Tag Archives: podcast

Review – Underwood and Flinch by Mike Bennett (Podcast)

mb-underwood-and-flinchToday I’m reviewing Underwood and Flinch, an audiobook/podcast novel by Mike Bennett. His site can be found at http://www.mikebennettpodcast.com// or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/themikebennett. This novel is in the horror genre (in case you couldn’t tell.)

Synopsis: All David Flinch ever wanted was a normal life.

But when you’re a member of the Flinch family, normal has never been easy.

For hundreds of years, the eldest male Flinch has been servant and guardian to the Lord Underwood. While the Flinches have changed through the generations, Underwood, a vampire, has been eternal. David had hoped to be spared the horror of serving his family’s lord and master, but when he is summoned to the Flinch home in Spain by his dying older brother, he knows his luck has run out. Underwood must be resurrected from the grave in a ritual of human sacrifice, and David must be the man to do it. Because if he doesn’t, an even greater evil than Underwood will rise: the evil that is David’s sister.

Underwood and Flinch is an epic horror-thriller that spans the centuries. From the teeming slums of 17th Century London to an ex-pat community in modern-day Spain, this is the new novel from Mike Bennett, author of ‘One Among the Sleepless’ and ‘Hall of Mirrors’.

Production: The recording quality is excellent. I loved the music he chose. He does a bit more with music as the podcast progresses but it never gets in the way. I remember perhaps one duplicated line late in the series.

Grade: A

Cast: Mike does the narration and character voices. He does quite a broad range of accents and voices both the male and female characters. Unlike some podcasters who shall remain nameless (*cough* Scott Sigler *cough*), he does a great job.

Grade: A

Story: This podcast novel weighs in at forty-five episodes. Some of them push past the forty-five minute mark and go into an hour. It consumed my listening for a month. I didn’t listen to a single other podcast during this time. No idea what the word count on this bugger is, but it’s huge and worth (nearly) every second.

I gave some thought about what this podcast is “like”. I decided that it’s very much a soap opera. And I mean that in the best possible way. The writing could use some tweaks, but I kept coming back for the OMG moments and to find out what complete insanity the characters were up to this time. There’s incest, blood, Russian mobsters, decapitations, defenestrations, melodrama, wonderful British slang, pirates, gun fights and absolutely OCEANS of blood. I could see this working well as an HBO miniseries (and it would need to be for the language if nothing else). The whole thing is very cinematic.

Some of the typical vampire tropes are on display here (my favorite ones), but Mike’s obviously thought through them and gives them a few “real world” tweaks. I also love the idea of a human family serving their undead master throughout history. I’d love to see earlier generations of the Flinch family and the capers they got up to. There’s a sequel in the works so maybe I’ll get my wish.

Are there any weaknesses? Sure. More than once characters’ behaviors pull one eighties out of nowhere. I also got taken out of the story once or twice due to a character’s lack of reaction to the supernatural. If this gets turned into a novel it would benefit from an editor and another draft. Still, none of this kept me from coming back for more.

Grade: B

Verdict: I highly recommend this podcast. I think it actually may work better as an audio book than it might as a novel. The aforementioned cinematic quality comes out strongly in this format. Still, when this comes out in book form I’ll be buying it and this is one of those podcasts that will get my financial support down the road.

Grade: A

Review – Enemy Lines (Podcast)

enemylinescover2 Today I’m reviewing Enemy Lines, an audiobook/podcast novel by John Mierau. His site can be found at http://johnmierau.wordpress.com/ or follow him on Twitter at JohnMierau. This is an EPIC bit of science fiction, both in terms of scope and length.

Synopsis: In the near future, an alliance forged by powerful men will challenge the US government for control of secret technology. As their machinations gear up, the true owners of that technology will face a challenge of their own, deep in the asteroid belt. At stake? The future of the human race. ENEMY LINES is a science fiction adventure about conspiracies, spies…and aliens… in a future where the lines aren’t as clear as you think.

Production: The recording quality is good. I noticed more than a few repeated lines. The intro music is a bit louder than the narration.

Grade: B-

Cast: John does the narration and character voices.

Grade: B

Story: I mentioned that this is a huge story. He’s released the first half of it in ebook form with Subversion and Infiltration. I believe that the final two books will be out sometime this year. It logs in at forty-five episodes that are somewhere around thirty minutes each. It’s packed with political intrigue, action, thought provoking characters, action, thrills, and have I mentioned action? All of that serves (mostly) to keep the story from getting bogged down with its multiple plot lines and points of view. I found John’s take on the typical gray alien tropes to be fascinating. I also enjoyed the concept of the Wrights, human’s who are using alien tech to help humanity.

