Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Battlefield Earth by L Ron Hubbard - Audiobook Review

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

”BattlefieldBattlefield Earth
by L Ron Hubbard
narrated by a Multicast

Copyright: 2013 Galaxy Audio
Duration: 47 hours, 31 minutes unabridged
Genres: science fiction, post apocalypse
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews
Click the image to visit the publisher’s website.

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: In the year 3000, Earth is an empty wasteland. At mining sites across the globe, vicious alien Psychlos grind out the mineral resources of the planet they utterly destroyed a millennium ago. The scant few remnants of humanity hide in villages and remote areas, an endangered species on the brink of extinction. Apathy and superstition have suppressed all hope, when one man, Jonnie Goodboy Tyler, dares to leave his village in search of a better life. Against all odds, he marshals the last survivors to join him in a desperate attempt to drive alien Psychlos from this world before man is lost forever.

© 2013 Galaxy Audio

DEDICATION: This brand new novel is dedicated to Robert A Heinlein, A E Van Vogt, John W Campbell Jr., and all the merry crew of science fiction and fantasy writers of the 30’s and 40’s, the Golden Age, who made science fiction and fantasy the respected and popular literary genres they have become today.

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Mankind was so smart. Having finally reached beyond the gravitational pull of their own planet in the 20th century, homo sapiens wasted no time in reaching out into the vastness of the universe, in hopes of making contact with another intelligent race. The probe was launched, and the Earth waited. Yes, mankind was so clever. I guess it never occurred to them that the precious metals that went into the probe’s construction might be considered precious by other life forms as well. And they couldn’t really be expected to know that it was a bad idea to include the Earth’s precise location in the data that the probe carried, could they? And so, the visitors came, not caring one bit about the primitive species found on Earth, but only caring about the mineral-rich planet itself. They came, scoured the planet’s surface with a poison gas that killed 99% of the human race, and began stripping the planet of its resources.

Fast forward 1000 years.

In the year 3000, Earth is ruled by its alien conquerors, the Psychlos, while humanity has been reduced to a few scattered bands of survivors. The surviving humans live high in the mountains where the monsters never go, and have been reduced practically to a stone-age existence. The Psychlos, twice as big as a human, still mine the planet of its resources, and rarely think of “man”, except when they are in the mood to hunt. They hunt only for sport, however, as man neither has much meat, nor tastes very good. And as time passes the human race dwindles, as few babies are born and fewer are born healthy. Humanity is a dying race without purpose or hope.

Jonnie Goodboy Tyler is a member of the dying breed of humans, although there has always been something different about him. Jonnie has a natural curiosity about the world around him, a trait that is all but forgotten in humans. Even as a young boy the elders of his tribe often said he was “too smart” and they did not mean it kindly. Yes, Jonnie always liked to explore the mountains around his village in what used to be Colorado. And so, when he was old enough, Jonnie decided it was time to leave the mountain and see what the world had to offer.

It didn’t take Jonnie long to find that what the world had to offer his dying race was torture and captivity. But Jonnie is different. Rather than accept his fate, he watches the Psychlos and learns from them. The Psychlos think of him as an animal, incapable of harming even a single Psychlo, let alone destroying their whole race. If any of them survive the ensuing confrontation, they’ll never underestimate a human again.

Believe it or not, the above summary only covers about one-third of Battlefield Earth. L Ron Hubbard has created such a monumental and epic tale that it’s difficult to grasp it all. The Psychlos are only the beginning. Jonnie is about to find out that there are many more alien races out there and with the Psychlos out of the way Earth is ripe for conquest once again. He will also learn that monsters don’t always come in alien form, some of them were born and raised right here on Earth.

I was pretty impressed with how Hubbard mapped this whole thing out. Obviously the humans, all 35,000 of them, can’t win their freedom by brute force, they have to outwit their opponents. And each time Jonnie or one of his comrades came up with a solution to the next problem, it was believable. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Asimov’s Foundation books, where the fledgling Foundation had to restore order to the universe not by strength but by cunning. Up to now I have been exposed to Hubbard’s work mainly through his short fictions and it was nice to see him flex his literary muscle a little (or a lot actually) in Battlefield Earth.

Battlefield Earth is the latest audio production from Galaxy Audio who, for several years now, has been producing the works of L Ron Hubbard. Like the other features from Galaxy, Battlefield Earth is a multi-cast production complete with music and sound effects and they have really outdone themselves this time. The quality of Galaxy’s work is always excellent, but for what is probably Hubbard’s crowning achievement they pulled out all the stops.

In one of my favorite scenes, Jonnie’s captor Terl takes Jonnie to a nearby military base, where it is said the last of the Earth’s defenders stood their ground. Terl wanted to point out to Jonnie that humanity’s staunchest soldiers were overrun by the Psychlos in a mere three hours. Jonnie, on the other hand, sees something very different. A sign on a building at the site reads, “United States Air Force Academy.” This means nothing to Terl, but Jonnie knows that these were not hardened combat veterans that held off the Psychlos but mere trainees and cadets. It’s a pivotal moment during Jonnie’s long period of captivity and also a beautifully produced scene. The background music during this scene is haunting and ethereal and as Jonnie visualizes those brave fighters we hear their shouts and cries echoing across the years. Galaxy Audio did a beautiful job of putting this scene together. And that’s just one example of many. Explosions, gunfire, tools clanking, crowd noises, fires blazing; I could go on and on. These aren’t just sound enhancements; it’s like a full-blown feature film inside your head.

As I mentioned, Battlefield Earth is a multi-cast production, although that phrase hardly does it justice. The novel has a total of 199 characters, for which Galaxy employed a whopping 67 voice actors. I can’t name them all here, but here are some of the main characters:

Josh Clark as main narrator, Scott Menville as Jonnie Tyler, Charlie Davis as Terl, Fred Tatasciore as Ker, Alan Shearman as Robert the Fox, and Christina Huntington as Chrissie. Also featured are the voice talents of Phil Proctor, Jim Meskimen, R F Daley, Bob Caso, and many many more. At one point in the story one of the characters created a voice-activated singing lapel button. Jonnie wore one for a bit and every time he tried to talk it started singing, which was pretty funny. The singing parts were capably handled by R F Daley and featured such classics as Home on the Range, and Ghost Riders in the Sky. I actually laughed out loud at this.

Included at the beginning of this audio production is a lengthy introduction written by the author in 1980, just two years before the novel’s publication. Many people think of L Ron Hubbard as a science fiction writer, which is true, but is not the whole truth. Hubbard was already a well-respected author of many genres before he began writing sci-fi. In his introduction, Hubbard talks about the challenges of writing fiction during the depression, and how he began writing science fiction several years after that. Also in his introduction, Hubbard discusses at length the differences between science fiction and fantasy. Hubbard was apparently of the opinion that the two genres are wholly different, and it sounded like he didn’t like the two being lumped together. This was very interesting to me personally, because I have always felt the same way. Why do we always lump sci-fi and fantasy together? Probably we’ll never know. The introduction and the dedication are read by none other than Stefan Rudnicki. I’m sure that fans of science fiction audiobooks will appreciate one of the great narrators of the genre being involved in this monumental project.

If you’re a fan of L Ron Hubbard or of sci-fi in general or even of the more recent post apocalyptic craze, I can’t imagine you not wanting this beautiful piece of work in your collection. It’s a great story by a great writer, and Galaxy Audio did an amazing job with it. I can’t even imagine how many hours of work went into this project but it was well worth it. Congrats on a job well done Galaxy Audio!

Coming in the summer of 2016.

The Black Sultan by L Ron Hubbard (Audiobook Review)
The Devil - With Wings by L Ron Hubbard (Audiobook Review)
The Dive Bomber by L Ron Hubbard (Audiobook Review)

Special thanks to Galaxy Audio for this review copy.
Audiobook review by Steven Brandt.
This audiobook review is based on the unabridged audiobook.
Come back soon for more audiobook reviews from Audiobook-Heaven.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Close Your Eyes Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian cover image
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Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands
by Chris Bohjalian
read by Grace Blewer

©2014 Random House Audio
8 hours 15 minutes unabridged
Genres: young adult, general fiction
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  5 out of 5 haloshalohalohalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: A heartbreaking, wildly inventive, and moving novel narrated by a teenage runaway, from the best-selling author of Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls.

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is the story of Emily Shepard, a homeless teen living in an igloo made of ice and trash bags filled with frozen leaves. Half a year earlier, a nuclear plant in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom had experienced a cataclysmic meltdown, and both of Emily's parents were killed. Devastatingly, her father was in charge of the plant, and the meltdown may have been his fault. Was he drunk when it happened? Thousands of people are forced to flee their homes in the Kingdom; rivers and forests are destroyed; and Emily feels certain that, as the daughter of the most hated man in America, she is in danger. So instead of following the social workers and her classmates after the meltdown, Emily takes off on her own for Burlington, where she survives by stealing, sleeping on the floor of a drug dealer's apartment, and inventing a new identity for herself - an identity inspired by her favorite poet, Emily Dickinson. When Emily befriends a young homeless boy named Cameron, she protects him with a ferocity she didn't know she had. But she still can't outrun her past, can't escape her grief, can't hide forever - and so she comes up with the only plan that she can.

A story of loss, adventure, and the search for friendship in the wake of catastrophe, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is one of Chris Bohjalian's finest novels to date - breathtaking, wise, and utterly transporting.

©2014 Chris Bohjalian (P)2014 Random House Audio

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: It’s just an ordinary day at school for 16-year-old Emily Shepard and her friends when the day is broken by emergency sirens. The sirens are coming from the nearby nuclear power plant. For these kids it is just about the worst sound in the world. Cape Abenaki is centered around the power plant. The houses are where the plant employees live and the exclusive private school is where their kids attend classes. This horrible day is just the beginning for poor Emily.

Emily doesn’t have just one parent in the plant, but both. In fact her father is chief engineer at the plant. Soon rumors begin circulating that Emily’s father may have been drunk at work and the meltdown was his fault. All those people dead, all those families evacuated from their homes, and Emily’s father may be to blame. How can she ever face her friends again? Will she be forced to testify against her father at a trial?

Unable to bear the shame Emily runs away and lives on the streets and it seems she is headed for a bad ending until she meets 9-year-old Cameron. Cameron has just escaped from an abusive foster home. He needs someone to take care of him and Emily takes on the job. The two survive, barely, living on the streets and in shelters until Cameron gets sick. Emily knows he needs to go to a hospital but that would almost certainly mean turning herself in and facing the horror of the power plant all over again.

Close Your Eyes Hold Hands is a sad story of how a young girl can so quickly lose everything she knew and end up on the streets. What makes it so sad is that even though it is a fictional story, I know things like this happen to kids all the time. Emily bounces from shelter to shelter, falls in with a drug dealer who prostitutes her and other girls, and eventually just lives on the street in a shelter made of leaf-filled trash bags. Her story is a sad one, but also compelling. You can’t help but root for her as she survives one day at a time. It’s a hard time for her but also a time of growth and for coming-of-age if you’ll pardon the cliché. I’m not exactly sure if the ending was a happy one or not, but it was appropriate. Give it a listen and let me know what you think.

Narrator Grace Blewer was a good match for Close Your Eyes Hold Hands. She handled the character of Emily Shepard perfectly in my opinion. A drama major at New York University, Blewer also happens to be the daughter of author Chris Bohjalian, which created an interesting dynamic in the reading. At the end of the audiobook there is a short interview with Bohjalian and Blewer together discussing the experience. Of his daughter’s reading, Bohjalian said, “I love the way Grace brought Emily Shepard to life, and the way she gets Emily’s sense of humor — and what the character describes as her ‘brain chemistry issues.’ It’s a poignant and powerful and authentic reading.”

The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell (Audiobook Review)
Love In The Time Of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block (Audiobook Review)
Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson (Audiobook Review)

Special thanks to Random House Audio for this review copy. Audiobook review by Steven Brandt. This audiobook review is based on the unabridged audiobook. Come back soon for more audiobook reviews from Audiobook-Heaven.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sector 64: Ambush by Dean M Cole (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

Sector 64: Ambush by Dean M Cole cover image
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Sector 64: Ambush
by Dean M Cole
read by Mike Ortego

Sector 64 #1
©2014 Dean M Cole
11 hours 57 minutes unabridged
Genres: science fiction
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  4 out of 5 haloshalohalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: A dizzying chain of events thrust US Air Force fighter pilot Captain Jake Giard into a well-intentioned global conspiracy with extraterrestrial roots. However, as Jake finishes indoctrination into the program, it renders Earth a pawn in a galactic civil war. Within and above Washington DC, Captain Giard and two wingmen fight through a post-apocalyptic hell. On the West Coast, his girlfriend and fellow fighter pilot, Captain Sandra Fitzpatrick, wades through blazing infernos and demented looters in a desperate attempt to save her family. Finally, with the fate of the world in the balance, they take the battle to the enemy, humanity's very survival hanging on their success.

Tapping his experiences as a combat pilot, Dean M. Cole creates authentic dialogue and gripping action in this present-day apocalyptic thriller.

©2014 Dean M. Cole (P)2014 Dean M. Cole

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: During a training mission over the Nevada desert, Captain Jake Giard and his wingman Vic have a close encounter of the weird kind. A craft, no bigger than their F-22’s, buzzes around them flying at unlikely speeds and completing seemingly impossible maneuvers. Finally the oddly shaped craft comes close to their formation and Vic’s fighter jet goes completely out of control eventually crashing to the desert floor. Upon landing, Jake is promptly arrested and interrogated about the encounter, not exactly the treatment he had expected. Captain Jake Giard of the United States Air Force has just stumbled into one of the biggest secrets mankind has ever held.

One hundred thousand years ago, an ancient race called the Argonians began exploring the universe in an effort to discover other beings and create something like a galactic confederacy. One of the first races they met were the Zoxyth. The Zoxyth were also interested in meeting other races but only so they could conquer them. A great war was fought with the Argonians eventually coming out on top. The Zoxyth, however, never forgot their humiliating defeat and for many thousands of years have been planning their revenge. Now that time has come and the Argonians newest and weakest ally, Earth in Sector 64, will provide the perfect spot for Zoxyth vengeance. The Zoxyth fleet is coming and their terrible weapons of war could spell certain doom for the human race.

Author Dean M Cole actually was a combat pilot who now flies commercially and he clearly draws on his own life experiences for Sector 64: Ambush. His descriptions of aerial battle and military procedure are accurately detailed and his knowledge of the aircraft themselves fascinated me. I think Cole has a good thing going here. He created a couple of races of aliens, gave them their own histories and cultures and just made them outright interesting. His characters are realistic and believable as well. Sector 64: Ambush is a great read for lovers of science fiction and alien invasions.

Narrator Mike Ortego was simply great. He has a very pleasant sounding voice and he just reads very smoothly and competently. Actually his voice sounds very much like George Guidall and while Ortego doesn’t read with quite as much heartfelt emotion as the legendary Guidall, he is still a very good audiobook narrator. I would definitely like to hear more from Mike Ortego.

Resurrection by Arwen Elys Dayton (Audiobook Review)
Steal Across The Sky by Nancy Kress (Audiobook Review)

Special thanks to Dean M Cole for this review copy. Audiobook review by Steven Brandt. This audiobook review is based on the unabridged audiobook. Come back soon for more audiobook reviews from Audiobook-Heaven.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Blind by Rachel DeWoskin (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

Blind by Rachel DeWoskin cover image
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by Rachel DeWoskin
read by Annalie Gernert

©2014 Listening Library
10 hours 40 minutes unabridged
Genres: young adult
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  5 out of 5 haloshalohalohalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: When Emma Sasha Silver loses her eyesight in a nightmare accident, she must relearn everything from walking across the street to recognizing her own sisters to imagining colors. One of seven children, Emma used to be the invisible kid, but now it seems everyone is watching her. And just as she's about to start high school and try to recover her friendships and former life, one of her classmates is found dead in an apparent suicide. Fifteen and blind, Emma has to untangle what happened and why - in order to see for herself what makes life worth living.

Unflinching in its portrayal of Emma's darkest days, yet full of hope and humor, Rachel DeWoskin's brilliant Blind is one of those rare books that utterly absorbs the listener into the life and experience of another.

©2014 Rachel DeWoskin (P)2014 Listening Library

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: So you may not be aware of this if you haven’t done much exploring around Audiobook-Heaven, but I used to be blind. Long story, but I was blind for almost three years before recovering my eyesight. It was an interesting time in my life to say the least: learning to walk and use the computer and lots of other things all over again. In fact that was when I was introduced to audiobooks, which I still love even now that I have my sight back and it was because of my own experience as a blind person that initially drew me to Rachel DeWoskin’s Blind.

Main character Emma was a pretty ordinary teenager before her accident. She was at an age where she was starting to notice boys even if they weren’t noticing her. Like most teenagers she was still a bit self-centered. Then in the blink of an eye, so to speak, her whole life changed. Everything she took for granted had to be relearned. Emma, already an introvert, drew even further into herself and often lashed out at those closest to her. Leaving her old friends and going to a special school for the blind was tortuous. But as she gradually learns to navigate a world designed for the sighted, her true healing begins. This is Emma’s coming-of-age story. Helped along by her accident, the death of a classmate, and the betrayal of a best friend, Emma matures into a strong and courageous young woman, even someone that others look to for leadership. It’s the story of the difficult journey that we all must make at some point in our lives.

Listening to the story of how Emma lost her sight in a tragic Fourth-of-July accident and had to learn new ways of doing all the things she used to take for granted struck a deeply resonant chord in me. I was vividly transported back to my own blind days as Emma walked with her cane, learned how to pour a drink without spilling, and struggled to find a balance between independence and the need for help. I totally related to her initial feelings of wanting to be left alone, to become invisible, but as Emma herself says, ”…being blind is the exact opposite of being invisible.” I thought for sure that Rachel DeWoskin must be blind to have captured the experience so deftly but I read her bio on Wikipedia and it doesn’t mention anything about it. I’m guessing she has probably spent a good deal of time with a blind person because she shows an amazingly in-depth knowledge of what it’s like.

Blind is a great book for anyone who has experienced being blind, but I think it has a much more general appeal than that. We all, mostly when we’re young but not always, suffer from blindness, some of us literally and others figuratively. Growing up and learning how to navigate in the world is a process we must all go through. Rachel DeWoskin’s description of Emma’s journey would be a good read for anyone.

Annalie Gernert’s narration was entirely appropriate for this book. Her voice was an excellent match for main character Emma, not only the physical sound of her voice but her intonation and inflection. Gernert captured Emma’s wit and sarcasm perfectly. Her voice actually reminded me a lot of Emma Galvin, which is high praise indeed (see the 2012 Halo Awards). Annalie is relatively new to the audiobook industry and has only a handful of books to her credit but I predict she will have a long and successful career in the field if she chooses to stick with it.

