Tag Archives: Audible

Pines by Blake Crouch

I am always attracted by those kind of blurbs that offer an intriguing dilemma and lately that has caused me to dip my toes into the world of Sci-if on more than one occasion.
The pines by Blake Crouch is such a book. Just after I purchased the audiobook, but before I started listening, someone told me they had watched the TV series and it was pretty bad. That put me off and I delayed. But honestly, I have enjoyed so many books that, in my personal opinion, have not been adapted well for the screen, that I knew I wanted to give the book a fair chance.
On the whole, I am glad I did, though, as with much of the science fiction genre, I think it is relatively easy for a good writer to come up with that killer scenario and much harder for him/her to explain all the mysterious goings on and come to a satisfying conclusion.

First though, I would like to say that, though this is the first in a trilogy, I didn’t feel cheated at the end of the book with a no-resolution type ending. Answers are given, a handful of loose ends tied.
Ethan Burke wakes by a river, he is hurt, has been in some kind of accident but he has no memory of it, or how he got there. He has no keys, wallet ID or anything else to identify himself.

He is told he was involved in a car accident, his companion killed and that he staggered out of the medical centre when staff were trying to help him. His belongings are with paramedic staff. So far, so believable, but Ethan is already beginning to worry that something is off kilter with the explanations he is being given.

He asks for the use of a telephone to contact his wife and son, his efforts to reach her are thwarted. As time goes on, Ethan is witness to violence and coercion and the definite knowledge that he and everyone else in the town are not at liberty to leave.

*Warning ! Spoiler alert from this point*

I usually prefer to skirt around the story and make my points without giving anything away but, with this one, I find it impossible to comment on, without touching on the issues that surround the reason for this isolated-town-with-no-way-out.

The basics are that Homo sapiens have died out beyond the confines of the town of Wayward Pines. In fact, everyone who lives there is an import, brought in, unknown to them, to continue the species before the disaster which will befall their fellow humans and see the end of their race.

One man in the 1980’s has had the foresight to see what will happen to the human race, through pollution of the planet. He took it upon himself to embark on the massive project of buying up a town and planning to repopulate it with people he kidnapped along the way and put into stasis until the right time came to introduce them to their new life. This is what has happened to Ethan.

Beyond the town evolution-gone-mad (in thirty generations) has transformed what remains of life into huge, jaw-snapping creatures, intelligent, hungry for human blood and impossible to communicate with. Towns and cities are overgrown and in ruins.

Of course the reader has to accept this crazy, evolutionary fast-forward that produced these creatures in under two thousand years, but this is science fiction, so… so far so good.

What didn’t work for me so well, was that the people were ‘kidnapped’ with such secrecy into the survival programme that even they were not told they were part of it. But more than that, the environmental changes that have been so profound as to wipe out humanity and send life on Earth on a completely different path, doesn’t appear to have affected the plant life. The town of Wayward Pines does not exist in a bubble of pre-disaster air and yet the town looks just like any ordinary old town of 2015, (two thousand years ago). And the surviving humans seem quite able to cope with the changes.

Science fiction is often a disappointment for me and maybe that’s not entirely science fiction’s fault, maybe I just think it out too much. However this kind of fiction is for pure entertainment and I was definitely entertained, I really wanted to know, as much as Ethan did, if he could break out of this weird village where he was being held captive and if he could find out why. I just wish the town had been isolated in some kind of dome, Logan’s Run style, where the environmental changes ‘outside’ could not affect them.

Then again, maybe the environment hasn’t changed? Maybe the Jaw Snappers are the result of some other mad experiment?

I may well have to read the second instalment!

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Wednesday Review – The Stone Man by Luke Smitherd

Hankering after something ‘different’, I picked up this book from Audible.

The story has a great premise and it is very different. Plus Plus.

What I liked about The Stone Man was the great idea; a giant stone figure appears, literally from nowhere. Then it begins to move, obliterating everything in its path. No one knows what it is or how to stop it.

Andy, our narrator, is one of the first people on the scene when The Stone Man appears. He is a reporter and he sees, as the destruction begins, a great opportunity to make his name with this story. Unfortunately Andy is not a greatly likeable character and, as the book progressed I found myself less likely to hope the best for him.

The writing style was easy to listen to throughout and the intrigue was there right from the first chapter, but for me, it dragged a little, with too much mulling over what was happening. I see the book has mixed reviews and usually find that a good indicator; maybe I am just not so into Sci-fi, or possibly sci-if with no answers. The implications were horrific for some characters in the book, but I wouldn’t call it a horror book either. I think maybe it was a mistake to label the book, ‘A Sci-fi Thriller’;

I am on the fence, therefore; an enjoyable book, a great idea but maybe not for me.

Finally, the author speaks in his own voice at the end, quite a long footnote about authorship and reviews. I don’t mind authors asking for reviews at all; they need them. But I felt he ventured too far into the nature of the end of the book. Some readers found it too ambiguous, but it was the ending the author chose. However, I felt he attempted to justify it too much. Maybe that would have been better left alone.

‘Interesting’, is a word I might use for this particular reading experience. I would read more from this author.

Review Wednesday – The Woodcutter by Reginald Hill

The Woodcutter is quite an epic story and not what I was expecting at all.

Wolf Hadda is raised in humble surroundings as a woodcutter’s son but he is destined for success and a visit to the ‘Big House’ on the Cumbrian estate where he lives is the catalyst for his new aspirations.

Wolf achieves everything he sets out for. He becomes a wealthy businessman, marries well and has a beautiful daughter. Then one dreadful morning everything comes to an end with a police raid. Wolf is accused of the most heinous of crimes; he is committed to jail and deserted by family and friends.

Then into the story come Alva, a pyschaitrist who is determined to help Wolf to face his wrongdoing and come to terms with it but his overriding reason to continue living is to find those responsible for his predicament and see that real justice is done.

Wolf is the most likeable of characters even though he can be ruthless when crossed. He has a wealth of down-to-earthiness that made me feel that if he was on your side he would never let you down. As in real life, other characters in the book are drawn to Wolf, despite his reputation, by what they find to be, a very genuine man,

This is a really great story, with a bit of everything thrown in and the treachery of those around him made me root for Wolf all the more.

I have to mention that I listened to this title on Audible and the narration by Jonathan Keeble was outstanding. I felt as if a whole cast of actors were involved in the performance.

Review Wednesday – Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

I was drawn to this fictional account based around the last months in the life of Agnes Magnusdottir, the last woman to be executed in Iceland.

Recently there seem to have been a number of excellent books whose narrative is set in snowy wastes and that can add great atmosphere to the story. Burial Rites is no exception.

After being convicted and sentenced for her part in the murder of two men, the authorities send Agnes to a remote farm to await her fate. The year is 1829. The family are horrified by this enforced proximity to a convicted murderer and, at first, avoid contact with Agnes as much as possible. But when the summer months give way to the harsh Icelandic winter sheer survival compels all members of the household to work together and the farmer’s wife and daughters, along with Tóti,  a young priest charged with the task of ministering to Agnes during her final days, begin to see that the story of Agnes is not as straightforward as it first may have seemed.

The ending is, of course, already known. It is shocking as is some of the background detail, like the sourcing of the axe and who should pay for the execution.

I have to say that, for me, the beautiful writing failed to bring me closer to Agnes and though I felt a deep sorrow for her she remained a shadowy figure. In contrast that bleak, Icelandic countryside was ever present. Being turned out of an isolated farmstead was nothing short of a death sentence in itself. There was literally nowhere to go, no one to turn to and only the bitter landscape for company. No wonder, in such circumstances, women found themselves bound to their home, no matter what the conditions.

Burial Rites is a good story set around true events and a memorial to Agnes whose true part in the murders is not known. I listened to the audio book and mention must be made of the narrator Morven Christie who did an absolutely outstanding job of switching between English and Icelandic pronunciation. In less capable hands the audiobook would not have had the haunting impact that it did.

 

 

 

 

Review -The Tales of Max Carrados by Ernest Bramah

img_1945These two short stories came to me as a freebie from Audible. Max Carrados is that most unlikely of people, a blind detective. Written in the early 1900’s this author was apparently a popular rival to Conan Doyle.

The stories presented are both about crimes involving coins, they are cleverly written (perhaps a little too clever) but rather uninteresting. I preferred the first story that introduces the detective.

The saving grace for me was the narrator, the great Stephen Fry, whose skill brought light and colour and humour to the stories.

Note – the cover displayed is one for a larger collection of eleven stories. The sample collection of two seems to be unavailable at the moment.