There were a few character actions and incidents that made me raise an eyebrow. The didn’t interfere with my enjoyment. I say mostly above because there’s a lot going on here. As a result it may be easy to get lost. There were also a few things I was unclear on, particularly towards the end. That could easily be because my listening was broken up by other podcasts I listen to, so that may not be the books fault entirely.

Grade: A-

Verdict: This gets a solid recommendation from me, as do the rest of John’s podcast stories. His strength’s lie in building tension and creating interesting characters. There were also a few chuckles along the way.

Grade: B+

Review – Unkillable (Podcast)

unkillable_podiocover Today I’m reviewing Unkillable, an audiobook/podcast novel by Patrick E. McLean. His site can be found at http://www.patrickemclean.com or follow him on Twitter at PatrickEMcLean. This book falls into the gritty paranormal genre. I’ve been a fan of Mr. McLean’s for some time and have enjoyed all of his stories.

Synopsis: Unkillable is the story of a young man who is cruelly murdered then brought back from the dead to revenge himself. The kicker is: He’s not really alive. He can be hurt, he just can’t be killed.

It’s dark and funny and sad and beautiful and violent and magical — if it could be summed up with just a few words, there would have been no point in writing a novel.

Unkillable. Life sucks. Death blows. In between is worse.

Production: Solid recording. I didn’t catch any flubs. The music sets the mood and is the same from episode to episode.

Grade: B

Cast: I love his voice and his characterizations. He does voices for each character.

Grade: B+

Story: There’s a reason that Patrick has a business helping people put good words in the right order. There’s a lot of that here. I found myself chuckling at the dark humor and there’s a LOT of that. There are some nice twists and turns. I wouldn’t call this a zombie story per se. The protagonist is a kind of revenant I suppose. In any case, it’s certainly a story unlike any I’ve read or listened to lately.

Grade: A+

Verdict: I would suggest putting this in your queue and bumping it to the top. Then you’ll want to find the rest of his stories and listen to them as well.

Grade: A-

Available as an e-book on Amazon.

Review – One Way (Podcast)

OneWayCover_Plain_Half Today I’m reviewing One Way, an audiobook/podcast novel by Jeff Lane. You can go to his site here or follow him on Twitter at WriterJeffLane. This book falls into the thriller/sci fi genre, though more the former and less the latter. It deals with time travel but in a way that’s, to my mind, more fantasy than SF.

Synopsis: Barry Griffith doesn’t know it yet, but tonight is the night fate has chosen to be the night of his death… his murder.
At a gas station in the middle of nowhere, late at night, his wife Jenny appears… no car… no coat and looking older than when he saw her last. That’s because this is not the woman he received a good-bye kiss from this morning. This woman has been a widow for over four years and has made an impossible journey back in time to try to stop her husband’s murder.
Will they be able to escape the killers or does fate only have one plan… one possible outcome… ONE WAY?

Production: I listened to most of this over my car stereo (as I’m doing increasingly these days, but it was also in the ear buds. In both cases the audio is clean. I don’t recall any repeats. He uses music that’s appropriate to set mood. Occasionally the volume of the music is much louder than the spoken parts. That made me have to fiddle with volume a bit.

Grade: B+

Cast: Jeff did this as what I think I’ll call a dramatized read. Each character got their own voice, but it was all done by Jeff. Overall he did a good job, though he did an Indian accent that was a little too stereotypical.

Grade: B

Story: There’s a lot of jumping around in this. The story is told from multiple points of view, which for some can be off putting (and not just two or three POV characters). It’s also takes place in multiple timelines. The chapters more or less alternate between Barry in the “now” and Jenny in his future as she prepares to make the trip back in time. That jarred me a little at first, but as both timelines built to their climax, I kinda dug it. As we approached the end, there was one other thing that w rankled me a little. It suffers from the LOTR ending. Jeff ties up every single last loose end. This results in the end chapters being a little choppy and the overall feeling that it drug on. He also plays hard on the “is he dead YET?!?!” thing that you see in more than one slasher flick.

So was it any good? Yes. These few problems aside (and YMMV as to how problematic those problems are), this was a solid story, well told. I do like his vision of time travel, it being a more natural phenomenon. The most fun he has is with the “can you change the past?” question. I won’t give away his answer, but it left me satisfied.

Grade: B-

Verdict: I believe this is Jeff’s first podcast novel. He’s got two more: This Paper World and Crush Depth. I’ll be checking them out in that order. One Way and Crush Depth are available at Podiobooks. I didn’t stray from it once I started listening, though other podcasts beckoned. Well worth checking out.

