Driver 5 by Ray W. Clark

ClarkDriver5Where I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Larry Lang

Publisher: Driver5books (2016)

Length: 2 hours 18 minutes

Author’s Page

The man who will be known as Driver 5 for the entire book is offered a sweet fast car by an odd old man. He jumps at the chance and takes it for joy ride but soon finds himself in the midst of a zombie-filled land. Luckily, he runs into Leah pretty quickly and she gives him the basics and directs him to a safe place. This underground complex houses most of the remaining humans in the area and they have been fighting an ongoing mission to take out a half-demon half-human Hitler who has set up base in Detroit. Yeah, I know. This isn’t a deep work but it a lot of fun. Just sit back and enjoy the ride!

Right off the bat, I’m going to tell you my pet peeve with this story and then we can get to all the good fun stuff. First, there is only one female character, Leah, and she is a woman, not a girl. Additionally, 5ft 9in is NOT short. Just setting the record straight there Driver 5!

So Driver 5 has been sucked in to this alternate timeline where Hitler did a sneaky and deadly attack at the end of WWII which sunk much of the western USA and Japan and part of China, and created these zombies. He then dabbled in some occult stuff, became part demon, and moved his center of operations to Detroit. Ha! I was just snort laughing throughout this book in entertainment – some of the stuff is just so far over the top I had to laugh along with plot.

At the underground complex, Driver 5 (no one wants to know who he really is or what he’s like because these drivers don’t have a long life expectancy) gets gussied up for the quest. He gets some cool nanotech that heightens his reflexes and lets his car recognize him as the sole driver and it connects him to his weapons as well. The car gets well stocked for the crazy drive from Indianapolis to Detroit. Leah gets to be his copilot. Now why folks of this history line don’t drive yet have the tech to send people to hunt down drivers in alternate histories is a little odd, but hey, we’re hear for the crazy Thunderdome ride experience, right?

And, indeed, it is a crazy, crazy road trip. Leah does a good job keeping Driver 5 alive and he eventually gets up to speed and starts doing his fair share of zombie killing. Eventually, Leah becomes Driver 5’s romantic interest and she’s a full grown woman who can make up her own mind about him. When they get to Detroit, their intel says demon Hitler is set up in a sports stadium and is well defended. Yes, the ending was a full on action flick.

In short, I could totally pick apart the plot. There’s a lot things that won’t hold up under even light scrutiny. But honestly, that’s not why I listened to it. I read that book blurb. I knew going into it that this was not a book to take seriously. Yet I still enjoyed the hell out of it. So, yes, go pick up a copy, enjoy it, revel in zombie killing while driving a fast car with a weapons-competent leather-clad woman at your side.

I received this book free of charge from the narrator in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: The narration started off rough. Larry Lang sounded muffled at first and some of his sound effects drowned out the narration. But things did get better. By the end, he has a good balance of sound effects and his narration doesn’t sound so muffled. Leah always sounded like a woman and the male characters all sounded distinct.

What I Liked: Just fun to listen to; zombies – anyone can shoot a zombie and not feel bad about it; demon Hitler set up in Detroit – ha!; the cool tech; Leah and her competence.

What I Disliked: 5ft 9in is not short; there’s only 1 woman so I guess this alternate history won’t be repopulating quickly; the narration was a little rough.

What Others Think:

AudioFile

Insanity Tales II, The Sense of Fear, an anthology

PhillipsInsanityTalesIIWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Fred Wolinsky

Publisher: The Storyside Press (2016)

Length: 7 hours 38 minutes

Six writers have come together with 11 tales in this anthology. Foreword is by Joe McKinney. Contributing authors are: David Daniel, Ursula Wong, Dale T. Phillips, Stacy Longo, Rob Smales, and Vlad V.

This collection ranges from the humorous to the vengeful to the brutal to the calculated deadly. There’s vomiting demons, cheating spouses, serial killings, back-room justice, despair and sadness, innocent madness, and a post-apocalyptic deadly obstacle course. I really enjoyed the first Insanity Tales anthology but I think this one is a bit more diverse. My three favorites from this collection were Hooks, Spirit in the Stone, and The Devil’s in the Details, though Rape Kit deserves a worthy mention.

