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Daniel Jo

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  • 7
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  • The King's Justice

  • Two Novellas
  • Written by: Stephen R. Donaldson
  • Narrated by: Scott Brick, Kevin Orton
  • Length: 9 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 1

In The King's Justice, a stranger dressed in black arrives in the village of Settle's Crossways, following the scent of a terrible crime. He even calls himself "Black", though almost certainly that is not his name. The people of the village discover that they have a surprising urge to cooperate with this stranger, though the desire of inhabitants of quiet villages to cooperate with strangers is not common in their land, or most lands.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wonderful world-building

  • By Daniel Jo on 2019-08-18

Wonderful world-building

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2019-08-18

The first novella's setting is designed in a fairly minimalist way. The kingdom and its king are not named, but this serves to emphasize some quasi-religious mystique about the latter. This is connected to how the story's magic works. The underlying premise of the story is fairly basic: a child is murdered in what turns out to be a part of a ritual with what is planned to have catastrophic results for the realm. The narrative is highly introspective, which slows the pacing somewhat, but it also serves to provide great insight into motivations and reasoning.

The second novella is even slower paced, though part of this is due to the style of narrative. Again, it is very introspective, but the language used is verbose and seems to mimic the narrative style of several decades past. It is a far more politically-oriented tale (as in the setting's politics), light on action and very heavy on information and dialogue.

Scott Brick does a wonderful job, as always, narrating the first novella. Kevin Orton's reading of the second seemed stilted and wooden, but on reflection that is rather in keeping with the manner of the protagonist-narrator.

  • Leap

  • Written by: Michael C. Grumley
  • Narrated by: Scott Brick
  • Length: 12 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1

 

Along a lonely coast in South America, an experimental Russian submarine, long thought to have been dismantled, has suddenly resurfaced. And the US Navy has taken notice, sending Officers John Clay and Steve Caesare to investigate. The sub has been studying a group of unmarked soldiers. Disappearing into the jungle each night beneath the cover of darkness. Something has been discovered...something big. And it's about to fall into the wrong hands. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Continuing to be great

  • By Daniel Jo on 2019-06-01

Continuing to be great

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2019-06-01

Michael C. Grumley followed up Breakthrough with another solid entry. The characters remain great and the plotting has improved making for a marked improvement all around.

One complaint I had with the previous entry was with regards to the antagonist, who seemed rather one-dimensional. I didn't see any motivation for his behaviour save for a misguided belief in his own correctness and in his future political ambitions. These are valid motivations, but are rather uninteresting. He was more of a cookie-cutter villain -- completely forgettable.

In Leap, the antagonists have some emotional depth that underscores their actions. There is one exception, but he is more of a pawn -- and a psychopath, to boot. The others are driven by real issues in their lives: anxieties and desires. This provides context and meaning that is absent in antagonists who are simply evil.

I look forward to continuing with these series in the future.

  • The Rains

  • Written by: Gregg Hurwitz
  • Narrated by: Todd Haberkorn
  • Length: 9 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1

In one terrifying night, the peaceful community of Creek's Cause turns into a war zone. No one under the age of eighteen is safe. Chance Rain and his older brother, Patrick, have already fended off multiple attacks from infected adults by the time they arrive at the school where other young survivors are hiding. Most of the kids they know have been dragged away by once-trusted adults who are now ferocious, inhuman beings.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A great sub-genre fusion

  • By Daniel Jo on 2019-05-08

A great sub-genre fusion

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2019-05-08

Gregg Hurwitz enters the realm of young adult fiction with an interesting fusion of zombie and alien invasion sub-genres. That sentence isn't much of a spoiler, as both facts are abundantly clear early on. The devil is in the details, however, and and it's those detail that make this book so interesting.

Overall the book remains a thriller, Hurwitz's specialty, and it's a good one. I've come to the conclusion that an important part of the reading (or listening experience) when it comes to thrillers is that the reader must simultaneously be eager to learn what happens next, yet also dreads to find out. There must be an undercurrent of great risk to the characters that sometimes hits home. There must be failures, even tragedies, and enough of them to make the reader really feel that there's a great possibility that the current action might go against the protagonists. In this, I found The Rains a great success.

