Monday, June 28, 2010

"The Tramp" by L. Ron Hubbard

"The Tramp"
by L. Ron Hubbard
Multicast Performance
produced by Galaxy Audio
Approx 2 hours.

Once again we get the treat of some superb audio book production from another Story from the Golden Age from Galaxy Audio. Galaxy Audio and Galaxy Press have been releasing the many short stories and novellas which were previously published in the pulp-fiction magazines of the mid-twentieth century into their own pulps and audio pulps.

I say audio pulps because that seems to be a fitting description due to all the audio book releases are about 2 hours in length and contain one or more stories within the many genres Hubbard composed his fictions during that time. Another thing that makes the moniker stick is the production. The sound effects, music and voice acting all meld to create a unique sound that hasn't been heard since the early radio programs from that same era. Hubbard's characters and stories are all over the top and larger than life (that's what makes these stories so fun) and the actors voicing the characters act with that in mind. The music produced is perfect for each story and the sound effects are subtle, believable and unique.

This story originally was told in 3 parts in "Astounding Science Fiction", September, October and November of 1938 and is the only story in this release. "The Tramp" begins with a police chase as a small town USA sheriff, after getting a heads up on gang activity among vagrants riding train cars through the Midwest finds "Doughface" Jack hitching on the rails. As Jack tries to run away the eager sheriff shoots and hits Jack in the head. The town's doctor happens to be nearby and immediately takes Jack back to his office. There the doctor discovers the bullet aimed for jack has destroyed the top of his skull, being a small town doc and only able to work with what is on hand manages to fix Jack up. The surgery is a bit bizarre in that the doc has to sew the two halves of Jack's brain together and then replace the skull with a silver bowl.

When Doughface Jack recovers a couple of days later, he wakes to find himself in the small room that can be called a hospital in this small town. In one bed a patient is dying of cancer and in another a woman is recovering after losing her eye and receiving multiple injuries after being in a car crash the night before. The nurse comes in and Jack "cures" her of a mole on her chin. Very strange soon Jack cures the cancer patient, the crash victim and causes the doctors body to regress to being 40 years younger.

The doctor realizes this may have something to do with his surgery process, but even more so to a process called "mitogenetics." The explanation of mitogenetics is that in an onion field only onions grow, the onions "communicate" through mitogenesis and kill out weeds and heal each other. Some professors whisk "Doughface" Jack to New York to study him. The small town doc is worried because...not everyone is an onion.

True enough after venturing out on his own Doughface Jack discovers that not only can he heal but when he is frightened, he can also kill. When Jack meets up with a vindictive, formerly blind beggar woman his troubles begin. She seems to want to use Jack to get back at those that mistreated her. Soon Jack and the "Witch Woman" are on their way to Washington D.C. to take over the country. Can he be stopped? How do you stop someone with such a strong psychic power? Pick up this audiobook and enjoy the great story and find out.

Friday, June 25, 2010

"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" By Seth Grahame-Smith

"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter"
By Seth Grahame-Smith
Narrated by Scott Holst
Published by Hachette Audio 2010
Approx 10 hours

I have just listened to one of the most all around entertaining books of all time. Yes, this book "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" is it. This book offers a little bit for everyone, history, civil rights, and vampires. Seth Grahame-Smith says in an interview included with this audio book that he got the Idea for the story around 2008-2009 just as the country was celebrating the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth. He saw that all the bookstores were stocking the shelves full of books about Abraham Lincoln and at the same time the only other books that were visible was the "Twilight" series of books and the other books caused by this vampire craze. So he did what any creative writer would do and said, "Hey, what would happen if you combined the two?" (I paraphrased that, a bit.) Then after his mashup "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" became a best seller he got the chance to mix Lincoln with vampires.

The historical aspect of this book is priceless, Grahame-Smith and his key researchers, did some great work in maintaining a believability factor in this book by writing around historical facts. Most having to do with Lincoln's life and can be verified by many of the biographical books on Lincoln, but some of the history talks about some significant facts of our nation's history. One that sticks out is the mystery behind the Lost Colony of Roanoke, Virginia in 1590. Grahame-Smith makes a pretty decent argument as to what could have happened. There are many features through the book that made me look up the characters mentioned only to find that most of what was said was true, such as the haunting of the Surgical College in St. Louis, Missouri by Dr. McDowell, who wore a breast plate armor because he was paranoid...or was it because he was a vampire.

There are times during this book when you just can't help but laugh. I know, it was a dark time in our history when our country was divided, and I know that vampires are scary blood sucking demons, but bring them together and there is fun aplenty. This book would be perfect for any history buff, civil war buff, Lincoln buff or vampire buff. For those looking at the historical aspect the adventure is fun. For those looking at the vampire aspect, be careful you just may learn some of that history that you slept through in freshman history.

The narrator does a superb job of bringing voice to this fun novel. It is narrated like a history channel special most of the time, leaning toward making the novel a credible historical work. During the dialog scenes the narrator does a superb job of distinguishing between the different voice and really brings out the difference between a young, buff, ax-wielding, vampire slaying Abe Lincoln and the older presidential, tired of bloodshed Lincoln. As an extra bonus if you get the audio CD you also get a pdf file with photos proving the vampires existence in Lincoln's day that would be in the physical book.

This book brings us the history of Lincoln and of early America with the premise of vampires coming to the New World and promoting slavery to provide a blood supply for the undead. Throughout Lincoln's life he was followed by mysterious deaths, like his mother's death from an unknown disease that was caused by a vampire. This vampire was a loan shark and loaned the Lincoln family enough money to start a farm in Indiana, when the farm failed, Abe's father could not repay the loan, so the vampire came back and poisoned Abe's mother with his vampiric blood. When Abe becomes a teenager his father relates this story to him and Abe then schemes to bring this vampire back to the farm where a young Abe Lincoln stakes his first vampire. From there he learns that there are many more in the area and begins his career as a vampire hunter.

Lincoln soon learns of a vampire that is stealing children from their beds and tracks her down to Evansville, Indiana and attempts to stake her. He makes many mistakes and is nearly drowned in the fight that ensues, but just before he blacks out he sees her destroyed by another man. Abe wakes up in the home of this man days later, and learns the man is a vampire by the name of Henry Sturges. Henry teaches Abe the ways of the vampyr and begins giving Abe assignments to destroy vampires. Why does a vampire wish to destroy his own kind? Because those that prey on the innocent do not deserve to live.

All the way through Lincoln's assassination he and Henry have a give and take relationship that leads to the deaths of many vampires. Do yourself a favor and pick up this book and enjoy it for what it is...a fun book stocked with many historical facts.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"Dead and Gone" Book 9 of the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mysteries. by Charlaine Harris

"Dead and Gone"
Book 9 of the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mysteries.
by Charlaine Harris
Published 2009 by Ace Books

With Season 3 of HBO's "True Blood" starting and the recent publication of book 10 of this series, "Dead in the Family," I decided to get to jumping on the continuing adventures of Sookie Stackhouse from Bon Temps, Louisiana and her life dealing with the supernatural.

Sookie is pretty much the average bar waitress in a small town in Louisiana, it's just that the rest of the world going on around her is way beyond the average. You see, in these novels the vampires have "come out of the coffin," which is to say they have revealed to the rest of the world that they do indeed exist. With the invention of synthetic blood, "True Blood," they no longer have to prey upon humans for their food source. This coming out has created some very interesting times for the world and especially for Sookie Stackhouse. There have been some bad times because of the vamps coming out. One of those is for a religious group taking offense to the existence of vampires, saying they are an abomination. This group calls themselves "The Fellowship of the Sun," and they are always wreaking havoc upon the vampires.

Okay I say Sookie is pretty much average she does have one "disability," she can read people's minds. So as you can figure she doesn't have much of a dating life because she knows exactly what her date is thinking. Enter the vampires. Sookie discovers that (for the most part) she cannot read the thoughts of vampires. With this she finds relief finally she can be with someone and not learn of their deepest darkest secrets. She falls in love with a vampire and then learns of a whole new world that exists within the realms of the "real" world. The supernatural world not only consists of Vampires, but also; werewolves, shapeshifters, witches, fairies & fae, goblins and probably more.

In the previous novel Sookie has just found out that her great-grandfather is a prince of fairies. He is one of the last remaining fairy royalty. This makes Sookie part fairy, and explains why she's so attractive to vampires (vampires cannot resist fairy blood) also this may explain her "disability." In this novel it seems as though the fairies are not happy with the intermingling that has been going on with humans. This starts a civil war amongst the fae and Sookie's great-grandfather, Niall, has come to warn Sookie that her life may be in danger. The fairies all want to go into their own world and never again return to the human world, but before they leave they want to remove all traces that fairies ever existed. This means killing those that are part fairy, like Sookie and her brother, Jason.

As if this weren't enough, the Were community (which includes werewolves, were panthers [Jason Stackhouse has been turned into a werepanther], were tigers, were foxes and shapeshifters of all sorts) have decided to also reveal themselves to the world since the vampires have been pretty successful with their reveal. They do so on television nationwide and in prominent areas have representatives shift into their animal form so the normal humans can see. This includes the bar where Sookie works. Sam, the owner of the bar where Sookie works, and a true shape shifter (he can shift into any animal shape)reveals himself to the community. Many folks take the big reveal with little unease. After all they have vampires, why not werewolves.

At least that's how it seems at first. The next day, Jason's ex-wife and werepanther, Crystal Norris is found crucified in the parking lot of Sam's bar, Merlotte's. Sookie is determined to find the killer.
In the vampire world Louisiana is just getting into the groove of the new King of Louisiana, and the only remaining original sheriff of the vampires, Eric Northman, in order to protect Sookie from becoming a slave to the new King, tricks her into what can be seen as the vampire equivalent of marrying Eric. Sookie seems at first upset, but then again, she does have feelings for Eric, so she decides to see how it plays out.

Soon the fairies attack and Sookie is forced to call in all her markers from the werewolves, the vampires and the witches to keep her safe, but the war begins and Sookie is kidnapped by fairies, keep in mind these aren't your Tinker Bell type fairies...these are vicious killers.

The war is on and Sookie is in the middle, can she be protected? Will she find Crystal's murderer? You'll have to pick this one up yourself and find out. Here's a clue...there is a book 10 in the series and this one is number 9.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Roll Them Bones By David Niall Wilson

Roll Them Bones
By David Niall Wilson
Narrated by Jeffrey Kafer
Total Listening Time: 3 Hours 1 Minute

David Niall Wilson (no relation) has created a nice little horror story with “Roll Them Bones.” One that could be read around a campfire or shared around Halloween. Actually, both of those elements are a part of this book. Add in that the audio book is only about 3 hours in length and this makes for some chills to share just about anytime. For the average listener thinking about picking up this audio book, allow me to oversimplify the story a bit. Take a little bit of Stephen King's “It” sprinkle in a bit of “The Blair Witch Project,” and add in a huge hunk of Wilson's imagination and you are on this haunting hike in the woods called “Roll Them Bones.”
The story takes place in the fictional rural community of Random, Illinois, where just like any small midwestern town, nothing much has changed in the last century. Kids grow up and move out of town. In this story four school mates are reunited to finish off something that has haunted them and left them sleepless since they “burned a witch” one Halloween night in their youth. Even moving away from Random does not keep the nightmares at bay.
Jason, Frank, Ronnie and Lizzy were all friends in small Random, Illinois and one Halloween they decided to visit a witch that lived in the Woods. They all sought to have their fortune told by the town's legendary haunter of the woods. The only problem is that once they reached the witch's campfire things went all wrong. Frank, who grew up to be a famous horror novelist, learned the witch may have known some dirty secret about his family. Ronnie, or as known to his friends “Redneck Ronnie,” chickened out and went running into the woods and Jason and Lizzie, who had a “thing” for each other soon were witness to the witch and her home burning down, killing the witch, or so they thought.
Many years later they have all moved out of Random, except for Ronnie, and moved on in their lives. The problem is that they all are being haunted by nightmares of the witch. Frank manages to become famous writing stories about the experience, keeping the nightmares at bay, however that doesn't always do the trick. Ronnie goes out to the woods by the lake to discover that the cabin has “come back.” Soon, Frank requests they all get back together for a reunion of sorts in Random. Their reunion consists of returning to the cabin to make sure the witch is dead and to bring an end to their nightmares.
Upon arrival at the lake and the cabin soon after many secrets are revealed and events happen that change their lives forever. This haunting tale is a fun little chiller that you may want to hear with all the lights on.
While the story itself may be fun, the production of the audio book has some elements that I'd be remiss in my duties if I didn't bring them up. The reader of this audio book, to my ear, was quite difficult to hear. His narration was monotone and his word emphasis seemed ill-placed. He read the novel as if it were a detective novel, better yet a “film noir” detective novel. Just picture Jack Webb (of TV's Dragnet fame) reading a horror story. The dry delivery really took a lot out of the performance. Not to be all bad, when he was reading the dialogue between the characters, he was excellent separating the different characters by subtle voice changes. If the story had all been dialogue then this would have been a great reading, however his narration left me wishing that the characters would hurry up and get back to talking. Again this delivery did not work for me, maybe some listeners would prefer the dry delivery, I just had a hard time wanting to hear the rest of the story because of it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

"If I Were You" by L. Ron Hubbard

"If I Were You"
by L. Ron Hubbard
Multicast Performance
produced by Galaxy Audio
approx 2 hours.

It's time once again to jump back in time when authors were paid around three cents a word and pulp magazines in every genre carried thrilling and fun stories. This time we are going to go to the fantasy genre with a couple of stories from the golden age, by L. Ron Hubbard.

Galaxy Audio and Galaxy Press have been re-issuing the short stories from L. Ron Hubbard's writing career of the mid 20th century. Hubbard wrote many stories spanning genres such as Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Sea and Air Adventures, Tales from the Orient, Westerns and more. In this audio book Galaxy Audio has put together 2 stories from the Fantasy genre to create an audio pulp magazine to rival all other pulps.

One of the key features of the Galaxy Audio releases is their super production quality. With original music, and subtle yet effective sound effects these audio books are like a great trip back to the days of radio dramas. The biggest factor in these productions is the superb vocal talents. All the books have a general cast of very talented voice actors that capture the larger than life characters that Hubbard created. In some of the audio books they feature some actors that offer a little more. In this audio book the lead character, circus midget, Little Tom Little, is portrayed by Nancy Cartwright, yes the same one that voices Bart Simpson. It's pretty cool to hear her voice, you recognize her, but as can be expected she can change it up enough to where she can still portray a circus midget without you having to say, "Hey, that's Bart Simpson." At first it does grab your attention but just like all the other voice talent in these audio books by Galaxy Audio it blends in and fits perfectly with the character in the story.

This audio book contains the following two stories.

"If I Were You" originally published in the February 1940 issue Five-Novels Monthly, turns out to be a morality tale of what truly makes a person, soul or stature. Circus attraction and King of the midgets, Little Tom Little is not happy with being a sideshow attraction. Tom wants to be the Ringleader. When the mysterious Professor calls Tom to his deathbed, Tom is amazed, the Professor never really liked him. But the Professor leaves Tom his entire collection of magical books. He tells Tom it's because he had the courage to make fun of the Professor with no fear of retaliation. Tom then goes back to his wife Maisy and tells here it is all about to change. Within the magical tomes is a spell marked specifically for Tom that allows him to jump from body to body.

Tom immediately wants to take advantage of this newfound power and become the circus' ringleader. The problem is that the ringleader Hermann Schmidt is a corrupt person and has been skimming off the top of the profits. This leads to Tom jumping from body to body and eventually landing in the body of the big cat tamer, Tom has a fear of the big cats, and Tom finds himself in giant-sized danger. The fun with this story is the unexpected twists Hubbard is able to throw in that keeps you guessing as to what will happen next.

"The Last Drop" was originally published in Astonishing Stories, November 1941 and is another story of big becoming little or big becoming small, therefore making a great story to accompany the main story. Euclid O'Brien and Harry McCloud are partners in bar ownership in New York. Euclid's Brother Aristotle has sent a bottle of some strange liquid which the natives call "swello." Mac (McCloud) takes the bottle as a dare and mixes an interesting concoction and gulps it down. Euclid warns him that it could mean trouble. Mac says nonsense and walks out the bar with no ill-effects, at least not yet. Soon a fly lands on the concoction and after feasting on the mixture begins to grow. The fly grows to the size of a dog and the patrons, along with Euclid immediately think of Mac. They put together the idea behind the mixture and realize they must mix up something to counter act the growing. After a while they mix up the swello with some other drink items and after testing on a fly have created a drink to reverse the process.

Before they can go after Mac, the local mob boss stops in for his monthly "protection" fee. Euclid is more worried about Mac and tries to get rid of the boss. Well the Boss drinks down the reverse formula and says that Euclid will be sorry, as he leaves. But before he leaves they notice the Boss Shrinking down.

The fun begins as the boss's henchmen demand a fight between Euclid (after being shrunk down) to settle the score. All this while Mac grows to super-size and becomes a threat to New York City.

With some humorous scenes and antics by all the characters this story is a fun one from the Golden Age of Stories.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

"Crisis on Infinite Earths" by Marv Wolfman

"Crisis on Infinite Earths"
by Marv Wolfman
Multicast performance
Produced By GraphicAudio 2009
approx 7 hours

Before we dive into this awesome collection of every superhero created by DC comics, let me first say that before I started listening to GraphicAudio productions of DC comic novels I was a Marvel only fan. Sorry Stan, but while I still say "Make mine Marvel," I now append that with, unless it's an audiobook from GraphicAudio.

GraphicAudio does a superb job of creating audiobooks with the best in voice-acting, great music and excellent sound effects. They promise "A Movie in your Mind," and they deliver with a punch.

Now let's talk about this comic series turned novel turned audiobook. Back in the mid-80s DC comics realized they had continuity issues with all their runs of comics. There were different versions of The Flash, Superman never aged, superheroes that had appeared in the early years of comics but never again and many other problems. So to solve this DC and Marv Wolfman came up with the 12 issue series "Crisis on Infinite Earths," which created the "Multi-verse" in which there were different versions of Earth.

