The Head Hunters by L. Ron Hubbard – Audiobook Review

The Head Hunters
Written by L. Ron Hubbard
Produced for audio by Galaxy Press with a full cast

Disclosure: I received a free copy of the audio book release of The Head Hunters by L. Ron Hubbard from Galaxy Press for review purposes.

I have to admit when I was first approached by Galaxy Press regarding reviewing of their audio books, I was a bit torn. I love stories of action and adventure from the pulp age, but I have read some of L. Ron Hubbard’s later work (Battlefield Earth and the Mission Earth series), and, well, I just wasn’t impressed. On the other hand the stories that Galaxy Press was offer me where from early in L. Ron Hubbard’s writing career and definitely in a more action/adventure vein. In the end I figured, if I didn’t like them then I would just say so. (I am all about giving honest reviews here.)

Fortunately for Galaxy Press and L. Ron Hubbard (and you), I really enjoyed The Head Hunters. The Head Hunters is a classic two-fisted pulp adventure story set in Polynesia. It centers around a man named Tom Christian. Christian is the adventure who is master of his own small sailing yacht. The story begins with Punjo Charlie, a local villain, menacing Christian’s first mate Hihi (a local islander). Punjo Charlie is trying to find a cache of gold discovered by Christian on the island’s interior and steal it. Christian and Hihi attempt to recover the gold before the rainy season hits and before Punjo Charlie finds it. But our heroes must also rescue a naive scientific expedition from the clutches of Punjo Charlie and his band of head hunters as well as recover the gold before it is too late.

As I said I really enjoyed The Head Hunters. Sure it was a bit dated as well as a little racist and sexist by today’s standards, but it was fun. A large part of what made it fun was the fact that it was produced with a full cast and audio effects and music (in the same style as books produced by GraphicAudio.) That really helped bring the story to life for me and upped the dramatic tension a bit. And the cast was great. The audio was clear even with the effects and music. The characters were well voiced. None of the accents were two thick. Every voice was unique. Quality of the audio performance over all was top notch.

Another big plus for me was that this audio books was only two hours long. I am a big fan of the short novel. I spend two hours a day driving and an hour at the gym listening to audio most days. Have a book I can complete in one days is nice sometimes.

If you enjoy tales of adventure in exotic locations with lots of action you should definitely check out The Head Hunters by L. Ron Hubbard. I give it 5 out of 5 snark bites.

A Manhattan Ghost Story by T.M. Wright (Unabridged Audio) – A Review

A Manhattan Ghost Story (Unabridged Audiobook)
Written by T.M. Wright
Narrated by Dick Hill

Produced by Crossroad Press and SpringBrook Audio

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of A Manhattan Ghost Story (Unabridged Audiobook) from Crossroad Press for reviews purposes.

A Manhattan Ghost Story is the tale of a man named Abner Cray. Abner is a photographer who lives in Maine. Abner travels ti New York to work on a photo book. Abner’s friend Art offers to allow Abner to live in his apartment while he is working on the book because Art will be traveling. That is how Abner meets Art’s ex-girlfriend, Phyllis, and falls in love with her. Art’s dead ex-girlfriend. That’s when Abner discovers the other inhabitants of New York. The ghosts of New York. That is when things go horribly wrong.

A Manhattan Ghost Story is a story of love and hate and madness. It is told as a memoir. It is strange. It is disturbing. And, unfortunately, it is more than a bit confusing in places. It has an interesting twist on ghosts, and how they relate to the live. But that was not enough to make it work for me. In the end I just didn’t enjoy this book.

The story is read by Dick Hill. His voice and style suit this book well. I admit many of the character sound the same, but much of the book really feels like when my grand father would telling me a stories from his life. That make it more interesting.

Overall, I didn’t like this story very much. It is a okay story, but it took a long to get going. I kept getting lost in the first few chapter of the book. I can’t recommend it. If you are a big fan of ghost stories it might be worth your time and the audio is good, but it just did work for me.

I’m giving it 3 out of 5 snark bites.

Soul Storm by Chet Willamson: A review

Soul Storm – Unabridged Audiobook
by Chet Williamson
Narrated by Chet Williamson

Published by Crossroad Press and Springbrook Audio

(Disclosure notice: I received a free copy of Soul Storm from Crossroad Press for review purposes.)

What can I say. I am a sucker for a good haunted house story. I have read many haunted house stories and novels (The Legend of Hell House, House of Bones, The Shinning), and seen many haunted house films (House, The House on Haunted Hill, Rose Red) as well. (And I have been thought my share of Halloween spook houses, and ridden the haunted house ride at Disney Land, but I digress.) Most recently in the haunted house vein, I read (or listen to) Soul Storm by Chet Williamson.

Let me start by saying that Soul Storm is an excellent haunted house story. It brings strong characters, an interesting twist on the cause of the haunting, and good story telling together to tell the story of The Pines. The Pines is a house in the wilds of Pennsylvania with a past filled strange and supernatural events. David Neville, owner of The Pines, has recently restored the house. David Neville is dying, and David wants proof of life after death. David plans to use The Pines to achieve that end by spending a month locked in The Pines with his wife, Gabrielle, and three men hired for a million dollars each to be his witnesses and protectors: Kelly Wickstrom, George McNeely, and Seth Cummings. The five are then sealed in the house with locks and steel plates, and must try to survive the house and each other.

So as I said I enjoyed Soul Storm. The story is well told with strong interesting characters that I cared about. The end was appropriate. It was an excellent read, and, in typical Chet Williamson’s style, is filled with strong characters forced into trying situation. I give the story five out of five snark bites.

The reading was done by the author and is top rate. Chet Williamson is an actor as well as a writer and he does a good job reading his own work. I do have to say that at a couple of points he seemed to slip out of character while reading dialogue, but it didn’t take away from the reading as a whole. I give the reading four out of five snark bites.

So overall, if you like haunted house stories or stories about people put in trying survival situations you should pick up Soul Storm. If it s great read (and listen). I give the unabridged audio version of Chet Williamson’s Soul Storm four out of five snark bites.

Spore: A Review

Spore by John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow

Los Angeles is a strange, strange place. I can say this because I spend a lot of time there as a kid and some as an adult. (I even lived in California, in Rosamond, at one time, but that is tale for another time.) It is the home of movie magic, high tech companies, drugs, gangs, millions of everyday people, millions of tourist, money, and, if Skipp and Goodfellow are to be believed, a sentient fungus with delusions of grandeur.

Spore is the story of that megalomaniac fungus. It is a story of Los Angeles. And more specifically it is the story of Rory and Trixie and what happens to them when a sentient fungus with delusions of grandeur tries to take over Los Angeles via LA’s drug culture. It is a wild ride that takes place in 24 hours starting with Thanksgiving dinner and end with, well, I don’t want to give too much away.

The story begins with the Rory’s and Trixe’s annual Thanksgiving party (complete with lots of friend, a massive turkey dinner, and live music) at their automotive repair shop. Shortly after dinner, Rory receives a call from his older brother Richie who is in jail. Richie asks Rory to act as a limo driver for special client that evening (Richie owns a limo service company). Richie makes the offer such that Rory can’t refuse. And soon after that Rory is plunged into the wonderland of drugs and gangs and fungus that make up the Los Angeles underworld. Rory’s (and soon enough Trixie’s) trip through wonderland including car chases (some involving go-carts), paramilitary raids on rich gated communities with the mushroom sprouting super models, a gang controlled star chamber, and an army of fungus junkies squaring off against an army of LA gang bangers. And all that at the pace of a rollercoaster.

Spore is filled with both true to live and completely over the top characters including the city of Los Angeles herself. In fact, sometime it is hard to tell the different between the realistic and the strange. If paints a gritty, realist picture of Los Angeles and then covers it in mushrooms and lights it on fire while spinning it like Chinese Acrobat spins a plate. It is crazy. It is confusing. It is heart wrenching. It is exhilarating. But in the end it is a wild fun, if you let it sweep you along in it strange, manic currents. I loved it.

I give Spore 5 out of 5 snark bites. It is a well written, wild ride through the strange streets of Los Angeles I will not soon forget. Go pick up a copy and help spread the unity.

Note: This book contains a great deal violence and a lot of drugs and drug use. If you are offended by violence or drug use or mushrooms this may not be the book for you.

Blood: A Southern Fantasy – A Review

Blood: A Southern Fantasy
by Michael Moorcock
Read by Chet Williamson

Published by Crossroad Press and Springbrook Audio

(Disclosure Notice: I received a free copy of the audio book version of Blood: A Southern Fantasy from Crossroad Press for review purposes.)

I’m just going to come out and say it. I didn’t particular like Blood: A Southern Fantasy (which I will refer to as Blood for the remainder of this review). It was very dense and written in strange and mostly telling style. It has a strange sub-story that appears like an old movie serial between major sections of the book. The sub-story is related to the main story, but that is not apparent until later in the book. In fact, Blood feels more like a collection of memoirs than a novel. I had a hard time getting into the story.

That all being said, what is Blood about? Blood is set in a world like ours and yet very unlike ours. It is set in an America like ours yet very unlike ours. And most of it takes place in the south. There is a civil war going on between the North and the South. In this world the south is ruled, for the most part, by the black man and the white man is relegated to the north and west. Technology is powered by the energy given off by dimensional rifts. Order and chaos sit side by side, not at peace, but not at war either. It is a strange place, and at times strangely familiar.

The story itself follows the journey of Jack Karaquazian, a gentleman and gambler; his lover, Colinda Devero; and his friends and allies Sam Oakenhurst (Sam is my favorite character in the story), another gambler, and The Rose, a half plant half animal being from a different dimension. Through their various adventures, our heroes, are drawn in the great multi-verse to play the ultimate game.

The story is deep and philosophical delving in the nature of the universe, man, and even God in places. The world is both dark and bright, disturbing and horrific, and yet beautiful. In reminded me of the Moorcock’s Elric tales in some respects.

As far as the audio goes, the reader, Chet Williamson, did a good job. The reading was clean and clear. A bit flat in places, but I think that was function of the style of writing more than the narrator. And he did a nice job marking the transition to the sub-story of the multi-verse and the Chaos Engineers with melodramatic flare and style.

In the end, as I have said, I didn’t like Blood. It just didn’t hook me. It isn’t a bad story. There are things I liked in it: The way and type of games the gambler’s played, the strange cults, the strange mix of technology, the overall dark atmosphere of the story’s setting, and the river boats. (I love river boats.) But I just couldn’t get immersed in the story. I believe if I could have I would have enjoyed it more.

I am going to give Blood an overall score of three out of five snark bites. It isn’t bad. It just wasn’t my thing.

The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs and the Currently Accepted Habits of Nature: A Review

The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs and the Currently Accepted Habits of Nature
by David Niall Wilson
Narrated by Joe Geoffrey

Published by Crossroad Press and Springbrook Audio

(Disclosure notice: I received a free copy of The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs and the Currently Accepted Habits of Nature from Crossroad Press for review purposes. I really need to write a generic disclosure notice.)

You know, in the end, I really have only one complaint about this book, its title is way too long: The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs and the Currently Accepted Habits of Nature. It’s fifteen words long! Come on. But that being said, I am starting this review by saying the only thing there is to say about it, “go buy a copy.” Buy it now. Right now. You will not be disappointed. It is the most fun I have had reading/listening to a horror novel in years.

The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs and the Currently Accepted Habits of Nature (which I will refer to as CletusJ. Diggs for the rest of this review) is the story of good ol’ boys, perversion of science, and ancient religion. It is set in Old Mill, a small town in North Carolina. It stars, as you’d guess from the title, the Reverend Cletus J. Diggs (who is also a common law attorney, private investigator, tabloid journalist, and anything else he can learn via a correspondence course). Cletus is drawn into the strange going-ons in the back wood of North Carolina when his friend Jasper enlists his help in removing a dead man from his “secret” fishing hole. Things for Cletus, Jasper and Sheriff Bob go down hill from there.

Now I lived in South Carolina for a couple of years, and I currently live in small town Minnesota. I am sure I have met some of the people in this story, or at least there distant cousins. Although the characters depicted in Cletus J. Diggs are humorous, many of them are as real as the guys who live in the trailer park on the other side of town.

This audiobook is humorous, but its humor masks a deep seated dark horror that, in the end, made me squirm. The characters are fun and odd, but they are real. They may act odd, but they feel the same horror and the same fears we do when faced with perversion and evil and “the things that man was not meant to know”. The characters reactions to these are real and not just played for laughs.

And yes, Cletus J. Diggs is laugh out loud funny in places. But it is also dark and disturbing others. Very disturbing. In fact this story reminded me of what made Lovecraft’s work so brilliant.

I am impressed by David Wilson’s ability to keep the humor alive without dispelling the underlying sense of dread. I wish I could write this well.

In fact, it is the end of this novel (which I will not spoil for you) when Cletus comes face to face with the truth, that stuck with me. How Cletus reacted to that truth made me love the story all the more. The ending was disturbing and left me with a true sense of dread. And I think that dread felt by both Cletus and myself is well described by my favorite quote from Lovecraft’s work:

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.” – Call of Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft

The narration by Joe Geoffrey definitely enhances and compliments the story. The voices he did for each character are unique. He captures the pace and style of life of a small town well in his inflections and accents and easy going style. It is pleasure the listen to.

I give The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs and the Currently Accepted Habits of Nature five out of five snark bites overall (four out of five snark bites for the audio and six out of five snark bites for the story). Go pick up a copy right now.

Resident Evil: Afterlife – A Review

I will freely admit I am a fan of the Resident Evil series of movies, games, novels, and comics. I have seen all of the films in theaters on opening weekend with the exception of the original, Resident Evil. I’ve played some of the games including the original (including the original Japanese version of the first game Biohazard.) I’ve read about half of the novels. And I am following the comic series being put out by Wildstorm. So I’m kinda into the whole franchise. (In fact, I would love to write a novel for the series once my writing gets a bit better.)

Needless to say, I saw ResidentEvil: Afterlife the weekend it opened, and since I review a lot of stuff I figured I would give my thoughts on it here. (Note: I do not intend to give out any spoilers for Resident Evil: Afterlife, but in talking about it I might end up giving out details about the earlier films that might spoil them if you have not seen them.)

Resident Evil: Afterlife is a direct follow up to Resident Evil: Extinction, and begins with an army of Alice clones kicking some serious ass at a secret Umbrella base in Japan. (There is a nice nod to the franchises original title in Japan during this.) During which the original Alice (played by Milla Jovovich) is stripped of all her “super powers”. After the destruction of the Umbrella’s “final” base, Alice goes on a journey to find her companions with whom she parted company at the end of Resident Evil: Extinction.

The film get’s pretty introspective at this point, but retreats back in the zombie and monster killing action fairly quickly as our hero, newly reunited with Clarie Redfield (played by Ali Larter), find her way to a group of survivor trapped in a prison in Los Angles. And it is a bloody and violent, yet predictable, toboggan ride through the end.

Don’t worry ladies there is some eye candy for you as well in this film. Wentworth Miller plays Clarie Redfield long lost brother, Chris, and Brois Kodjoe plays the athletic and handsome Luther. I think they do a nice job of balancing out the sexy between both the male and female characters.

Unfortunately, Resident Evil: Afterlife really bring nothing new to the table except 3D, which adds nothing special to the film, and a new breed of T-Virus mutants. And as my wife pointed out, this one felt more like a video game, that any of the other films in the series: solve a puzzle, fights some monsters, reveal a plot point, defeat a boss, move on to the next level, and repeat.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy it. Milla Jovovich is hot. I love Alice’s “over the top” bad assery. And some of stunts and fight scenes were pretty impressive. But, in the end, it still felt like the sequel to a sequel to a sequel. I’m only going to give it three out of five snark bites.

So should you see it, well, if you a fan of the Resident Evil franchise, then yes. Otherwise, this might not be the film for you. If you do go remember stay through the first part of the credit for a glimpse into what’s instore in the next Resident Evil film.