Audiobook Review: The Girl with All the Gifts

 

The Girl with all the Gifts.jpg
The Girl with All the Gifts
By M.R. Carey
Narrated by Finty Williams
Ⓟ 2014, Hachette
13 hrs and 04 mins
SFF / HORROR

You make think that you’ve exhausted the zombie genre; but The Girl with All the Gifts  is something a bit different and even more compelling:  This is the story of a little girl named Melanie, a.k.a Test Subject #1, who is incarcerated at a military base in the UK. The world-as-we-know-it has been transformed into a zombie-infested landscape, and Melanie may very well hold the key to future human survival. All the standard zombie stuff is there: humans vs zombies, military vs survivalists, an escape scramble…; but Mike Carey (also known for the comic book run, ‘The Unwritten’) has elevated the ordinary to something interesting by avoiding the common tropes. The ending isn’t what I wanted, expected, or maybe even liked; but it did make sense and is original.

The choice of narrator is surprising as well: Finty Williams is an older British woman who sounds like Judi Dench (which makes a sort of sense as she is Dame Dench’s daughter!) Since the book opens from Melanie’s POV, the casting may seem bewildering as the only character who comes remotely close to the narrator in sensibility is a scientist; but it doesn’t matter, because Finty Williams is amazing! She rolls the story out without getting in the way of the story itself, doesn’t draw attention to herself, and serves as the perfect conduit for the experience.

Fellside (by M.R. Carey; and narrated by Finty Williams) is available for pre-order on Audible (release date 4/16/2016.) This is not a sequel or companion piece; but a writing-narration duo that’s sure to be as well received as The Girl with All the Gifts.

OTHER: I listened to this audiobook on recommendation from @BethFishReads and you can read her review of The Girl with All the Gifts on her blog, BethFishReads.com.

I purchased The Girl with All the Gifts (by M.R. Carey; narrated by Finty Williams) from audible.com. I receive no monies, goods (beyond the audiobook) 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.

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Studio A: 21st Century Dead (Story-Author-Narrator List)


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21st Century Dead
edited by Christopher Golden
  • Biters (by Mark Morris; narrated by Bernadette Dunne
  • Why Mothers Let Their Babies Watch Television, A Just So Horror Story (by Chelsea Cain; narrated by Cassandra Campbell)
  • Carousel (by Orson Scott Card; narrated by Stefan Rudnicki)
  • Reality Bites (by S.G. Browne; narrated by Sean Runnette)
  • The Drop (by Stephen Susco; narrated by Scott Brick)
  • Antiparallelogram (by Amber Benson; narrated by Paul Michael Garcia)
  • How We Escaped Our Certain Fate (by Dan Chaon; narrated by Malcolm Hillgartner)
  • A Mother’s Love (by John McIlveen; narrated by Renee Raudman)
  • Down and Out in Dead Town (by Simon R. Green; narrated by Simon Vance)
  • Devil Dust (by Caitlin Kittredge; narrated by Chris Patton)
  • The Dead of Dromore (by Ken Bruen; narrated by John Pruden)
  • All the Comforts of Home: A Beacon Story (by John  Skipp and Cody Goodfellow; narrated by Sean Runette)
  • Ghost Dog & Pup: Stay (by Thomas E. Sniegoski; narrated by Paul Michael Garcia)
  • Tic Boom: A Slice of Love (by Kurt Sutter; narrated by Chris Patton)
  • Jack and Jill (by Jonathan Maberry; narrated by Tom Weiner)
  • Tender as Teeth (by Stephanie Crawford and Duane Swierczynski; narrated by Renee Raudman)
  • Couch Potato (by Brain Keene; narrated by Bernadette Dunne)
  • The Happy Bird and Other Tales (by Rio Youers; narrated by Simon Vance)
  • Parasite (by Daniel H. Wilson; narrated by Kirby Heybourne)

Zombiestan

Zombiestan
by Mainak Dhar
narrated by John Lee
2012, Tantor Audio
6.00 hours

Zombiestan is a bildungsroman that takes place in the zombiefied country of India in a post-911 world. Mayukh was a seventeen-year old gamer without much responsibility and few concerns when, far away in Afghanistan, bio-hazmat materials that were being delivered to the Taliban were ignited by drone-delivered bombs. The chemical reaction created an infectious compound that found its first victims and carriers with the Taliban members who followed up at the site to see if there was anything to recover. Moving on from the site, these would-be terrorists ended up spreading the contagion as they boarded planes. The rate of the infection spread exponentially and manifested itself in necrotizing humans, rendering them virtually invincible and, transmitting Taliban sympathies into the memories of the newly dead. As the contagion swept into India and black-turbaned Taliban zombies posed an increasing threat to societal structures and personal safety, Mayukh was goaded into action. In a trek towards safety, Mayukh gets a hyper-accelerated lesson in growing up.

Mayukh is not alone as he makes his journey: There is a U.S. Navy SEAL, an older woman with a dual identity as a professor and a romance novelist, a teen-aged girl and, the girl’s little brother who may hold the secret to an antidote. All the characters in Zombiestan have an arc of development as each rises to the occasion of the crises they find themselves in. While the temptation always lurks to take the easy way out, this cast of characters, individually and together, clings to their of sense of what is right. One of the great things about Zombiestan is that, unlike many zombie-apocalyptic novels, this one keeps hope alive in the story: There are survivors; There are people who help; There is the idea of a future. The story faces forward even while conditions worsen.

Zombiestan is a fun novel, full of action and a unique take on zombies. The writing is a bit rough, with a number of repetitive descriptions and cliches; but the plot never stalls and scenes are strongly depicted. Mainuk Dhar may have taken the concept of zombies a bit far afield in depicting them with  rapidly evolving sentience, organizational and strategic skills and an ability to learn and adapt; on the other hand, Dhar’s terrorist zombies make an obvious political statement if you want to go there.

John Lee, the British-American narrator who won an Audie for his reading of White Tiger (by Aravind Adiga), brings his Indian accent back for Zombiestan. John Lee has a highly enunciated style of delivery and brings well-delineated characters into play. His Americans pretty much all sound like cowboys; but since the Americans in Zombiestan are all U.S. military personnel, it works 🙂

See Also:

  • Zombie in Love (by Kelly diPucchio; illustrated by Scott Campbell) – Print review
Other Stuff: Zombiestan (by Mainak Dhar; narrated by John Lee) is a part of the






I received a MP3-CD edition of Zombiestan (by Mainak Dhar; narrated by John Lee) under reviewer auspices from Tantor Audio. 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.

We’re Alive: A Story of Survival, The First Season



We’re Alive: A Story of Survival, The First Season  

created by Shane Salk and Kc Wayland; written by Kc Wayland
12 podcasts  performed by a full cast
10.30 hours


Michael, Angel and Saul are three soldiers in present day Northern California ordered to report for duty: to restore order to their beleaguered city which is ravaged by “zombies.” The infected are necrotic bodies that can only be truly taken down by fire or beheading and, the transmutation of the corporeal states is triggered via a bite from one of the infected.

We’re Alive: A Story of Survival, The First Season is a collection of twelve podcasts that details the story of Michael, Angel and Saul as they make their way through  the new landscape where the infrastructure is crumbling and other survivors are recovered. The survivors hold a position in an abandoned apartment building, referred to amongst themselves as “The Tower.” Here, the military triumvirate fight to provide food, clothing and shelter as well as security against the zombies and “Mallers.” The Mallers are the convicts from a local prison who  have holed up at a local mall and who pose a threat with their unchecked violence and ambitions to seize the Tower.  The Tower residents and the Mallers are the antithesis of the other, representing civilization and anarchy respectively.


The production quality of We’re Alive: A Story of Survival, The First Season is very much in the tradition of foley inspired radio drama. Sue Zizza of Sue Media Productions, once coined the phrase “testosterone grade sound effects” when describing the heavy usage of sound effects like guns, squealing tires, etc. in an audio drama and, in the case of We’re Alive: A Story of Survival, The First Season, the description is apt. This is not to say that the “testosterone grade sound effects” aren’t appropriate; only that subtlety is not in play. The sound effects take an almost equal place in the sound track as the characters’ lines, as opposed to underscoring or used in service to the action or dialogue.

Jim Gleason, Shane Salk and Nate Geez, as Michael, Angel and Saul respectively are noteworthy in voicing their roles convincingly, naturally and without getting into excessive hyperbole. However, the pulp tenor of the story lent itself to a temptation that many of the other performers could not resist: to drop into over-characterization or stereotyping. Mostly, this works to keeps the characters distinct; but occasionally, a performer’s choices didn’t work out quite as well as might have been expected: Claire Dodin plays Riley, a French restauranteur/survivor/Tower resident. Ms Dodin seems to have had a little trouble settling into a French accent, which seemed to have come by way of  Britain and Asia; all of which left the character of Riley as something of a enigma until the story spelled it out as to who she was and where she came from. Datu, a Filipino who worked as the apartment building’s maintenance supervisor before becoming the Tower’s engineer, sounded more like Apu from The Simpsons than he did a native from the Philippines. There was no question as to who was speaking when any of the performers rendered their lines; it was just a bit jarring when a performer didn’t really seem to be “in character.”

There is plenty of action, adventure, and “testosterone grade sound effects” to galvanize the listener to the story: There are no guarantees as to who will survive and what will happen next and the unexpected twists in We’re Alive: A Story of Survival, The First Season will keep you on the hook for Season Two.  


05/24/2012 – Correction: Strikethrough of the word “Northern” in the first line. Bell, CA is a town in Southern California. 

See Also:


Other Stuff:
We’re Alive: A Story of Survival – The First Season (created by Shane Salk and Kc Wayland; written by Kc Wayland; performed by a full cast) qualifies for:



I borrowed a LIbrary CD edition of We’re Alive: A Story of Survival – The First Season (created by Shane Salk and Kc Wayland; written by Kc Wayland; performed by a full cast) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. I had no involvement in the production of We’re Alive: A Story of Survival – The First Season (created by Shane Salk and Kc Wayland; written by Kc Wayland; performed by a full cast.) 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.

Zombie in Love

Zombie in Love

by Kelly DiPucchio
illustrated by Scott Campbell
Atheneum Books for Young Readers,
An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division
Published: 08/23/2011
For Ages: 4-8
Mortimer is a lonely, zombie boy looking for a date to The Cupid’s Ball. From the ghoulish environs of his home, he tries to find that special someone; but all the human girls he approaches are nonplussed. Then Mortimer gets an idea…

Zombie in Love is a cute, humorous story about how there is someone for everyone. The reading level is very easy, skewing more towards the four-year-old’s reading ability than the eight-year-old’s; but the artwork and universal appeal (who hasn’t felt like Mortimer in his loneliness at one point in their lives?) makes this a great novelty book for teens and adults as well.

The words in and of themselves create the framework for the art of Scott Campbell. His watercolors wash over the pages in gentle tones, in contrast to the black ink renderings one might expect in a zombie tale. The muted tones make this easy on the eyes (and less-scary for small children.) There is nothing graphically explicit, which isn’t to say the illustrations aren’t detailed. It’s the details in each of the paintings that bring out the humor in the story, contrasting with the text by offsetting the sentences as understatements. Neutral background washes and a balance of cool and warm figures in the foreground are compositionally well balanced and offset each other to create darkish but palatable pictures.

Scan of the first two pages of Zombie in Love

What parents might have to explain: Zombies; and the fact that worms can’t do the things that are depicted in the book 😀
Other Stuff: I purchased Zombie in Love (by Kelly DiPucchio; illustrated by Scott Campbell) from Barnes & Noble in Medford, OR. 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 Walking Dead: Volume 3: Safety Behind Bars

The Walking Dead: Volume 3: Safety Behind Bars
by Robert Kirkman (creator, writer, letterer);
Charlie Adlard (penciler, inker)
Cliff Rathburn (gray tones);
Tony Moore (cover)

In “Days Gone Bye,” (Volume 1) Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma in a hospital. The choice of physical incapacity is interesting as it can be construed as a type of death. In a comatose state, the patient has lost his will, his motor co-ordination, his consciousness and, is not unlike a zombie (generally classified as among the dead category) who shuffles instinctively and displays no consciousness or awareness. But Rick Grimes is not dead and, not a zombie because an external power has been exerted to save him. Medical technology kept Rick Grimes from falling into a true death. There are many different kinds of death displayed through the volumes thus far, but it is the power over death that compels our attention to the panels in “Days Gone Bye,” “Miles Behind Us” and, especially in “Safety Behind Bars.” From the immediacy of Rick’s individual and initial quest (buzzing for the nurse) to the larger communal effort to survive, man’s struggle against the inevitable is defined as his attempts to control it!
The zombies are the most obvious dead forms in The Walking Dead volumes. For the shuffling forms the most direct way of rendering them absolutely inert is to smash their brains. In “Miles Behind Us,” (Volume 2) we see some zombies detained in a barn in the hopes that there might be a way to cure them. In “Safety Behind Bars,” we see an attempt to reason with a newly turned zombie in the hopes that there may be a way to save the former human. Whether by hammer, blade or gunshot, once the threatening forms are rendered truly dead, they are burned. Just in case.
For the humans in the Walking Dead volumes so far, we’ve seen some take death into their own hands. In “Days Gone Bye” we see one character ask to be left to die and turn zombie so that he might join his zombified loved ones. In “Miles Behind Us,” a character, in his grief, puts a gun to his head. In “Safety Behind Bars,” we see a couple commit to a suicide pact so that they can be together forever :-/ In the suicide scenarios, each hopes to control the manner of their own demise, not realizing it’s not something you can really control in a world in which death is elastic.
We also see death meted out between men in self defense, whether the threat is imminent or actualized; as a matter of vengeance and, as a matter of punishment. As tricky as killing zombies may be (what if there is a shred of humanity buried within the corpse forms?), the matter of death between the conscious ones is definitely messy. In “Days Gone Bye,” the power of death is given to a seven-year old boy who is then placed into a situation of imminent, but not actualized, threat. The boy acts instinctively, and perhaps correctly; but not without repercussions. After all, shooting a man is not the same as shooting a deer or a zombie.
In “Miles Behind Us” and in “Safety Behind Bars” adults react to an actual threat of invasion by pulling guns on the newcomers. Harkening back to the “Miles Behind Us” post [wherein I posit that every one wants to belong someone, somewhere,] this tension seems paradoxical. And yet, the instinct to define the pack, and thin the herd of threats is a key to survival.
In “Safety Behind Bars,” we see human-on-human lethal violence at fervor pitch. There is a death committed as an act of vengeance. The act is committed with bare hands in a strangle-hold upon the victim. Without premeditation, but tantamount to murder, this death is seen as justified; but nonetheless covered up – ostensibly to eliminate misunderstanding. Or perhaps to avoid creating a morally grayer area where death is concerned. As if the survivors weren’t already dealing with the complexity of zombie deaths :-/
We also see death via beheading committed by the hands of a (possibly) criminally insane character. Though premeditated, can the perpetrator be considered accountable for his actions owing to his mental instability? Is he truly insane? Does the horror of his deeds outweigh such consideration? And finally, there is the mandated capital punishment, death by hanging, decreed at one point. Does one person have the right to order an execution? Does a majority vote justify the decision? And again, does the heinousness of the crime override the moral equivocation of such a decision?
Death is enabled through bites, guns, knives, hammers and rope; but death is actualized by man’s will. There is not a little irony that, in order to survive, the survivors must kill.
Artwork: “Days Gone Bye,” cover and content, was primarily drawn by Tony Moore ; but his contribution is limited to the covers for “Miles Behind Us” and “Safety Behind Bars.” In volumes two and three we can see a consistent aesthetic applied: more detail to the characters’ faces, better application of gray tones for compositional balance and; a heavier, bolder use of black ink. To demonstrate the differences, I’ve photographed three panels of the same character in the same mood: Lori Grimes, mad. The top panel is from “Days Gone Bye;” the bottom left panel is from “Miles Behind Us” and the bottom right panel is from “Safety Behind Bars.”


See Also:

The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye (Graphic Novel Review about identity, civilization and individual rights) 
The Walking Dead: Volume 2: Miles Behind Us (Graphic Novel Review about about belonging on a personal level, a group level and a “preadiastic” level)

Other Stuff: I purchased The Walking Dead: Volume 2: Miles Behind Us from Barnes & Noble in Medford, OR

This post is part of the Murder, Monsters, Mayhem feature being hosted by Jennifer L. at http://www.jennsbookshelves.com


This book also qualifies for the What’s in Name? Challenge #4 hosted at BethFishreads. The Walking Dead: Volume 3: Safety Behind Bars is an audiobook with [travel] in the title, “Walking.”

The Walking Dead: Volume 2: Miles Behind Us

The Walking Dead: Volume 2: Miles Behind Us
by Robert Kirkman (creator, writer, letterer);
Charlie Adlard (penciler, inker);
Cliff Rathburn (gray tones);
Tony Moore (cover)
In The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye, the reader is introduced to Rick Grimes, as he wakes up from a coma in a hospital. He is by himself and immediately rings for assistance from the nurse and, then he goes in search of his home and family. He is alone and he reaches out to make a connection. In the Walking Dead: Volume 2: Miles Behind Us, we see an extension of that first intuitive search for the other.
Everybody wants to belong to someone, somewhere. This theme is developed on three levels in “Miles Behind Us:” on the personal level, on the group level and, on a “praediastic” [a word I made up from the root word, “praedium”] level. We see personal relationships develop within the small band of survivors moving on from their encampment outside of Atlanta, GA. Despite their disparate backgrounds and, the more tentative the odds of making a connection, the more tenacious the effort to establish an intimate relationship becomes. This goes beyond the group dynamics that need to be hammered out in ordered to survive; it is human nature. More importantly, it is non-zombie nature. While the zombies roam the landscape and will swarm their prey, there is no indication that they have developed any sort of societal bond, even at a pack level. There is no evidence that they recognize one another individually, much less that they can develop one-one-one relationships. But with Rick and the survivors, we see a range of personal relationships: Rick and his wife keep their marriage intact; two seven-year olds flirt; a May-December relationship buds; two teenagers declare their eternal love; two characters have a purely physical interconnection because they are lonely; two other characters look like they’re hooking up out of genuine chemistry… 
With every relationship started however, the group dynamic changes. Perhaps it is the herd instinct that asserts itself and compels them to think there is safety in numbers; but subjugating the individual interests to the group’s good is a struggle of identity on one hand; but a recognition that even though you can’t depend on anyone else, you also can’t do it (survive) alone. The closeness of life in the RV they have been operating out of is too much; but then again, when the opportunity presents itself to live at the abandoned Wiltshire Estates, they want to remain neighbors. When circumstances bring them to the farmstead of Hershel Greene, Rick’s group presumes integration into the household as a matter of due course and Lori is outraged when she encounters resistance.
There is a strong tradition of individuals identifying strongly with physical land. In English culture, the Earls and Dukes and such are often referred to by the names of their estates. In Rebecca (by Daphne DuMaurier) we see the strong correlation between Manderley and its master. In “Miles Behind Us,” Rick and the survivors seek more than a secured shelter. If that were not true, they could keep trekking across the landscape in the RV; but they want to settle down in homes with yards; in a place where they can be neighbors (Wiltshire Estates) or even work collectively toward a greater community (the farmstead.)
Against the odds and despite the risks, people reach out to each other and attempt to build communities. It’s a matter of both survival and desire.
The artwork in this volume contains less of the exaggerated features found in “Days Gone By,” though the black & white panels still depend on compositional values such has balance, clarity and perspective and; when they are lacking create confusion as to the action taking place. The scenes where couples kiss or are rendered hard-edged and unsexy, belying the established mood. Worse, you can’t discern whether the couples are kissing or attacking each other :-/ Again, in a couple of action panels (e.g. the zombie battle at the barn) the lack of contrast and/or perspective creates questions as to who or what is happening. Finally, the distinction between Lori and Maggie is too fine. Both characters have black hair and wear plaid at one point, making easy recognition difficult.

Attack at the Greene Farmstead Barn
Adlard and Rathburn have chosen to eliminate the frames between the scenes in this panel, emphasizing the compression of time in the action sequence (everything seems to be happening all at once) and the confusion of the attack in progress. The lack of contrast and line of perspective, combined with the the fact that this is not a single scene frame makes the panel difficult to interpret without referencing other panels both before and after this one.The woman being attacked (“Daddy!”) is the same woman in the center of the frame (“No!”) and the figure on the right is not her father, but Rick Grimes!

[The curvature at the bottom right-hand corner is due to the  proximity of the  illustration to the spine and the owner’s unwilingness to break the spine for a flatter scanned image]

The artwork is better than in “Days Gone Bye,” though the ideas expressed in both volumes are often more sophisticated than the medium itself.
Other Stuff: I purchased The Walking Dead: Volume 2: Miles Behind Us from More Fun, a comic book store in Ashland, OR.
This post is part of the Murder, Monsters, Mayhem feature being hosted by Jennifer L. at http://www.jennsbookshelves.com


This book also qualifies for the What’s in Name? Challenge #4 hosted at BethFishreads. The Walking Dead: Volume 2: Miles Behind Us is an audiobook with [travel] in the title, “Walking.”

This book also qualifies for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye starts out on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia.
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