First let's get this out of the way. Writers reading for their own audiobook is always a mixed bag. On the plus side, they get the tone and the general intent of the book better than anyone else possibly could. On the down side, they often aren't the best actors in the world, and tend to over-enunciate to the point that it's distracting from the storyline. I thought that was the case with Neil Gaiman reading his own audiobooks, and also true for Daniel Jose Older on this book.
Plus his overuse of the word "fuck" got a little monotonous and distracting. At first, I wondered does this writer know any other adjectives? or verbs? or descriptors? non sequiturs?
Luckily, the answer is yes.
As the story progresses, Older's luxuriant use of the English language is one of the main reasons to read this book. I'm not sure what he was after in the first 1/3 of the book, but so many "fucks" came across like a nerdy kid trying to prove he could fit in with the cool kids, but overdoing it. It was almost enough to make me not give a... well, you get the idea.
Now for what I loved. Too many Urban Fantasy books follow the same wish-fulfillment formula. There is always a useless comic relief character that is there for no other reason. Most portray every male character that is not the protagonist as evil, or worthless, while every female character instantly desires the hero (or hates him at first before admitting that she desired him all along). And of course there are the equivalent female wish fulfillment variants where the males all fight each other for her favor while the petty females all hate her.. but everyone talks about how much they all love her... you know the ones.
The humor in this book stems from situations that are naturally funny. So silly characters that behave like something from a Saturday morning cartoon. The main character doesn't suddenly make Road Runner sounds during the most critical, tension-filled scene of the story. Very refreshing. These characters are adults and written for an adult audience. Also very refreshing. The "bad guy" thinks he's the good guy, and just can't understand why someone would want to oppose him. Yes, that fits. That's how real humans behave.
Another thing that many fantasy books don't get, that this one handled well: no matter how outrageous our situation is, human beings tend to behave like normal people while we're in it. An over the top situation just becomes our "new normal", and we deal with problems accordingly. I liked the feel of that in this book. These people were used to their supernatural lifestyle and dealt with the situation like real folks would.
I'm looking forward to reading the next story in the series. Hopefully, the dialogue will rise to the level of the excellent storyline and great characters.
14 of 14 people found this review helpful
Half-Resurrection Blues is about a half-dead hitman working for entirely dead guys to keep the balance of life and death in check. I'm not usually all that into urban fantasy, but after reading Half-Resurrection Blues, I wonder if that's because I've rarely seen any author write about a city half so well as Older writes about Brooklyn. I learned (after reading it) that he'd been a community organizer, and those roots show. He knows people are and what they're up to and what they care about, and all those details make Brooklyn come to life on the page. It's fantastic.
It's also funny. Really, really funny. For example, early on, the narrator and protagonist, Carlos, meets another half-dead guy for the first time in his life, and it is not exactly the joy he would have expected:
/“Whaddup, douche bags and douche baguettes?” [Trevor] hollers at the crowd. I’m mortified and fascinated at the same time. A few passing revelers chuckle but most ignore him. A blond lady rolls her eyes as if she’s being hit on for like the four hundredth time tonight. “Why so serious?” Trevor yells into the sky. I found the one other being like me in the universe and he is a total jackass./
On that point, Older has the comic timing of his narrator down, and it's worth listening to the book for that alone. (I kept walking over to the next room to make my girlfriend listen to choice lines.) He's also just downright pleasant to listen to. My only complaint is the voice acting when one of the female characters is crying. High-pitched, fake-crying voice is a bit of a twitch for me. Thankfully, that's only a small part.
The other interesting thing about this book is how well Older writes male characters. Carlos and his buddies playing off of each other are great, and Older's awareness of how men interact with women (and why) was also fascinating (and appalling). Carlos does not make the best choices about how he conducts his relationships, which was actually cool to read, since the narrative does not support his choices (pointedly) but also does not demonize them.
Anyway, this is a great book. It's got a lot of depth while remaining a fun read. Highly recommend.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
What did you love best about Half-Resurrection Blues?
I have listened to many authors read their own work over the years and some can do it and some not so much. Apparently, Jose can. This work is a combination of prose, spoken word, and story. I say work instead of novel because in this case those three combine into a whole. I can hear references to Dashiell Hammett, Gabriel Márquez, and Langston Hughes, to name a few. The plot is basic detective genre made unique by cultural-Hispanic, entertaining-ghostly, and location-Brooklyn references. The reading was excellent if you like spoken word, you can hear the rythm and beat come across in the performance.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
Jose Older just has such a great voice. That is the main reason for buying this book, not to say that the story is bad, just that the performance is just so perfect. The cadence and tone of Mr. Older just works so well with the story. I can't gush enough about it.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Buy this book immediately.
I finished Half Resurrection Blues only moments ago after barely being able to pause in my listening for anything. This books is a great contribution to the urban fantasy genre--without a vampire, werewolf, or faerie in sight! The main character, Carlos Delacruz, captured my heart and my imagination and I could not have been more with him every step of the way.
Both story and characterization are delivered gorgeously, the language fresh and approachable at its most basic, and jazz-like, almost reminiscent of William Carlos Williams in its qualities, at its best. That may sound like excessive praise, but when I did pause in my listening it was often to go back and revisit the writing just to hear a turn of phrase once more. I played passages for nearby friends. Really, this is just great stuff.
The story is fun, engaging, and fast-paced, and delivers on action as well as humor, romance, and humanity.
The author delivers an exquisite reading of his work, the kind of performance that would make me seek out other works solely to hear his reading. I am looking forward to more books of this series and more works of any kind by Daniel José Elder.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
I don't usually do reviews but this is the best book I've listened to in a while! I totally loved this book & the author has a great voice for reading. I just wish there were more!
2 of 2 people found this review helpful