Monday, July 27, 2009

R.I.P. Greg Camp

R.I.P. Greg Camp. I had the pleasure of Interviewing him & Jimmy Harlow on my Blues Show on KCXL back in the late 90s. I have his and Jimmy's autograph on my Camp Harlow CD...and will treasure it more.

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posted by Gil T. @ 2:18 PM Comments: 0

Friday, July 24, 2009

"Hell House" Written by Richard Matheson

"Hell House"
Written by Richard Matheson
Performed by Ray Porter
Produced by Blackstone Audio
approx. 9 hours

Here it is folks the ultimate haunted house book, "Hell House" by Richard Matheson. The man that brought vampires (or zombies,depending on how you look at it) to life in the book "I Am Legend," created a very chilling story about the ultimate haunted house. This is the book that inspired the 1973 film "The Legend of Hell House" which starred Roddy McDowell, yes the "Planet of the Apes" guy. Anyway before we go much further let me warn you this one is not for those that have a low tolerance for bad language. The evil of this house is created through one man's excursions and the people that lived and died in the house did some very evil things, and in the playing out of some of the actions and possessions some very colorful vernacular is used. So be prepared.

The reader of this audio book, Ray Porter, does a phenomenal job of separating characters vocally and delivers the horror with the right level of chill too keep your hair standing on end. Without using digital effects Ray's voice portrays those of the haunting spirits as though the disembodied voice is right there with you, okay, i know that technically it is, with an audio book, but he does things with his voice that may creep you out.

The story follows four people; Dr. Lionel Barrett, a physicist out to prove that hauntings are merely electro-magnetic parts of nature, his wife Edith, Florence Tanner, a medium who will help clear the house of its spirits and Benjamin Franklin Fischer, a medium and the only survivor from previous excursions to Hell House.

A very rich man on the edge of life wants to find if there is, or not, life after death. The perfect place to prove this is the notorious Belasco House, Hell House. Two different groups of people have visited Hell House to explore the haunting and only one has survived. The house's original owner, Emeric Belasco, was know to throw parties in which all party goes reveled in evil. All manner of sin is said to have occurred and many people died in the house during these parties. Belasco's body was never found and his evil is said to destroy all who enter the house.

The hired experts have to spend a week in the house to clear out or to prove the evil of Hell House.
Immediately they are treated to the evil that is Hell House. From rocking chairs that rock on their own to violent attacks the party learns they are not welcome. Dr. Barrett has a machine that will clear out the haunting by using the electro-magnetic energy, but before he can get his machine running he must first survive the attacks and possessions.

This is one of those books that I so badly want to talk about the horrifying adventures, but the element of surprise is what makes this book such a great ghost story. So when listening remember even with the lights on or with someone keeping you company, it is not safe.

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posted by Gil T. @ 10:07 PM Comments: 0

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"The Strain" Written by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan

"The Strain"
Written by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan
Read by Ron Perlman
Produced by Harper Audio
approx 13.5 hours.

Let's start this review out by saying, "Whow," that would be the combination of whew and wow together. The whew from the the tension filled time you will spend listening to this audio book. The wow from the exclamation you will expel from listening to this re-imagining of the world of vampires. Guillermo del Toro, creator of such films as "The Devil's Backbone," "Blade II," "Hellboy" (I & II) and "Pan's Labyrinth," has teamed up with author Chuck Hogan (author of "The Standoff" & "Prince of Thieves) to create "The Strain." This book is part one of what is slated to be a trilogy. I will attest to the idea that this audio book can be treated as a stand alone book with great action and a conclusion, but there is a cliff hanger that will leave you wanting more, thus the trilogy will be absorbed by me.

Ron Perlman, who you may know as the star of the "Hellboy" movies or maybe as "the Beast" in the TV series "Beauty and the Beast," does a very nice job of performing this book. At times he almost seems monotone in quality but that is easily justified by the idea that he is allowing the listener to make the story in his mind. Don't get me wrong, monotone is necessary in some areas, but Ron Perlman delivers the action with a punch, slows down just right for the tense moments and keeps the voice quality different for each character. He does a smash-up performance in the voice of Professor Abraham Setrakian, a survivor of a Holocaust death camp and now vampire hunter.

The story begins in a post-9/11 New York City where a Boeing 777 has landed at JFK airport. The landing is perfect and without event, however once the plane begins taxiing it just merely stops and loses all power. The air traffic controllers need the strip for other planes to land and after repeated attempts at communication send a baggage cart out to investigate. The driver of the baggage cart sees a dead airplane with no lights anywhere and all the widow shades closed. The drive gets the feeling of being watched and immediately flees. Everyone suspects a hi-jacking or possible bomb but when the team arrives to investigate they find everyone on the plane dead.

Dr. Eph Goodweather, head of CDC's rapid-response team that investigates biological threats, is ordered to get his team on the plane and investigate. What he finds is a strain of parasite that could lead to the extinction of mankind.

That strain of parasite is what is delToro's & Hogan's re-imagining of vampirism. Vampires are all controlled by parasites. In this book there is more than just attacking vampires, there is a war being waged. Who will survive?

For the 13 plus hours it took to listen to this audio book I was completely enthralled by the great story telling, the complex story line and intense drama and thrills. This has got to be one of the best vampire books I've heard in a long time. Bram Stoker had me scared, Stephen King's vampires had me startled, Anne Rice had me wanting to become a vampire, but after this one...I'm carrying silver and keeping an eye over my shoulder.

