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Sci-Fi & Fantasy

In the ninth book of this series, narrator Lorelei King once again revels in grim reaper Charley Davidson's snarky attitude. Though the book begins with Charley suffering from amnesia and living as Janey Doer, a waitress in a small-town diner, it's none too long until she's back to solving mysteries. With the help of a few familiar figures, including sexy Reyes and caring Cookie, she's soon attempting to discover her own forgotten self and rescue those she can sense are in trouble. A variety of different character voices makes King's narration lively and entertaining. While new listeners will benefit by starting with the first book, Charley's amnesia does give them the opportunity to explore the series from here. J.M. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Stefan Rudnicki's full-bodied deep voice sounds like one might imagine the voice of God. So who better to narrate this tale of guilt and redemption? Rudnicki's tone is full of sorrow and anguish when voicing Malcolm Mays, who runs away to a small Oregon town to escape a tragic accident. His new life is quickly derailed when he receives mail from Dusha Chuchoonyhoof, a town legend who claims to be the owner of Malcolm's house. Dusha is about to be released from prison, and he expects Malcolm to perform a gory ritual to welcome him home. The novel draws on a dizzying blend of Kalapuya, Welsh, Scottish, and Norse mythology, and the listener's bewilderment is echoed by Rudnicki's Malcolm. The veteran narrator aids listeners by making the town's oddball denizens distinctive and the paranormal elements clear. D.E.M. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Alyssa Bresnahan is so good that it’s possible just to enjoy her voice and forget everything else. Luckily, this geeky, spiritual love story is strong enough to keep listeners riveted, and Bresnahan’s performance is the icing on a very tasty cake. Teenagers Patricia and Laurence are outsiders. Patricia is a tender earth spirit, a budding witch who speaks to birds, while Laurence is a techno-genius, inventor of a time-machine watch that can propel him two seconds into the future. Bresnahan controls the razor-sharp wit and clever dialogue, channeling the over-the-top characters—from Patricia’s sadistic sister to a high-ranking assassin-cum-guidance counselor and an unlikely incarnation of Mother Nature. Which will save the world from political and ecological catastrophe—science or magic? Or is it too late? S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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The Zee brothers are called to cope with an infestation of undead Native Americans who have been disturbed by landscaping work in a gated community. Get ready to chuckle as this comic book rises from the page in the voice of opera tenor Ian McEuan. The delightfully voiced characters range from the smarter to the goofier brother and from the hot young woman who joins forces with them to the various undead, soon-to-be-dead, and toothless dead. They all romp through a tight plot with appropriate sound effects and music provided by metal rockers Frostbite. McEuan delivers much fun as the gearshift of the Zees’ truck offers suggestive situations for its three passengers. Yes, there IS room for one more zombie listen! F.M.R.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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This may be the best Marvel audiobook ever created! It takes full advantage of technology but doesn’t overburden the listener with over-the-top performances or special effects. The actor playing Daredevil conveys equal parts strength and uncertainty as he’s caught up in a holy war, which thrusts a dilemma upon him when he’s asked to kill a baby to save the earth. While the acting is top-notch, the plot is the star as Daredevil struggles to do the right thing. The narrators who portray the villains refrain from caricature. Instead, they make the crime kingpins and otherworldly creatures drip with evil without losing any credibility. M.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Narrator R.C. Bray lends his expertise to this darker entry in the Valducan series, which features demon-hunting knights in New Orleans. Bray's deep voice and rich accent suit voodoo practitioner Malcolm exceptionally well. When a betrayal leads to Malcolm's possession by a werewolf demon, listeners directly experience the deepest horrors of the Valducan world. Bray's tempered reading helps assuage some of the story's gruesome scenes. As Malcolm struggles with his defilement and the loss of his holy machete, Hounancier, Order member Matt Romero (from Book 1, DAMOREN) arrives, determined to slay Malcolm and the demon within him. Tension builds steadily as the stakes increase and Bray keeps listeners on the edge of their seats. J.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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A prideful, gruff-voiced captain has vowed to make his crystal-powered airship with all its rigging battle worthy once again. Along the way, he takes on a young noblewoman and a talking cat as passengers. It's part pirate tale, part high fantasy, part coming-of-age story, and all steam punk. Obie Award winner and Scottish-born Euan Morton narrates this sprawling opening volume of THE CINDER SPIRES with the spirit of a buccaneer and an ear for a couple of dozen different vocal rhythms and dialects from the British Isles. Morton is especially adept at naturally carrying on the conversations between the growling shipmates and the highborn Gwen. Morton keeps the action moving and speaks "cat" perfectly. B.P. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Authentic sound effects, the John Williams score, and Marc Thompson's range of voices and accents make this a true "movie in your mind" audio experience (and even more so if you've seen THE FORCE AWAKENS on the big screen). This novelization picks up 30 years or so after the events of the original movie trilogy that concluded with RETURN OF THE JEDI. Thompson goes at it with gusto--he gives individual voices to characters old and new that echo those of the movie actors and ramps up the excitement during pitched battles between TIE fighters and X-wings. And you'll love BB-8, the little astromech droid whose unique beeps and trills are included. Good listening fun for Star Wars fans. J.M.D. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Oh, wow. This audiobook has come out just as "Walking Dead" fans must get through some long, cold nights until the show returns in February. Narrator Fred Berman paints a gory picture of life for the people of Woodbury who haven’t yet been eaten by zombies. The survivors, mostly the elderly and children, help heroine Lilly Caul battle the evil Reverend Jeremiah Garlitz and his army of the dead. There are some powerful twists, including one at the end that will have fans shouting in glee. This audio production doesn’t encroach on either the television show or the comic series. Instead, it creates its own mythology using people on the fringes. M.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Jenny Sterlin has fun with the playful language used in this genre-crossing fantasy/Regency romance. In the 1800s, the head magician of England, the sorcerer royal, is a freed black man. While struggling to maintain his position in the face of jealous, racist competitors, he meets a talented young woman who should hide her magic but who cannot help but shine with her power. Romance, magic, feminism, race relations—Cho tackles them all with graceful writing, and Sterlin voices them with joy and aplomb. Her raspy yet supple voice creates memorable characters. Magic may be the central concern of this book, and the literary constraints of the Regency romance may limb its fantasy, but fans of both genres will find something to enjoy. G.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Private investigator/wizard Harry Dresden has seen it all. While performing this audiobook, narrator James Marsters gives voice to a weariness that perfectly conveys Dresden’s worldview. In all three stories in this collection, the magical PI is hired by, that’s right, Bigfoot. As described by Butcher and performed by Marsters, Bigfoot has a rumbling voice with a slight Native American accent. Butcher’s long-running Dresden Files series has a champion in Marsters; he has narrated all the audiobooks. His familiarity allows him to slip seamlessly into Dresden’s shoes and spin a magical aural web, which even new listeners will become caught up in. G.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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The concepts in this production, based on a graphic novel, are perfectly executed by a full cast. The work includes a great deal of ambient sound—background chatter, passing traffic, even the ocean—because it was recorded in various locations. This adds to the credibility of the story, which is about a strange family haunted by a magical history involving mysterious keys that open many things, including the mind. The large cast, including some familiar names from stage and screen, builds a world where almost anything is possible with the right key—which evil forces also want to possess. The large cast sometimes makes it hard to identify the speaker. And while the special effects are generally good, a few fight scenes are just a series of grunts and slaps, leaving the listener perplexed about what’s happening. The heroes of the book are children and teenagers, which offers some interesting scenarios. Kate Mulgrew leads the way with her perfect portrayal of an ancient grandmother with an evil streak. M.S. 2016 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s 1990 comic novel about the Apocalypse translates perfectly to radio theater. The full cast of British voices enhances the zany nature of the story, which features witches, witch hunters, prophecies, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and an 11-year-old Antichrist. Standouts include Peter Serafinowicz and Mark Heap as odd couple Crowley (a demon) and Aziraphale (an angel), who’d like to avert the end of days because they rather enjoy the comforts of their lives on Earth. Sound effects make the production, which was adapted and directed by Dirk Maggs for BBC Radio, a fully immersive experience. Authors Gaiman and Pratchett even make a cameo appearance. It’s all wonderfully silly fun. J.M.D. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Thor, Spider-Man, the Hulk, and other mighty heroes of the Marvel Universe are pitted against Dr. Doom, Molecule Man, Ultron, and other mighty villains in a battle to the finish in an alien world. It takes 41 GraphicAudio actors to bring the story vividly to life, as dozens of characters are involved in the complex plot. Lots of sound effects as well as internal and external dialogue make listeners feel they’re part of the story. The only misstep, and it's a big one, is that Dr. Doom sounds like Dracula. Special kudos go to the actor who portrays the Hulk, who is facing the prospect of losing his mind. M.S. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Crichton's masterpiece of sci-fi, written in a disturbingly plausible way, still haunts the heart and mind 25 years later. Scott Brick brings a chilling calm to the complex story with his deep, even tone and clear enunciation. Unlike the movie, the plot is a slow burn, full of dark twists and turns that Brick magnifies by slowing down his pace during moments of suspense while maintaining a cool, professional inflection. He does a particularly fine portrayal of John Hammond, the creator of the controversial park, giving the character a raspy edge that suits the dark agenda beneath his grandfatherly facade. The dinosaurs await, and one cannot deny the cerebral thrill when Brick brings the listener through the park’s gates. Absolutely riveting. E.E. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This sequel to THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING is a complex weaving of the stories of Kelsea, the current Queen of Tear, and Lily, who was alive in the 21st century when a portion of America crossed over to a pre-technological society at the time of the founding of the Tear. Davina Porter assists the listener in keeping the storylines straight as they gradually converge. Her portrayal of Kelsea is nuanced and inviting. Porter draws on the feisty and passionate nature of the 19-year-old queen, particularly in her sparring with the condescending leaders of the church who, while unduly concerned with prudish morality, contribute little to the well-being of the people. Porter’s engagement with the characters and plot is contagious. J.E.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 ALA Media Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Audio is THE way to experience the Night Vale novel. What would the adventures of Night Vale and its citizens be if not told to us by intrepid community radio host Cecil Palmer? Cecil, played by Cecil Baldwin, is the voice of the wildly popular "Welcome to Night Vale" podcast, of which the novel is an offspring. Baldwin does double duty here, narrating the main text as well as interludes of the radio show that occur within it, in which there are also brief cameos by some additional voices. Baldwin's deep, rich voice is always attuned to the weirdness that abounds in this small desert town. Ultimately, the shorter, self-contained podcast episodes are more successful than the sprawling novel, but it's fun to dive more deeply into the Night Vale universe. For fans, it's a must-listen. J.M.D. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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In the second in the Defenders of Shannara series, main character Arcanan, a sorcerer and a villain to be reckoned with, has focused his attention on a young minstrel whose “wish song” is undeveloped and its power uncontrolled. Returning to the series, narrator Simon Vance is comfortable with the Druids and their protectors, who set out to help the boy. Vance maintains listener interest through the expansive range of voices he provides for the new characters and the many recurring ones. He also uses pace to good effect in the dialogue and in the magical battles. Listeners will hear him as a storyteller who has many secrets to tell. J.E.M. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Synthesizing epic fantasy with ancient Chinese culture and lore is difficult enough to pull off on paper—it must also be approached with a considerable amount of familiarity and confidence to make it work on audio. Michael Kramer brings both to his performance of the first in Liu’s Dandelion Dynasty series. As audiobook listeners know, stories this large in scale can quickly become convoluted if the narrator fails to differentiate between characters, storylines, and tone. Kramer pays special attention to these pitfalls, and the resulting product is nuanced, sometimes emotional, and surprisingly personal overall. It’s clear that he believes in this new series, and his personal investment propels the experience of listening. N.J.B. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator John Keating’s bright, lively voice makes this story of a young female warrior who is caught up in political machinations sound crisp and almost cheery. The main character, Thorn, stands out from her fellows as a fighting woman and queen’s champion. Keating gives her a distinct Suffolk accent—rounding the sound of “i’’ into “oi”—which sets her apart. His depiction of political minister Father Yarvi sounds sly and smart, and unwilling warrior Brand is portrayed as good-natured and forthright. The queens and empresses come across as delicate yet powerful. This is a wonderful audiobook for listeners who enjoy a strong dose of politics with their fantasy, as in “Game of Thrones.” G.D. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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This story is a tale of men—their attitudes, their shortcomings, and, ultimately, their triumphs. What better instrument to bring to life this group of soldiers and scientists than the gravelly, versatile voice of character actor David Morse? He successfully taps into the novel's paranoic narrative about something deadly that comes back to Earth on a spacecraft. After most residents of a small Arizona town are found dead, a team of researchers comes together to contain the infestation. With a combination of pacing and intonation, Morse skillfully captures both the scientists' theoretical precision and the soldiers' world-weary gruffness. Even though the ending feels a bit pat, this production remains a thrill ride that will grab listeners. D.E.M. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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With multiple storylines told from different perspectives, this complex novel keeps the listener guessing at every turn. Gabrielle de Cuir opens the narrative with the voices of astronauts Julia, an Australian, and her husband, Victor, a Russian, who have succeeded in creating a life for themselves on Mars. De Cuir succeeds beautifully in keeping both accents distinct and accurate and in giving the characters added dimension. Stefan Rudnicki's rumbling tones seem to convey the majesty and expanse of deep space, which Richard Gilliland echoes with his own low timbre. Susan Hanfield rounds out the cast with a clipped, authoritative voice for Captain Axelrod, who’s leading another ambitious expedition to explore life found on frigid Pluto. This stellar ensemble cohesively enlivens the slower parts of the plot and makes the action sequences positively shine. E.E. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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In a futuristic New York City that separated from the mainland U.S. when the sea level rose, private detective Simone Pierce’s surveillance case becomes not so routine when her target is murdered and she becomes the primary suspect. Celeste Ciulla’s narration is fast moving and engaging. She highlights the relationships between Simone and her high-powered best friend, the deputy mayor; her psychic friend, who helps solve her case; and her new client, who tries to wine and dine her. Ciulla ably portrays the facets of Simone’s character that each of those characters draws out. She vividly depicts the personas of the ancillary characters as well—from the power brokers of the city to their fastidious executive assistants. J.E.M. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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The many original concepts in this latest Old Man's War title put the audiobook far above much of the science fiction found in books and movies today. Tavia Gilbert and William Dufris are disarmingly genial as they trade off narrating chapters. Gilbert, in particular, manages to convey a bird-like alien perfectly in her section, and Dufris is fully believable even as a disembodied brain in control of a spaceship. The world of the future has the Earth in a cold war against its own colonists as well as aliens. The story is so compelling that many will find it impossible to stop listening. The best news is that, despite the title, this book doesn’t end the series. M.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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A quiet séance between friends goes horribly wrong when they discover there are ghosts, poltergeists, and beings from different times and dimensions threatening London from all directions. Sounds like it’s time to call in J.C. Chance and his team of supernatural and telepathic experts from the Carnacki Institute. Once again, bestselling science fiction and fantasy author Green has teamed up with GraphicAudio to create their unique blend of audio mayhem, this time featuring driving background music, myriad sounds effects, and plenty of creepy ghost voices. With a broad Cockney accent, Nanette Savard maintains the story’s narrative thread, allowing the rest of the cast to have fun keeping up the suspense. B.P. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Aza Ray has been drowning for her entire life, afflicted with an incurable disease that baffles her doctors. Therese Plummer's emotional narration, drawing forth both Aza's world-weary realism and her snarky attitude, will elicit a strong emotional response from listeners. However, it's Michael Crouch's embodiment of Aza's neurotic best friend, Jason, that steals the show when Aza dies just before her sixteenth birthday. When Aza awakens in a new body, in a new strange world, the alternating chapters from Jason's perspective ground the story, allowing listeners to slowly adjust to the alien world-building elements. As Aza struggles to understand her new identity and learns to harness her new abilities, fantasy fans will be fascinated with the inventive Magonian world. J.M. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Gabrielle de Cuir takes listeners inside an exhilarating competition to explore Mars in this lively science-fiction production. After a CHALLENGER-type disaster leads to the grounding of NASA's Mars program, the exploration of the Red Planet falls to private industry. The first organization to go to Mars and return stands to earn a multibillion-dollar reward. One group mounts a minimally funded expedition, luring a crew of former NASA astronauts, including veteran Julia Barth, away from its competitors. De Cuir skillfully brings to life the multifaceted Aussie biologist and her international crewmates with a multitude of authentic accents. She also keeps the necessary flashbacks of backstory wonderfully animated. The result is one satisfying Martian journey. D.E.M. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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In this urban fantasy/horror story, Caroline and her adopted siblings have been raised in the “library” for 25 years by a “father” who is at least 600 years old. Each has a separate “catalogue” to master, and the combination of their expertise and talents underlies this original tale. Narrator Hillary Huber infuses the three main narrators with very different but, in each case, engaging manners that contrast with the weird events they find themselves involved in. Huber draws on a vast store of voices and personalities to vividly portray the siblings and the many others who come within their sphere of influence. She maintains a subtle intensity that bursts into moments of explosive energy. J.E.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Euan Morton channels the outstanding late British actor Peter Cushing, who played Grand Moff Tarkin, evil master of the Death Star, in the original Star Wars movie. One hears a voice that is precise and unspeakably heartless as he shrugs at ideas such as planetary destruction. Here is Tarkin’s biography from childhood to the time he is promoted to Grand Moff by Emperor Palpatine, learning a few tips from Darth Vader himself (nicely portrayed) as they both grow in influence and power. It’s better not to overanalyze the situations presented in the plot. Instead, listeners should just pretend they’re 14 again, hear the familiar music and sound effects, and enjoy. D.R.W. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Fans of sci-fi writer Jay Lake will feast on this diverse selection of stories performed by an acclaimed group of narrators. Whether one likes aliens, marvels at how Katherine Kellgren can transform any work into a masterpiece, appreciates angels, or can’t wait for an opportunity to listen to Kellgren’s colleagues, Robin Miles, Victor Bevine, and Jay Snyder, this production thoroughly satisfying. Lake’s talents, on display in this posthumous work, benefit from the divergent styles and panache of the narrators. Kellgren’s delivery is flawless, while Miles’s is understated. Snyder’s and Bevine’s deliveries and intensity are equally impressive. This audiobook is a delight not only for Lake’s enthusiasts but also for anyone who appreciates the genre. D.J.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Mosley creates two unlikely characters who are brought together under terrible circumstances. Their mission is to save the world. Dion Graham’s narration jumps from character to character in an edgy manner, forcing the listener to anticipate imminent apocalyptic devastation. Graham’s overall quick pace and short pauses heighten the tension in this sci-fi thriller. He skillfully matches his voice to the story’s words. For example, as the female protagonist is described as having a “furious pace,” Graham’s tone holds a furious urgency. While the two characters—Ronnie the thug and Lorraine the privileged desirable—do sound stereotypical at times, Graham carries the listener to the end, without any stagnation. T.E.C. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Number 13 in the Dresden Files series finds Harry, who was shot through the chest in the prior book, given a choice to come back to earth to find his killer or to allow three of his friends to die. So back he comes. Narrator James Marsters returns to the series with his repertoire of voices and Harry’s attitude intact. He portrays the sardonic Harry with his usual world-weary outlook plus an extra dose of frustration that his magic is not working. Marsters is particularly effective with dialogue as Harry works with his friends to find answers. Prior experience with the series will enhance understanding of the plot and the relationships between the characters. J.E.M. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Khristine Hvam is an outstanding narrator, and this is a group of fascinating stories. Jane is a shape-shifting skinwalker and vampire hunter. These stories reveal how she became friends with Molly and how Rick LaFleur got his tattoos. Told from the perspective of Jane's friends and enemies, Hunter's suspenseful stories are sometimes described as urban fantasy thrillers. Hvam brings warmth and realism to Hunter's unusual characters and adds depth to the ambiance of the New Orleans settings. Her performance is splendid as she carefully creates a multitude of male and female characters, human and otherwise. The entire package flies by quickly, and listeners will want more. S.C.A. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator R.C. Bray delivers delicious doom in Skorkowsky’s series opener. For the knights of the Valducan order, holy weapons help them defeat demons on Earth. Enter Matt Hollis, a wendigo-attack survivor and wielder of the holy revolver called Damoren. Bray captures the suspicions that Matt’s arrival causes as well as the implacable resolve of the elite fighting group. As they fight to stop a demonic cult from rising, Matt and his new comrades slowly build trust. The book’s mostly male characters play to Bray’s strengths, and he uses various accents in dialogue. Exposition about the origins of weapons challenges the narrative drive, but Bray confidently guides listeners through the final battle. Bray’s distinctive voice complements Skorkowsky’s battle-hardened warriors. C.A. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Zara Ramm’s narration sometimes resembles a wacky Monty Python skit as she advertises the merits of time travel in a proper British accent. As an employee of St. Mary’s, Dr. Madeleine Maxwell, known as Max, time travels with her team to observe significant historical moments. When they go back to ancient Troy, their mission has unexpected consequences for Max’s personal life. Ramm deftly takes listeners through Taylor’s temporal shifts, emphasizing Max’s dry wit and sense of the ridiculous. As Max internalizes Troy’s horror, the tone shifts to an intimate despair that will have listeners questioning Max’s choices in growing alarm. Ramm’s smooth voice pivots to a tone of regret and loss as Max confronts the consequences of dabbling in time. Ramm portrays Max’s complex nature in all its flawed humanity. C.A. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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As soon as one hears longtime Discworld narrator Stephen Briggs's comically heartfelt and mildly tuneful rendition of Discworld's national anthem, one realizes why some books should be heard and not just read. The devil hires a publicist. An artist paints the sky the wrong color. This collection of razor-sharp satire spans Terry Pratchett's long and prolific career, dating back to 1963. The sound of words and the sound of ideas always attracted Pratchett, and both Briggs and Michael Fenton Stevens excel at emphasizing Pratchett's special blend of sophistication and silliness, especially when they're providing character voices to dozens of witches and wizards. Wonderfully entertaining and an absolute must-listen for all longtime Pratchett fans. B.P. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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With GraphicAudio's signature music, driving sound effects, and absolutely ghastly sounding munching demons, this full-cast stand-alone novella grabs the listener by the ears. The book is based on the much broader and intricately plotted DEMON CYCLE (more than a dozen multiple CD sets). It all gets off to a quick and deadly start in the year 824 AR (After the Return), when 6-year-old Briar Damaj, ably portrayed by Dylan Lynch, survives a chilling demon attack on his family and their village of Bogton. Briar heads into the bog to lick his wounds and plot his revenge against the demons that have taken over the planet. Those who like their fantasy listening to be loud, bloody, and emotionally intense will eat up this fast-paced production. B.P. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Steven Crossley uses pace to good advantage in this swashbuckling tale. Set in a world of parallel cities of London, each with varying degrees of magic, the story features a protagonist who can travel between the cities. Kell is the ambassador of Red London and one of two Antari who have the ability to travel between cities, engaging in a little smuggling on the side. As narrator, Crossley is presented with a cast of interesting characters, and he rises to the challenge. He seems to have fun with the interplay between Kell and Lila, a pickpocket from Gray London who causes Kell trouble and then saves his life, sparking an intriguing relationship. J.E.M. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Todd Haberkorn skillfully rises to the challenge of voicing this riveting allegory of the Vietnam War, set against a sword-and-sorcery backdrop. The narrative tells of the futile efforts by the Kingdom's ground forces to conquer “the slits,” who have been waging a guerilla war from a dense jungle. The unsuccessful campaign has led to disillusionment and drug use, as well as racial prejudice, among the king's men. This story is more military history than fantasy, despite the dragons and magic. Through his fluid use of accents, Haberkorn creates dozens of distinctive male characters who populate the king's forces, no mean feat. His skill is essential for the listener as the action shifts rapidly from one military division to another. Haberkorn's mastery makes this lengthy production fly by. D.E.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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The wizards of Unseen University have a problem—Charles Darwin has written the wrong book, one championing the “theology” of evolution and not the theory. What to do? British comic actor Michael Fenton Stevens and longtime Discworld expert and narrator Stephen Briggs bring ease and glee to this third installment of Terry Pratchett’s “fact/fantasy fusion” series. Glee, yes, really. Sometimes complicated ideas and information soak into the brain more easily when heard and not just read, and that is certainly the case here. When delivered by the right authors and the right voices, the theories of evolution and general relativity and a number of other real science theories transmute into absolutely mind-boggling comprehensible fun. Education mixed with entertainment—what a wonderful concept. B.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Tim Gerard Reynolds gives a masterful performance of a story that ranks among the best in science fiction. Although Darrow clawed his way to the top of the ruling class in the first installment of this series, he now faces heartbreaking defeat and is shamed by his peers. But he has more than a few schemes to recover his former position as well as allies to rely on as he sets out to break down his oppressive society—from the inside out. Reynolds can snap from smooth urbanity to deep, gritty tones, depending on the circumstance and which of the myriad characters he is voicing. He exudes a confidence acquired by having spent significant time in Darrow’s dangerous world, and his crisp diction ensures that not one moment of conflict is missed. E.E. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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These stories help build the world around Salvatore's character, Drizzt. They include accounts of the startling origin of Drizzt’s panther companion and Jarlaxle and Entreri’s first encounter with the dragon sisters. Side characters like Bruenor, Wulfgar, and Guenhroyvar, as well as some magical locations like Sellswords, are also further developed. The narrators, all good actors, dramatize the unusual characters with clarity and deliver natural-sounding dialogue. Their even pacing helps listeners track tricky plot twists as the stories build. Kudos to all for smoothly and consistently pronouncing all the character and place names, not an easy task. Fans of Salvatore's work will be enthralled. S.C.A. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Stefan Rudnicki and 11 other narrators perform this prequel to ENDER’S GAME. Earth and Luna are deeply involved in a war against the Formics, a terrifying alien enemy. The military is slowly learning how to combat their weapons, which include a goo that destroys all humans with a touch or a breath. Rudnicki becomes a fully credible Mazer Rackham as he and his crew fight Formics on Earth and their comrades battle the Formic mothership orbiting the moon. The cast believably expresses the suspense and the characters’ terror. Listeners, beware: You won’t be able to stop listening until the last word resonates in your ears. M.B.K. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Captain Hadrian Sawback and the crew of the WILLFUL CHILD are ripping through the galaxy, wreaking havoc and causing calamity. But they can't help it. That's their mission—or at least that's how the captain chooses to interpret their mission. MacLeod Andrews proves to be the perfect narrator for this delightful satire of the space-exploration novel. His deep, commanding voice resonates well, particularly when voicing Sawback. He also develops distinct personalities for the whole crew and knows how to sound engaging when recounting the action, adventure, and romance. Beyond making the narrative exciting, Andrews enhances the characters by providing the occasional vocal wink with his comedic timing and tongue-in-cheek tone. L.E. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrators Heather Corrigan and Justin Torres give fine performances as they create distinct voices for Evelyn, a young librarian; Dr. Chin, an “envisionist”—a practitioner who can see the future; and Godfrey, one of his clients. Corrigan has fun portraying the smart and quirky Evelyn, who is always finding quotes to suit any occasion. Torres takes a low-key yet engaging approach to the character of Godfrey, who has serious doubts about his fiancée, Madge, and their future life together, as well as the process of peering into their romantic future. All of Sherl's characters are charming and wise, as well as likable, and the novel’s lively pacing suits its exuberant tone. Listeners will enjoy both the humor and the seamless narration. S.C.A.

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Stefan Rudnicki and Gabrielle de Cuir alternate telling the story of Frontera, an Earth colony on Mars that most of the world believes to be dead. But when Earth leaders learn that there are survivors and that they’ve made amazing scientific discoveries, once again the space race is on. Rudnicki and de Cuir take separate chapters, each imbuing the strongly written characters with engaging personalities. It's a powerful story that challenges the listener's ideas about right and wrong, humanity and science. Not portraying only male and female characters respectively, Rudnicki and de Cuir allow listeners the chance to hear the same characters speak through different voices. The story is outstanding, leaving listeners with new ways to think of humanity and science that are as incredible as they are original. M.S. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Kyle McCarley vividly portrays the fast-paced education of Maia, the young half-goblin son of the Emperor, who is thrust from exile to the throne when his father and his three favored brothers are killed. As Maia becomes acclimated to the intrigue of the court, McCarley reflects the changes in him and in those around him. The many sycophants at court give McCarley an opportunity to draw on a deep store of voices from many classes and backgrounds. He handles the complicated names and titles with ease and creates an atmosphere that draws the listener into this compelling tale. J.E.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Ten performers read the 30 short stories in this science fiction anthology. The stories, written by big names in sci-fi, take their themes from songwriter Janis Ian’s music. A few lines from the corresponding Ian song, sung by Ian herself, introduce each story. The narrators are paired perfectly with the stories. All are emotionally involved in these tales of outer space, the supernatural, and other sci-fi topics. Accents, emotions, intonation, and tension hold the listener’s attention. Alien words are interspersed smoothly with standard English. This anthology takes the listener to new worlds and old and is perfect for hours of discovery. M.B.K. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Susan Bennett’s versatile voice will keep listeners tuned to this audiobook. Ciel Halligan has a chameleon-like ability to take on the appearances and characteristics of other people. It’s too bad she isn’t as comfortable in her own skin. Lacking in confidence, she’s romantically torn between her charming best friend, Billy, and stoic CIA spook Mark. Bennett creates a believable persona not only for protagonist Ciel but also for a multitude of colorful characters ranging from Billy’s hyper 10-year-old sister to an elderly doctor. Bennett uses a staccato delivery as Ciel propels the action, with the other characters appropriately responding to the chaos she unwittingly unleashes. D.E.M. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Listeners who enjoyed the urban fantasy DREAMS & SHADOWS will be interested in Cargill’s second episode. Colby Stevens is a young wizard who is trying to live a relatively low-key and hidden life in Austin, but Austin is under siege. A dark presence is wreaking havoc and calling herself the Queen of Dark Things. She has a long history with Colby, which gives narrator Vikas Adam an opportunity to show his versatility as he presents both of them in much younger years and in the present. Adam’s detachment in the narrator persona contrasts with the intimacy of the friends who surround and try to protect Colby. Their varied ages and personalities are ably performed by Adam. J.E.M. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Amy McFadden brings high energy to the narration of this debut novel. She gives the young Ceony a naïve, sassy spirit that complements the absentminded and distracted magician with whom she has begun to apprentice. McFadden keeps to a steady and even pace as the pair fall into their daily routine—until a practitioner of the dark arts intrudes and literally steals the heart of the magician. Then, McFadden picks up the pace as Ceony sets out to recover the heart in an effort to restore the magician’s life and health. McFadden maintains the intensity of the plot as Ceony moves through the darkness. J.E.M. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Christopher Kipiniak is a fully engaged narrator for this set of two novellas and two short stories, which add background and further development to the world of the Raksura. In this melding of science fiction and fantasy, he draws the listener into the complex society of a matriarchal race of shape-shifters. The diverse characters are distinctly presented, and their interactions reflect the hierarchy of this complex society. Kipiniak maintains a strong and even pace for the narrative as well as the dialogue. In the descriptions of the setting, which are Wells’s trademark, he conveys a clear sense of the characters’ feelings of adventure and discovery as they explore new worlds. J.E.M. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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A full cast performs the latest in the Clockwork Century series, set in an alternate-history world in which the Civil War has never ended. The large cast, led by Colleen Delany, conjures up a landscape in which hydrogen-filled dirigibles roam the sky and rain death on the land. Delany and her cast give life to characters such as dirigible pilot Andan Cly and his prostitute lover, Josephine Early, as he helps recover a mighty weapon from the Mississippi River--an early submarine called THE GANYMEDE. The production goes beyond the pitch-perfect performances with sound effects of battle, including the frightening noises of bizarre weapons that use steam, fire, and light itself to foment destruction. It's a busy audiobook that is highly engaging. The six hours fly by. M.S.

