Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Shadows from Boot Hill" by L. Ron Hubbard

"Shadows from Boot Hill"
by L. Ron Hubbard
Multicast Performance
produced by Galaxy Audio
Approx 2 hours

No matter what genre of audio book from Galaxy Audio's Stories from The Golden Age by L. Ron Hubbard I choose, I am never let down. I've stated before, I've never been a fan of Westerns, but with the professional quality behind the production of the audio books makes these books fun to hear. Great sound effects, great voice acting and music between stories and chapters all combine to keep you charged in the story.

From the days of pulp fiction (the mid 20th century), these stories all are fun to hear. Galaxy Press has taken these stories that were published in various magazines at the time and have recreated that pulp magazine feel with short stories in one edition, some are a short novella but most are 2 or 3 stories in one edition. I've seen the books at bookstores and have been tempted to pick them up, but I just keep going back to the audio books. Galaxy Audio takes these stories and produces them into 2 hour audio pulps that are reminiscent of the old time radio dramas from around the same time period.

This audio book contains three stories from the Western genre:

"Shadows from Boot Hill," originally published in June, 1940 tells the story of a hired gunman who acquires sinister shadows. The outlaw, Brazos, has skipped town before collecting his blood money for killing a local banker. With the law hot on his tail, he escapes to Los Hornos and his "friend" Whisper Monahan. The last time they parted ways, they weren't exactly on good terms, but Brazos is on the run and is desperate to rid the posse on his tail. Whisper greets Brazos with orders to kill a local named Scotty Brant that has poisoned over 4,000 acres of his land by sitting on the headwaters of a rare stream using cyanide to extract gold from oxide ore. But this time, Brazos bites off more than he can chew when he learns Brandt's hitched up with a witch doctor out of New Orleans. So to kill Brandt he must first take out the Witch doctor. The witch doctor's last words as Brazos kills him is, "I'll get you white man." Brazos leaves the witch doctor's funeral and finds he now has two shadows, Brazos doesn't put any faith in any myths so he goes on to finish the hit on Brandt, but the shadows haunt him in his task.

"The Gunner from Gehenna," originally published in April, 1949 is a fun cat and mouse/ good guy bad guy story. The renegade “Gunner” returns with plans to steal the miners’ gold but the local Sheriff has other plans. He and the Gunner have a history, in fact the Sheriff used to be a "bad guy." The Gunner plans on recruiting the sheriff to distract the miners while he steals the gold. The Gunner then vanishes into the desert with the deputy sheriff in angry pursuit. But the sheriff seems to have his job made easy, was it all pre-planned?

"Gunman!" originally published February, 1949 is the story of the last days before the railroad takes over the town of Deadlight. With three days left to save his badge, the marshal of Deadlight Brazos Kincade has to prevent the the bank from being robbed. With the town full of railroad shysters and banditos Marshall Brazos has his hands full. But the surprise is who is trying to rob the bank and who gets deputized. I found it odd to include two stories with characters named Brazos, but it was a nice contrast with one good and one bad. This story has the good one. Would it be too much if they had a 3rd that was ugly?

Once again Galaxy Press, Galaxy Audio and L. Ron Hubbard deliver an exciting collection of Western stories to make reading or listening fun.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

"The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins

"The Hunger Games"
by Suzanne Collins
Read by Carolyn McCormick
Produced by Scholastic Audio Books, 2008
11 hours and 10 min. (unabridged)

I've said it before and I'll say it again today's youth have some great literature written just for them. Here is yet another shining example. "The Hunger Games" takes several ideas and wraps them together to form an exciting bit of big-brother-dystopian-sci-fi. While listening to this audiobook I kept getting thoughts/memories of various bits from media, I would be reminded of the 70's sci-fi film "Logan's Run" at times, or maybe "Rollerball" or "Death Race 2000," then Stephen King's short story turned Schwarzanegger movie "The Running Man," then at times the book reminded me of the multiple reality shows like "Survivor" in which the contestants compete and get voted off. In fact when researching the info on this book I found that the author, Suzanne Collins, was influenced when switching her television back and forth between coverage of the war in Iraq and "Survivor." Collins threw in a bit from the Greek Myth Theseus, who was forced by Minos to be sacrificed to the Minotaur, but survived and created this exciting story.

After reading I found that this book is part one of a trilogy, and the trilogy follows this story's heroine, Katniss Everdeen, as she is chosen to be a tribute to the government to battle in the Hunger games and eventually leads a revolution. But the revolution gets ahead of our story. Let's talk about this one first.

"The Hunger Games" is set in a distant but seemingly not too distant future, after the destruction of North America, in a nation known as Panem. Panem consists of a wealthy Capitol and twelve surrounding, poorer districts. District 12, where the book begins, is located in the coal-rich region Appalachia. Coal is the regions contribution to Panem as all districts have some specialty/export to contribute. The problem is that the government keeps all the regions poor and the people of the districts further from the capitol (which is located somewhere near what is Denver, Colorado) are the poorest. District One near the capitol is the least poor and the higher the number the more the suffering. Katniss is forced to illegally hunt in the woods at an early age after her father dies in a mining accident and her mother becomes locked in grief. Katniss hunts to keep her and her sister alive.

At one point there were 13 districts but the 13th was destroyed when they tried to rebel against the capitol. As punishment for the rebellion every year one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are selected at random and forced to participate in the Hunger Games, a televised event where the participants, or "tributes", must fight to the death in a dangerous outdoor arena until only one remains. Katniss, in place of her younger sister, Primrose. Also participating from District 12 is Peeta Mellark, a boy whom Katniss knows from school and who once saved Katniss's life by giving her bread when her family was starving.

Katniss and Peeta are taken to the Capitol, where they meet the other tributes and are publicly displayed to the Capitol audience. During this time, Peeta reveals on-air his long-time unrequited love for Katniss. Katniss believes this to be a ploy to gain audience support for the Games, which can be crucial for survival, as audience members are permitted to send gifts to favored tributes during the Games. The Games begin with 11 of the 24 tributes dying in the first day, while Katniss relies on her well-practiced hunting and outdoors skills to survive. As the Games continue, the tribute death toll increases, but both Katniss and Peeta are able to evade death.

Katniss and Peeta are split up and the Gamemakers use dirty tricks and foul play to make the games more interesting by using some of the government's genetic animal mutations, like tracker jackers, a form of wasp that when it stings it can case vivid hallucinations and kill. Or human / wolf hybrids that hunt like wolves but can think like humans. One mutation a Jabber Jay was created to spy on the population, it has the ability to imitate human speech perfectly so they would record the coversations in the districts and report back to the capitol, when this was discovered the populus would feed the Jays false info, after this that project was abandoned, the Jabber Jays were released and later mated with Mocking Birds, creating the Mocking Jay which could sing beautifully. This Mocking Jay becomes a symbol of the people and of their freedom and has a large part in this novel.

The adventures during the battle in the Arena are very exciting and will keep you glued to this one. If you get the audiobook like I did you'll soon discover the talent that is Carolyn McCormick. Carolyn delivers the reading of this book with enthusiasm when needed and differentiates the characters by giving each their own voice.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Promises in Death" by J.D. Robb

"Promises in Death"
by J.D. Robb
read by Susan Ericksen
Produced by Brilliance Audio, 2009
Approx. 12 hours

It's been a while since I've visited my favorite homicide detective from the near future, Lt. Eve Dallas, so I thought I'd give another book a listen. I don't think I could ever sit down with the actual hardcover (or paperback) version of this book because I've been spoiled by the outstanding vocal talents of Susan Ericksen. Ms. Ericksen, has the ability to sound like a multi-cast performance all by herself. Each character in this book has their own voice through her talent, and the voices not only sound different to help the listener to determine who is talking/thinking when, but also somehow she has been able to wrap up the entire being of each person in her voice for each character. For example the main character Lt. Eve Dallas is a straight to the point detective that has no time for pop culture or things like how to throw a bridal shower, and the voice used is very stern and hard edge. In fact the main thing bringing me back to these books is Susan Ericksen's voice. The stories are okay and the sci-fi gadgets are cool, but Susan Ericksen brings these books to life.

