Review of Father Gaetano’s Puppet Catechism

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Horror Audiobook - Father Gaetano's Puppet Catechism by Mike Mignola and Christopher GoldenFather Gaetano’s Puppet Catechism
By Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden; Read by Nick Podehl
4 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: 2012
Themes: / Horror / Puppets / Possession /

When this audio novella came in for review, it took a few days to make the connection: Mike Mignola is the creator of Hellboy! I’m a fan of the Hellboy movies (directed by Guillermo del Toro), but haven’t picked up any of the comics. If anyone has a recommendation for a particular volume I’d like to give it a go.

Mignola and Christopher Golden, the writing team that produced some Hellboy novels, wrote this. The Amazon description calls it “an illustrated novella”. I haven’t spotted a copy of this at a bookstore, but I’d like to so I can see the art. Mignola, in an interview with Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy gives Christopher Golden full credit for the writing, so I suspect that this audiobook contains little of Mignola’s input.

The story did have a Hellboy (or even a Pan’s Labyrinth) feel to it. Dark, a bit sad, with something spiritually sinister about. It’s about an Italian orphanage in World War II, shortly after the Allies’ victory. Father Gaetano, recently assigned there, and a group of nuns struggle to connect with the grieving children. One of the kids finds puppets and a puppet stage in the basement, and Fr. Gaetano decides to put it to use. The kids become more interested as he, with their help, paints the puppets as Old Testament characters, then performs stories with them.

And then, the problem – the puppets come to life at night, and they take on the persona of the Bible characters they have been decorated to portray. Not knowing this, Father Gaetano plods along with his plans, and he wants to tell the story of Lucifer’s fall.

This wasn’t a bad novella, but it wasn’t stellar either. An interesting idea, and there are some great scenes, but even at novella length it feels a bit padded out. Still, it’s worth a listen, in my opinion. Or a look if you can find the hardcopy. Nick Podehl is a terrific narrator.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Cool for Cats by Andrew Ordover

SFFaudio Review

Cool for Cats by Andrew OrdoverCool for Cats
By Andrew Ordover; Read by Andrew Ordover
7 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Andrew Ordover
Published: 2012
Themes: / Mystery / Private Eye / Jazz /

And I didn’t want to rely on Internet archives. First of all, our local paper is crap, and it keeps crap archives online. But more importantly, when they do archive stories, they do what everyone else does–they reformat them into a computer-friendly layout. Well, I didn’t want that. I wanted to see the paper, the way the paper looked back then. I wanted the articles, sure, but I also wanted the short items, the calendar listings, the classified ads–the whole newsprint enchilada. As a professional snoop, I’ve found that not everything of importance comes with a byline, or over the fold.

Jordan Greenblatt is a small-time detective. He drifted into detective work the way he drifted into playing bass with a local jazz combo. He does both ok, but he’s never going to hit the bigtime with an attitude like that. And that’s ok with Jordan. He doesn’t mind being a supporting player.

Until his phone rings with a request to look into an old hit-and-run case … and Jordan realizes that he knows the victim. He had a big crush on Giselle Palmer and never even knew she was also in Atlanta. So he takes the case, even though it is completely unlike his usual work trailing cheating husbands. What Jordan uncovers is not only a murder but the key to his own future.

I liked this book a lot. Andrew Ordover gives readers a slacker detective who just needed the right motivation to stand up and move in a new direction. We follow Jordan as he figures out how to look at more than one clue, how to think like a real detective, and how to put together the puzzle pieces of an important case that is getting attention from the authorities.

This is Ordover’s first book but it only shows in the lack of layers (for want of a better term). Part of the lack of complexity is due to Jordan’s slacker personality, part may be because until Jordan deals with his own past he can’t move forward. Also, I wished for more depth from Jordan’s wife, Susannah. She objects when threats arise after Jordan’s digging gets him close to the heart of the mystery. However, those objections do not seem fierce enough and she forgives extremely easily. Or perhaps that is how Susannah is wired. I never felt that I got enough about her to know one way or the other. However, that is a small point overall.

