Category Archives: audiobook review.

Re-Visiting Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player OneWith the movie finally hitting screens and since my sf/f bookclub picked it for our next book, I’ve revisited Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. This time around, I decided to give the audio version a whirl. And while Wil Wheaton is spot-on in bringing the book to life in audio, I still found myself coming away from the novel feeling a bit satisfied.

While most of the geeky 80’s references hold up fairly well, I couldn’t help but feel like this book with all style and no substance the more I listened. While I enjoyed the references, I found myself yearning for something more to the novel that what I walked away this time. This time around, the novel reminded me of books I read based on several InfoCom games (they gave us Zork and other interactive text games back in the day). They were fun, but not necessarily all that filling. And in the end, they left me wanting to go back and play the games again rather than continue reading the novel.

Ready Player One feels like it’s all style and little substance here. And this time around, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a bit too predictable for its own good. (Some of this could be that I’ve read it before, but honestly I’d forgotten a lot of the specific story points in the seven or so years since I last read it). I’m not sure if this says more about me as a reader or the novel itself. Or it could be a bit of both.

I was struck this time by the predictable nature of the plot, the lack of any real depth for the characters, and the glaring lack of any strong, female characters in the book.

Again, I can’t say that I didn’t love it back in the day. I did. But I probably should have let my memory continue to cheat into remembering how much I’d enjoyed it then. Instead, I’ve come away feeling that this novel was one that had so much potential that just wasn’t realized.

If you want to visit my original review of the book, you’ll find it HERE.

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet by Gerry Davis

Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet: 1st Doctor NovelisationFor some reason, I missed reading Gerry Davis’ adaptation of his and Kit Pedler’s script for “The Tenth Planet” during the height of my reading and collecting the Target novels. It could be due either to that fact that I didn’t appreciate the William Hartnell serials as I do now during my initial viewing of Doctor Who or it could be that this one just didn’t show up at my local bookseller.

A pivotal story in the history of Doctor Who, “The Tenth Planet” features two huge firsts — the debut of the Cybermen and the first time the Doctor regenerated.

You’d think that for a story this pivotal to the long-running history of the show, the Target novelization would be more to write home about. Continue reading

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Review: One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is LyingA quintet of stereotypes from a John Hughes movie walk into detention one fateful Monday afternoon, but only four make it out alive.

Each of the survivors — the athlete, the cheerleader, the academic, and the drug dealer — had good reason to want to see the victim silenced. Simon Kelleher runs Bayview High’s infamous gossip blog app and his next post contained juicy details that could cause grief and heartache to each of the survivors. But was that post enough of a motive to kill Simon? And if it was, which one of these four is guilty of the crime?

The central mystery of who killed Simon and why drives Karen M. McManus’ debut novel One of Us Is Lying. And the story starts with teenage stereotypes, each of the characters doesn’t remain a stereotype for long. One of the highlights of the story is watching McManus build each of the characters through shifting point of view segments while both validating and challenging our initial assumption of each character. Whether it’s the academic, Bronwyn who was presented with a chance to keep her collegiate dreams of going to Yale alive or Jake, the drug dealer who is trying to overcome his family’s dysfunctional history, McManus’ narrative weaves the lives of the so-called Murder Club into something more than just your standard murder mystery. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Fast Girl by Suzy Favor Hamilton

Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running from MadnessThe best DVD commentaries come when the participants have had an opportunity to perspective thank to the passage of time. It allows for a more honest assessment of what worked, what didn’t work and what could or should have done differently.

Listening to Suzy Favor Hamilton’s Fast Girl, I kept feeling like I wish she’d allowed a little more time to pass before penning (or in this case ghost-writing) her autobiography. Hamilton spends large chunks of the book focusing on the highs she got from first competitive running and later as a high-end escort in Las Vegas and very little (if any time) focusing on the lessons she learned from these experiences or the consequences and/or impact on her life and the lives of her family and friends. While the salacious details of her year as one of the top escorts in Vegas may sell a few books, I walked away from this book feeling like Hamilton left a lot of unexamined issues and questions on the table. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who and the Horror of Fang Rock by Terrance Dicks

horroroffangrockFor some odd reason, I never picked up a copy of “The Horror of Fang Rock” during my Target novel collecting days. Whether it’s because the bookstores I frequented didn’t have a copy or there were other books that got my hard-earned cash instead, I don’t know.

