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The Diamond of Jeru - Audiobook Review

Title: The Diamond of Jeru

Author: Louis L'Amour

Narrator: Multi-cast

Length: 3 h, 5 m

Published by Random House Audio, 2015

Genres: Drama, Adventure

Mike Kardec has traveled a long way to escape haunting memories of the Korean War. The ex-Marine finds himself in the jungles of Borneo, working on oil rigs scattered across the island. He is befriended by a young native man named Raj, who works with him in the oil fields and teaches him about local culture and beliefs. Mike already knows about the supposed wealth of diamonds which can be found in the island's interior, and he soon learns about a magnificent diamond in the posession of a notorious pirate named Jeru. 

When an American scientist and his beautiful wife arrive on the island to begin a diamond hunting expedition, Mike offers to be their guide. The jealous husband declines Mike's offer of help and ignores his advice regarding the dangers of Borneo. When the couple sets out on their own to find rare diamonds, it's up to Mike, Raj, and Raj's grandfather to find the pair before they fall into the hands of head-hunting natives.

Set in Sarawak in 1955, this story is filled with intriguing characters, a little romance, and a lot of action! Produced as an audio drama, it includes stellar voice-acting from a 21-member cast, as well as original music and sound effects. Arranging all of these elements together in a seamless, cohesive production is the real challenge of audio drama and Beau L'Amour, Louis' son, has done a masterful job of creating this listening adventure.

Neither the sound effects or music overpower the dialog. Instead, they complement the narration and help pull the listener into the story. In fact, this production was so compelling that I could not listen in the car because I couldn't pay attention to my driving. Also, the car speakers did not do justice to the sound. I highly recommend a quiet spot with a good set of earphones to fully appreciate the music and sound effects - believe me, you don't want to miss any of it! 

What it took to create this audio drama also makes for a good story. From the time that Louis's son found the unpublished story after Louis' death, to it's metamorphosis from a printed story to a movie to an audio drama,  it's obvious lots of love and attention has accompanied this story through the years. If you would like to read more about the history of The Diamond of Jeru, an excellent web site has been created which shares all of the details at http://thediamondofjeruaudio.com/

In the past, when Louis L'Amour's name is mentioned, I've always thought of the Old West - but that's not the case anymore. Now, I will think of lush rainforests, gurgling rivers winding through uncharted jungle, and -- DIAMONDS!  


Safari - Audiobook Review

Title: Safari: Stanley Hastings, Book 19

Author: Parnell Hall

Narrator: Johnny Heller

Unabridged Length: 6 h, 6 m

Published by Blackstone Audio, 2014

Genres: Mysteries & Thrillers


From the Publisher:

The new Stanley Hastings mystery caper takes the ever-loquacious private detective on safari in Zambia—what could possibly go wrong? Stanley Hastings on safari? I don’t think so. Neither did Stanley, until Alice’s small inheritance—coupled with scrimping on a few luxuries like food and rent—allowed them to book a group trip to Zambia. Now the New York PI is hiking with lions, canoeing with hippos, and having close encounters with elephants and giraffes. It’s a dangerous safari. The leader is a reckless, gung-ho great white hunter who delights in leaping from the jeep with a hearty, “Come on, gang, let’s see where this lion is going!” And a series of bizarre accidents quickly dwindles the group’s numbers. Why was the guide’s young spotter foolish enough to walk under a sausage fruit tree just as one of the huge fruits fell? And how did the leaves of a poisonous plant wind up in a tourist’s salad? Are these really accidents? A stabbing tips the scale. It’s murder, and the only policeman in a hundred miles is a park ranger whose only murder case was that of an ivory poacher shot dead in plain sight. It’s up to Stanley to crack the case—if he can just avoid being eaten by a lion.


Recently my husband and I took a trip that required many hours of driving. We decided to invite another couple along for the ride so we could hear all about their safari adventure. I'm happy to report that Stanley and Alice Hastings are one of the most entertaining fictional couples I've had the pleasure to meet and Johnny Heller's telling of their tale is hilarious.

