I actually had to listen to this audiobook twice since I couldn’t remember if I had listened to it or not. Turns out I had but the refresher was necessary since I had seemingly forgotten quite a bit since I last checked in with Currie’s Oddysey series. While enjoyed the first novel there is a sort of generic feel to this series that is difficult to same. This is a bit of a shame since Currie sets forth some fascinating mysteries in The Heart of Matter. In the first novel Currie introduces a ship taking its maiden voyaging using an untested, instantaneous FTL drive. Of course, on this maiden voyage the Odyssey encounters a seemingly human alien species that is facing a terribly world-destroying enemy. The Heart of Matter picks up where the previous novel ended as Captain Weston and his new allies are back on Earth recovering from their ordeal against the Drasin. Fleet brass isn’t necessarily pleased that Captain Westin has embroiled Earth in yet another conflict but is at least understanding the necessity to intervene in what would have amounted to genocide. The novel sees the Odyssey retasked on a diplomatic mission to establish a more formal relationship between Earth and the Priminae people; a task that involves getting the Priminae ground forced trained and ready to face the Drasin.
Imagine, if you will, the perfect town; immaculately groomed lawns, quiet streets, perfect houses, smiling faces, and no crime to speak of. Wink, New Mexico is just such a town though as Mona Bright learns upon her arrival such perfection comes at a price. There are places in Wink that you just don’t go, things you just don’t do, and thoughts you aren’t aloud to think. There are secrets hidden behind the immaculate walls and picturesque homes and the Mesa it sits beneath, home to an abandoned research facility, casts a long and deep shadow on the denizens of Wink.
Robert Jackson Bennett’s American Elsewhere has one of the most perfect premises to get me interested. The novel’s opening chapter provides a tantalizing glimpse that things aren’t quite what they seem offering a nice taste of things to come before slowing things down a bit. American Elsewhere is a delicately paced novel focusing on atmosphere over action. Mona Bright, an ex-cop, discovers during the reading of her father’s will that her mother once owned a house in a town called Wink. With the inheritance set to expire soon Mona sets off to find Wink which is a town that has become rather difficult to find in recent years. Arriving in Wink, Mona is met with a strange vision of a town seemingly right out of the 1950s where everybody knows everybody and nobody ever leaves.
Peter Clines Ex-Heroes has quickly become one my favorite series in recent years. In fact, it is just about the only zombie-related series I’m currently reading or listening to. The Ex-Heroes series takes place in a world ravaged by a tide of undead (referred to in the series as ex-humans) where the last vestiges of humanity in the Los Angeles area are defended by a group of superheroes. Throughout the series Clines has done an excellent job of creating heroes who feel similar to more familiar comic book heroes while maintaining enough originality to let them stand on their own. Together with the people they defend the heroes of Peter Clines’ series have survived numerous ordeals from battles with former L. A. gangs, the obligitory hordes of zombies, to the remnants of s secret military project. Ex-Purgatory shakes things up a bit with a bit of a cold open. Readers are introduced to a young girl in the midst of a therapy session as she discusses with her doctor the fact that every night she dreams of a world full of zombies and heroes; a world that she insists is real. Immediately after readers are thrust into the life of George Bailey, who series regulars will immediately recognize as St. George/The Mighty Dragon, however this is a George whose life is fairly normal and who lives and works in a L. A. seemingly untouched by neither zombie or apocalypse. It is a clever play, clever enough to make even me wonder if what we had read before in the previous novels was reality or dream.
The internet, in all it’s messy democratic glory, has opened up the door for not only the exploration of new formats of storytelling but also to once explore formats of old. The notion of the “serial” is nothing new from Dickens,to radio, to television, to comics it is a long lived means of telling a story. In the 21st century the proliferation of the internet, and particularly its mobility, have opened the floodgates for the serial’s return. Sean Platt and David W. Wright are the founders of Collective Inkwell where they have focused on telling serialized stories. Recently, the duo signed a deal with Amazon’s 47North which is how I came to stumble upon the audiobook version of Yesterday’s Gone: Season 1.
The Human Division is at equal measures a thrilling absolutely engaging novel and at other times wholly frustrating. By and large the latter wins out over the former and I’m willing to say that The Human Division is Scalzi at the top of his game. Originally published as a series of e-book “episodes” from January through April of 2013 The Human Division was released in its entirety in May. The Human Division encompases both the tradition of the serial novel and the advances in the series format prompted by the changing world of media entertainment (primarily television but there is a moment here and there that reminded of “the issue where the X-men play a team sport”). The Human Division typically follows a stable cast of characters with relatively few diversion from the core protagonists typically Colonial Union’s diplomatic outcasts of the Clarke advised by CDF officer Lieutenant Harry Wilson.