Snow Day by David Daniel

Ed’s at a bar on a Thursday night about to head home. Normally he stays overnight in the city on Thursdays so he can get an early start at work on Friday and be home early for a long weekend. But it looks like snow is in the air and folks are hoping for a snow day. Liam, the bar tender, brings up the age-old question of whether size matters or not. Ed tells Liam a story about his grade school days: Susan liked to collect baseball cards –the more the better. Each individual one doesn’t matter. The size of her collection was what mattered to her. This story started off pretty innocently, letting me get all cozy within the telling, leading me by the hand down some dark alley of infidelity, handguns, and fancy lingerie. This was a good start to the anthology, getting the audience warmed up. And, yes, I did indeed like the running cliche of ‘size matters…. or not’ throughout the story. 5/5

The Book of Shadows by Rob Smales

James had his eyes operated on in his teen years, returning his sight. Now he lives out in the wilderness. A reporter, Carl, has tracked him down and wants a story about the serial killings. At first, James refuses to chat with him but Carl makes a strong argument for how he’ll get his story one way or the other. So James tells him his tale of how it all started, how he learned to interpret the shadows, and how it all went horribly wrong. Since the tale is told from the standpoint of the main character, I never questioned whether or not he was telling the truth about the shadows and his level of involvement in the deaths. Then we get to the ending and I have to wonder. James’s disturbed emotions over the foreshadowing shadows was quite clear and his horror, even terror at times, and eventual despair comes through clearly. 4/5

Voices by Dale T. Phillips

The story starts off with Chase Davis and his friend Marty at Rebecca’s graveside. Marty’s wife, Rebecca, was having an affair with Chase, who had wanted to call it off due to boredom but Rebecca was clingy. Marty misses her terribly and Chase is determined to keep his little secret so as not to devastate his best friend further. Yet Marty is certain he can find a way to communicate with the dead. All through this story I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Perhaps Marty knew about the affair all along or found out shortly after the funeral and now he wants to pull an elaborate, demented joke on Chase. However, there never is another shoe to drop. The story had a strong set up and then a whirlwind ending. In fact, I felt the ending was rather abrupt. 3/5

Nobody Ever Listens to Eddie by Stacey Longo

Eddie believes he has been psychic since he was a kid – his sister’s bike accident, his dad’s car, vomiting on the priest, that toad. So today is a big festive day and he has the worst feeling ever about the day. However, he’s reluctant to tell anyone about it. His sister Bev always finds a logical way to explain away his bad feeling. His wife Norma left him because of it as well. Will Eddie listen to his feelings today or finally set aside that side of him and try to have a normal day at the festivities? This was a fun, short piece. 4/5

Spirit in the Stone by Ursula Wong

This story flashes back and forth between the present (she’s spreading Joe’s ashes in the desert) and their past few years together. She’s always been a bit sad, but one day she meets Joe in a diner and they hit it off. He likes having someone to take care of and she likes being taken care of. Unfortunately, Joe gets sick. During the last days of his life he goes a little nuts and accuses her of poisoning him, of killing his 3rd grade teacher, etc. As she’s spreading his ashes, she finds some petroglyphs. She vaguely recalls a story that said spirits return to the rocks once their body passes. I really enjoyed this one. A bit mystical and yet everything can be explained by human nature. 5/5

Rape Kit by David Daniel

On a small campus in Pennsylvania, a 65 year old campus cop coordinates with his newest recruit, Roland, in dealing with the accusation of rape. They’ve taken care of all the immediate stuff and are waiting for the state police to show up. The old cop starts telling Roland stories of how such things were handled in the past prior to rape kits and forensic evidence. Plenty of food for thought in this one while dealing with a tough subject. 5/5

The Perfect Game by Rob Smales

Jimmy has been eagerly waiting for Joe and Charlie to return from their adventures in England. Joe shows up but he doesn’t look too good. Charlie still at Logan airport, waiting to be claimed by a family member. Joe tells Jimmy the lengthy story about a game of darts while they were in England and how it all went wrong. The dart game part took up the bulk of the story and I found it a bit boring. The surprise ending was a nice twist. 3.5/5

Hooks by Dale T. Phillips

Mr. Burrows lost his hands to an IED and now he has hooks. He feels they set him apart from society and he hates it. Even when people are kind, like giving him a free breakfast or such, he hates that too. One day he meets a nice lady and they spend hours talking before he reveals his hooks. She still likes him but is busy with school for a few weeks. He thinks she’s just letting him down easy. The story takes a much darker turn, showing how important (and perhaps deadly) it can be to self-identify as a predator instead of prey. I loved this one. It shined an eerie light on how disabled veterans are treated, even by well meaning folks, and a light on what those veterans might think of such pity. 5/5

