The SFFaudio Podcast #074


The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #074 – Jesse and Scott talk about the recently arrived audiobooks with assistance and commentary by Luke Burrage

Talked about on today’s show:
New York, “your whole life is a holiday”, The Way Of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, The Wheel Of Time series, “the entire world is imagined from the ground up”, Blackstone Audio, The Shadow Hunter by Pat Murphy, neanderthals, cave bear, “a little cave dude”, The Ugly Little Boy by Isaac Asimov, Robert Silverberg, Robert J. Sawyer’s Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, shamanic or shamanistic, The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast, Urban Fantasy Alert, City Of Ghosts by Stacia Kane, the Chess Putnam series, First Drop Of Crimson by Jeaniene Frost (Book 1 in the The Night Huntress World series), paranormal romance vs. urban fantasy, spade vs. Spade, vampires, by , southern Gothic, Flannery O’Connor with zombies, the full zombie vs. the half zombie vampire, The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell, The Walking Dead by , Being Human (tv show), Dark Shadows, Hawaii 50, V, Half Blood Of Brooklyn by Charlie Huston, Stephen King, noir urban fantasy?, On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers, Subterranean Press, Bronson Pinchot, pirates, magic, voodoo, Brilliance Audio, Bearers Of The Black Staff by Terry Brooks, Caviar by Theodore Sturgeon, Shannara, Audiofile Magazine, Connecting the Robots and Empire (Foundation) series, demon war, war dudes and siege engines, The Speed Of Dark by Elizabeth Moon, autism, Mary Robinette Kowal’s review of the Books On Tape edition of The Speed Of Dark |READ OUR REVIEW|, Luke’s idea for a paranormal romance set in the stone age, “urban cave fantasy”, Quicksilver by Neal Stephanson, audiobooks are being shaped to the length of an Audible credit, The Baroque Cycle, The Lies Of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch |READ OUR REVIEW|, “it ends in Gibraltar”, Penguin Audio, Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston, Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl, science fiction, Zero History by William Gibson, Max Headroom, Elmore Leonard, great writing is not enough, Michael May’s Adventure Blog article on back of the book copywriting, taking the risk of writing only the keywords, Starship: Mutiny by Mike Resnick |READ OUR REVIEW|, Kirinyaga by Mike Resnick |READ OUR REVIEW|, Finch by Jeff Vandermeer, StarShipSofa, weird fantasy vs. new weird, the George Zarr talk (The SFFaudio Podcast #071), Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot a BBC radio drama, “if you’re 14 years old and you’re listening to this…”, fantasy women, Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan, Young Adult fiction, the The Ruins of Gorlan series, I Am Number Four, Battlestar Galactica, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, This Immortal by Roger Zelazny, Dune by Frank Herbert, Children Of Dune, Bad Blood by John Sanford, James Lee Burke, Santa Fe Edge by Stuart Woods, by Michael Kramer, the Richard Stark Parker books (Books On Tape), Ed Eagle vs. Eddie The Eagle, New Mexico, puzzling murder, false identity, lush and exclusive resorts, family, vegetarian, car, crash, human, not human, zombie, mystery, maggot infested corpse, brink of death, flesh off her bones, Dust by Joan Frances Turner, should be able to know it, OVERLORDS!, Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, The Caves Of Steel by Isaac Asimov, Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein, futuristic gadgetry, Snow Crash, Virtual Light by William Gibson, “the first really good augmented reality book”, The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Recent Arrivals: Blackstone Audio

SFFaudio Recent Arrivals

Blackstone AudiobooksHere’s stack of new Blackstone Audio audiobooks! We’ve talked about them on the podcast, now have a gander at the art!

Which of these have you heard? Which are you planning to hear? And, in which order?

First up, an audiobook I’m going to try to get us reading for an SFFaudio Readalong…

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - Mindswap by Robert SheckleyMindswap
By Robert Sheckley; Read by Tom Weiner
4 CDs or 1 MP3-CD – Approx. 4.3 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2010
ISBN: 1441736476 (CD), 9781441736505 (mp3-cd)
Interstellar travel to alien worlds is too expensive for Marvin, a college student in need of a good vacation. And so he signs up for what he can afford: a mind swap, in which his consciousness is swapped into the body of an alien life-form. Unfortunately, Marvin finds himself in the body of an interstellar criminal—a body that he has to vacate, fast. But that criminal consciousness has stolen Marvin’s earthly body. Now Marvin has to find a body on the black market just to stay alive! Travel with Marvin from world to world, each one crazier than the last, as he keeps finding far-from-ideal bodies in awful situations.

Next, in the tradition of Pride And Prejudice And Zombies comes…

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - Jane Slayre by Charlotte Brontë and Sherri Browning ErwinJayne Slayre (The Literary Classic…with a Blood-Sucking Twist)
By Charlotte Brontë and Sherri Browning Erwin; Read by Rosalyn Landor
12 CDs or 1 MP3-CD – Approx. 14.2 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2010
ISBN: 9781441752185 (cd), 9781441752192 (mp3-cd)
Raised by vampyre relatives, Jane grows to resent the lifestyle’s effect on her upbringing. No sunlight, keeping nighttime hours, and a diet of bloody red meat is no way for a mortal girl to live. Things change for Jane when the ghost of her uncle visits her, imparts her parents’ slayer history, and charges her with the responsibility of striking out to find others of her kind and learn the slayer ways. After trying her luck at a school full of zombies, Jane finds a position as a governess, where she meets and falls in love with Mr. Rochester. But evil strikes in the form of Mr. Rochester’s first wife, a violent werewolf he keeps locked in the attic. Jane departs to study the slayer tradition with her cousins, but finds herself yearning to reunite with Mr. Rochester. She returns to find that Mr. Rochester has been bitten by the werewolf, and only she can release him from his curse.

Fourth, here’s the 4th audiobook in Wellington’s vampire series…

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - 23 Hours by David Wellington23 Hours – A Vengeful Vampire Tale
By David Wellington; Read by Bernadette Dunne
8 CDs or 1 MP3-CD – Approx. 10 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2010
ISBN: 9781441743213 (cd), 9781441743244 (mp3-cd)
When vampire hunter Laura Caxton is locked up in a maximum-security prison, the cop-turned-con finds herself surrounded by countless murderers and death-row inmates with nothing to lose and plenty of time to kill. Caxton’s always been able to watch her own back—even when it’s against a cell-block wall. But soon she learns that an even greater threat has slithered behind the bars to join her. Justinia Malvern, the world’s oldest living vampire, has taken up residence, and her strength grows by the moment as she raids the inmate population like an all-you-can-drink open bar of fresh blood. The crafty old vampire knows just how to pull Caxton’s strings, too, and she’s issued an ultimatum that Laura can’t refuse. Now Laura has just 23 hours to fight her way through a gauntlet of vampires, cons, and killers.

More than exciting!

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - More Than Human by Theodore SturgeonMore Than Human
By Theodore Sturgeon; Read by Stefan Rudnicki and Harlan Ellison
7 CDs or 1 MP3-CD – Approx. 8 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: June 2010
ISBN: 9781433275111 (cd), 9781433275142 (mp3-cd)
In this genre-bending novel, among the first to have launched science fiction into literature, a group of remarkable social outcasts band together for survival and discover that their combined powers render them superhuman. There’s Lone, the simpleton who can hear other people’s thoughts; Janie, who moves things without touching them; and the teleporting twins, who can travel ten feet or ten miles. There’s Baby, who invented an antigravity engine while still in the cradle, and Gerry, who has everything it takes to run the world except for a conscience. Separately, they are talented freaks. Together, they may represent the next step in evolution—or the final chapter in the history of the human race. As they struggle to find whether they are meant to help humanity or destroy it, Sturgeon explores questions of power and morality, individuality and belonging.

After my review of Hater |READ OUR REVIEW| I’m kind of surprised to see this, its sequel, Dog Blood, sitting here in my hands.

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - Dog Blood by David MoodyDog Blood
By David Moody; Read by Gerard Doyle
8 CDs or 1 MP3-CD – Approx. 8 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: June 2010
ISBN: 9781441740489 (cd), 9781441740496 (mp3-cd)
The Earth has been torn apart. Everyone is either Human or Hater. Victim or killer. Major cities have become vast refugee camps where human survivors cower together in fear. Amidst this indiscriminate fighting and killing, Danny McCoyne is on a mission to find his daughter, Ellis. Free of inhibitions, unrestricted by memories of the previous world, and driven by instinct, children are pure Haters, and might well be the deciding factor in the future of the Hater race. But as McCoyne makes his way into the heart of human territory, an incident on the battlefield sets in place an unexpected chain of events, forcing him to question everything he believes he knows about the new order that has arisen, and the dynamic of the Hate itself.

Like, Jane Slayre (above), this is a kind of mash-up novel, and perhaps the strangest of its kind yet…

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - Paul Is Undead by Alan GoldsherPaul Is Undead – The British Zombie Invasion
By Alan Goldsher; Read by Simon Vance
7 CDs or 1 MP3-CD – Approx. 8 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: June 2010
ISBN: 9781441764225 (cd), 9781441764232 (mp3-cd)
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to really meet the Beatles. This is a delightfully gory retelling of the Beatles’ U.S. tour that reimagines the Liverpool foursome as bloodthirsty zombies who take over the world…literally! For John Lennon, a young, idealistic zombie guitarist with dreams of global domination, Liverpool seems the ideal place to form a band that could take over the world. In an inspired act, Lennon kills and reanimates local rocker Paul McCartney, kicking off an unstoppable partnership. With the addition of newly zombified guitarist George Harrison and drummer/Seventh Level Ninja Lord Ringo Starr, the Beatles soon cut a swath of bloody good music and bloody violent mayhem across Europe, America, and the entire planet. In this searing oral history, discover how the Fab Four climbed to the Toppermost of the Poppermost while stealing the hearts, ears, and brains of smitten teenage girls. Learn the tale behind a spiritual journey that resulted in the dismemberment of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Marvel at the seemingly indestructible quartet’s survival of a fierce attack by Eighth Level Ninja Lord Yoko Ono. And find out how the boys escaped eternal death at the hands of England’s greatest zombie hunter, Mick Jagger. Through all this, one mystery remains: Can the Beatles sublimate their hunger for gray matter, remain on top of the charts, and stay together for all eternity? After all, three of the Fab Four are zombies, and zombies live forever.

Urban Fantasy alert! Here’s a chunky sized audiobook that’s part of the “Newford” series…

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - Widdershins by Charles de LintWiddershins
By Charles de Lint; Read by Kate Reading
17 CDs or 2 MP3-CD – Approx. 20.4 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: July 2010
ISBN: 9781441750419 (cd), (mp3-cd)
Ever since Jilly Coppercorn and Geordie Riddell were introduced in De Lint’s first Newford story, “Timeskip,” back in 1989, their friends and readers alike have been waiting for them to realize that they belong together. Now, in Widdershins, a stand-alone novel of fairy courts set in shopping malls and the Bohemian street scene of Newford’s Crowsea area, Jilly and Geordie’s story is finally being told. Before it’s over, we’ll find ourselves plunged into the rancorous and sometimes violent conflict between the magical North American “animal people” and the more newly-arrived fairy folk. We’ll watch as Jilly is held captive in a sinister world based on her own worst memories—and Geordie, attempting to help, is sent someplace even worse. And we’ll be captivated by the power of love and determination to redeem ancient hatreds and heal old magics gone sour.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Poison Sleep by T.A. Pratt

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audiobook - Poison Sleep by T.A. PrattPoison Sleep (A Marla Mason Novel)
By T.A. Pratt; Read by Jessica Almasy
9 Hours, 41 Minutes – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible Frontiers
Published: 2009
Themes: / Fantasy / Urban Fantasy / Magic / Crime /

This is the second Marla Mason novel from T. A. Pratt, yet you don’t need to have read the first book to appreciate this one. Marla is once again back in her home town of Felport. Marla is the chief Sorcerer of the city and she works to keep all the other sorcerers in the city in line. A thankless job. Part crime boss, part superhero. At her side is her somewhat reluctant friend, Rondeau. He’s not one to back down from danger, but the toilets in his night club need unblocking and Marla should really learn to do her own laundry. And shopping. And driving. She could use a Personal Assistant.

