Inside a Silver Box by Walter Mosley

Heldig, my most evil cat.

Heldig, my most evil cat.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the publisher via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!).

Narrator: Dion Graham

Publisher: HighBridge (2015)

Length: 6 hours 54 minutes

Author’s Page

Ronnie Bottoms and Lorraine Fell crash together in just the right place to activate the Silver Box, a box that the Laz (an alien race) placed on the Earth long before humans and which contains & constrains the last of a most powerful and destructive sentient force. Together, they struggle to contain what they inadvertently have set loose in order to save the entire planet.

I don’t like this book and I really did want to like this book. It is my first Walter Mosley book and I have heard great things about his work. HighBridge Audio is a quality publisher and the narrator, Dion Graham, is awesome. The cover art is intriguing. The story itself was a clash of themes and ideas that never melded into a coherent plot line. Quite frankly, I was bored with it.

First, Ronnie is a serial mugger and rapist. He has been in and out of prison much of his adult life. He ‘meets’ Lorraine in a New York City park when he attempts to mug and rape her. She fights back and he reacts harshly, killing her. This all happens in an area that is full of small boulders and large rocks and is right over the resting place of the Silver Box. Once Lorraine is dead, the Silver Box preserves her consciousness and this allows her to take over other bodies and eventually get Ronnie to return to the scene of the crime. At that point, using the power of the Silver Box, he has the greatest orgasmic experience of his life in bringing Lorraine’s dead, bloated corpse back to life, and in fine shape.

So we get all that very early on in the book. Ronnie and Lorraine have now become our heroes set on saving the Earth. They have been set upon a quest and given special powers. And they decide they need to visit family, friends, and folks from their past in order to hash some stuff out. Uh… wasn’t there a time limit for their quest? I kept waiting for the story to veer back towards the cool scifi part that involves aliens and saving the Earth. That is almost completely sidelined until the very end, which is hugely anticlimactic and not satisfying at all.

Next, Ronnie is now one of our heroes. Mr. Serial Rapist is going to save the Earth. He has completely turned over a new leaf (in record time from one scene to the next) and now sees that all those horrible things he did were wrong. He no longer has all the anger and hunger inside. So he digs up an old teacher to chat about the old days, stumbles into an old girlfriend, and crashes at Lorraine’s swanky uptown penthouse, complete with weekly maid service. He never visits his victims to redress his past ill deeds. I had a hard time routing for him because of his past bad behavior and also because he is not being very proactive in saving the world.

Lorraine wasn’t much better. She comes from a privileged family and she has to struggle with realizing that turning your head and looking the other way is wrong, especially when you have the power and money to make a difference. She has a shouting match with her parents, who threaten to stop making payments on her penthouse. So, Lorraine doesn’t work and isn’t paying for her upkeep at all, and that doesn’t change by the end of the book. I found her character to be boring because her circumstances didn’t change, so her behavior didn’t have to change much either.

Lastly, there is sex, and then there isn’t. Ronnie initially attempts to rape Lorraine, and once she returns to the land of the living, she has some choice words to say to him about that. But then they get super powers and there are 2 scenes in the book where they kind of have sex. And yet they think of each other as akin to siblings since the Silver Box changed them. So that added a yuck factor to their sexytimes, plus that whole attempted rape thing starting off their acquaintance.

So with all that, I had this feeling that perhaps the author was attempting to mash together opposing themes that would intentionally make the reader uncomfortable. Yes, I left this book feeling like I had been put through some kind of social experiment and then tossed out the back door with my meager compensation for my time – the pleasure of writing up this review.

The Narration: While I didn’t care for this book, Dion Graham was an amazing narrator. His voice is deep and smooth and a joy to listen to. He had dialects for the various New Yorkers and a range of male and female voices. The audio production was excellent.  

What I Liked: Excellent narration; cool cover art.

What I Disliked: I never connected with the main characters; the cool scifi element took a back seat to the boring philosophy lesson on good and evil; the ending was supremely anticlimactic and totally unsatisfying; very awkward sexytimes.