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posted by Gil T. @ 10:25 PM Comments: 0

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and The Sea
by Ernest Hemingway
Read by Charlton Heston
Produced by Caedmon 1998
Approx 2.5 hours

Once again I've read one of those books that just should be read. This may have fallen into the category of "assigned reading" in either High School or University, but I was never assigned this book. This is the first Hemingway novel (or in this case novella) I've read or have listened in audio book form. It will not be my last. I'm not surprised at the storytelling talent in Hemingway, after all he is one of the greats, but I'm surprised that this writing seems to be so timeless. There were a few errors in the writing that I will write about later but nothing to really detract from a great story. All in all this was a great audio book to escape from reality during my commute to and from work.

One of the best things about this audio book is that it was read by Charlton Heston. His voice not only enthralled me, but his vocalization of the Old Man (Santiago) talking to himself seemed spot on. I understand there is another audio book read by Donald Sutherland, but I'm happy with the version I heard.

To summarize, "The Old Man and the Sea" is a story of human endurance and endeavor. Santiago, the old man in the story, has recently had an "unlucky streak" in his fishing. Living in a Caribbean fishing village a persons entire raison d'etre is fishing. He is so unlucky that his young apprentice, Manolin, has been forbidden by his parents to fish with Santiago. The night before the village is to go out fishing, Manolin hauls back Santiago's fishing gear, feeding him and discussing American baseball, especially Santiago's idol, Joe DiMaggio. Santiago tells Manolin that on the next day, he will venture far out into the Gulf to fish, confident that his unlucky streak is near its end. Their relationship is established and they have a very close relationship.

The next day Santiago, assisted by Manolin, prepares his skiff for a day of fishing. Santiago rows far off from the rest of the village and sets his lines. Eventually a fish grabs the bait on one line and starts pulling Santiago and his skiff far out to sea. Santiago eventually views the fish and sees that it is an 18 foot marlin and will yield about 1500 pounds of meat. Santiago is pulled out to sea for a couple of days before the fight can begin. The rest of the story is of Santiago's struggle to "land" the fish and then bring it back in. Being one man in a skiff the landing of the fish is a huge struggle but worse is his trip back to the village where he must fight off sharks to keep the fish. The sharks smell the blood in the water and the fish is hanging over the edge of the skiff, easy meal for sharks unless Santiago can defend his prize.

Now really the only thing I had a problem with in this book is the referring to dolphins as fish. Everyone knows dolphins are mammals. Now at first I forgave the error thinking that as a fisherman all bodies in the ocean are referred to as fish. But when Santiago catches a dolphin on the line and cuts it up to eat so he can sustain himself as the days long struggle with the large marlin, Hemingway writes that Santiago cut out the dolphin's gills. It just bothered me a bit, but after that was over the story was so great to hear that I forgave Hemingway for not knowing a dolphin has lungs.

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posted by Gil T. @ 9:36 PM Comments: 0

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

"Juggler of Worlds" by Larry Niven & Edward M. Lerner

"Juggler of Worlds"
by Larry Niven & Edward M. Lerner
Read by Tom Weiner
Produced by Blackstone Audio
Approx. 13 Hours.

Be prepared to be whisked away from word one in this prequel to Larry Niven's classic sci-fi "Ringworld." I have yet to read the Ringworld series of books, but I found this book, being a prequel, did not rely on the series being required reading. This novel takes place 200 years before Ringworld and has a very interesting view of "Known Space."

"Juggler of Worlds" starts out jumping around from moment to moment, year to year, location to location. At first it was a bit hard to follow but once the story got rolling, all the pieces slipped in to place and the story was easily followed and understood. The first half of the book is basically and explanation as to why the characters act as they do in the first half.

This audio book is read by Tom Weiner. Tom's deep voice makes the book easy to listen to and his characterizations of the various humans and aliens helps to keep the story flowing with a good understanding as to who is speaking and thinking.

Sigmund Ausfaller is an Agent for the U.N. More specifically he is a highly valued Agent of the Amalgamated Regional Militia (A.R.M.). What makes him so valuable is that he is a Paranoid. Sigmund is perfect for rooting out conspiracies because he sees conspiracies in everything. The U.N. has several paranoids that are used to uncover conspiracies, these are all made to be paranoid through drugs. Sigmund is a natural paranoid, that's what makes him unique and actually better at the job.

Sigmund meets Nessus, an alien from the race known as The Puppeteers. The Puppeteers are an older race in Known Space and have sold most of the human race technology. Their biggest contribution is known as an indestructible hull space craft. Nothing (except light and gravity) can permeate the hulls thus creating a bit of peace in the universe. Nessus soon becomes Sigmund's adversary after all the Puppeteers mysteriously vanish from known space. The reason suspected is that the center of the galaxy is exploding.

After an indestructible hull returns in a deteriorated state the mystery of what could destroy the indestructible adds on to Sigmund's suspicions of the dissappearance of the Puppeteers. With an exciting chase through hyper-space and beyond Sigmund is determined to find out what is motivating Nessus and the Puppeteers .

Various jumps in space and various characters may seem confusing at first but the mystery unfolds itself with a very nice payoff to end this intelligent science fiction novel. The various aliens; including the Puppeteers, Kzinn and the Outsiders are well thought out races, especially for those of you who, like me, always wondered why every alien in Star Trek is bi-pedal. Here they are not in fact they are creatively constructed in "Juggler of Worlds."

Do yourself a favor and escape into this well written and well read audio book.

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posted by Gil T. @ 8:19 PM Comments: 0