Grade: B

Review – Scrolls (Podcast)

Today I’m dropping a review of the podcast novella Scrolls. It’s part of Paul E. Cooley’s continuing Garaaga’s Children series. It’s a blend of psychological horror and historical fiction. The podcast can be downloaded here and you can download it as an unabridged audio book and e-book here.

Synopsis: Rashim the Hunter killed the beast.

The Keepers kept the legend alive.

The Macedonians uncovered the ancient book.

And now, in the Library of Alexandria, the greatest storehouse of human knowledge, one scribe discovers the truth about the god Garaaga–this is not a legend.

Scrolls, volume four in the Garaaga’s Children saga, ties together the previous tales in a fiery conclusion.

Production: Paul, as usual, does a straight read. His gravely voice is put through its paces as he lends each character its own voice. He does a fine job of that. The sound is clean as always and there are minimal sound effects.

Grade: B+

Cast: Straight read by Paul

Grade: B+

Story: The thing I appreciate about Paul and this series is that he’s doing something fresh. He’s built an alternate history (at least I hope so) and is examining places and times that few if any authors are. To that mix he’s added his own horrific twist in the guise of this demi-god Garaaga and his offspring. This tale is takes place in Alexandria and he imagines what the great library could have been like. I found the whole thing believable. I certainly can’t speak to the historicity of it, but it strikes me that he’s done his research. More important than that to me is the fact that this is a tight story filled with good characters. This is less about the blood and gore and more about a search for truth and the dark places that can take you. The horror here is more about the things people are willing to do to one another to advance an agenda and one man’s fear and how he faces it.

Grade: A-

Verdict: It’s no secret that I love Paul and his work. Even if you aren’t into horror per se you might think about checking this series out. It’s not about psycho killers, evil supernatural forces, or cannibalistic freaks. While those elements are here (It’s Paul after all) he’s stretching out into other genres and you may enjoy this even if his other works aren’t your cuppa. And hey, it’s free. You’d benefit from going back to listen to all of the entries in this series (though I don’t know that it’s required). I hope you enjoy it!

Grade: B++


I saw a post on Facebook this morning that made me want to spew my guts in a rant. I’ll try and keep it dialed down, since I don’t know all of the details, but suffice it to say that apparently a “fan” gave a podcaster some degree of grief for not giving away all of their stuff for free.

I got into podcasting for a few reasons. The first and foremost was that I was inspired by the likes of Mur Lafferty, JC Hutchins, Scott Sigler, and a whole host of the first generation podcast fiction writers. They were getting their words in front of people in a new way. It helped them build an audience and a community of support. Their generosity (and taking the untold hours to create the audio after taking the hours to write is beyond generous) was inspiring. I wanted to do that. So, I did.

There’s a problem though. In some circles it seems that this generosity has created a sense of entitlement. I’ll admit to falling prey to that a time or two. When Hutch stepped down from podcasting his fiction my gut reaction was somewhat negative. He owed his fans, didn’t he? Eventually I realized the bullshit behind my anger. I cheered him on and he’s doing some awesome things.

Here’s how you respond to the generosity that podcasters are displaying, when/if they decide to put down the microphone (or even before then). Buy their stuff if they have stuff for sale. If they don’t, and not all podcasters are fiction writers who put their works out there in e-book/dead tree formats, or if you can’t (hey, times are tough and we don’t all have ducats to spare), there are other options. Review their podcasts on iTunes and the other venues set up for that. Blog about them. Use social media to spread the word.

To that end, I give my heartfelt thanks to Mur, Scott, and JC. There are more people than that though.

Currently in my iPod I’m pleased to be listening to:

Dan Absalonson
Decoder Ring Theatre
Every Photo Tells
Flash Pulp
The Functional Nerds
HG World
How To Disappear Completely
Mike Plested
Jen And Dave
John Mierau
Living Proof
Keith Hughes
Clay Dugger
The Roundtable Podcast
Paul Cooley
Supervillain Corner
Timothy C Ward

And that doesn’t count the dozens of podcasters, bloggers, and other folks that have given me years of FREE CONTENT since I’ve been traveling the intertubes. You people are all awesome. Please keep it coming and let me know how I can help you!

Review – Crown of Exiles: Battlehymn (Podcast)

Today I’m dropping a review of the podcast novel Crown of Thorns: Battlehymn, the first in a series of manga inspired sci-fi by Zach Ricks. You can find it here.

Synopsis: Zach didn’t provide a handy synopsis so I’ll do my best. Shem is a busker on the streets of the capital planet. He accidentally helps out some strangers by humming and is rewarded for his efforts by being saved from possible enslavement. See, Shem is a budding skald. In this world that means he can affect reality with the power of his voice. That means he’s a weapon and those in power would like to use him, with or without his consent. His saviors take him to a distant space station and invite him to join their mechanized powered armor driving paramilitary unit for hire. From that point things only get more exciting and complicated for him and they involve a princess on the run, a rival skald, and the POWER OF ROCK AND ROLL!

Production: Zach does this as a straight read and the sound is clean. The use of music is good. As a side note, he apparently composed and performed a tune just for this podcast. It was a talent I didn’t know he had. For a story that has music at its heart that’s pretty important.

Grade: B+

Cast: As I said this is a straight read. As usual Zach does so with excellent emotion and inflection.

Grade: B

Story: There are a few plot holes, but when you’re talking about a story that involves giant mechs and the use of song to affect the quantum fabric of the universe, that’s probably to be expected. They’re not glaring and they didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story. The ending seems to come to a head rather quickly, but it provides some nice surprises and a small slice of cheese. All in all I was very satisfied and had a hard time waiting for the next entry.

Grade: B+

Verdict: I highly recommend checking this out. Interestingly enough if podcast fiction just isn’t your bag, you can get the text version from his site for free. No idea when or if he’ll pull that from his site, so get it while you can. If you’re looking for a “clean” story with enough action, adventure, and intrigue with a dash of romance then give this a listen. I do believe this would be YA safe as well, so share it with your teens.

Grade: B+

Review – Acts of Desperation Podcast

Today I’m reviewing Acts of Desperation by Tim Dodge.

Synopsis: Ray Davis is newly divorced, going nowhere at a dead-end job in a warehouse, and has almost worked off the debts his ex-wife rang up. Then his underinsured brother’s need for a liver transplant forces Ray to come up with a lot of money, fast. When he attempts to recover the profit he made with an old business partner, Ray discovers that the partner is dead and his investment has fallen into the hands of a drug dealer. The dealer has used the cash to buy a large supply of cocaine; he and his gun are not inclined to return the proceeds. Ray enlists a crude private eye to help him get it back, and he falls in love with Jenna, a beautiful waitress. His struggle to recover the money soon takes him deep into a swamp of crime, drugs, murder and revenge. Caught in a war between rival dealers, he comes to realize that the stakes have risen beyond the woman he loves or the money he needs to save his brother. He’s fighting for his life.

Production: Production is this podcast novel’s weakest point. Tim makes use of music on occasion and while the music itself is okay, the placement is inconsistent and distracting. He was trying to use it to up the dramatic tension during certain scenes and it had the opposite effect. There are times where the music doesn’t fade out when it should, instead stopping abruptly. He also changes his intro music at least once. Finally, I was able to hear paper rattling as he read, though it wasn’t particularly loud. Generally the audio of the reading itself was clean, but the rest of the errors could have been easily remedied.

Grade: C-

Cast: This is a straight read by Tim. He’s got a good voice and uses it to dramatic effect on a number of occasions. It’s definitely more of a performance than a read at certain points and he really gets into it.

Grade: B+

Story: The story kept me coming back in spite of the issues with the production. It’s told from Ray’s point of view, in the first person. It worked well in this case. I kept thinking of Breaking Bad throughout the course of the story, not at all a bad thing. I love stories that take the protagonist and force them into desperate acts, making them come out on the other side a different person. I have mixed feelings about the ending. I won’t spoil it, but I felt like it robbed a little from the overall impact of the story and Ray’s journey. Still, it was a good deal of fun.

I’m not sure if this is Tim’s first novel length work, but it felt like an early novel. There were a few issues with the writing. Some events could have been tightened up and it was a little rough in spots. He hit a few things spot on. Ray’s inexperience with guns and the effect it had on certain action scenes was well done. The character flaws that Ray had were also well exploited.

Grade: B+

Verdict: I definitely recommend giving this a listen. It’s a fun and at times brutal story, especially towards the end. If you’re offended by strong language and violence, give it a pass.

Grade: B

Review – Tools and Means Podcast Novella

Today I’m reviewing Tools and Means by John Mireau.

Synopsis: Tom Brogan. An ordinary guy. With a sister in a coma. Seeing visions of a murderer. Becoming one himself…. and Tom is the hero.

Production: The production was clean. There were no sound effects or music. I did notice one or two instances of line repeats that were left in.

