Tag Archive: blackstone audio


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“Peter Pan”
by J. M. Barrie
read by Christopher Cazenove
Published by Blackstone Audio
Approx. 5 hours

It’s time once again to visit a classic, this time a children’s classic, “Peter Pan.” I had thought I had read “Peter Pan” before, but I must have been wrong, or maybe read a cleaned up/Disneyfied version. I know the Disney film version was definitely made more fun for the kids and all the versions on television were fun (remember Sandy Duncan as Peter?). Don’t get me wrong, the original is the way to go and the story really should be read by all, but maybe wait until the teen years before reading this dark story about a boy that never grows up.

The gist of the story seems to always be there in the retelling of the story. Peter Pan sneaks into the Darling family home and in his hasty retreat leaves his shadow behind. Returning to retrieve the shadow he finds the shadow to not want to remain attached to Peter. Wailing in sorrow, Peter wakes Wendy, the oldest of the Darling children. Wendy proceeds to help Peter by sewing on his shadow. Peter is smitten by Wendy and tells her of Neverland where children never have to grow up. He brings Wendy back with him, despite some stern protestations from Tinker Bell, a fairy who seems to be in love with Peter. Tinker Bell becomes insanely jealous and proceeds to make Wendy’s life difficult. Wendy’s arrival at Neverland brings her to her new role in life, that as a mother the Peter’s “Lost Boys.” She makes the boys more responsible and soon falls into the role of mother and as time goes by she and her brothers begin to forget about their home.

Peter wants them to forget so they may stay forever with him. But soon Wendy breaks out of her stupor and begins to remember her life before and tries to return home, but is captured by Captain Hook, the pirate leader who is always out to kill Peter.

The darkness in the story dwells within the characters of Peter, Tinker Bell and Captain Hook. Peter is a knowing kidnapper of Wendy and the boys and will not let them escape. Tinker Bell is insanely jealous and nips at Wendy every chance she gets. Finally there’s Captain Hook, who lost his hand to a crocodile. Hook doesn’t merely want to capture the Lost Boys, he wants to kill them, and he wants to keep the young Wendy as his bride. Very dark and mature story matter here that makes revisiting the classic worthwhile.

In this audiobook version published by Blackstone Audio, the reader, Christopher Cazenove, does a smash up job creating voices for all the wily characters in the story while reading with just enough vigor to never allow the listener to get bored.

Grab this classic and be prepared to remember the fun while being surprised at some of the darker sides of the story you may have missed.

Best-Horror-of-the-Year

Audiobook review “The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 4”

Edited by Ellen Datlow

Read by Various Readers

Published by Blackstone Audio

Approx. 17 hours

Always the fan of horror and always the fan of short stories this book was a must read for me. When I saw the title, “The Best Horror of the Year…” my first question was what year? Seeing that the hardcover version was published in 2012, I looked further and discovered this was the best of 2011. Being a bit cynical I thought, we’ll have to see about that.

Well, the cynicism went away right at the first story. Each story in this collection represented a different point in the horror genre of fiction from mysterious faith-healers to monsters that live underground and sense vibrations of their prey to two spies trying to capture a Lovecraftian villain and more. This collection will introduce you to some new horror story telling and allow you to revisit some of your favorite storytellers.

Each story was read by a different narrator creating the fun from each of their own vocal talents. The editors matched perfectly each story to a different voice, not only allowing the difference from a male or female point of view, but also the tone of the stories match the vocal tones of the readers. The narrators includes Lindy Nettleton, Charles Carroll, Shaun Grindell, Angela Brazil, and Fred Sullivan

I will briefly describe a few of my favorite stories from this collection, in no particular order.

“The Little Green God of Agony,” by Stephen King opens the book with a story of a rich man seeking to live forever, pain-free without the grueling physical rehab. Hearing of a faith healer that has a history of positive results the man uses his influences to bring in the faith-healer, not all of the man’s staff hold the same faith. He summons the Rev. Rideout to his bedside. Rideout is no mere faith healer. He doesn’t heal, “I expel.” He casts out the demon god that feeds on hurt.

“Blackwood’s Baby,” takes place in rural Washington state, This story tracks a 1930s expedition of diverse hunters seeking a beast of legend more dangerous than any of them anticipate.

In John Langan’s “In Paris, in the Mouth of Kronos,” two government agents try to prove themselves when they’re hired to grab a “Mr. White,” who may not be a human. Mixing spy thriller with a touch of Lovecraft this story has a great creepiness factor.

“The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine” by Peter Straub is a bit of a surreal journey down a river on a luxury yacht where Ballard and Sandrine could live comfortably as long as they don’t ask questions. But as is human nature the couple investigate their surroundings if only to find where their food comes from. Everytime they gain new information it seems to be lost, forgotten or clouded by the next interlude.

“The Moraine” has a feuding couple lost on a mountain in a whiteout fog with a monster. The monster in this story mixes the monsters from “Tremors,” “The Ruins” and “The Mist.” This is a good old-fashioned monster story that could have been a drive-in movie theater hit if made into a movie.

In my favorite story out of the group, A.C. Wise’s “Final Girl Theory,” “‘Kaleidoscope’ isn’t a movie, it’s an infection, whispered from mouth to mouth in the dark.” A cult movie is the basis for an underground following that leads one fan to seek out the leading lady in the film.

A great collection of different horror stories with a great collection of narrators makes this audiobook one to grab.

 

Audiobook Review: “Dreams of Terror and Death: The Dream Cycle of H. P. Lovecraft”lovecraftterror
by H. P. Lovecraft
Read by Robertson Dean, Simon Vance, Sean Runnette, Elijah Alexander, Stefan Rudnicki, Bronson Pinchot, Simon Prebble, Tom Weiner, Malcolm Hillgartner, Patrick Cullen
Published by Blackstone Audio
Approx. 20 hours

I probably have to turn in my horror fiction fan card on this next statement, but, I’m on the fence when it comes to H.P. Lovecraft. While I do love the visual images created by his writings, there is one feature I just absolutely abhor. First though, I have to say the rhythm, choice of words and dark settings of his stories are enough to suck any horror fan into his nightmares. My problem is that most items of horror are usually described as either “indescribable” or “more than the human mind can describe.” I have always felt that any good writer can describe anything, so why does Lovecraft come up short of words on the darkest parts of the horrors in his stories? Is it because he knows the mind is capable of filling in the blanks? When I read these see these moments in a Lovecraft story, I groan because I wish he could have put more detail in that picture. But, then again, his is one of the writers that forged horror-fiction so all can be forgiven.

This volume collects, for the first time, the entire Dream Cycle created by H. P. Lovecraft. These stories. In many of these tales, Lovecraft leads the reader to believe that dreams are where truth actually lies as opposed to reality where it is often thought to be. He believes dreams are things “whose vaguely exciting and disquieting effect suggests possible minute glimpses into a sphere of mental existence no less important than physical life yet separated from that life by an all but impassable barrier.” And most of the characters herein try to tear down that barrier.

The use of different readers for each story in this audiobook collection keeps the book interesting and keeps the listener paying attention. Not any single reader is misplaced and all are able to keep the true feeling of Lovecraft in the darkest parts of the stories. Stefan Rudnicki is the one that stands out the most for me, his smooth deep voice just captivates and never lets go even long after the story is done.

This collection covers the Dream Cycle and is a bunch of short stories, unfinished stories, correspondence between Lovecraft and others and some general ideas jotted down for future use. I will try to summarize briefly all of the tales within, but your best bet is to listen to this great audio collection, especially if you are a Lovecraft fan already.

Azathoth” – The modern world has been stripped of imagination and belief in magic. The protagonist is an unnamed man who lives in a dull and ugly city. Every night for many years the man gazes from his window upon the stars, until he comes over time to observe secret vistas unsuspected by normal humanity. One night the gulf between his world and the stars is bridged, and his mind ascends from his body out unto the boundless cosmos.

The Descendant” – This story is a fragment that seems to really go nowhere but it it great to hear the story read aloud.

The Thing in the Moonlight” – Based on a letter from H. P. Lovecraft to Donald Wandrei, dated November 24, 1927. this story describes a dream that Lovecraft had.

Polaris” – The narrator becomes convinced that this life is not real but a dream from which he cannot awaken.

Beyond the Wall of Sleep” – An inventor has created an electronic telepathic device in which he uses to go into the mind of a dying man. This one intrigued me most because the band “Black Sabbath” wrote a song based on this story.

The Doom That Came to Sarnath” – Hate, genocide, and a deadly curse consume the land of Mnar.

The Statement of Randolph Carter” – Carter attempts to describe the disappearance of his partner, Warren, into a crypt.

The Cats of Ulthar” – In Ulthar, no man may kill a cat . . . and woe unto any who tries.

Celephais” – Celephaïs was created in a dream by Kuranes as a child of the English landed gentry. As a man he dreams it again and then, seeking it, slowly slips away to the dream-world.

From Beyond” – A scientist named Crawford Tillinghast. Tillinghast creates an electronic device that emits a resonance wave, which stimulates an affected person’s pineal gland, thereby allowing them to perceive planes of existence outside the scope of accepted reality.

Nyarlathotep” – A strange and inexplicable sense of foreboding experienced by humanity in general, in anticipation of a great unknown evil.

The Nameless City” – Death lies beneath the shifting sands, in a story linking the Dream Cycle with the legendary Cthulhu Mythos.

The Other Gods” – A high priest and prophet greatly learned in the lore of the “gods of earth”, or Great Ones, attempts to scale the mountain of Hatheg-Kla in order to look upon their faces, accompanied by his young disciple Atal. Upon reaching the peak, Barzai at first seems overjoyed until he finds that the “gods of the earth” are not there alone.

Ex Oblivione” – The dreams of a presumably dying man. In his dreams, the man is walking through a valley and encounters a vine-covered wall with a locked bronze gate therein. He longs to know what lies beyond the gate.

The Quest of Iranon” – a golden-haired youth who wanders into the city of Teloth, telling tales of the great city of Aira, where he was prince. While Iranon enjoys singing and telling his tales of wonder, few appreciate it.

The Hound” – The narrator and his friend St. John, who have a deranged interest in robbing graves. They constantly defile crypts and often keep souvenirs of their nocturnal expeditions. Since they reside in the same house, they have the opportunity to set up a sort of morbid museum in their basement. Using the objects they collect from the various graves they have robbed, they organize the private exhibition. The collection consists of headstones, preserved bodies, skulls and several heads in different phases of decomposition. It also included statues, frightful paintings and a locked portfolio, bound in tanned human skin (the Necronomicon).

Hypnos” – The narrator, a sculptor, recounts meeting a mysterious man in a railway station. The moment the man opened his “immense, sunken and widely luminous eyes”, the narrator knew that the stranger would become his friend-–”the only friend of one who had never possessed a friend before”. In the eyes of the stranger he saw the knowledge of the mysteries he always sought to learn.

What the Moon Brings” – The narrator wanders through his garden one night and in the moonlight sees strange and bizarre things.

Pickman’s Model” – A Bostonian painter named Richard Upton Pickman who creates horrifying images. His works are brilliantly executed, but so graphic that they result in his membership in the Boston Art Club being revoked and himself shunned by his fellow artists.

The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath” – The epic nightmare adventure with tendrils stretching throughout the entire Dream Cycle.

The Silver Key” – Randolph Carter discovers, at the age of 30, that he has gradually “lost the key to the gate of dreams.” Randolph once believed life is made up of nothing but pictures in memory, whether they be from real life or dreams, and he highly prefers his romantic nightly dreams of fantastic places and beings, as an antidote for the “prosiness of life.”

The Strange High House in the Mist” – Thomas Olney, a “philosopher” visiting the town of Kingsport, Massachusetts with his family, is intrigued by a strange house on a cliff overlooking the ocean. It is unaccountably high and old and the locals have a generations-long dread of the place which no one is known to have visited

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” – Charles Dexter Ward, who in 1918 becomes embroiled in the past, due to his fascination with the history of his wizard ancestor, Joseph Curwen (who had left Salem for Providence in 1692, and acquired notoriety for his haunting of graveyards, his apparent lack of aging, and his chemical experiments). Ward physically resembles Curwen, and attempts to duplicate his ancestor’s Qabalistic and alchemical feats, eventually locating Curwen’s remains and by means of his “essential Saltes”, resurrecting him.

The Dreams in the Witch-House” – Walter Gilman, a student of mathematics and folklore at Miskatonic University, takes a room in the Witch House, a house in Arkham thought to be accursed.

Through the Gates of the Silver Key” – At a gathering to decide the fate of Randolph Carter’s estate which has been held in trust since his disappearance the mysterious Swami Chandraputra, who wears curious mittens and enveloping robes, tells Carter’s acquaintances of his ultimate fate.

While some are only partial stories, they all come together to further the dark and foreboding universe that houses Randolph Carter, Miskatonic University, the Necronomicon and Cthulu.

 

all u zombies

Audiobook review “All You Zombies—” Five Classic Stories
By Robert A. Heinlein
Read by Spider Robinson
Published by Blackstone Audio, Inc.
3.2hours

Every so often I pick up a book by an author, and am forced to ask myself, “Why haven’t I read his stuff before now?” This has been the case for Robert A. Heinlein. I’ve always considered myself a Science-Fiction fan ever since I could consider myself a fan of anything. But for some reason I find myself as an adult just now discovering Heinlein, only within the last five years or so reading the stories from this classic sci-fi author. Better late than never.

Most of what I’ve read by Heinlein have been short stories that were aimed at the young adult reader. I have yet to tackle his major works such as; “Starship Troopers,” or “Stranger in a Strange Land,” but they are on my list. This collection of short stories looked to be very entertaining and when I saw they were read by another science-fiction author, Spider Robinson, I was intrigued. I thought it would be very interesting to hear how one sci-fi author interprets another’s work. Robinson not only did a great job bringing these stories to life through his narration, but he was also able to do some vocal acting bringing some of the characters to life. His voice was very pleasant to hear and kept me listening throughout the collection.

The five stories in this collection are:

The title story, “All You Zombies – “ tells of a time traveling bartender who creates one of the biggest time paradoxes ever conceived. The synopsis of this story weaves in and out and around itself so much that there is not one single section that doesn’t give away the surprise ending. It all starts with a bartender and a patron trying to outdo each other with the most unusual origin story, but they seem to be telling the same story. Recently a movie has been released titled, “Predestination,” which is supposed to be based on this story. I’m not sure how this could be portrayed in a movie, but just to see the story unfold on the big screen has me curious enough to go see this oddity.

The next story in the collection is “The Man Who Traveled in Elephants.” The title was out their for me that I kept seeing that scene from “Ace Ventura; Pet Detective,” where Jim Carrey emerges from inside a fake rhinoceros. But alas, that was not the case. Basically this title is from the vernacular of the time where traveling salesmen were identified by what they were selling, for example; if a salesman was selling Fuller brushes he would be known to be traveling in Fuller brushes. So, the man in this story is a traveling salesman selling elephants. That still is an odd thing to do. His wife and he were a couple who traveled in elephants before she died and he continued the business after she died. One day the man is traveling to the next city to sell elephants to a circus but after a bus accident finds himself along with the other passengers on a beautiful side venture that leads to one of the most happy endings I’ve seen, read or heard since the movie, “What Dreams May Come.”

Story number three is, “They.” The story is told from the point of view of a patient in a mental institution who seems to suffer from the solipsism, but not quite, he doesn’t think he’s the ONLY being in existence but one of the few who are real and that the other real entities have created the rest of the universe in a conspiracy to deceive him. With the perfect Heinlein twist, this story may have the reader/listener questioning reality.

Story number four is a humorous story about a parking attendant named “Pappy” who has a pet sentient whirlwind named Kitten. With the help of Pete, a reporter, all three team up to try and take down the corrupt city government.

Finally, to round out this collection is “ – And He Built a Crooked House.” This story is a nice short adventure through the fourth dimension which starts with a genius architect who, while studying a tesseract, an type of cubic prism, decides he could build a house with the same parameters that would have more room on the inside than appears on the outside. The problem is that the house cannot exist as such in a three dimensional world, so he has to unfold it to build it into a three dimensional world. His unfolded tesseract home is finished and on the day he goes to show the home to his friend an earthquake occurs throwing sections of the home into another dimension. The architect, the friend and the friends wife then go on an adventure trying to find all the rooms of the house and when another earthquake occurs they find themselves on an alien landscape. How will they ever make it back to Earth?

Some great sci-fi stories from a sci-fi master. I can’t wait to read or hear more.

 

 

steppinrazor

Audiobook Review:“Steppin’ Razor, the Life of Peter Tosh”
By John Masouri
Read by Cary Hite
Produced by Buck 50 Productions
Published by Blackstone Audio23.8 hours

I have been reading and listening to a slew of musician biographies and autobiographies lately and have been learning a lot about my favorite bands and musicians. This time around I listened to the audiobook version of “Steppin’ Razor…” I had heard of Peter Tosh as an original member of The Wailers and loved his version of “Don’t Look Back” with Mick Jagger, but that was pretty much the extent of my knowledge of who, thanks to this book have come to know as the militant mystic man of Reggae.

John Masouri has taken various accounts of the life of Peter Tosh told by those that knew him, such as fellow musicians, friends and family members. He also takes various accounts and anecdotes from music columnists, reviewers and professionals from all aspects of music. What comes about is a detailed, non-biased account of the life of Peter Tosh. How you view Tosh, whether being a militant Reggae music representative or a peaceful purveyor of the legalization of marijuana depends on what section of the book you are reading at the time. Tosh was a multi-layered man that had many deep seated beliefs in his religious views and in human rights and his music was a direct reflection of those beliefs.

As a founding member of “The Wailers,” Peter Tosh, a self taught guitarist, he inspired the other members to pick up instruments and learn to play. Bob Marley had the voice but later, thanks to Tosh, learned to play guitar and make The Wailers the successful reggae music diplomats they are known as. Tosh’s leaving The Wailers has been attributed to his attitude toward the band’s representation of Rastafari, the religion of many reggae stars, to his change of personality after a car wreck in which he was severely injured and his girlfriend was killed. This book presents all sides of the Tosh’s departure from the Wailers and allows for the reader/listener to draw his own conclusions.

The book also follows how Tosh’s fame received a boost by recording the Temptations’ song, “Don’t Look Back,” with Mick Jagger. Tosh seemed be be the Reggae artist which the Rolling Stones wanted to take under their wing and expose the world to the island music. Eric Clapton had recorded Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” and brought a little exposure, but Mick and Kieth (Richards) of the Rolling Stones fell in love with Reggae, especially Peter Tosh, and thought the genre deserved world attention. The problem is that Tosh had firm beliefs in the Rastafari religion that would sometimes stand in the way of his fame.

Whether it is lighting up his spliff’s live onstage or on an airline flight from the United States, Peter Tosh was a major diplomat in the representation of legalizing “the herb.” One of his many stances which is referred to is his schpiel on the stage of the “One Love Peace Concert” in 1978, in which he lambasts the Jamaican authorities on the lack of action in the legalization of marijuana. This lead to his being arrested and beaten severely by Jamaican authorities a week later.

Peter Tosh led a very controversial life whether being militant about human rights, pushing the legalization of marijuana, or just bringing to the public the genre of Reggae music. This book covers all of the controversy surrounding Tosh and allows for the reader/listener to draw their own conclusions.

This audiobook was full of information and presented in a non-biased manner that made me want to discover more about Peter Tosh and Reggae in general. I do have one problem with the book and that is with the narrator, Cari Hite. Hite was able to represent all of the Jamaican subjects of the book by reading in different voices, and applying a Jamaican accent. This made the book easy to understand where the anecdote was coming from. The problem lies in that as the book progresses and other accents are needed he tries to read their voices in their accents. Most of the non-Jamaican accents are very stereotypical, especially those of the female voices. It made those segments very difficult to hear. Several times I wanted to just stop listening to the audiobook because it was discordant to the information presented. Had I not been interested in the subject matter I would have stopped listening several times in the book. Especially when famous music columnist, Lester Bangs’, segment was read with a Jamaican accent. Lester is far from Jamaican.

I highly recommend this book, but not the audiobook format.

Catch-a-Fire-2811773

“Catch A Fire: The Life of Bob Marley”

By Timothy White

Read by Peter Macon

Published by Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Length 17.0 hrs

 

 

All my life I’ve been fascinated with music, I’ve never been able to play an instrument but have loved listening to music.  I listen, enjoy and appreciate all genres of music, some genres I just appreciate for what they are trying to do, but I get it.   I never had the patience to learn an instrument but I could play a record, 8-track, cassette or CD so I went into a broadcasting career.

 

One thing I have noticed is that not only does it take a lot of patience but there is something else that makes a star a star.  I read a lot of musician biographies and many times that something is passed down from generations of musicians.  So with great genes comes great talent.  Well not always.  This biography of Bob Marley demonstrates that while Marley had the talent for music, he also had a very unique spiritual background that led to his music breaking boundaries and pushing a new form of music, Reggae, into the mainstream.

 

I was actually surprised by the content of this audiobook in that it offered much more than just a history of Bob Marley and his music.  Timothy White created a whole feel for the whys and wherefores of Marley, Jamaica and Reggae music.  In this book the listener gets a bit of a rounded education in religion with the history of Rastafarianism.  While I had heard of Rastafarianism (what Bob Marley fan hasn’t?) I had never heard of it’s origins until this book.  White covers the history of this religion all the way back to King Solomon.  I was intrigued by all the rich history this religion absorbs.

 

Continuing the education created by Timothy White, the listener gets a lesson in the history of Jamaica and the development of the island’s politics and scandals.  Along with this history the history of the music scene of Jamaica is covered in depth and how Reggae came about.  Of course, the meat of this book is the life of Bob Marley but all these histories explain in detail how Marley was influenced not only musically but spiritually and politically as well.  This explains how Marley is able to influence many generations of music fans for years to come.

 

The reader of this book was outstanding.  Peter Macon was able to bring this biography to full-color audio life with his vocal skills.  Talking in Jamaican, British or African accents Macon made this book come to life and with his rich deep voice for the normal narration made this book an easy listen.

“Invisible Monsters (Remix)”
by Chuck Palahniuk
Read by Chuck Palahniuk, Anna Fields and Paul Michael Garcia
Published by Blackstone Audio
Approx 7 hours.

Not only does Chuck Palahniuk deliver with yet another twisted tale, but this time around the story gets told HIS way. I first became a fan of Palahniuk, as did many others, when the movie “Fight Club” was released and with the non-linear story in that movie that I had loved before, I knew I had to investigate this author. Looking for the time to read every book I want to read turns out to be a bit tougher than I want. I have been wanting to read every single Chuck Palahnuik book and I’ve put a pretty good dent into his works. This book “Invisible Monsters” has been on my list for a while but I just never got around to it. Finally I got the opportunity to review this book when Blackstone Audio released the Remix and sent me a copy. I was anxious to get on with this book and even more so when I found out that this version is basically a “director’s cut” of the original novel. This “remix” contains new material and even adds a bit of extra adventure in reading that Chuck originally wanted in the novel.

One thing to keep in mind is that Chuck Palahniuk is the master of non-linear storytelling. If you are not familiar with this type of story, whether you are reading or listening, It seems to jump around from the past to now in the storyline and by the time you get to the end you get this big “Ah-Ha!” moment where it all makes sense. (Also you get those moments throughout the story.) I’m a fan of this type of story telling, because usually the story is not predictable.

In the introduction to this story, Palahniuk, discusses how he originally wanted to release the novel where it was nearly a never-ending story with the chance to either continue reading to the next chapter or to jump ahead or back to a chapter creating a different story with the same ending. That’s what the “Remix” is all about. Jumping to the various chapters in the book. In this new version, in hardcover form, Chuck mixes up the order of the original text and intersperses it with a series of reminiscences, commentaries and mental challenges to the reader. Some chapters are printed in reverse, so that the reader must hold them up to a mirror in order to read them. Each chapter ends with an instruction to “jump” to a new chapter. These “jump to chapter” instructions create four internal loops within the book:

Loop 1 is the original text. By following the “jump to” instructions, the reader can track the story as originally published.
Loop 2 consists of three chapters of reminiscences describing the process that led to the writing of the book.
Loop 3 consists of three chapters of commentary directed to the reader.
Loop 4 consists of four chapters providing further insights into the mind of the main character, Daisy St. Patience.

The audio version is presented in the same order as the print version. Listeners can experience the book as printed and discover new material and insights as they go, or they can follow the “jump to” instructions by creating their own “playlists.” Here is where I have my complaint. I received the audio CD version and when jumping around I would have to change the CD, for example the instructions would tell the listener to jump to disc 6 track twelve after listening to the first chapter on disc one. This would work nice If I had had the digital audio version and could make a playlist on my iPod, but driving and changing discs mad for, at times, a very frustrating process. This idea works great for the hardcover and digital audio (it comes with a pdf file giving the track number order for the various loops) but for the CD version it makes listening difficult. In fact, if the story weren’t so fascinating and original I might have stopped listening.

Other than the CD shuffle frustration, the audiobook is superb. Anna Fields does the reading of the main story loop, and her ability do the vocal gymnastics to perform each character is perfect. Without giving away some spoilers, I will say that when you find out more about each character the listener will realize that Anna offers up some hints in her vocal work that give you some more “Ah-Ha” moments. She is simply awesome in the delivery of this book.

Okay, so how do you sum up a book that starts at the end and ends in the middle without giving away spoilers? I may accidentally give some spoilers so if you don’t want to read them, I suggest you just take my word for it and pick up this super-fun transgendered road-trip novel and have fun.

That being said, I think I can sum up the gist of the story by saying the story is about a model that has lost her face and decides to take a road trip with two companions as one tries to find her sister and one is in love with another and all are damaged goods. Shannon is the model but when she runs into Brandy Alexander, her life becomes a mystery and at the same time unravels the mysteries of the three companions on their road-trip through parts of Canada and Northwest U.S.

Palahniuk mixes family pressures, homophobes, transgender persons, models and undercover cops into a satire of the beauty and fashion on a mystery road trip that will surprise you with every chapter.

“Immortality, Inc.”
by Robert Sheckley
read by Bronson Pinchot
published by Blackstone Audio (2011)
Approx 6 hours.

Okay first of all I want to apologize for the time between reviews, this time around I have picked 2 long audiobooks and one extremely long printed book. But soon I’ll be back on track. They have all been worth it, especially squeezing in this 6 hour fun journey into the future.

I knew this was the right book to be listening to, right now, because of the subject matter and the side stories created. First of all this book is a nice piece of classic science-fiction that involves time travel and immortality. So right there you know this is going to be interesting. But the book also involves ghosts, spirits, the afterworld, hauntings, and zombies. The cool part of this was that, of the other books I was reading or hearing at the time, one was a zombie book, one was a time travel book and then there’s this one. As for the ghosts, well, in case you didn’t know it I’m also a paranormal investigator with a local group (on facebook http://www.facebook.com/psiofi ) and one of the side ventures I was doing that may have helped to delay this book was a little ghost hunting on the side, so all the subjects covered in this were fitting in with all my other projects.

“Immortality, Inc.” was first published in 1959 and gave a bit of a grim look at humanity’s future. Sheckley’s unsettling vision of the future is told in a bit of a witty sort of way so as not to be one of those depressing dystopian novels, like “1984” or “A Brave New World,” I loved those books, but every time I read them I get just a bit depressed. This book however had some fun moments. In fact there is one moment in the book that is so humorous it was represented in the animated series “Futurama.” The moment is when the main character, Tom Blaine, finds himself transplanted from the year 1958 to the year 2110 and in trying to escape the hustle and bustle of the city of the future, finds himself in line for a suicide booth.

This story was said to be the basis of the 1992 film “Freejack,” starring Emilio Esteves and Mick Jagger. But from what I remember of the film, Hollywood took some creative license and mucked around with the story quite a bit. I’m going to have to rent that again and compare sometime soon.

Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this intriguing and thought provoking sci-fi piece of art, I need to first talk about the reader. Bronson Pinchot is the reader, and after listening to the whole book, I have to say he does a superb job. I will admit that starting out the story I was worried because he seemed to be delivering the story in a very dry manner, but looking back that worked for the intro. As the story progressed and the characters started making their appearance, Pinchot shined. His ability to create voices for the separate characters was stunning. In some cases it was quite comical and worked perfectly with the humor written into the story. My favorite was his representation of a sleazy “transplant” street seller. Transplant is the ability to place your mind into any other body (and it doesn’t necessarily have to be human) and the salesman was like the combination of a pimp and one of those old trench coat wearing counterfeit watch sellers, and the picture i got while he voiced the guy almost made me feel slimy listening. Bravo!

So, what’s this story about anyway? Well, Tom Blaine dies in a car crash in 1958 only to wake up alive in the year 2011. The Rex Corporation has taken Tom’s essence, soul, spirit from the past and put it into a “donated” body. The breakthrough of time travel is not new, but this form of transplanting the soul through time is new. They plan on using Tom as their poster-child for the process, until they learn the Government won’t allow this process. So they shut down all the plans to use Tom. He is released from Rex Corporation and goes out to explore the world in his new body. Maria Thorn, a representative from Rex Corporation soon rescues Tom from a body snatcher and helps him to properly view life. Body Snatchers take young healthy bodies (people) and kill them to allow the older rich people to reincarnate into them.

The rich can do this legally but the illegal bodies are usually healthier and easier to come by. In fact, one of the doctors that brought Blaine over to 2110, is about to be reincarnated into a young body, but something goes wrong and the doctor is pushed out in the process by another spirit. The other spirit takes too much time acquiring the new body and becomes what is known in the year 2110 as a zombie. A zombie is a spirit that inhabits a body but the body is still dead and decaying fast.

This zombie soon starts following Tom around, because he has some tie to Tom but cannot fulfill his mission until he remembers what that is. The zombie population help Tom escape when Tom is placed on a wanted list, but the threat of the one zombie still lingers.

Tom is soon hunted down and after receiving conditioning to be able to make the journey into the afterlife, by being gifted with hereafter insurance, the Rex Corporation wants to kill him to cover up their crime of saving a soul without prior written consent. Tom then has to travel the world to escape the hunting squads and to find what the purpose of the zombie’s constant companionship.

A story about man’s future and how even after finding there is an afterlife, humanity finds a way to ruin that. Some funny moments and even some nice thrilling moments. This should be added to any true sci-fi fan’s library.

“The Ringworld Throne”
by Larry Niven
read by Paul Michael Garcia
Produced by Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Approx 14 hours

I’m not sure what it is but with sci-fi book series there seems to be a hit and miss for each book. The first book in the series seems to always be a hit (I guess otherwise there wouldn’t be sequels) but the next books can range from being as good as the original, sometimes better, or sometimes worse. With the “Dune” series, the sequels and prequels were hit and miss but always had something to contribute to the collection. I think the same could be said about this “Ringworld” series. The first book, “Ringworld,” was phenomenal, especially in the creation of the Ringworld and the physics involved. What also made the first book so good was the mystery behind who created the ringworld and why. Now that I have just read this 3rd book in the series, I think since the mystery of who created the ringworld has been answered it lacks some of that air of mystery. Now the struggles to keep the ringworld alive seem trivial. But nonetheless, this book contains some nice sci-fi and was a nice addition to the series.