Originally I read Cool for Cats in paperback. However, Ordover has now released the audiobook on his website, which he reads himself, and it works spectacularly. As in the best cases, where the author knows the character inside and out, he brings Jordan to life in a way I didn’t experience when simply reading to myself. Because of this, I genuinely understood Jordan’s growth both as a detective and as a human being on a deeper level. At $5.00 for the entire book, it is a steal.

Another nice little riff is the connection with a playlist, if you like, of albums referenced in the book, via a widget in Ordover’s website sidebar. Jazz is integral to Jordan’s character and is referenced frequently. If you’re a jazz fan, the playlist idea is a great one for hearing the music that’s playing in his head.

Quibbles aside, Cool for Cats is a solid, entertaining mystery from this new author. It is one that left me hoping there would be a sequel.

SPECIAL FEATURE: Andrew Ordover narrated the first chapter for me over at Forgotten Classics. Go listen for free.

(Full disclosure – I am email pals with Ordover’s wife Heather who is the podcaster at CraftLit … and who provided me with a review copy. I’d have liked it anyway.)

Posted by Julie D.

Review of Halo: The Thursday War by Karen Traviss

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - HALO: The Thursday WarHALO: The Thursday War
By Karen Traviss, Read by Euan Morton
15 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Published: 2012
Themes: / Science Fiction / Video Game Tie-In / Aliens / Artificial Intelligence / War /

This is the second book in the Halo Kilo-Five trilogy by Karen Traviss. It’s 15 hours of thinking you know what is going to happen, only to have it change right before you.

The Glasslands, Book 1 of the trilogy, got us an introduction to ONI’s Admiral Parangosky special black ops team “Kilo-Five”. The Thursday War lets us see more of who they are and how they think. It starts off right where “Glasslands” left off. No time to breath! Kilo-Five has to get back to Sanghelios to rescue one of their own that was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Those of you that play the Halo video games will really enjoy understanding more about where some of the Halo 4 characters come from. You gotta love the AI for Kilo-Five: Black Box or BB for short. Not only does he give a little attitude to the team but he almost has emotional traits and worries like humans. Or Meat Bags as the team calls them.

I give 5 thumbs up to Karen Traviss and her writing style. For me it was like I was the AI in their systems watching, hearing, and feeling their every move. And not only from the Humans but from the Sangheili (Elites). I was able to look at them as another race not just a target on the screen. The kudagra to all of Sanghelios hopes is the mighty UNSC INFINITY, a floating city. That shows the Sangheili they are no longer top dogs.

If you like the Halo universe then you will love The Thursday War, and the audiobook is so much better with the reading by Euan Morton. He is amazing with how he brings the characters out with their voices.

Posted by Mike

Fantastic Imaginings, edited by Stefan Rudnicki

SFFaudio Recent Arrivals

Audio Anthology - Fantastic Imaginings, edited by Stefan Rudnicki

Just in, this very interesting anthology, edited by Stefan Rudnicki! I couldn’t find a Table of Contents on this package or on the Audible site, so I included it below. Why don’t audio publishers find the Table of Contents important when it comes to anthologies and collections? Because… THEY ARE.

After seeing the contents, I’m eager to dive into this. Oliver Onions, Guy de Maupassant, Harlan Ellison, John Crowley… Harlan Ellison reading John Crowley… this is terrific!

TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION
Lofty Ambitions by Harlan Ellison, read by Harlan Ellison

PART 1: THE MYTHS WE LIVE BY
A Youth In Apparel That Glittered by Stephen Crane, read by Stefan Rudnicki (poem)
After the Myths Went Home by Robert Silverberg, read by Stefan Rudnicki
Novelty by John Crowley, read by Harlan Ellison
Pan And The Firebird by Sam M. Steward, read by Stefan Rudnicki
Murderer, The Hope Of All Women by Oskar Kokoschka, performed by cast
The Touch Of Pan by Algernon Blackwood, read by Stefan Rudnicki
The Lost Thyrsis by Oliver Onions, read by Roz Landor
The Bacchae (excerpt) by Eurpides, performed by cast

PART 2: MYTHS THAT BITE
A Noiseless Patient Spider by Walt Whitman, read by Stefan Rudnicki
Mystery Train by Lewis Shiner, read by John Rubenstein
Continued On The Next Rock by R.A. Lafferty, read by Stefan Rudnicki
Diary Of A God by Barry Pain, read by Enn Reitel
The Repairer of Reputations (excerpt) by Robert W. Chambers, read by Stefan Rudnicki
The Yellow Sign by Robert W. Chambers, read by Stefan Rudnicki
An Inhabitant Of Carcosa by Ambrose Bierce, read by Danny Campbell
The Horla by Guy de Maupassant, read by Arte Johnson

PART 3: SHOCKING FUTURES
Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, read by Stefan Rudnicki (poem)
City Come A’Walkin (excerpt) by John Shirley, read by Don Leslie
A Pail Of Air by Fritz Leiber, read by Stefan Rudnicki
The Machine Stops (excerpt) by E.M. Forster, read by Roz Landor
Looking Backward and Equality (excerpts) by Edward Bellamy, read by David Birney
Gulliver’s Travels (excerpt) by Jonathan Swift read by Scott Brick
Utopia (excerpt) by Sir Thomas More, read byChristopher Cazanove
Monument To Amun by Queen Hatshepsut, read by Judy Young

PART 4: TRAVELING FOOLS
La Bateau Ivre by Arthur Rimbaud, read by Stefan Rudnicki
Inspiration by Ben Bova, read by Stefan Rudnicki
The Bones Do Lie by Anne McCaffrey, read by Stefan Rudnicki
A Princess Of Mars (excerpt) by Edgar Rice Burroughs, read by John Rubinstein
The Great Stone Of Sardis (excerpt) by Frank R. Stockton, read by David Birney
Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland (excerpt) by Lewis Carroll, read by Michael York
Diary Of A Madman (excerpt) by Nicolai Gogol, read by Stefan Rudnicki
The Inferno (excerpt) by Dante, read by Stefan Rudnicki
The Odyssey of Homer (excerpt), read by David Birney

PART 5: TRANSFORMERS
The Stolen Child by William B. Yeats, read by Stefan Rudnicki
The Porcelain Salamander by Orson Scott Card, read by Gabrielle de Cuir
Let’s Get Together by Isaac Asimov, read by Arte Johnson
Dracula (excerpt) by Bram Stoker, read by Simon Vance
Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (excerpt) by Robert Louis Stevenson, read by John Lee
Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti, read by Gabrielle de Cuir
Frankenstein (excerpt) by Mary Shelley, read by Stefan Rudnicki0\ *
The Laidly Worm of Spindleston Heugh (Traditional English Fairy Tale), read by Judy Young
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (excerpt) by William Shakespeare, performed by cast
The Ballad of Tam Lin (Celtic ballad), read by Stefan Rudnicki
Metamorphosis (excerpt) by Ovid, read by Cassandra Campbell

PART 6: REST IN PIECES
Hearse Song
The Conqueror Worm by Edgar Allan Poe, read by Stefan Rudnicki
The New Testament: Revelations (excerpt), read by Stefan Rudnicki
The Colloquy of Monos & Una by Edgar Allan Poe, read by Stefan Rudnicki and Gabrielle de Cuir
From the Crypts of Memory by Clark Ashton Smith, read by Danny Campbell
The Comet by W.E.B. DuBois, read by Mirron Willis
Sand (excerpt) by Stefan Rudnicki, performed by cast
Transience by Arthur C. Clarke, read by Bahni Turpin
The Illusionist by Gareth Owen, read by Stefan Rudnicki
Unchosen Love by Ursula K. LeGuin, read by Stefan Rudnicki
In Lonely Lands by Harlan Ellison, read by Harlan Ellison
News from Nowhere (excerpt) by William Morris, read by Stefan Rudnicki