Alice is a woman who knows what she wants and is not about to let anyone, including Stanley, prevent her from getting it. She has carefully planned for her dream vacation and tried to prepare for all contingencies. Unfortunately, murder isn't on her list.

It isn't on Stanley's list either. Of course, Stanley doesn't have much of a list. He's mainly just trying to stay out of trouble and not lose too many "husband points" by doing something of which Alice disapproves. This becomes more difficult than anticipated when he meets a very attractive young woman at the airport. Assigning her the moniker of Lolita, he has no idea she is headed for the same safari vacation as Alice and Stanley.

Lolita is only one of an interesing assortment of vacationers and half of the fun is seeing them through Stanley's eyes. Although he may be a private investigator, his social ineptness often gives him a distorted view of reality, which is a great source of humor throughout the book. Narrator Johnny Heller uses his well-honed sense of humor to make every funny passage shine. 

Of course, this is a murder mystery, so when the body count starts to climb, Stanley is called upon to identify the culprit. Thankfully, his powers of observation are more astute at a crime scene than when exchanging pleasantries around a campfire. 

This story was just plain fun to hear. While travelling, there were many laugh-out-loud moments that I'm glad we could share. When we stopped for lunch or dinner, we'd discuss favorite scenes or our thoughts on how Johnny interpreted certain passages or pieces of dialog. Yes, we are audiobook geeks.  Although this was the 19th title in this series, it stood on its own quite nicely. There are only two other titles in the series that have been recorded. This was the first one recorded by Johnny and I certainly hope it won't be the last! Johnny's voice fits this character perfectly - it's that wonderful combination of good writing and great narration.  He brought Stanley and his escapades to life and I can't wait to hear more.

The clip below is the first chapter - it's only 5 minutes long. It shows the personalities of Alice and Stanley and how Johnny voices these characters. It's a great intro to the rest of the story. Give it a listen!



Superman: The Men of Tomorrow

It's been a long time since I picked up a comic headlining Superman. As a result, I was afraid I might be a little lost, but familiar characters like Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, and Lois Lane welcomed me back to familiar territory.

Clark Kent no longer works for The Daily Planet, but editor Perry White is trying to covince him to come back as a reporter for the paper. While Clark considers his options, an ominus, dark spaceship invades Metropolis and begins attacking the city. As Superman attempts to neutralize the alien piloting the ship, he becomes alarmed to discover the creature may be his equal in power and fighting tactics. 

With Superman on the ropes, another entity appears out of thin air and helps Superman defeat the menace. Tall and blonde-haired, with a physique to match Superman's, the stranger calls himself Ulysses. The appearance of Ulysses on the scene opens to door for lots of questions and possibilities, and is a great way to create interest in a new series.

Geoff Johns is the writer who will be guiding Superman fans through new scenarios in this series that's marked with the distinction of having artist John Romita, Jr. interpret the story. After over 40 years at Marvel, Romita, Jr. has taken his first job at DC Comics to draw "The Man of Steel" and it's a pleasure to see how he visualizes the story. 

This series looks like a winner. Once you read the first issue, I'm betting you'll be anxiously waiting for the next installment.



The New 52: Futures End - Issue 1

The future is a grim landscape of Frankenstein cyborgs intent on wiping out humanity. Under the control of the artificial intelligence, Brother Eye, mere mortals and even super-heroes don't stand a chance. The only hope is to return to the past and try to avert the events which lead to this tragic future. As one of the few left standing, Batman Beyond accepts the challenge. Unfortunately, he doesn't travel back far enough, and events are already in place that may doom the future. Issue one is really a series of vignettes to show the unexpected dangers the planet faces as the Future End series begins.

Batman Beyond is followed through time by one of the grotesque cyborgs, and, unknown to Batman Beyond, a mysterious stranger records the battle between the hero and the mindless machine.

Meanwhile, deep in space, the members of Stormwatch are surprised when their flight is interrupted by a alien force far superior to anything they've yet encountered. So superior, in fact, that it may be the last thing they ever encounter.

