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Audio Book News
By Jonathan Lowe

December 2010

by Jonathan Lowe

In PORT MORTUARY by Patricia Cornwell medical examiner Kay Scarpetta is back in a high tech medical mystery, told from her point of view. When evidence reveals that a young victim may have been put inside a body bag and locked in a cooler prior to actual death, Scarpetta and her forensic center face potential ruin. The action and pacing are convincing on many levels, while involving both personal and political aspects of Scarpetta's professional career, past and present. Listeners learn things about robotics, radiology and forensics as Broadway actress and longtime narrator Kate Burton lends believability to the unfolding story. Cornwell's near stream-of-consciousness style can become cloying after a while for some, especially those who'd prefer not to see everything in Scarpetta's pocket (including lint), but suspected hate crimes, military protocol, and cutting edge technology all enhance a personable albeit sometimes gruesome tale well told.
Did Patricia Cornwell read WIRED FOR WAR by P.W. Singer prior to writing her lastest novel? It certainly sounds like it, given her oft repeated denigration of military robotics, and her utilization of robotics in her plotting. Singer's book, as ably read by William Hughes, is a virtual textbook on the state of robotics today. Singer comes at the subject from every imaginable level, including science fiction, philosophy, psychology, and popular culture. Some of the questions he incites revolve around what roles robots will have in society and in wars. How will robots change the battlefield, and affect an enemy's desire to fight? Military budgeting is pioneering the industry, and Singer postulates a time, already in the making, when robots will dominate and intimidate poor civilian populaces on the desperate path to terror. When the "singularity" happens (true artificial intelligence) robots may even take over the world. Nanobots, robocops, robot soldiers, it's all on the way as our answer to terrorism, whatever scary outcomes might result. The book is an amalgam of computer history, futuristic conjecture, interviews with Predator pilots, and compendium of terms. That fly on the wall may soon be a spy robot with GPS and the ability to call in mechanical reinforcements bearing battering rams and machine guns. Stay tuned. You really have no choice.
Brad Thor's latest is THE ATHENA PROJECT, which introduces an all female black ops team whose assignment is to uncover a Venetian arms dealer responsible for a bombing attack in Rome. But with links to a government coverup and mysterious doings in the jungles of South America, this secret Delta Force team will have their hands full. Narrator is Broadway and film actress Elizabeth Marvel, whose reading brings to life an otherwise novel supposition: that women can be as violent as men.
FULL DARK, NO STARS is Stephen King's latest. A collection of four novellas similar to Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight, the audiobook is narrated by Jessica Hecht and Craig Wasson, and includes "1922," about a man whose murdered wife gets revenge from beyond the grave (and he's the killer.) "Big Driver" is about an author who is raped and left for dead, and also has revenge on her mind. "Fair Extension" is a deal-with-the-devil with a humorous twist on the theme of luck. And the final story features a wife who discovers her husband's unthinkable secret life. The theme is "the stranger within." Meaning chilling discoveries are made about oneself or others. Wasson's buoyant laughter and Hecht's joyous sarcasm invoke their own sleight of hand.

George W. Bush finally has his new autobiography out, and as can be expected, he attempts to explain his decisions, regardless of how chillingly horrific they ultimately proved to be. Of course Clinton did the same thing in his book, playing up his accomplishments while downplaying his flaws. DECISION POINTS reads like an honest account of what Bush actually felt, and feels now. His intensions were as patriotic as Texas itself, and you begin to see why things turned out as they did, given a Harvard man who preferred to sleep in class, was well connected, and later had difficulty in seeing around problems (but instead judged a man in 30 seconds, be they acting or not). Naive, a little slow, but trusting and positive, and with his own sense of fairness, Bush goes over some events some might prefer to forget, and which unfortunately we'll all be paying for in decades to come. If you buy this book, be sure to get the audiobook version to hear Bush explain it all to you in his own words. Because you can hear a lot between the lines.

2010 Past Columns

 Sept 2010 Reviews