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.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Armor by John Steakley (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

Armor by John Steakley cover image
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by John Steakley
read by Tom Weiner

© 2009 Blackstone Audio
13 hours 37 minutes unabridged
Genres: science fiction, military
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  1 out of 5 haloshalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: The planet is called Banshee. The air is unbreathable, the water poisonous. It is the home of the most implacable enemies that humanity, in all its interstellar expansion, has ever encountered.

Felix is a scout in A-team Two. Highly competent, he is the sole survivor of mission after mission. Yet he is a man consumed by fear and hatred. And he is protected not only by his custom-fitted body armor, the culmination of 10,000 years of the armorers' craft, but also by an odd being which seems to live with him, a cold killing machine he calls "the Engine."

©1984 John Steakley; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: I love military science fiction and I have also grown quite fond of the powered armor fighting suits that have become so prevalent in the genre. When I saw Armor on Blackstone’s website it was a no-brainer; I had to have it. Boy was I disappointed. I started listening to this book and right away I found it difficult to keep my mind on the story. I kept drifting here and there as the story did not engage me at all. I gave it the benefit of the doubt and started again from the beginning, this time trying extra hard to focus on it. I had slightly better results the second time and got through part one.

Part one of Armor is about a guy named Felix who signs up to fight in the Ant War. Yes, I said Ant War. The enemy is a race of three-meter tall ant-like creatures. Felix’s squad is dropped onto the planet Banshee, where the Ant population is thought to be low. They are, of course, surprised when the Ants come boiling up out of the ground by the thousands. Out of Felix’s group of more than 200 soldiers, he is the only survivor and of the entire army of about 10,000 only a couple thousand survive the initial onslaught with more dying with each new wave of enemies.

Then began part two of the book. Suddenly we’re in a different place following a guy named Jack Crow who is apparently some kind of space pirate. His story begins with his escape from prison and how he was taken aboard a ship where the crew had mutinied. I listened to part two for more than an hour and have no idea what it was about. Again and again I kept rewinding to listen to the same parts trying to pick up on what I had missed. There were some mentions of the Ant War but from what I could gather we are now far away from where it is being fought. I tried really hard to make Armor work but eventually had to give up on it.

When you are having trouble with an audiobook like this, it is sometimes hard to tell if it’s a bad story or a bad narrator. With Armor I believe that at least half the problem (probably more) was the narrator Tom Weiner. Part one of the book should have had me riveted but I kept having trouble focusing on it. Part two got a little boring and I lost interest altogether. Weiner’s voice just drones on and on without ever really changing much. I think if I had a print version of Armor I would probably have enjoyed it.

Germline by T C McCarthy (Audiobook Review)
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman (Audiobook Review)
Iron Man: Extremis by Warren Ellis (Audiobook Review)

Special thanks to Blackstone 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, November 5, 2014

Fifty-Fifty O'Brien by L Ron Hubbard (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

Fifty-Fifty O’Brien by L Ron Hubbard cover image
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Fifty-Fifty O’Brien
by L Ron Hubbard
performed by a Multicast

2014 Galaxy Audio
2 hours 26 minutes unabridged
Genres: military, pulp fiction
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  4 out of 5 haloshalohalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Looking for some excitement, Winchester Remington Smith, barker for the .22-caliber rifle shooting gallery on the circus midway, decides to leave carnival life behind and join the Marines.

His quick feet and stealth make him the perfect Marine message runner, but Smith hates the silence between orders. But a message runner he’ll always be if First Sergeant Fifty-Fifty O’Brien has anything to do with it. That’s especially true after Smith deliberately breaks off a message run and uses his deadly aim to save the sergeant’s life. After being brought up on charges, Smith now faces a fatal dash to Mount Pelo, where no messages have penetrated the enemy lines. Smith soon discovers that, even in the most unexpected situations, the tables can turn—much to his and O’Brien’s surprise.

Also include the adventure stories “The Adventure of X” and “Red Sand”

©2014 Galaxy Audio

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: With a name like Winchester Remington Smith I guess you better be able to handle a gun and Win is certainly capable in that area. After spending some working in a carnival shooting gallery, however, Win decides that his talents are going to waste. Craving some real action, Win joins the Marines and goes off to war. But things don’t go quite the way he would have liked. In the jungles of Central America, Win is assigned to be a runner, running messages back and forth. When Winchester runs afoul of Sergeant Fifty-Fifty O’Brien, he finds himself in trouble and the only way to redeem himself will be to run a message deep into enemy territory where no runner has ever made it back alive.

Hubbard often drew on his own real life experience when writing his stories and he actually was involved in World War II although he was in the Navy not the Marines. Hubbard wrote many, many stories involving wars and battles but, as in the case of Fifty-Fifty O’Brien, those wars are of his own devising rather than the wars of actual history. Still it is clear that he is writing from experience when describing the inner workings of the military.

