The Dog Stars by Peter Heller – Audiobook Review

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, narrated by Mark Deakins
Published in audio by Random House Audio, published in print by Knopf, both imprint of Random House

Synopsis:

In a world where nearly everyone he has ever known is dead from a terrible flu or the blood disease that followed it, Hig survives with his dog Jasper, his plane he has christened The Beast, and Bangley, his possibly crazy survivalist neighbor. Despite the fact that almost everyone he comes across wants to kill him for one reason or another – to take what he has, to eliminate him as a threat – Hig still retains much of who he was Before; he refuses to kill anyone unless absolutely necessary, and even takes supplies to a Mennonite family infected with the blood disease. In short, Hig still believes in humanity and has hope – however small – for the future. It is this hope that drives many of Hig’s actions, that force him to seek out what he believes might be another band of survivors, people that might even know something about the world beyond their small camp.

Thoughts on the story:

As ever with post-apocalyptic novels I really, really wanted more details on exactly what happened. A fever and a blood sickness, yes, but why? How? The Dog Stars, though, made me forget for large chunks of time that I didn’t know all the details, lost as IĀ  became in Hig’s bitterly sad story. The Dog Stars has the best of all post-apocalyptic worlds, introducing elements both of survivalism and of the breakdown of human decency – and the places it can still be found, even in the most dire of circumstances. Heller’s prose brilliantly evokes life after Before, setting the scene not only with his words, but with the tone they carry.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Deakins is a new-to-me narrator and he did a wonderful job with The Dog Stars. The fever left Hig’s brain slightly compromised, and he certainly has psychological damage from the way he has had to live after Before. All of this leads to some unconventional thought processes. Heller represents these well in the text, but I was worried they wouldn’t entirely come through in audio, but Deakins interprets them very well. There are times where you almost wonder if there has been an editing error because a pause is so long or seemingly oddly placed, but as soon as Deakins begins speaking again you realize that this narration must, at times, be uncomfortable because our protagonist is himself deeply uncomfortable. All in all the narration works wonderfully to convey the tone of the book.

Overall:

Fans of post-apocalyptic fiction shouldn’t miss The Dog Stars. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

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Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Deadline by Mira Grant – Book Review

Deadline by Mira Grant
Published by Orbit Books, an imprint of Hachette

This is the second book in the Newsflesh series. This review will contain spoilers for the first book in the series, Feed.

Since the death of his sister George (Georgia), blogger Shaun Mason doesn’t have much to live for anymore. At this point, the only thing that his keeping him alive at all – and even then, only marginally – is the prospect of revenge, exposing whomever it was who ordered George’s death. The man who was her most immediate cause of death is no more, but Shaun knows there is a conspiracy that set everything up, certainly Tate could not have done everything on its own. This conspiracy seems to reach into the highest echelons of national and international power, and likely even into the CDC – the organization tasked with protecting Americans from the zombie-forming Kellis-Amberly virus, among other things.

Left nearly a metaphorical zombie himself after George’s death – a very dangerous condition, mind you, in the midst of literal zombies – Shaun gets a a jumpstart on life again when a CDC researcher who helped him and George in the past shows up on the doorstep of the After the End Times blog headquarters. Of course, this reanimation almost ends when a massive outbreak of zombies follows close on her heels. With the help of this researcher, herself fearing for her life due to her Kellis-Amberly research, Shaun realizes he might finally have enough information to figure out what happened to George and avenge her death.

It would not be inaccurate to say that Deadline is, more than anything else, a bridge between the first book in the Newsflesh series, Feed, and the third book, Blackout, which will be out in 2012. There are a great number of revelations both about Shaun and Georgia’s early life and their close relationship, and about the nature of Kellis-Amberly and the reality of the epidemic. Certainly things happen – the After the End Times news team does a great deal of traveling and hunting down leads to confirm the truth that is beginning to be unveiled. In addition, there is continued character development, mostly of Shaun, who becomes a much more strongly drawn character than he was in Feed. But primarily, Deadline is setting the scene for Blackout, complete with the traditional mid-series OMG moments.

What is really impressive about Deadline, is that it never feels like filler while you are reading it. All of the hard work that Grant did with world building in Feed helps Deadline feel fully realized. Interestingly, there were not nearly as many run-ins with zombies in Deadline, but this choice made sense for the story that is being told. As in Feed, the zombies are not the point, but more a part of the setting, telling a story of news, blogs, politics, and the culture of fear. It is this that makes the Newsflesh series so successful for me. Grant is using her zombie setting to tell us all a story about ourselves.

Highly Recommended. (Also: I can’t believe I have to wait an entire year to read the third book. This is worse than after I read Catching Fire.)

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: personal copy.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Feed by Mira Grant – Audiobook Review

Feed by Mira Grant, narrated by Paula Christensen and Jesse Bernstein

Synopsis:

Please don’t stop reading this review when I tell you there are zombies.

Georgia and Shaun Mason live in the same world we do, just about 30 years in the future. Twenty-five years after science goes amuck, curing the common cold, but inadvertantly infecting every human being on the planet with a virus that turns them into zombies when they die. At least nobody gets colds anymore. Brother and sister, Georgia and Shaun are licensed bloggers, looking to jump to their own site. Georgia is a newsie, and Shaun is an irwin – the term for the highly adventerous who like to poke zombies with sticks (I can only assume it is a reference to the late Steve Irwin). When Georgia and Shaun learn that they have landed the gig of official bloggers for the presidential campaign of Senator Ryman – a smart, affable man – they figure they have arrived, everything seems to be going right by any standards. Until everything on the campaign starts going wrong, starting with a zombie attack on the Senator’s compound that can only be sabatogue.

Thoughts on the story:

I know, the whole cure colds and create zombies thing sounds a little bizarre when I type it here, but Grant made it seem ever-so-reasonable. Really, A+ for world building. In a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel (I think this definitely leans more towards post-apocalyptic), I have this intense need to understand how exactly the world got the way it has become, I think it has to do with having been a history major. Grant totally came through for me on that. Georgia imparted to me everything I needed or wanted to know about the zombie-filled United States of 30 years from now, but it was done in a way that avoided simply being an information dump. Everything told was relevant to something happening in the story, or would have legitimately been written on her blog.

I completely loved Georgia. She was a really strong female protagonist who managed to seemlessly meld a no-nonsense business attitude with a deep love for her brother and friends and a deep passion for the truth. She also kept the story interesting with her dry humor and her quick (but not too quick) ability to work out what was going on.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Paula Christensen was the perfect choice to narrate Georgia, she absolutely became the character for me. “Feed” was well-suited for audio to begin with, since the entire story is told in first person, but Christensen totally nailed it. I did initially think it odd to have Jesse Bernstein around for what seemed like only narrating his blog posts at the beginning of chapters, but I understand now why that was done and am okay with it, even if it was slightly disconcerting while I was listening.

Overall:

Honestly, “Feed” was everything I had hoped that “The Passage” would be but it wasn’t.

I seriously loved both this story and the audio production. There was just so much energy to it, and the story was so interesting. The zombies were really more of a device to fuel the story about politics and new v. old media and, perhaps partially because I’m already very interested in those things, it totally worked for me. Loved it, can’t wait fo the second book in the trilogy, recommend it highly.

Buy this book from:
Audible: Audio download
Powells: Print*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound: Print*
Amazon: Print*

This review was done with a audio download sent to me for review.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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