The action is sometimes a little over-the-top, but not extremely so. It falls within the realm of action films, with enough exaggeration to be exciting, but not so much as to make one wonder about the physical humanity of the characters. In this, I have nothing really to complain about. Characterisation matters more: their motivations during these sequences, how they feel and react to their situations, and how they behave towards each other. It's far more important that realism exists there and Hurwitz shows great skill in crafting the characters.

There isn't really a singular villain. Like any zombie plot, it's more of a matter of the world broadly turning against the protagonists. There is a in important figure later into the book, but even that figure doesn't factor as an individual who seems to be ultimately critical to defeat. It's important, sure, but not the main focus. Again, as a zombie plot, it's the entire situation that's against the protagonists.

If there is one named individual who seems to act against the protagonists, it's the character of Ben Bratton. He, however, is less of a villain than he is a foil. Ultimately, he has the same interest of survival as everyone else, but has less motivation to be proactive. He's a bully, but rather defensive in stance, and it is revealed that his actions are driven by what amounts to a rather nihilistic view of his life in the town. He is by no means one-dimensional, though he tends to vacillate between being a blatant impediment and being regretful over his actions. In short, he's very human.

The protagonists themselves are strong and virtuous. Chance Rain idolises his big brother Patrick, who is very much a decisive leader. It comes almost to the point where I initially thought that Patrick was ultimately the hero of the story, with Chance as the narrator playing witness to it all. That's not quite the case, however, as (like all good YA fiction) there is a measure of growth in Chance over the course of the book.

The story does not end with this volume. Indeed, The Rains ends in a bit of a cliffhanger. I fully intend to listen to the second book, though perhaps after a bit of a break from thrillers.

The narrator, Todd Haberkorn, turns out a great performance. He provides a youthful sounding voice to Chance and rather shocked me with his first voicing of Patrick's girlfriend, Alexandra. I thought a female narrator had popped in for a moment...

  • Breakthrough

  • Written by: Michael C. Grumley
  • Narrated by: Scott Brick
  • Length: 10 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1

With the help of a powerful computer system, Alison Shaw and her team are preparing to translate the first two-way conversation with the planet's second smartest species. But the team discovers much more from their dolphins than they ever expected when a secret object is revealed on the ocean floor. One that was never supposed to be found.  

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • An unexpected gem

  • By Daniel Jo on 2019-04-27

An unexpected gem

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2019-04-27

I came across this book while browsing through the military thriller category on Audible. I'd never heard of the author and seen no other advertisements for the book. The fact that Scott Brick narrated it was a plus, as I had already found myself a fan after his performances of some of Gregg Hurwitz's works. The synopsis of an undersea mystery and communications with dolphins peaked my interest and I dove right in.

Overall, it rather enjoyable. Michael C. Grumley writes quite well, portraying scenes and characters compellingly. I have zero complaints about the prose or how he plots the book. I cared about what happened to the characters, how they felt, and sympathized with their goals. The scenes and action were absorbing to the point where I had to pull myself out in order to focus on the road while driving.

Other than some quibbles and doubts about some explanations regarding evolution, I have few complaints. One is that some of the drama seems to have been generated by oddly ignored opportunities to communicate. It may be that protocol made these opportunities impossible, but it still seems to me that some characters kept quiet when they should not have. The other problem is the one-dimensional antagonist. It appeared as if a deeper mystery were involved in his motivations, but nothing was ever ultimately revealed. This left him less compelling, in the end, even as I revelled in his fall.

None of the complaints I had diminished my enjoyment of the book. I'd certainly recommend it and I will explore the author's other works, too.

  • The Anatomy of Fascism

  • Written by: Robert O. Paxton
  • Narrated by: Arthur Morey
  • Length: 11 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 4
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4

What is fascism? By focusing on the concrete, what the fascists did rather than what they said, the esteemed historian Robert O. Paxton answers this question for the first time. From the first violent uniformed bands beating up "enemies of the state", through Mussolini's rise to power, to Germany's fascist radicalization in World War II, Paxton shows clearly why fascists came to power in some countries and not others.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Clarifying a misused term

  • By Daniel Jo on 2019-04-19

Clarifying a misused term

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2019-04-19

The word "fascist" has been applied liberally to a great deal of people and, perhaps more often then not, erroneously. Paxton reveals that the criteria for the label are rather nuanced. He states that only two regimes during WW2 were legitimately fascist: the German Nazis and Mussolini's Italy. Others frequently called fascist were generally just some form of totalitarian governments. This is not to say that there had not been fascist movements outside of those two countries, but only in those did fascism actually gain governmental power. Similarly, this is not to say that there are no active fascist movements today. As of the writing of the book, however, Paxton does not believe that any have taken government power.

I would seriously recommend this book to anyone who has ever applied the term to another group or individual. One might disagree with Paxton's definition, but one must take care to not disagree for the sake of making the definition fit a particular target. While modern forms of fascism may take a different form than the Nazis, there are certain attributes that must apply for the word to be used meaningfully.

  • A Sword Into Darkness

  • Written by: Thomas A. Mays
  • Narrated by: Liam Owen
  • Length: 11 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 1

Aerospace tycoon Gordon Elliot Lee cannot stand idly by while a mysterious alien presence from Delta Pavonis bears down upon mankind's only home. Shut out from NASA and military support, Gordon is forced to go it alone, to sow the seeds for an entirely new sort of planetary defense: a space-based naval force.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Hard military science-fiction

  • By Daniel Jo on 2019-04-06

Hard military science-fiction

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2019-04-06

I wasn't terribly impressed by the narrator, partly due to what is to my ears an odd cadence to his voice, but he does a competent job. The writing, though not spectacular, is similarly competent, but the technical and procedural details were quite wonderful -- aided by the author's two physics degrees and around 2 decades in the US Navy. The latter is demonstrated most clearly in the second chapter with a great depiction of a near future naval engagement.

After having just finished reading some disappointing "pop" sci-fi, I was eager to read something more thoughtful and carefully written. Too often, authors rely on creating drama and heroics via the incompetence of the protagonists or their adversaries. This sort of contrivance often has the effect of inducing me to vocally rage at my car stereo as I listen to the books during my daily commutes. While I recognise that sometimes people do stupid things, it has to sit properly within the context of character and plot. It cannot be used to contrive a way for the plot to progress. A Sword Into Darkness doesn't rely on any of this. Characters are developed quite well with their own strengths and limitations, none of which being hyperbolic, and their behaviour follows logically from these traits.

The starship depicted in the latter parts of the book, the Sword of Liberty, is very carefully designed. Its weaknesses are the result of necessary facts of physics and aren't contrived to create drama. I really liked such details as the crew being fitted in vacuum suits and individually cocooned in armoured acceleration couches during combat. The author really tries to envision how space combat would really work, rather than writing it as an analogue of modern (or more commonly, WW2-era) air-naval combat. It's not Star Wars.

One other aspect that must necessarily be addressed in any plot involving alien visitations or invasions is: why do the aliens bother coming at all? I certainly won't spoil the plot, but I will say that the answer provided for this book is unique. It's weird, but... well, aliens, eh?

Highly recommended, if you're into the hard stuff.

  • Galaxy's Edge, Part II

  • Written by: Jason Anspach, Nick Cole
  • Narrated by: R.C. Bray
  • Length: 15 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 93
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 83
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 81

Legion Dark Ops calls upon Chhun, Wraith, and the survivors of Victory Company to form an elite Kill Team of legionnaires in the aftermath of the Battle of Kublar. Their mission is clear: find and eliminate those responsible for the Kublar disaster. Standing between them and their objective are a maze of corrupt Republic officials, a spy on the verge of losing himself in deep cover, and the Zhee - a murderous species that will stop at nothing. But the biggest threat of all might be the truth they seek to uncover - a truth that could ignite a revolution. And engulf the galaxy in flames.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • I really want to love this series...

  • By Amazon Customer on 2018-07-31

A mixed bag

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2019-04-01

I really enjoy much of the Legion action, but far too much of the plot and other action relies on drama and heroics enabled by incompetence and carelessness by the other side.

The fleet action in the latter half is especially bad. The many single points of failure that systems on the ships and in the fleets have are unacceptable. The entire command deck of a giant battleship sitting exposed on the exterior of the ship? External power generators for shields? Fire control cupolas? Practically no redundancy? All of these things go against common sense.

There are also very heavy and obvious nods to Star Wars, which I found rather cheap and overabundant.