Before I get to the summary of this book I first have to say that this is one of the better books in the series because of one aspect, sex. Or rather, not as much as in previous books in the series. This is book 28 in the "...in Death" series from J.D. Robb. As you may or may not know J.D. Robb is the pen name for Nora Roberts, a romance writer. She went with the pen name to have a different sort of voice than her romance books. The problem is that she still squeezes in steamy sex scenes in these books. I don't know why she does this, the books stand on their own merit and the sex scenes are blatantly gratuitious. They actually almost ruin the books by turning a good, slightly sci-fi, detective novel into softcore porn. with the audiobooks i can just fast forward or if reading I could flip the pages, but I shouldn't have to. The scenes are forced into the book with no redeeming value. This book so far has the least of sex scenes than all the others. Only one scene in this book.

Okay that over, here's the book. Early morning NYPSD Lt. Eve Dallas is enjoying breakfast (or rather being forced to eat since she usually is too busy to eat) with her husband Roarke, the multi-billionaire former thug. She's called in to investigate a dead body,her and her assistant, Detective Delia Peabody discover that the woman is a fellow officer, Detective Amaryllis Coltraine, who worked out of another precinct. To add to the emotion of the case, Coltraine was the lover of Li Morris, the Chief Medical Examiner and a good friend of Eve and Peabody. Coltraine was shot with her own police stunner; it also appears that she may have known her killer.

At first Eve thinks the kill may have been ordered by Amaryllis' former lover from Atlanta, Georgia, the son of a man that Dallas and Roarke had put in a cage for murder some months before. The suspect's reactions, however, as well as Roarke's impressions from a private discussion they have, tend to steer the blame away from him. Eve is beginning to sense that the killer may have been one of the detectives Coltraine worked with at her precinct, receiving orders from the man imprisoned off-planet. As Eve gets closer to finding who and why she realizes she has other parts of her life to deal with.

Eve has to perform a duty of friendship she has never tackled before: hosting a wedding shower for Louise Dimatto, who is marrying former "licensed companion" Charles Monroe. The shower goes on in Eve's home during the investigation; not only do we see Eve coping with a fresh aspect of life she has never had an opportunity to experience due to her dark violent childhood, but one of the guests helps put the finger on the murderer. That is one of the things about these books that also keeps me coming back; the characters. Robb/Roberts does a great job at building a myriad of characters that weave in and out of Eve's life and all seem to be able to help in some form, whether in personal life or on a case.

I say give these books a chance, they do have some redeeming values. That and they are pretty fun sci-fi / detective novels.

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Treasure Island" By Robert Louis Stevenson

"Treasure Island"
By Robert Louis Stevenson
Read By Alfred Molina
produced by Listening Library, 2007
Approx 7.5 hours

I've been on a "revisiting the classics" kick lately and I realized I had never read "Treasure Island." How could I have missed that? Wasn't it assigned in school? Maybe that's why, but anyway, now i have the chance and finding it in audiobook form was a Treasure.

This audiobook version has Alfred Molina doing the reading, and I say any guy that pulls off Doc Ock in the "Spider-Man" movie, has to be able to read a book. Well, not only yes, but aaarrrgggh, yes. Molina does a great job creating the complete ambiance of the story by creating different voices for each character. Molina's Long John Silver, was captivating.

As for the story itself, it's almost a coming of age story, but with pirates and treasure. Young Jim Hawkins, lives with his mom, who runs the Admiral Benbow Inn. A mysterious man of the sea takes up residence at the Inn and is constantly looking out for a one legged man. He even pays Jim to keep an eye out. The one-legged man never shows up at the Inn but other pirates do and eventually Billy Bones, or "the captain" as he is known to Jim, meets his end. Upon his death Jim and his mother seek to find the captain's secrets and discover a treasure map. The local magistrate and squire then set off to find this Treasure Island and put together a crew to sail the seas, bringing along Jim.

While they tried diligently to keep any questionable sailors from joining, it happens the ship's cook, Long John Silver, a one-legged man, has placed his men among the crew and are geared up to take over the ship when they arrive at the island.

Jim warns the captain and the "honest" men, but to no avail, Silver manages to take over the ship and seeks out the treasure. Jim soon discovers on the island a maroon who he brings back to the honest members of the crew, who have holed up in a stockade on the island. Jim also manages to recapture the ship and land her on the island where only he can find her.

Now to get back to the stockade. Once Jim arrives at the stockade, he finds Silver and his men. All the pirates will be hung for mutiny if caught and Jim uses this to get Silver back on the good side and they all eventually battle it out in the search of treasure.

Jim Hawkins seems the hero, after all he single-handedly gets the ship back and "converts" Silver, but Jim is just a young lad, so he has done some growing up fast. Learning the ways of men and the world.

In a classic adventure of piracy, treasure, the high seas and true humanity, "Treasure Island" definitely keeps you hanging on till the very end. So with a hearty "aaarrghh" I say, grab this book in either audiobook or whatever format you choose, and give it a good read.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Tomb of the Ten Thousand Dead" by L. Ron Hubbard

"Tomb of the Ten Thousand Dead"
by L. Ron Hubbard
Multi-cast performance
produced by Galaxy Audio
approx 2 hours

It's time once again to go on a far flung adventure with L. Ron Hubbard and stories from the Golden Age. In the middle of the 20th century Hubbard wrote numerous stories that were published in the various pulp fiction magazines of the time. He wrote science-fiction, fantasy, westerns, war stories and sea & air adventures, and adventures from afar. This time around Galaxy Audio/Galaxy Press have put together their own Hubbard pulp fiction/audio pulp fiction that covers the world from the Arabian sea to Russia to the West Indies.

As with any well written story these stories will sweep you away and take you to these lands and leave you on the edge of your seat the whole way. This is especially true if you give the audiobooks a listen. The audiobooks are produced with excellent voice acting consisting of a great cast of voices, great sound effects that will create the theatre of the mind that was well known to those that listened to the old radio shows that used to be broadcast around the same time these stories were originally published, and the incidental music really gives you a feeling that you are on these journeys around the world.

This publishing contains three short stories;

"Tomb of the Ten Thousand Dead," originally published in October, 1936 tells of a search for the lost treasures of Baluchistan, an arid mountain region now part of Pakistan bordering the Arabian Sea, which leads to an ancient tomb, murder, and the obliteration of an entire expedition. Told in the first person by the pilot of the expedition, Captain Gordon, the only man to escape alive.

Gordon is hired to fly a team of American anthropologists to the area and all goes well until an ancient map is discovered in an old pottery jar, revealing the site of a vast treasure that Alexander the Great was bringing to Greece from his conquest of India. At this point Gordon is discovered over the body of one of the anthropologists who has just been murdered. Gordon is not trusted by the leaders of the expedition and is forced to stay behind with the local guide while the rest follow the map. Gordon and the guide find the tomb where more than 10,000 of Alexander's soldiers and camp followers lay buried in the high desert plains along with the loot of India—hidden in a tomb never to be reclaimed. Gordon must then fight for his life to escape with or without the treasure.

"The Price of a Hat," originally published March, 1936 tells of a A fur hat, a Kubanka, with a secret message stitched into its hatband costs the lives of six men in a belated effort to save the lives of Nicholas II, the last Russian Czar, and his family.

"Starch and Stripes," originally published January, 1936 is a story that has a bit of humor at the expense of the Marine Corps brass. A marine captain is trying to ensnare a dangerous rebel leader, but just when the Marines are closing in on the villain, top brass and U.S. senators decide to inspect the base and decide on future funding for the marines.

Some great adventures to be had in this release from Galaxy Press.

LESS LOVE - "If You"

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

"Vermilion Drift" by William Kent Krueger

"Vermilion Drift"
by William Kent Krueger
Published by Atria books, 2010
305 pages

When it comes to sitting down with a good book, you have to get one that not only piques your interest but also is told in such a way that you not only get lost in the story but the setting as well. William Kent Krueger does this superbly. This is the second of his novels I've read and both novels have the intriguing storyline that gets tangled and twisted the more involved you become in the story. Krueger also has a skill when it comes to wordcraft. He describes the scenery of the settings in such a masterful way that the his world comes to life. I found myself not only easily visualizing the settings but I could do this in full panoramic color. Krueger is the Michelangelo of words.

