October Audiobook Review: Rise of the Dead

Run time: 7hrs and 57 minutes, narrated by John R. Crosthwaite
In Jeremy Dyson’s Rise of the Dead, we find ourselves at the start of the zombie apocalypse. The story is in first person and we follow the plight of Blake, a man who finds himself separated from his family by the rapidly deteriorating world around him. He bands together with other survivors in an attempt to keep one step ahead of the dead, but their escape is leading them away from his wife and daughter.

What did I like about this story?
I enjoyed the fast-paced fall of civilization, how it fell apart so quickly and our main character who had led a life of controlled decisions found himself thrust into a world of unpredictable chaos.

It was tough(in a good way) listening along as his attempts at survival took him further and further away from his family. I could feel his frustration and fear, knowing that he had to do what he was doing to survive, but knowing that it could mean he’d never see his wife and daughter again.

There are some other interesting characters, Quentin, Danielle and Stitch who band together with Blake and help him in his travels. They added some interesting twists, especially the temporary salvation that Quentin’s father brings the group. This part of the story also helps to reveal just how bad things are becoming.

What didn’t I like about this story?
This has nothing to do with anybody but me, but I had a real problem with the narration and it severely affected my enjoyment of the story. I’ll cover this more in Narration below.

Narration:
Ok, so I’ll repeat, this has nothing to do with the story or even the narrator really, but I had a hard time listening to this book. The narrator did this thing with his voice where he would be reading normally and then would switch into a very husky demanding tone and that is the same voice I use to make my wife laugh. I call it my Batman voice. It’s a silly thing I do with her, but hearing it quite frequently in the story as I listened kept throwing me out of the story. I couldn’t stand it. It’s one thing when I do it being silly, its another thing when a good portion of the story sounded like it was being read in that voice.

Conclusion: (Aka: Would I listen to more by this author?)
Unfortunately, due to my struggle with the narrator’s use of “Batman” voice, I would not. This doesn’t mean that others won’t enjoy it just fine, in fact, they likely will, it’s just that it didn’t work for me.

I had a tough time deciding how to rate this. I’d give the story a 7-8, but as discussed, the narration was a real challenge for me and I’d give it a 4-5, so I’m going to average the two out and give it an overall 6 out of 10.

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September Audiobook Review: Speakeasy Dead

Run time: 7hrs and 35 minutes, narrated by Nick Podehl & Emily Beresford
In Vicky Loebel’s Speakeasy Dead we find ourselves in a most unexpected version of the 1920’s. Zombies, witches, warlocks, gangsters, ritzy movie stars and a dance competition? Yep, a dance competition. Oh and I forgot to mention ghosts, a djinn, a demon and probably more that I cannot remember. It was a crazy mix of characters in the familiar setting of prohibition era America. I didn’t know what I would think of this story, but I was actually quite delighted by it.

The two main characters, Clara & Bernie, who we follow in alternating narratives, reminded me a lot of characters from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Bernie, reminded me of Xander and Clara a cross between Willow and maybe a little bit of Buffy herself.

The book is billed as a roaring twenties paranormal romantic comedy and it definitely fits that description. There’s love brewing as well as potions, booze and trouble!

What did I like about this story?
I loved the way the story flowed back and forth between Clara’s point of view and Bernie’s, each with its own opening quote from either the “Girl’s Guide to Demons” or the “Boy’s Guide to Boggarts”. The characters are constantly in worsening peril right from the beginning and the heat just keeps getting turned up as the story goes on.

At times the differing points of view tell you parts of the same scene from their unique perspectives and at others, they are jumping off into a new direction for the story. This kept each chapter fresh, interesting and unexpected.

The world the author created around the prohibition era, filled with witches, warlocks and demons is also filled with possibilities for future stories, while I doubt they will be filled with more zombies, I hope more books are written because these characters were a lot of fun to listen to.

What didn’t I like about this story?
Ultimately, it’s very sparse on zombies, which is ok, but if you are reading this because you really like zombie books, especially apocalypse level books, you might not care for it. If you like fun stories with action and drama, with characters you can laugh at and root for, then you’ll enjoy this book.

Narration:
The narration on this book was done quite well, with each of the two main characters having their own narrator. It made it fun to listen to and also really helped with what can be one of the challenges of an audiobook, knowing which character is doing something.

Conclusion: (Aka: Would I listen to more by this author?)
Yes, I would. I really enjoyed this story. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that when I set out to listen to it, I wasn’t too sure I’d like it at all because it was so vastly different to everything else I’ve been listening to. Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed it so much, it was fresh and interesting.

I give this 10 out of 10 stars, which is the second month in a row I have given that rating and on two vastly different books!

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August Audiobook Review: Zombie Road: Convoy of Carnage

Run time  9hrs and 32 minutes, narrated by Eric A. Shelman
In David A. Simpson’s Zombie Road: Convoy of Carnage, we find ourselves introduced to a variety of nick-named truckers hanging out at a truck stop, right before the world ends. Well, not the entire world, that’s one of the fun and interesting elements of this book, but before we dive into that, we’ll tell you a little more about the main characters.

