Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Narrators: Rebecca Lowman, Cassandra Campbell, Mark Deakins, Robertson Dean

Publisher: Random House Audio (2009)

Length: 13 hours 43 minutes

Author’s Page

The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas of 1985 has left an indelible mark on Libby Day. She survived and her older brother was put away for killing his mother and 2 of his 3 younger sisters. Libby was shuffled from house to house as a kid and once she made it to adulthood, charity provided her a life with little responsibilities. Now the money has run out and Libby has to move on with her life one way or another, such as getting a job. However, she has no life skills. So when she’s approached by Lyle Wirth from The Kill Club about selling some childhood mementos and perhaps giving a talk about her past, she’s tempted by the money. It’s the first step to delving into her past and with that comes a path forward to the rest of her life.

I picked this one up on a whim. I was looking for something a bit darker, something with some mystery to it, and this book did not disappoint. The author gave me so many characters that were absolutely fascinating even if they weren’t likable. There were times when I wanted to both slap Libby and root for her. She has more strength in her than she knows and through this journey she learns a little about that. The tale is dark and at times rather gritty and yet there is so much hope in this story. Libby survived a horrendous thing and yet she has done nothing with her life other than skate by. Her brother, Ben, was in a difficult, frustrated place before the event and Libby hasn’t spoken to him since that day. Ben hasn’t been able to tell the full truth of the event all these years. Then there’s Lyle, who’s part of this Kill Club. I was on the fence about him for much of the book but in the end I liked him.

Speaking of that Kill Club – what a creepy idea! Though I wouldn’t be surprised if there were such things. Think scifi convention except it’s for folks who closely follow serial murders or massacres or unsolved murder cases. Many of the participants are retired police or investigators. Some of the more macabre participants dress up as the perpetrators or victims. All of them have their own theories of how things went down. The Day Massacre (AKA the Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee) is no exception. I really felt for Libby when she met with these folks and some of them were down right combative over the facts of the case. And yet it’s also so obvious that Libby has never really reflected on that night, peered into her memory and taken stock of the known facts. Once again, I had split feelings towards the Kill Club. I wanted to tell them to get a real hobby but also applaud them for pushing Libby into exploring the little mysteries about that night that were still unanswered. It takes a talented author to keep pushing me as a reader in this fashion.

The hunt for the truth was well done. There are flashbacks throughout the tale told from both Ben Day’s teen self and also from Libby’s mom’s point of view. Patty Day was in a tricky place back then, trying to raise all her kids on her own, working all the time, and occasionally getting a shake down from her ex-husband. As Libby looks through her childhood mementos (trying to decide what to sell to the Kill Club enthusiasts), memories come back and she has questions she wants answered. There’s plenty of characters showing off their darker sides and then there’s some characters that simply made bad mistakes.

The ending had a twist that I didn’t see coming until just before it happened. Wow! Yeah. That explained several things but was also tough and touching at the same time. People are capable of great evil but also capable of great sacrifice. This book is definitely one I will be thinking about for some time to come.

The Narration: The narration was really good for this book. I’m not sure who did which roles, but all the character voices were distinct and each narrator did a great job with voices for the opposite sex. Rebecca Lowman, Cassandra Campbell, Mark Deakins, and Robertson Dean made a great cast for this book. Whichever lady that voiced Libby did such a lovely job with her myriad of feelings. Sometimes Libby was snotty and disrespectful and sometimes she was thoughtful and trying her best to absorb some hard truths. The main voice actor for Ben did a great job there as well. He was a teen boy in a house full of females struggling to impress his fellow highschoolers and he sounded every inch of it.

What I Liked: Intense story!; great narration; Libby is both huggable and slappable; I eventually decided that Lyle was an OK person and good for Libby; the Kill Club is both creepy and a catalyst; the hunt for the truth; in the end, there is hope for a real life for Libby.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was a very interesting tale that yanked the feelings out of me. 

What Others Think:

Pantheon Magazine

I Heart Reading

The Unputdownable Book Club

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

MathesonIAmLegendWhy I Read It: It’s a classic & I saw the Will Smith movie a few years ago and wanted to read the book it was based on.