PART 7: COMMENTARIES
The Special And General Joys of Science Fiction by Ben Bova, read by Stefan Rudnicki
Edgar Allan Poe 1809-1849 by Elliott Engel, read by Gabrielle de Cuir
Adolescence And Adulthood In Science Fiction by Orson Scott Card, read by Stefan Rudnicki

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Brotherhood of the Wolf by David Farland

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audiobook - Brotherhood of the Wolf by David FarlandBrotherhood of the Wolf (Runelords, Book 2)
By David Farland; Read by Ray Porter
18 CDs – 22.5 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2009

Themes: / Fantasy / Epic Fantasy / Attributes / Magic / War /

In Hollywood there’s an old saying: The sequel is never as good as the original. Sadly, the same can be said for book 2 in “The Runelords” series.

It’s a dark book about war and destruction. Characters make choices, for good or ill, that change them. In my opinion, the changes are not always for the better.

I frequently found myself putting the iPod down because I didn’t like where the story was going, only to pick it up again later, hoping the ending would be satisfactory. It wasn’t. It left me feeling dissatisfied, depressed and in need of something that would get rid of the distasteful feeling.

The book reminded me a lot of “The Empire Strikes Back” where the movie ends with Han in Carbonite, Luke with an artificial hand and Vader on the loose. It’s a dark ending with some hope, but a lot of trouble for all the main characters. Or the second Back to the Future movie where I didn’t like the story went and I didn’t like what the characters did.

That’s how I feel about Brotherhood of the Wolf.

However, because I loved book 1 so much, and I know what a brilliant writer David Farland is, I’m going to give Book 3 a chance. And hope that, like many a third movie, it will be much better than the second.

This book is not without its virtues. It’s well written. The plot draws the listener from point to point as the story progresses. It is entertaining, in a dark, brooding sort of way. I just don’t happen to like dark stories. I also don’t like books and movies that make me cry. At many points I was afraid this was going to be one of those books. I was grateful it was not.

Posted by Charlene Harmon

Review of The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury by Kirkman and Bonansinga

SFFaudio Review

Horror Audiobook - The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury by Kirkman and BonansingaThe Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury
By Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga; Read by Fred Berman
10 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publilshed: 2012
Themes: / Horror / Post-apocalyptic / Zombies /

“He seemed like a good man.”

She looks up, focusing on the doctor. “Is that even possible any more?”

“Is what possible?”

“Being a good person?”

Fred Berman narrates this Walking Dead audiobook, written by Robert Kirkman (the creator) and Jay Bonansinga. I enjoy his narration very much. Even though there is a bunch of zombie fighting in this book, it’s character driven, and Berman adds great touches to each character.

I watch the Walking Dead TV show, and The Governor was introduced just last week. I’m told he’s a big part of the graphic novel story, and that this, the second book in a three book series, is a novelization of a storyline from those. My interest comes as a fan of the TV show – I have only limited knowledge of the graphic novels. This book does not follow the same characters that the TV show follows, but the stories take place in the same world.

My interest in the TV show and the audiobooks has not waned because it turns out that a zombie-ridden Earth is a fine place to tell a story that explores how average people cope when civilization disappears. History is riddled with terrible leaders, and this novel explores how a horrible man can end up leading people, and how those people can end up falling in line.

The novel follows several people as they travel and live and die, making their way across the post-apocalyptic landscape. Eventually, the group ends up at Woodbury, the walled community where The Governor rules. The characters are forced then to make a decision. They can follow this man that the alert ones quickly realize is mad, enjoy the safety from the zombies he provides, or they can take off again on their own, the mere thought of which would make anyone weary. The characters have many different answers. In a world where the characters are constantly threatened by the monstrous, some decide they need a monster of their own for protection, some will have no such thing, and some, despite what they’ve seen, are offended enough to try to change things.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson