Podcast Review #127: Dark Currents: Book 2 in the Emperor’s Edge Series

•22 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published April 10, 2012

Title: Dark Currents
Author: Lindsay Buroker
Genre: Fantasy with Steampunk elements
Released: 21 March 2012
Located: PodiobooksiTunes
Formats Available: podcast, ebook
Rating: PG – 13 for violence

Several months ago, many regular readers of the blog will remember that I found a new podcast novel written by Lindsay Buroker and read by Starla Huchton. You might also remember I greatly enjoyed it and had few complaints concerning it. Well, that book was The Emperor’s Edge, and now I’m here to review it’s sequel, Dark Currents.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: It’s been three months since former enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon and the notorious assassin Sicarius thwarted kidnappers and saved the emperor’s life. The problem? Nobody knows they were responsible for this good deed. Worse, they’re being blamed for the entire scheme. With enforcers and bounty hunters stalking them, and the emperor nursing a personal hatred for Sicarius, it’s going to be hard to earn exoneration. (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: Dark Currents is produced by the same team that produced The Emperor’s Edge, Darkfire Productions. Many of the same superior production qualities that I enjoyed with The Emperor’s Edge are still present in Dark Currents. However, there are a few more background artifacts during the reading. This might have been something that was uncontrollable and impossible to remove. Regardless, they did catch my attention and momentarily pulled me out of the story. Also, in one ep the outro music appears several minutes early and leaves a gap at the end. This definitely messed up the ending of that ep, at least for me. Hopefully, this issue has been corrected.

Grade: B-

Cast: As with The Emperor’s Edge, Dark Currents is read by Starla Huchton. And once again, she does a superb job. Each of the characters retains their individual flavor from the original story and, remarkably, so do many of the periphery characters.

Grade: A

Story: You may remember that I stated during the review of The Emperor’s Edge that the steam elements seemed unnecessary. Well, in Dark Currents, Ms. Buroker has upped the steam and the need for it. This second story makes the steam elements more much necessary and common. This story takes place outside of the city for the most part. I found myself enjoying the story very much, but realized that the setting of the first book was one of the things I greatly enjoyed about it.

Grade: A

Verdict: I enjoyed Dark Currents. Immensley. I might have even enjoyed it more than the first. I love watching the relationships between the characters evolve. I hope to see the trend continue in the next several books. I heartily congratulate Ms. Buroker on the story and Ms. Huchton and the lads at Darkfire for bringing it to life.

Disclosure: I’ve never met Ms. Buroker. Since the review for EE, i have begun following her on Twitter (@goblinwriter). I was offered nothing in return for this review.

Podcast Review #126: Self Made

•22 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published April 3, 2012

Title: Self Made
Author: M. Darusha Wehm
Genre: Science Fiction
Released: 11 January 2010 – 3 April 2010
Located: iTunes, Podiobooks
Formats Available: Podcast, ebook and dead tree

Rating: R for language, violence and adult content

Once again my trolling through podiobooks brings me to a title and author I’ve yet to read/listen.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: Ever wish things were different?

Ivy Velasquez did, so she became someone else. In the 3D virtual world Marionette City, you can be anything you want — but everyone still knows who you are. Driven by her desire for a new life, Ivy takes her future in her hands when she makes another identity for herself. A brilliant designer, Ivy works for one of the huge firms which control the online system the world relies upon for both business and pleasure. But one day, Ivy discovers that her alternate self, Reuben Cobalt, had been murdered.

Since alternate identities are forbidden by the firms which control access to the nets and to M City, Ivy has nowhere to turn — until she finds Andersson Dexter. Part private eye, part vigilante and part cop, Dex sets out to uncover Reuben’s killer. Since the firms control almost every aspect of life, including law and order, justice for average people comes only at the hands of the outlaw organization to which Dex belongs.

Self Made is a murder mystery set in a vision of a future that seems to lurk just over the horizon. But above all, it is a story of how people strive to control their own destinies, and how that desire affects them and the people around them in ways they could never imagine.

Production: The production of Self Made isn’t stellar. Neither is it horrid. It falls firmly in the category of “okay” and there is nothing here that would make it hard to listen to. At least nothing that I remember.

Grade: B/B-

Cast: Ms. Wehm does Self Made as a self read. Her reading voice is up to the task and none of the characters are remarkable due to the poor reading or voice usage. This book has long narrative passages and Ms. Wehm’s voice is up to the task.

