Fear the Sky by Stephen Moss

MossFearTheSkyWhere I Got It: Review Copy

Narrator: R. C. Bray

Publisher: Podium Publishing (2015)

Length: 20 hours 16 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Fear Saga

Author’s Page

An odd comet is visible through telescopes and scientist Neal Danielson is intrigued. His calculated predictions of how the comet will break up turn out correct. However, there are pieces that enter the atmosphere, each one crashing into an ocean at different points around the globe. With a small covert US government team, they try to locate one of these objects. Their efforts start a chain of events that is just the beginning in what may very well be the endgame for humanity.

This is going to be one of my favorite books of the year, I can just tell. Even though this book comes in at just over a nice hefty 20 hours listening time, it did not feel like that. I was sucked in early and caught up in the plot and the characters. It was hard to put this book away in order to tend to real life. Fear the Sky is an excellent mix of military fiction, hard scifi, artificial intelligence, and invading aliens.

An alien race is hunting for new planets to colonize and Earth is one of the closest viable planets. The aliens have planned long and hard and have pretty advanced tech. They monitored us and came up with a pretty darn good plan. Us humans should tremble at this plan. They sent an advance team to infiltrate the top military organizations of the planet so that they would have some control once the battle ships arrived. After all, they don’t want things too messy – they want to live here (without humans) instead of having the surface of the planet destroyed in world-wide battle.

The advance alien team consists of a small group of very advanced AIs. These guys are pretty scary. They carry disguised, built-in weapons and have incredible strength and speed. They know all about us and we know nothing about them. They each have a personality overlay that allows them to mimic any emotion. They come off as pretty friendly. In some regards, they reminded me a bit of the cylons in the rebooted Battlestar Galactica series (a show I thoroughly enjoyed). My favorite characters among these AIs were John Hunt, Lana Wilson, and Shaheem. Granted, we get to see more of them than of the other AIs, but I still enjoyed loving or hating them. Since they are sprinkled around the globe, we have several nationalities represented, which was great. I love multi-ethnic fiction. Through one of them, we learn a little about the alien culture. I would have enjoyed more of this but what we got was pretty intriguing. At the end of this book, the aliens are no longer some faceless monstrous enemy – we know in general what they look like, their motivations, and their power structure.

The human characters are no slouches either. Neal is one of the first to follow his curiosity, but he is not the last. Pretty soon we have a rather eclectic group of military personnel and scientists trying to figure out what these oddities mean and then trying to give humanity a fighting chance. Dr. Lori West contributes her expertise in an attempt to counteract a possible biothreat. Ayala, a Mossad counter-intelligence agent, provides all sorts of equipment, contacts, and useful advice to the group. Others are involved but these three stuck out the most to me. They have to work in secret as to avoid tipping their hand to the AIs so there is plenty of sneaking about and wonderful tension to the plot.

The ladies in this book are very well written. Each one is different and totally believable in her personality. I have been reading scifi my whole life and we need more stories like this where the both male and female characters contribute to the plot and are realistically gifted and flawed. My hat’s off to author on this point. He got it right and it makes the story that much more awesome.

The fancy tech, both of Earth’s military forces and of the advance team, is great. I do love me some fancy tech! I don’t keep up with military tech, but it all sounded believable and good to me. The AI tech was freaking awesome! There’s also some biotech Dr. West gets to work with that my inner biologist would love to get my hands on. The advanced technology was one of the main driving points of the plot; it wasn’t simply tucked in here and there as window dressing. Earth faces a vastly superior opponent and we need to advance our tech on many fronts in order to have a fighting chance. I loved this aspect to the book.

This was my first Stephen Moss book but will not be my last. This book wrapped up the first big hurdle and I was satisfied with how things were left. Yet there is still plenty to explore in the rest of the series. I greatly look forward to the rest of the series becoming available as audiobooks.

Narration:  R. C. Bray did a fantastic job. He had plenty of accents from around the world to perform, and he did them all believably. He also had plenty of female characters which he did quite well – each was distinct and believably female. I really liked his voice for John Hunt and his voice for Ayala.

What I Liked:  Humanity versus a vastly superior opponent!; plenty of fancy tech that was important to the plot; great characters that got me hooked and caring for them; loved the ladies!; the cover art, great narration; the ending tied things up but left room for the rest of the series.

What I Disliked:  Nothing – loved this book!