The protagonist of the story is Gunny, an ex-military man, who the book opens up with as he is being interviewed, presumably where the series ends, talking about how he survived. We quickly come to learn that the fall of civilization, to a very fast and ravenous form of zombie, was orchestrated by people with evil intent. The chaos starts almost immediately, with our group of truckers surrounded inside the truckstop learning how the rest of the country has fallen. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the country, we find Gunny’s wife and son trapped in even direr circumstances.

With the help of his friends and fellow truckers, Gunny prepare’s for the long journey to rescue them.

There’s a lot going on in the background of the story. Shadowy government organizations, an unexpected new president and a foreign power suspected of orchestrating the fall of humanity. Oh, and did I mention nuclear peril? It’s almost as if, even if they do survive the zombies, they can’t possibly survive all the other things that are going to destory them. All of these multiple elements really keep you on the edge of your seat and hungry for the story to continue.

What did I like about this story?
At first, I was getting whiplash from all of the truckers with nicknames. Everyone seemed to have one, but I quickly came to find and delight in the fact that each of those names came with a story of their own. Each made sense and made the characters not only memorable but also loveable.

I loved the fact the story was so action packed, pretty much right from the get go. The author makes light of the fact that zombies were impossible until they weren’t, something any modern zombie story needs to have is a little bit of self-awareness about the genre, and he does that well.

What didn’t I like about this story?
While I’m not generally a fan of fast zombies, they add to the action packed thrills of Zombie Road. Hordes of slow zombies wouldn’t be all that scary if they were getting mowed down by a semi, but fast ones, that don’t stop running, even after you’ve burned rubber down the road, well that’s some scary shit!

Aside from that, it did take awhile for the Convoy of Carnage to begin, but not without reason. You can’t just roll out and drive through this crazy world without a plan.

Narration: 
Eric A. Shelman, an author of Zompoc fiction himself, does a fabulous job of narrating the book, including adding little tidbits like making the radio communications sound like they are actually coming over the radio and giving each of the main characters a unique voice.

Conclusion: (Aka: Would I listen to more by this author?)
Absolutely. This book has been getting rave reviews for months and I actually moved it up on my listening schedule so I could find out what all the hype was about and it didn’t disappoint. The second book is out now and I’ll be listening to it soon and then I’ll be like the rest of Mr. Simpson’s ravenous fans and chasing his truck down the road screaming for him to finish book 3!

I give this 10 out of 10 stars, the first of the reviews I have done to earn that rating.

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April Audio Book Review: Origins of the Outbreak by Brian Parker

Run time 6 hrs and 55 mins

In Brian Parker’s Origins of the Outbreak, we are introduced to the moment the outbreak begins and how it spreads in a series of slice of life vignettes that tell a sprawling story, from one infection to thousands.

I’ll admit, I was a bit leery of the format, as I found the use of vignettes that were interjected into another story recently reviewed to be primarily disruptive and not a positive for the story. This time though, it mostly worked and the story had a unique and engaging feel that I enjoyed following along.

The story starts out in a small town which allows for most of the characters to be closely connected as the infection spreads. This keeps the narrative engaging and kept me tuned in, because even if the characters in a vignette died, they’d be back as zombies in another one soon enough.

We start with patient zero, a scientist at a university in a small town doing an experiment. We learn a little bit about him and what he is doing and then, bam, the outbreak begins!

What did I like about this story?
I liked how we got to watch the virus spread from first this person and then to that person and how those peoples stories interconnected, both pre and post-infection.

I liked the person to person spread so much, I was actually disappointed when the infection grew so large that we lost touch with some of the earlier characters, however, that’s just the way a pandemic goes. It gets out of control.

What didn’t I like about this story?
I could have used more of an overall background storyline for the characters that survive. The story keeps you interested throughout, but there could have been greater connection to the story overall with more main character development early in the story.

Narration: 
The narration was done by Veronica Fox who has a great voice for the job. The inflection with which she read kept each vignette both cohesive and unique.

Conclusion: (Aka: Would I listen to more by this author?)
The book ends with something of a twist that definitely leaves it open for more of this particular story and I’d be curious to see if Brian does continue the series where it goes from here. In general, it was well written with few issues and I could easily find myself enjoying some of his other works of fiction.

I give this 8 out of 10 stars.

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February Audio Book Review : Dead – The Ugly Beginning by TW Brown

Run time 11 hrs and 22 mins

In TW Brown’s The Dead – The Ugly Beginning, we are shown the world at the beginning of the zombie apocalypse and introduced to one of the main characters, Steve. Steve finds that what’s happening on his TV is also happening right outside his front door. The book starts out fast, with some humor mixed in as he is forced to venture out into the world to try and survive.

There are some fun references to Zombie Pop Culture icon, George Romero, establishing the author’s love for classic zombies. On a quick side note, fans of Romero in the Pacific Northwest, he will be the guest of honor at this year’s Crypticon Convention in Seattle May 5th – 7th 2017. As will the actors that played Barbara and Johnny in the original Night of the Living Dead. Come out and meet them!