The Devil’s in the Details by Stacey Longo

Tiffany is having a sleep-over at her house for her birthday. She’s invited the twins (Gretchen and Gerda), Allison (grammatical queen), and Julie. Tiffany received a Ouija board for her birthday and of course the girls have to try it out. Unfortunately, one of them makes the mistake of jokingly inviting a spirit to possess her body. Things change for her after that; some good, some bad. This one was quite fun and a bit light-hearted compared to the rest of the collection. It was cute and fun. I can see it as a start to a YA urban fantasy series. 5/5

Fly Away by Ursula Wong

Danny does his best to explain to his girlfriend Alice about his older sister Vega. She’s different and has spent the last several years at the Hampstead Home. Vega’s old room is full of ceramic birds, most in crazy colors. Now Vega is due to return home and Danny wants to meet her alone and introduce Alice a little later. But is reconnecting with Vega on the isolated farm really the best choice for Danny? This story started off strong. I like all the creepy bird imagery. The ending is a little abrupt and I could see it coming from the beginning. 4/5

Float by Vlad V.

This is a nitty, gritty, grimy, and sometimes slimy story. Set in the post-apocalyptic ruins of a large city (New Carthage), there’s still crime lords. Al Brunichelli wants his sister Adelina to at least marry an equal if not a little higher, perhaps allying his own crime organization with rival gang. Alas, Adelina has her eyes (and other body parts) set on Hector. He’s a low-level runner, and his skin isn’t white enough for Al. But they strike a deal. The biggest holiday of the year is coming up and that means the deadly float race is nearly upon them as well. Hector wants a float, and if he wins, then he gets Adelina. The float race is kind of like the thunderdome on big rubber water floats. There’s dirty tricks right, left, and center, and Hector has to figure a way through or under or over all of them. The competition is fierce and Al just might have added some extra dangers for Hector. I started off really liking this and it ended OK. I like the gritty feel to it and the dangerous float ride. However, there is only 1 woman and she is a prize to be won and she’s OK with that (a rather tired cliche). 4/5

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

Narration:  Fred Wolinsky did a really good job with this collection. In Spirit in the Stone, Wolinsky does a great job narrating the entire thing in a feminine voice. In Snow Day, Wolinsky had a little trouble with Liam’s Irish accent, but that’s my only negative comment on the narration. In The Devil’s in the Details, Wolinsky using special demon voice (gravelly) when the demon speaks and then he gave the voice a hollow echo for when the demon was speaking to his host in her own head.

What I Liked: Quite a variety of spooking stories; some tougher subjects are brought up in this anthology; a few are lighter to balance the heavier stories; horror can also be a part of back-room justice or a naughty prank.

What I Disliked: A few stories ended abruptly; one story treated the only female character as a tired cliche.

The Weller by Adam J. Whitlatch

WhitlatchTheWellerWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: A. W. Miller

Publisher: Adam J. Whitlatch (2015)

Length: 4 hours 56 minutes

Author’s Page

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, much of the land is a waste. Food, water, shelter, and decent people are in short supply. Matt Freeborn lost his parents young and his granpa raised him to be a Weller, one who can find clean water.  While his existence with his granpa is tough, there is also joy satisfaction in it. Sadly, that won’t last because this is a book about how Matt gets scammed and beat up and shot and left for dead. He’s in for a tough time of it.

There’s lots that I really liked about this book, and one thing I didn’t care for. So, let’s get that out of the way – Dude! Where are all the women? You can’t repopulate the world without women! There’s several no-name ladies scattered throughout the book and one (count her exactly – 1) woman named Phoenix who has a plot relevant role. I want more women in this gritty, harsh world. The author can write female characters, as he proves with our lone female character or note.

This book was a joy to read. It had that mix of action, and desperate every day fight to live, and the nostalgia of better days lost. Our hero, Matt, is quite a mess. He’s decent enough, given the circumstances, but he’s going to make some bad decisions that give him a world of hurt. I really enjoyed that not all went his way all the time. I like to watch the heroes suffer and fight for what they want, and of course, overcome and be victorious. However, in this water barren world, ‘victorious’ might only get you a tiny tub bath of cold, undrinkable water.

I’m really hoping the author returns to this world and gives us another book. He’s created this rich backdrop in which we could have more adventures, with or without Matt. I’m sure the Distillers (folks who aren’t above stealing water out of people) have an interesting story or two to tell. They were quite chilling and ruthless in this book.

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

 

The Narration: A. W. Miller was a good choice for this book. He had this kind of old cowboy voice that was full of gravel for Granpa. I also liked his younger voice for Matt. He did a great job of getting Matt’s emotions across. 

