out the secret of what’s going on at Torrey Pines Park?

As this is a novella, it’s quite short. I just couldn’t get into it. The technology in it was interesting, but that was about the only part I found enjoyable. It’s about a bunch of middle school kids at a high-tech school.

The main character Juan has been convinced by his friend to partner up with Miriam, a girl he doesn’t know for their “offline” project, where they aren’t allowed to make use of net that is even more prevalent in their lives as it today with today’s smart phones.

I’ve been told this is set in the same world as Rainbows End, which I haven’t read (link goes to SFF Audio readalong). Mr. Vinge does set up an interesting world, even if this particular story isn’t very interesting, so if that’s true, maybe I would enjoy that novel better.

The reader, Eric Michael Summerer, was alright, but nothing special. His accent for William kept reminding me of George Takei.

Review by Rob Zak.

The SFFaudio Podcast #092

January 24, 2011 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #092 – Scott and Jesse talk about audiobooks, the recent arrivals and the new releases. We also talk about big box bookstores, comics, and classic audiobooks

Talked about on today’s show:
Blackstone Audio, Somewhere In Time, Richard Matheson, self-hypnosis as time travel, lame covers, “melancholy but not depressing”, Stir Of Echoes by Richard Matheson |READ OUR REVIEW|, Other Kingdoms, Bronson Pinchot, Stefan Rudnicki, Journal Of The Gun Years, Earthbound, Stir Of Echoes 2 – still stirring echoes?, The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card, Emily Janice Card, i’m always in favour of secret libraries, RadioArchive.cc, a dramatization of Fahrenheit 451, To Catch A Thief, Thief, James Caan, Spencer Tracy, Grace Kelly, France, BBC audio dramas don’t take a lot of risks, the virtues and vices of experimental audio drama, conservative audio dramas, Majipoor Chronicles by Robert Silverberg, “memory cubes in a massive library”, Lord Valentine’s Castle, Arte Johnson, Valentine Pontifex, The Space Dog Podcast #003 (vintage 1982 Silverberg), Silverberg’s 1970s Science Fiction hiatus, “trilogies are ill-conceived”, The City Of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers, Paul Michael Garcia, anagrams, “fructodism”, Terry Pratchett, Die Stadt der Träumenden Bücher, book translation is re-writing a book, Cornelia Funke, The Thief Lord, The Dragonheart, Inkheart, reading books in translation, The Long Walk by Sławomir Rawicz, The Way Back, Declare by Tim Powers, Simon Prebble, coded messages, Kim Philby, the Spanish Civil War, are there soccer podcasts?, there are lots of them, Scott is a Liverpool fan, multiple readers, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card |READ OUR REVIEW|, Grover Gardner, Fire Will Fall by Carol Plum-Ucci, Kirby Heyborne, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow|READ OUR REVIEW|, “audiobooks have never been healthier”, Audible Frontiers, subscription book clubs, the last first Heinlein book, For Us The Living by Robert A. Heinlein, Venus by Ben Bova, Blackstone Audio doesn’t give up on series, crazy collectors, Books On Tape, what happened to BOT?, Random House, Listening Library, Macmillan Audio, Brilliance Audio, Amazon.com, Chapters bookstores in British Columbia have very tiny audiobook sections, Barnes & Noble doesn’t love audiobooks either, Borders has a better selection, Logan, Utah, Idaho Falls, Idaho, The Walking Dead – Volume 1, zombies, Robert Kirkman, horrible zombie audiobook, Poul Anderson, Brain Wave by Poul Anderson (the subject of an upcoming readalong?), Larry Niven called it “a masterpiece”, Macmillian Audio exclusively on Audible.com, Shades Of Milk And Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal, Jane Austen, The Elephant To Hollywood by Michael Caine, What’s It All About by Michael Caine, The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling, , Nancy Kress, Probability Moon, Infinivox, The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford, “surreal, unsettling, and more than a little weird”, models are incredibly interesting, SimCity, Civilization, Microcosmic God by Theodore Sturgeon, John Scalzi, The Android’s Dream, Agent To The Stars, Wil Wheaton, Dancing Bearfoot, Just A Geek, Why I Left Harry’s All-Night-Hamburgers by Lawrence Watt-Evans, the SFSignal Mind Meld on the best audiobooks of all time, Scott likes Fantasy (and Science Fiction), Jesse likes Science Fiction (and Fantasy), The Best Fantasy Stories Of The Year 1989, The Wind From A Burning Woman by Greg Bear |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Children Of Men by P.D. James (Recorded Books) |READ OUR REVIEW|, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, Mind Slash Matter by Edward Wellen (Durkin Hayes) |READ OUR REVIEW|, Friday by Robert A. Heinlein, Sci-Fi Private Eye ed. Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg (Dercum Audio) |READ OUR REVIEW|, Martian Time Slip by Philip K. Dick (Blackstone Audio) |READ OUR REVIEW|, Ringworld by Larry Niven |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Reel Stuff edited by Brian Thomsen and Martin H. Greenberg |READ OUR REVIEW|, Minority Report And Other Stories by Philip K. Dick |READ OUR REVIEW|, Two Plays For Voices by Neil Gaiman (Seeing Ear Theatre / Harper Audio) |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer |READ OUR REVIEW|, Ender’s Game (25th Anniversary Edition) by Orson Scott Card |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Dark Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft Volume 1 by H.P. Lovecraft (Audio Realms) |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Chief Designer by Andy Duncan (Infinivox) |READ OUR REVIEW|, Blake’s 7 – Audio Adventures (Trilogy Box Set) (B7 Media) |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman |READ OUR REVIEW|, Earth Abides by George R. Stewart |SFFaudio Podcast #073|, The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison |READ OUR REVIEW| The Prestige by Christopher Priest |READ OUR REVIEW|, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell |READ OUR REVIEW|, Legends: Stories by the Masters of Fantasy, Volume 4 (containing The Hedge Knight by George R.R. Martin) |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Voice from the Edge Vol. 1: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison |READ OUR REVIEW|, Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast by Eugie Foster |READ OUR REVIEW|, Lawrence Santoro, Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison are their own genre, The Moon Moth, sociological Science Fiction, the George R.R. Martin Dreamsongs collections, Stephen King, Anne McCaffrey’s The Runners Of Pern, Jesse is reading a lot of comics, the Fresh Ink Online podcast, G4 vs. G4TechTV, Attack Of The Show, Penn Jillette’s video podcast, sound seeing tours (a now defunct trend in podcasting), Blair Butler, Tamahome2000, Goodreads.com, Neil Gaiman, Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader?, getting into comics, Garth Ennis, Gregg Rucka, Cory Doctorow’s praise of Y: The Last Man on BoingBoing.net, Y: The Last Man is really addictive, Kansas, Batwoman: Elegy, Rachel Maddow,

