A Monster Calls
By Patrick Ness; Narrated by Jason Isaacs
4 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 23 September 2011
Tags: / YA / fantasy / monsters / nightmares / illness /
The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…. This monster, though, is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final story idea of Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself.
Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.
This book is inspired by an idea from author Siobhan Dowd (4 February 1960 – 21 August 2007). Patrick Ness was granted the opportunity to explore these ideas, and soon ideas gave way to other ideas, which yielded this book. There’s a terrific interview that follows the audiobook reading wherein Ness discusses the writing process and challenges he faced in such an undertaking. Ness successfully sidesteps weighty sentiment and delivers emotional authenticity while allowing room for empathy, and it is for these reasons that this book resonates long after reading.
The writing is clean and the story is as deep and layered as you wish it to be. Don’t let the young protagonist fool you. This isn’t your generic YA plastic-wrap fantasy story packed with breathless bubblegum adventure and paint-by-number characters. There are monsters and there is loss. The emotion is real, and Ness allows enough room for empathy to turn, to circle like an unquiet animal that knows the end isn’t far. Couple this with genuine wisdom, and we have a story that demands attention, that successfully spans that artificial genre-based boundary to shake reader out their slumber.
Jason Isaacs narrates the audiobook, and conducts the follow-up interview with Patrick Ness at the book’s conclusion. Isaacs nails the reading. In my opinion the audiobook is flawless, and Isaacs never makes himself known to the listener, rather he is a conduit, something only the very best readers manage to pull off. Too many contemporary audiobook narrators perform the text when all they need to do is get out of the way and read. Thank you, Jason Isaacs.
In this sequel to Randy Henderson’s acclaimed debut novel, Finn Fancy Necromancy, Finn Gramaraye is settling back into the real world after his twenty-five-year-long imprisonment in the otherworld of the Fey. He’s fallen in love again with Dawn, the girl next door who waited for him. He’s proved his innocence of the original crime of Dark Necromancy, and he’s finding a place in the family business – operating a mortuary for the Arcane, managing the magical energies left behind when an Arcane being dies to prevent it from harming the mundane world.
This is one of those “if you liked the first book, you’ll like this one” types of sequels. I have a great time with Henderson’s humor and his story is a unique, geekier urban fantasy than normal. It has many of the same urban fantasy tropes, but his twist adds something … less sexy, but filled with humor that mostly works.
And I say “mostly” because, and this could just be me, he’s also one of those author’s obsessed with the ’80s for some reason. I know, write what you know, but it’s almost like some authors (maybe just Henderson and Ernest Cline for all I know) think that you only have street cred if you’re an ’80s geek. Knowing other types of geekery is not at the same level and beneath ’80s geekery.
Now, admittedly, the Finn Fancy series has to do with a guy who gets outcast when he’s a kid during the ’80s and comes back in the present so that’s pretty much all he knows. So I get it, I get why, but at the same time I’m tired of it now. And now that we’re on book two, did we still really need to name all the chapters with ’80s lyrics or songs? I mean, the protagonist is now learning about what happened since his exile.
But those complaints aside, I really did enjoy Bigfootloose and Finn Fancy Free. Henderson’s humor shines with or without ’80s references and it’s a lot of fun. I like his whole mythos with the fae, fae-bloods, arcana, and any other magical you can think of. It’s a great world and well presented.
For the audio, Todd Haberkorn, the narrator, presents Finn well – relatable, silly, and serious all when he needs to be.
The Finn Fancy series is recommended if you enjoy urban fantasy, but you’ve done the same vampires/wizards/werewolves stories and you need something new…with those same creatures… I promise it’s different too.
Twelve Kings in Sharakhai (The Song of the Shattered Sands, #1)
By Bradley P. Beaulieu; Read by Sarah Coomes
25 Hours 57 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: September 2015
In the city of Sharakhai, Çeda fights in the pits to scrape by a living. She, like so many in the city, pray for the downfall of the cruel, immortal Kings of Sharakhai. Then on the holy night when the powerful yet wretched creatures known as the Asirim wander the city and take tribute in order to protect the Kings, one of them tells Çeda the origin of their dark bargain. And this dangerous secret may be the very key she needs to throw off the iron grip the Kings have had over Sharakhai….
So why only 3 stars if this books scores so well on so many levels? Well, it comes down to the characters. I really didn’t feel much for them. Ceda starts out really cool and compelling. She’s the mysterious “White Wolf” who beats the crap out of an abuser in the fighting pit. How much cooler can you get?
But then as the story moves on, she pretty much gets her butt handed to her by just about every single person. She’s not clever and doesn’t say clever things, and she’s, frankly, annoying after a while.