Back on Earth, it seems that Grifter has decided to declare his own war on humanity, but there's more here than meets the eye - at least the eye of normal people. Grifter can see the aliens inhabiting the bodies of innocents and he's determined to stop this unique brand of alien invasion.

And if that wasn't enough going on to keep your curiosity running rampant, there's been a massive explosion in Seattle and Firestorm answers the call for help. Unfortunately, he answers the call a little late, and now it may be too late for his friend, Green Arrow.

It's impossible to tell where all of this is going, but it's easy to enjoy the ride with the fantastic artwork of Ethan Van Sciver, Patrick Zircher, Aaron Lopresti, Art Thibert, Dan Jurgens, Mark Irwin, Jsus Merino, and Dan Green. Writers include Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, and Keith Giffen. Can't wait to see where all of this is headed, and after you take a look, I'll bet you'll feel the same way.




Free Comic Book Day - The New 52: Futures End

If you like comics, then today is a great day to get out amd go to your local comic store. Hopefully, there will be lots of free titles to to choose from on Free Comic Book Day! One title you should definitely check out is the free kickoff issue to DC Comics' weekly new series - THE NEW 52: FUTURES END. Issue #0 sets the stage for a conflict that threatens all of humanity.

The issue begins as the artificial intelligence known as Brother Eye is winning in his quest to destroy humans by changing them into a mix of man and machine. These hybrids, who are horrific, zombie-like creatrues, mindlessly follow orders from Brother Eye. Things look particularly grim as numerous super-heroes fall before the onslaught, becoming unwilling tools of the new world-order. 

In an effort to prevent this future from even happening, Batman Beyond agrees to travel back in time to stop Brother Eye before he can put his plans for conquest into motion. Of course, there's no guarantee that this will solve the problem, or that Batman Beyond will even end up at the right place or time.

This preview issue gives readers a good idea of what might follow, beginning with issue #1, which goes on sale Wednesday, May 7. The action is non-stop and the artwork is stunning. Seeing the different ways the issue's artists have chosen to portray the "assimilated" super-heroes is well-worth your time. Be sure and take a look!  


Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder - Audiobook Review

Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder, by Christopher L. Bennett
Multi-cast production, adaptation by GraphicAudio, 5 hours

It’s just a typical evening for Peter Parker, swinging from sky scrapper to skyscraper through mid-town Manhattan as Spider-Man. Always on the lookout for criminals, be they super-villains or the average devious crook, it doesn’t take Spidey long to find and interrupt a robbery in progress. Working hard to prevent injury to by-standers, Spider-Man successfully delivers the would-be robbers to the police, but the next day’s issue of the Daily Bugle paints Spider-Man as the real criminal. Tired of always receiving bad press from the newspaper, Peter begins to suspect that the paper’s editor, J. Jonah Jameson, has ulterior motives for continually vilifying the well-intentioned web-slinger.

Before Peter can dwell too long on the impact of bad public relations on his crime-fighting career, Electro appears on the scene. Leading an attack on Manhattan with a horde of robots intent on stealing precious jewels from the Diamond District, the robots are almost more than Spider–Man can handle. Predictably, Jameson accuses Spidey of being the one behind the Robot attack and responsible for the numerous injuries suffered by New Yorkers during the rampage.

When robot attacks continue in the city without the presence of Electro, Spider-Man begins to believe that Jameson is behind the metal-monster assaults and Jameson is convinced they are the work of Spider-Man. Both decide to prove that the other is orchestrating these events, and that’s when things get interesting.

This audio adaptation of the novel by Christopher L. Bennett offers a stellar production that combines multiple narrators, sound effects and music to tell the story. The result is a listening experience that transports listeners to the top of New York skyscrapers, the center of hard-fought battles, and the depths of guilt and self-doubt.

Tension builds throughout the story as the robots become increasingly powerful and no one can figure out who is controlling them. However, because the robots don’t talk, there’s not much banter between super-villain and Spider-Man – dialog that is particularly effective in audio. Ironically, even Spider-Man mentions that he misses the repartee during face-offs with the robots. Fortunately, this situation doesn’t last because, as we all know, super-villains can’t stand to stay out of the limelight for too long.

