Audible audiobook review roundup Jan 2017

Here’s a few short reviews of the audiobooks I’ve been listening to over recent weeks. Check them all out on Audible!

Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

Read by Simon Vance although his name isnt listed first in the credits for some reason

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I enjoyed this but, let’s be honest – only the first book in this series is truly a classic. Herbert’s writing style is good and the narration is absolutely fantastic but the story here is only good rather than great. Paul Atreides is still here and so are many of the other characters we bonded with in Dune, but this is a shorter book.
Still highly recommended, but maybe only worth 4 stars rather than the 5 Dune deserved.

Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

Read by Simon Vance

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Well, you know I MUST have enjoyed Dune Messiah because I straight away moved onto this, the next in the series! Paul is gone (or is he…?) and we follow his children in this book. There’s not a lot of action but the politics and psychology of the tale are really well done and this is a worthy successor to Dune Messiah.

It’s still not as good as Dune though!

Another 4/5.

HP Lovecraft The complete omnibus vol 2 

Read by Finn J.D. John

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I bought this because the previous audio collections of Lovecraft I’d bought didn’t include certain stories for some reason. At the Mountains of Madness for example, which I really wanted to hear (bear in mind I’ve read all Lovecraft’s stories multiple times over the years).

The narrator here initially struck me as really good, to the extent I thought about buying volume 1 too. But for some reason, after a few hours listening, I’m not really drawn into this collection. It’s not the stories that are at fault because The Shadow Over Innsmouth and my favourite Lovecraft tale ever, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, are included. These are really excellent stories but…I don’t know what it is. The narrator has a great voice, he acts out the parts very well and it should be great but, for some reason I seem to switch off completely when listening to him and before I know it I’ve missed half the story and need to replay it!

The previous Lovecraft collection I listened to used a variety of narrators and, at the time, I didn’t understand what the point was but now I think it may have been a good way to hold the listener’s interest.*(See my review of that collection at the foot of the page!)

I really don’t know how to rate this – the tales are fantastic, the narrator certainly seems good but I’m bored listening to it and it’s NOT spooky even when I listen to it on my own, in the dark, out in the middle of nowhere around Glasgow when I’m at work!

Weird tales indeed….

Mort by Terry Pratchett

Read by Nigel Planer

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I love Planer’s reading of Pratchett’s stories so much, he is perfect for them and this is no exception. As usual, the sound quality is horrendous, but other than that this is a good tale that will make you laugh (does anybody remember laughter? – I hope you read that in a high-pitched rock god’s voice). Death himself working as a cook in a greasy-spoon cafe is great as is the titular hero wondering WTF is going on as he slowly morphs into the grim reaper. Hugely imaginative as always with Sir P!

4/5

The Cross and the Curse by Matthew Harffy

Read by Barnaby Edwards

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Longtime friends and followers of mine might know that I endorsed Harffy’s debut novel, The Serpent Sword. That was a self-published affair which garnered enough interest and sales that Matthew was taken on by a major publisher, Aria, and this is the resultant sequel.

The tale is quite straightforward with love, action and beautifully written prose aplenty and, combined with a really good narrator, makes for a great listen. It gets especially nasty (in a good way!) about two-thirds in and things really start to come together there.

I felt a little as if this was a bridge between the first book and the next, setting things up for what’s to come for the rest of the series. That’s no bad thing and there is enough to keep your interest up throughout although I did miss a bit of humour. The events are dark and gritty and the characters know it – but it would have been nice to have a bit of childish banter between the men just to lighten things. As it is, the word I kept thinking of as I listened was “earnest”. The dialogue is earnest, the characters are earnest and the prose is too. I was wishing someone would fart or stand in a dog turd but sadly there’s no slapstick silliness here!

This series has been compared to Bernard Cornwell’s Uhtred stories (by me, actually, in that previously-mentioned endorsement!) but, although settings and time period are similar, the writing is completely different in The Cross and the Curse. Fans of one author will enjoy the other I’m sure, as both are absolutely brilliant.

5/5

Finally,

Ubik by Philip K. Dick

Read by Luke Daniels

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The narrator here sounds so much like the guy that did VH1’s “Behind the Music” that I kept expecting him to say something like “Dave Mustaine’s drug use spiralled out of control and left Megadeth in a state of limbo. When we return…!”

But he never did and, Googling the guy it seems he’s got nothing to do with “Behind the Music”. It was quite off-putting for a while but I got into it soon enough and I started really enjoying the narration. His voices are really good, nailing the 60’s hippy stoner in particular, and it leads to a great listening experience although it’s quite short.

The story is Dick’s usual mindf**k that leaves you scratching your head wondering if reality is as real as we’re led to believe, with twists and turns all over the place. Some of which don’t make much sense but you can forgive that because it’s such an interesting book.

It’s a slow burner but stick with it because by the end of it you won’t want it to stop! I still want to know what happened next!

5/5
Next time I’ll be listening to Bernard Cornwell‘s The Flame Bearer and the final two books in the Dune series so keep it here…Also, don’t forget the final book in my Forest Lord series, Blood of the Wolf, is now available from Audible, read by Nick Ellsworth as usual. Save a credit for it, it’s an incredible listen!

 

 

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*The Necronomicon by HP Lovecraft

Read by various. This review is one I posted originally on Audible.co.uk

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“Eldtrich and unspoken horror…no, wait!”

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, I’ve loved it! I assume you already know Lovecraft if you’re looking at this so I’ll review it with that in mind.
The stories are well read and, although it’s not quite as creepy as reading them yourself, it’s still great and…come on, you get about 65 stories here, for ONE CREDIT?
That has to be (at the mountains of) madness!

What did you like best about this story?

I sometimes work at night and driving around the dark, wintry streets of Glasgow, often out in the sticks, with this audiobook playing in the background….brilliant!

Which character – as performed by the narrators – was your favourite?

Some of the narrators are great, some not so much.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I locked the doors in my car when I was listening in the dark….who knows what lurking horror might have crept up on me?
Lovecraft is never terrifying or shocking in a 21st century way, but his writing is always creepy and sticks in your mind. This collection does a fine job of bringing that crawling chaos to life.

Any additional comments?

Considering I got this for one monthly credit I honestly can’t complain. There’s 60-odd stories, all professionally read and that is just great value for money. I’ve read the stories dozens of times myself over the years and yet still found myself wanting to listen more to this to see what happened next. And I’ve only listened to the first few stories so far! Can’t wait until I hear the likes of “Shadow Over Innsmouth” or “The Call of Ktulu” (oops, sorry, I’ve got Metallica on just now, got mixed up for a sec!).
Needless to say, if the quality drops I’ll edit my review but for now I just wanted to post my thoughts as there’s not a lot for other listeners to go on.
Trust me – if you’re a fan of HPL give this a go.

5/5

Audiobook reviews July ’16

It doesn’t seem like that long since I last posted some reviews of my latest Audible purchases but here’s some more. If you don’t already have an Audible membership I can’t recommend it highly enough – you can get any of these (or any of mine!) for FREE with your month’s trial, and if you don’t think it’s for you after that, just cancel.

Anyway, here’s the reviews:

Elminster: The Making of a Mage

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I enjoy fantasy books because they’re a true escape from reality, often with a light touch, and this is very much in that vein. I believe this is something of a classic in the Forgotten Realms universe but I’m not entirely sure why. Yes, it’s quite enjoyable, with lots of magic and revenge and elves and whatnot but…it’s disjointed and almost reads more like a game than a novel. I had no idea what was going on for much of it, but that wasn’t a problem as the same scenario seemed to play out more than once. Or maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention.

Like all these Forgotten Realms/Dragonlance style books it’s quite twee and seems aimed at teenagers (and teenagers of the 80’s/90’s too) but there’s some sexual elements in this one that raised my eyebrows as they seemed totally out of place.

Overall it’s a decent listen despite the narrator sounding exactly like John Wayne in places, but I doubt if I’ll check out the rest of the series.

Rating 3/5

The Name of the Wind

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Holy crap! This came out of nowhere for me. As I said, I enjoy fantasy but it’s often hard to find really good stuff in the genre as much of it’s very generic and apparently aimed at kids, but, I had a look on the internet and this book had a ton of recommendations. For one monthly credit the length is fantastic value for money so I had to give it a shot and, wow…I’m glad I did.

First off, as an author myself, I listened to this thinking, “Shit, I wish I could write things like that.” Little things here and there, phrases, lines, ideas that are so wonderfully written that it makes you wonder why you bother trying to compete! However, just to tone down the superlatives, I did think the story worked better when it wasn’t in flashback mode (as most of the book is).

That said, this may be the best book I’ve read/listened to in a while – I truly wanted to keep listening when it was time to switch off. The main character is a bit TOO amazing, with genius level skills at everything he tries, but hey, it’s fantasy and, as Dave Mustaine once said, the world needs a hero, right? His adventures are exciting and the cast of characters that fill out the world are interesting enough to make it all hang together.