Freshly escaped from the Blackwing institute is a prisoner, Genevieve, who has been asleep for the last fifteen years. The Blackwing Institute is a prison that holds criminally insane sorcerers. You know, those that want to kill everyone in sacrifice to their own gods, or others that are a danger to the normal people who don’t believe in magic. Genevieve isn’t a criminal though. But she is unimaginably dangerous as her dreams affect reality. Unfortunately she has a lot of nightmares, so being catatonic for the last decade and a half has been a good thing for everyone else.

As Marla and Rondeau try to find Genevieve, there is also a rouge assassin somewhere in town stalking his prey. And one of her sorcerer isn’t answering her calls. Genevieve is affecting the city more and more. It is a race to reach her when she next appears out of her dream realm and starts changing the city.

Marla is a kick-in-the-door and subdue everyone kinda woman. She’s very strong and not afraid of a fight. The subtler side of negotiations sometimes elude her, particularly if they require much in the way of patience.

Although Genevieve’s story is tragic and disturbing, this is a fun story and Jessica Almasy carries you smoothly into the winter of Marla’s snow-bound Felport.

If you love your urban fantasy, hold the vampires and werewolves,
you’ll enjoy Poison Sleep.

Posted by Paul [W] Campbell

Review of Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

SFFaudio Review

Club Dead by Charlaine HarrisClub Dead
By Charlaine Harris; Read by Johanna Parker
Audible Download – 8 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Published: 2008
Themes: / urban fantasy / paranormal romance / vampires / werewolves / True Blood

The second season of HBO’s True Blood, based on Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels. The show’s first season very loosely followed the first novel in the series, Dead Until Dark, while the second season made significant departures from the second novel, Living Dead in Dallas. Hoping to garner some clues about the show’s third season, I decided this would be a good time to read the third installment in the series. While the flavorful writing and vivid characterization are still top-notch, Club Dead lacks the charm and magic that made the series opener so memorable.

As the novel opens, telepath human Sookie Stackhouse is finding her vampire boyfriend Bill Compton a bit distant. He’s exhibiting the characteristics of an internet addict, spending hours on his computer and hiding his activities from her. Without warning Bill announces he’s going away on business, and leaves a set of computer disks in Sookie’s protection. As if this isn’t disconcerting enough, Bill’s vampire boss Eric Northman from Shreveport soon calls on Sookie to tell her that Bill has vanished somewhere in the town of Jackson, Mississippi, and charges the werewolf Alcide Herveaux with helping Sookie find her squeeze. The city of Jackson, and its supernatural-friendly night dive Club Dead, serve as the setting for most of the novel’s action.

Sookie Stackhouse is a fantastic character, and it’s always a treat to spend more time with the strong-willed yet insecure waitress from Bon Temps, Louisiana. The vampire Eric Northman, a shadowy figure of great power in the first two novels, also finds more development here. He becomes more three-dimensional, but at the cost of losing some of his mystique. Newcomer Alcide Herveaux, who introduces Sookie to Jackson’s werewolf community, fits comfortably among the series regulars. Sookie’s love interest, Bill Compton, is absent for much of the novel, but he does resurface near the book’s conclusion. Relationships among these principal personalities shift significantly during the course of the book. I’m not sure I approve of the shifts in affiliation and allegiance, but they certainly made for some moments of powerfully emotional storytelling.

Charlaine Harris’s writing is superb, especially her ear for dialogue and her liberal use of local color. Having spent many years in East Texas, which in many ways lies in the same cultural sphere as the book’s setting, I can attest to the verisimilitude Harris achieves in her prose, accentuated by the first-person storytelling from Sookie’s perspective.

The problem with Club Dead, as with its predecessor, is that it removes too much of the human element from the story. Urban fantasy is at its best when it juxtaposes the supernatural and magical against the backdrop of the commonplace and mundane. The first novel, Dead Until Dark, achieved this brilliantly, introducing vampires into the sleepy village of Bon Temps. This powerful quality of urban fantasy is lost in Club Dead among all the machinations within and between the werewolf and vampire communities, fascinating though they may be. Indeed, the eponymous Club Dead itself exemplifies this. Whereas Fangtasia, or even Merlott’s, in the preceding novels were melting pots of the races, Club Dead is an almost-exclusively supernatural hangout, sprinkled only here and there with the presence of humans.