The dramatized style of this production really pulls listeners in, demanding their attention. I often drive while listening to audiobooks, but found I couldn’t concentrate on driving while listening to this adventure. So I listened while preparing meals for the family. Of course, I couldn’t concentrate on fixing the food either, but no one went hungry and no one became ill, so I considered my listening strategy a success.

This is the second Marvel Comics production for GraphicAudio and their dramatized audio style works perfectly for comics.  All of the narrators did an excellent job, but my favorite was the voicing of Aunt May, which was perfect! The title is available in either stereo or a 5.1 Surround Sound DTS-HD Master Audio format. The relatively short length of five hours makes it a fun listen that requires nothing more than an enjoyment of comics and an appreciation for a certain webbed super-hero named Spider-Man.


We Have a Winner!

Actually, we have three winners of the audiobook, THE MYSTERY BOX. It's a compilation of 21 stories by many well-known writers of the mystery genre. Seventeen different narrators perform various stories, and Jo Anna Perrin is one of them. Which is why she will be contacting the winners and giving them a code to download their free copy.

We also want to again thank Michele Cobb, AudioGo, Blackstone Audio and Downpour for their generoisty in providing three digital copies to help celebrate June is Audiobook Month. And a special thanks to Bryan Barney of Blackstone Audio who steered us in the right direction. 

If you listened to any of the wonderful stories read to you by various narrators during the month of June for GOING PUBLIC...IN SHORTS, then do yourself a favor and go to downpour and order a copy of the compilation of GOING PUBLIC...IN SHORTS. The proceeds go to a worthy cause - the REACH OUT AND READ literacy advocacy organization.

I was delighted to be a part of the celebration and want to thank Xe Sands for inviting me to host the talented Jo Anna Perrin on my site. I look forward to hearing much more of her work in the future! Until next year's celebration of June is Audiobook Month, keep tuned-in to that special kind of music you'll only hear by listening to audiobooks.


To Celebrate June is Audiobook Month, Jo Anna Perrin and Virginia Woolf Go Public...In Shorts!

June is Audiobook Month (JIAM 2013) and to celebrate, the audiobook community is giving back! The Going Public Project is offering a serialized audio story collection: Going Public...in Shorts. 30+ narrators have recorded a short piece from the public domain, and throughout June, 1-2 stories will be released online each day via the Going Public blog.

All proceeds will goto the Reach Out and Read literacy advocacy organization. As a "Thank you!" to listeners, stories will be available to listen to online for one week following their release. The full schedule of story release dates and  narrator appearances is available at Going Public.

I'm very happy to be hosting narrator Jo Anna Perrin, who is reading "A Society," by Virginia Woolf. After listening to her performance, I have a few questions for Jo Anna and she has a great giveaway opportunity for you!

I imagine it's not often that narrators have the chance to select what they'd like to perform. What drew you to A Society and why did you decided to narrate this particular story?
No, that’s quite true Susan. Generally someone else casts us for a particular audio book based on their assumptions of our expertise in a genre or style, and we gratefully accept, but we don’t have input into the selection. I think that was one of the reasons, aside from the obvious one of giving back to the community, that this project attracted so many of us. Essentially, the Public Domain world was our audio oyster! An exciting and overwhelming prospect when you consider the surplus of literature out there that is in the ever growing Public Domain arena. I actually stumbled upon A Society accidentally. I had no idea that Virgina Woolf was available as an option until I discovered
a list of authors who had entered the Public Domain in 2012.

I was familiar with Woolf’s modernist writing and arty style from reading the usual cast of suspects such as A Room of One’s Own, and To the Lighthouse. However, I was unfamiliar with her short stories, and when I found her first collection, Monday or Tuesday, I was pleasantly surprised by A Society. It was written in a thoroughly modern style, but without Woolf’s usual winding prose or deep psychological meanderings. It had a light-hearted touch, a phrase that certainly doesn’t leap to the forefront in conjunction with Virgina Woolf!  The story has a comic sense that seemed foreign to my usual encounters with her work. She starts off with a good-humored take on social commentary and the meaning of Art, seduces us in with gender-bending and double entendres until, true to her writer’s nature, she ends on a more somber note of the loss and inevitability of war. The moment I read it, I was hooked.