I won’t lie, I’m a little bit done with the whole zombie genre. The explosion of zombie related books, movies, and games over the last several years has worn me out. Every once and awhile something will draw me back to the zombie infested world. It has actually been awhile since I’ve read a zombie book; in fact I think I made a slight attempt to read Colson Whitehead’s Zone One. Aa result Peter Clines’ Ex–Heroes has likely crossed my path a couple of times without my taking any real notice. However, I decided to give the audiobook version of Ex-Heroes a shot and I’m pretty glad I did; this is an exciting mash up of superheroes and zombies with great characters and some awesome action.
Ex-Heroes and its sequel Ex-Patriots take place in a world where zombies, typically referred to in the series as ex-humans or simply exes, have essentially one. However, the world had previously seen the emergence of real superheroes from the Batman/Ozymandias mash-up Stealth to the living supernova known as Zzap the heroes run the gamut of the extraordinary and the superpowered. A group of these heroes, under the guidance of the paranoid and forward thinking Stealth, made a valiant effort to save the Los Angeles area. Having failed to slowing the emergence of ex-humans the group of heroes have gathered what survivors they could in a Hollywood studio and have done their best to survive. In addition to the threat of the ex-humans the heroes must also face the threat of a rival survivor group comprised mostly of an L.A. street gang.
Into the Black: Odyssey One
Evan Currie, read by Benjamin Darcie
Brilliance Audio, 2012
Evan Currie’s military science fiction space opera novel Into the Black: Odyssey One, originally self-published, was released by Amazon’s new imprint 47north back in March. The novel centers around the exploration crew of the titular Odyssey One, Earth’s first interstellar spaceship, as they embark on the first manned journey beyond the bounds of the Milky Way. The discovery of the new Transition Drive and the creation of the Odyssey One finally saw the end to a decades long war. Of course it isn’t long into this journey that the Odyssey stumbles into a new and more dangerous threat, and that is where the novel’s story truly kicks off.
Steven Brust, read by Bernard S. Clark
Audible Frontiers, 2012
The first of the Vlad Taltos novels, Jhereg, by Steven Brust has been on my “to-read” list for the better part of a decade and a half. Back in August, Audible.com released Jhereg (and just about all the other Vlad Taltos novels, via their increasingly impressive Audible Frontiers label. Jhereg introduces the readers to the assassin Vlad Taltos. Living in amongst a race of tall long-lived sorcerers called Dragaerans, Vlad has risen to a station of respect and power (if of a limited variety) despite his human heritage. Aiding Vlad in his endeavors is his Jhereg familiar Loiosh, earned after Vlad embraced the witchcraft of his human ancestors. The novel sees Vlad hired by a legendary figure called The Demon to track down a kill a thief (Mellar) who robbed the Jhereg Council (the clan that Vlad himself belongs to) of a great sum of money; so great a sum that if Mellar gets away the council will essentially be crippled.
Nine Princes in Amber
Roger Zelazny, read by Alessandro Juliani
Audible Frontiers, 2012
I first came across Roger Zelazny’s Amber series when I played the Amber Diceless RPG my sophomore year of college. At the time, having only really played D&D it was sort of a revelation and its reliance on legitimate roleplaying (literally no dice to fall back on) was a bit of an adjustment though one that has positively influenced my approach to other RPGs since. It also remains one of my favorite RPG experiences to date. As the semester ended and our time in Amber was over I did what any self-respecting geek would do: went out about bought the enormous omnibus edition of all Zelazny’s Amber novels aka The Great Book of Amber. It was a strange experience having “lived” in Amber, so to speak, going back and reading the source material; a sensation that I’ve yet to replicate with other series. Now that I am years removed from that epic game of Amber and Audible had released newly recorded versions of the Amber books (though I still wish the author-read versions were available digitally) I’m slowly revisiting the series.
Spellbound (Grimnoir Chronicles #2)
Larry Correia, narrated Bronson Pincot
Larry Correia’s Grimnoir Chronicles is rapidly becoming one of my favorite series and the only pulp noir urban fantasy series I’ve yet to come across. The series, which began in Hard Magic, continues in Spellbound picking with a flashback where a villainous active who feeds on the deaths of other magic users is dispatched during the last days of Great War leaving a trail of wreckage and death in his wake before he is eventually killed. It is a long while before the truth behind this man is revealed and it has massive implications for the world of the Grimnoir Society. Picking up a scant few months after the events of the first month Spellbound deals with the fallout of the events of the previous book. Needless to say spoilers for Hard Magic are below.