The audiobook version is narrated brilliantly by Johanna Parker, who perfectly captures Sookie Stackhouse’s spunky fire and angsty gloom. The southern colloquialisms roll off Parker’s tongue like sweet lemonade on a hot Texas summer day. Her portrayal of the dark, menacing power of the vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, and other supernatural beings is no less impressive. Often the force of her narration made me jump or sent tingles down my spine, which is just what you want from a good audiobook.

Even with its lackluster plot, Club Dead is a worthy addition to the Southern Vampire Mysteries, and anyone who has enjoyed the first two novels will certainly want to continue the adventure. Fans of the TV show True Blood should also pick up these novels and experience firsthand the witty, brilliant, sometimes-twisted mind of Charlaine Harris.

Posted by Seth Wilson

Review of Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher

SFFaudio Review

Proven Guilty by Jim ButcherProven Guilty
By Jim Butcher; Read by James Marsters
Audible Download – approx. 16 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Published: 2009
Themes: / Fantasy / Urban Fantasy / Magic / Chicago / Wizard / Faeries / Vampires / Black Magic

By the time most fantasy series reach their eighth novel, they’re usually showing their age. For proof, one need look no further than Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, in which the eighth book, Path of Daggers, is seen as the beginning of the cycle’s decline, although some would place this event significantly earlier. In any case, Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series certainly doesn’t follow this trend. In fact, Proven Guilty suggests that the series just keeps getting better.

The novel initially follows the series formula: Chicago wizard-for-hire Harry Dresden faces a series of seemingly-disconnected incidents which, as the plot progresses, reveal themselves to be connected in a sinister way. The White Council is on the lookout for black magic; monsters from the big screen are wreaking havoc at a horror fan convention; and Molly Carpenter, daughter of Harry’s good friend Michael, is in some kind of mysterious trouble. Harry must juggle all these fly balls and, as usual, keep himself from getting killed. He’s aided by the usual cast of supporting characters like officer Karin Murphy and the elemental Bob the Skull., and White Court vampire Thomas.

Harry soon discovers that the faerie courts of Summer and Winter have taken an interest in recent events. Perhaps this is why I enjoyed Proven Guilty so much, since it evoked themes from the other faerie-centric novel in the series so far, Summer Knight, which is also one of my favorites. Butcher writes about the fae as if they are both inscrutably beautiful and incalculably terrifying. In general, the Summer Court tends to side with the “powers of good”, while the Winter Court allies itself with “evil”, but faerie politics aren’t quite that simple. Summer can be incredibly crafty and deceptive, while denizens of Winter are prone to occasional acts of kindness and sacrifice.

This moral ambiguity cuts to the heart of the success of Proven Guilty. Themes of morality, self-control, parenthood, and responsibility abound. Butcher’s early novels felt like little more than exciting detective thrillers with a supernatural twist–entertaining, witty, humorous, but lacking any real depth. In later Dresden Files novels, Butcher has cultivated a heightened emotional sensitivity. in Proven Guilty, this manifests most prominently in Harry’s complex relationship with the Carpenter family. Without giving too much away, suffice to say that the execution of a young boy at the hands of the White Council for misuse of magic holds more than a hint of foreshadowing.

James Marsters, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame, narrates the novel flawlessly. His hard-boiled narrative style perfectly fits the book’s genre as a detective story, and his dust-dry rendition of Harry Dresden’s dialogue captures the wizard’s lonely character perfectly. Marsters also handles the female characters deftly, avoiding the pitfall of overacting that some other male vice actors fall prey to.

Readers might get away with reading Proven Guilty as a stand-alone novel, since it does a passable job of weaving backstory into the plot in an unobtrusive manner, but it’s worth reading the Dresden Files series from the beginning. Unfortunately, books six and seven (Blood Rites and Dead Beat) haven’t yet received the audio treatment, though they’re schedules for release sometime in the coming months.  It’s well worth plodding through those two volumes in print.

Also take a look at SFFaudio’s favorable review of Small Favor, book ten in the series, which I’m immensely looking forward to once I’ve read the intervening White Night.