A special word has to be said for the narrator, Rupert Degas. He uses different voices and accents for each character and they all sound fantastic, truly bringing the whole thing to life in a way I don’t think I’ve ever heard before in an audiobook. So not only do you have some seriously great writing, but maybe the best narrator around reading it!

I won’t say too much about the plot – it’s the old “young boy overcomes hardship to grow and become a great dude” kinda thing, with some magic and even a dragon of sorts. It could be listened to with children yet isn’t twee the way those Forgotten Realms books can sometimes be. There’s no swearing or sex and yet it still comes across as a proper “grown-up” book.

To sum up, I can’t recommend this one highly enough, it’s brilliant and serious value for money.

Rating 5/5

The French Lieutenant’s Woman

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A strange one, this. Rather like the first time I ever read HP Lovecraft, I thought it was a big pile of crap and wondered what all the fuss was about. And then, days and weeks later, I found myself thinking about it fondly. Unfortunately, Fowles wasn’t as prolific as Rhode Island’s master of cosmic horror, so I can’t go back and immerse myself in his work the way I did with the Cthulu Mythos since I’ve already read it all (The Magus is one of the best books ever written in my opinion). But that’s how The French Lieutenant’s Woman affected me and it’s a sign of its quality and strange genius.

I suppose it could be called historical fiction but it’s not like anything Simon Scarrow, Bernard Cornwell or even I would come up with. Oh no, Fowles was never that straightforward. The main story here is traditional enough, I suppose, but the thing that jars throughout is the author commenting on what he’s writing and why and what he might have written instead, even the ending.

It’s bizarre, and it destroys any immersion the reader/listener might be feeling within the otherwise well constructed world.

However, like the previous review above, I found this book interesting from an author’s viewpoint. How many novels have you read in your life? Hundreds? Thousands? And pretty much every single one will follow the same template. That’s fine, and there’s a good reason for it: books are better when they follow that formula!

Yet The French Lieutenant’s Woman breaks from that norm and the author purposely intrudes just as you’re losing yourself in the story, not just once, but repeatedly. It’s a crazy way to write a book but I can only applaud Fowles for doing it. The guy wanted to be different from everyone else and he certainly was.

As usual, the ending isn’t what you’d expect or hope for, but anyone that’s read Fowles will already be expecting that and it’s another area where he differed from everyone else.

The narrator reads well and does a good job.

I can’t really sum this up because I’m not sure how I feel about it myself but I certainly recommend you read or listen to it. At least it’s not as horrible as The Collector…

Rating – ?/5

 

The Wyvern’s Spur

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This is the sequel to Azure Bonds, which I reviewed in a previous audiobook roundup. To be honest, it’s more of a psuedo-sequel as the main character from that one isn’t even in here. Instead, it follows a fringe character from the first book (a poor one too) and a halfling sidekick who was in Azure Bonds but again, in my opinion, isn’t a great creation. So, while the first book had some decent main characters, they’re out the window here. Now it’s a couple of un-heroic “heroes”, one of whom spends much of the book as a donkey, and an uninspired plot that doesn’t really go anywhere.

The writing is, as expected, twee. Don’t expect any tasty language here – no “For f**k’s sake, Tyrion!”, instead it’s “Oh, bother,” and the female narrator reads it as if reading to a three year-old.

Despite that, I’ve enjoyed it well enough. If you’re looking for something very light that doesn’t tax the brain, I suppose you could give this a go, but there’s much better out there and it’s not as good as its predecessor.

There’s a third book in the series, Song of the Saurials, but I don’t see how it can possibly tie up all the plot strands from the first two and, to be honest, I don’t know if I care enough to download it anyway.

Rating – 3/5

 

Socrates: Philosophy In An Hour

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As the title suggests, this is a short one. I don’t know the usual price, but I got it in a deal for about £1.99 and it was worth it. It’s not just a dry summing up of Socrates’s ideas – I actually laughed out loud in places. Keeble is a great narrator (he did a fine job on Cornwell’s King Arthur books) and the writing here is entertaining. It’s not the best book you’re ever going to read on the fabled philosopher, but it’s certainly worth a listen as it’s good fun.

Rating – 4/5

 

I hope you try out some of these, particularly Name of the Wind (I’ve just spent this month’s credit on its sequel) and  don’t forget – all of my books are also available from Audible, brilliantly narrated by Nick Ellsworth!

 

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