What Others Think:


Audio Book Reviewer

Short Book Reviews

Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: Henry L. Sullivan III, Author of The American Fathers

SullivanAmericanFathersSweptAwayFolks, it is with pleasure that I welcome Henry L. Sullivan to the blog today. I quite enjoyed the first episode (Swept Away) of his audio drama series, The American Fathers. We chat about obstacle courses, creating smart, lively characters, the importance of reviews, and so much more. Don’t forget to check out the audiobook GIVEAWAY at the end of the post!

Conventions, book signings, blogging, etc.: what are some of your favorite aspects of self-promotion and what are some of the least favorite parts of self-promotion?

Interacting with readers and audiobook listeners is my favorite part of self-promotion. I’ve had private message (PM) exchanges with readers through LibraryThing and Goodreads. Hearing what people thought about something I’ve written is the primary thing that keeps me going. I think, on some level, all writers hope that the public will enjoy their work. I personally love it when that happens.

My least favorite part of self-promotion is having to ask people who have downloaded review copies of my work for honest reviews. I’ve used LibraryThing’s early reviewer program, and have found that only one out of twenty or thirty people who download the book through that program actually post a review. I’ve done several giveaways. If this is what LibraryThing’s early reviewer program is in reality, it would be great if it were just called that. And to be honest, I feel so bad about bugging people for the review they promised, that I usually don’t do it. The problem there though is that in reality your book lives or dies by reviews. I’ve read several articles and heard successful writers say that less than one percent of people who read a book will post a review of that book, even if they enjoyed the book. Most of the reviews I’ve gotten so far have been either five or four star reviews, but I appreciated the one star review I received from one early reviewer, simply because it was her honest opinion. I was surprised to find after receiving that one star review that it didn’t necessarily stop readers from buying the book. I was told by one woman through a PM that she tried my book because it had BOTH five star reviews and a one star review, which made her believe that the reviews were from real people and not provided through a service or by fellow writers, friends and family only.

SullivanDinnerInvitationThe mix of near-future political intrigue and erotica in The American Fathers series is both smart and sexy. What brought these two elements together for you?

Smart and sexy! (lol)​ I am so glad you see it that way.

I​n writing Sheila and Jasira I​ made mistakes at first, but things started to come together as I got two things right – Sheila’s character, and the role Sheila and Jasira’s relationship plays in the overall premise of the serial.

First let me explain how the Sheila you heard in the recording​ came to be. When I first started writing Sheila, the point of view character for Episode 1, I emphasized her political ideology – concern for workers’ rights and well being, opposition to the dominance corporations have in our society, similar to what Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have been talking about for the last couple of years. There were two problems with that Sheila: 1) she didn’t have much personality, and 2) readers could not see why Jasira was attracted to her.

It may be hard to see the transition here, but Sheila became a stronger character when I started working with Adrianne Cury, director and narrator of Episode 1 – the full cast audio book (or audio drama). It happened quite by accident. We were trying to figure out how to promote the project, but even though we had already ​cast Fawzia Mirza in the role of Jasira, we hadn’t cast anyone for Sheila, so we didn’t have dialogue recorded for that character. Adrianne offered to perform Sheila’s dialogue for the promotional recording. I should mention here that Adrianne spent her childhood in the south, but the character, Sheila, was originally from Ohio. Adrianne’s suggestion made me consider, for the first time, making Sheila a southerner. That background change totally transformed my perception of the character. Sheila went from being a kind, passive, lonely, and yet ​a ​passionate academic, to a feisty, opinionated, socially awkward, and not necessarily nice but well intentioned academic/advocate. ​Once a southerner, she literally jumped off the page, and became one of my favorite characters to write because her choices and behavior ​we​re so compelling and​ interesting.

Figuring out how to use each episode to lay out the overall premise of the serial was the other thing that happened around this time. Feedback I received in a developmental edit from Juliet Ulman was extremely helpful. Juliet thought Sheila’s relationship with Jasira in the original version of Episode 1 was a Rom Com (romantic comedy), while the serial’s overall premise was more akin to an action thriller or drama – ​in 2032, the United States of America officially becomes ruled by thirteen dynast​ies. Sheila and Jasira’s relationship in the original version of episode 1 didn’t have anything to do with the overall serial. ​I knew the premise, I just hadn’t written it into the story.

Both Juliet and Adrianne were pretty blunt with me. Juliet said I missed​ a great​ opportunity conve​ying the conceptual aspects of dynastic rule in 2032 America ​through the work and perspective of a labor economist – Dr. Sheila McKinley. Adrianne said Sheila and Jasira’s dialogue was too ditzy and silly for intelligent women – one, a successful economist, the other, a successful journalist.

They were both right. As I said earlier, making Sheila a southerner made her interesting and a lot more fun to write. I tried to make her obsession with and suspicion of the dynasties work by expressing it through ​her new,​ pushy, no-nonsense personality.

You may be wondering about Jasira. All I can say is that for some reason she has been a clear, easy character for me to write from the beginning. The combination of her ambiguous relationship with the dynasties, the fact that this matters a lot to Sheila, Sheila’s attraction to Jasira, Jasira’s unexplained and yet explicit interest in ​Sheila, are all juicy elements that come together like a great gumbo.

One important thing to know about my ​writing ​style is that I ​lay out my​ stories through the framework of ​romantic ​couples.

  • Skepticism about this new political arrangement – dynasties ruling America – is told through Sheila’s relationship with Jasira.
  • The personal toll this new arrangement has on the people in power is told through Devin Wayne’s relationship with Irene Daco (Devin is military intelligence. Irene is America’s first princess).
  • The story of dynasties rising to​ become America’s official rulers is told through Victor Daco and Natalia Daco meeting, ​getting, and building the most powerful dynastic House in America (The New Rule creates thirteen houses, and Victor and Natalia are Irene parents).
  • The story of how some r​ebe​ls are just disgruntled elites is told through the story of Todd Giannopoulos (a Point One Percent, or POP Watcher​ – the POP Watchers are hacktivists​) and Ever Harrington (heir to House Harrington).

As for the sex, I’ve been told Devin and Irene’s sex is generally steamier than Sheila and Jasira’s, but I guess that all depends on the personal preferences of the reader. Sex has had a big influence on my personal relationships, so I have a hard time writing these couples without sharing their sexual experiences with the reader. To me, that’s the heart of how fiction works – the author shares the personal experiences of a character with readers. Since sex ha​s been important in my life, sharing the sexual experiences of my characters with the reader just makes sense to me.

SullivanEscapeFromNewOrleansWhat has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

For over ten years I worked as a manager for different national retail and restaurant chains. I hated that job. I had to work thirty two hours straight once because every one of my employees quit instead of coming to work. This happened four shifts in a row. I was the new manager of that gas station, and each employee quit without notice.

Writing is an extremely satisfying experience. The world is a better place for me when I’m writing.

Is there a book to movie/TV adaptation that you found excellent? Is there a PC game to book adaptation that worked for you?

The BBC adaptation of White Teeth by Zadie Smith is the truest book to TV adaptation I have ever seen. I don’t play video games, however.

Full-cast audio experience versus single-person narration: what made you choose one over the other?

I have a strong preference for the fullness in sound produced by full cast as compared to regular audiobooks. I’m impressed, sometimes, by an actor’s ability to perform multiple roles in a recording, but I never like the singular feel that method produces. I always know it’s the same person, even when they’re doing a great job distinguishing one character from another. I cannot remember ever liking a male actor’s portrayal of a female character. I’ve heard some that were terrible. But male to female or female to male, I always prefer hearing individual performances of each character.

American Gods, for instance, for me was a much more satisfying listen than The Fall of Hyperion, even though I enjoyed reading The Fall of Hyperion. Both novels were written very well, but for me the experience of listening to the recorded performance is better when different actors are cast for each one of the main characters.

SullivanTheAnalystWhat do you do when you are not writing?

​Housework. I’ve been doing the laundry in between writing responses to this interview. I can cook, but everyone in my household has different preferences, so I usually cook what I want to eat. I probably don’t clean to most people’s satisfaction, but I try not to make more mess than I can handle myself. ​

You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

​I would either invite Bartimaeus (from the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud​), Seraphina (from the novel by Rachel Hartman), Celia Bowen (from the Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern), or Brawne Lamia (Hyperion by Dan Simmons, which was also a great full cast audiobook by the way).