What Others Think:

Book Reporter

Grandmother Maelkevejen’s Belly by C. S. MacCath

MacCathGrandmotherMaelkevejen's BellyWhere I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!).

Narrator: C. S. MacCath

Publisher: Triskele Media Press (2015)

Length: 55 minutes

Author’s Page

They lost a group of folks precious to them and now they dance and trance, attempting to communicate with them, hoping there is still someone left to communicate with. At the galactic core there is the grandmother of all black holes. Some folks drifted too close to the edge. Now the people left argue back and forth about whether they are dead or not, whether they can be rescued or not.

This is a rich and dense novelette, full of characters that obviously have back stories. The reader is tossed into the middle of a years-old debate, showing the hopeful and usually drug addled dreamers who believe their long-lost friends & relatives life on and the more scientifically-minded bureaucrats who way the odds and find them wanting. Over time, a percentage of the population has begun to suffer from various diseases – some are born with functional eyes but lack the connection to brain, and other afflictions. Humanity is dwindling with each generation. So they dance & trance, argue & survey, and stay in the area.

This is such a dense story, I highly recommend that you give it your focus in order to get the most out of it. Since you are tossed right in to the middle of things, you need to pay attention to work out what is going on. That said, it is highly worth your time. The characters and story line are well written. I love that there is so much that went on before we enter the story, as it gives this tale a full-rounded feeling. The character have agendas and hopes. They have history with one another, and with generations past. Dive into this tale and enjoy!

The Narration: C. S. MacCath narrated her own book and I am usually wary of books narrated by the author. However, with this audiobook, set aside all such concerns. She has a range of voices for both female and male characters and does a good job of imbuing the text with emotions when needed. It was a well made audio. 

What I Liked: I simply love the title because it is so unusual; the cover art; a rich, dense story; the ending was satisfying.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I found this story quite enjoyable!

Our Future Good by T. J. Kirby

KirbyOurFutureGoodWhere I Got It: Won a copy from the author via Audiobook Reviewer (thanks!).

Narrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: Ross Books (2014)

Length: 2 hours 47 minutes

Author’s Page

Mary & Joe are about to embark on their adult lives. They’ve just finished their General Studies and it’s now time for them to pick a Project to work on. Mary would like to work on the NutriSuit Project. However, Joe has been following a story in the news and he really wants to join a journalism team reporting on the issue.

Set a few generations from now, this novella tells a fun tale while also providing a subtle commentary on current day society. At least, that is what I got out of it. Joe has been following the story of the L5Pilgrim space colony society. They wish to break away from the International Space Station (ISS) and go weightless. Of course, this not only affects the current inhabitants of the colony, but will affect future generations. Some of the opposition point out that such colonists would not be able to return to Earth, essentially creating a subspecies of humans. Major detractors believe it isn’t right for them to make such a choice for their future offspring.

If the basic story isn’t enough for you, this tale is full of future tech that made the story fascinating. Much of it is seamlessly put into play without distracting from the story. The NutriSuit would allow a person to absorb all the nutrients they need while sleeping. Housing and robots and travel have all improved in the future. You can modify any room with a few button pushes – sound, color, furniture.

Then there are the societal changes. Every human is guaranteed basic housing and a small stipend each month. However, if a person volunteers for a Project, then they are paid for their efforts on top of the stipend, allowing the person to purchase luxuries. Of course I love this idea, even if I think we will never achieve it globally. Then there is sex. Mary and Joe aren’t married, just barely into adulthood, and yet it is clear they have been enjoying each other’s attentions for some time. I think this is fine (perhaps even preferred). Joe’s parents don’t even mind having Mary stay over. Both of these youngsters work hard and are worthy citizens AND they have sex. Good for them! It wasn’t taboo and I found this very refreshing.

My one little criticism about the story is that I found the underlying tale a little predictable. I won’t go into details as that would spoil the ending. However, with all the other goodness going on in this novel, I can overlook the mild predictability. Also, the cover art and title initially made me think this book was on spiritual guidance or world prayer or some such. I wold not have guessed it was a science fiction story from the tile and cover.

The Narration: Simon Vance has been a favorite narrator for some time. His performance here was great, as usual. He had a variety of voices for men and women and imbued the text with emotion where needed.  

What I Liked: Fascinating future tech; evolved societal norms; L5Pilgrim’s dilemma; story raises questions about a human’s right to pick their path in life.

What I Disliked: Plot was a little predictable; cover art and title don’t say ‘scifi story’ to me.

What Others Think:

Audiobook Reviewer

Dinosaur Lake by Kathryn Meyer Griffith

GriffithDinosaurLakeWhere I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!).

Narrator: Johnnie C. Hays

Publisher: Self published (2013)

Length: 10 hours 45 minutes

Series: Book 1 Dinosaur Lake

Author’s Page

Set in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, park rangers start to notice that not all is as peaceful as it normally is. Chief Ranger Henry Shore and his local newspaper reporter wife Ann are in for an adventure….or a nightmare. First there are a few tremors, which aren’t so unusual. Then the temperature of the lake begins to rise. Finally, park visitors are going missing and there are rumors of some beast wandering the lake shore.

The suspense started off subtle, twining it’s way through the character & location set up. We learn quite a bit about Henry and his wife, a bit about their grown daughter (Leila) and their infant granddaughter (Zoe). Crater Lake is a peaceful place, much more so than New York city where Henry was once a cop. Then the rumors of a possible lake creature start along with the tremors. A magnificent fossil bed is revealed by a minor earthquake and the paleontologist Justin arrives on scene. From there are on out, more and more pieces fall into place as folks go missing, boats are wrecked, and odd prints appear along the lake shore. The last two hours of the book were pretty intense with a good mix of action and quiet, intense dinosaur hunting.

Henry, our main character, is pretty interesting. We see much of the book from his viewpoint, observing what he sees and hears, watching his thoughts turn things over. I liked that he wasn’t some young, romantic action hero. Nope, he’s well into the second half of his life, has a solid marriage, a once troubled daughter, and a job that gives him peace of mind. Ann is our second main character, having a passion for journalism and for good cooking. While she does play second fiddle to Henry throughout the book, she is still and integral part of the story. The local paper she works for is going under and she wishes to save it. Perhaps her attempts to do so will put her in the middle of the action.

And that leads me into my one criticism. The ladies have very little to do in this book. They are wives, love interests, or children. They must be tucked safely way or rescued. Ann is the most proactive of them all and even so she has to be kept save at a friend’s house out of the way and rescued later on. There are no female paleontologists or park rangers or cops. There is one other female journalist & one female homeless wife & mother. Both have very short roles. If the book didn’t contain modern tech like cell phones, I might have placed this story in the 1950s or 1960s for the subtle remarks made about women in careers and the strength of women. So that’s my only negative about this book: I wish the women had more roles and roles that pertained to the plot and not just window dressing.

Now, obviously, there is plenty of dinosaur talk throughout the book. Hooray! I liked the tidbits on what scientists know about dinos and what scientists have guessed about dinos. There were also some theories kicked around about how such a beast came to be in the lake. I have to say that while they were all fantastical, none of them were realistic. But I was totally cool with that because this is fiction and none of the characters were biologists or ecologists, who would have had a much better guess. I also really like that the folks involved had various reactions to this beast. Some wanted to capture it and study it. Others wanted to let it have the lake for its lifetime. Still others looked at the body count and got realistic. Overall, this was a fun tale that started with a dream many of us have had (to see a real dino) and ended in strive and consternation as the reality of mixing dinos & humans hit the characters. Looking forward to the sequel!

The Narration: Johnnie Hays was a good fit for Henry. He has a slightly graveling voice that makes me think of a mature, somewhat hardened, male authority figure. He also had a range of male voices for the other male characters. His female voices always sounded like they were in a stage whisper. So throughout the book I kept picturing Ann whispering everything even when she was upset or excited.

What I Liked: Cover art; dino beastie!; Henry was a very interesting character; folks have various reactions to the lake monster; Ann has her side quest to save the paper; the ending was very satisfying.