What I Liked: A harsh world full of dangers; the Distillers were vicious!; Matt and his good heart but questionable choices; the nostalgia for better days and a lost world; Phoenix;  the cover art; great narration.

What I Disliked: So few women and only 1 of note😦.

What Others Think:

Book Lover’s Life

Survival Weekly

 

Janus: Zombies versus Dinosaurs by James Livingood

LivingoodJanusWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Randal Schaffer

Publisher: Paperbackward (2016)

Length: 5 hours 33 minutes

Series: Book 2 Zombies vs. Dinosaurs

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 2 in the series, it works fine as a stand alone.

I really enjoyed Pale Rider so when the author offered me a review copy of the sequel, I jumped at the chance. Sad to say, I didn’t find this installment as interesting. Janus is a zombie leader and he controls his pack of zombies through instinct. He also uses this power, instinct, to control a non-zombiefied deer or elk (I forget which), which he rides upon. The zombies are definitely different than the ones we saw in Book 1, being able to group together like this and be lead by a strong ‘personality’. However, I found the whole instinct power not well flushed out and difficult to believe in. Yep, I can totally believe in zombies and genetically created dinosaur-looking beasties, but I had a hard time with this instinct. Mostly, it was because of the elk. Wild animals have their own agendas – eat, sleep, fornicate, repeat. Elk aren’t big fans of rotting meat smell either. So Janus is using his power, instinct, to keep this elk in line, by negating the elk’s own instincts to run? That’s where Janus’s power gets to squishy and ill-defined for me.

The character, Pale Rider, is a reluctant leader in his town. He settles disputes and folks seek him out for advice on difficult fencing situations. He has a young daughter and he deeply misses his wife. Janus has recognized him as the human leader and if Janus wants to ‘free’ these humans from their boring lives, giving them the gifts of instinct and freedom, he must take out Pale Rider. The story sets up early for a good Western-type showdown and I really enjoyed the building of suspense.

Then we have Heche, who is like a mad scientist. She creates new dinos to sell to the local farmers. They are used in putting up fencing, taking down trees, and farming. I really like the basics of her character – she’s a seeker of knowledge both in books and through her work. However, this is another area that isn’t really clear. Does she have a lab with petri dishes and sterile equipment? Or is more like a wizard’s barn, full of smelly potions and unidentified bits of dried animals? I would have liked a bit more on this front because it ties into other questions I have. How far has civilization fallen? There’s a reference to contact lenses and it’s unlikely someone whipped those up, even if the town has a watchmaker. Is it 6 months since the zombie calamity or 6 years? If it’s 6 months, then contact lenses are still around. If it’s 6 years, then no, not realistic.

Book 1 was pretty sparse on the ladies and Book 2 does better but there are definitely not enough females around to save humanity. Heche has the most lines, but that’s perhaps 10-20 lines, though we get some quality time in her head. Pale Rider’s young daughter also has a role. Then there are 2 female zombies (why so few?) and maybe a few human ladies tossed in here and there. As usual, I like to see more ladies in post-apocalyptic stories. How else will we rebuild?

OK. So, bad to the goodness. We do get a showdown at the end and there were some twists. The author took the story beyond what I expected. These zombies are more like feral beasts than shuffling corpses; they are not so easily beaten. Heche creates a fantastical beast that comes in handy. And then there’s that thing that happened right at the end that has me craving to know where things will go from here. It’s all very dramatic at the end and very satisfying.

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

 

The Narration: Randal Schaffer’s performance was OK. When the characters were talking, he imbued them with emotion. The rest of the story he read in a monologue that made me wonder if he was bored with the book or not.

What I Liked: Modified beasties!; showdown between zombies and humans; Heche’s work; the reluctant leader; some great surprises at the end.

What I Disliked: Not clear about the level of science or manufacturing that is available; the zombie instinct power was pretty nebulous and squishy; few female characters.

Labyrinth of Fire by Keith Robinson

RobinsonLabyrinthOfFireWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Fred Wolinsky

Publisher: Keith Robinson (2015)

Length: 9 hours 54 minutes

Series: Book 2 Island of Fog

Author’s Page

Note: I highly recommend reading Book 1 (Island of Fog) before reading this book.

Our hero kids (Hal, Robbie, Abigail, Darcy, Dewey, Emily, Fenton, and Lauren) from Book 1 continue on with new adventures in this tale. As they settle into their new homes and town in Miss Simone’s world, they also learn more about their abilities. Each will face challenges. There’s child-stealing harpies and dragons with a taste for human flesh. These shape-shifting kids will rise to the occasion!

