Category Archives: Blackstone Audio

Review: The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon (Audiobook)

  • Listening Length: 16 hours and 23 minutes
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc. (April 8, 2014)
  • Source: Publisher (via Audiobook Jukebox)

The death of print is eminent. Books, magazines and newspapers have been replaced by Memes, handheld devices that are not only communication tools but sensitive enough to sense our every want. It is also connected to a virtual marketplace called the Word Exchange that allows people to create and sell language.

Anana Johnson and her father, Doug, work at the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL). Doug’s passion has always been the written word, refusing to embrace technology. His latest project is the last print edition of the dictionary to publish.  His passion is so great that, when he disappears, Anana is immediately concerned. The only evidence Doug leaves behind is a code word he and Anana would use when one another was in danger: Alice. As Anana begins her hunt for her father, a “word flu” has begun to devastate the population.  This illness forces people to speak in gibberish, spreading quickly with devastating results. When her closest ally in her search, her colleague Bart, becomes infected, Anana is even more determined to locate her father, certain that locating him will provide the answers to her unending questions.

The Word Exchange is a brilliantly executed cautionary tale about the dangers of technology. Set in the not-too-distant future, Graedon has created a world in which everyone is connected, virtually, long-ago abandoning the very thing we should hold near and dear to our hearts: the written word. Citizens were repeatedly warned of the potential consequences of such technology, yet these warnings went ignored. The conveniences of such devices far outweighed any consequences.  The fate of humankind is now at risk, the damage irreparable.

Alternating in points of view, readers get a glimpse of what transpires through the eyes of Anana and Bart. As Bart declines due to illness, his slips in language are made obvious in his dialogue. Listening to the audiobook, at first I assumed the narrator had misspoken, quickly realizing this was an intended point of confusion, further detailing the impact of the word flu.

This novel was recommended to me after I read and adored The Lexicon by Max Berry. Both books are tremendous feats of the written language that will force readers to reflect upon the very thing that ties us all together: language.  Devastating in its plausibility, there is no doubt that readers will contemplate putting away their electronic devices, stepping away from the computer, in favor of embracing the print word.

A note on the audio production:
This title was narrated by Tavia Gilbert and Paul Michael Garcia.  Overall, this was an outstanding audio performance. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for Garcia to intentionally slip up in word usage, using completely incorrect, or in some cases, gibberish words, to replace normal speech.

That said, there was something in the quality of the audio recording that irritated me. At times, it seemed as though excerpts of the book were edited in for the tone and quality of the narrator’s voice shifted into an almost hollow sounding tone, as if they were speaking from a hole or through a long tube. So obvious, this shift in quality, it would take me a few seconds to recover and become once again attentive to the narration.

At first, I thought perhaps this was just me, but when I played segments for others they experience this shift as well. So, while the narrators did an an outstanding job, something in the editing of the overall performance elicited a less than stellar listening experience. My personal recommendation would be to skp the audio, embrace the print version of this novel instead.

Bottom line: The Word Exchange is a must read for fans of the written word. Thought-provoking and lasting in message. Highly, highly recommended.

Frightful Friday: V Wars, edited by Jonathan Maberry

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.This week’s featured book is the audio book production of V Wars: A Chronicle of Vampire Wars edited by Jonathan Maberry:

  • Listening Length: 18 hours and 33 minutes
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Release Date: October 10, 2012
  • Source: Publisher

The phenomenon, eventually referred to as the V Wars, begins on a scientific expedition to Antarctica. A bacteria, buried under the ice for a millennia, is unknowingly exhumed. The “junk” DNA of victim, also laying dormant, is suddenly activated and they are transformed into creatures that served as the true basis of such supernatural creatures as werewolves or vampires. Their ethnic background determines just what type of werewolf or vampire they come, whether they can roam the streets in the daytime, whether or not they drink blood or consume human flesh, etc. I won’t spoil anything but going into great detail about each of the stories other than say that there won’t be any sparkling vampires or werewolves with glistening abs making an appearance.

This anthology, made up of stories written by a host of authors including Nancy Holder, Yvonne Navarro, James A. Moore, Gregory Frost, John Everson, Keith R. A. DeCandido, and Scott Nicholson, and of course, Jonathan Maberry. Each author’s story is a different viewpoint on the V-event…the one event that served as the commencement of the V Wars: a battle between the supernatural species and the human race. What is truly compelling and stunning about this anthology is how each of the stories managed to weave together around one event without really having anything to do with one another.

Additionally, the flow of this anthology isn’t linear, the stories alternate. One might believe this would cause a confusing, jumbled mess of prose, but each author’s clear voice makes each of the contributions wholly unique, almost as if you are reading completely different books rather than one volume all together. That said, this format does not detract from the overall flow of the book. There is sufficient flow and transition in each of the stories that is easy to pick up where you last left off.

As mentioned, I listened to the audio book production of this anthology.Typically, I would comment on the production of one narrator. Well, in this anthology there are nine…yes nine…narrators, including Stefan Rudnicki, John Rubinstein, Gabrielle de Cuir, Roxanne Hernandez, Lisa Renee Pitts, Arte Johnson, Cassandra Campbell, Wil Wheaton (!!) and Grover Garner. In my humble opinion, audio is the format best suited for this anthology. Each narrator’s voice is incredibly unique and discernible making it easy to separate each unique contribution on its own.

I could continue to rave about just how much I adored this audio, but I must resist. That said, know that this will top my “Best of 2012″ audio books list! Highly, highly recommended.

Frightful Friday: The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week. Feel free to grab the button & join in!

This week’s featured book, in this case an audio book, is The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry:

 

  • Publisher:Blackstone Audio, Inc.; Unabridged edition (March 15, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 144178912X
  • Source: Publisher

In the second book in the Joe Ledger series, ex-Baltimore cop Joe Ledger and his squad with the DMS (Department of Military Science) team are once again facing a fight against a danger beyond the scope of normal police/military work.

The Jakoby twins are unique creatures, purely albino, nearly identical twins despite being of the opposite sex. They are evil to the bone, with a history of creating genetically-altered animals and physically-enhanced mercenaries and the like to sell to the highest bidder. Their influence, in a sense, is their father Cyrus. Unbeknownst to them, he has his own hidden motivation: to continue the ethnic-cleansing plan initiated during Hitler’s rule. Never could they have imagined how far their father’s evil plans go.  It is up to Ledger & the Echo team to put an end to this truly evil family, to stop the extinction clock ticking away…

One of the truly unique things about Maberry’s Ledger series isn’t just the storyline, but the fact that he creates a main character with a heart, real feelings, believable responses to the unbelievable things he is forced to deal with on a regular basis. Joe Ledger is a bad-ass. He’s dedicated to the DMS and to his team.  That said, buried beneath all the bullet-proof vests, he’s a man reeling from losses in his life, both in the past and more recent. A truly genuine character, Joe Ledger is a character that fans from various genres will root for.

The audio production is phenomenal. I’ve said it before, I’ll continue to say it: Ray Porter hits it out of the park in his narrating role. I read this series before listening to the audios, and this is the only time that I’ve listened to a narrator and think “Yes! This man is the only man that could be the voice of Joe Ledger.” He captures the emotion, the grittiness in Ledger’s personality, in a way that others can not.

Bottom line: Looking for an fast-paced, intense, unique series? Maberry’s Joe Ledger series is the one for you. Highly recommended.