Posted by Seth Wilson

Review of Blood Noir by Laurell K. Hamilton

SFFaudio Review

Blood Noir by Laurell K. HamiltonBlood Noir
By Laurell K. Hamilton; Read by Cynthia Holloway
11 CDs –
13 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
ISBN:  1-59737-895-6
Published: 2008
Themes: / paranormal romance / vampires / shapeshifters / mystery / sex / BDSM / urban fantasy

Blood Noir is the sixteenth installment in Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series. Thats an impressive track record for any writer–and somehow Hamilton has found time to work on several other series as well. This particular Anita Blake novel is heavy on the romance and emotional development of its characters. It’s fairly light on the “paranormal” or “supernatural” element until it nears its conclusion. While a fun emotional and sexual romp, Blood Noir lacks the intellectual teeth to be called “fantasy” in any meaningful sense of the word.

The book opens with a bang of the Jenna Jameson variety, as Anita Blake comforts her grieving werewolf friend Jason in the most intimate way possible, while her more regular lover Nathaniel looks on and later joins in. Libido calmed, for the moment at least, the story then commences in earnest, and Blood Noir actually presents an intriguing premise. Jason’s estranged father is dying of cancer, and Jason wants to patch up the relationship while he still can. Jason’s father, despite much evidence to the contrary, labors under the delusion that Jason is gay. To dispel this misperception, Jason brings Anita to his home in North Carolina to present as his girlfriend, a front that is only half a lie. The plot thickens further when Jason is mistaken by hometown residents for the son of the state governor.

You might be wondering how the supernatural fits into all this. So was I. While the story is well-told and the characters are emotionally complex, the fantastic elements of Anita Blake’s world don’t really manifest themselves for the first two-thirds of the novel. Sure, we’re told that Jason is a werewolf and that Nathaniel her lover is a were-leopard, and we witness several telephone conversations between Anita and her protector Jean-Claude, one of the vampire masters of St. Louis. But Hamilton is breaking the writer’s axiom of “show, don’t tell.” The early parts of the novel play out like any romance-cum-mystery, with only the barest of supernatural trappings.

Once “the metaphysical shit”, as Blake utters several times, does finally hit the fan, the action ramps up and Blood Noir becomes a thriller on par with other urban fantasy, replete with shapeshifting, vampire charms, and a bit of old-fashioned gun play. The payoff is worth waiting for. The novel draws its title from Marmee Noir, an ancient vampire who, despite slumbering somewhere in Europe, manages to wreak havoc in the lives of characters halfway around the world. The book advances the larger Vampire Hunter story arc, and promises an intriguing direction for future books in the series.

There’s no getting around it, Blood Noir is about sex. Anita Blake is possessed by the ardeur, an urge that requires her to “feed” periodically through sexual acts. Yes, Anita’s come a long way since her celibate days of the first few novels. She openly maintains several serious sexual partners, and she engages in sadomasochism and other “non-standard” sexual practices. The emphasis on eroticism feels mostly in line with the plot, and seldom ranges into the realm of over-indulgence. What saves Blood Noir from devolving into a wholly superficial sexual dog pile is Anita’s self-awareness. Anita is mostly comfortable with her open lifestyle, but she occasionally expresses misgivings about its potential negative impact on herself and others. Her external sensual and erotic lust is also complimented by a fine-tuned emotional sensitivity.

Brilliance Audio has made a modest effort to put some production shine on its audio version of Blood Noir, with some minimal distortion effects when characters speak on the phone or overhear a television news report. Cynthia Holloway’s narration tackles the novel’s sexuality head-on; she doesn’t flinch at even the most graphic scenes. Holloway especially succeeds in capturing Anita Blake’s wide expressive range, from her angry outbursts to her few moments of vulnerability.

Long-time readers of the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series will doubtless wish to follow the heroine’s latest adventures, and fans of paranormal romance who have somehow missed Hamilton’s work will probably want to jump into the series as well. Other readers of fantasy, even of urban fantasy, should approach Blood Noir with caution. The book provides a solid plot and well-rounded characters, but Hamilton’s hit-and-miss writing fails to conjure up the magic that fantasy, even dark fantasy, should.

DISCLAIMER: Any sexual puns or double-entendres contained in this review were purely inadvertent.

Posted by Seth Wilson