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Recent Arrivals: Eloquent Voice, Blackstone Audio, Macmillan Audio, Penguin Audio

November 1, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Recent Arrivals 

SFFaudio Recent Arrivals

Hey folks! Here’s a new batch of audiobooks, fresh from the publishers. It’s amazing really, wonderous! These missives were written, transcribed, recorded, digitized, burned, stamped, mailed, opened, scanned, emailed and then posted. All for one “recent arrivals” post!

Here’s the first in Andre Norton’s redoubtable “Forerunner” series…

ELOQUENT VOICE - The Time Traders by Andre NortonThe Time Traders
By Andre Norton; Read by William Coon
OverDrive Download – Approx. 6 Hours 50 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Eloquent Voice
Published: November 1, 2010
ISBN: 9780983089803
‘To anyone who glanced casually inside the detention room the young man sitting there did not seem very formidable…unless one was observant enough to note those light-gray eyes and catch a chilling, measuring expression showing now and then for an instant in their depths.’ The young man in question, Ross Murdock, is about to embark upon the adventure of his life. In order to avoid prosecution, he reluctantly joins Operation Retrograde, whose members are exploring various time periods. Their goal? To find out where – and when – the ‘Reds’ are obtaining certain scientific breakthroughs, in order to maintain the balance of global power. An outsider in his own time, Ross becomes an outsider in other times as well, and faces one challenge after another. Will he succeed? Or will he inadvertently alter time forever?