Marv Wolfman wrote the comic series and later turned the series into a novel, this novel is what this audio book is based on. In the novel most of the story is told from the Barry Allen version of "The Flash." Barry's nephew, Wally West, became kid flash and after Barry's death became the flash. This story also tells of Barry Allen's death. No, that is not a spoiler because the opening of the book is The Flash witnessing his own death as he is plunged through time via the speed force. The Barry Allen Flash, is the catalyst for this story in that he witnesses the events ahead of time and then is plunged back in time to interact the correct way. One of the things I should mention is that there is lots and lots of time traveling going on in this book. The paradoxes of time are explored and they seem to get by some of the potential problems by the fact that Barry is somewhat of a ghost that is going back and forth through time, sometimes a ghost and sometimes his physical self.

The main idea of the story is that the creation of the multi-verse was an accident by one of the Oans (the creators of the Green Lantern Corps) and in creating the multi-verse universe of anti-matter was created. The anti-matter universe and it's creator have been trapped in time until now. Now the anti-matter universe is destroying the universes of the multi-verse making it stronger and its creator. All the superheroes (and villains) of all the remaining multi-verses must gather together to prevent the destruction of untold millions of worlds and lives.

With The Flash narrating and telling the story of the gathering of the heroes and the heroes all teaming up against a common foe there is lots of action in this book and leave it to GraphicAudio to keep your heart pumping as friends and foe alike battle in true superhero form.

You will say good bye to some heroes but your favorites will make their appearance.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

"Batman: Dead White" by John Shirley

"Batman: Dead White"
by John Shirley
Multicast performance
Produced by GraphicAudio
Approx 6 hours.

Once again I have to dive into a great comic book turned novel turned audio book. Actually this one was just a novel turned audio book. This book was written to tie in to the reimagining of "Batman" movies, that began with the movie "Batman Begins" released in 2005. Maybe someday they'll turn it into a comic book, but it won't be your regular comic. This one is dark and deals with some very dark subject matter, even at the beginning of the audio book they warn of adult language and racial epithets.

So in the continuity of the Batman world this audio book takes place 18 months after the events in "Batman Begins" and before the sequel "The Dark Knight." The story involves a white supremacist leader of Gotham City's racist group the Bavarian Brotherhood. As is well known from the the Dark Knight run of Batman comics, Gotham City is full of corrupt cops, in this story some of them are even members of the Bavarian Brotherhood. The caped crusader and (now) Captain Gordon are the city's, and what turns out to be the nation's last best hope.

Before we get into the meat of the story here, I have to let you know about the audio production in this book. If you've ever heard a GraphicAudio audio book production you would be full aware of their superb mix of sound effects and music to move the story along. That and the great voice acting involved, creates the "Movie in your Mind" that GraphicAudio promises. In many scenes in this book there are gunfights, but these gunfights involve newly created weapons and artillery that work like no other weapons, GraphicAudio has created the sound effects that bring these things to life. Looks like Bruce Wayne isn't the only one with a super R&D department. GraphicAudio really knows how to make a book come to life.

Now this story takes place in the development of Bruce Wayne becoming Batman and protecting Gotham City. While the city is full of crooked cops Bruce Wayne is out to protect the common citizens. One night while patrolling the city, Batman thwarts a shipment of guns coming in to a racist leader, White Eyes. White Eyes men are moving a special automatic weapon called "The Dread" that the most advanced weapon creators have only heard of plans for, never a working model, this gun fires shotgun sized slugs at the rate of an Uzi. Dangerous for anyone let alone a racist group bent on world domination.

During the raid one of the few not crooked cops, Cormac Sullivan, sees Batman protect an innocent security guard by shielding him and taking the bullets. When the crooked cops then try to unmask "the bat" Cormac stands guard until Captain Gordon shows up. Batman then tells Cormac that he owes him one and gives Cormac a codeword to say to Gordon and Batman will help. Cormac decides he cannot put up with the crooked police department and returns to California to find and help his Meth addicted son.

In the meantime Batman is struggling with inner demons and seems to be slipping. He loses a suspect, his aim is off and lots more, can he still go on being the hero Gotham needs?

Cormac brings his son back east to detox on a camping trip but on the trip to the mountains they run into the training camp for the Bavarian Brotherhood. The horrors uncovered and the plans of horrors to come lead to Cormac seeking Batman's help and soon the battle between White Eyes and Batman takes place. With Batman's struggles and White Eyes super strength the future is bleak.

In a dark Dark Knight story, Batman is still a hero and the action is not to be missed from this story.