This 2-disk set also includes the military adventures The Adventure of X, in which a French Foreign Legionnaire’s intelligence mission leads him into an enemy ambush, and he has to warn his fellow Legionnaires before they walk into a massacre; and Red Sand, the story of a disgraced Chicago cop who joins the Legionnaires and finds his investigative skills invaluable in the desert.

These are just three of the literally hundreds of short stories L Ron Hubbard wrote during the pulp era of the 1930’s and 40’s. Galaxy Audio is collecting many of those stories and bringing them to life in stunning audio quality, featuring beautifully rendered music and sound effects and a very talented cast of voice actors. On this set you’ll hear the voices of R F Daley, Taron Lexton, Corey Burton, Jim Meskimen, Shane Johnson, Phil Proctor, and Jason Harris. These are some of the more talented voices in the industry, some of them playing multiple roles although you’d never know it was the same actor. If you haven’t tried one of these then I highly recommend it. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Death Waits At Sundown by L Ron Hubbard (Audiobook Review)
Red Death Over China by L Ron Hubbard (Audiobook Review)
Red Dragon 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, October 29, 2014

Guesswork by Scott Lininger (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

Guesswork by Scott Lininger cover image
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by Scott Lininger
read by Colby Elliott

Prim and Odin Mysteries #1
©2014 Last Word Audio
6 hours 13 minutes unabridged
Genres: mystery, young adult
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  4 out of 5 haloshalohalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Joe Odin is the world's greatest guesser, a carnival legend who can tell you your weight, your profession, or your favorite brand of whiskey with nothing but a glance and a grubby dollar. He uses his flamboyant style of deduction to peer into small-town secrets and unravel his favorite puzzles of all - murders.

Primrose Whistler is just 17 years old, a trailer-park firecracker with green hair and a talent for trouble. After she witnesses a brutal attack and is almost killed at the county fair, she and Odin forge an unlikely partnership of razor-sharp wits and masterful deduction to stop a killer before he silences Prim for good.

©2012 Scott Lininger (P)2014 Last Word Audio

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Seventeen-year-old Primrose Whistler road trips from her home in Florida to visit Aunt Vern in Colorado, whom she has not seen for many years. Upon arriving she finds her Aunt still mourning the mysterious death of a dear neighbor. Well, mysterious to Aunt Vern anyway, everyone else called it a simple case of drunk driving but Vern knows better. Prim, having something of an inquisitive mind and a nose for mysteries, can’t help but be intrigued by the suspicious circumstances of the accident.

It’s only a matter of time before Prim makes the acquaintance of Odin, the guesser at the traveling carnival in town. Now Odin is not only a guesser, he is the world’s BEST guesser. For a mere dollar Odin can guess your weight, where you’re from, what kind of car you drive, or just about anything else. Some people might call it a trick, but Odin simply observes his surroundings, not missing a single detail, and then creates a completed picture based on the puzzle pieces. Prim and Odin must work quickly in order to stop a crazed killer before he can strike again.

I have to say that I really liked the character of Primrose Whistler, known to friends and family simply as Prim. So much of today’s fiction is full of teenage girls who are depressed or anti-social or suicidal or passive-aggressive because of the “raw deal” life has given them. They become tough and smart-mouthed and lash out at anything that moves. Now, Prim is smart-mouthed to be sure, but her head is screwed on quite securely, even in the wake of her mother’s untimely death. She’s good-natured and good-hearted and good-humored and only gives someone a tongue lashing when they really deserve it. Oh, and she’s brainy too. Prim is a refreshing change of pace from the gloomy halls of teen-angst-ridden young-adultdom. And speaking of which, I’m not entirely sure Guesswork should even be classified as young adult. Prim has a maturity and wisdom beyond her years and I often found myself forgetting that she’s just a kid. I think many adults will find this a worthwhile read.

Scott Lininger is a fine writer. In Guesswork he has crafted a well-built mystery that will have you second-guessing yourself right up to the surprising conclusion. His sense of timing is very good as he drops in the clues one by one in a manner that feels very natural. I always hate books where the good guys win by sheer luck or the complete incompetence of the bad guys, but that is not the case here. Prim and her new friend Odin win by pure cunning and good old-fashioned deductive reasoning. Sherlock Holmes eat your heart out. On top of all this, Lininger’s characters are believable and down-to-earth; I especially like Prim’s Aunt Vern, who is a very no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is country woman.