I will have to say one of the things that kept this audiobook so enjoyable, was the voicework of Paul Michael Garcia. Garcia did an excellent job of narrating the story, but the best was his ability to give a voice to the vast array of characters representing several different homonid and non-homonid races. At times I almost felt as though I was listening to a multicast performance. His ability to adjust his voice to not only clarify the different characters speaking or thinking but to also represent the sound of the alien species was phenomenal and made the listen a lot more fun.
This is the third book in the series and takes place just a few years after the events in “Ringworld Engineers.” The ringworld has been restabilized after Louis Wu uses a gas expulsion from the sun to knock the ringworld back into proper orbit. The problem with this method that weighs heavy on Louis is that millions died in the process. This book begins with showing that not as many of the ringworld’s inhabitants died as was expected. In this third book in the series the book is actually split into two separate stories that merge into one in the end of the book.

The first story tells of the different species of homonids who are out to destroy a nest of vampires who feed on the ringworld’s inhabitants. The main group is somewhat let by some of the characters Louis met in the second book. The second story continues with Louis Wu and his crew who are taken prisoner by a vampire protector. The Protectors are a race that evolve from the species they protect. The Vampire protector here, who Louis names Bram, uses Louis to regain control over the Ringworld’s defenses.

With some very interesting species and some nice science to create the sci-fi, this book is still a must read in the series, but it does lack that air of mystery that made the first book a top read.

“Damned” by Chuck Palahniuk

“Damned”
by Chuck Palahniuk
Read by Tai Sammons
Published by Blackstone Audio, Inc. (2011)
7 hours and 25 minutes

Ever since “Fight Club” I’ve been a huge fan of Chuck Palahniuk, mainly because of the social commentary thrown into every book. Sometimes it is subtle but most of the time it comes right out and slaps you in the face while kicking you in the groin, screaming “look at how things are or what they could be.” This time around Palahniuk pretty much damns us all to hell. In this book we find out that a person is allowed to use the “F”-word 700 times but use it 701 times and you are damned to hell. Also there are limited numbers of times you can throw cigarette butts out, pee in a public pool and honk your car horn. So I guess it’s hopeless. On top of that every time you spit on the sidewalk the warm saliva trickles down to hell to create a mass ocean, or worse yet do you ever wonder where those fingernail and toenail clippings fly off to? They end up in their own Mountain in hell and I won’t even talk about the lake of sperm. To make things worse “The English Patient” plays on endless repeat, roaming demons devour sinners limb by limb, and the damned interrupt your dinner from their sweltering call center to hardsell you Hell.

So now that I’ve set the stage for Hell, or rather given you a taste of Palahniuk’s Hell, let’s talk about this book. This book grabs you from the onset with the beginning of every chapter starting out with the line; “Are you there Satan? It’s me Maddy. (Or Madison or her full name depending on where in the story the main character stands in discovering her life in hell.) So Chuck seems to be channeling a bit of Judy Blume through this story. He has described the novel as “if The Shawshank Redemption had a baby by The Lovely Bones and it was raised by Judy Blume.”and “it’s kind of like The Breakfast Club set in Hell.” Palahniuk said the novel was written as a way to deal with the death of his mother from breast cancer in 2009.

Wait a minute, “Breakfast Club”? you ask. Yep, when Madison Spencer wakes up in hell dying from what she at first believes to be an overdose of smoking marijuana, she is only 13 after all, she is the nerdy girl, the Ally Sheedy of the movie “The Breakfast Club.” Where as she then meets Babbette, the popular girl, Archer, the rebel, and a jock. So this Hellish Breakfast Club breaks out of their cages and proceed to make their way across Hell battling demons, avoiding all the icky stuff only to lead Madison to Hell’s admin offices where she is interviewed to determine why she is damned. While waiting on the results, she becomes employed as a telemarketer where the phone system is set to call only when people are sitting down to dinner. While talking to the living she convinces them that all people are going to Hell so they might as well make it worth while, thus convincing an elderly woman to burn down a church before she goes and for a dying girl with AIDS (everyone who gets AIDS goes to hell no matter how they contracted the disease) to bring her some Milky Way candy bars when she dies, which will be soon.

Through the adventures of Maddy in Hell, we discover that Maddy is the daughter of a famous actress and millionaire who run an uncanny resemblance to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, especially when they are constantly adopting children from around the world. It turns out that their latest adoptee is a refugee from Croatia (or somewhere around there) and becomes the love interest of the extremely naive Maddy. Madison slowly pieces together the cause of her death and tries to figure out the possible reasons for her damnation all while telemarketing for Hell and conquering the Demons and evil that dwells within Hell.

Tai Sammons does a superb job of reading the story and since it is told in first person from Madison Spencer’s point of view her voice fits perfect to the character, from being a complete naive 13-year-old to a recruiter of her own army to defeat Hell’s demons, Hitler and Idi Amin. All the while stabbing a pitchfork into the Hollywood lifestyle with Chuck Pahlanuik’s words.

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