None of the positives leave me wanting to continue with the series. The frustration I felt listening to it simply isn't worth it.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Columbus Day

  • Expeditionary Force, Book 1
  • Written by: Craig Alanson
  • Narrated by: R.C. Bray
  • Length: 16 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 501
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 477
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 476

The Ruhar hit us on Columbus Day. There we were, innocently drifting along the cosmos on our little blue marble, like the Native Americans in 1492. Over the horizon came ships of a technologically advanced, aggressive culture, and BAM! There went the good old days, when humans got killed only by each other. So, Columbus Day. It fits. When the morning sky twinkled again, this time with Kristang starships jumping in to hammer the Ruhar, we thought we were saved.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Easily one of the better books I've read..

  • By jesse cornelious on 2018-10-31

Deus Ex machina

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2019-03-17

I was really getting into the book for most of the beginning. There was some nitpicking to be done, such as when rifle magazines were referred to as clips. Especially for a military sub-genre, this was irritating. However, the plot was going rather well and I was really getting into the revelations about the various aliens and the war.

Then it all fell apart. The way the author goes so far out of his way to make the "bad guy" aliens utterly irredeemable was outright comical. I might have been okay with that, but then the deus ex machina appears and my enjoyment was limited to only a few more segments. I'm just not a fan of introducing such a powerful force as a primary character. Because of it, I have no interest in reading further entries into this series.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Galaxy's Edge

  • Written by: Jason Anspach, Nick Cole
  • Narrated by: R.C. Bray
  • Length: 17 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 194
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 180
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 181

On the edge of the galaxy, a diplomatic mission to an alien planet takes a turn when the Legionnaires, an elite special fighting force, find themselves ambushed and stranded behind enemy lines. They struggle to survive under siege, waiting on a rescue that might never come. In the seedy starport of Ackabar, a young girl searches the crime-ridden gutters to avenge her father's murder; not far away, a double-dealing legionniare-turned-smuggler hunts an epic payday; and somewhere along the outer galaxy, a mysterious bounty hunter lies in wait.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I would listen to RC Bray read a phone book

  • By Justin on 2018-03-17

Tonally inconsistent, but largely enjoyable

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2019-03-17

As a gritty military science fiction novel, it's really quite good (though it does play very loose with the science), especially in the first half. The problem is the second half. I found the character of Captain Keel generally unlikable. I get what the authors were going for, but it doesn't work for me. Also, the way the authors treat the Legion in the first half is soundly compromised by some of the slapstick disregard for their lives later on.

R.C. Bray does a great narration. His vocal range is broad and his performance is very compelling. I find myself wanting to search for more of his work, regardless of the genre.

  • Artemis

  • Written by: Andy Weir
  • Narrated by: Rosario Dawson
  • Length: 8 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,877
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,760
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,754

Jazz Bashara is a criminal. Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you're not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you've got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent. Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Not so great

  • By plaj on 2017-11-28

Disappointingly mediocre

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2017-12-12

I was rather excited to listen to this book, following the high bar set by The Martian. Hard science fiction with a fun character and struggles with environmental-based hazards. There is plenty of the former and some of the last, but the character is where it largely fails. Jas is simply unlikable. It's revealed near the end (though easily predictable by the middle) that she isn't completely driven by greed, but even ignoring that she's a terrible human being on a number of scores. She's petty and nasty in far too many situations where it is inappropriate to be so, where it is natural to prioritise the matter at hand, rather than making snide, spiteful remarks. She is the eternal rebellious teen: wanting to be independent and respected, but too immature to really achieve that. She is independent, but she places personal respect for her ever out of reach with her behaviour.

Beyond Jas, other disappointments include over-used tropes and glaring predictability. As I said, her ultimate motivation is easily seen halfway through, even if it isn't revealed until the end. Every difficult situation she faces is obvious a mile away, which is not always due to her actions, but because they're exactly the kind of thing a reader might expect -- especially the final hurdle in the "save the world" action near the end. It's something seen so often that it's become a joke, but I'm laughing with scorn instead of humour, so I don't even care about her sacrifice.

Rosario Dawson's performance was okay. She doesn't do voices with any particular accomplishment, but I felt nothing negative about her effort. I've simply heard far too many better narrators, and all of this is why I give her two stars.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful