Review: The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

Review:

dispatcher

My original The Dispatcher audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

 

John Scalzi is an author that’s been in my to-read pile for a while, but I somehow have been unable to get around to reading his work. Thankfully, he and Audible teamed up to produceThe Dispatcher, an audiobook that runs a bit shy of two and a half hours, and which fit nicely into my daily commute.

Scalzi presents a world much like our own in The Dispatcher, with one crucial difference – people who are murdered or who die of unnatural causes automatically come back to life. Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher. His job is to intervene in a moment of crisis. Say somebody gets hit by a car or is about to die on the operating table. Tony’s job is to kill them in a humane fashion so they can come back to life and get another chance. There are loopholes, of course, because aren’t there always? And some of these loopholes are what drags Tony into a police investigation of another Dispatcher who has gone missing.

This premise of a world where murder is largely impossible is certainly an intriguing one, and it makes for a highly effective, attention-grabbing MacGuffin. While the mystical or theological elements undergirding the premise are inexplicable and unexplained, the effect this odd, new state of being has on the world and daily life is well rendered.

The investigation into the missing Dispatcher is well written, and poses plenty of questions, most of which the author approaches directly and satisfactorily. The real star, though, is Zachary Quinto’s narration. Although he’s best known for his roles in Star Trek and Heroes, this dude can truly and utterly perform a book reading in spectacular fashion. He inhabits the role of Valdez nicely, and demonstrates a wide range of voice talent in tackling the other characters, as well. While the story alone is great, Quinto elevates the material to the next level with his narration. As expected from Audible Studios, the sound quality and production values are top-notch.

The Dispatcher is free through Audible until Nov. 2, 2016, making this a very low-risk investment if you act fast, and one that presents wonderful returns for the price. On his blog, Scalzi noted this freebie is a thank you to his and Audible’s audience, as well as a nice enticement to draw in new readers and listeners. As someone who falls into this latter category, The Dispatcher is certainly a terrific incentive to lure me deeper into Scalzi’s backlist. I may even have to reshuffle a few commitments so I can get one or two more of his titles in before year’s end.

 

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Review: The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

Review: Ship the Kids on Ahead by Bill Stokes (Audiobook)

Review:

shipahead

Let me say at the outset that Ship the Kids on Ahead is not the typical sort of audiobook or reading material that I tend to gravitate toward, even in the realm of non-fiction. The time I’ve devoted to reading non-fiction as a whole is woefully inadequate, unfortunately, and tends to lean toward science-related topics or historical events rather than the slice-of-life minutia that Bill Stokes wrote about for the Wisconsin State Journal.

Happily, I found myself surprisingly entertained by Stokes view of small-town America circa the 1950s and ’60s. Obviously, quite a lot has changed since that era, but there are still plenty of timeless experiences that are easy to relate to, particularly in the matters of family and parenting, which is a topic that Stokes turns to fairly often. And I’m right there with him in thinking there needs to be time off work for the random occurrences of dumb days, those days that begin with a sudden breaking of a shoe lace and a small piece of shell in your eggs, portents that this will be a no-good, very bad, rotten day, one better spent in bed, perhaps reading a book.

These short stories are narrated by a handful of performers and all of them are up to the task of bringing Stokes’s words to life. RC Bray and Joe Hempel in particular were stand-outs for me, and they seemed to really connect with the material. Xe Sands, too, brought a nice feminine touch to the production for a few segments and it’s clear that I’ll have to keep an eye out for more of her work in the future.

Ship the Kids on Ahead presents the kind of columns we no longer see very much of in newspapers (at least by my estimation), and Stokes words in particular were designed to give the reader a smile or a bit of a chuckle after reading some of the more sobering stories print journalism brought to your doorstep. These are stories of daily life, of being stuck in traffic, or putting up a pegboard to hang tools from, or watering the Christmas tree and imbibing a bit too much in the process. Short, quirky, and entertaining, there is a broad appeal to the columns recorded here, and plenty to relate to.