Traveling Blind: Adventures In Vision With A Guide-Dog By My Side by Susan Krieger (Audiobook Review)
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Audiobook Review)
Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson (Audiobook Review)

Special thanks to Listening Library for this review copy. Audiobook review by Steven Brandt. This audiobook review is based on the unabridged audiobook. Come back soon for more audiobook reviews from Audiobook-Heaven.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Breakers by Edward W Robertson (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

Breakers by Edward W Robertson cover image
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by Edward W Robertson
read by Ray Chase

Breakers #1
©2013 Podium Publishing
12 hours 10 minutes unabridged
Genres: post apocalypse, science fiction
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  5 out of 5 haloshalohalohalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: In New York, Walt Lawson is about to lose his girlfriend Vanessa. In Los Angeles, Raymond and Mia James are about to lose their house. Within days, none of it will matter. When Vanessa dies of the flu, Walt is devastated. But she isn't the last. The virus quickly kills billions, reducing New York to an open grave and LA to a chaotic wilderness of violence and fires. As Raymond and Mia hole up in an abandoned mansion, where they learn to function without electricity, running water, or neighbors, Walt begins an existential walk to LA, where Vanessa had planned to move when she left him. He expects to die along the way. Months later, a massive vessel appears above Santa Monica Bay. Walt is attacked by a crablike monstrosity in a mountain stream. The virus that ended humanity wasn't created by humans. It was inflicted from outside. The colonists who sent it are ready to finish the job - and Earth's survivors may be too few and too weak to resist.

©2012 Edward W. Robertson (P)2013 Podium Publishing

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: In New York City, Walt discovers rather by accident that his live-in girlfriend Vanessa is preparing to leave him to pursue an acting career in California, leaving Walt with some serious questions about what he did wrong and what happens next. In Los Angeles, Raymond and Mia are on the brink of losing their home because Ray can’t find a job. In both cases the future does not look good. Then people start dying, including Vanessa, and future prospects go from bad to worse.

Within a couple of weeks the so-called Panhandler virus kills billions, an estimated ninety-nine percent of the world’s population. Even though the situation in L.A. is grim, Raymond and Mia decide to stick it out and aren’t doing too badly for themselves. Losing their house to a fire, they move into a now abandoned mansion up on the hill. They plant fresh vegetables in the back yard and forage for the things they need in the surrounding neighborhoods. In New York, Walt simply doesn’t want to live anymore and decides to walk to Los Angeles knowing that he will probably be killed on the way. And then worse finally becomes worst when the alien ships appear in the sky. The Panhandler wasn’t created on Earth after all. But why did these aliens cross the unimaginable depths of outer space to come here and kill off all the people?

I think that Edward W Robertson is drawing some interesting parallels in Breakers. The Panhandler virus, as described by one of the characters, “nickels and dimes you”, weakening you little by little before finally going in for the kill. Robertson seems to be saying that people are the same way. You lose yourself little by little, you give an inch and then another and another, sacrificing your principles and morals bit by bit, until suddenly you don’t even know who you are anymore. This is especially evident in the character of Walt. He did a lot of soul searching on his walk from New York City to Los Angeles and he came out the other side a whole different person. We see it happening all through the story, people reacting to events and being forged into new people, sometimes for the good and sometimes for bad. Robertson does a great job of introducing us to his characters and showing us how they evolve over the course of the book.

Outstanding character development isn’t the only thing that made Breakers such a great read. Robertson is just an all around good storyteller. The chapters of the book alternate back and forth between Walt in New York and Raymond and Mia in California. Each chapter ends with kind of a mini-cliffhanger that leaves you wondering what happened in New York while we’re catching up on events in California. Robertson keeps the suspense at a high pitch all through the book right up to the explosive ending.

This was the first time I had heard a narration by Ray Chase and I liked him a lot. His pace and inflection are very comfortable and he does very good character voices. He even does convincing voices for the female characters, which not many male narrators can pull off. Ray is also good at reading dialogue so that it really sounds like two or more people talking to each other. This is an especially good thing because Robertson uses dialogue heavily to show us who his characters are. I would definitely like to hear more from Ray Chase and I will definitely get my chance since he has narrated all five books (so far) in the Breakers series.

Swarm by B V Larson (Audiobook Review)
White Horse by Alex Adams (Audiobook Review)
The Passage by Justin Cronin (Audiobook Review)

Special thanks to Brilliance Audio for this review copy. Audiobook review by Steven Brandt. This audiobook review is based on the unabridged audiobook. Come back soon for more audiobook reviews from Audiobook-Heaven.