Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

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The Martian
by Andy Weir
read by R C Bray

2013 Podium Publishing
10 hours 53 minutes unabridged
Genres: science fiction
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  5 out of 5 haloshalohalohalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive - and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills - and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit - he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?"

©2012 Andy Weir (P)2013 Podium Publishing

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by the planet Mars and by stories about the planet Mars. Maybe it’s because the planet is close enough to see with the naked eye or maybe it’s because I’ve always believed that putting humans there is a real possibility, or maybe it’s just that crazy red surface, the planet Mars has always enchanted me. Needless to say I’ve read lots of science fiction about the planet and there are quite a few good ones out there, from sci-fi greats like Ben Bova, Greg Bear, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Ray Bradbury. Now I am pleased to say that this short list also includes the name Andy Weir.

So let me set the scene for you, or better yet let’s hear it from Mark Watney himself:
I’m stranded on Mars, I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth, everyone thinks I’m dead, I’m in a hab designed to last 31 days. If the oxygenator breaks down I’ll suffocate, If the water reclaimer breaks down I’ll die of thirst, if the hab breaches I’ll just kind of explode, if none of those things happen I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.
Sounds pretty bleak but there is one bit of good news: even though Mark’s crewmates have already begun the long trip back to Earth, NASA is already aware that Mark is indeed still alive. They caught sight of him in some photos from a satellite in orbit around the red planet. Now all they have to do is figure out a way to get in touch with him and then all they have to do is figure a way to rescue him before his air/water/food/hope runs out. No small task.

But the ingenuity of Mark Watney is going to surprise a lot of people, sometimes even he himself. We get front row seats in the form of Mark’s personal journal as he becomes the first farmer on Mars, makes a long rover trip to pick up some abandoned equipment, finds ways to use his gear that NASA never even thought of, and survives one catastrophe after another. This is extreme botany and creative engineering gone wild, people. All of you survivalists out there can eat your hearts out. Through it all, Mark Watney never gives up even when it would be oh-so-easy to do, and Andy Weir keeps us wondering if Mark will ever make it off that beautifully wretched planet right up to the surprising conclusion. The Martian is, quite simply, the finest piece of science fiction I’ve read in quite some time.

Andy Weir, an unknown author at the time, wrote The Martian and was offering it in ebook form for free on his website. Podium Publishing caught wind of the story and believed in it enough to produce an audio version. The Martian became the #1 selling audiobook in Comtemporary Science Fiction on Audible.com and was a runner up for Best Science Fiction Audiobook of 2013. The audiobook was such a huge hit, Andy Weir and Podium pursued a major publishing deal and a year later Random House released the hard cover edition in 21 countries. It became a New York Times bestseller in its first week. Is that the American dream or what?

I don’t care if you’re a “survivalist” or not, The Martian is just darn good fiction. It’s about never giving up hope even when it seems all is lost, it’s about pitching in and helping out when disaster strikes, it’s about the spirit and ingenuity and sheer guts of humans in general. Author Andy Weir, through the voice of Mark Watney, sums it up nicely when he says ”Every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out.” The next time you feel in despair for the species, read this book and have your faith in humanity restored.

Narrator R C Bray was a great match for this book. I didn’t really get into this in my review, but Mark Watney is kind of a smart aleck and keeps on cracking jokes no matter how grim his situation gets. R C Bray voiced his attitude and sense of humor perfectly and had me laughing out loud many times during the reading. This was my first experience with Bray but I would definitely like to hear more from him.

FILM ADAPTATION: The success story of Andy Weir continues! Film rights for The Martian have been optioned by 20th Century Fox. The film is still in the very early stages but already Drew Goddard is on board to create a screenplay, Ridley Scott was hired to produce and direct, and none other than Matt Damon has agreed to play the lead role of Mark Watney. This project might be worth keeping an eye on.



IF YOU LIKED THIS ONE, YOU MAY ALSO LIKE
Mars by Ben Bova (Audiobook Review)
Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear (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.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

New Earth by Ben Bova (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

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New Earth
by Ben Bova
read by Stefan Rudnicki

Grand Tour #20
2013 Blackstone Audio
9 hours 52 minutes unabridged
Genres: science fiction
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  4 out of 5 haloshalohalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: We’ve found another Earthlike planet, but what secrets does it hold?

