My May Audiobook reviews

Aye, I know it’s June but these are the audiobooks I was listening to during May! Check them out, starting with the penultimate book in the epic Dune series.

Heretics of Dune, by Frank Herbert

Narrated by Simon Vance

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I think most people would agree the Dune series peaked with the first, phenomenal book, then it was downhill from there. This one is book five and by now the reader/ listener is wondering where it all went wrong. How could that first book be SO damn awesome while the later ones are, well, boring and pretty directionless. That’s not to say this is complete crap – no a couple of the characters are actually very good and about two-thirds into it things start get interesting with some nice action and some really good ideas.

To me, it’s like Herbert had this amazing idea for a vast, sprawling epic in his head but it just never translated onto the page and I’m left wishing for Paul Atreides, the Harkonnens and something more than Bene Gesserit politicking and psychology that really makes little sense.

I seem to remember reading the novels as far as this one then giving up on the final book, Chapterhouse Dune – I already have that one in my Audible library so hopefully it’s not as bad as I remember!

Narration here is, as always with Simon Vance, top class. Great reader.

Rating – 3/5

The Elfstones of Shannara

By Terry Brooks, read by Scott Brick

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I was really looking forward to this after listening to The Sword of Shannara recently. My memories of reading these as a long-haired teenager were that this one was even better. My experience as a bald forty-year-old was a little different in that I found this rather drawn out and laboured compared to the previous book. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great story and the relationship between the two (or three) main characters is quite touching. I just felt like it could have been edited down into something shorter and tighter, but the story is a good one. There’s less focus on the druid Allanon here, and it’s no longer merely a clone of Lord of the Rings, but I think the author was trying to stretch his wings just a little far and possibly avoiding those old LotR tropes too much. Again, though, my old memory tells me the next book in the series, The Wishsong of Shannara, was the best of the trilogy so I’m looking forward to that one!

Scott Brick’s narration is great, with no weird cockney accents this time around.

Rating – 4/5

From fantasy magic to a real life magus…

Aleister Crowley – Man, Myth and Magick

by Simon Ashe, narrated by Cliff Truesdell

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First off, let’s just get one thing out of the way – Aleister Crowley referred to himself as “Holy Crowley” for a reason. So anyone narrating a book about him should really be getting that right. Crowley rhymes with Holy, despite what Ozzy Osbourne sang.

Now, to the book. It’s alright. It basically covers everything you already knew about the “wickedest man in the world” if you’ve ever read ANY biography of him. They all basically say the exact same things but each author has their own slant on it depending on whether they admire or revile him. I’m not entirely sure which side of that fence this author sits – he DOES bring some new information to the table though, which I’ve never heard before but I’m pretty sure it’s not true. Ashe seems to have used a source who is less than reliable for many of his facts so what you’re left with is the same old rehashed tale with a few new facts which I believe are just plain wrong.

Crowley was a pretty horrible human being with some bizarre ideas but his life makes for an interesting tale and, despite his many flaws, he managed to write some truly inspirational stuff so a fairly unbiased audiobook about him can only be a good thing.

This one isn’t expensive and it’s a decent introduction to Crowley if you’ve never read anything about him before but I’d recommend you start on paperback or Kindle with the excellent biographies by Lawrence Sutin  or Richard Kaczynski. You can also explore many of his own books and writings for FREE at the fantastic Hermetic Library

Rating – 3 out of 5 unicursal hexagrams

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More non-fiction now

King Arthur – History and Legend

By The Great Courses, narrated by Prof. Dorsey Armstrong

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My new series follows a warrior druid in the time King Arthur is supposed to have lived, when the Romans had left Britain and invaders were attacking the country on all sides, so I thought it would be good to check this out. I have always had a big interest in the Arthurian legend and this is a really good refresher.

It amazes me that this whole industry has grown up around a “man” when the only real evidence for him is a couple of vague references in histories written long after he’s supposed to have lived. Was he real? I highly doubt it. There’s more evidence for Robin Hood than there is a historical Arthur but that’s not the point is it? It’s a brilliant legend that draws on all sorts of cultures and has touched so many people’s lives.

This audiobook is a good listen – the narrator really, really knows her stuff but she’s not some boring old professor, she is fun and interesting and has a rather nice voice! She points out the absurdities in the various versions and tales but obviously deeply respects and loves the subject and it leads to a good listening experience.

I haven’t learned anything that I’ll use in my new series but I’ve still enjoyed this one a lot.  A good companion to Bernard Cornwell’s excellent Arthurian books (the series that inspired me to write my own Forest Lord novels).

That’s it for this time. I’m currently listening to Ben Kane’s second Spartacus adventure. I was reading the first one on my Kindle app when my son was born three years ago – he had a touch of jaundice and we had to sit with him while he was under the sun lamp in the hospital. I read that novel to pass the time. That’s the kind of attachment to a book someone never forgets.

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Is that Ben himself on the cover?

So far I’m loving this second book as much as I did the first but this time I have the added awesomeness of Michael Praed. Praed was, of course, Robin Hood in the 1980’s TV series Robin of Sherwood which was a big influence on my own novels so this is an interesting experience to say the least. Friar Tuck from that series, Phil Rose, even wrote a foreword for my novella Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil (and read it out too for the Audible version!) so to hear THAT version of Robin reading a Ben Kane book is pretty weird. He’s great though!

Check out my reviews in the next few weeks to find out more.

Oh, I managed to snag an advance ebook copy of Glyn Iliffe’s final Odysseus novel Return to Ithaca so expect a review of that in the coming days. I’ve been a fan of those since they came out years ago so it’s quite sad to think this is the last one. Pre-order it here: http://amzn.to/2snylMT

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