Not all of the villagers are happy to have yet more shape shifters in their mist. The kids have to deal with some bullying and town politics. The centaurs want the humans to stop mining all together, but the mined ore provides energy for the human homes, making their lives easier. Miss Simone talks all the parties into allowing Dewey (who can shift into Centaur form) to be the one to decide after he has investigated the matter. This is the start of the missions the kids will be sent on to negotiate with the magical creatures and humans alike.

Our heroes are all around 12 going on 13 and love’s first blush is in the air. It was rather cute to see that in the midst of all the deadly serious events of the book. In Book 1, they really were just kids with school, play time, a few chores, etc. But in this book they are coming of age and adults are looking to them to make major decisions or take on actions that will affect many. The kids didn’t always do the exact right thing, but they all rose to the challenge. I was especially proud of how the harpies were handled. Totally did not see that coming! And it was harsh! That made the whole scene so much more powerful.

The whole book had a faster pace and more adventures than Book 1. I definitely enjoyed it more. We get to meet some of the first generation of shape shifters and through Dewey, we learn more about how the shape shifters were made. The dragons and their society were interesting to learn about. Plus there are these holes between the destroyed, polluted Earth and Miss Simone’s magical world that we learn more about. Fairies, wood nymphs, ogres, lizards of various types, and of course, a manticore! There was never a dull moment in this tale.

I received this book free of charge from the narrator in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Fred Wolinsky did a great job with the narration, keeping all the kid’s voices and the beasty voices distinct. When one of the kids shifts, Wolinsky somehow manages to make the shifter version sound very similar to their human voice, which was great. He even did a few little touches like making certain conversations sound a bit different to indicate it was mindspeak and such.

What I Liked: The cover art; the kids are growing up; the harpy mission; dragons!; the centaur dilemma; manticore!; great narration.

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

What Others Think:

 

Torch Under the Blanket Books

Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel

Luxor looking for another human who will do his will.

Luxor looking for another human who will do his will.

Where I Got It: Borrowed from library

Narrator: Kirsten Potter

Publisher: Random House Audio (2014)

Length: 10 hours 41 minutes

Author’s Page

This story more or less revolves around the character Arthur Leander, a Canadian actor who died of a heart attack the day the Georgia Flu hit North America. Jumping back and forth in the timeline, the tale shows how things were before the pandemic and after, how certain characters were influenced, or not, by Arthur. Quite frankly, I wasn’t particularly interested in Arthur, but he served as an anchor point for the story.

First, let’s chat about that timeline. It’s not too confusing, but I did have to pay attention in order to figure out when I was on the timeline every time we switched characters. The story starts off in the here and now with Arthur Leander about to play King Lear on stage in Toronto. Once the flu disaster is off to a good start, we jump ahead 20 years to the Traveling Symphony, which hangs out by Lake Michigan. Throughout, the story will jump back to before the disaster and we learn more about Leander’s life. Also, there are a few times when the timeline jumps to 15 years after the disaster when Kirsten Raymonde is giving an interview to a newly risen newspaper. In general, I didn’t mind that it jumped around so much. If the story had been laid out chronologically, I would have lost interest with Leander’s life and given up on the book. However, with Arthur Leander’s life being chopped up in smaller bits, I was OK with it.

Kirsten Raymonde was my favorite character. She briefly knew Arthur because she was one of the three little girls playing non-speaking roles in King Lear in Toronto. Mostly, the reader gets to know her as an adult living in Year 20 (20 years after the flu hit North America). She’s an actress and lives with the Traveling Symphony, which is the combination of a defunct military orchestra and an acting troupe. They have been traveling a circuit near Lake Michigan for years and it is usually a safe existence. She remembers very little from the time before the disaster and I think this is why she has held on tightly to three things from that time – anything she can find on Arthur Leander, her Doctor 11 comic books (limited prints), and a fanciful paperweight.

Everyone in the Traveling Symphony is armed in one way or another and everyone contributes in some way. Some folks track and hunt, others sew and cook. There are no traditional male and female roles in the troupe and I really liked this aspect. Most people cross train to some extent to be able to pick up the slack when necessary. I was very surprised by how organized the troupe was. The Conductor, who leads the Traveling Symphony, is ex-military and she has made sure that everyone can move quickly and quietly in an efficient manner when necessary. They have procedures in place for when someone becomes separated from the group. The long familiarity of the group with each other and these rules allowed me to focus on the characters and what life had become a generation after the pandemic. So much of the societal collapse subgenre deals with the immediate aftermath (and that’s all entertaining), but this book had a nice long breather between that madness of immediate government collapse and the story contained in this book.