The entire world is thrilled by the discovery of a new, Earthlike planet. Advance imaging shows that the planet has oceans of water and a breathable, oxygen-rich atmosphere. Eager to learn more, an exploration team is soon dispatched to explore the planet, now nicknamed New Earth.

All the explorers understand that they are essentially on a one-way mission. The trip takes 80 years each way, so even if they are able to get back to Earth, nearly 200 years will have elapsed. They will have aged only a dozen years thanks to cryonic suspension, but their friends and family will be gone, and the very society they once knew will have changed beyond recognition. The explorers are going into exile, and they know it. They are on this mission not because they were the best available but because they were expendable.

Upon landing, the team discovers something unexpected: New Earth is inhabited by a small group of intelligent creatures who look very much like human beings. Who are these people? Are they native to this world or invaders from elsewhere? While they may seem inordinately friendly to the human explorers, what are their real motivations? What do they want?

Moreover, the scientists begin to realize that this planet cannot possibly be natural. They face a startling and nearly unthinkable question: Could New Earth be an artifact?

©2013 Ben Bova (P)2013 Blackstone Audio

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: It’s an exciting time for planet Earth. After searching for many years a planet has finally been found that will support human life. The nations of Earth waste no time in putting together a mission to travel to this distant planet and create an initial colony. Not long after the mission is launched, however, things on Earth take a decidedly negative turn. The planet’s climate shift has finally reached a critical stage. Ice caps melt, sea-levels rise, and the world’s largest cities suddenly find themselves underwater. Now the world’s resources are needed right here at home and the follow-up mission to New Earth is scrapped. Imagine if you will: you’ve just woken up from an eighty year sleep all set to begin exploring a new planet, and the first news you hear from home is that you will never receive any additional help or supplies from them. Heck, even radio messages take five years to travel between the two worlds. The intrepid explorers are completely cut off and on their own.

Having no other option really, the group decide to carry on with their mission. Scanning the planet below they are bewildered to discover a laser beacon shining up at them from the surface of New Earth. They know the planet was thoroughly scanned and studied from Earth and it was believed there would be no intelligent life here, so where did the laser beacon come from? These travelers don’t know it yet, but this is just the first of what will prove to be many mind-boggling revelations. Everything humans thought they knew about the universe is about to change.

New Earth is another classic example of the far-reaching imagination of one of sci-fi’s masters, Ben Bova. Bova can dream up the most implausible things and then explain them in a way that makes them seem perfectly plausible. I think that’s what has always drawn me to his books, the way he can put things into layman’s terms so that they make sense. I will say this for New Earth however: if you like a lot of action and suspense then this is probably not the book for you. The book is rather slow paced and there are really no action scenes at all, rather it is a story of exploration and discovery. It is more thoughtful than intense. If that’s the kind of book you like, then don’t miss this one.

Every single Ben Bova audiobook I’ve listened to, New Earth makes it 9, was narrated by Stefan Rudnicki. That’s a good thing because Rudnicki is a fantastic narrator. If you’re a fan of Bova then you probably know that his books always feature characters from a wide variety of nationalities: North America, Europe, Australia, Asia, you name it. Besides just being a good reader, Rudnicki is able to handle the cornucopia of dialects with an ease that frankly baffles me. How can he do so many accents so accurately? And how does he keep them consistent throughout an entire novel? I’ll guess at the answers to those questions: a lot of practice, and the guy is just a natural. Anyway, New Earth is another fine example of what a truly talented narrator can do.



IF YOU LIKED THIS ONE, YOU MAY ALSO LIKE
Mars by Ben Bova (Audiobook Review)
Empire Builders by Ben Bova (Audiobook Review)
Venus by Ben Bova (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, June 25, 2014

The End is Nigh by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

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The End is Nigh
edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey
read by Various narrators

The Apocalypse Triptych #1
2014 John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey
15 hours 8 minutes unabridged
Genres: science fiction, post apocalypse
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  4 out of 5 haloshalohalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Famine. Death. War. Pestilence. These are the harbingers of the biblical apocalypse, of the End of the World. In science fiction, the end is triggered by less figurative means: nuclear holocaust, biological warfare/pandemic, ecological disaster, or cosmological cataclysm.