When preparing to narrate, does a short story require a different approach than a novel? Do some things made a short story more difficult to narrate. For example, does less character development make it harder to decide on how to voice characters? Is pacing different?

I don’t think the narrator’s approach or preparation is any different toward a short story. At least it’s not for me. My job is still to be true to the text and the author in as honest a way as I can.  In terms of pacing, regardless of the length of a narration, I see a novel or a short story in the same way I visualize a play. There are three acts. The first act is the call to action, the second act the journey along the way, and the third act the reward or in some situations the punishment, but in any case, the wrap up. Obviously in a short story the acts and their beats are shorter, and arrive faster, but they are still there in the bone structure of the narrative. So the pacing, if you are true to each “act” sho uld just flow naturally. In terms of characters, I guess the one caveat about voicing characters, is that you have less time to convey them or endear them to your audience, so an annoying voice choice might seem amplified over a shorter time span; if you have the character sporadically over 300 pages, it’s not as grating!

How did you become interested in narrating audiobooks?
I became interested in audio books in a kind of non-linear fashion. I am an avid reader and I always thought that nothing could compete with my own reading. However, as my fiancé is a narrator, it was pretty hard to avoid them. So slowly I began to pick them up and listen. And, soon I picked up a few more from other narrators and I began to realize there were voices out there that could actually give my own reading, my own imagination, a run for my money! I’m an actor and a voice actor; I’ve done commercial, documentary and even film voice-over work, but I had never done an audio book. I guess the seed was planted in the back of my brain, you know, maybe I can do this?

You are also a professional photographer, even lending your talents to take a picture of some good lookin' legs for the kickoff post of Going Public...In Shorts. Would you share a little about your photography interests?
Yes, those were quite the gams! I certainly had fun with that…as soon as the guys asked me to drop in, that little montage was fixed in my head.

My main interest in photography is really two-fold. Firstly, I enjoy photographing people, and in a non studio, organic environment.  I’m intrigued by faces and expressions, and there is a moment when you are shooting, when someone’s eyes, the inner and the outer, discover the sweet spot on a camera, and the machine and the person connect.  You can actually see that connection in the finished picture. I’m not even sure I have anything to do with that connection, other than knowing the moment to snap the picture. If I have talent, knowing the moment to take the shot may in fact be that talent.

We’ve all heard the story that primitive tribes, when faced with a camera for the first time, will fear having their picture taken, because they really feel the camera will steal from them, actually rob them of their souls. I think that connection moment you can see in a person’s face, is where that fear stems from. It is quite dynamic.

My other favorite project is abstracts. Photographing things you pass by everyday without a second look, and isolating parts of those things so that they lose their sense of familiarity, and acquire a kind of beauty. I’ve been working on a theme of wheels, doorways and staircases for longer than I can remember. Someday, I hope to get it right.

What do you enjoy most about narrating audiobooks?
Wow! I think just the idea that I can. I get to perform, for better or worse, and do it for a living. It doesn’t get any better than that. I get to read books, one of my favorite pastimes, and I get to act and hone my skills. It’s also the challenge that I appreciate. I record a lot from my own home studio which is very different from being in a studio with a director and/or engineer. There is no one to bounce ideas off of or brainstorm with, so you have to make choices on your own. That is the hard part. Sometimes those choices work, and sometimes they may fall flatter than the proverbial pan-cake. The reward is in the trying, the striving, to get it right.

What's one of the most difficult things about audiobook narration?
Well, going back to the home studio theme, the isolation is difficult. It’s always more fun to be with at least another ear nearby. There is also the irritation of noise. I live in NYC so noise is a big factor. Plus, I have to narrate, direct, and, be my own engineer.