Drinking with any one of these characters would be extremely interesting. Seraphina is the only one out of the four who would complain the entire time (until drunk, of course), effectively serving as a burden, until her dragon uncle flew in to help.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I recently took two road trips – one from the Chicago area to Bimidji, Minnesota, the other to Lake Norman, North Carolina. During the first trip I formulated the background story for Devin Wayne, point of view character for Episode 3: Escape From New Orleans, Episode Five: Return of the Prince, and Episode 9: Voyage to Nowhere. Maybe because we took the second trip shortly after the Bimidji trip, I began writing Voyage To Nowhere. Here’s what I have for the episode summary so far:

Devin and Irene are running from teams of assassins working for House Watson. Devin has a plan. He knows they will be safe if only they can make it to Nowhere. For the first time in Devin’s life, he hopes he will have the opportunity to introduce a woman to his parents. He is sure about his feelings for Irene, but not about the nature of their relationship. What future can they possibly have? Her father, Victor, no longer wants to kill him. But Irene is still a princess whose kingdom is at war. Even if they make it home, he doubts she will want to stay Nowhere forever.

SullivanAmericanFathersSweptAwayBook Blurb for The American Fathers: Swept Away:

Fresh off a break up, Sheila McKinley, the easygoing college professor, meets Jasira Said, the up and coming journalist and political columnist.

Sheila has no idea her friend Rima is acquainted with Jasira, so their arranged meeting is easily disguised as a simple dinner party. Even after she agrees to show Jasira around town, she really doesn’t suspect her real intentions. But after an accident at a night club things move quickly, until everything is crystal clear.

Places to Stalk Henry L. Sullivan







Henry Sullivan is graciously offering ten Audible.com copies of Swept Away (Episode 1 of The American Fathers series). Honest reviews, of course, would be welcome and appreciated. In order to enter the giveaway, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer the following in the comments: 1) Do you have an Audible.com account? 2) What are some of your favorite audio dramas? 3) Leave a way for me to contact you! Giveaway ends November 5, 2015, midnight.

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Fantasy Erotica by Derendrea

DerendreaFantasyEroticaWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Roberto Scarlato

Publisher: Derendrea Books (2015)

Length: 5 hours 29 minutes

Author’s Page

This book contains two short erotica stories: Valkyrie (urban fantasy) and Forgotten (science fiction)

Valkyrie: On a dark and snowy night, Jason comes across an injured woman, but she’s not exactly a woman. She’s got these large, bat-like wings. He’s really not too sure what she is or how she came to be injured but he’s an all-around nice guy. So he takes her in and nurses her back to health. The story then fast-forwards a number of years to when Val (which is short for her full name, Valkyrie) and Jason are living together in a major city in an apartment. The sexual tension between Jason and Val is very palpable and yet they have never completed an act to fulfill those needs. I felt this point of the story was unlikely as we have two full grown people living together for a number of years that are clearly attracted to each other and not attached to anyone else.

Setting that aside, the action really picks up in the second half of the story. Val doesn’t recall who she was before she was injured and left alone that snowy night. But all that is about to be revealed as she meets others of the night. Unfortunately for Jason, he becomes tainted and little more than a beast. Val desperately tries to save him. I didn’t know how this story would end. The author set it up perfectly to give a tragic ending or a fist-pumping save-the-day ending. The suspense at the end was nail biting. The tale is definitely Val’s. She’s the one the story focuses on and the other characters are just there to bounce stuff off of. Even Jason was sadly pretty one dimensional.

This book is more urban fantasy with erotica elements than erotica first and foremost. There’s plenty of sexual tension throughout the book but the sex doesn’t happen until the last quarter. There’s a minor sex scene and then a major love scene (and it is love between the two characters). The second scene was quite lovely and also smoking hot. I really enjoyed this book because we got hooked on the character Val long before we get to the sexy bits. I also enjoy the urban fantasy setting and the challenges for the characters such a setting brings.

Forgotten: In a scifi universe, Lifea is your basic house slave. She’s been a slave for some years and sees to menial chores aboard the spaceship. She wasn’t always a slave and she still has that spark that dreams and hopes for better days. Then, one day the slaver’s ship is attacked. She really doesn’t want to be captured or killed. She ends up in a storage room with this kind of mechanized space suit she found earlier. She was drawn to it then and now it seems this is her only option for hiding, and perhaps escape. Once inside the suit, it chats her up, much to her surprise. Tcai is a kind of ghost in the shell, a being that tied his essence to the suit many years ago. However, an organic being is needed to wear the suit and have it operate.

The two escape, but it’s not exactly to the ideal location. A deserted planet with lots of sand becomes their new foe to defeat. During that time, they learn more of each other. The last quarter of the book has flashbacks to Tcai’s previous existence as the two meet their latest struggle. I was completely taken in by this story and was concerned for the characters. I do believe this is the best story by Derendrea I have read so far. This story is definitely more scifi than erotica, though there are indeed steamy, very sensual, detailed love scenes. If you’re into scifi romance, then check this book out!