[Note: I received a copy of this title from the publisher, Paul Stokes, in exchange for an honest review.]

 

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Review: Ship the Kids on Ahead by Bill Stokes (Audiobook)

The Shot Heard ‘Round The World – REVOLVER Audiobook Now Available

revolver-audio

Best Novella 2015 – Edward Lorn, author of Cruelty 

Named Top Short Story of 2015 by The Leighgendarium

Big news! My indie title, Revolver, is now available as an audiobook on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes!

Narrated by Patricia Santomasso, this short story clocks in at a lean 1 hour, 14 minute listen. And it’s less than $5!

Patricia has worked with a few of my conspirators co-authors from CLONES: The Anthology on narrating their individual releases, including Daniel Arthur Smith’s Hugh Howey Lives (Audible | Amazon) and RD Brady’s Hominid (Audible | Amazon), so give them a listen (or read), too!

Working with Patricia was a great experience, and she gave this story her all. Revolver is not exactly a pleasant story, and can be downright brutal and hostile, and I’m tremendously proud of Patricia’s work here, and the energy she brought into the recording studio. Right from her very first audition, I knew she was the voice of Cara Stone, and I think she’s made this story even more powerful.

Revolver will be making its way on to iTunes soon, and I’ll update this post with that information once I have a link available.

Adrian, aka BeavisTheBookhead, recently reviewed the ebook of Revolver, and had lots of kind things to say, including:

This is an angry story, one that goes straight for the jugular in a most unapologetic but engaging way. … ‘Revolver’ is a great story, bristling with tension, unflinching with its descriptions and thoughtful.

For those unfamiliar with Revolver, here’s the synopsis:

The “stunning and harrowing” short story, originally published in the anthology No Way Home, is now available as a standalone release and features an all-new foreword written by award-winning science fiction author, Lucas Bale.

Cara Stone is a broken woman: penniless, homeless, and hopeless. When given the chance to appear on television, she jumps at the opportunity to win a minimum of $5,000 for her family.

The state-run, crowdfunded series, Revolver, has been established by the nation’s moneyed elite to combat the increasing plight of class warfare.

There’s never been a Revolver contestant quite like Cara before. The corporate states of America are hungry for blood, and she promises to deliver.

By the way, if you haven’t already, now is a really good time to sign up for my newsletter. In the coming weeks, I’ll be doing a few special giveaways, and announcing the release of a brand new title that will be launching next month, so be sure to subscribe now!

 

The Shot Heard ‘Round The World – REVOLVER Audiobook Now Available

Review: The X-Files – Trust No One (Audiobook)

Review:

x-files-trust-no-one-blackstone-1000

My original The X-Files – Trust No One audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

I’ve been a fan of The X-Files since it premiered on FOX way back in 1993. I remember, quite fondly, watching the premiere with my mother and then, later, with friends as a trio of us creeped-out teens went for a walk around the neighborhood in the dark following the initial airing (and only airing on FOX) of the episode “Home.” Wandering the quiet, moonlit streets had not felt like the best of ideas so soon after meeting the Peacock family. The X-Files was one of the few shows I found myself religiously tracking on then-young America Online message boards, and then, many years later, I found myself tweeting #XFiles3 along with many other fans, begging 20th Century Fox for a third movie to wrap things up and properly celebrate the show’s twentieth anniversary. A third movie never happened, but the TV show did get a small reboot on-air, with the promise of more to come. I found myself in a rare spot for a man schooled by The X-Files and Agents Mulder and Scully, as we appeared to be recapturing the cultural zeitgeist that gave rise to the series and suddenly had new material featuring the intrepid agents in the form of comic books from IDW, a fresh batch of TV episodes, and, now, this first book in a series of anthologies – I found myself believing and trusting that The X-Files was alive once again.