Grade: A-

Story: Self Made is a story set in the undetermined future. Truthfully, I don’t remember if a year was mentioned or not, but it has that sense, like a William Gibson or Philip K Dick story, of indeterminate future age about it. Meatworld contact is now severely limited and most interaction occurs in cyberspace. The synopsis reminded me enough of the previously mentioned author that I was eager to give it a try. Throw in a murder mystery and I was confident this would be an enjoyable ride.

Grade: D+\C-

Verdict: I remember as a young lad, sitting in church and hearing the pastor preach on Revelation 3:16 – “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” At the time I really didn’t understand that. Now I do. This is one of the hardest reviews I’ve ever written. Why? Because I am so ambivalent about the work in general and the characters in specific. Ms. Wehm seems to have worked exhaustively to create a world with little emotion and succeeded only in creating a world that held no interest for this listener. Dex and the other characters felt lifeless and almost like watercolor portraits without any definition. I think the ending was supposed to have been happy. The best I can say is it didn’t have the opposite effect on me.

I also found the underlying meat world vs cyberspace issues to be almost nonsensical with the reasoning provided. (Possible spoiler alert) For example, people rarely talk to one another to the extent that a real bar is unusual and talking to someone in the meat world is extremely rare. However, people still commute to the day job in that same meat world even when everything they do is online. The explanation given was something like “so the system can keep track of your time”. I remember laughing about that at the time.

However, my biggest problem with this story is how little I remember about it after only one week. Most of this review was pulled from notes I took at the time. The poorly contrived story obviously made no impression on my long term memory. Perhaps that will be to Ms. Wehm’s advantage and I’ll completely forget about Self Made and try one of her several other books in the future.

Before ending this review, I will state that according to Ms. Wehm’s site, she has been nominated for more than one Parsec, so I quite likely am a minority in my opinion. Have you listened? Do you disagree? Let me know! (Well, you can do that even if you do agree.) Now, I need to go find my listerene.

Disclosure: I’ve never read or listened to anything by Ms. Wehm before. I was offered nothing in return for this review.

Podcast Review #125: The Mask of Inanna

•22 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published March 26, 2012

Title: The Mask of Inanna
Author: Alicia E. Goranson
Genre: Darkish Fantasy
Released: 21 February 2012
Located: iTunesPodiobooks
Formats Available: Podcast only

Rating: PG for violence

As I’ve noted here before, my introduction to all things podcast was through my finding Old Time Radio shows in podcast form. I love Old Time Radio. I love podcasts. So when I stumbled upon The Mask of Inanna at Podiobooks.com and read that here was a work of podiofiction about an OTR show and cast, I immediately downloaded and began to listen.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: The world isn’t kind to dreamers.

Like any boy of the radio era, Leonard Allen dreamed of hitting big in New York and Hollywood; to write or host that one big show that would make everyone notice. Even after he had his chance at both, that dream still burns inside him. He’s always been able to spark the divine somewhere in his work. And he’s been noticed.

He doesn’t know the lengths people will go to take advantage of such gifts. So when the mysterious David Lewis asked him finish his classic radio drama “After Dark” after a half-century from a pirate radio station in a New England lighthouse, Len didn’t realize it wasn’t as simple as that. The truth is that Lewis served a more powerful entity than even public opinion: the goddess Inanna, Sumerian patron of love and war both.

Sometimes, a god wants a sacrifice. Sometimes, a god wants praise and devotion. But the most fickle, and the most dangerous, are those who demand a show.

Journey into the creative mind of award-winning author Alicia Goranson, as she explores the nature of power and those who covet it in a genre-busting work that blends classic fifties radio drama, tense, paranoia-fueled thrillers, and the intimate knowledge born of a career working behind-the-scenes in the performing arts. Marvel at a stunning collection of award-winning stage actors, the Post-Meridian Players, as they provide the voice and heart to a cast of over thirty. Follow Allen and Lewis as their ideological conflict threatens to consume their friends and family, a battle neither can yield.

Is magic simply a tool, or a living thing to be respected? Does man have a right to make demands of the gods? What lengths would you go to for the power to protect what you love? Whatever you believe, don’t get caught out After Dark, in THE MASK OF INANNA.

Production: Wow. I don’t know if I’ve ever listened to a work of podcast fiction with a cast this large. If I have, it was by Dan Sawyer. This is radio theatre at its finest. This is audio drama. There is no narrator. There is no need. This is Decoder Ring Theater without the humour. (Not a typo.. I WANT the u there.) The Mask of Inanna is produced by Alicia Goranson. It is a feast for the ears. Simply, the production is as good as it comes.

Grade: A+

Cast: This is a very large cast that goes by the name of The Post-Meridian Radio Players. I’m guessing they’re all professional or semi-professional actors/actresses. I’ve never heard of them before, but their mic presence was amazing. Each actor voiced his character with aplomb and created a tableau awash with colorful voices to delight the ears.

Grade: A+

Story: The Mask of Inanna is good. It’s very good. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a quibble or two with it though. First of all, due to the nature of the story, it is told in a rotating pattern of flashbacks and present day. I’ve always hated this device with a passion. I’d MUCH rather have the back story told at the beginning and then give me a “jump” to the current story line. However, I do understand why it was necessary with Mask and I can’t say that it was too much of a detriment to the story. Also, when certain effects are used on some of the supernatural characters, I felt the audio might have been a bit shrill. Small complaints in a work this big.

Grade: A-

Verdict: I do recommend that you give The Mask of Inanna a listen. It is quite a different type of podcast than most of what you will hear on Podiobooks.com. I’m guessing the majority of my readers/listeners will greatly enjoy it. Let me know!

Disclosure: To be honest, I’d never even heard of anyone connected with The Mask of Inanna before giving this story a listen. However, I will be looking for these names in the future. Nothing was offered or accepted in return for this review.

Podcast Review #124: Iron Dragons

•22 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published March 19, 2012

Title: Iron Dragons
Author: Derek P. Gilbert
Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction
Released: 13 October 2008 – 22 November 2008
Located: iTunesPodiobooks
Formats Available: Podcast and dead tree

Rating: PG for violence

Iron Dragons was another book I found simply by perusing Podiobooks.com. If this isn’t something you’ve done often in the past, I would recommend it should be something you do quite often in the future. I’ve found all sorts of new and interesting authors by doing this, and that is how I found Derek P. GIlbert, author of Iron Giants.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis:

Dragon pee really stinks.

With that bit of cautionary advice, master dragonslayer Davian begins his tale.

Davian is a Third Level Master of The Order, a group of men who alone have the power to battle the most fearsome creatures on all of Saramond. For thousands of years, the brothers of The Order have protected their world.

Now something has upset the balance of power between man and dragon, and Davian must face what appears to be a dragon that cannot be seen.

But Davian is losing his grip on reality — and the fate of the world rests with a stable hand, an underfed priest, and a gardener from beyond the stars. (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: Iron Dragons production is good. If you’re a picky listener, you probably will find something to complain about, but for most of us, this story was done sufficiently well to engage in you in the story without annoying you with artifacts or other production issues.

Grade: B+

Cast: Derek P. Gilbert does Iron Dragons as a self read, and he does it very well. If you’re a fan of Basil Sands narration and reading style, I’d recommend you give Mr. Gilbert a chance. I finished Karl’s Last Flight and immediately jumped into Iron Dragons. Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Sands have similar enough narration styles that I initially questioned whether they were both pseudonyms for the same writer; however, I am now completely comfortable with the fact that they are indeed two separate individuals.

Grade: A-

Story: This story starts out as a pretty straight forward fantasy story and I greatly enjoy it. Then it diverts into a science fiction story with elements of fantasy, and I continued to enjoy it. Perhaps not as much as I had originally, but still quite good. The synopsis is well written and I am hard pressed to try to say much more about the story without spoilers. So… well.. read the synopsis.

Grade: B

Verdict: Some of you might recognize that Iron Dragons isn’t the first book by Mr. Gilbert that I have reviewed. If you recognized this fact, you actually did better than I did. When I began checking his credentials in connection with Mr. Sands (non existent that I could see), I realized that Mr. Gilbert and written The God Conspiracy which I had reviewed sometime during 2011. I can say I enjoyed Iron Dragons more. It still might be a bit “preachy” for some, but it is well disguised in this story and I had no issue with it. Do I recommend it? Yes.

Disclosure: Nope… still nothing in the bribe department. Is this link not working????

Podcast Review #123: The Price of Friendship

•22 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published March 12, 2012

Title: The Price of Friendship
Author: Philip “Norvaljoe” Carroll
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Released: 18 January 2012 – 14 February 2012
Located: iTunesPodiobooks
Formats Available: Podcast only

Rating: PG for violence

Quite a while back, long before I began writing these reviews, I was hanging out with a bunch of like minded people on Twitter and began participating in an online writing podcast by the name of Great Hites with creator and host, Jeff Hite. One of the fine folks that wrote very consistently for this podcast was a nice bloke by the name of Philip Carroll, who went by the name of Norval Joe. Through this podcast Mr. Carroll released the first chapter of his book, The Price of Friendship. Ever since, I’d been waiting to read, or listen to it. Recently, he released it as a podcast.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis:

Chad Baker is in love with Amy Snider, though he doesn’t know it. He thinks they’re just friends like the rest of the kids in eighth grade. But as the school year is coming to a close a mysterious boy shows up to complicate this ordinary teenage boy’s life.

Derrick claims Chad has broken his father’s proprietary hand held game player. The price to replace it can’t be paid in dollars and cents, but in lives.

Chad must travel across dimensions and learn the ways of bending time and space by manipulating sound.

The mysteries pile up as he meets the residents of the dimensions and learns the responsibilities inherited from the father who disappeared shortly after Chad’s birth. Who will help him rescue his friend, and who can he trust in a world of strangers and strange allegiances? The beautiful Amanda, four years older than Chad and a hundred miles out of his league? The manipulative recluse, Brendan Thrush? Or the dangerous and powerful Commander Lorantelle?

What will be the final price Chad must pay to prove his friendship? (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: I believe The Price of Friendship is Mr. Carroll’s first multi-ep podcast. He does an adequate job with it and I had no real complaints in listening to this story. The sound was clear and there were few distractions. I believe I remember hearing a repeated line or two, but that really isn’t that unusual.

Grade: B-

Cast: Lately, I’ve been listening to a string of self read stories. The Price of Friendship is another of these. Mr. Carroll does a very nice job of reading his story. He doesn’t go overboard on the voices or inflections, but the story flows nicely and it is easy to sit back and enjoy.

Grade: B+

Story: Mr. Carroll’s first foray into podcast fiction is a family friendly young adult tale about a teenage boy searching for a teenage girl that he has wronged. Though listeners might not have figured it out from the first episode, this story is an alternate reality, science fiction/fantasy story. There are elements of Zelazny’s Amber here, but no more than any story about alternate or parallel universes.

Grade: B

Verdict: I think most listeners that enjoy fiction with teenage characters and a YA target audience will enjoy The Price of Friendship. I did have a few issues with a couple of the plot points that were never explained to my satisfaction and I do think that a good editor could make this story even better. However, I quite enjoyed The Price of Friendship and am quite glad that Mr. Carroll completed it.

Disclosure: As mentioned above, I’ve known of Mr. Carroll for quite some time. I do not communicate with him often as he is not on Twitter nearly as much as he was previously. I was offered nothing in return for this review.

Podcast Review #122: Confessions of a Troll

•22 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published March 5, 2012

Title: Confessions of a Troll
Author: Artemis Greenleaf
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Released: 20 November 2011 – 19 February 2011
Located: iTunesPodiobooks
Formats Available: Podcast and ebook

Rating: PG 13 for Violence and disturbing imagery

Twenty reviews back, I discovered a new story by a new author. Earthbound by Artemis Greenleaf. Not long ago I discovered that Confessions of a Troll by Artemis Greenleaf was complete at Podiobooks.com. That’s all the encouragement I needed.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis:

“It was just a simple computer prank. How could I have known that it would almost get us all killed?”

When sixteen year old Cai Peterson poses as an online troll to relieve the boredom after being grounded for drinking at a party, he tangles with a cyberstalker who’s not only willing to make his virtual life miserable, but his real life as well. As Cai searches for the stalker, it seems like nearly everyone in his sleepy Texas town has something to hide. Surrounded by suspects, Cai has to navigate a shifting landscape of treachery and truth to uncover a hidden enemy before he and his family pay the ultimate price. (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: Confessions of a Troll is a pretty straight forward production. There isn’t a lot in the way of effects or audio add-ins. A simple opening piece of music that is again utilized to close. This is a production model that many follow, and for good reason: its effective for producing a clean, professional listening experience.

Unfortunately, there are multiple instances of repeated lines and other small production details that should have been fixed but were left in, while not a huge criticism, it does jar the listener.

Grade: B

Cast: This is a single read story. Those of you who have listened to Earthbound will recognize the voice of the reader. Though not credited, this is not “Mr. Greenleaf”. It doesn’t matter because he has a mellifluous voice that succeeded in bringing the story alive for this listener. I really enjoyed the pacing and flow of this reading.