Those are all technical issues though. The hardest part of audiobook narration is making the right choices, the honest choices for each book and each character. Even if your character is the author in a non-fiction book, that person has a personality that shines through in their writing, and you have to grasp what kind of delivery, what sort of tone and pace that speaker will have for the audio book. Going back to the play and three act theme, you have to remember that you have to be present from the curtain to the curtain. That is the hardest part.

Can you tell us about any projects you're currently working on? Or interesting works you've recently completed?

 I just finished an eye-opening book on the economy post-recession by Meredith Whitney, Fate of the States: The New Geography of the American Prosperity, through Tantor Audio. It is due out later this month.

Just prior to that, I had the pleasure of working on Back in the Fight: The Explosive Memoir of a Special Operator Who Never Gave Up by Joseph Kapacziewski and Charles W. Sasser with narrator Johnny Heller – our fifth audio book collaboration by the way - for Macmillan Audio.

And, I was part of a wonderful collection of mystery short stories for Blackstone Audio, Mystery Writers of America Presents The Mystery Box. I was tasked with a very funny story by Karin Slaughter that takes place in the swamps of Okefenokee. Suffice it to say that it’s not the type of narration I usually get, and I had a ball doing it.

And on that note, Susan, you and I are doing a giveaway of The Mystery Box. We have been given, through the generosity of Michele Cobb, AudioGo, Blackstone Audio and Downpour - and thanks to Bryan Barney of Blackstone Audio who steered us in the right direction - three digital copies of this enjoyable mystery short-story compilation.

There are 21 stories by many well known writers of the mystery genre, and 17 different narrators are onboard—so if my voice sounds like chalk on a blackboard to you, you still have 16 other wonderful voices to buoy you on! And, as an added bonus, some of the narrators on this collection are also available on Going Public…In Shorts: Robert Fass, Paul Michael Garcia, Hillary Huber, John McLain, Simon Vance, Adam Verner and Karen White. Once the winners have been decided, I will personally email you with a special one-time promo code so that you can download your copy from Blackstone’s audio download site, Downpour. Enter the drawing here!

The Going Public…in Shorts project is a giving back to the community, an offering from we narrato rs, and we hope you will join in, give a listen, and if possible, take a cyber-walk over to Downpour and donate by purchasing a story or two. So, if you too have a hankering to give back, please join in with us now, and all month, during June. And remember, June is Audio Book Month, so get out there and listen.

Thanks Jo Anna - and an easy way to take her advice is to purchase this title directly from Downpour. Then take a look at the blog posts appearing before and after this post - Books, Personally and My Books, My Life. The full compilation will be for sale beginning June 30th. Engineering and mastering provided by Jeffrey Kafer and SpringBrook Audio. GraphicGraphic design provided by f power design. Published by Blackstone Audio. Project corrdination and executive production provided by Xe Sands.



June is Audiobook Month!

June is Audiobook Month and I'm celebrating by participating in an extremely cool project orchestrated by Xe Sands. Narrators were asked to perform a story of their choosing from the public domain and this collection is a result of their efforts. So what am I doing? Well, there will be at least one short story released each day during June and I am thrilled to be hosting Jo Anna Perrin's reading of "A Society" by Virginai Woolf on June 6. This complete series is going to be fantastic! You can read all about it at Voice Over Times. You can also see a complete list of titles, performers, and locations at the Going Public website.


Earth Unaware - Audiobook Review

Earth Unaware: The First Formic War
Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston
Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki and Cast
Macmillan Audio, 14 hours

Victor is an apprentice mechanic to his father, the person responsible for maintaining life-support and other essential systems on board the mining ship, El Cavador. A gifted student with a natural ability to understand all things mechanical, Victor is already a valuable member of the ship’s crew, although he’s still a teenager. But it is his dedication to ideals instilled by his family and his sense of responsibility that may catapult him into the history books of the First Formic War.

Moored to an asteroid out in the lonely Kuiper Belt, El Cavador’s crew is made up of a large Venezuelan family that eeks out a living by mining heavy metals from space rocks.  They are only one of a far-flung group of independent family clans known as Free Miners. Free Miners are always on the lookout for other clan ships which they can dock with in order to exchange news, trade for supplies and arrange marriages between the clans.

 When El Cavador’s sensors pick up a small speck in distant space, it’s obvious this is no lumbering sister mining ship. In fact, it’s travelling too fast to be a human ship of any kind and when that realization sets in, attention turns from concern about each other to a growing fear for the entire human race.

For those of us who’ve always wondered what happened before Ender Wiggin’s decisive defeat of the Formics, Orson Scott Card is finally revealing those events in a trilogy prequel to Ender’s Game. Subtitled The First Formic War, it holds out the promise of epic battles and unflinching heroism to defeat the ant-like alien invaders. However, while there is plenty of heroism, this first title in the trilogy only teases with a few small skirmishes between humans and aliens.

 The story is told from three different vantage points. The majority of the story is related from the perspective of the crew of El Cavador – their encounters with the Formics and their attempts to warn an unsuspecting Earth. The concept of a society built upon the existence of “family” ships, with each ship representing a different nationality or ethnic group is a part of Card’s universe I particularly enjoyed. My only complaint with the Free Miners is that too much time was spent with character development at the expense of action and moving the story forward.

 Listeners are also introduced to a likely villain in the form of Lem Jukes, son of corporate mining mogul Ukko Jukes and a force to be reckoned with in his own right. He and a select crew are also in the Kuiper Belt, testing a new piece of mining equipment. The success of this prototype has the potential to make millions for the company and Lem is determined to make it work at any cost.

 The third perspective comes from Earth in the form of an elite fighting force recruited from top special forces recruits from nations across the globe. Their commander will stop at nothing make his squad the most deadly group of fighters on the planet. Ironically, most of the military action and battle scenes are provided by this group – the only ones stuck on planet Earth. Still, it doesn’t take much extrapolation to see that men brave enough to fight and defeat the human terrorists, dictators, and drug lords of this world will undoubtedly be up for fighting the aliens from another world.

The book is narrated by Stephen Hoye, Arthur Morey, and Stefan Rudnicki; with Vikas Adam, Emily Janice Card, Gabriel de Cuir and Roxanne Hernandez.  In general, scenes that focus on female characters are read by female narrators, while scenes with males are voiced by male narrators.

Narrators do not take individual character’s “parts” but read entire sections or chapters. I’m still debating the advantages of this approach. It doesn’t eliminate men voicing female characters or women voicing male characters, because the readers narrate chapters at a time – chapters which often have dialog between men and women. I suppose the different voices do add variety and if the sound of one particular narrator is not particularly pleasant to your ear, you at least know it won’t be long before someone else will have their “turn” to narrate a passage.

 Whatever the reason for multiple narrators, the entire cast does an excellent job and it’s a pleasure to listen to the book. Everyone reads with emotion and captures the essence of the characters they voice. Switching between different voices is not jarring at all, Surprisingly, the various voices helped to hold my attention, which was not an easy task as the story has a slow start. You’ll need to be patient with this one while it lays the groundwork for things to come. It gradually picks up steam and by the midpoint, both the pacing and the narration seem to become tighter, creating energy and excitement about what’s going to happen next.  

It’s been a long time since I’ve read Ender’s Game, so I can’t speak to continuity issues or how characters in this novel may relate to events in Ender’s Game. However, I don’t think this is a novel that stands on its own, as its main purpose feels like a set-up for the second volume in the trilogy. But endings count for a lot, and in this case, the ending is a cliff-hanger that makes the slow start worthwhile. It has me looking forward to the inevitable confrontation and to see where all of the pieces from this first book will fit in the next installment.

As an added bonus, there is a short interview with Orson Scott Card. He discusses his enjoyment of audiobooks and how, when he writes his books, “I write them to be performed.” As an audiobook fan, it’s nice to hear an author say that – I sure wish more had that same attitude.

For those who’ve never read Ender’s Game, or maybe read it many years ago, this book offers a convenient way to ease into Card’s classic work for the first time or as a re-visit. But for die-hard Enderverse fans, the jury may still be out until round two of this trilogy is published.

Thanks to Macmillan Audio for providing a review copy of this title.