I received a copy of this book from the author at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Roberto Scarlato did a pretty good job with this book. He has a rich masculine voice for the male characters and decent feminine voices for the lady characters. He didn’t balk at the love scenes. I especially liked his voice for one of the valkyries in the first story and for Tcai in the second story.  

What I Liked: We get tied to the characters before we get to the sexy bits; the cover art; definitely enjoyed the SFF backgrounds for the two stories; the love scenes were about sensuality and connecting for the most part; really, really enjoyed Forgotten all around.

What I Disliked: In Valkyrie, I would have liked Jason to have a little more personality; I found it hard to believe Jason and Val had lived together for years and not acted on their obvious attraction for each other.

Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: Jeff Hays, Versatile Narrator

ForbesDeadLuckyOffer up the warmest welcome for Jeff Hays. I have enjoyed listening to several books he has narrated, including M. R. Forbes’s Ghosts & Magic series (which is freaking awesome!). It’s a great pleasure to have Jeff on the blog today as we chat about TV shows, challenging accents, cosplay, and much more. Interested in the US/UK AUDIOBOOK GIVEAWAY? Then scroll to the bottom of the post.

1) If you could be an extra on a period piece (Outlander, Spartacus, etc.) what would it be?

Peaky Blinders. If you’re asking what kind of extra, obviously I’d want to be one of the other gangsters.

2) If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

Space alien. Then I’d want to look at all his gear!

3) What now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?

Neal Barrett Jr. I’ve worked on two of his books, and I’d like to do the rest. He was absolutely brilliant, and I could talk to him about writing, his work in particular, and philosophical stuff because it’s pretty clear to me we share a lot of the same unpopular views.

PiccirilliThrust4) If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

Neal Barrett Jr.’s Aldair series. I’ve never been so wrapped up, or surprised by the discoveries and surprises in a story. The real beauty of these mysteries is that the answers are all obvious, the clues are scattered around in plain sight, but because of Neal’s ability to really put the reader into the mind of Aldair, we feel the impact of his discoveries far more than one should expect.

5) How does modern pop culture influence your work as a voice actor?

First of all, music, TV, movies, and video games are all great sources when it comes to finding voices, melodies, sound effects and inspiration. The varieties are literally endless. Since I can remember, which is about 3 years old or so, I’ve been a parrot. I hear things, I find them entertaining or intriguing, I try to imitate them with my voice, and if I find it difficult, it becomes a challenge and I keep at it. I especially imitate things that irritate me, such as radio commercials or overly sappy acting, and then try to imitate them for fun. I learn a lot when my emotions are stirred up by a sound I’m parroting because I compare the feelings I’m having and the feelings I know that sound is trying to evoke. I then try to find out where the sound is going wrong and figure out what I can do to fix it and make it more effective.

Actors in the myriad forms of media around us inspire me particularly. Most of the actors that live in my head and get cast in this role or another also have a specific actor associated with them. But, even though I attempt to mimic that living actor as I picture them, my impersonations still aren’t completely accurate. As I develop the actor inside my head associated with a specific influential actor, tendencies begin to emerge in their performance related more to decisions I make according to the text and sounds that I tend towards out of preference rather than adherence to an impersonation, so everyone in the troupe inside my head starts out as an homage to an actor Or personality that I like, but ends up having their own identity and style.

RobertsVikingWarrior6) What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to voice acting?

I consider myself fortunate when it comes to “jobs.” By that I mean, I haven’t had many, so picking out the worst one makes me feel a bit ungrateful. I would have to say working for my parents managing rental property produces the most unpleasant work memories. I did not like being responsible for the living situations of other people. Thankless work, and the worst of it came from dealing with people who had their rent paid for by the government. Lots of plumbing (uuuuuuuuuuuggggghhhhhhh), cleaning, electric work (not that unpleasant actually), painting white walls white. I listened to a lot more audio books back then…

This job does not compare with voice-acting. It was actual work. Voice-acting is play that I get paid for… Except for marketing.

ConneelyWitchForHire7) More and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, and audiobook, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to handle this trend?