What I Disliked: The women have very little to do in the book and are there to be kept save or rescued.

What Others Think:

Amie’s Book Review Blog

Pale Rider: Zombies versus Dinosaurs by James Livingood

LivingoodPaleRiderWhere I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!).

Narrator: Michael C. Gwynne

Publisher: Paperbackward (2015)

Length: 57 minutes

Author’s Page

The zombie virus was initially misdiagnosed. Of course it would be. Eventually, it spread and society as we know it collapsed. A new method of transport was needed, one that did not depend on petroleum products and was immune to the virus. Some scientists got together and gengineered large reptilian birds to transport humans and to be used as heavy equipment in farming and clearing land. Us humans couldn’t help but refer to them as dinosaurs.

I read the description to this novelette and smiled. How could I not give it a listen? The story starts off with a short lead in that sets the stage clearly for the reader. I liked how the zombies (also called ‘blues’ in this story) have a nervous system disorder caused by a virus. Then I thoroughly enjoyed how the dinosaurs came into being. If you have ever owned chickens, then you know they are not far removed from T-rexes. So it was not hard for me to imagine some gengineered featherless birds crossed with reptiles being raised to take out tree stumps.

Then we get into the story. Farming is pretty dangerous today, without zombies and with modern equipment. Imagine trying to clear a bit of farming land while watching out for and possibly fighting zombies. Yeah, pretty damn exciting. The story is told through a single point of view (a man, known as Pale Rider, who travels around the area clearing farm land) in a near nitty gritty way. I liked his skeptical attitude.

There are only 2 women mentioned in this book and neither have speaking roles. They are both wives and we only see one on stage, just once, to plant a sultry kiss. Obviously, I would have liked to see a real female character or two, with actions and dialogue pertinent to the plot. However, that’s my only complaint about this tale.

The mix of action and dinos and zombies had me alternating between a black humor chuckle and nibbling on my nails wondering if our hero had met his end. James Livingood is an author to keep an eye on and I really hope he continues to explore this world he has created.

The Narration: Michael Gwynne was a good fit for Pale Rider, giving him a hard-boiled feel. He had a range of voices for the few other characters we encounter.  

What I Liked: Modified beasties!; interesting main character; zombies versus dinos!; the cover art; satisfying ending.

What I Disliked: Women are relegated to the background.

The Hidden Masters of Marandur by Jack Campbell

CampbellTheHiddenMastersOfMarandurWhere I Got It: Review copy via the publisher (thanks!).

Publisher: Audible Studios (2015)

Narrator: MacLeod Andrews

Length: 12 hours 54 minutes

Series: Book 2 The Pillars of Reality

Author’s Page

Book 1 in the series left us with Mage Alain and Master Mechanic Mari going separate paths. Both strive to fit in and make strides in their respective guilds. Mari takes on every task required of her, until one day she is told she must travel to a war-torn area, on her own. Mage Alain is in a similar situation, having been assigned to protect a group of people, only to be targeted by other mages who are tossing around lightning. Mari & Alain unite forces once more and strive to come up with a solution to turning aside the storm they both sense is about to hit their world. They turn their eyes towards the long buried and forgotten archives of the long dead city Marandur.

I absolutely loved Book 1 in this series and Book 2 did not disappoint, though I would be hard-pressed to say which one I enjoyed more. Mari and Alain have great chemistry and I love watching them try to figure out their relationship, as well as survive the numerous enemies they have gained. Alain is delving into long suppressed memories of family in order to regain his emotional side. He is also developing social skills, which adds some much appreciated humor even in the bleakest moments. Mari struggles a bit with an age-old prophecy concerning the possible ending to the world as they know it. If I have any complaint about this book, it is that sometimes Mari is a little too emotional. Also, she has a streak of jealousy that is a little ridiculous and isn’t fully resolved by the end of this book. I wasn’t a particular fan of this trait in her and felt it could have been less emphasized.