Where I Got It: Own it – through paperbackswap.com

Who I Recommend This To: Those who enjoy horror flicks without the overly gross bits would enjoy this.

Narrator: Robertson Dean

Publisher: Blackstone Audio (2007)

Length: 5 hours 19 minutes

It’s the second half of the 1970s in California. Robert Neville’s world will slowly crumble over several months. We first meet him as a single man living in a fortified suburban house, going through his daily survival routine, which entails cooking, cleaning up his yard, refortifying his house as needed, stringing garlic, removing the bodies to the burning pit on the outskirts of town, topping off his gas tank, and drinking excessively. Indeed, Robert Neville is not particularly healthy in mind, spirit, or body. Through flashbacks, we glimpse his life before the decline of known society. He has a job, a wife, a daughter. But the plague took them and left him to deal with the aftermath.

At first, it is not clear to the reader what we are dealing with – vampires? zombies? merely the deranged left over few humans that survived some sort of plague? I’ll leave it up to you to read it and make up your own mind. This is one of the things I really enjoyed about the book – it didn’t follow any solid fantasy/horror trope. Instead, Robert Neville spends quality time at the local library digging up science texts, learning how a virus or bacteria could spread through out humanity, why the infected need sleep during the day, why garlic repels them. Indeed, Richard Matheson builds science into this horror story, which makes it all the more frightening in the end.

I went back and forth on liking Robert Neville. He isn’t the brightest of the bunch. Initially he seems a decent sort – missing his family and friends, questioning his own sanity, feeling conflicted about hunting and disposing of the ‘monsters’ by day. He’s also obsessed with sex. One comment had me rolling my eyes a bit – something along the lines about how it would be worse to die a virgin than to become one of the blood-needy monsters that prowl around his house at night. Really? Sigh…. But, on the other hand, it goes to show his loneliness and his possible slow slip into depravity.

Yet Robert rallies, digs into his science and experiments, and the second half of the book was even more interesting than the beginning. I began to feel for Robert and his lonely plight, his messed up purpose in life, his questions of whether or not he was the only uninfected human left alive. The ending was not what I expected at all, but I found it very fitting, satisfying, and a good explanation of the title.

The narrator put all his feeling into Robert Neville – the anguish, frustration, surprise, tender loneliness truly came through. The narrator was a perfect fit for this characters.

What I Liked: A horror flick without the gore and with the science; Robert Neville is a conflicted character and his plight comes through loud and clear; the ending was very satisfying.

What I Disliked: Very few female characters with primary roles as love/sex interest.

This book was originally published in 1954 and has been made into several movies over the years. This fits nicely into the Ye Olde Booke Clubbe challenge hosted by Darkcargo. Anyone can join in the fun!

What Others Think:

Lynn’s Book Blog

doorly.com

The Ink Slinger

Geeks of Doom

Leeswamme’s Blog

Zero History by William Gibson

Why I Read It: Really enjoyed the first 2 in this series.

Where I Got It: paperbackswap.com

Who I Recommend This To: Those who enjoy modern fiction/mystery with a fashionable twist.

Narrator: Robertson Dean

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2010)

Length: 11 CDs

Series: Bigend (or Blue Ant) Book 3

William Gibson continues the odd, twisty, fashion-saturated world of Hubertes Bigend in this third book of the Bigend series. Henry Hollis finds herself in need of employment, and Bigend has a proposition for her. He is in search of a specific and elusive fashion designer, the maker of Gabriel Hounds garments. They are rare, extremely well-made, and very expensive. In this endeavor, Bigend puts Hollis together with Milgrim, who is now clean, having spent some very lengthy, intense time in an institute that specializes in getting patients off drugs.

I do believe this was my favorite book of the trilogy. Milgrim’s new body and clear mind allows his character to grow and respond in new ways to the various situations he finds himself in. Put him together with Hollis and her band member/friend Heidi and we have a very interesting trio. Heidi’s chaotic militant character got a lot more page time in this installment, and I truly enjoyed her straight forward approach to life and the sparring mat.

As with the rest of the series, this mystery centers around fashion. Not only is Bigend trying to track the Gabriel Hounds designer, Milgrim brings to him the concern that Hollis and himself are being followed by at least one party. If you haven’t read this series, I don’t want to give away too much; yet I will say that Book 1 (Pattern Recognition) did not have the same characters as Book 2 (Spook Country). Book 3 has several of the same characters from Book 2 and the ending pulls the trilogy together quite well.

Robertson Dean gave a wonderfully clipped, English, at times quasi-European performance. Hi voices from Book 2 remain true in Book 3, yet allowing for growth in character (i. e. Milgrim). I truly loved his loud, direct voice for Heidi.

What I Liked: Heidi’s various uses for the word ‘fuck’; Israeli army bra; Fiona’s courier body armor; the Blue Ant; Hollis’s boyfriend; the espionage aspects; penguin and manta ray.

What I Disliked: This book started off a little slow, but I knew it would be good, so I stuck with it.

Spook Country by William Gibson

Tanuki with Spook Country

Why I Read It: Pattern Recognition (Book 1 in The Blue Ant Trilogy) was highly entertaining.

Where I Got It: Paperbackswap.com

Who I Recommend This To: Folks who enjoy modern-day cutting edge technology mixed with an intricate plot and detailed, quirky characters.

Narrator: Robertson Dean

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2007)

Length: 9 CDs

I didn’t realize this going into the series, but The Blue Ant Trilogy is a composite trilogy – meaning that each of the books takes place in the same world, with some of the same characters, but is not directly associated with the lead character in the other books in the series. Other examples of composite trilogies that I greatly enjoyed are the Warchild series by Karin Lowachee, The Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin, and Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler.

I think most folks come to know William Gibson’s works through his cyberpunk books like Neuromancer. The Blue Ant Trilogy is some of his latest work and this is my second Gibson book. I have been mightily impressed and entertained by his writing so far that I have added all his works to my TBR mountain range. I keep it in the backyard, on the horizon, where the neighbors won’t complain too much.

Bigend, found of Blue Ant corporation, has another interesting pet project that calls for people with special talents. This book jumps right into the middle of things; the characters and situations have backgrounds that we are not immediately privy to. So you have to pay attention to the first bits in order to enjoy the rest of the book, which is well worth the initial concentration outlay. Hollis Henry once was in a rock band, so folks recognize her face here and there. She is a journalist now, that having been a long-time interest. Bigend hires her to track down some unusual info; in fact, at first, we and Hollis are not sure what info we are hunting.

The second strand of this braid is The Old Man and Tito. I could not get a read on The Old Man until the end of the book; is he a good guy, bad guy, indifferent and chaotic? I loved how he was a mystery until the finale. Tito is a young man of Cuban-Chinese decent. He worships some ancient gods, speaks at least 3 languages including Russian, and has been thoroughly trained in systema, the KGB modern-day martial art that is highly effective in urban settings against people with guns, knives, and body armor.

Milgrim and Brown make up the third strand. Milgrim is a Russian translator and a drug addict. Brown is…..well, you’ll have to read the book to find out who he works for. Brown has kidnapped and held Milgrim captive because he needs a Russian translator. For about half the book, we have guesses about who Brown is following and once it becomes clear, I wasn’t sure who to root for. Milgrim added some much needed comedy with his drug-addled take on life and his out-of-place comments.

All these characters are interested in Bobby Chombo, a paranoid technical whiz with a new form or art. Place this bulky helmet on your head and look at a certain sidewalk or coffee shop and see a reenactment of some famous event, like River Phoenix collapsing from a drug overdose. I was captivated by this idea and Gibson does a good job of showing the possibilities of this tech through Hollis’s eyes. Bobby is not only an artist, he is also capable of tracking a moving shipping container, which contains a mystery.

Robertson Dean did a great job with the dry wit that threads it’s way throughout this entire book. I loved his baffled, slightly distracted, voice for Milgrim and his soft voice for The Old Man was absolutely chilling at times.

What I Liked: Never heard of the KGB systema before this book and I find it fascinating; every character has their quirks which makes them all real people; the fast pace of the book kept me thinking about the plot even when I wasn’t reading it.

What I Disliked: If you are distracted during that first audio CD, you are probably going to have to relisten to it since this book plops you right down into the middle of it.