Grade: B

Cast: This is a one man show. Like a few other podcasters, John went the route of acting out each character. He does a solid job differentiating the characters. I didn’t notice any digital manipulation. I did notice that John is Canadian, but did not take away any points for that.

Grade: B+

Story: I went into this “blind”. I hadn’t even read the limited show notes. It’s a good way to go in if you can, cause about three episode in he pulls the rug out from under you. This is an eleven episode story and they’re each fairly short. Still it seems like a much longer story (in a good way) and at the end it left me wanting more (also in a good way). This is a lead in to a future story, but stands well on its own. The only down side (if down side there is), is that there’s a far amount of POV change, but given the nature of the protagonist and what happens to him, that worked here.

Grade: A

Verdict: You should definitely add this to your short list. I will be going into John’s back catalog and checking out his other stories based on the strength of this one.

Grade: A-

Review – Spirit Blade Podcast

Today I’m reviewing Spirit Blade by Paeter Frandsen.

Synopsis: In a future where the government mandates the spiritual beliefs of its citizens, only a few rebellious “Seekers of Truth” remain to free the world from deception.

On his quest for meaning, Merikk follows a path that leads him across our world, and into another. Against his will he is thrown into action alongside members of the Underground Liberation, standing face to face against forces human, alien and demonic. Science fiction and the supernatural collide in a genre-bending adventure! Open your mind and then brace for impact as you discover the power of the Spirit Blade!

The Spirit Blade Audio Book is a novel that serves as the source material for the scripts of the Spirit Blade Audio Drama Trilogy. This archived draft has been converted into an enhanced audio book format read by Paeter Frandsen and featuring sound effects and musical score from the “Spirit Blade” and “Spirit Blade: Dark Ritual” audio dramas!

Production: Absolutely stellar. This is, in my opinion, professional quality. The music and sound effects all add to the atmosphere.

Grade: A+

Cast: Paeter does all of the voice work, male and female. He truly acts it out. There’s also a fair amount of digital manipulation unless I miss my guess. This does lead to a few oddities, like one character who reminds me of Christian Bale’s Batman.

Grade: B+

Story: Paeter describes this as “Christian Science Fiction”. From his site:

[It] is simply science fiction with a Christian twist. The realms of sci-fi and fantasy have already been touched by classic writers of the Christian faith like John Bunyan, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Modern authors like Frank Peretti, Stephen R. Lawhead, the duo of Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, along with several others, have also delved into worlds of Christian sci-fi and fantasy.

Sometimes these stories are allegorical. Other times they are more literal. They may take place in our future, an alternative past, or possibly in worlds and realities completely different and alien to our own. They may contain clear presentations of Biblical truth, or simply uphold the values and ideals of the Bible. But something of Christianity is always found in their depths.

Overall, I’d say that the writing is good, though perhaps not great. The story certainly entertained me. I did like his take on demons and how they might interact with the real/spiritual world. The story moved quickly (at times too quickly) and there was a great deal of action and a surprising amount of violence. I say surprising given the nature of this otherwise typical bit of Christian fiction. By that I mean, Paeter doesn’t use any swear words, pulling a BSG and making up his own. There’s also a lack of sexual situations. The characters are all a little two dimensional, especially the bad guys. I barely noticed that though as the action and pacing pulled me along.

Grade: B-/C+

Verdict: The best part about this book was the action and the production. It really immersed you into the world that Paeter created. If you’re a fan of the authors he mentions then you’ll likely get a kick out of this.

Grade: B+

Addendum: While I enjoyed this, I will say there are some things about it that made me ponder. This is one of those works of Christian fiction that both displays and disproves some things that bother me about the genre (if Christian Fic is really a genre per se).

For the former, this strikes me as something that only a Christian would listen to and enjoy. That bothers me a little since, as a writer who is a Christian, I believe we need to produce things that make it out of our little ghetto. The amount of “preachiness” is in places excessive. Does the book really need that considering its audience? There’s also that weird vibe I get from books that splash a fair amount of gore and violence around but won’t drop an F bomb (unless it’s “frell”) and won’t show a boob (not that sex is necessary, but it’s at least as human as violence). This isn’t limited to Christian lit, but we seem to fall prey to it most often.

For the latter, this proves that Christians can put out a quality, polished product. Much of what I’ve seen in our ‘verse suffers in that department. There’s also some grayness in some of the characters that one doesn’t often see in this slice of entertainment. Some of the good guys aren’t all that “good”. If Paeter had slowed the pace down some and developed some of the characters further that would have made for a more solid story.