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What a treat for comic and film fans of the X-Men. Richard Rohan and a full cast bring out one's inner mutant in what is true audio theater, with music and sound effects that make it a delight. Members of the large cast become the superheroes and make them real—from young Kitty Pryde, who is trying to prove herself, to the mysterious Emma Frost, a villain who has supposedly reformed and is now co-leader of the X-Men. Wolverine sounds feral, Cyclops sounds desperate, and Lockheed sounds exactly like a miniature dragon would sound. The story revolves around the discovery of a serum that can make mutants normal. But is there more to it? Comic author Peter David captures the spirit of the original comic series written by Joss Whedon, director of THE AVENGERS film. M.S. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Emma Galvin’s confident and measured narration introduces Angelini’s new fantasy series, which delves into parallel dimensions, one of which contains doppelgängers with magical powers. In her own dimension Lily is sick and weak, characteristics that are reflected in a timid and cautious voice. Rowan, a local warlock, helps Lily learn her newfound magical powers. Galvin nails the relationship between Lily and Rowan—their emotional connection crackles with intensity. Lily’s doppelgänger, Lilian, has a raspy tone stripped of all compassion. The more confident Lily becomes with her powers, the deeper Lilian descends into raging madness, which Galvin nails with the perfect maniacal pitch. The narration is paced just right, keeping the listener fully engaged until the cliff-hanger ending. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Bradbury’s iconic novel about the dangers of complacency and the value of curiosity gains a solid new voice with this audio performance. Tim Robbins puts his acting prowess to use here, creating superb dialogue and striding confidently through powerful speeches that celebrate books and warn against the lure of technology. Protagonist Montag burns with all the earnestness of a man eager for change; Faber’s aged scholar simmers with cautious hope; Mildred’s vacuous presence echoes emptily. Robbins provides the theatrical with the expected confidence, but he also makes good use of quiet in this production. He makes Bradbury’s words even more powerful by remembering to pause at opportune moments to let them sink in. We would all be wise to do the same. L.B.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Born in uncertain circumstances, Vieliessar Farcarinon is the child of the prophecy that some fear and others love. Narrator Kate Rudd, with her refined, mature tones, shapes our image of Vieliessar as she grows from a young girl who is afraid of the magic inside her to the warrior that she was always meant to become. Accompanying Rudd in this epic is Christopher Lane, whose gritty, rich voice calls forth the old age of evil and sorcery that is destined to manifest in the book's present time. Both narrators show consistency in the pronunciation of complex names and work together to illuminate this first in a trilogy not to be missed. E.E. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Left for dead, with only snatches of memory, Calexa moves into a suburban cemetery crypt--the only place she feels safe while unraveling the mystery of her attempted murder. From the gentle pattering of rain on freshly dug soil to the blaring sirens of police cars, no sound is missing from this shadowy opening to a graveyard trilogy. Youthful Emlyn McFarland portrays Calexa with a Southern accent. To facilitate adaptation from graphic novel to audiobook, Calexa recounts the action, and the listener is privy to her innermost forebodings. A cast of more than 15 multigenerational, multicultural actors creates the kindly caretaker, the murder victim, neighborhood vandals, and others. Complete with cinematic music, the production is truly "a movie in your mind." An interview with the authors follows. L.T. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Emma is not the woman she seems—in reality or in her own mind. She’s a clone who, before that procedure, had a husband and a daughter. Khristine Hvam's vocal diversity is well matched to this emotionally complex character. Her young, pleasant voice takes on crisp enunciation and an undercurrent of steel during Emma's confrontations, while wavering with emotion during trying times. Dipping down to lower registers with ease for male characters, Hvam gives Emma's true love, Noah, a warm, brusque tone, while layering Declan, the cloning master, with the smooth, unruffled dialogue of a true madman. Hvam's endless variety makes this a great stand-alone listen as well as a worthy sequel. E.E.

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The second book in The Timekeepers trilogy begins with a brief background and summary of the universe in which the Timekeepers are striving to maintain equilibrium. Narrator Rupert Degas presents a large cast as the Timekeepers move through space and time, encountering people, creatures, and gods of various cultures. In discovering the eternity gate, the Timekeepers have an additional tool for revisiting past-life incarnations. Each encounter creates new opportunities for Degas to address characters with a range of accents, pacing, degrees of formality, and general tone. He unfolds the narrative in grand style with the flair of an experienced storyteller. J.E.M. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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It isn't everyday that an audio collection of stories is this consistently strong, and its narrators so unfailingly compelling. Listeners will find tales of games and competitions of all kinds--from hide-and-seek to roller derby--played by the most fantastic of paranormal characters. Todd Haberkorn and Kate Rudd bring each of these zany, occasionally spine-tingling, and wildly creative tales to life. The range of characters is enormous, and the settings varied. Both narrators handle each tale with aplomb, creating personalities that are unique, building suspense, and reveling in each detailed description. Their energy and humor keep the plot quick and engrossing, and it's clear throughout that they're enjoying themselves as much as listeners surely will. B.E.K. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Angela Dawe balances romance and action in Singh’s latest Psy/Changeling novel. Assassin Vasic receives a new assignment: to protect empath Ivy Jane as she seeks to repair Earth’s diseased psychic network. Dawe employs a clear, feminine voice for Ivy in contrast to the low, gravelly tones that differentiate Vasic. All the secondary characters’ voices are distinct as well, and Dawe’s slight drawl is a pleasing echo of Singh’s New Zealand origins. The true star of the audiobook is Ivy’s dog, Rabbit, who greets listeners with his trademark "woof." While wide volume levels make car listening challenging, Dawe’s narrative proficiency combined with Singh’s popularity will appeal to a range of listeners. C.A. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Jeffrey Kafer is the right narrator for this series involving a marine corps unit of a future imperial Earth and outlying worlds. His voice has that flat finality that one associates with U.S. Marines, yet he also effectively portrays the denizens, all human, of the colony that is the focus of the book. The story also offers us a goodly amount of political commentary, which leans toward libertarianism and fits nicely into the saga of a decaying empire. Both marine corps men and women are distinctively portrayed by Kafer, as are the civilian upper-crust schemers and weak-kneed politicians. The author has an episodic style of writing that often results in riveting listening. This is first-class military science fiction. D.R.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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The end of the world never sounded so engaging and interesting as it does in this audio production. With an all-star cast of narrators, it provides hours of listening for those looking to settle in to a story of the apocalypse. With some two dozen tales, this anthology proves an entertaining, if dark, listen. The works range from tragic to silly, but each provides a rich and vibrant vision of life after the world ends. Though the production has many narrators, Stefan Rudnicki delivers the largest share of the stories, and his deep and gravelly voice proves perfect for an imaginative look at the future. L.E. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In 1981, LucasFilm and National Public Radio combined forces to produce a thirteen-part extended audio version of one of the most popular movies of all time—the original STAR WARS, later renamed STAR WARS: EPISODE 4: A NEW HOPE. They brought in original cast members such as Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, employed the film’s groundbreaking sound effects, and mixed in John Williams’s excellent and so recognizable theme music. The seamless addition of extra dialogue (like that between Princess Leia and Darth Vader) and backstory scenes about Luke’s home planet are a fan’s delight. From early on, George Lucas has encouraged animated spin-offs and fan-generated fiction set in the STAR WARS universe. This marvelous production was one of the first. Accept no substitute. B.P. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Simon Prebble weaves together the various storylines of this fantasy and serves as a good guide for listeners to keep them straight. In Victorian London, the barrier between the mundane and the natural worlds is on the verge of collapse. The Oversight work ceaselessly to maintain the barrier, but their numbers have dwindled to five. With the arrival of Lucy, who is delivered to them essentially unable to communicate, they face new challenges. Prebble adeptly presents the varied cast of characters, ranging from a cook who is a former pirate to the slithery proponents of the dark arts and the frail Sarah, who is central to the survival of the group. J.E.M. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Marc Cashman uses his extensive experience narrating nonfiction to great effect in this sci-fi retelling of Stanley’s search for Livingston. It all begins when a ratings-hungry reporter lures a jaded adventurer out of retirement to lead the search for a reclusive medical researcher on the backwater planet of Bushveld. The story starts out sounding like an Edgar Rice Burroughs adventure novel but quickly takes on the moral ambiguity of Joseph Conrad’s HEART OF DARKNESS. Cashman dispassionately recounts the search leader’s abusive drive, which threatens the lives of the safari crew, leaving the listener to decide what price is too high for a chance to save another planet’s civilization. B.P. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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This adaptation of the classic fairy tale is superbly performed by Julia Whelan. A half-Native-American child is named Snow White by her wicked stepmother. With a sweet, youthful voice, Whelan captures Snow White’s desperation to be loved and her despair at suffering terrible abuse—until she finally flees. Whelan then switches to a rough drawl to portray Snow White as a woman on the run, living a hard life in the Wild West. Whelan’s voice reflects the evocative ambiance of this genre-crossing combination of fairy tale and Native American legend. The story itself, full of symbolism and poetic language, can be confusing. But Whelan’s storytelling never falters as she brings out the enigmatic imagery of this thought-provoking tale. M.M.G. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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David Mitchell’s sixth novel, nominated for the Booker prize, contains six sections, each connected by the character of Holly Sykes. Mitchell (CLOUD ATLAS) uses nonlinear leaps through time and reality, and listeners benefit from the spot-on performances of six talented narrators. The “Radio People” and “Horologists,” denizens of an alternate world, are having a philosophical/spiritual war. A tear in Holly’s psychic fabric allows her to hear them. All six actors do a remarkable job. Jessica Ball sets the tone as, in 1984, 15-year-old Holly learns harsh life lessons. Leon Williams, Colin Mace, Steven Crossley, Laurel Lefkow, and Anna Bentinck round out the impeccable cast, until the final section, in which 60-year-old Holly, now a successful author, observes from a remote corner of Ireland as the world’s infrastructure crumbles. Fascinating listening. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In the future world of the 2060s, two young women journey from their homes in separate storylines that eventually converge. Narrator Nazneen Contractor portrays Meena, who leaves Mumbai and travels toward Djibouti over a bridge across the Arabian Sea. Contractor is undaunted by explicit bisexual scenes, and her portrayal of this educated, complex young woman is distinctive. Weaving around this plot is the story of Mariama, who escapes from slavery as a small child and joins a caravan heading across Saharan Africa toward Ethiopia. Narrator Dioni Collins reflects Mariama’s tentativeness in facing the challenges of the world, but her voice shows the character’s growing confidence and strength as her journey progresses. The two narrators effectively draw the contrasts between the two women, helping the listener follow the plot as their lives come together. J.E.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In this darkly comedic audio collection of futuristic stories, a dynamic trio of narrators brings diverse skills. The outlandish tales are written in an unnervingly realistic fashion, and the narrators provide an enticing combination of wit, verisimilitude, and empathy. Stefan Rudnicki’s somber rolling bass nicely offsets Kristoffer Tabori's raspy charm, which works to great effect in their collaboration on "They're Made Out of Meat." Janis Ian's robust tones and subtle delivery make her an excellent match for sinister and earnest characters alike, and she particularly shines in "Press Ann," especially as the sentient ATM. Alternating narrators from story to story helps to separate worlds, while frank tones and attention to detail keep listeners anchored to the bizarre and disturbing events. K.S.