Grade: A-

Story: Though listed above as a Young Adult Fantasy, this is not exactly true. I would call it simply YA with elements of fantasy. It is a story about growing up in a large family being led by (effectively) by a single parent and struggling for an identity of your own. Cai, or young hero, makes some bad decisions in this quest and, unlike in many YA stories I’ve read, this comes back to haunt him.

This is the second story I’ve heard by Artemis Greenleaf, and I can verify that I felt that this was a better written story. However, as timely as Confessions of a Troll is, I found myself drawn to Earthbound more strongly.

Grade: B

Verdict: I enjoyed Confessions of a Troll and expect many of you will too. However, I also believe that Mr. Greenleaf’s target demographic for this story would probably have a stronger reaction to Cai. I mean, whom among us doesn’t remember the desire to start driving? Confessions of a Troll does bring in a bit of a mystery when Cai begins being stalked. At first, it seemed rather evident who the stalker was, but by the climax, Mr. Greenleaf has completely muddied the waters and reveal does indeed seem natural and works well.

Shameless plug: Don’t forget, if you send an audio comment to me at Odin1eye at viewfromvalhalla dot com, I’ll include it in the podcast version of this episode next weekend (or when I receive it). You can also leave voicemail, for this or any other story, at the Valhalla Hotline simply by calling 956-307-ODIN (6346)

Disclosure: I have interviewed Artemis Greenleaf for the podcast version of the Earthbound review. Mr. Greenleaf is neither a Mr. nor a male, but that makes little difference when listening to well told story. I was offered nothing in return for this review.

 

Like a phoenix reborn…

•16 January, 2020 • 2 Comments

As the ashes of  the previous View from Valhalla blog come to a rest around my ankles, I can only hope that a phoenix is about to be reborn.

I’ve moved over most of my old reviews from the days when I covered podcast fiction, and I remember how much fun it was waiting for the next episode of some of my favorite stories to drop.

Well, as they say, all good things are likely to come to an end, and the era of podcast fiction looks to have died. Not saying there isn’t some still out there (Scott Sigler immediately comes to mind), but the community that I was once a part of does not exist as it once did.

Why did the age of the free fiction podcast end? Who knows. Maybe it was the surging popularity of Audible and professionally produced audiobooks. Maybe it was Podiobooks changing it’s format to Scribl. Maybe a majority of the authors figured out that the free model didn’t work for them and didn’t bring the contracts they were hoping for. Maybe the call of Patreon was too hard to resist. I personally believe it was Nathan Lowell’s decision to focus on writing so he could actual make a living and provide for his family, and in doing so would no longer be able to spend time recording his own work. I could be wrong. But as Randy Newman would harmonize.. but I don’t think so. (Say it with me, Monk post.)

Regardless of the reason for the end of podcast fiction, I would like to take a few minutes talking about it heir apparent. The audiobook.

Yes, audiobook’s have been around forever. I remember as a kid shelving Books on Tape where I worked at the local library. Later, I saw the CD version when I would go buy paperbacks at Barnes and Noble. But it wasn’t until they started becoming available as a download that I saw the market explode around me. (I have done no research on this, and I am being purely anecdotal. Your mileage may vary.) Audible changed the game.

For almost everyone but me.

I have been an avid reader since 1st grade. That aforementioned job at the library? Yeah.. I’d been looking for a job all over town. One day I was in the library and the head librarian came up to me and said, “You’re here all the time, would you like a job.” (Seriously) I love to read. I also love to hear stories when I drive. But the problem for me is, I cannot justify the cost of a subscription where I can buy several books for the price of one audiobook. I tried Audible’s trial period, and even played the game and got several months severely discounted, but being somewhat frugal (read that as extremely cheap), I just couldn’t pay the full price.

So I started listening to many “regular” podcasts. Nathan’s TOMMW, Crime Junkies, have considered Office Ladies. But nothing has filled the whole left by the books I loved to listen to as I drive.

And then BookBub sent me an email about Chirp.

Chirp is a non-subscription based audiobook seller that has a much smaller catalog than audible, but it is still fairly robust. The great thing about Chirp is that they have a constantly rotating section of books that are severely discounted. Some as low as 99¢. Yes, they are in a proprietary format and you do need their player (available for both iOS and android), but to be honest, it would surprise me more if you didn’t.

I have purchased quite a few books over the last six months or so. Everything from The Bad Seed by March (99¢) to Long Road to Mercy by Baldacci ($4.99).

I’ve also paid attention and Apple’s Books has a good selection of audiobooks at decent prices (tho you have to look for them).