Emre is the other main character and he’s equally as bland. He’s got a great history and great reasons to be a great character, he grew up on the street, helped save Ceda from the street and had it rough. But there’s not much to him. He seems to have trained Ceda in being boring and that’s it.
Now, the ending to this book is great, but had I not listened to this on audiobook I don’t know if I ever would have gotten this far.
And speaking of the audio, the narrator, Sarah Coomes, did do an excellent job. Her accents were, for the most part, on point although she has a tendency to make all older men sound just about the same, not to mention older women, especially seers or spiritual types. They sounded just about the same.
On the whole, I was really impressed with this book … until I started getting bored and the more I started to get bored the more I realized it was because of the main characters, I just didn’t care if they achieved their goals or not and only slightly cared whether they lived to do it or not.
Sphere By Michael Crichton; Read by Scott Brick
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 13 hours
Themes: / aliens / ocean / thriller /
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.
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.
The SFFaudio Podcast #338 – Jesse, Tamahome, and Paul talk about new releases and recent arrivals (audiobooks, books, and comics).
Talked about on today’s show: Aftermath: Star Wars (Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens) by Chuck Wendig, read by Marc Thompson, not a curse fest, the crawl, grief, The Geeks Guide To The Galaxy, one star reviews, diversity up down left and sideways, a pink lightsaber, a rainbow lightsaber, Timothy Zahn, sounds like Star Wars names, Heirs Of Empire by Evan Currie, read by Deric McNish, Brilliance Audio, it sounds like a Stars Wars book (but isn’t), a 47 North Novel, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick, read by Luke Daniels, drugs!, sounds trippy, re-reading Philip K. Dick (for The SFFaudio Podcast), different assumptions, by the inventor of Science Fiction… In the Days of the Comet by H.G. Wells, read by Walter Covell, the salvation of the human race, cynical then preachy, The Star by H.G. Wells, The Poison Belt by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1906, The World Set Free, The Sea Lady by H.G. Wells (a mermaid in Edwardian society), Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, a comedic bicycling novel, military SF, David Weber, The Child by Keith F. Goodnight, read by Nick Podehl, Tam’s macho voice, Adam Christopher’s The Burning Dark, Event Horizon, hyperspace as a Hellraiser universe, this all goes back to H.P. Lovecraft’s From Beyond, drugs plus radar shadowing, a terrific adaptation The Banshee Chapter, the 1980s adaptation of From Beyond, fear of the dark in a lighted world, The Oncoming Storm by Christopher G. Nuttall, read by Lauren Ezzo, the youngest captain in naval (future) history, what is 47 North? it’s Amazon’s publishing house, synergy, PlayStation has it’s own TV show (based on a comic book called Powers), an Honor Harrington novel with the serial numbers filed off, fantasy (non epic), Locke And Key by Joe Hill, adapted by Elaine Lee and Frederick Greenhalgh, audio drama, AudioComics, 13.5 hour audio drama, Gabriel Rodriguez, Paul needs to get Welcome To Lovecraft, horror, dark fantasy, hyper-imaginative, Joe Hill looks and writes like his dad (Stephen King), kids in a creepy situation, the manipulation of power, more fantasy elements, the origins of the keys at Key House, back stories, Fred Greenhalgh as a champion of field recorded audio drama, a film production unit without cameras, listening with headphones, this could be the star of something really amazing, the business model, word-of-mouth then the long tail?, Elaine Lee’s Starstruck, William Dufris, epic fantasy, Twelve Kings In Sharakhai (Song of Shattered Sands #1) by Bradley P. Beaulieu, read by Sarah Coomes, Paul is a fan of Bradley P. Beaulieu’s writing, “his best novel yet”, it is impossible to promote books you aren’t enthusiastic about, “the ones that sing to the song in your blood”, Paul is a long term epic fantasy fan, true confessions, Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, epic fantasy as a lifestyle choice, Kate Elliot, The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher; read by Euan Morton, Penguin Audio, urban fantasy, airships!, a new steampunk secondary world, beautiful endpapers and maps Priscilla Spencer, books in the middle of series: Darken the Stars (Kricket #3) by Amy A. Bartol, read by Kate Rudd, The Ciphers of Muirwood (Covenant of Muirwood #2) by Jeff Wheeler, read by Kate Rudd, Unholy War (The Moontide Quartet #3) by David Hair, read by Nick Podehl, Dryad-Born (Whispers from Mirrowen #2) by Jeff Wheeler, read by Sue Pitkin, Jenny’s favourite section “dystopia, unrest, destruction, apocalypse”, an interesting theory about zombies and dystopias, it fits in with the Christian end times, Revelations and rapture theology, the 1950s optimism, we’re not in Star Trek times anymore, 2 Walking Dead TV series and Z Nation, zombies never die, The Heart Goes Last: A