Of course, everything is going digital. I still pop in a blu-ray now and then, or an Xbox game once in a millennium, but for the most part we’re moving away from physical media. It saves a lot of shelf space. More importantly, the price of media is plummeting. This will allow those who really love and obsess over particular stories or fictional worlds to dive deeper into them, and experience them in several ways. In the future, I see particularly successful fictional worlds developing entire production studios that produce content solely for those worlds. Due to this digital age, artists, including myself, are becoming more and more versatile, able to work effectively and use principles they’ve learned from their preferred medium and apply them to others, communicate more easily with other artists in different mediums, and work in more tightly knit teams in order to make these worlds that much more real. Not only will audiences be better able to choose their favorite medium through which to experience these popular fictional worlds, but these mediums are constantly blending, and new mediums that we’ve never even conceived outside of sci-fi speculation will begin to emerge. Video games are a prime example of this principle. They require skills from every other medium that came before: modeling, writing, video, sound-efffects, music, acting, etc.

8) Have you ever done a cosplay of a character from an audiobook you narrated?

As a matter of fact I have ;)

9) If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?

Will Answer Difficult Questions Honestly

MenapaceHairOfTheBitch10) If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

Deborah Morgan (Dexter), Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones, haven’t read the books, sorry), Sean Connery (Celebrity Jeopardy on SNL), The Joker (The Mark Hamil one), Genie (Aladdin). Now that’s a fuckin party.

11) What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

Not sure what’s the most geeky, but the most recent one in memory was which iteration of Star Trek is the best. I argued for Next Generation. Picard is the man.

12) Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I literally just finished “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” by Mark Twain. The most difficult audio book I’ve ever produced, but I love how it came out and I’m really excited for people to listen. Also, I begin production on M.R. Forbes’s “Tears of Blood Series” at the beginning of October. This is his interesting take on high-fantasy, and it really doesn’t get the attention it deserves. By popular demand, I will be narrating in an Irish accent, which is my FAVORITE accent, and I will be using many different UK accents for the very large number of characters throughout the series. This will really leave me open to criticism from discerning listeners and other narrators, so I look forward to the challenge.

Places to Stalk Jeff Hays






Jeff is generously offering up 10 audiobooks from his Audible catalog, US or UK, which means 10 winners! You can enter the giveaway by doing the Rafflecopter thing below or answering the following in the comments: 1) What fictional characters would you like to have a drink with? 2) Leave a way for me to contact you (email preferred). Giveaway ends October 25th, 2015  midnight.

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The Martian by Andy Weir

Claudie snoring

Claudie snoring

Where I Got It: Audiobook Swap Club

Narrator: R. C. Bray

Publisher: Podium Publishing (2013)

Length: 10 hours 53 minutes

Author’s Page


Set in a hopefully not too distant future, humans are sending manned missions to Mars. This is the story of one man, Mark Watney, who got to spend more time than he expected on the desolate, deadly planet. Alone.

Watney was part of a team that landed on Mars and erected a habitat. Unfortunately, Mars kicked up a sandstorm that threatened their ability to leave in the future, so the captain ordered an emergency abort to the mission. As they made their way from the habitat through the sandstorm to the escape vessel, equipment came lose, slamming into Watney and sweeping him off into the sandstorm. His vital readings went dead and his crew was forced to abandon his body. Later, safely aboard their orbiting ship, they wept. Watney woke up and took stock of things. And the odds were definitely not in his favor. But through determination, an inability to give up hope, and, dare I say it, boredom, Watney comes up with a plan that may or may not get him off Mars…..eventually.

This has been one of the best hard science fiction novels I have had the pleasure to read in some years. Watney is both a mechanical engineer and a botanist. He’s the guy who fixes stuff when it breaks and also does the plant experiments. He also swears a lot. Right off, I wanted to be his best friend. Watney was easy to connect with and immediately I was sucked into his story and I wanted him to beat all the odds and safely make it home to Earth.

Mars itself was like a character. We got to know her whims and moods, her terrain and climate. She had a myriad of ways she attempted to snuff the puny human known as Mark Watney off the face of the planet. Indeed, there were times Watney outright cursed Mars. I really love it when the setting becomes so integral to the story, shaping the plot. That’s exactly how it went with this tale.

Of course, it’s not just Mars gunning for Watney. Nope. There are a fair share of attempts by that pesky thing called Human Error. It was bound to happen, both on Mars by Watney and back home on Earth by NASA as they attempt to rescue Watney. Honestly, there were so many reasons why Watney would not survive this book, I truly did not know until the very end whether he would or not.