So, with a plethora of stories at my back, I am going to try to get back to the reviewing game. I hope to focus on many independent authors. Currently I am completing Lindsay Buroker’s Agent of the Crown Series and will likely start with them.

I will state now, as previously, that if you are a content creator and want an honest review, let me know. If you can provide me with a copy of what you want reviewed, I will give you my honest opinion. The backlog of my podcast reviews should be a fair example of what you might expect. I will not promise review dates, but will promise anything submitted. Audiobooks will likely be reviewed well before ebooks.

Outside of creator provided material, I’ll be reviewing whatever I’m currently listening to, and probably more rarely, whatever I’m reading. I hope you’ll join me for the ride!

odin

Podcast Review #121: Borrowed Time

•16 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published February 27, 2012

Title: Borrowed Time
Author: Keith Hughes
Genre: Time Travel Science Ficiton
Released: 15 July 2009 – 9 September 2009
Located: iTunesPodiobooks
Formats Available: podcast, ebook
Rating: R for violence

If you don’t follow me on Twitter, I would think by simply reading (or listening) to these reviews you would know that I’m a big Twitter junkie. I follow a great bunch of people. Creative people. Talented people. Little did I know that some of them must be shy. @edgizmo, otherwise known as Keith Hughes, has been in my stream for a while and yet I had to find out on my own that he had released a science fiction time travel story well over two years ago. If you have a work of podiofiction and you read these reviews, please make sure I am aware of it.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: Ness Relevant is living on borrowed time. Molecular implosion, cellular degeneration, and dangerous men are but a few of the perils faced by the friendly and unassuming forensic photographer. His quiet bachelorhood is interrupted when he receives an innocent looking device in the mail from a friend and former college professor. Ness unexpectedly finds himself embroiled in events driven by his friend’s success. This device is the focal point of a struggle that could overturn the whole world should Ness or his friend’s invention fall prey to greedy men. Before his time runs out Ness must travel back to an uncomfortable past to prevent an unthinkable future. (Stolen from iTunes)

Production: Mr. Hughes did a fine job on the production of Borrowed Time. A single piece of music was to open and close each ep. There weren’t a lot of production elements in between. The audio was not quite what I would call “crisp and clear” all the way through. I am not sure what software Mr. Hughes used to produce his book, but the sound is just a bit distorted, as if the noise filter was set a bit too high allowing distortion around the edges. However, this was at a level that I did not find distracting and was easily able to forget about it during the listening of the episodes.

Grade: B

Cast: Mr. Hughes does quite a nice self read on Borrowed Time. He does a few accents and intones each character in a unique manner. Each character lives on its own merit and Mr. Hughes does an equally commendable job on the narrated passages.

Grade: A-

Story: Borrowed Time uses the premise that time travel is possible but limited and must adhere to certain principals that I had not heard in previous time travel scenarios. Our hero, Ness, must not only accept the challenging position he has been thrust into, but master time travel in order to make these principals work in his favor.

Grade: B+

Verdict: I enjoyed Borrowed Time very much. Mr. Hughes stayed away from the obvious overplayed tropes in most places and made me think about what possibilities his protagonist had to work with within the constraints he placed upon him. Any story that makes me think about the possible outcomes instead of just taking me along for the ride has done an admirable job. Mr. Hughes did exactly that with Borrowed Time.

Disclaimer: As I stated at the top of this review, I follow Mr. Hughes on Twitter (@edgizmo). He is a pleasant person to have in your stream. As I stated however, he never even Borrowed Time to me, let alone offer me anything in return for a review.

Podcast Review #120: Karl’s Last Flight

•16 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Title: Karl’s Last Flight
Author: Basil Sands
Genre: Military Action
Released: 2 July 2007 – 14 July 2007
Located: iTunesPodiobooks
Formats Available: podcast, ebook, audiobook at Audible
Rating: R for violence

Back in Review 109, I discovered Basil Sands when I reviewed his story, 65 Below. Or, at least, I thought that is when I discovered him. Turns out, I had started one of his podcasts way back in 2007, and didn’t get through it. I enjoyed 65 Below so much that I searched for any other works when by Mr. Sands. I was a bit surprised when Karl’s Last Flight showed up, but knew I had to give it another chance.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: Karl Alexander had been an adrenaline junky for twenty five years. Whether flying Harriers in the Marines, piloting the shuttle for NASA, or as the chief astronaut for StrataCorp Space Flight his happiness was only found when he hit five Gs. But when a series of minor mishaps sends his ship crashing into the desert of an unknown country, Karl finds a new kind of adrenaline rush as he is swept into a raging torrent of the world at the edge of war. Spies, insurgents, secret police, and an infamous Saudi millionaire terrorist all threaten to make his next flight, his last.