This story is another Cork O'Conner mystery. Cork is a part Native American former Sheriff now performing services as a private detective in Tamarack County, Minnesota. He recently lost his wife and his children are pretty much out seeking their own lives. Cork begins this book working two cases; one, a missing person and the second mysterious threats to mine workers.

The Department of Energy is looking at an abandoned iron mine to bury nuclear waste. The locals, especially those that live on the Reservation above the mine are protesting. Several members involved have received notes written in a dripping blood font warning not to go through with the nuclear waste disposal plans. When the same warning appears in a section of the mine that is supposed to be inaccessible unless through security stations Cork sees a mystery that needs to be solved.

On top of that Cork is hired to find a prominent woman that has gone missing. The two cases come together when a hidden section of the mine is discovered along with numerous dead bodies. Some of the bodies go back to when Cork was only 13 years old, nearly 50 years, when his dad was sheriff and the area was plagued by the disappearance of several local women.

The case then forces Cork to revisit his past and uncover secrets that may have been best left buried.

With twists and turns in the story and plotline, this book will keep you guessing through to the end.

Monday, December 06, 2010

"Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus" by Mary Shelley

"Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus"
by Mary Shelley
Read by Simon Vance
Produced by Tantor Media, 2008
Approx 8.5 hours

Once again I get to revisit a classic. I've read this book several times but this is the first time I've listened on audiobook. Simon Vance does a first rate job of reading this story. His vocal characterizations are spot on in every aspect I ever heard in my head while reading the story. I think I may have found my new favorite audiobook voice.

Each time I read this book I get something new out of it. That's what happens when the books are well thought out, and I'm guessing that's one thing that makes them a classic. This time around the theme of loneliness seemed to stick out with me. Victor Frankenstein does not create the "creature" out of loneliness but the struggle from that point for the monster is loneliness.

The story is told through a few viewpoints, first through a series of letters from Captain Walton, who spots the creature on the ice in the north and then rescues Dr. Frankenstein from the same icy waters, to his sister Margaret. Then through Victor Frankenstein telling the Captain his tale, then through the creature telling his story to his creator, back to Frankenstein and back to Walton as a close. A very unique storytelling format that not only works but definitely keeps the reader/listener attentive.

The loneliness aspect really comes out when the creature is telling his story to his creator, Victor Frankenstein. The creature is abandoned by Frankenstein after Frankenstein is disgusted by the final outcome, Frankenstein simply flees, leaving the newborn creature alone and confused. The creature explores the world through a forest after it escapes and learns he is hideous when people run away from him in terror. Frankenstein used various body parts to create the creature, I refuse to call him a monster, with the intent to make him larger than humans around eight feet tall. The skin of the creature is yellowish with some transparency. So as you can see from the description he would be a bit scary. But he's only misunderstood.

Being abhorred by mankind, the creature sets off to be alone. But along the way he finds shelter in a cubby hole attached to a family dwelling. Over a long period of time the creature observes the family and learns that humans are actually loving caring beings. He learns over the time to speak the language and even read. He then begins to long for the family's companionship but when trying to meet the blind father the son and daughter walk in and are horrified by his appearance and chase him away.

The creature then runs off to Geneva, home of Frankenstein, and finds a young boy, who is young enough to not be influenced by the mores of the public and can learn to be friends without thinking the creature is something to fear. The boy as it turns out is afraid but to make matters worse he is the younger brother of Victor Frankenstein. The creature is agitated by the boy's fear but becomes angered and vengeful when he realizes this is something he can take away from Frankenstein.

When Frankenstein returns for the funeral of young William, the creature begins stalking him. Frankenstein is then captured by the creature and the creature then states that he wishes Frankenstein to build another creature as a mate. With no more loneliness the creature promises to move to where no man lives and live out his life with his bride. Frankenstein is horrified by the thought of creating another horror and refuses. The creature then begins to kill all those around Frankenstein making the doctor feel some of the creatures loneliness. From there the hunt is on for Frankenstein to destroy his creature, which leads to the frozen North Sea and the where the book began with the ship picking up Dr. Frankenstein.

All the creature wants is a friend.