Trust No One, edited by Jonathan Maberry, presents fifteen short stories from various authors, each opening up a new X-Files case that finds our intrepid FBI’s Most Unwanted chasing after, or being on the run from, paranormal activity and black-suited government agents of ill repute, some of whom leave behind the strong odor of cigarette smoke. Tim Lebbon starts the book off in strong fashion with “Catatonia,” about a group of missing teens who have returned and are catatonic. My favorite, though, was Brian Keene’s “Non Gratum Anus Rodentum,” a Skinner-centric story that involves were-rats and his history in Vietnam. Like most other anthologies, Trust No One is a mixed bag. I didn’t love every story here, but there are a number of truly worthwhile X-Files investigations that deserve exploration. Other standouts includes “Paranormal Quest” by Ray Garton and “The House on Hickory Hill” by Max Allan Collins, a pair of haunted house stories with a welcome twist in each. Kevin J. Anderson, who wrote a number of The X-Files books back in the day, is a welcome and familiar voice to the anthology with his story “Statues.”

Tackling these stories are narrators Bronson Pinchot and Hillary Huber, whose duties are divided between Mulder’s and Scully’s points-of-view. Pinchot carries the bulk of this book’s fifteen-plus hours run-time, but the two narrators occasionally work together on a single story that shifts between Mulder and Scully, and Huber narrates the handful of Scully-centric stories solo. Both Pinchot and Huber deliver a solid enough narration, with Pinchot showing a dynamic range in character voices and regional accents. And while Pinchot handles Mulder’s deadpan dialogue well enough, it does take some time getting used to new, different actors inhabiting the roles that Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny, and supporting cast members like Mitch Pillegi and William B. Davis, have made so iconic and familiar. On the production end of things, I have no complaints. The sound quality is fine, and the audio is crisp and clean, making for an easy listen.

Trust No One may not completely capture the glory days of The X-Files, but it does provide a number of intriguing avenues for investigation. The best stories here were a delightful reminder of why I fell in love with this series and these characters way back when, and perfectly capture the tone of the series, balancing the agents’ quirkiness and skepticism, and humor and horror. Those stories alone make this worth the price of entry.

 

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Review: The X-Files – Trust No One (Audiobook)

Review: The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent by Larry Correia

Review:

stranger

My original The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

While listening to The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent, one word kept popping into my head – ridiculous. Although this audiobook is billed as a comedy, ‘ridiculous’ is not necessarily a compliment.  Comedy, you see, is largely subjective. I’ll take George Carlin over Adam Sandler any day of the week, and, unfortunately, this Audible Original was a lot like mainlining a Sandler production – it’s ridiculous, but not in a good way.

Tom Stranger is an insurance agent for the multiverse. He’s been mistakenly paired with a yuckster of an intern who reminded me of Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, and who has a pathetic GPA in his Gender Studies degree track (this, by the way, is an example of one of the running gags that The Adventures of Tom Stranger has to offer). Stranger voyages across multiple Earth’s in search of his proper intern, squaring off against his rival, the insurance agent Jeff Conundrum. Along the way, there’s a few dashes of Chuck Norris hero-worship, purple people eaters who harvest men’s scrotums, and a meta guest-appearance by the author Larry Correia, who finds himself in need of rescuing by the ubiquitous, bow-tie loving insurance agent.

Correia sets the tone immediately in the opening chapter, which involves Adam Baldwin, President of the United States and celebrated star of the long-running Firefly, grappling with a global crises as the scrotum-collecting purple people eater’s devour Europe. A deranged, loud-mouthed Secretary of Defense loses it over a computer glitch, shoots the computer, and then acts like a massive buffoon while drawing stick figures of the alien creatures gathering their victims genitals. Along the way, we get some dated humor about Windows Operating Systems and John Tesh. The rest of the book follows a similar path for the next two hours, with much of the humor focused on hitting cheap, easy marks like Today’s Youth, Telemarketers, Obama, and Occupy Protestors. Although the setting and premise are most certainly unique, none of the jokes are particularly original or funny.