The Doctor 11 comic books (there’s only two of them), play a bigger role than I initially thought. They are introduced pretty early on as Kirsten likes to read them often. The author is a bit of a mystery and Kirsten searches for further books in the series whenever she gets a chance. Right off, I wanted to know more about these comics and much later in the book, we do learn more about them. In fact, we get to meet the author before the collapse. Also, Kirsten isn’t the only one who has been influenced by them, but we don’t learn more about that until near the end. I really liked how this story of a future scientist built a living, breathing ship of sorts, kind of a small planet, and yet he grieves over the Earth he has lost.

Jeevan was my second favorite character. He’s there at the beginning. He’s had a lot of jobs over the years, trying to find his place in the world. Lately, he’s been a paparazzo and even more recently he has trained as an EMT. In fact, he’s in the audience when Arthur Leander collapses from a heart attack and his experience in trying to save him cements his ideas of becoming a licensed EMT. But then the Georgia Flu hits Toronto and he has to get supplies up to his brother’s 22nd floor apartment. Ha! That was amusing. Then Jeevan and Frank watch from on high as the world spins down. Jeevan doesn’t appear again in the story for some time and I was sad that we got so little of him after this initial appearance.

The plot, after the world pandemic in Year 20, involves the Traveling Symphony running into a prophet and his mostly reluctant followers as they return to a city to locate their once pregnant band member Charlie and her beau Jeremy. It quickly becomes apparent that they don’t want to hang out in this town for very long, so they put on a show and then quietly and quickly pack up and leave. They’ve had word that Charlie and Jeremy and their baby have headed south, possibly to the Museum of Civilization at the Severn City airport.

This plot line was way more interesting to me than Arthur Leander’s life and I wish the book had spent more time on it. The prophet has a lot of power, even if his people give it to him grudgingly. There’s a lot of psychology going on beneath it all, about authority figures, the young and easily influenced, and wrapping it up in a religious cloth. So I think more could have been done with this. Still, there’s plenty of mystery and tension and trying to quietly flee while also keeping hold of everyone in the Symphony. Then there is the additional mystery of the Museum of Civilization and what kind of people live there. That’s covered in another time leap backwards, again with people who knew Arthur Leander. That little bit was my second favorite little plot line of the book.

Over all, I am glad I gave it a read. It’s not your typical ‘world is ending’ story, being much calmer and less dramatic. This allowed for more character development, which I liked. While I didn’t care much for Arthur Leander, his character acted as this touchstone for the rest of the tale. I do wish he had been more interesting, but then I might have been sad that he died.

Narration: Kirsten Potter was a fine narrator for this story. She had distinct voices for each of the characters and her male voices were believable. I especially liked her somewhat melancholy voice for the character Kirsten Raymonde. She also did the few required accents quite well. Her voice for the prophet was sometimes chilling!

What I Liked: The world has collapsed and it’s 20 years later – life continues on; the Doctor 11 comic books; Kirsten Raymonde and her story; Jeevan and his story; the story of how the Museum of Civilization came to be; a satisfying end.

What I Disliked: Arthur Leander was a rather boring fellow; wished more time was spent on the Traveling Symphony and less on Leander’s life. 

What Others Think:

SF Gate

Dear Author

That’s What She Read

Book Giveaway & Interview: Geoff Camphire, Author of the Charlie Dead Series

CamphireCharlieDead&SoCalledZombie ApocalpseEveryone, please welcome Geoff Camphire, author of the humorous zombie Charlie Dead series! We discourse on zombie movies, what a zombie obstacle course would entail, what zombies symbolize in modern society, and plenty more. Also, don’t miss out on the paperback giveaway (US only please) – scroll to the end for details on that.

If you could be an extra on a zombie movie or TV series, what would it be?

Getting shot in the forehead with a crossbow on “The Walking Dead” would be pretty darn cool. I’d make a great zombie. I’m almost lifelike. Almost.

How does it feel, I wonder, to be a treated like a monster? In my CHARLIE DEAD trilogy (‪http://tinyurl.com/peqqlls), teenager Charlie Dunlap, newly infected with the zombie virus, fears he’s about to find out. These young-adult sci-fi novels explore life among the undead in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian America. I hope people enjoy it as much as shows like “iZombie” and “The Walking Dead.”

What’s the most interesting gross fact you know?

If punctured, the human heart can squirt blood more than 30 feet. Which can make it hard to catch it in your mouth.

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?

Definitely a supernatural creature. Specifically, a zombie. Even more specifically, it would be Wendell Reed, the main zombie character in my CHARLIE DEAD series.

Charlie is a teenager trying to avoid becoming a zombie, and Wendell, for a variety of reasons, tries to help him. In doing so, Wendell risks being utterly destroyed himself.

Of course, for a zombie, this is as close to “certain death” as one comes. After writing about Wendell for years, I’ve grown quite fond of the big, undead lug. So, would I save him if I had to choose someone to rescue? I suppose — but, fortunately, as an author, I can do whatever I want!

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

One year, when I was a kid, “The Exorcist” aired on network TV for the first time on Halloween. It was an edited version, but still pretty scary. I remember coming home from trick-or-treating, planting myself on the carpet in front of the tube in our basement game room, and gobbling candy bars alone in the dark. It was like an out-of-body experience.

At one point, a commercial came on — and suddenly I became aware of myself. Bathed in the glow of the TV screen. Scared halfway out of my mind. And grinning like a madman. Looking back, I understand now what a pivotal moment that was.

CamphireCharlieDead&TheSeedsOfZombieChaosHow does modern pop culture influence your work? Do modern cultural references date a piece or add touchstones for the reader?

Well, I grew up in Pittsburgh, which really was ground zero for the explosion of zombie movies that’s given the world its modern vision of the living dead. I’ve never shaken the infection — or the hunger to spread the zombie virus.

Of course, as an adult now, I experience pop culture a little differently. After enjoying the “Harry Potter” and “Hunger Games” books along with my kids, I started wondering why young-adult zombie literature didn’t offer a series of comparable quality. So I wrote my own.

People today are fascinated with zombies — and for good reason. The planet is swarming with mortal dangers, existential threats and systemic efforts to take over our lives. We’re all afraid of being gobbled up, turned into zombies. Mindless zombies and the walking dead invite us to tackle the hard questions of free will and what it means to be really alive. The real stumper isn’t “How do we kill zombies?” but “How to do we live with the reality of zombies among us?”

And I want my post-apocalyptic world to be familiar, but not too much. Without dropping a lot of references to things like specific products or movies, I try to paint a picture of people as they live today, struggling and striving, often unsuccessfully, to make their world normal again. Turns out, that’s hard to do when there are zombies everywhere.

Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

How important is reality in my fiction? I’m not sure that reality is particularly important in my reality. I write about zombies, after all.

That said, I don’t feel like art is obligated to be absolutely faithful to all the mundane facets of real life. Sure, fiction is most entertaining when it feels somehow plausible — when characters’ motivations make sense, when the words coming out of their mouths sound like things they’d say, and when events unfold within the rules of a reality established by the story. So reality is important. But it’s the reality I create that matters. And that reality isn’t filled with paragraphs punctuated by trips to the toilet.

Over the years, are the changes in society reflected in today’s villains and heroes?

Our heroes have stayed mostly the same over time. They’ve always had to overcome obstacles, externally and internally. That’s what makes them heroes. And they’re important, sure. But if I’m being honest, I am much more interested in our villains — specifically, our monsters — and what they say about us.

Creepy as it might sound, I take inspiration from the simmering panic I hear in the voices of ordinary people. When you ask people about their fears, what do they talk about? Faceless enemies, terror groups, existential threats. A growing sense of freedom being taken away. Outsize control exerted by governmental, religious and economic forces. And the desperation to somehow escape becoming just another one of society’s dead-eyed drones.

That’s why we’re drawn to tales of zombies. Most zombie stories focus on the fight-or-flight response to attack by the unliving. But in real life, there’s no escape. You certainly can’t avoid death. Even before that, there are forms of “zombification” that find you, no matter what. You can never completely get away from the drudgery of work, the limits placed on your free choice by society, and — maybe most important — the tendency of people to treat each other as lesser-than, inhuman monsters.

We’re all running from the zombie plague, and we’re trying to figure out what it means to really be alive. So I wanted to write about the ways we learn to live, hopefully, in a reality that’s always is and always will be overrun with zombies.

CamphireCharlieDead&TheSpoilesOfZombieCombatIf you were sent on a survival quest which other 4 zombie fiction authors would you take with you?