Novel by Margaret Atwood, read by Cassandra Campbell and Mark Deakins, an economic and social collapse, the “Positron Project”, what is the point of the premise?, allegory not SF?, an Asimovian word, she doesn’t really care about the consequences of science, people who are interested in science, Ted Chiang, what if…, doesn’t that mean XYZ?, let her write her books, paranormal romance, Dark Ghost (Dark Saga #28) by Christine Feehan, read by Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross, a bounty hunter, a vampire slayer, a geologist, fairy tales, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie, read by Robert G. Slade, history and folklore, “the time of the strangenesses”, a djinn, 1,001 nights (two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights), a Nobel Prize for Literature, a print book, Joy To The Worlds: Mysterious Speculative Fiction For The Holidays, a mix of mystery and speculative fiction and Christmas, Maia Chance, Janine A. Southard, Raven Oak, G. Clemans, upcoming authors, Andy Weir, that’s how the young people are reading, get of Tam’s lawn, House Of M, Marvel Comics, why is Thor a girl now?, Scarlet Witch can re-write reality, annoying-off people(?), the $1 floppy deals, Free Comic Book Day, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is fun and fabulous, her squirrel sidekick, a silver age happy go lucky superhero in our cynical grim age, she’s got squirrel blood!, writing comics for kids, Genosha, kids Squirrel Girl cosplaying looks fun, making your own costume, Princess Leia (Marvel Comics/Star Wars), there’s something wrong with Princess Leia, Disney is making so much more product than Lucas, Alan Moore and Jacen Burrow’s Providence (Avatar comics), Neonomicon, when will the first Providence trade come out, what Moore is doing and saying with Providence, an examination and meditation on H.P. Lovecraft stories, Providence doesn’t seem to have a very important plot, Herbert West’s equivalent, if you are deeply involved in Lovecraft…, if you don’t know Lovecraft can you still enjoy Providence?, the turns!, not merely visually shocking, The Dunwich Horror, a trans-dimensional invisible character, Moore is wrestling with Lovecraft, Watchmen, Alan Moore and Gabriel Andrade’s Crossed Plus One Hundred, “124C41+”, “Return Of The King”, “Glory Road”, “A Canticle For Leibowitz”, “Tyger, Tyger”, “Foundation and Empire”, the difference between crossed zombies and regular zombies, the Crossed series, Alan Moore is about thinking deeply about things, evolution, “the big surprise of 2008”, bone piles, the change of language, AFAWK, Moore has reconstructed English in the way of A Clockwork Orange or Anathem, zombies as a fear of death, zombies as a fear of loss of individual volition and personality, a fear of Alzheimer’s, we don’t talk about death, The Walking Dead Volume 12 (hardcover), everybody’s infected, no matter what happens you become a zombie, zombies as a non-scary version of momento mori, Brian K. Vaughn and Steve Skroce’s We Stand On Guard, the invasion of Canada by the United States, the only time Canada has ever been invaded was by the United States, reading for writers not for artists, the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre series, The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, DART The Horror At Red Hook, a straight up adaptation of The Horror At Red Hook by H.P. Lovecraft, DART Dagon: War Of Worlds, Dagon by H.P. Lovecraft, imagine War Of The Worlds not from Space but from beneath, X-COM: UFO DEFENSE, X-COM: Terror From The Deep, aliens at the bottom of the ocean, the Orson Welles style War Of The Worlds, mapping out all of Lovecraft’s squiddy watery fears, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Call Of Cthulhu, “I love that!”, attention to detail, if it says it in the story they take it seriously, The Whisperer In Darkness, Infocom games included props, H.P. Lovecraft The Spirit Of Revision Lovecraft’s Letters To Zealia Brown Reed Bishop, David Michelinie and Brett Blevins’ The Bozz Chronicles, originally from Epic Comics, a 19th century Sherlock Holmes alien mashup, lots of nudity, The New Mutants artist, Dover Publications, a 200 page trade-paperback for $20, a feel of the new Doctor Who, Madame Vastra, what if Sherlock Holmes was not Sherlock Holmes, Fred Saberhagen’s Bezerker story, Fred Saberhagen’s Dracula novels, Conan Red Sonja, a lack of attention to details, 1980s sensibilities vs. 20teens sensibilities.
By Michael Crichton; read by Scott Brick
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] 12 CD’s; 15 hrs. 9 min
Themes: / dinosaurs / adventure / cloning / DNA /
An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now humankind’s most thrilling fantasies have come true. Creatures extinct for eons roam Jurassic Park with their awesome presence and profound mystery, and all the world can visit them—for a price.Until something goes wrong.…
I can’t believe how much I enjoyed this book. I guess I’ve always had my reservations because of what an impact the movie had on me as a kid. I was about 9 or 10 when the movie first came out and it blew my mind. As the book likes to point out, boys love dinosaurs and that was true.