Narrating Tom Stranger is not-President Adam Baldwin, from the short-lived TV series Firefly. Although the story itself didn’t do much for me, Baldwin’s narration is pretty good and he’s clearly having a fun time hamming it up with the material. He delivers a pretty broad range of character voices here, from the overly-aggressive Secretary of Defense to the level-headed Stranger, with dashes of milquetoast in between. He also does a damn effective manatee. On the production quality end of things, the sound is crisp and clean, and on par with the handful of other Audible Originals; in this regard, it’s as excellent as I expected.

Audible is currently offering The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent for free until June 21, 2016. Not a bad deal to hear Adam Baldwin imitate a manatee.

[Audiobook provided for review by the audiobookreviewer.com]

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Review: The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent by Larry Correia

Review: Alien: Out of the Shadows by Tim Lebbon and Dirk Maggs (Audiobook)

alien-out of the shadows audiobook

My original Alien: Out of the Shadows audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

In 2014, Titan Books released the first in a new series of books set in the Alien film franchise under the supervision of the movie studio 20th Century Fox. These novels are considered part of the film canon and help expand and flesh out the movie universe, and they launched with Tim Lebbon’s Alien: Out of the Shadows, set between the first two movies and featuring the series’ heroine, Lt. Ellen Ripley.

Following the destruction of the Nostromo in the first Alien movie, Ripley put herself into hypersleep and drifted through space. Movie buffs know that 57 years passed between Alien and Aliens, but Lebbon has crafted a nicely fitting story that slots itself directly into the middle of this time gap. In Out of the Shadows, the damaged mining vessel Marion picks up a distress call from Ripley’s lifeboat, while the crew contends with the discovery of a vicious life-form on the planet LV-178. It’s not long before Ripley is pressed back into action, haunted by the events aboard the Nostromo, and hellbent on saving the crew of the Marion.

Buy Alien: Out of the Shadows At Amazon

Review: Alien: Out of the Shadows by Tim Lebbon and Dirk Maggs (Audiobook)

Review: Zero Lives Remaining by Adam Cesare (Audiobook)

Review:

zero lives

At little more than 2 1/2 hours, Zero Lives Remaining is a fun, punchy listen chock full of B-movie horror thrills.

Adam Cesare’s latest plays with the haunted house trope, placing a group of teenagers in an arcade where a ghost haunts the video game cabinets and everyone’s lives are in danger. The ghost in the machine runs rampant along the arcade’s electrical wiring, snaring its victims in ectoplasmic tendrils and dispatching the trapped teens one by one. Given its short run-time, the focus here is on the action with the characters only subtly shaded in but not deeply enough to get too attached to. There’s the teenage gaming queen, the schoolyard bully who isn’t quite sure how to express his affection for her, the arcade’s maintenance man who suffered a stroke that ended his gaming hobby but whose work allows him to still feel connected, and a handful of others that serve largely as bloody fodder.

There’s a fun superficiality to the nostalgia-driven proceedings (Centipede and Ms. Pac-Man get plenty of shout-outs), but I never felt terribly connected to the cast even as many of them met their gruesome fates in varied and interesting ways. The creators of Mortal Kombat may want to get Cesare on the line for “fatality” suggestions, as he presents some strong finishing moves against his beleaguered teens. I may never look at a claw arcade game quite the same way again.

Joe Hempel’s narration is solid, and he gives his character voices are distinct enough to help separate dialogue during all the calamity. He has a straight-forward, somewhat airy, presentation style that brings a sense of fun and whimsy to the listening experience, and the production quality is perfect.

Ultimately, Zero Lives Remaining is an enjoyable way to kill a couple hours if you’re in the mood for bloody mayhem set against the intriguing background of a video game arcade palace.

(Note: Audiobook was provided for review by the narrator.)

 

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Review: Zero Lives Remaining by Adam Cesare (Audiobook)