That little complaint aside, the plot is rich with further developments. Both guilds have secrets, but they also have folks who want those secrets out. Plus there are the Dark Mechanics who we briefly glimpsed at the end of Book 1. So many folks want these two dead! So with great reluctance, the duo finally head off to Marandur only after they feel other possibilities have been exhausted.

Now Marandur was not as expected. It was more complicated and what they found there could be a huge asset….if only they can get out alive. I really don’t want to spoil any of this for you, as all the Marandur scenes happen late in the book. Let me just say it was a bitch to get into and, even then, they were not safe.

This book does a masterful job of weaving steampunky science fiction with philosophical fantasy. It’s an excellent combination and sets the bar high for the small, but growing, subgenre of science fantasy.

Narration: MacLeod Andrews once again did a great job of Mari and Alain. He can totally cut all emotion from his voice when doing a Mage, and yet imbue Mari’s voice with so much emotion when she is frightened or angry. I especially like his voice for Mari as it is a bit throaty and it makes it so easy to picture her as a serious mechanic.

What I Liked:  Mari & Alain are a great hero duo; the cover art is gorgeous; so many enemies!; the prophecy of their world ending is becoming clearer; Marandur; very satisfying ending. 

What I Disliked: Occasionally, Mari is a little too emotional or jealous, but that won’t stop me from enjoying the book!

What Others Think:

Not Yet Read

All Things Urban Fantasy

Ravaged by Jason Brant

BrantRavagedWhere I Got It: Review copy via the narrator & Audiobook Monthly (thanks!)

Narrator: Wayne June

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 7 hours 3 minutes

Series: Book 3 The Hunger

Author’s Page

Book 3 picks up roughly 1 month after Book 2 ends. Our heroes are still at the compound they wrested away from the maniacal Ralph. Other survivors continue to join them and the camp’s resources are starting to strain. Add to that, the infected monsters seem to be getting smarter and are targeting the camp. Even with the arrival of a new ally, they might not survive.

Our main foursome continue to face the odds. Each one of them has a demon or three to face in this installment of The Hunger series. Lance York, the man who started the apocalypse in nothing but a hospital gown, has gone from being a sad couch potato to a man of action. He’s at that point where he can look at himself and see the changes – both physically and psychologically. The world has gone to crap and he has risen from it, becoming a man he can respect. I have really enjoyed his story arc because he is just such a normal guy. Perhaps we would all benefit from an apocalypse.

Cass continues to grow as a character too. She was use to fending for herself before the infected covered the Earth. However, her time spent with Lance has shown her the benefits to being a little soft around a few select humans. She’s still a bad ass with a war axe and has her own dress code, but now she has opened a bit to Lance and even Emmett and Meghan.

Speaking of Emmett and Meghan, they play more central roles in this book as well. The group as a whole face some difficult decisions, but both Meghan and Emmett, who have trained and served in their own ways to protect and preserve life, must face the decision to take life. They were fine sidekicks in Book 2; in this book, they are integral and I would miss them if they weren’t there.

The plot line keeps us moving along. There’s still plenty of action and savagery from the infected, but those are punctuated with moments of reflection or humor. One of the things I really like about this series is that the dangers change with each book. We have the human dangers – humans like to be jerks to each other and that probably won’t change. Also, the infected – those savage monsters – have started to show more than bestial reactions to stimuli. They are already incredibly deadly, but now imagine them able to reason and problem solve! It makes for a very exciting plot!

With new foes and dangers, I was concerned for more than one of our foursome throughout the book. The ending was very satisfying and I can only hope that the author continues on with these characters. I am not ready to let them go.

Narration:  Wayne June once again was THE voice for Lance York. I like his average guy in a crappy situation voice. It really suits Lance’s humor. As usual, Wayne had a good array of male and female voices for all the other characters. He even pulled off a Pittsburgh-specific accent for one side character that I thought was very well done.

What I Liked:  The cover art; Cass’s attitude; I was worried about some of characters making it out alive!; the monsters aren’t as stupid as we all thought; trust issues; the ending was satisfying.

What I Disliked:  Nothing – I really enjoyed this book!

What Others Think:

Michael Loring

Fun With Books

Indie Addict