Come and get your fix of hardcore, adrenaline laced action that’ll make your heart race and your muscles tense. Basil Sands brings you the podcast novel that started it all.

When you listen, be sure to put your tray table in the upright and locked position and fasten your safety belt… it’s going to be a wild ride. (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: Regular readers of this blog, or listeners of the podcast, might remember that I gave Mr. Sands an A for production on 65 Below. I stated during the review that it was rare to find a story that had consistent high quality production throughout. Unfortunately, Mr. Sands proved my point with Karl’s Last Stand.

By necessity, I listen to all works of podiofiction through my earbuds (and if you’re looking for a very good earbud, I recommend any of the earbuds manufactured by the House of Marley.) It is the only way I feel I can provide a consistent listening environment needed to give a baseline for these reviews. The first several eps of Karl’s Last Flight made me regret this necessity.

The clarity and superb cleanliness of my earlier experience with Mr. Sands’ work left me a bit perplexed initially, but a quick check showed me that I had listened to the stories in reverse order to the way they had been produced. Karl’s Last Flight was Mr. Sands first foray into podcasting, and you can hear his learning curve throughout the story.

During the first 1/2 of the story, there is a number of pops and clicks whenever Mr. Sands enunciated with gusto. I don’t know if he changed equipment, added a pop filter or simply developed his mic technique during the period he produced this podcast, but by the end, the sound was much much nicer than when he began.

Grade: C+

Cast: Mr. Sands is a remarkable voice talent. He does a very nice self read. I truly hope that he never decides to do a full voice production, because I enjoy his style of reading so much. All of his characters are voiced uniquely. Again, I cannot say there are many self reads I’d put up against Mr. Sands.

Grade: A

Story: Karl’s Last Flight is a military action novel whose central character is rather a reluctant warrior. Karl Alexander, private astronaut, had no intentions of ending up on the ground in Iran. But that  is what happened, and now he must get out. Once again, Mr. Sands uses a here again, there again approach to providing us with Karl’s history while also telling us about what is happening “currently”. I greatly enjoyed both story lines and knowing more of the characters backstory made the story more interesting to me than it probably would have been with only the current storyline.

Grade: B+

Verdict: I enjoyed Karl’s Last Flight and listened to it very quickly, finding excuses to plug in those earbuds and get just a bit more heard whenever I could. That being said, I can’t say I enjoyed it quite as much as 65 Below. It was good, but to me, it was just a notch or two below Mr. Sands later book.

That being said, I still prefer a sequential story and would love to have the earlier storyline told in one flashback near the beginning and then focus on the current storyline. I know I’m probably one of the few, but that is indeed my preference.

Karl’s Last Flight wil provide any military action junky with hours well spent, and I do indeed recommend it highly.

I feel I need to explain why I didn’t finish this podcast back in 2007. At the time, I was looking for a science fiction story. I loved the first ep with our hero and his annoying passenger realizing that they had a drastic problem. However, upon landing on Earth, I realized this was not a science fiction story. Though this is true, don’t let that fact of genre stop you from subscribing. If you like a story that is well told and decently produced, you’ll enjoy Karl’s Last Flight.

Disclaimer: Mr. Sands tweets occasionally under the name @alaskabasil and seems to be a “good joe”. I have spoken to him a few times and he provided time to be interviewed in the podcast version of my review of 65 Below. However, he has not sent me a moose or anything else in return for this review. (mmmmmm…. moose….. )

Podcast Review #119: Heku

•16 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published February 13, 2012

Title: Heku
Author: T.M. Nielsen
Genre: vampire love story
Released: 28 July 2011
Located: Podiobooks, iTunes
Formats Available: podcast and free ebook available through all the regular channels
Rating: R for violence and adult content

Occasionally, I get a query from someone on my Twitter stream from a friend asking if I’ve listened to a particular story they’re trying to decide whether to listen or not. This is exactly the case with Heku. I was asked about it by Micahel Simpkins. I thought I do him a favor and give it a listen.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: Chevalier has never been told no. For thousands of years he’s sat on the Equites Council, ruling body of his heku faction, and for thousands of years his every order has been followed immediately and without question, until now.