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Unlike typical "science of" titles seeking to explain fantastic stories with real-world science, Terry Pratchett and his science advisers tell a story from the magical viewpoint of the flat Discworld. The evolution of this world is observed and explained using fictional terms that simply explain complex ideas. Stephen Briggs brings his usual expertise to his narration, warmly delivering dialogue and narrative. In particular, his mastery of dialect distinguishes characters without overacting. Michael Stevens delivers a more clinical narration, describing various bits of history and science in a slightly didactic manner. The result is hilarious but also uniquely informative, allowing fiction to suggest fact in an organic manner. A.Z.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Neil Gaiman's gift for blending the macabre and the exhilarating is in full force in this intense production, which follows two men through treacherous lands as they seek treasure and vengeance. Gaiman's rumbling baritone captures the menacing hunger and desperation the travelers feel as the mountains close in around them. The precision of his storytelling allows him to deliver the story with clarity and intimacy. The music of FourPlay string orchestra heightens the emotion at key moments and reflects the ominous beauty of the setting. The story’s suspense, along with the heartrending music and Gaiman's masterful delivery, makes this production one of his best works yet. K.S.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Lorelei King presents the next installment in Jones’s wacky paranormal series. Charley Davidson, Grim Reaper and part-time private eye, ponders saying yes to her demonic boyfriend’s marriage proposal even as she solves crimes and crosses dead souls into the light. King’s delivery is perfect for this quirky story and motley cast of characters. Her voices are slight caricatures, but that hyperbole highlights the over-the-top comedy. Her solid delivery enhances dialogue that relies heavily on Charley’s verbal digs and smooths over some awkward spots. This production is sure to attract new listeners as well as series fans. C.A. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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This is James Marsters’s fourteenth narration of the Harry Dresden series. He still sounds fully engaged with the Chicago wizard and his magical world. In this installment, Marsters embodies the world-weariness of Dresden as he deals with the latest schemes of the queens of fairy and the monsters, who are fighting for power in the mortal world. Marsters effectively manipulates his voice, filling it with with emotion when Dresden speaks to his young daughter, deepening it to the lower reaches of his natural baritone as he depicts a seven-foot monster, and lightening it as he portrays a supernatural fairy queen. One could say that Marsters gives a master class in audiobook narration while delighting fans of the series. G.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Simon Slater has the perfect upper-class British accent for this Victorian vampire tale. Vampires have their own private club in London. When a young poet named James gets “turned” by an impetuous club member, James’s friends and family seek a cure for him. Slater uses his rich voice to deftly portray every character—from the posh club members to the smug medical doctors who seek more knowledge of James’s “disease.” The story is told from the alternating points of view of various characters, including the journal entries of one of the doctors, but listeners will never be lost, thanks to Slater. His American accent is rather twangy and tends to bleed back into British tones, but, overall, he expertly conveys this moody tale. G.D. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In these three linked novellas, Silverberg introduces listeners to a world of the far future, creating a saga of mystery, romance, and renewal. Stefan Rudnicki portrays the “Watcher,” the narrator of the book, with stoicism, authority, and clarity. The social order of future Earth is dominated by various guilds, and the Watcher belongs to the one that must prevent aliens from invading. Rudnicki’ s changes in pacing and accent are subtle yet effective, and his performance highlights the Watcher’s emotions—anguish over his failure to prevent an alien advance as well as his eventual optimism in spite of an uncertain future. Using lighter tones, Rudnicki adeptly portrays Avluela, a young Flier who travels with the Watcher. The melancholy, romantic mood of the story is enhanced by Rudnicki. S.C.A. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In this sci-fi world, the line between humans and nature is blurred beyond distinction, but narrator Graeme Malcolm's cadence is steady as a heartbeat. His deep bass gives reserved power to a story that glimpses how we lived 30 thousand years ago. For Thorn, the shaman master, Malcolm uses growling, occasionally animalistic, tones, which are particularly effective when Thorn delivers a blistering admonition to younger male tribe members about the power of the female spirit. Malcolm gives Thorn's apprentice a wavering voice that brings the uncertainty of their futures into stark relief. As delivered by Malcolm, this tale of survival is as shocking and coarse as it is sublime and powerful. E.E. 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In this expansive yet concise adaptation, The Colonial Radio Players stay true to H.G. Wells's iconic story of a Martian invasion of Victorian England. Though action driven, the story is shaped by themes of scientific progress, evolution, and religion, which are thoroughly highlighted in lively exchanges between the characters. As Richard Pearson, the story’s protagonist, narrator David Ault offers an innocent sense of wonderment that tempers the sense of impending doom. Perfectly synchronized with plot and character, the impressive soundscape creates an immediate reality that grounds listeners in place while driving tension. Transitions between scenes are marked by abrupt pauses, and while initially distracting, they become a useful signal to prepare listeners for the plot shifts in this fast-paced drama. A.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Set against an epic backdrop of dragon riders, warring kingdoms, and magic, the first in a new series focuses almost exclusively on the unlikely romance between commoner Tam and royal Prince Corin. Narrator Christian Coulson smooths the sometimes uneven plot by completely nailing the playful and impish banter between Tam and Corin as well as the tittering giggles and petty jealousies of the other ladies at court. When the story’s emphasis switches to the fantasy element, Coulson adds just the right amount of seriousness to his voice, especially for the warring kings and the arrogant, mysterious dragon riders. Dragon lovers will appreciate the reverent tone used to describe the dragons in their native land. Coulson’s admirable performance begs a return visit when the next installment is published. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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A story of alien invasion could be a narrator's nightmare. Starting with dozens of human voices and then having to create those of the invaders is a daunting task. Yet Luke Daniels is up to the challenge in this production, distinctively voicing not just the diverse humans but also the four classes of the invading Saurons. An allegory about racism, the production finds dark-skinned individuals, be they human or Sauron, in charge because that's how the aliens' caste system is organized. The oppressed groups hesitantly begin to band together just before this first book in the Sauron series ends. With a stark, matter-of-fact style, Daniels capably brings to life several armies of memorable characters. D.E.M. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Scott Brick returns to this second in the Great Schools trilogy, part of the complex collection of prequels and sequels within the iconic Dune series. His repertoire of voices for this series is well established, but there’s still opportunity for expansion as new characters are introduced in this history of the Mentat School, which teaches humans the techniques of thinking machines. Given the fanatics working to rid the world of thinking machines, intrigue is plentiful. Pace is important in this long book, and Brick is a master. He maintains the intensity of the plot during the long passages of narrative. He manages dialogue effectively, keeping listeners engaged with the narration throughout. J.E.M. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Dietz’s sci-fi thriller features future humans who travel in antiquated ships, delivering cargo and passengers between planets. Runner Jak Rebo is exceedingly well portrayed by Sean Runnette with low intonations and slow but precise pacing. Brother Sua Qwa hires him to deliver a special child, Tra Lee, to the holy city of CaCanth on planet Thara during the journey. Jak encounters sentient AI spaceships; “sensitives” like Lanni Norr; Kane, the arch villain; and a rude AI master computer named Logos. Runnette finds unique and well-suited voices for the multitude of characters and never falters over some tough alien vocabulary. Runnette will engage listeners of all ages. S.C.A. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrators Michael Kramer and Kate Reading share the latest in the Stormlight Archive series with well-practiced familiarity. The book is of epic proportions, not only in length (which is formidable) but also in scope and tone. This is a character-driven book, and Kramer’s and Reading’s portrayals will help listeners settle in for the intertwined plotlines as the protagonists carry out their separate but connected stories. Each narrator draws on a deep reserve of voices and accents while maintaining a quick pace. Equally adept with dialogue, rumination, and long narrative passages, they make the hours fly by. J.E.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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The Discworld universe is composed of a vast array of magical creatures, but what was the inspiration for them? Michael Fenton Stevens delivers this compendium with a charming English accent and clear enunciation that engages the listener even throughout the drier parts of the book. While fans will appreciate the vignettes about the inspiration for the world's species, even more entertaining are the varied voices Stevens creates for them: deep bass tones for the dim-witted trolls, high-pitched cackling for the witches, and an aristocratic lilt for the vampires. He successfully distinguishes between the main text and quotes from referenced Discworld novels with effective pauses and changes in tone. A solid addition to any Pratchett fan's listening library. E.E. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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One of the beauties of a narration by Simon Vance is his ability to tell a story as if it were a true history of events. In this opening to a new series, the three children of an emperor are each on a mission designed by their father. When the emperor is murdered, they turn their attention to trying to find the murderer. Vance relies not only on his rich store of voices but also on pace and intensity in distinguishing the many characters. Long passages of explication and background move along clearly and steadily as Vance lays out the foundation for this new world. J.E.M. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Three science-fiction short stories delivered by a full cast, along with sound effects and a musical score, make this an enjoyable listen for fans of audio drama. The prime story focuses on the future, in which a man refuses to follow a new guru who proselytizes his belief that thought is what creates and maintains reality. The protagonist must escape, even if that means going into the past. With a deep voice and strong emphasis, R.F. Daley provides the main narration for each story while other voice talents deliver the characters' lines. Those narrators provide voices that are a bit caricatured but that still fit each story. L.E. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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More than half the fun of Anderson’s latest novel featuring Dan "Shamble," zombie P.I., is listening to performer Phil Gigante wrap his mouth around an assortment of werewolves, ghosts, witches, vampires, and other things that go bump in the night. It's one thing to sound like a drooling, growling vampire, but Gigante manages to sound like a half-dozen, each with a distinct personality. Make no mistake, this novel is a parody, but one that never resorts to cliché—except to blow it away. Zombie detective Dan Chambeaux (pronounced “Shamble”) juggles multiple cases, including those of a harpy waitress (with a wonderful screechy voice) who has lost a bad-luck charm, Mafia zombies who run a “chop shop” for bodies, and werewolves who are on the verge of war. M.S. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Grant Cartwright adeptly narrates this first in the Wells of Echoes quartet, a sequel to The View From the Mirror series. Listeners find the world at war, with crystals being the fuel that drive the weapons. Tiian is a young crystal worker who discovers she has a talent for geomancy. She’s punished by powerful enemies but escapes to search for a young man she has seen in her visions. Cartwright is a steady and smooth narrator. He maintains listener interest throughout this long book as he adeptly portrays the wide range of characters that Tiian encounters on her quest. J.E.M. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Jeff Gurner gives a star performance of Suarez’s compelling techno-thriller, which is reminiscent of the science-fiction classics of the 1950s and ‘60s: The bad guys—set on world domination—are very bad. The nerdy good guys—weak on social skills—are totally good. The love interest is brilliant, dangerous, and breathtakingly beautiful. There’s even a ray gun. Gurner’s friendly tenor breathes life into some flat dialogue. His accents allow listeners to identify characters who are always engaging, funny, and under control. His pacing is exceptionally good, even in moments of high drama. F.C. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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In the third audio adventure of Jake Sullivan, the detective and “heavy” hurtles through space in an airship in 1933, trying to destroy a seriously bad alien. Assisting him are mind-readers, travelers (the “beam-me-up” variety), shape-shifters, and people with telekinetic and other assorted top-secret superpowers (including Buckminster Fuller). Bronson Pinchot navigates the confusing plot with laser perfection, portraying the dialects and genders of the humans and other beings, as well as the narrative itself, without missing a beat. Every one of his characters, from protagonist to bit player, has a distinctive inflection and energy. Without Pinchot’s expert delivery, it would be difficult to keep plot and characters straight. R.L.L. 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Complicated audiobooks with long passages of explication are Scott Brick’s forte, and he’s clearly comfortable with the complex syntax and erudite vocabulary that are Donaldson’s trademarks. This series, begun more than 30 years ago, sets out the life and times of Thomas Covenant, who is an unusual hero: He’s a leper. Brick has plenty of opportunity to use the wide range of the voices he created in prior installments of this series as the finale brings together past themes and characters. This last book of the Thomas Covenant Chronicles begins with a summary of past events and relationships between the characters. J.E.M. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Lorelei King gives sardonic tones to Jones’s heroine, Charley Davidson. As a Grim Reaper, Charley is a vehicle through which the dead can move to the next spiritual plane—so when murdered dead women start popping up in her apartment, Charley realizes there’s a serial killer out there. Charley must ask for help from Reyes Farrow, the sexy son of Satan, who lives next door. King does wonders with Charley’s friends and cohorts, and she’s especially effective delivering Reyes’s deep, sultry voice, making Charley’s breathless giddiness utterly believable whenever he’s around. This paranormal romantic mystery is filled with earthly problems as well as the supernatural kind, and King’s performance makes it all great fun. S.J.H. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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In this sterling production of a grim Radium-Age postapocalyptic novel, narrator Steven Crossley flourishes as characters repopulate a decimated Great Britain. Crossley tells the story through the confused eyes of Jeremy Tuft, a former artilleryman and physics professor. Trapped in a London laboratory during a worker uprising in 1924, Jeremy awakens 150 years later in a neo-medieval society whose inhabitants have forgotten how to build or operate machinery. Crossley presents Jeremy as a believable academic forced by circumstance to become a man of action. Thanks to Crossley's velvety, precise delivery, this very British production is both enjoyable and accessible. D.E.M. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Euan Morton nimbly portrays aliens, humans, and those with artificial intelligence. Fans of the Halo video games, and folks who enjoy classic science-fiction tales, will revel in this audiobook. Members of Kilo-Five, a sort of Navy Seal Team 6 in outer space, must stop a terrorist and rescue one of their own from an alien civil war. As Morton infuses the narrative and dialogue with emotion—growling lines like “She wanted her husband back”—listeners will feel each character’s anger and distress. It’s almost a guilty pleasure listening to a book based on a video game, but who cares when you’re having so much fun hearing a storyteller of this caliber? G.D. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Ralph Lister is one of those audiobook performers who can deliver formal period prose so flawlessly that the listener is effortlessly transported into whatever setting is described by the author. Lister also defines each character with his or her own unique personality, so there’s no doubt who is featured in each scene. In this story, Michael can perceive the molecular composition of objects and sense shifting electromagnetic fields, as well as divine underground water by manual dowsing. His gift fascinates narrator Rafe's fiancée, Hilda, wooing her away from their intended betrothal. Part of the author's Radium Age Science Fiction Series, this novel delves into the chilling perception that a mutant skill can evolve into more of a curse than a blessing. A.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Tom Weiner’s clipped tones mine the paranoia at the heart of one of Heinlein's early classics. Sam Nevins, a spy for a top-secret intelligence agency, is the prototypical fifties hero—blunt, uncomplicated, and quick to action. After years behind “the Curtain,” Sam now faces a new uphill challenge in the form of body-snatching aliens who are overtaking the U.S. Weiner does an equally admirable job with Mary, Sam's fellow agent and squeeze, who proves to be key to foiling the invasion. The story’s supporting characters aren’t complex, but Weiner still makes them memorable. This is a thrilling, fast-moving production, propelled by Weiner's considerable talents. D.E.M. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Twenty-one short stories of fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, and mystery, written by the stars of sci-fi and performed by 15 narrators, are brought together by premier anthologists Martin and Dozois. All the narrations include characterizations, accents, and dramatic flourishes. Narrating with aplomb, these veteran performers bring the short stories to life. Many of the stories are the next installment in a familiar series, a spin-off tale, or a bit of backstory. Butcher’s tale, narrated effortlessly by Emily Rankin, features Harry Dresden’s protégé; Jonathan Frakes reads Snodgrass’s terrifying space tale with deep male voices and barely audible female villains. Every story is introduced by Karen Dotrice in crisp tones. Just as the short stories vary in topic, pacing, and genre, so do the performances; some are better than others. As a whole, there’s something for everyone to disappear into. M.B.K. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Teenage demon Nick Gautier wants to heed the advice of his future self and avoid killing his beloved mom, but will he be able to pull it off? Holter Graham delivers a masterful narration of the ongoing paranormal saga. Jumping from male, female, American, and foreign humans to nonhumans, the undead, and animals, Graham gives each one a distinct voice and personality while keeping the complicated plot sorted out and racing ahead. Even the most minor players are easy to distinguish. The combination of Kenyon’s skilled writing and Graham’s spot-on performance makes the story easy to follow, even for those who have not listened to Books 1-3. This narration achieves the holy grail of audio—total transparency. R.L.L. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Alison Larkin’s performance is terrific in this steampunk adventure. Honoria’s scientist father died and left their small family destitute and unprotected. In the steampunk version of London where they live, only the very dangerous, slightly otherworldly gangster Blade can keep them safe. Honoria does not want to be indebted to such a bad boy, but then sparks fly. Larkin gives good girls upper-class British accents and bad guys Cockney growls. While the love story does turn steamy, it never becomes embarrassing. Larkin brings life to the multiple tough guys in Blade’s street gang and gives Honoria and her sister, only a few years apart in age, familial sounding yet unique voices. Steampunk, romance, and paranormal fans will all thrill to listen. G.D. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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An empress in danger, an assassin with dark powers, and an evil sorceress all add up to escapist fantasy adventure at its finest. Richard Rohan's strong, rich voice lays the foundation for the fast-paced narrative, and the expert mixing of sound effects ensures that no voice gets left behind. Digital manipulation is used to enhance the otherworldliness of the voice of Kit, a guardian spirit. Her sassy sense of humor and bright tone make her the perfect foil for her companion, Caim, an assassin with a gruff British accent who wields darkness as a weapon. The sound effects enhance, whether it be the clang of swords in battle, soft medieval music during a ball, or the crunch of snow under boots. E.E. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Six different characters with six different narrators can make this audiobook feel like six different audiobooks. Mather weaves together a panoramic view of a technological dystopia through the eyes of six varied characters whose worlds range from security to public relations and science. The listener not only comes to understand how each character’s world works, with its nanotechnology and virtual reality, but also quickly sees its cracks and limitations, as well as its moral questions. Each narrator embodies his or her character’s voice well, and even characters whom listeners may not necessarily like are soon made human with strong emotional tones and solid deliveries. This strategic use of narrators will have listeners waiting for the audio sequels rather than the books. L.E. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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R.C. Bray’s deep, gravelly voice works well for Mark Watney’s first-person account of struggling to survive on a desolate Mars after his crew left him behind. Though he finds ingenious ways to prevail despite many things going wrong, he needs to hang on for almost two years before Earth can launch a successful rescue mission. Bray deftly executes the split viewpoints, first person for Mark and third person for those on Earth trying to rescue him. However, a second narrator for the third person would have made more sense because Bray so perfectly captures Watney and listeners spend so much time with him. By the time the point of view switches to Earth, Bray IS Watney, and hearing him as anyone else is distracting. L.E. 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Grover Gardner gives a top-notch performance of another book in Bujold’s long-running Miles Vorkosigan saga, this time starring Miles’s cousin, Ivan. The complicated plot involves a forced marriage, a girl on the run, politics, romance, intrigue, action, and humor, all of which Ivan gets involved with against his will (except for the romance part). Gardner showcases Bujold’s humor and creates charming, scared, or annoyed characters, by turn. He places a slight tension in his voice for action sequences. This is a fun, complicated caper, performed in a seemingly effortless manner by a total pro. G.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Stephen Briggs has been recording Discworld novels for over a decade, and as a longtime collaborator with the author, it’s no surprise that his narration is filled with life. With his deep understanding of the Discworld universe, Briggs lends authenticity to every word. As the varied characters discover steam power and its associated benefits and mishaps, Briggs uses more than a dozen United Kingdom accents to humanize the different species that share this world. He also accentuates the Discworld's trademark wit, giving conversations deeper meaning, and more powerful humor, than might be apparent on the surface. Standout performances include the Patrician, whose deep voice sounds commanding and highly intelligent, and a goblin, whose quavering voice is, nonetheless, filled with inner strength. A.Z.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Tim Gerard Reynolds continues his narration of the Riyria Chronicles in this second book of the series. His portrayals of the returning characters are consistent, and continue to develop. As Hadrian and Royce seek revenge against the powerful people who have hurt their friends, Reynolds delves into the depths of their loyalty and camaraderie. New characters fit neatly into Reynolds’s presentation, and their personalities quickly take shape. His nuanced portrayals of Reuben, a young trainee of the King’s Guard, and Reuben’s father are particularly notable. Reynolds maintains a fast pace as the author weaves the threads of the plot. Prior experience with this series, or with the related Riyria Revelations series, will be beneficial. J.E.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Protagonist Dr. Paulo Verano is attitude personified, and narrator William Dufris delivers that in spades—at first sounding cocky and sardonic, later inquisitive and suspicious. Paulo is recently divorced; his ex-wife and daughter have gotten most of his money. So the noted freelance ecologist escapes to an assignment on faraway Stittara, the planet responsible for drugs that have doubled human life spans. Dufris unveils the many facets of Paulo—who is brilliant, out of his element, even vulnerable—as he uncovers the secrets of Stittara while encountering scheming bureaucrats, distrustful settlers, and a rhyming savant. All are brought artfully to life in his narration. This production takes viewers to a distant place, which, thanks to Dufris, feels as familiar as next door. D.E.M. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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The planet Altair draws people from across the universe. Who better to describe it than narrator Nick Podehl? A medical resort, Altair is home to the humans who are its clients and staff as well as the native Ananke, who are corralled in the reservation-like Ghetto. Podehl's versatile voice brings the many characters to life—from a whiny teen girl to an ancient native warrior. At the novel's heart is Matt Wallace, who as a boy saw his missionary parents slaughtered by the Ananke. Now Matt returns as the planet's marshal in hopes of saving his dying wife. But soon he discovers the horrible secret behind Altair's miracles and faces an ethical dilemma. Podehl's sterling performance brings out the many emotions in Morey's characters. D.E.M. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Narrator MacLeod Andrews turns in a virtuoso performance of a work that would be a challenge for any narrator. In this compilation, today's top science-fiction authors create missives by 20 famous people who recount their experiences during a Martian invasion. Each of these vignettes features a handful of characters, an approach that results in dozens of different voices, along with a plethora of accents. Andrews animates the personalities with panache, bringing forth the wry humor of Mark Twain, the persnicketiness of an Emily Dickinson scholar, and the horror of a dogfight by Jack London. Every 20 minutes to an hour, Andrews must inhabit a new set of characters, and he rises to the occasion. The Martian invasion may have been terrible, but Andrews's presentation is delightful. D.E.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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When presented with a character that is both beast and man, the challenge for the narrator is balancing and distinguishing the voices for both. Ron McLarty easily vaults over this hurdle with his ability to seamlessly shift from throaty growl to a smooth, cultured timbre. McLarty wears main character Reuben's voice like a second skin and gives deep tones to the “man wolves” that stalk the halls of the mansion at Nideck Point. The German accent McLarty gives the mysterious housekeeper is inauthentic, but he makes up for it by infusing raw emotion into the story as Reuben struggles to bridge the gap between his supernatural and human families. McLarty makes even the most rambling moments of the story palatable. E.E. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Before hearing Rosalyn Landor's performance of BLOODFIRE QUEST, it would be difficult to believe it's possible to improve on a Terry Brooks plot. However, the combination of this dark, dangerous world with its sinister creatures and Landor's smoky, well-modulated voice is gripping from the start. The ancient barrier that keeps all the malevolent creatures locked in the forbidden land is starting to fail, and an untold number of vicious prisoners set upon retribution are ready to be unleashed. Because the Ellcrys tree is dying and the Druid order is in shambles, a reluctant Arlingfant must take the seed to the Bloodfire. A perfect match to Brooks, Landor’s inspired delivery adds a wonderful depth to each individual and situation. S.M. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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In this eighth and penultimate book in Novik’s series, which combines dragons and the Napoleonic wars, the highly dramatic action spans the globe. British aviator William Lawrence, his dragon, Temeraire, and their companions begin the story in Japan, make their way to China, and end up in Russia on the eve of battle. Narrator Simon Vance returns, and it’s a marvel how he smoothly switches voices from that of an English gentleman to those of an Incan dragon and a Japanese samurai—always keeping the characters distinct and fresh. Vance’s pacing is also masterful; he knows when to let the adventure of the narrative drive the story and when to let the quiet moments between characters enjoy breathing room. One cannot imagine anyone else reading these tales. G.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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What if all superheroes turned out to be supervillains? Macleod Andrews delivers all the suspense of this gripping young adult novel. His voice transitions from the young, optimistic tones of teenager David to the deeper, grittier vocals of Prof, who is head of a group called The Reckoners. They gather to fight against the Epics, humans that for unknown reasons have been gifted with powers beyond those of mere mortals, which they wield for personal gain. Andrews also engages listeners with convincing French and Southern accents as well as realistic and diverse feminine voices, fully realizing the unique personalities within the Reckoners. This book is the perfect marriage of masterful writing and versatile narration. E.E. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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In this specially written full-cast audio adaptation, Orson Scott Card draws heavily from his novel’s original dialogue to concentrate on some of ENDER’S GAME’s most powerful moments. The adults, played with authority by Stefan Rudnicki and Samantha Eggar, are debating about how best to train a 6-year-old military genius to battle an alien insect-like race. The students, played with intensity by Emily Rankin, Roxanne Hernandez, and Janis Ian, declare their loyalty to Andrew “Ender” Wiggins, played by Kirby Heyborne. Listeners will feel surrounded by Card’s sophisticated, high-stakes universe. With a stately musical score and video-game sound effects, this “re-imagined” production sticks close to the novel while offering listeners an entertaining new way to enjoy one of science fiction’s best loved stories. B.P. 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Raúl Esparza performs this sequel to HOUSE OF THE SCORPION. He gives life to the story of Matt, a clone in an imagined near future. Here, Matt’s “original,” a powerful drug lord, has died, and the teenaged Matt has inherited his empire. Esparza moves fluidly between English and Spanish, as Matt does, and he creates distinct, appropriately accented voices for the multicultural cast of characters who help and oppose Matt as he tries to change his country from a slave economy based on the production of opium to one filled with free people producing crops and goods that sustain life. Ethical dilemmas, action, science, and even romance combine for riveting listening. A.F. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Not only was Anne McCaffrey (1926-2011) one of the twentieth century’s best known and most successful science fiction authors with her the Dragonriders of Pern series, she had a huge personal influence on the generations of authors and exceptionally loyal fans who followed in her wake. In this multifaceted biography, the remembrances of writers such as Mercedes Lackey, Elizabeth Moon, Lois McMaster Bujold, and David Brin are read with careful professionalism. In addition, insightful and emotional tributes written and narrated by friends and family, such as singer-songwriter Janis Ian and McCaffrey’s daughter, Georgeanne Kennedy, pull on the heartstrings. McCaffrey led a remarkable life, emigrating to Ireland in 1971, where she raised horses and, of course, poured her knowledge of folklore, classic literature, and opera into her work. Perfect for giving voice to dragons. B.P. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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When Nora Fischer, a graduate student, takes a wrong turn while on a solo hike, she—like Alice—crosses the boundary into an alternate world in which magic is commonplace and looks can be deceiving. Alyssa Bresnahan's enchanting performance keeps listeners spellbound as they follow Nora's struggle to find a safe haven and a useful occupation in a strange land. With spot-on expressiveness, Bresnahan captures the personalities of the characters, such as a taciturn housekeeper and a deliciously manipulative fairy queen. Thanks to Bresnahan's fine sense of tempo and emotion, listeners feel Nora's fear in battle as easily as her joy at learning new skills. An outstanding narrative performance combined with a compelling plot makes for a stellar audiobook experience. C.B.L. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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This work morphed from a book to a television miniseries to this full-cast radio adaptation in six episodes plus outtakes. A pantheon of superb British character actors draws listeners into the misadventures of the delightfully obtuse Scotsman Richard Mayhew (James McAvoy) in a magical place called “London Below.” Mayhew’s new companion, the Lady Door (Natalie Dormer), wishes to locate the angel Islington (Benedict Cumberbatch) and avenge her murdered family. Mayhew and Door’s friendship emerges in appealing banter that sounds especially intimate when contrasted with the tones of the frighteningly ethereal Islington. The robust use of sound effects clarifies the story for listeners. City noises, weapons, and many other sounds give reality to Gaiman’s world. While the pacing is disconcertingly rapid, overall, this production exhibits unparalleled direction and casting. C.A. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Picking up the threads of THE OMEN MACHINE, Goodkind again separates Richard and Kahlan and creates challenges for them that cause their magic to fail. After they’re separated early in the story, Kahlan becomes a minor character. Sam Tsoutsouvas tackles the many scenes of Richard slashing and hacking at the half-dead and the various other enemies he encounters. Tsoutsouvas keeps the listener engaged through the frequent recaps and extensive repetition for which Goodkind is known. The cast of familiar characters that usually support Richard is barely present, but Tsoutsouvas has the opportunity to introduce a young, gifted woman named Samantha, who will likely be seen again. J.E.M. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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The universe can be an infinitely cruel and difficult place for a people who have lost their planet. Anthropologist and gifted linguist Grace Delarua is assigned to help the desperate yet proud refugees of Sadira find a new home on her planet of Cygnus Beta. She soon finds she may be the only go-between with the intelligence and empathy to rescue a unique race from extinction. Reminiscent of Ursula LeGuin’s best work, this is a welcome old-school science-fiction tale that examines cultural dynamics, genetics, and individual isolation. Award-winning voice talent Robin Miles inhabits Grace’s first-person narrative with realistic candor, vulnerability, and humor. It’s the voice of a woman who can’t help but take her job, and the loss and longing of an entire world, very personally. B.P. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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In this second book of the Formic Wars trilogy (taking place 100 years before the time of ENDER’S GAME) a warlike, technically advanced alien race has been sighted in the solar system, headed straight for Earth. The gifted Stefan Rudnicki leads a team of talented narrators who do an excellent job of keeping vivid and focused the two-dozen or so characters and multiple locations (a mining ship in the outer Kuiper asteroid belt, the moon, and South China). Orson Scott Card remains a master storyteller, and each narrator is right there with him as he mixes hard science and psychological insights—right up to the cliff-hanger ending. Can’t wait for the final installment, EARTH AWAKENS—due out in 2014. B.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Stefan Rudnicki’s deep, serious voice is a perfect match for a sci-fi tale that focuses on the moral dilemmas that arise when humans attempt to conquer the planet Altair VI to escape a dying earth. He breathes life into the various characters, giving them unique qualities and convincing accents. For instance, he provides Dr. Carbo, the Italian scientist in charge of the expedition, with an accent that sounds natural and stays consistent as he expresses conflicting emotions throughout the course of the story. This story is just as fresh today as it was in 1983, when it was first published. Rudnicki’s melancholy tone builds suspense and leaves listeners with food for thought. E.E. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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GraphicAudio makes its usual promise of "a movie in your mind"—and delivers. This fantasy adventure is produced with high-quality sound effects and voice acting from GraphicAudio's strong stable of regulars. Chosen One Kelvin has defeated two extraordinary threats, but they’re not destroyed. When they exile Kelvin and plan revenge upon his loved ones, Kelvin must battle for his home as well as his sanity. With a full cast and high production values, this audio experience is like listening to a radio play. Both narrative and dialogue are unchanged from the book, choices that allow both the author's voice and the acting cast to shine. Dylan Lynch, a regular at GraphicAudio, gives Kelvin human vulnerability while still sounding like a hero. A.Z.W. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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David Drummond's voice is a perfect fit for this military sci-fi. The first in The Legacy Trilogy is exactly what you’d expect from the title. The story is set in the distant future, when Marines fight in the sky and on the ground, both for Earth and for our ancestors who were stolen by aliens long ago and are still slaves on distant planets. The Corps is our only hope against the hostile alien race, the Anahu, who are intent on enslaving the remainder of humanity. Drummond's strong, clear voice, used with conviction and authority, takes a story rich in technological detail and makes it come to life in an action-packed futuristic world. S.M. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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The third installment in Ellen Kushner's Riverside series is flush with all the intrigue, sex, and politics of its predecessors. A young man with royal blood seeks refuge in the confines of the University but finds instead that ancient history is still living—and perhaps set to repeat itself. This "illuminated" book dances between the delicate, impassioned voice of the author and that of dignified guest stars, including Neil Gaiman. Lush soundscapes and occasional effects complement the talented cast, bringing the audio experience alive. Somewhere between an audiobook and full-cast drama, this sound-rich title delivers listeners to Kushner’s nameless city of nobles, where manners often mask dark motives. F.G. 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Central Park is the focal point for Fairstein's latest New York City-centric crime novel. Hearing this audiobook often seems like a personal tour of the city’s monuments, history, quirky facts, and hidden byways. There’s also a crime, or several, to solve for DA Alexandra Cooper and her police buddies, Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, in their fifteenth caper. Barbara Rosenblat's narration captures the colorful characters with spot-on voices, nuanced pacing, and smart dialogue, as well as the essence of the park and its secrets. For fans, as well as newcomers listening to DEATH ANGEL, Rosenblat IS your fabulous guide to the fascinating details of the magnificent park and an equally satisfying mystery. R.F.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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“How can this be?” That’s the question at the heart of this tale of discovery as 12 explorers arrive at earth-like Sirius C after 80 years in cryo-sleep. And who better to voice all their emotions, from wonder to fear, than award winner Stefan Rudnicki? Rudnicki uses his husky baritone to distinctively bring to life a virtual United Nations of explorers and politicians while describing the action through the eyes of diplomat Jordan Kell. Rudnicki’s deliberate narration heightens the suspense as the explorers are buffeted by unexplainable findings. NEW EARTH is Rudnicki’s ninth narration of books in Bova’s Grand Tour series, and it proves to be a masterful blend of story and storyteller. D.E.M. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Neil Gaiman Presents reintroduces listeners to Keith Roberts’s flirty witch, Anita. Anita flits about an idyllic British countryside tackling magical good deeds in spite of Granny’s strict tutelage. Her other hobby is ensorcelling most of the male population! Narrator Nicola Barber quickly enchants listeners with Anita’s spells, but it takes a few chapters to puzzle out the story’s loose episodic format. Barber realistically portrays Anita’s mercurial shifts from delight to despair. She also establishes the contrast between Anita and Granny. Anita’s silvery voice sweetly cajoles while Gran’s broad shire dialect sounds as thick as pudding. Barber unites the two with carefully paced prose that invites listeners to find magic in every moment. C.A. 2013 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Lorelei King returns with this seventh book in the Mercy Thompson series, which finds the shape-shifting coyote wondering what has happened to her mate, the alpha werewolf of the Twin Cities. King is at ease with the panoply of characters from past adventures, plus some new additions. Her depiction of the wisecracking Mercy captures the essence of this series. King makes Mercy seem believable—not only as the fearless protector of family and friends against supernatural and human enemies, but also in her day-to-day activities as a VW mechanic. The book stands on its own but will be much more fun with background on the characters from the earlier books in the series. J.E.M. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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In this futuristic nod to the story of the Titanic, Special Forces Captain Nick Jameson, sole survivor of his last mission, is forced to travel on the maiden voyage of a high-tech luxury “space liner” whose owners are determined to break the speed record to its destination—at all costs. When things start to go wrong, Nick must use all his talents to save the day and get the girl. Narrator Michael Riffle’s considerable acting talent is evident in his audio performance. Displaying a wide range of vocals, he makes each character sound appropriate and recognizable. Further, he masterfully alters his pacing to build suspense, enhancing an adventure chock-full of surprises. A.C.P. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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The fourth Doctor Who (Tom Baker) and Romana 1 (the late Mary Tamm) are stranded temporarily in 1920s London. P.G. Wodehouse-inspired characters suddenly appear via actors with spot-on portrayals. Given that Baker and Tamm originated their characters, they could not be more authentic—Baker with his deep authoritative voice, Tamm with her professorial overtones. The result is hilarious. The stumbling Bertie Wooster fellow sounds young and brash and clueless, just as he should. And then there’s the evil alien auntie, her voice imperious and threatening. The “Doctor Who” theme music in all its distinctive glory is there, too, along with appropriate background sounds. A captivating production. D.R.W. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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It’s hard to imagine a better performer of a high-fantasy novel such as this than Kevin T. Collins. His voice carries a hint of high-born caste, of chivalry, of faintly stilted dialogue in which every sentence carries multiple subtle meanings. We are lured into pre-Arthurian times, when wizardry and ancient species such as ogres and fairies are slowly being driven away by humanity. Collins performs each character with full-throated characterizations that are always authentic and true to the individual whether coarse or refined, calm or angry. Princess Madouc is a headstrong halfling, with fairy blood and a human father whom she seeks. Wonder-filled story, great portrayal. D.R.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Tom Weiner gives a splendid narration of this futuristic story in which a colony of humans makes a century-long space journey in suspended animation to the seemingly pristine planet of Avalon. Upon arrival they discover that the slumber has a side effect: impaired mental abilities of varying degrees. Some of them will never wake up. They also discover that there’s a species called Grendel (there are more than a few BEOWULF references in this work) on Avalon that finds their livestock, dogs, and even the humans themselves to be delicacies. Weiner adroitly relates the suspense of the story as most of the humans gradually, and quite painfully, realize that they’re in a war to the death with the Grendels. He adroitly gives each of the characters individual voices and makes this a wonderful listening experience. M.T.F. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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What happens after the end of the world as we know it? Humanity rebuilds, and Kirby Impoinvil (Max Brooks) is there to help survivors make sense of what happened the day the zombies came. Helping author Brooks is a host of family friends, including Alan Alda, Nathan Fillion, Paul Sorvino, Rob Reiner, Carl Reiner, Simon Pegg, John Turturro, and many others. This audio production was released to coincide with the movie of the same name. That it’s a real drama is not surprising given the stellar cast. They don't just read the book, they act it out. And don’t think this is a teen thriller. The zombies serve as a backdrop to the larger story of how humankind reacts to such an unexpected and catastrophic invasion and the inevitable conclusion that millions must be sacrificed to save the rest. M.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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This Neil Gaiman sampler offers further proof that he’s an outstanding storyteller and a strong narrator. The collection of 34 short works, some new and some previously published, includes science-fiction, creation, erotic, and horror tales. The stories are often reminiscent of “Twilight Zone” episodes. Gaiman performs each one with fervor and apt character portrayals. His narration is ethereal and enthralling as it brings his imagination to life, the only distraction being the varying success he has employing American accents. Skip the story introductions until after listening to each title. The author’s reflections on the origins of each tale are more meaningful after having experienced the work. K.C.R. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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The latest book in the Temeraire series finds Captain William Laurence, his dragon Temeraire, and their compatriots leaving Australia behind as they voyage toward the Inca Empire. In Novik’s world, Napoleon is working on conquering the New World as well as the Old, and our heroes must stop him. Simon Vance has narrated all seven books in the series, but he shows no sign of being bored by this return to familiar territory. He performs the text with vigor, and his proper British accent perfectly suits Novik’s prose. He embodies enormous yet shy male dragons and self-satisfied female dragons; brisk, young British midshipmen; and wise, old Incans—all with equal skill and believability. This audiobook is a joy. G.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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Dirk t’Larien has been summoned by a former lover to a drifting, half-deserted planet on the edge of the universe. On Worlorn he discovers his Gwen wearing the traditional iron and jade of the High Kavalaar clan of her husband, Jaantony Riv Wolf High-Ironjade Vikary (what a great name), and finds a culture steeped in honor, tradition, and warrior ways. So begins George R.R. Martin’s restless and adventuresome first novel (1977). Scottish-born actor Iain Glen, whose credits include “Game of Thrones,” “Doctor Who,” and “Downton Abbey,” narrates Martin’s heightened language and rich descriptions with poetic strength and conviction. There’s just something about a Scots lilt that sounds perfect for high space fantasy. And there’s definitely something in Martin’s early prose that belied the sound of a rising talent. B.P. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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Mark Vietor, the undisputed voice of the Nightside, is in top form delivering Green's final Nightside book. This quick-paced and irresistibly quirky outing sees John Taylor, Nightside P.I. and recently appointed Walker of the Nightside, on the hunt for one last case before his impending marriage. Vietor's familiarity with the series shows as he deftly brings each character to life with subtle inflections and a deft sense of humor. His narration emphasizes not only the wild inventiveness of the plot but also the emotionality inherent in this series finale. However, several references to Green's other series ensure fans that this is not the last they've heard of the Nightside and its denizens. B.E.K. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2013 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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This full-cast, impressively produced drama takes you right into the action of a Third World War and its battle zones in China. A revolt against the Chinese government has triggered a full-scale conflict involving the U.S. You’ll be skillfully sucked into the story, suddenly finding yourself in the cockpit, fighting for your life. Yet this is more than action entertainment—the convincing backstory is cleverly exposed through news reports and dialogue. In the present, scenes switch from dogfights in the sky to battle on the ground to tense dialogue without ever confusing the listener. Put on your earphones and fly! H.O.K. 2013 Audies Finalist, Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Richard St. Vier, swordsman extraordinaire, often fights duels to protect the honor of a noble—or just the highest bidder. But to fight for his own and his friends’ honor is a more complicated matter. There are so many rules for every kind of engagement—battle, politics, and, of course, love. Author Ellen Kushner delivers her utterly unique blend of modern fantasy and nineteenth-century novel of manners with absolute conviction, affectionate humor, and perfect phrasing. “Neil Gaiman Presents” has provided original music, lively soundscapes, and the voices of some of the audio world’s most distinguished performers. Hearing Katherine Kellgren, Dion Graham, and others sharpen the cutting, insightful dialogue is pure pleasure. B.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2013 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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It’s the near future, maybe the day after tomorrow, and the melting ice sheets of Antarctica have released an ancient virus that attacks human DNA, turning average people into blood-craving vampires. Stefan Rudnicki, Gabrielle de Cuir, and Wil Wheaton lead a team of eight first-rate narrators who read eight interwoven novella-length tales by eight award-winning science fiction/horror writers that focus on the first days of the vampire epidemic. The narrators all use a journalistic matter-of-fact style that gives their voices and characters an immediate, realistic sound that suggests that ANYBODY could be infected and that those who are, naturally, would try to hide it and blend back into society. It’s all pulled off so well that listeners may want to check in their own mirrors to see if they’ve grown fangs. B.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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