Richard Matheson, Max Brooks, Robert Kirkman and Seth Grahme-Smith. Why? Realistically speaking, I don’t think I’m going to last long on any “survival quest.” I’m going to be one of the first to go down. So, I figure, I might as well enjoy some scintillating conversation with innovative intellects before I become somebody’s lunch.

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

This question really is not fair, because I feel like I’m being set up to self-promote. But I’m taking the bait. Naturally I feel like my CHARLIE DEAD books would make the most amazing video game ever. Personally, I’d want to be Charlie. But others might choose to be characters like the undead Emma Fletcher, buddy Sam Curtis, or the zombified secret agent Wendell Reed.

Then the good guys face off against the bad guys. And not just rabid zombies. The villains are legion — including the loony zealots of Orthodox Life Church, the ruthless opportunists of Nolegys Corporation, and the jackbooted thugs of the Community Health Enforcement Watch, or CHEW. The “Zombie Combat” tournaments in the video game could be just as wild as those featured in the books, where normals and zombies go head to head. And heads do roll

What do you do when you are not writing?

When I’m not writing zombie fiction, I’m a husband, a father, a freelance journalist, and a communications guru who runs a public awareness campaign reaching over 50 million people a year with information and resources about science education. Also I watch zombie movies. Lots and lots of zombie movies.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

Aside from slender, Dr. Seuss-style children’s books, the first real book I remember reading by myself was “A Wrinkle in Time.” I was in elementary school, and I can remember being blown away by the bizarre combination of supernatural fantasy and science-fiction, the careening adventure and high drama, the wrenching emotion, and — maybe most — the characters I wanted to know better. What a storyteller L’Engle was! What a story!

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

Merlot. I think a simple red would pair best with my friend Gavin, who is catastrophically clumsy. Gavin would make excellent zombie bait, I think. Outrunning him would provide me with my escape. And since red wine goes with red meat, I might be tempted to share some with the zombies feasting on Gavin. Then again, I just might save the bottle for myself. I do like to have a drink while I’m enjoying a show. Buh-bye, Gavin!

CamphireCharlieDead&SoCalledZombie ApocalpseBook Blurb for Charlie Dead & the So-Called Zombie Apocalypse:

Zombies, zombies, zombies! How does it feel to be one of the walking dead? Hunted? Not free? Never allowed to live the life you choose? Charlie Dunlap, newly infected with the zombie virus, fears he is about to find out.

Charlie doesn’t want to become one of the mindless corpses at Norwood High School, where his few friends include the zombified Emma Fletcher. In this post-apocalyptic Armageddon, undead hordes are part of the horror of daily life.

Just as Charlie is losing hope, though, a mysterious government agent appears at the door, raising questions about the boy’s late mother. How was the vanished scientist connected to the origin of the virus? Why was this terrible plague unleashed on the world? And who is now targeting zombies for persecution?

Charlie, recruited to aid in the investigation, faces each new adventure with a dose of gallows humor and fading hope for a cure. But Charlie knows there’s more than his own fate on the line. At stake is the power to control the whole human race.

Will Charlie survive? Who can he trust? In a world at war with the living dead, it’s not always easy to tell who the real monsters are.

From author Geoff Camphire comes this high-flying, pulse-pounding zombie novel series, a new kind of dystopian science fiction. “CHARLIE DEAD and the So-Called Zombie Apocalypse” is Book 1 of the acclaimed CHARLIE DEAD series.

Places to Find Geoff Camphire & his Charlie Dead series

The CHARLIE DEAD books are available as paperbacks and ebooks on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/peqqlls. Go online to check out the first installment — “CHARLIE DEAD & the So-Called Zombie Apocalypse” — and click “Look Inside” in the upper left corner to read the first chapter. You can “like” the Charlie Dead Book Series on Facebook and follow @Geoff_Camphire on Twitter for news and updates. And learn about CHARLIE DEAD and more by author Geoff Camphire at www.geoffcamphire.com. Also, catch him on GoodReads.

GIVEAWAY!!!

Geoff Camphire is pleased to offer one free full set of CHARLIE DEAD paperbacks — Books 1, 2 & 3 — to the first U.S. resident who, after this Q&A appears online, emails him at geoffcamphire@yahoo.com with his or her favorite quotation from the first installment, “CHARLIE DEAD & the So-Called Zombie Apocalypse.” Join the zombie feast! Bon appetit! You can check out the first couple of chapters of Book 1 over on Amazon using their ‘Look Inside’ feature. Hint: This gives you plenty of awesome quotes from the book!