I first listened to “Old Man’s War” a few months ago on the two-day drive moving from Mississippi to Maryland. I absolutely loved the book and when I found out that it was a series, I was ecstatic. I eagerly picked up book two- “The Ghost Brigades” as soon as I got a chance.
This book is narrated by William Dufris, who narrated the previous book. His voice is one that never bothers me or make a me excited when I hear him read. He doesn’t add to the story but he doesn’t commit the unpardonable sin of distracting from it either. That makes him a good narrator in my book. He plays all the ranges of characters very well.
As for the story, John Scalzi did an adequate job, but the second book letdown now seems unavoidable. There was something special about exploring the fantastic world Scalzi created in the first book that is missing in the second
“The Ghost Brigades” revolves around Jared Dirac who is clone of the traitor Charles Boutin. Jared Dirac was created as a ghost brigade altered clone to attempt to recover the memories of Boutin and discover the catalyst for his betrayal.
John Scalzi did start to explore more of the odder genetic variations of ghost brigade members. He also began delving into some of the relationships among the alien races. Those parts provided a flicker of the old excitement, but were not enough to reignite the enjoyment of the first book.
One thing I was particularly disappointed by was the treatment of Jane’s character. Although she was an important side character in the first book, it feels like she could have been replaced by any random character in the second.
There were no real surprises in this book. It was not bad, just not as good as the first. It really felt like a set up for the next book “The Last Colony,” which I am planning to read in the next few weeks. I will let you know what I think.
Overall 6 of 10
Narration 7 of 10
Story 6.5 of 10
I fell in love with original book right after the 20th Anniversary Edition version was released. It was one of the first books I ever listened to that had multiple narrators without sounding too hokey. So, when I heard that Skyboat Media was doing an audioplay version, I was excited. If anyone can make it not so hokey, it’s them.
In the 20th Anniversary Edition each chapter got its own narrator and that person and did all the voices in the chapter with the exception of the lead into a chapter. So, an Ender-centric chapter would have a male narrator doing Valentine, Ender and anyone else in the chapter. But, a Valentine-centric chapter would have a female narrator doing all the voices. This really helped the flow of the story let you focus on characters.
But in the Ender’s Game Alive version they have more of a radio play aspect. So, you have chapters with multiple narrators. Now, I don’t think this would have been bad except for the over acting. It was almost like they were trying for a 1930s radio play. There were also a lot of pauses with just sound effects filling the silence, such as foot steps. That would not have been a problem but I felt it happened too often in a book that was this cut down. This “audioplay” is only 7 hours and 24 mins to the 20th Anniversary Edition’s 11 hours and 57 mins.
And here lies the real problem with Ender’s Game Alive – they cut too much out. I can live with the Telenovela style of acting and the sound effects, but they cut four and half hours of story out. I am not sure if I could have even followed it if I had not listened to the original. All the subtlety of characters that made you love them was gone. I am not sure if this was a choice Orson Scott Card made to make the book more accessible to people by making it shorter. If it was, I don’t see the point. If you are willing to invest 7.5 hours, it’s not that much more of leap to invest 12 hours of your time in a book. Maybe it was cut down to more closely match the movie. No matter the reason, it’s the fans and, more importantly, the first time readers to the Enderverse that are suffering.
I desperately wanted to love this version of Ender’s Game, but it fell flat. This is the second time in two Ender books that I have felt burned by Orson Scott Card. Shadows in Flight felt hacked together and too short, like I was listening to the abridged version.
Overall 4.5 of 10
Narration 5 of 10
Story 4 of 10
Welcome to Night Vale
Written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. Narrated by Cecil Baldwin. Music by Disparition
As I stated last week we have never review a podcast before on the site, but this is an unusual podcast. Welcome to Night Vale is based in a the small desert town called Night Vile, the entire podcast is a cross between Local NPR and Lovecraft. The events in each episode can sometimes be broken up as “more information becomes available”. I started with the first episode/podcast but after listening to the first 8 episodes think you can pick it up where ever want. There is no real story that flows from one episode to episode. It more like building up lore about the town, such as the Secret Police, The Dog Park that no must enter or know about with the hooded figures, and who/whatever is owns the radio station that never comes out of its office.
One of the nicer things about this podcast is the local weather. They never give a weather report it they just play random song. This is never noticed ( or at least where I am in the podcasts) by the radio hoist.
This podcast is hosted/ narrated by Cecil Baldwinand and various in length from 20 to 30 mins. Cecil Baldwinand does a great job of sounding like a small town radio host that is vaguely creeped out by what he in seeing in his town but trying desperately to hide that fact from his listeners and whatever management is.
Over all this is a great podcast especially if you dont have time for a full book, IE quick trip to the store. Or if you’re listening with stitcher you can just go ahead and put it on and it will play episode after episode.
Overall 8.5 out of 10
Story 9 out of 10
Narration 8 out of 10
That’s right io9 has the full audioplay on their site to stream for free.
Review of the audioplay to come on Friday.
Let’s get this out of the way first – this book is slightly cheesy. Not that that’s a bad thing. It’s cheesy and in a really enjoyable sci-fi way. To starts off, the title of the book The Android’s Dream is a reference to Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.The entire premise of this book revolves around looking for a specific genetically-engineered breed of sheep for intergalactic coronation, the bread being called “android dream.”
Even though I consider the story slightly cheesy, John Scalzi did an amazing job telling the story. There’s never a dull moment in the story. It jumps from plot point to plot point seamlessly without being too predictable. Characters all seem well-rounded and as believable as the they can in a story like this.
This 10 hour and 34 minute book was narrated by Will Wheaton. As much as I loved Will Wheaton in Star Trek, he is a real hit or miss narrator. Sometimes he is great and sometimes he falls flat on his face. Luckily, this is one of those books where he really excels. I don’t believe this has to do with the material. I previously tried to read Redshirts by John Scalzi, which he narrated, and I was not impressed. In fact, it was so bad I put down the book.
Overall 7.5 out of 10
Story 8.5 out of 10
Narration 7 out of 10
Next week we are going to have a double feature. I’m going to review the new reading of Ender’s Game before the movie comes out, as well as reviewing a podcast. We have never done that before, but Welcome to Night Vale is a special podcast. You should really enjoy it, especially if you love HP Lovecraft and Cthulhu.
My next book I will be reviewing is The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi. Read along with me and comment on my next review.
For those of you not familiar with the METAtropolis books, this is a book series that was started in 2008 by Audible. METAtroplis is a collection of short stories written by several different people. All stories in this collection take place in a futuristic dystopian environmental disaster world.
One of the things I liked about previous books in this series is that each story told me more about the world and how different people deal with different problems caused by our misuse of the environment. Green Space strays from this formula as most of the short stories revolve around the single story arc. While the story was interesting, I really miss the “What’s next” feeling of one story ending and the next beginning. Not that the story was bad, just not what I wanted when I picked up this book. The stories also seem to have a much darker feel about them compared to the previous books in this series.
The 14 hours and 6 minutes of this book was narrated by Dion Graham, Robin Miles, Mark Boyett, Scott Brick, Allyson Johnson,Sanjiv Jhaveri, Jennifer Van Dyck, Jonathan Davis. One of the nice things about the previous books in the series is that the book editor announced and explained how the author came up with the idea and how it fits in to the world of METAtropolis before it was read. One of the reasons that this may not have happened was the editor may not have been as involved with this book as previous books and in the series. He/She was not listed on the Audible or the Amazon pages.
As with any compilation this book had multiple narrators, sometimes more than one per story. I did not find the narration these stories terribly bad but they weren’t exceptionally good either. I did enjoy Scott Brick’s narration, but that could be a personal preference. I find people either love him or hate him. I say overall the narration of this book was on par with the writing. It really didn’t add to any of the stories but it wasn’t a distraction from them either.
Overall I enjoyed this book, I wouldn’t just pick the series up here because you’re going to miss all the fun of the world building in the first two books.
What of the nice things about the previous books in the series is that the book editor announced and explained how the author came up with the idea and how it fits in to the world of METAtropolis before it was read. One of the reasons that this may not have happened was the editor may not have been as involved as with this book as previous books and in the series. He/She was not listed on the Audible or the Amazon pages.
As with any compilation this book had multiple narrators, sometimes more than one per story. I did not find the narration these stories terribly bad but they weren’t exceptionally good either. I did enjoy Scott Brick narration, that could be a personal preference, I find people either love him or hate him. I say overall the narration of this book was on par with the writing, it really didn’t add any to the stories but it wasn’t a distraction from them either.
Overall I enjoyed this book, I wouldn’t just pick up the series here because you’re going to miss all the fun of the world building in the first two books.
Overall 7 out of 10
Narration 7 out of 10
Story 7 out of 10
Sellevision by Augusten Burroughs is one of those books you can reread every year. The author is more known for his biographies, but this book is successful satire. It takes a unique look at the world behind the home shopping networks.
Burroughs does a great job with the character development. Though most, if not all, of the players are absurd caricatures of
The narration on this 7.5 hour book is done by Robin Miles. She has a great range in her voice and she has no problems with doing male or female voices. It is one of those performances that is so good you don’t even notice the narrator.
Story gets 9 out of 10
Narration gets 9.5 out of 10
Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base by Annie Jacobsen
I know what you are thinking – another book about UFOs and aliens. Although this book does cover the crash at Roswell, there are no aliens there. Most of this book is really about the clandestine activities of the CIA and Military; including the nuclear testing, our use of Nazi scientists, and our spy planes (U2, Oxcart/SR-71 Blackbird, etc).
Most of the book’s claims are preceded by ” Declassified in …” Whether they are legit or not, I have no way of telling. Most of the detailed history in this book takes place before 1968 mainly due to the previously classified nature of the material.
The author did a good job of turning what could have been a dry history into an interesting story by making characters of the historical figures. I liked how she did not linger too long on any one area of the history.
Spoiler highlight to read
This book seemed very believable up until the end, when she dove more into the Roswell incident. The author had almost of no real citation other than an unnamed source. The unnamed source said that the UFO was Russian-made and piloted by genetically and surgically malformed children with the help of Joesph Mengele. He also claimed that is was all a plot by the Soviet Union to spook us into thing that aliens where invading so they could use it as a cover to attack us. It was disappointing that the author waited until the end to spring this nasty surprise on the reader.
The only part of this book that was worse than the spoiler mentioned above is the narration. It is read by the author. While most of the time I find this great, this was time is was 15 hours of torture. Her reading was in the very 80s style of narration, when there was no inflection or character performance. It it was worst narration I have the “pleasure” of listening to in a very long time.
Story gets 6.5 out of 10 (would have been better if not for the ending)
Narration gets 3 out of 10
My next book will be Sellevision by Augusten Burroughs