The Disney movie, John Carter of Mars, is supposed to be based on the first three novels in this series. We best better buckle-in for audiobooks now, lest we be overwhelmed by the giant four-armed green ads for the video version!

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice BurroughsA Princess of Mars (Book One Of The Martian Series)
By Edgar Rice Burroughs; Read by William Dufris
6 CDs – Approx. 7.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: July 15, 2010
ISBN: 9781441718662
Ex–Confederate Army captain John Carter finds himself suddenly and unwittingly transported to Mars while fleeing Apache Indians. This new world is populated by a race of monstrous Martians whose culture is based on the ability to fight for their race. Captured by the savage green men of Thark, John discovers that the gravitational difference between Mars and Earth has endowed him with the strength that he will need for survival on this hostile planet. He battles ferocious Martian creatures and gains the respect and friendship of the Barsoomians. Along the way he encounters the beautiful Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, and earns her everlasting devotion.

I reviewed the first book in the Larry Niven/Edward M. Lerner series, Fleet Of Worlds |READ OUR REVIEW|, back in 2008…

Betrayer of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M. LernerBetrayer Of Worlds (Fleet of Worlds Series, Book 4)
By Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner; Read by Tom Weiner
8 CDs – Approx. 9.3 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: October 2010
ISBN: 9781441761408
Since fleeing the supernova chain reaction at the galactic core, the cowardly Puppeteers of the Fleet of Worlds have—just barely—survived one crisis after another: the rebellion of their human slaves, the relentless questing of the species of Known Space, the spectacular rise of the starfish-like Gw’oth, the onslaught of the genocidal Pak. Now fresh disaster looms, as though past crises have returned and converged. Who can possibly save the Fleet this time?

While Blackstone Audio has been busily re-recording many of the Miles Vorkosigan books, many had been previously recorded by the now defunct The Reader’s Chair), this one is wholly and entirely new, and has never before been audiobooked…

Cryoburn by Lois McMaster BujoldCryoburn (A Miles Vorkosigan Adventure)
By Lois McMaster Bujold; Read by Grover Gardner
9 CDs – Approx. 10.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: October 2010
ISBN: 9781441747464
Kibou-daini is a planet obsessed with cheating death. Barrayaran Imperial Auditor Miles Vorkosigan can hardly disapprove—he’s been cheating death his whole life, on the theory that turnabout is fair play. But when a Kibou-daini cryocorp—an immortal company whose job it is to shepherd its all-too-mortal frozen patrons into an unknown future—attempts to expand its franchise into the Barrayaran Empire, Emperor Gregor dispatches his top troubleshooter, Miles, to check it out. On Kibou-daini, Miles discovers generational conflict over money and resources is heating up, even as refugees displaced in time skew the meaning of “generation” past repair. Here he finds a young boy with a passion for pets and a dangerous secret, a Snow White trapped in an icy coffin who burns to rewrite her own tale, and a mysterious crone who is the very embodiment of the warning “Don’t mess with the secretary.” Bribery, corruption, conspiracy, kidnapping—something is rotten on Kibou-daini, and it isn’t due to power outages in the Cryocombs. And Miles is in the middle—of trouble!

Here’s the follow up to First Drop Of Crimson, if the title pattern continues I’d expect that a future book in the series might be Temporary Tatoo Of Blue – or something to that effect…

Eternal Kiss of Darkness by Jeaniene FrostEternal Kiss of Darkness (The Night Huntress World Series, Book 2)
By Jeaniene Frost; Read by Tavia Gilbert
9 CDs – Approx. 10.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: September 2010
ISBN: 9781441773357
An immortal war has been brewing in the darkness … and now one woman has stumbled into the shadows. Chicago private investigator Kira Graceling should have just kept on walking. But her sense of duty refused to let her ignore the moans of pain coming from inside a warehouse just before dawn. Suddenly she finds herself in a world she’s only imagined in her worst nightmares. At the center is Mencheres, a breathtaking Master vampire who thought he’d seen it all. Then Kira appears—this fearless, beautiful human who braved death to rescue him. Though he burns for her, keeping Kira in his world means risking her life. Yet sending her away is unthinkable. With danger closing in, Mencheres must choose either the woman he craves or embracing the darkest magic to defeat an enemy bent on his eternal destruction.