Now back to our review, it doesn’t take long before Steve finds another survivor, a young girl named Theresa, who ends up being a pretty badass character in the story.

While the tale starts out with some humor, about halfway through, as the world and its rules fade into chaos, the story reveals the darker side of humanity. This brings with it some pretty gruesome and potentially disturbing scenes for the listener. Be warned there are quite a few variations on the same theme dealing with violence against women.

Other characters are introduced, including multiple non-connecting storylines through the use of Vignettes. More on this in a bit.

As the story progresses, our main characters meet other survivors and we come to learn that the dead are beginning to form massive hordes that are over-running any human compounds they come across, leaving nowhere safe.

The story ends in such a way as to leave us very uncertain about the future.

What did I like about this story?

The story was well written and showed the decline of civilization in a way you can feel. From people still trying to obey society’s rules during the decline, to the absolute collapse of societal niceties and the lack of trust it creates amongst groups of survivors.

The narration was also well done, with Andrew McFerrin capturing the different voices of the characters nicely, keeping it engaging and the characters unique.

I enjoyed the overall storyline, especially some of the nods to Romero and some of the unique twists such as the zombie’s cry, but I’ll leave that for you to learn more about, it’s pretty evil.

Most of the characters had unique personalities and conflicts which created good stories as well as some real human demons to deal with.

What didn’t I like about this story?

There were a few things I struggled with in this book. First, it is part of a series and as can be the case, there was no resolution to most of the storylines. The story is our introduction to a much larger adventure and we are left with cliffhangers everywhere. Personally, I like books that have at least some sort of resolution to storylines. Setting them up for the future is fine, but leaving us hanging on most counts either means we have to be in for the long haul or left unfulfilled.

There are a series of vignettes in the book where characters are introduced and we are given glimpses into their lives. Some continue through in other vignettes later in the book and some simply end in the character’s death. Each time a new vignette started, I didn’t know if I should care or not. Would this be another character that just died? Or is this someone who is important to the overall story? I didn’t know and for that reason, I found myself groaning whenever another vignette section started.

As mentioned above, one of the other challenges was the number of storylines, that at least in this first book, appeared to have no connection with one another. I was left to assume that at some point in the series they will all connect, but in this book, they were all left unresolved.

There was also a point where I either missed something or the main storyline jumped when they were going to a FEMA center and then the next time we are hearing from those characters they had left the center and made references only to what happened there, leaving me feeling confused and wondering if I had spaced out and missed something important. I didn’t go back and re-listen, so it’s entirely possibly I did.

There is a technical issue at the end of Chapter 7 where there is over a minute long pause in the audio.

Conclusion: (Aka: Would I listen to more by this author?)

I’ve met TW personally and it was great to finally get some time to sit down and listen to one of his books. Despite some of the things I had challenges with, it was well written and there are a number of storylines that I want to know how they turn out, so yes, I would and likely will listen to the next book in the series, Dead – Revelations.

I’ve also heard that the sequel and the later books in the series get more coherent in terms of the storyline and that means that the good stuff will be getting even better. I look forward to it.

I give this 6 out of 10 stars.

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JANUARY AUDIOBOOK REVIEW : GREAT BITTEN – OUTBREAK

In Warren Fielding’s, Great Bitten : Outbreak we follow the author as the main character in a World War Z(the book, not the movie) type recollection of the outbreak of a zombie virus in the UK as the reporter turned survivor escapes London and makes his way to safety.

The safety doesn’t last long as Warren, his sister Carla and her boyfriend Rick come to grips with the new zombie reality as society collapses all around them. They leave Carla’s home and go in search of a safe haven. Eventually ending up with a batch of not so trustworthy individuals that they must take shelter with in order to survive.

What I liked about this story?

I haven’t read many zombie stories that take place in the UK, so it was interesting to hear something that depicted things from that side of the planet.

I enjoyed the characters interactions, for me, it reminded me a lot of the characters in Douglas Adam’s, Hitchhiker’s Guide Series, this could simply be regular old british humor, but it amused me to listen to their absurd observational banter about what was going on around them. That alone made most of the story pretty enjoyable for me.

I also like the references to mainstream zombie pop culture and the mix of fast and slow zombies, this added a fun level of fright, as you never knew what the survivors were going to run into whenever they saw some of the dead.

What I didn’t like about this story?

There was one area that I struggled with in the story and that was the human bad guys. There was a small conflict at their introduction and I’ll admit that since I was listening to the audiobook versus reading the book, I may have zoned out and missed something important. However, for me I just didn’t pick up on why there was such a heavy level of conflict between the characters. I get the overall premise of it, just for me there was something that was missing and the high level of angst between our survivors and the leader of the survivors they joined, just never quite felt right to me.

Conclusion: 

All in all, despite the part where I didn’t quite understand what was going on between the main good guys and bad guys, I did enjoy the story and found myself rooting for them. Especially at the end when everything goes from bad to worse and you find yourself really starting to hate some of the characters and worrying about the others.

There’s enough good stuff here to give it a listen and then wait patiently for the sequel!

I give this 7 out of 10 stars.

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