As a side note, I’m loving how much my son (5 y.o.) loves dinosaurs. He knows so much more about them than I do, in fact his favorite is the Giganotosaurus, a dinosaur I learned existed from him.
(the hipster’s T-Rex)
Now, I’ll be the first to admit my memory of of the movie is a tad hazy, but from what I do remember, the movie actually follows the book quite a bit, at least up until about 2/3 of the book where either my memory is bad or the books is completely different (oh and Grant loves kids in the book, which is … opposite). More than I would have guessed, which was not a lot.
There’s a little more detail to the initial attacks we see in the movie and it’s not quite as gruesome in parts (and much more gruesome in others). The girl gets attacked by the Compsognathus (little green dinos), or **”compys” as they’re known. **excuse my spelling, I listened to the audio and like Fox news, I don’t feel the need to fact check.
The park is just about ready to open and it’s time to get all the consultants together to make sure it’s on the right track. Thus, Grant and Sattler, Ian Malcolm, the attorney Jennaro, and a couple others are flown in.
Of course, nefarious doings are going on and a competitor wants in on the dinosaur action. In comes Dennis Nedry, who is pretty much spot on copied in the movie. Excellent job Wayne Knight. He’s pretty much built the entire IT system for the park and thus has quite a bit of control over pretty much everything. I don’t remember his involvement in the park being this extensive, but then again, I was 9. There’s a frikkin’ T-REX!!!
As we all know, everything goes to pot and we all know what goes from here. Even though the movie diverges from the book, we all know what goes on from here.
And it’s awesome. I had a blast listening to this book and Scott Brick is such a talented narrator, you don’t even notice him reading. It’s just pure story.
A couple *important* things I wanted to point out… some spoilers for the book:
1. The lawyer, Jennaro, is not as spineless as in the movie, does not get eaten while he’s sitting on the toilet by a T-Rex (okay, that was an awesome addition), and even saves the day at one point by pointing out law that doesn’t exist. (No, this sudden support for the lawyer has nothing to do with the fact that I have an Esq. on the end of my name … perish the thought)
2. Was Lex Murphy that annoying in the movie? I really don’t remember that. She’s super duper annoying in the book.
3. Ian Malcolm’s Chaos Theory should have been cut down like in the movie. There are a number of times he’s going off about it and you’re literally thinking, aren’t there dinosaurs around the corner about to eat them? Does anyone care about any theory at this time besides the theory of escaping dinosaurs? Still a great character, just weird timing of his rants about corporations and such, which I’m not disagreeing with.
(literally the only image you’re allowed to use when referring to Ian Malcolm)
4. So this book was published in 1990 and this book had maybe a total of 15 to 20 people at risk, not counting the rest of the world that could potentially be at risk by dinosaurs escaping. We’re talking people you’re honestly worried about dying or not throughout the book.
Jump to 2015, Jurassic World, and we’ve got an entire park open with thousands and thousands of people at risk. Does that say something about how our society’s penchant for destruction?
5. But seriously, back to Malcolm, Chaos Theory essentially comes down to – because dinosaurs are an unknown, and much like the weather – unpredictable – you’re all screwed and nothing will work right. And then Malcolm gloats. Even while dinosaurs are stalking him.
Now, the opposing argument in the book is that zoos exist so why can’t dinosaurs be kept in a zoo? My problem is that if everyone gave up because there was an unknown then we’d have just about nothing. People go forward with the unknown all the time. Many fail, but that’s how great success comes as well. I guess I’m saying I needed more to this theory and preferably when I can think about the theory and not when DINOSAURS ARE LITERALLY AROUND THE CORNER TRYING TO EAT YOU.
6. Jurassic Park gets lots of crap for providing false ideas as to what dinosaurs actually looked like (see raptors). While it’s true, if you ignore the story, it is explained. You know that whole science part toward the beginning, well they talk about only finding partial DNA and having to graft in DNA from other animals (which actually becomes a huge problem). This would lend toward dinosaurs that don’t actually look like they’re supposed to and I’m fine with that explanation.
I have to say, after 25 years, Jurassic Park really held up well. Lots of the communication issues would be the same problem nowadays because of the fact that they’re on a remote island that cell phones would be problematic on anyway. It helps that a book doesn’t have to actually reproduce computer screens so you can picture those as high tech as you want as long as you ignore the amounts of memory they mention. At least they’re in the gigabytes still.
And most of this I just point out because of how into the book I was. I really had a blast listening to Jurassic Park and I can highly recommend a reading of this classic. One of the few book/movie combinations where I can honestly say I loved both for their own reasons. Now, I need to go track down a copy of that movie. If only there were some online subscription service like Oyster for movies.