Audiobooks

January 2015 Audiobooks Review by Jonathan Lowe

on

umpire

Having completed my assignment as a first round judge in the Audie awards, I am rushing to catch up on listening time for other audiobooks. Only one new one to review this outing, but so you won’t feel cheated I shall also review my own new sports satire written under the assumed name Walter Witty. Imagine he’s my alter egomaniac, and I’m reviewing this split personality from a safe distance. Plus I can talk about the narrator, who isn’t me, even in the real (ie. sports) universe. Note: I am forbidden to talk about the more than a dozen titles I judged in the Audies, and can’t name the titles either, since publishers could then discover which category I judged. But I will say that there are some interesting and impressive entries this year, and choosing which to go forward to the next round should be challenging for all the judges. The ulitimate winners will be announced at the awards ceremony in May, in conjunction with the Audio Publishers Association and Book Expo America. Now to the two titles at hand…

THE UMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES by the aforementioned “Walter Witty” is a comedy based on the premise that sports is, in fact, religion. How anyone can debate this is beyond me (ie. Witty.) Hasn’t the phrase “it’s more than just a game” been repeated more than just a million times by grown men in designer suits preaching to grown men with their faces painted orange–and with spiked hair–just before cutting to a commercial for fizzy sugar water? Roger Goodell, the “Supreme High Commissioner of the NFL Dioceces,” might have tried to prevent the release of this book (if not Kim and Rodman), had they hacked the manuscript. Comedic diary entries, stories, and a Lossary of Terms form the content brought to hilarious life by ESPN producer and voice actor Barry Abrams. He’s the perfect choice to elicit the listener’s empathy in dealing with (and overcoming) sports obsessions, too. Why “Witty?” That’s homage to Walter Mitty, who dreams of an adventurous life away from the dugout or gridiron. Why “Umpire?” That’s homage to the fabled “Emperor” whom no one has had the “balls” to say is naked…for fear of losing their head in the arena games. (Until now, that is. Under a pseudonym. Like Salman Rushdie.)

GENOCIDE OF ONE by Kazuaki Takano was translated by Philip Gabriel, and is read by Jon Kaezevich. What attracted me to this suspense with SF leanings was the plot. A band of four mercenaries is hired by the President’s black ops security team to kill some Pygmies in the Congo whose strange new virus may pose a threat to mankind. They are also instructed to kill a new kind of creature that may be in their midst, and which they (the mercenaries) will know (on sight) has never been seen before. Furthermore, this one unique creature may be a child. Is the threat really a virus? One of the men wonders. Don’t want to ruin it for you, but suffice it to say humanity is about to change and evolve into a new species, due to a genetic accident…and those in power don’t want anything to change. (Not just Roger Goodell.) Having also written a novella about the possibility of mankind evolving (Transcendence 2: The Nexus Ultimatum), I am sure you can see my attraction to this story, but whether you will love it depends on if you can enjoy provocative fiction in addition to variations on the typical (ie. serial killers, war stories, coming of age, zombies, boy meets girl, etc.). There is discussion of anthopology, sociology, morality, pharmacology, and even ESP and computer hacking in the mix, here. A subplot involves the saving of a mercenary’s son. The narrator is excellent, although perhaps his interpreted female voices need work. There may also be some padding of the text, but none of this is a greater flaw to me, at least, than rewriting what others have already done, or not engaging the mind of the listener (in addition to one’s more visceral imagination.) Good versus evil is the theme, and that is certainly not new. But widening the view in order to contemplate man as violent, evolving animal, fighting his own destiny, is not usually tackled in pop fiction. With an able and listenable narrator on board, only diehard sports fans (with little time for science) might be bored by this. But those folks are probably not reading this review because there’s a game on.

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