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


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 I  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.


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

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

Sound Bytes is a meme that occurs every Friday! I encourage you to review your audiobooks on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

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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Eat Slay Love by Jesse Petersen – Book Review

Eat Slay Love by Jesse Petersen
Published by Orbit Books, an imprint of Hachette

This is the third book in the Living With the Dead series. My reviews of Married With Zombies and Flip This Zombie.

Sarah and David have survived the zombie apocalypse for longer than really seems possible, particularly since they are traveling and fighting zombies instead of sitting quietly inside a survivor’s community. Now they’re finally approaching the fabled Midwest Wall and possible salvation. Only a few things are slowing them down now: their hitchhikers, a tv tabloid reporter (think TMZ) and a batty aging rocker; David’s odd reaction to the zombie serum he was given in Flip This Zombie; and, of course, the zombies themselves.

The Living With the Dead series exists to entertain, and it does that beautifully. Petersen mixes survival, interpersonal relationships, and government conspiracies adroitly with witty and sarcastic repartee to create a fun  and engaging story that will make you alternately laugh and cringe. Is this the book that is going to make you think deeply about the world and your place in it? No, if that is what you want from your zombie books, check out Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series Feed and Deadline, but Eat Slay Love and the entire Living With the Dead series provides very high entertainment value, and for that, I recommend it.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound.*

Source: Publisher, via Netgalley.
* 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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The Passage by Justin Cronin – Book Review

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Around the year 2015 or 2020, the United States government begins a new experiment, one aimed to ensure the pax Americana for many years to come. Instead of going through the expense and time of training soldiers just to have them die or be injured in the field, the military was hoping to find a way to modify soldiers to give them incredibly long lives and make them incredibly difficult to kill and injure. The secret seems to be in a virus discovered in the jungles of Bolivia. Of course, soldiers can’t just be injected with an unknown vaccine, so an arrangement is made to allow 12 Death Row inmates to keep their lives if they agree to be part of Project NOAH. Evidently nobody realized that a virus that causes immortality + convicted murderers = not good.

This background, along with the introduction of Amy and the first few years after BAD THINGS HAPPEN, comprise about the first 200 pages of the book. The next 560 pages take place about 100 years after the initial BAD THINGS, and are centered on a small enclave of survivors in what used to be California. I think this fact, that it takes 200 pages to get to the majority of the main characters, is a large part of the reason that “The Passage” lacked the necessary immediacy to be a great apocalyptic thriller.

That’s right, I said it was lacking and, therefore, not great. Minority opinion alert!

I know everyone loved this, but I just didn’t. I liked it, don’t get me wrong. The prose was competent at the worst and really quite lovely in some places. The idea of the story that Cronin created was also quite interesting. Mostly, the book was just way. too. long. Nearly 800 pages for the first book in a trilogy, I think it should have been 200-300 pages shorter. There were 450 pages in the middle during which nothing really grabbed me, and that’s not good. The excessive time it took me to be introduced to the main characters and the fairly uninteresting nature of the early part of their story kept me from really ever caring about them and, thus, detracted from the immediacy and fear that a book like this needs.

I might have been a little more tolerant of the book had a throwaway line early in the book about Jenna Bush being the governor of Texas been excluded. That sort of thing really annoys me, it is just trying much too hard to be clever and it seems very unsophisticated storytelling to me.

Overall a very interesting concept, but the execution left something to be desired – namely a strong editor. I will likely read the next two books in the series, but there’s no way I will be buying them in hardcover – I’ll wait for paperback or a copy from the library – and, honestly , I don’t think that you need to buy this one in hardcover either. If you don’t want to be left out of the discussion about it this summer, get on the library waitlist now.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound

This review was done with a book received from a friend.
* 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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