One of the most important rules of the heku, is that no one is to feed from unwilling donors. Following a tip that a young mortal woman is being brutally attacked by his own kind, he seeks her out and immediately begins to experience unnatural feelings for the woman.

Emily, a beautiful rancher from Montana, has spent her entire life being violently attacked by beings she assumed were vampires. It isn’t until she meets Chevalier that she learns of her startling family history, a history that immediately throws her into the volatile world of the heku.

In a bid to protect her, Chevalier moves Emily into his isolated coven, which marks her as a prime target for the Valle and the Encala, enemy factions of the heku. Emily fights to fit into the militaristic world of the heku as her head-strong personality and independent ways turn their perfectly balanced world on end. She immediately befriends Kyle, a heku from Chevalier’s coven, and together they find Emily a niche among the immortal.

Emily’s violent past interferes with Chevalier’s plans, and he must first undo what her abusive ex-husband did before he can convince her how much he cares about her, and how much she’s worth to his faction. Chevalier’s growing feelings for Emily are unnatural to his kind, and must be hidden from the rest of the Equites Faction if he’s to remain a formidable part of their Council.

His jealous tendencies rage as Emily gets closer to Kyle, and both heku struggle to make her realize how important she is to the faction and how endangered she now is. (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: The production of Heku is nothing special, but it isn’t terrible either. It is simply the story, without any layering or added effects. On the positive side, there are no environmental noises or repeated lines. Nothing to get in the way of, or add to the story. Each episode opens and closes with a sampling of a song that the author credits in each ep.

Grade: B/B-

Cast: Heku is a self read by the author. The author does an adequate job of voicing her characters. I have no idea of the age of the Ms. Nielsen, though she sounds relatively young. This is to her advantage as her heroine is in her early 20’s and all the rest of the characters are ageless.

Grade: B

Story: Emily is a young woman who has many wonderful qualities. She is breathtakingly beautiful with red hair and green eyes. She is slender and athletic and an accomplished equestrian and animal lover. She is also vampire bait. Her blood draws vampires. The sweetness of it is intoxicating. She believes this is normal and everyone experiences much the same. She believes her abusive husband can turn them to ash, when in reality she does this herself. Yes. She is indeed special.

Grade: F or a charitable D-

Verdict: If you’re a fan of Twilight (yes, Mae.. you ,^) ) you might as well download this now. Ms. Nielsen either met that perfect storm of ideas with Ms. Meyer in isolation, or she was greatly inspired by her. Seriously, Twilight fans, download this one now. If you don’t like Heku it will probably be because you feel Ms. Nielsen ripped off your favorite series. However, Twilight fans, you might as well quit reading this review now.

For everyone else, this is the most miserable story I’ve ever heard in podiobook form. The characters are derivative. They are ridiculously and unashamedly hedonistic to the extent that they manipulate and abuse the ones they reportedly love.

There are no werewolves here, but that didn’t stop Ms. Nielsen from throwing in an (entirely unneeded) third person into the romantic tension she tried to create. I say tried, because it didn’t work for me. I truly hated all the characters and found myself yelling at the audio in my ears “DIE YOU IDIOTS DIE”. Yes, to the heroes. Blessedly, the story is relatively short at only 16 episodes. That is 8 hours of my life (at least) that I would have rather spent at the dentist.

Emily is content to be manipulated and believes her abuse to be her fault. Wait. Maybe that isn’t her fault. Maybe her idiot of a husband Keith beat that belief into her. Well then, it would be the duty of the new love interest and boss Heku to help her discover her own worth. Well, he doesn’t. He commits further acts of abuse on her person in several situations where she displeases him. She is weak. She has no value except what he gives her. If Bella made you angry, Emily is going to piss you off.

And yes, I do realize the Heku aren’t truly vampires. They’re just immortals that were once human (well, most anyway), live on human blood, dislike sunlight, and possess super human speed (though they can’t outrun a horse). Obviously, not truly vampires at all. What was I thinking?

Heku is the first of eight (yes, really) books in the Heku series. All of them can be found on Amazon.com. I see the second is also released as a podiobook.

Mike, as penance you should listen to both of them. With your daughter. I expect an in depth character analysis of each.

The rest of you non-Twilight fans, remember to stay away from this one.

If you loved Heku tell me why. Warning though, I will debate this one on anything other than personal preference. And of course, that is primarily why I hated it.

Disclosure: I’ve never had any contact with Ms. Nielsen. Nothing was received in return for this review.