But before any catastrophe, there are people who see it coming. During, there are heroes who fight against it. And after, there are the survivors who persevere and try to rebuild. THE APOCALYPSE TRIPTYCH will tell their stories.

Edited by acclaimed anthologist John Joseph Adams and bestselling author Hugh Howey, THE APOCALYPSE TRIPTYCH is a series of three anthologies of apocalyptic fiction. THE END IS NIGH focuses on life before the apocalypse. THE END IS NOW turns its attention to life during the apocalypse. And THE END HAS COME focuses on life after the apocalypse.

Post-apocalyptic fiction is about worlds that have already burned. Apocalyptic fiction is about worlds that are burning. THE END IS NIGH is about the match.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Introduction by John Joseph Adams read by John Joseph Adams
The Balm and the Wound by Robin Wasserman read by Jack Kincaid
Heaven is a Place on Planet X by Desirina Boskovich read by Folly Blain
Break! Break! Break! by Charlie Jane Anders read by James Keller
The Gods Will Not Be Chained by Ken Liu read by Anaea Lay
Wedding Day by Jake Kerr read by Folly Blain
Removal Order by Tananarive Due read by Laurice White
System Reset by Tobias S. Buckell read by Jack Kincaid
This Unkempt World is Falling to Pieces by Jamie Ford read by Rajan Khanna
BRING HER TO ME by Ben H. Winters read by Kate Baker, Mur Lafferty, Anaea Lay, Tina Connolly, Rajan Khanna, Lex Wilson, Jack Kincaid
In the Air by Hugh Howey read by Lex Wilson
Goodnight Moon by Annie Bellet read by Tina Connolly
Dancing with Death in the Land of Nod by Will McIntosh read by Norm Sherman
Houses Without Air by Megan Arkenberg read by Anaea Lay
The Fifth Day of Deer Camp by Scott Sigler read by Scott Sigler
Enjoy the Moment by Jack McDevitt read by Sarah Tolbert
Pretty Soon the Four Horsemen are Going to Come Riding Through by Nancy Kress read by Mur Lafferty
Spores by Seanan McGuire read by Kate Baker
She's Got a Ticket to Ride by Jonathan Maberry read by Ralph Walters
Agent Unknown by David Wellington read by Jack Kincaid
Enlightenment by Matthew Mather read by Kate Baker
Shooting the Apocalypse by Paolo Bacigalupi read by Robert Suarez
Love Perverts by Sarah Langan read by Lex Wilson

©2014 John Joseph Adams & Hugh Howey (P)2014 John Joseph Adams & Hugh Howey

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Just as the publisher’s summary promises, The End is Nigh is full of short fiction describing events leading up to the apocalypse. It is to be followed up by The End is Now, stories of the apocalypse itself, and then The End Has Come, stories of the post-apocalypse. All together they make up the Apocalypse Triptych, an intriguing name. Furthermore, while some of these short stories stand alone, some of them will be continued throughout all three collections giving us a complete picture of the before, during, and after. Being a fan of apocalyptic stories, how could I resist such an ingenious gimmick?

There are more than 20 short stories collected in The End is Nigh so I won’t lay them all out for you here, but here are a couple of my favorites:

In Heaven is a Place on Planet X the aliens have come. They announce themselves with hundreds of huge laser cannons pointed right at the planet. But they are here to help, they say. At an appointed day and time, they will fire the cannons completely destroying the planet, but at the same time the consciousness of every human being will be transferred through space into a new body on a utopian planet where all will live in paradise. In the meantime, one out of every thousand humans are recruited by the aliens as Enforcers, who will keep the peace and also weed out a few of the less desirables. In fact they have a quota, they must “enforce” at least one person every hour until the transfer is made to Planet X. Sound a little fishy? Yeah, me too, but what can you do? Even though we outnumber the aliens, they have advanced technology that could wipe us out. Only time will tell what these generous aliens are really up to.

In Goodnight Moon, seven scientists at a base on the moon are faced with a dilemma. They have discovered a rogue dwarf planet careening through our solar system and its path will lead it to a collision with the moon in less than 40 hours. Their only means of getting off the surface is a small emergency medical evac shuttle designed to carry only two people. They figure they can probably squeeze in three but the remaining four scientists will be left to certain doom. Who will go and who will stay?

In Spores, a scientists brings home some genetically engineered fruit from the laboratory. The very next day the fruit is covered in a thick layer of mold. Pretty soon the mold begins growing on everything in the house and nothing, not even bleach, seems able to kill it. Things really begin to get tense when the mold begins to grow on the scientists family. I especially like how this story was told from the perspective of a character who has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Viewing the events of the story through the eyes of a serious clean-freak made the spreading mold seem even more terrifying.

No matter what kind of apocalypse is your particular favorite, I’m sure you’ll find it here. There are stories about terrorists flooding the country with powerful drugs, potentially hostile aliens, asteroids aimed at the earth, asteroids aimed at the moon, asteroids that will hit the moon causing the moon to hit the earth, a computer hacker who has gained access to the launch codes for nuclear missiles, a dwarf star disrupting orbits in our solar system, impossible to kill mold spores, and yes there are some zombies here as well. Of course many of the stories leave you dangling at the end because they want you to buy the next collection, but all in all I enjoyed most of these, as I’m sure any fan of the apocalypse will.

There are a wide variety of narrators here, only one of which I have heard of before. The talent of the narrators is as varied as the stories themselves, some are good, some not so good. The End is Nigh was self published by the editors and the recording quality is not great but it is adequate.



IF YOU LIKED THIS ONE, YOU MAY ALSO LIKE
Steampunk! An Anthology by Kelly Link (Audiobook Review)
Classic Science Fiction Vol 1 by Various Authors (Audiobook Review)
Fangoria Dreadtime Stories Vol 1 by Various Authors (Audiobook Review)

Special thanks to John Joseph Adams 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.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Returned by Jason Mott (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

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The Returned
by Jason Mott
read by Tom Stechschulte

2013 Brilliance Audio
9 hours 48 minutes unabridged
Genres: general fiction
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  5 out of 5 haloshalohalohalohalohalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: "Jacob was time out of sync, time more perfect than it had been. He was life the way it was supposed to be all those years ago. That's what all the Returned were."

Harold and Lucille Hargrave's lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they've settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds healed through the grace of time.... Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep - flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old.

All over the world people's loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it's a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he's their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargraves find themselves at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.

With spare, elegant prose and searing emotional depth, Jason Mott explores timeless questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility. A spellbinding and stunning debut, The Returned is an unforgettable story that marks the arrival of an important new voice in contemporary fiction.

©2013 Jason Mott (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: All over the world, the dead are returning to life. These are no shambling zombie figures, however, but genuine people who appear just as they did before their deaths. As the number of Returned grows, society must adapt quickly. An entire new government agency is created specifically to handle the phenomenon and the resources of an already over-crowded world must be stretched even further. As you might expect, there are varying opinions on what it all means. Some view it as the work of God and some say the Returned are from hell itself. Tensions mount as the world tries to figure out just what is going on, and what should be done about it.

Author Jason Mott tells the story of The Returned primarily from the pov of Lucille and Harold Hargraves, an elderly couple whose only child, Jacob, died tragically at the age of eight. Mrs. Hargraves, a devout Christian, believes that the Returned are evil until, that is, her own beloved son comes home to her. She slips back into her role as a mother almost without missing a beat. Harold, however, is a bit more practical. He believes that some things should be left well enough alone and it takes him longer to warm up to the boy.

Soon enough, things begin to get out of hand and the Returned are all forced into “camps”, fenced in and guarded containment facilities run by the military. The Hargraves’ home town of Arcadia, becomes the center for one of these camps so they, and we, can witness the full evolution of events. Some protest for the Returned to be freed while others say they should all be done away with. Harold and Lucille, on their farm outside the town limits, try their best to stay out of things but one day Harold and Jacob are caught down by the river by some soldiers. Jacob, of course, is thrown into the camp and Harold, who has finally begun to accept the fact that this really is his boy, refuses to leave Jacob’s side and enters the camp with him. Lucille is a devoutly Christian woman, but what extremes will she be willing to go to save her family?

Believe it or not, this is Jason Mott’s first published novel, although not his first written. He says that The Returned was sparked by a dream he had in which his own mother, who passed on back in 2001, was waiting at his home one day when he came home from work. They visited and caught up on all she had missed in the intervening years. It’s no wonder this is such a great book, it came straight from Mott’s heart, where all the best writing comes from. The novel has created quite a stir in the literary world and Mott says that people are always approaching him with stories of their own relatives who have passed, something he enjoys. I personally found it to be a beautifully written book, one of those that stays with you for a long time after you finish it.

At one time or another we have all wished for one more day with a lost loved one, but what would happen if we all got our wish? The author never does reveal just how or why the dead are suddenly returning to life. Questions of morality are explored by various characters in the book but ultimately left unanswered and it is up to the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. Rather, Jason Mott seems to be reminding us to be careful what we wish for. But even more than that, I think he is saying that we should treasure the time we have with our loved ones, every single moment, because even though it may be fun to think about, you’ll never get those moments back again.

Narrator Tom Stechschulte did a fine job with The Returned. I’ve heard him before, most notably on Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and I always enjoy listening to him narrate. Stechschulte has had some minor roles in film and television but is probably best known for his audiobook narrations such as James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried and Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island.



IF YOU LIKED THIS ONE, YOU MAY ALSO LIKE
Dead Lines by Greg Bear (Audiobook Review)
The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck (Audiobook Review)
The Road by Cormac Mccarthy (Audiobook Review)

Special thanks to source 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.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Z 2134 by Sean Platt and David Wright (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

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Z 2134
by Sean Platt and David Wright
read by Dan John Miller

Z 2134 #1
2013 Brilliance Audio
8 hours 37 minutes unabridged
Genres: dystopia
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews

  1 out of 5 haloshalo

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: One hundred years after the zombie apocalypse, those lucky enough to survive now exist in scattered cities, under the merciless rule of the City Watch. A simple tenet overshadows all aspects of daily life: obey or die. When Jonah Lovecraft is framed for murder, his status as a Watcher doesn't spare him from the ultimate punishment: being cast into the Barrens and forced to battle zombies and other criminal contestants in the Darwin Games.

As he fights for every heartbeat, his daughter, Ana, embarks on her own desperate quest to uncover the truth about her father. Yet neither expects their efforts to reveal grim secrets that could tear apart the fabric of society - if either lives long enough to expose the truth.

©2012 Sean Platt and David Wright (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Z 2134 is like 1984 and The Hunger Games all rolled into one. There is a central, all-powerful and all-controlling government. The cities are patrolled by a police force called Watchers and you definitely do not want to run afoul of them. The citizens must step in line or face certain death. And of course there are the Darwin Games, and if this isn’t a rip-off of The Hunger Games then I don’t know what is. Several contestants participate in the Darwin Games periodically for the amusement of the general populace. It is a fight to the death in which there can be only one survivor/winner. The Games take place outside the cities in the barrens, which are infested with the walking dead. Not only must the players watch out for each other, they must constantly be on the lookout for zombies. The last surviving contestant is whisked off to City 7, a paradise where the winner can live in freedom and luxury for the rest of his or her life.

This sounds like an amazingly good book, even though it is an obvious ripoff. But oddly enough, it just didn’t do anything for me. I started listening to it and in less than an hour I realized my mind was wandering and I had no idea what the book was about. So I went back and started all over but with the exact same result. I finally had to face the fact that the book was just boring. The narrator’s voice was droning, the characters were uninteresting and unnatural, it just wasn’t working. So after a couple of attempts I moved on to another book.

I can’t say very much about the narration as I don’t feel that I listened to enough of the book to really say how Dan John Miller did. I mentioned above that the narrator was droning but I’ve heard Miller narrate a couple of other books and never had any problem with him, so I’m more inclined to blame the bore-factor of Z 2134 on the writing and not on the narration.



IF YOU LIKED THIS ONE, YOU MAY ALSO LIKE
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Audiobook Review)
Icons by Margaret Stohl (Audiobook Review)
Pure by Julianna Baggott (Audiobook Review)

Special thanks to source 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.