Audiobook Review: Sleeping Giants

Sleeping Giants.jpg
Sleeping Giants
The Themis Files, #1
By Sylvain Neuvel
Narrated by a Full Cast:
Andy Secombe, Eric Meyers, Laurel Lefkow, Charlie Anson, Liza Ross, William Hope, Christopher Ragland, Katherine Mangold, and  Adna Sablyich
Ⓟ 2016, Random House Audio
8 hours, 28 minutes
SCIENCE FICTION | TECHNO-THRILLER | ROBOTS

The pieces of a giant exotic robot have been discovered on the planet. Where did it come from? How does it work? What is its purpose? The story is told through reports and raises a number of questions about service, loyalty, love, bias and cost in the name of science and politics. Most reports are interviews with an unnamed interrogator and a player in the action. The book does end with a bit of a cliffhanger; but the substance of the the story is filling enough to tide the listener over until the next installment, Waking Gods (release date April 4, 2017.)

Though there is no cast list to indicate who plays which role(s) in the production, the narrators are perfectly cast, capturing the personalities, moods, and nuances of the written characters as well as conveying the tensions and atmosphere of each scene. Their individual and collective performances paint the story in vivid detail to the point where a listener may feel s/he has actually seen the events described! This is a testament not only to the  writing, but to the excellence of the acting.



 

OTHER: I purchased Sleeping Giants (The Themis Files, #1; by Sylvain Neiuvel; narrated by a Full Cast) from audible.com. I receive no monies, goods, or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Sleeping Giants (The Themis Files, #1; by Sylvain Neiuvel; narrated by a Full Cast) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Science Fiction category.

armchairaudies-300x300.jpg

Advertisements

Audiobook Review: The Book of the Unnamed Midwife

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife.jpg
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife
The Road to Nowhere, Book #1
By Meg Elison
Narrated by Angela Dawe
Ⓟ 2016, Brilliance Audio
9 hours, 14 minutes
SCIENCE FICTION | POST APOCALYPTIC

This is the story of a P.A. (Physician’s Assistant) in San Francisco who wakes up one day to discover that the city, the country, perhaps the world have been wiped out by “the Women’s Plague.” The virus causes babies to be stillborn, the mothers to die in a raging fever during delivery, and 98% of the males to succumb as well. As the eponymous character moves though the post-apocalyptic landscape, she does what she needs to do in order to survive and search for meaning in this life.

The novel is heavy with import; but it suffers from a surfeit of story, in particular the passages regarding another character’s journey; and some underdeveloped ideas, like hives (a single-female-led colony of male acolytes.) The author also includes a couple of “off-camera” scenes – passages which describe action that could not be known to the main character or others, which can be immediately gratifying to the reader/listener, but breaks the integrity of the narrative.

Angela Dawe takes a while to hit her stride, and her male characterizations are not strong. Her near-neutral delivery mutes the intensity  of the scenes of rape, murder, and death; and she flirts dangerously close to melodrama at times when she is clearly more invested in the story. On the whole, however, Angela Dawe keeps her performance within credible range, i.e. listeners will believe that the narrator is “the unnamed midwife.”

The blogger, The Guilded Earlobe also listened to and reviewed this title; and gave it an “A”rating! Check out what he had to say about it HERE.


OTHER:
I purchased The  Book of the Unnamed Midwife (by Meg Elison; narrated by Angela Dawe) from audible.com. I receive no monies, goods, or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

The  Book of the Unnamed Midwife (by Meg Elison; narrated by Angela Dawe) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Science Fiction category.

armchairaudies-300x300.jpg

EDIT: Added line and link to The Guilded Earlobe’s blog post/review.

Audiobook Review: The Dispatcher

The Dispatcher.jpg
The Dispatcher
By John Scalzi
Narrated by Zachary Quinto
Ⓟ 2016, Audible Studios
2 hours, 19 minutes
SCIENCE FICTION | URBAN FANTASY

Taking place in the near future, “a time of miracles and wonders,” the murdered are inexplicably returned to life – safe, healed (and naked!) in their homes. Dispatchers are those that expedite certain death; and Tony Valdez is a dispatcher who has been brought in on a case involving the disappearance of a co-worker.

Instantly compelling, Quinto’s performance is fantastic –  handling voice characterizations of both sexes and different ethnicities with fluency and seeming facility. Character delineations are clear so there is no ambiguity during dialogues as to whom is speaking.

This is an audio-first story produced under the auspices of Audible Studios. Though a print edition of this novella will be available in May of 2017, at the time of this writing, there do not appear to be any plans for expanding the Dispatcher concept. Too bad, as it certainly whets the appetite for more!

OTHER: I listened to a digital download copy of The Dispatcher (by John Scalzi; narrated by Zachary Quinto) which was available free during the month of October, 2016. I receive no monies, goods, or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

The Dispatcher (by John Scalzi; narrated by Zachary Quinto) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Science Fiction category; and a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Original Work category.
armchairaudies-300x300.jpg

EDIT: Added “and a finalist n the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Original Work category.”

Audiobook Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars TFA.jpg

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
By Alan Dean Foster
Narrated by Marc Thompson
Ⓟ 2015, Random House Audio
10 Hours, 21 Minutes
SCIENCE FICTION | SPACE OPERA

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” the fates and destinies of Poe, a brash young pilot carrying a spherical droid named BB8; Rey, a scavenger on the desert planet, Jakku; and a disillusioned Stormtrooper named FN-2187, would cross to create a story of adventure, loyalty, danger and intrigue. The movie would return the iconic space opera franchise to its original core values in storytelling, picking up the story a generation after  Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi (Episode VI) left off. Alan Dean Foster has written the official novelization of the movie; and given that the audio was a simultaneous release with the film, it stands to reason that he was privy to a working script and/or an advance screening to insure the storylines would match. As such, if you have seen the movie, there are no surprises or Easter eggs here; But if you were unclear as to what happened in the movie at any point (e.g. Did Finn die? Or was he just gravely injured?) the (audio-)book will answer those questions.

The audiobook is a hybrid of an audio drama (sound f/x and music) and straight narration (single narrator reading all the text and dialogue.) The sound effects can help with the immersive experience, and also help trigger recall to the movie scenes when the the action lines or settings are not clear in the writing. However, the sound effects can also be distracting to varying degrees from mildly irritating to  getting in the way of the story itself.

The demands of a Star Wars audiobook narrator are a little different than from an audiobook narrator of a regular novel: The narrator works from a Foley script (but with no actual sound effects being played during the recording); has very little input from Disney/LucasFilm and/or the author in regard to characterizations; and must deliver in a style that can seem over-the-top. As a result, the narrator’s performance  is spliced with sound f/x and at times has an odd chopped quality to it; some of the characterizations might seems a bit “off” from what you recall from the movie; and the melodramatic tone, while serving intense scenes, can verge on the comical when more subtlety might have been expected. Nonetheless, it must be noted that Marc Thompson did extremely well in handling the script and the unique demands required of him. His voice characterization for the now-older Han Solo was particularly well-done; though General Leia Organa, not so much.

This is a fun, family friendly audiobook that will appeal to listeners who enjoy radio and/or audio dramas, and Star Wars fans.

 

OTHER: I listened to a CD copy of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (by Alan Dean Foster; narrated by Marc Thompson) that I borrowed from the Jackson County Library Services (Southern Oregon.) I receive no monies, goods, or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (by Alan Dean Foster; narrated by Marc Thompson) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Science Fiction category.

armchairaudies-300x300.jpg

2017 Armchair Audies

armchairaudies-300x300.jpg
The 2017 finalists for the Audiobook Publishers Association’s Audie Awards have been announced! There are thirty categories with approximately five titles in each that the APA judges have deemed the best of the entries submitted. ON June 1, 2017, in NYC the winner of each category will be announced.

Jennifer Conner (a.k.a. @lithousewife and the APA Audiobook Blogger of the Year 2015) hosts the Armchair Audies in which YOU can be a judge! Listeners each pick a category, listen to the nominees, and decide which entry they think deserves to be the winner in the category. If you would like to play, check out the Armchair Audies blog… This is not affiliated with the APA, and decisions of the Armchair Audies have no bearing on the official Audie Award decisions.

I’ve participated for all five years, picking a different category or categories each year. This year, I’ve picked Science Fiction:

IMG_4863.jpg

I’ll listen to each of the title listed above, write a review, and post my pick before June 1, 2017!

March 8, 2017: I have decided to take on another category!

Original Work.jpg

March 28, 2017: I’ve decided to take on yet another category!

Audio Drama.jpg

EDIT: 08MAR2017
* Added word in italics: “I’ve participated for all five years, picking a different category or categories each year”:
* Added another category, Original Work, image
EDIT: 28MAR2017
* Added another category, Audio Drama, image

Print Reviews: The Vegetarian AND Human Acts

                                 The Vegetarian.jpgHuman Acts.jpg

The Vegetarian
By Han Kang
Penguin Random House | Hogarth
Release Date (Paperback): February 02, 2016
ISBN-13: 978-0553448184
LITERARY FICTION

This is a lit-fic novella which won the author the ManBooker International Prize. Set in South Korea, the story features a married woman who suddenly decides to become a vegetarian. This sets up a chain reaction of strange, and dramatic responses from her husband, father, brother-in-law, and sister. At first, the story feels alien and weird even given the foreign setting; but once the reader becomes acclimated to the style and tone, the material is thought provoking. This is somewhat of a modern re-telling of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” (And no surprise, it is published by Hogarth!)

Human Acts
By Han Kang
Penguin Random House | Hogarth
Release Date (Paperback): January 17, 2017
ISBN-13: 978-1101906729
LITERARY FICTION

In 1980, in a Southern Korean province, a democratic uprising against the tyrannical government was brutally quashed by soldiers. Known as the Gawngju Uprising, its violence and toll in human lives was shocking: An estimated 2,000 people were summarily executed. Amongst the casualties was a fifteen-year old boy named Dong-Ho; and his death is the centerpiece of Han Kang’s sophomore effort. The author utilizes the Roshomon Effect in driving the plot forward though the years, revealing events though six sections told from various POVs: That of Dong-Ho himself; Dong-Ho’s friend; An editor; A prisoner; A factory girl; and Dong-Ho’s mother. There is an Epilogue, which is not part of the story; but an actual statement form the author regarding her connection to the fictionalized account that she has written. The events recounted are unflinchingly savage, its effects scarring the survivors mentally and physically for years after the uprising itself. Han Kang’s writing is tighter and more grounded than it is in The Vegetarian, perhaps owing to a more concrete set of events at hand (history) as opposed to the performance-piece-like style of her debut novel in the West. That said, there were a few places where the translation or style felt a little awkward: The shift from third-person omniscient to first-person accusatory was disconcerting; and replacing South Korean vernacular with Yorkshire idiomacy was jarring. Overall, however, the novel was powerful; and intentional or not, relevant in today’s political climate in asking the question, “How far would you go to be on the right side of history?”

OTHER: I purchased a hardback copy of The Vegetarian (by Han Kang) from Barnes & Noble in Medford, OR and; I received an Advanced Reader’s Edition of Human Acts (by Han Kang) through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Print Review: Shylock is My Name

Shylock-is-My-Name-paperback-650x979.jpg

Shylock is My Name
By Howard Jacobson
Penguin Random House | Hogarth
Release Date (Paperback): October 11, 2016
ISBN-13: 978-0804141345
LITERARY FICTION

Shylock is My Name starts off with a sort of colloquy between Simon Strulovitch and Shylock as they discuss Jewish identity, humor, and families (especially the relationships between fathers and daughters.) Then the story kicks into gear as Simon lives out the 16th century play, The Merchant of Venice against the backdrop of an upscale neighborhood in 21st century England.

It is not clear whether Shylock is a literary revenant incarnate and/or an alter ego made manifest under the pressure Simon is under. The initialism of the novel’s title, “SIMN” serves as a possible allusion to the schizophrenic nature of the heroic element; but the double-protagonist scheme does not break down so it is possible that Howard Jacobson simply created a contemporary Shylock, complete with fedora. The conversations tend to be excessively neurotic and introspective, often encumbering the overall story line even as the action line surfaces. The comic elements feel a bit forced; and the humor dry and subtle.

Highly recommend reading William Shakespeare’s, The Merchant of Venice beforehand. Those with an affinity for Jewish literature may also find this more rewarding than those who do not.

OTHER: I received an Advanced Reader’s Edition of Shylock is My Name  (by Howard Jacobson) through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.