It seems like there’s a new book in this series every full moon now…

Overwinter by David WellingtonOverwinter (The Werewolf Tales Book 3)
By David Wellington; Read by Tai Sammons
9 CDs – Approx. 10.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: October 2010
ISBN: 9781441751065
In this stand-alone continuation of the tale begun in Frostbite, horror star David Wellington delivers another gripping werewolf tale in which heroine Chey is once again forced to fight for her own humanity. Overwinter opens as protagonist Chey, bitten by a werewolf and cursed to live out eternity as a monster, prowls the Arctic Circle on the trail of an ancient secret, the one thing that could remove the lycanthropic curse and make her human again. As she hunts for an answer, she realizes that with every passing day the wolf inside her is becoming stronger and her humanity is slipping away. Meanwhile, another werewolf arrives, an evil centuries-old woman, bent on sabotaging Chey’s quest and stealing away the one thing that’s still important to her.

I wonder how this would compare with David Moody’s Hater |READ OUR REVIEW|? I love the cover…

Patient Zero by Jonathan MaberryPatient Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel, Book 1
By Jonathan Maberry; Read by Ray Porter
12 CDs – Approx. 14.2 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: October 2010
From multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author Jonathan Maberry comes a major new thriller that combines the best of the New York Times bestselling books World War Z by Max Brooks and James Rollins’s Sigma Force Series to kick off the start of a new series featuring Joe Ledger and the Department of Military Sciences. When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week there’s either something wrong with your world or something wrong with your skills—and there’s nothing wrong with Joe Ledger’s skills. And that’s both a good and a bad thing. It’s good because he’s a Baltimore detective who has just been secretly recruited by the government to lead a new task force created to deal with the problems that Homeland Security can’t handle. This rapid-response group is called the Department of Military Sciences, or the DMS for short. It’s bad because his first mission is to help stop a group of terrorists from releasing a dreadful bio-weapon that can turn ordinary people into zombies. The fate of the world hangs in the balance.

Here’s an interesting one, James Howard Kunstler is a non-fiction author who is turning to fiction and using the thesis of his non-fiction to create the world! Blackstone Audio, oddly, is classifying it as a “General Fiction” book. Really? Are things really that bad in the USA?

World Made By Hand by James Howard KunstlerWorld Made By Hand
By James Howard Kunstler; Read by Jim Meskimen
8 CDs – Approx. 9.3 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: September 2010
ISBN: 9781441772961
In The Long Emergency, celebrated social commentator James Howard Kunstler explored how the terminal decline of oil production combined with climate change had the potential to put industrial civilization out of business. In World Made by Hand, an astonishing work of speculative fiction, Kunstler brings to life what America might be, a few decades hence, after these catastrophes converge. The electricity has flickered out. The automobile age is over. In Union Grove, a little town in upstate New York, the future is nothing like people thought it would be. Life is hard and close to the bone. Transportation is slow and dangerous, so food is grown locally at great expense of time and energy, and the outside world is largely unknown. There may be a president, and he may be in Minneapolis now, but people aren’t sure. The townspeople’s challenges play out in a dazzling, fully realized world of abandoned highways and empty houses, horses working the fields and rivers, no longer polluted, and replenished with fish. This is the story of Robert Earle and his fellow townspeople and what happens to them one summer in a country that has changed profoundly. A powerful tale of love, loss, violence, and desperation, World Made by Hand is also lyrical and tender, a surprising story of a new America struggling to be born—a story more relevant now than ever.