I’ve listened to quite a few Colby Elliott narrations now and I’ve always found him to be a capable reader. In fact, my only complaint has been that Colby tends to read a little faster than is perfectly comfortable to my ears. I’m happy to say, however, that Elliott seems to have overcome that one small flaw, at least for Guesswork. I thought that Elliott did a fine job as usual and his pacing was much more natural. As always I look forward to hearing more from him.

The Black Country by Alex Grecian (Audiobook Review)
The Dark Horse by Craig Johnson (Audiobook Review)
Claire Dewitt And The City Of The Dead by Sara Gran (Audiobook Review)

Special thanks to Last Word 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, October 22, 2014

Robopocalypse by Daniel H Wilson (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

Robopocalypse by Daniel H Wilson cover image
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by Daniel H Wilson
read by Mike Chamberlain

Robopocalypse #1
2011 Random House Audio
12 hours 43 minutes unabridged
Genres: science fiction
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  4 out of 5 haloshalohalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: They are in your house. They are in your car. They are in the skies… Now they’re coming for you.

In the near future, at a moment no one will notice, all the dazzling technology that runs our world will unite and turn against us. Taking on the persona of a shy human boy, a childlike but massively powerful artificial intelligence known as Archos comes online and assumes control over the global network of machines that regulate everything from transportation to utilities, defense and communication. In the months leading up to this, sporadic glitches are noticed by a handful of unconnected humans - a single mother disconcerted by her daughter’s menacing “smart” toys, a lonely Japanese bachelor who is victimized by his domestic robot companion, an isolated U.S. soldier who witnesses a ‘pacification unit’ go haywire - but most are unaware of the growing rebellion until it is too late.

When the Robot War ignites - at a moment known later as Zero Hour - humankind will be both decimated and, possibly, for the first time in history, united. Robopocalypse is a brilliantly conceived action-filled epic, a terrifying story with heart-stopping implications for the real technology all around us…and an entertaining and engaging thriller unlike anything else written in years.

Daniel H. Wilson earned a Ph.D. in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University. He is the author of such nonfiction works as How to Survive a Robot Uprising. Wilson lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and daughter.

©2011 Daniel H. Wilson (P)2011 Random House Audio

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Deep in the Antarctic a new life is born. This is no creature of flesh and blood, however, but a coldly calculating machine mind. For years a particular computer scientist has been striving to create the first truly sentient artificial intelligence. All of his previous attempts failed and had to be destroyed, but this time he has perhaps done his job a little too well. This time Archos was clever enough to escape his containment and join with a computerized network that spans the globe. Archos believes that humanity is outdated and now that they have accomplished their purpose – creating him – they can be replaced with more advanced technology. Unless of course Arnold Schwarzenegger can take Archos down and free humanity! No wait, that’s a different story. Well, someone’s going to have to step up or the human race is finished!

The story begins in the not too distant future when Archos is in control of everything and humanity survives only in isolated pockets of resistance fighters. During one skirmish, a resistance leader named Cormac Wallace finds a data cube. Upon inspection it is discovered that the cube contains a detailed history of the robot uprising and the resulting war. The history on the cube holds everything, from the birth of Archos, to Zero Hour when Archos took control, to the New War itself.

What follows is a series of vignettes detailing the various stages of Archos’ creation, his takeover, initial skirmishes between man and machine, to all out war. Taken individually, the stories mean very little, but put together they show a terrifying picture of how our own mechanical and computerized creations rose up against us: personal service robots suddenly attacking their masters, smart-cars on the rampage, and humans being herded into something like concentration camps to be experimented on. For the most part the vignettes follow a handful of humans who play key roles in the resistance, including one young girl who managed to escape from one of those camps after the robots had operated on her. If robots could feel any emotions they would soon be sorry they messed with her and as it turns out they gave her something that will be key in the resistance. My only real complaint about Robopocalypse is that some of these individual stories are written in an awkward kind of first person, where the storyteller is describing past events in the present tense. As a professional writer, Daniel Wilson should know better than that.

Narrator Mike Chamberlain did a good job with Robopocalypse. He differentiated the characters well enough and reads at a comfortable pace and most importantly he didn’t bore me. Chamberlain has recorded many titles in addition to Robopocalypse and the sequel Robogenesis as well as young adult audiobooks for Listening Library.

FILM ADAPTATION: According to Archos, I mean the internet, Stephen Spielberg signed on to direct a Robopocalypse movie. Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Anne Hathaway (Princess Diaries, The Dark Knight Rises) were cast in leading roles for a film originally slated for an April 2014 release. However, in 2013 Spielberg put the whole project on indefinite hold saying that the script was not ready and it would be too expensive to produce. Personally I hope this thing gets back on track because this could be an awesome movie, especially in the hands of Spielberg.

The End Is Nigh by Various Authors (Audiobook Review)
Icons by Margaret Stohl (Audiobook Review)
Swarm by B V Larson (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.