So not only do we have Watney’s tale, but we also have his crew on their ship (which is returning to Earth) and the folks back home at NASA. While this story is primarily Watney’s tale, he’s not alone and we get to see how all these people pull together to attempt to save him, a lone man on a foreign planet. Watching how this giant team of folks struggled to assist Watney was great. There’s a little bit of politicking, but mostly just people starting off with ‘It’s not possible!’ and going to ‘We’ll damn well find a way!’.

While Watney’s struggle is a persistent background throughout, there is also humor. Watney has it and definitely needs it in order to survive the ordeal. Much of the story is told through his daily log entries and often it is just us readers who get to hear Watney’s jokes. The humor lightened the mood but also made the death traps much more serious.

I’ve read that other people found the technical bits a little daunting. This is hard science fiction and the story is told by scientists all around. So, yes, there are plenty of measurements and technical babble here and there as Watney tries to figure out how to survive on Mars. As a biologist, this aspect of the story really gave it weight, letting me know that the author took his own work seriously. I truly liked it as this showed how important science was to the story.

When I finished this book, I literally hugged it.

Narration:  R. C. Bray is a very talented man. He had this perfect voice for Watney, no matter his mood or circumstance. There were a few foreign accents as well (German, Chinese, Indian) and he did all of these smoothly. His female character voices were quite believable. Watney, and others, go through several different emotions throughout this story and Bray did a great job of getting those emotions across to the listener.

What I Liked:  Hard science fiction; Watney in all his moods; a survival story; Mars is integral to the plot and basically a character in and of itself; all the folks doing their best to save Watney; excellent narration; I wanted Watney to make it against all odds but truly didn’t know how the story would end.

What I Disliked:  Nothing – this is a most excellent novel!

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Song Bird by Larry Weiner

WeinerSongBirdWhere I Got It: Review Copy

Narrators:  Kelli O’Hara, Ed Asner, Shirley Jones, Tom Dheere – For a complete list of narrators/performers, click HERE

Publisher: Radio Repertory Company of America (2011)

Length: 1 hour 36 minutes

Author’s Page

Set in the same future universe as the much enjoyed Anne Manx series, rises this new tale. Maureen Barnett, a once famous singer and performer, is now lucky to be performing at a smokey dive. She’s constantly arguing with her teenage daughter, Holly, who she pretty much ignored as a kid as she focused on her career. But now she desperately wants that familial connection. Then Amelia Storm walks into her life telling her a fantastical tale of a song that grants the singer premonitions. Of course, Maureen doesn’t believe her. Then her daughter goes missing and she’s willing to give anything a try to get her back, including counting on the recently retired police officer Henry Powell.

This story didn’t have near as much scifi flair as the Anne Manx series that I adore but it was still quite enjoyable. The dialogue was crisp and full of small jokes for the reader to catch and chuckle at. The characters were fun and interesting. Maureen really steals the show in this story. She’s got issues. She’s a bit of a diva, but a diva who had a breakdown not too long ago and realized that her baby daughter was nearly all grown up and she didn’t know her at all. So she takes these small singing jobs at little restaurants, bars, and nightclubs (partly because she’s still paralyzed by large crowds, but also so she can stay in one place and be a part of Holly’s life). She’s not perfect but she is trying.

The rest of the characters have their flaws too and each plays off the other and that adds to the both the plot and the humor. Holly has a lot of anger towards her mom (and probably rightly so) but she’s also being a bit of a spoiled brat. So I didn’t feel too bad for her when things started to go awry and she went missing. Henry is bitter about essentially being forced into retirement but he’s still got something to give to society. Amelia floats into the story as either our savior with her magical song or as the crack pot that might still incidentally save the day. It’s a great combination of character traits divvied up among these engaging characters. There is some light adult humor bantered around which should be fine for most kids and a family car trip. It did bring out the teen in me, leaving me sniggering a few times.

The plot started off pretty simple. Strained relationship between mother and daughter, then a missing daughter, plus that magical song. It’s a solid start to a story. Once Henry (who is now a private investigator) gets pulled into the story, the plot really starts to move along and we get a few twists. I have to admit, I did not see the ending coming. I was pleasantly surprised by who did what and why. Another fine addition to the RRCA catalog!

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Narration:  The audio performance was of the same great quality as we have come to know and expect from the Anne Manx series. The dialogue comes through clearly with the background sound effects and/or music never drowning it out. This particular story has snippets of song throughout and those snippets were performed to the same high standard. O’Hara’s performance of Maureen when she was having her nightmarish premonitions was very well done. Think about how hard it is to get across to a listener that a character is asleep having a bad dream. I really enjoyed Jones’s performance in the big reveal scene. She kept in character while also showing this new side. Asner was great as both disgruntled cop and love-smitten retiree. Kevin Crawley was the voice of Jeff (Holly’s boyfriend) and I loved his voice as he fawned over Maureen Barnett. All around, another great performance!

What I Liked:  Excellent narration/audio production; lovely cover art; a fun, engaging story; crisp, quick humor; a little adult humor; a surprise ending.

What I Disliked:  Nothing – I completely enjoyed this book.

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Cold Sweats and Vignettes by John Bowen

BowenColdSweatVignettesWhere I Got It: Review Copy

Narrator: Phil Mayes

Publisher: John Bowen (2015)

Length: 1 hour 1 minute

Author’s Page

This book contains 4 short stories: The Steal, Collide, Crash, and The Fall. All four are full of suspense and delicious tension. I am hard pressed to say which was my favorite in the collection as they were all worthy. Perhaps Collide or Crash simply because I gravitate towards science fiction. My only small quibble is that there appear to be no females in any of the stories, though it is possible they are hidden in the story Crash (genders are not spelled out).

The Steal – A thief is hired by a collector to acquire an occult artifact….

Mortcombe hires Mr. Lucas Smith to steal something for him. Mortcombe is dying and greatly desires this thing before he departs this world. World class security for a world class vault: a solid challenge for Lucas. There is a singular item that Mortcombe has coveted for the last 30 years. Lucas will get that item for him, for a price. This was an excellent short story! It’s a little dark and mysterious. Couple that with Lucas’s practicality when it comes to thievery, and we have a most entertaining tale. The story switches back and forth from Lucas’s conversation with Mortcombe in a seedy bar to Lucas sneaking past security, into the vault, and then perusing the vault’s contents. It worked really well as we get to hear through Lucas how he did some background checks on Mortcombe and the man Lucas has been hired to steal from. The ending was rather unexpected, a little spooky, and a fitting end. 5/5 stars

Collide – A world-changing incident at the Large Hadron Collider….

This story is captured in news reports starting immediately after the event and spanning 4 years. Immediately, there are many deaths due to the explosion. As more info comes in, folks are trying to figure out how to deal with temporal abnormalities. Past and future have collided. Not just people have been temporally transplanted, but also animals and inanimate objects. Scientists and journalists bring up some great questions – communicable diseases? definite knowledge of events past and present and thier affect on the present? This short piece brought up several good points to mull over concerning the larger impact of time travel. 5/5

Crash – A hard landing on an alien planet….

Kul, Hue, and Ben are crashing on an uncharted planet. This little tale is told through Ben’s eyes. It’s Ben’s first jump and it has all gone wrong. Poor dude. The crash landing doesn’t leave him and the crew whole and hardy. Pretty quickly they and their ship are discovered by the local alien life. This story had a lovely little twist at the end that had me chuckling out loud. 5/5

The Fall – A London gangster finds himself in a bad situation….

In a boiler room, Eddy Flynn is tied to a chair. A single bulb glares above. A man, in a highly tailored expensive silk suit, wants a chat with Eddy. Now Eddy is a big shark in his world of London gangs. He’s earned a reputation for his violence. Yet Eddy knows he’s in a bad situation here. His best bet is to buy time (his men are looking for him, surely?) and try to bluff his way out of this. The assortment of tools on a nearby table don’t portend good things for Eddy. He talks a good game but will it be enough? I was sucked into this story quickly and I really wanted to know why Eddy was tied to that chair and who put him there! I almost wanted Eddy to make it out of this if I could just have those answers. The suspense was great! 5/5

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the narrator (via a post on GoodReads Audiobooks group) in exchange for an honest review.

Narration:  Phil Mayes did a really good job with this book. His voice was excellent for the hardboiled male roles and for all the suspense. I especially liked his voice for Lucas Smith in The Steal and for Eddy Flynn in The Fall. He had some great London accents for The Fall. In Collide, he did these wonderful fade outs for the news reports that trailed off. All around, an excellent performance for this book.

What I Liked:  Kept me taught as a bowstring due to the suspense; each story sucked me right in and I wanted to know how things would turn out for the characters; two had excellent little twists at the end; Collide definitely gave me reason to pause and think; The Crash gave me a good chuckle; great narration.

What I Disliked:  Where are the ladies?

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