And here’s the sequel…

The Witch of Hebron by James Howard KunstlerThe Witch Of Hebron: A World Made By Hand Novel
By James Howard Kunstler; Read by Jim Meskimen
8 CDs – Approx. 9.3 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: September 2010
ISBN: 9781441772893
In the sequel to his bestselling World Made by Hand, James Howard Kunstler expands on his vision of a post-oil society with a new novel about an America in which the electricity has flickered off, the Internet is a distant memory, and the government is little more than a rumor. In the tiny hamlet of Union Grove, New York, travel is horse-drawn and farming is back at the center of life. But it’s no pastoral haven. Wars are fought over dwindling resources and illness is a constant presence. Bandits roam the countryside, preying on the weak, and a sinister cult threatens to shatter Union Grove’s fragile stability. Here is a novel that seamlessly weaves hot-button issues like the decline of oil and the perils of climate change into a compelling narrative of violence, religious hysteria, innocence lost, and love found—a cautionary tale with an optimistic heart. Already a renowned social commentator and a bestselling novelist and nonfiction writer, Kunstler has recently attained even greater prominence in the global conversation about energy and the environment. In the last two years he has been the focus of a long profile in the New Yorker, the subject of a full-page essay in the New York Times Book Review, and his wildly popular blog and podcast have made him a sought-after speaker who gives dozens of lectures and scores of media interviews each year.

Here’s the first book in a new series from author David Weber. In the audio sample I heard, over on the Macmillan Audio site, there was an alien complaining about another alien being a pain in his “excretory orifice.” See, aliens aren’t so different. It kind of reminded me of the Vogons. Also, regarding that sample, narrator Charles Keating sounds terrific!

Out of the Dark by David WeberOut Of The Dark
By David Weber; Read by Charles Keating
15 CDs – Approx. 18 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Published: September 2010
ISBN: 9781427210616
Earth is conquered. The Shongairi have arrived in force, and humanity’s cities lie in radioactive ruins. In mere minutes, over half the human race has died. Now Master Sergeant Stephen Buchevsky, who thought he was being rotated home from his latest tour in Afghanistan, finds himself instead prowling the back country of the Balkans, dodging alien patrols and trying to organize the scattered survivors without getting killed. His chances look bleak. The aliens have definitely underestimated human tenacity—but no amount of heroism can endlessly hold off overwhelming force. Then, emerging from the mountains and forests of Eastern Europe, new allies present themselves to the ragtag human resistance. Predators, creatures of the night, human in form but inhumanly strong. Long Enemies of humanity…until now. Because now is the time to defend Earth.

From the description, I like the “Sci-Phile” aspect of this audiobook, and the whole Nancy Drew-style plotting sounds pretty interesting too! There’s a website for the book, and the audiobook should be in stores tomorrow.

Virals by Kathy ReichsVirals: Adventures Unleashed
By Kathy Reichs; Read by Cristin Milioti
8 CDs – Approx. 9.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Published: November 2010
ISBN: 9780142428160
Adventure has always been in fourteen-year-old Tory Brennan’s blood. After all, she is the niece of world-famous forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. So when she moves to middle of nowhere Morris Island, South Carolina, to live with a marine biologist dad she’s never known, Tory does the best she can to adjust to her new life. There she meets a group of local kids who are just as “Sci-Phile” as she is—science geeks who’ve grown up exploring the backwoods marsh-lands of nearby Loggerhead Island. But there’s something strange going on at the Loggerhead Research Institute… maybe even something deadly. After rescuing a stray wolfdog pup from a top-secret lab, Tory and her friends are exposed to a rare strain of canine parvovirus, changing them—and their DNA—forever. Now, with newly heightened senses and canine-quick reflexes, they’ll have to solve a cold-case murder that’s suddenly become very hot … that is, if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer’s scent. Fortunately, they are now more than friends. They are a pack. They are VIRALS.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The New York Times Book Review Podcast: YA Literature

August 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

The New York Times Book Review PodcastThe August 6th episode of The New York Times Book Review podcast has a segment on Young Adult literature:

This week: Francine Prose on the novels of Hans Keilson; Pamela Paul on adults who read Y.A. novels; Mary Roach on her new book, “Packing for Mars”; Julie Bosman with notes from the field; and Jennifer Schuessler with best-seller news. Sam Tanenhaus is the host.

Have a listen |MP3| (the YA segment starts at about 13 minutes in).

Podcast feed:

http://www.nytimes.com/services/xml/rss/nyt/podcasts/bookupdate.xml

There’s also an accompanying text article HERE.

[via ElaineTM of the Audible Yahoo! Group]

Posted by Jesse Willis

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