So, I came to the audio version of the fourth Doctor and Leela adventures without any memories of the original on the printed page.

And I’ve got to admit, this one was pretty well done. Adapting his own script, Terrance Dicks creates a bit more backstory for some of his characters and gives the reader some context as to the social norms and assumptions of the day. These additions give a greater depth to how some of the characters interact over the course of the novel.

And while his adaptation of “Horror of Fang Rock,” doesn’t necessarily create a larger canvas for the story like “Day of the Daleks” or “The Auton Invasion,” “Fang Rock” still feels a bit more substantial than others from this era that simply feel like Dicks is adapting the shooting script for the printed page.

The audio version of the story adds an extra layer of tension to the already tense story, thanks in large part to the performance of Louise Jameson. While the actress who brought Leela to life has been a fixture in the Big Finish range, this is her first Target novel reading. Based on the work she’s done here, I hope it won’t be her last. Jameson reads the story like we’re gathered around a camp fire and she’s sharing a scary tale with us. Jameson wisely doesn’t try to offer her imitation of each actor from the original broadcast but instead creates her own performances for each of her characters. It goes without saying that her Leela is a highlight of this novel.

 

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Review: The Identicals by Elin Hildebrand

The IdenticalsWhen Eleanor Roxy-Frost and Billy Frost decide to go their separate ways, they decide to divide everything equally. This includes their twin daughters, Tabitha and Harper.

And so, at the age of seventeen, the sister play a game of rock/paper/scissors to decide who “wins” and gets to go with Billy and who “loses” and has to go with their mother. Decades later, the outcome of that game casts a long shadow over the lives of the estranged twin sisters.

When their father passes away, the sisters are forced back into each other’s orbit. Harper lives on Nantucket, where she’s done everything from landscaping to package delivery to being an unwitting drug mule. The last position has granted her a bit of infamy on the island (and the ire of the drug cartel she unwittingly helped bring down), but not nearly as much as the latest news that she’s having an affair with her father’s married doctor.

Tabitha lives on Martha’s Vineyard with her rebellious teenage daughter, Ainsley and works in her mother’s sinking boutique (based on her mother’s line of clothing and an infamous dress designed years before). Referred to by an ex-boyfriend as “a piss-poor parent,” Tabitha blames Harper for everything that has gone wrong in her life, including the death of her infant son, Julian, fourteen years ago. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: Four to Doomsday by Terrance Dicks

 

fourtodoomsdayThere are times reading a Terrance Dicks adaptation of a classic Doctor Who serial that I imagine the poor man, chained to a typewriter, given only bread and water and told to churn out the next Target adaptation as quickly as possible. Dicks was prolific adapting the classic Who stories in the age before we could own the entire run on VHS or DVD. And many times he could turn a less than memorable story into a more memorable one by either harnessing the reader’s imagination or creating some deeper characterization than we were treated to on-screen.

Unfortunately, he’s not able to do much with the second story of the Peter Davison era, Four to Doomsday. It’s an entirely faithful adaptation of what we saw on our screens with little or no room for embellishment. The televised version had Monarch offering commentary on what the Doctor and his companions were up to across the ship with jump cuts for a reaction and a word or two. The novel keeps those intact and feels a bit scattered and unfocused at times. Dicks also tries his best to give some motivation to Adric’s shifting loyalties and trying to make sense out of the long term invasion plan that Monarch is running. Neither is entirely successful, but it’s nice of him to try.

This one was part of my Target collection back in the day and I believe I picked it up right after seeing the serial in question repeated on my local PBS station. Years later, listening to it again as an audiobook, I found myself enjoying it a bit more than on the printed page simply because of the performance by Matthew Waterhouse. Yes, you read that correctly.

While he was never the strongest asset to the series, Waterhouse has delivered a couple of nicely performed audio books in the Target range. Waterhouse ably mimics the speech pattern of Monarch and he gives the reading some subtle shading as it goes along. It doesn’t help make the story itself any better, but it did lead me to enjoy listening to this story again a lot more than I originally expected.

It also made me almost give into an urge to dust off the DVD and give the story another look.

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