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Jim N

Chicago, IL
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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-12-18

The Invasion Grows More Intense

A Season for Slaughter is the fourth and, thus far, final book in the unfinished War Against the Chtorr series. I've been waiting decades for more and supposedly, substantial portions of the fifth and six books are coming one of these days. Meanwhile, even incomplete, this remains a series worth reading.

This entry contains some of the most memorable scenes in the series. We're given much more insight into the Chtorran ecology and how it interacts with both terrestrial lifeforms and other Chtorran life. This is great stuff and throughout the books, whenever Gerrold delves into the nature of the alien invasion, he really delivers. Unfortunately, I think he overplays his hand a bit with some of the character interaction in this novel, going back to the well of protagonist Jim McCarthy's hair trigger temper and difficulty with relationships a little too often. There's also a relatively long and somewhat heavy-handed lull in the middle of the novel focusing on McCarthy's romantic relationship with "Lizard" Tirelli. It's not the she isn't an interesting character or that the relationship hasn't been developed over the previous 3 books. It's just a little too much of everything and consequently, doesn't quite work. However, the book bounces back from that lull with a vengeance and the final third of the novel contains some of the most disturbing and spectacular scenes to be found in the whole series. Definitely recommended.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-12-18

Unsettling and Memorable

David Gerrold warns the reader right up front that this novel is didactic and he's not kidding. There's a great deal of moralizing but it's done with purpose. This isn't the strongest book in the series but it may be the most memorable and I think it's the entry in which the series' key themes are most prominent. One of the most interesting aspects of the War Against the Chtorr novels is they're not simply a rip-roarin' military science fiction yarn about humans battling huge, purple alien worms. The series is also about humanity, about change and adaptation. Before it even begins, a substantial portion of the human race has been wiped out by a series of plagues. Everyone remaining is deeply scarred by those events. Faced with an ecological invasion that seems almost unstoppable, humanity's psychological response becomes as important as any scientific or military reaction to the Chtorran threat and that response is varied. We experience it in this series primarily through the protagonist, Jim McCarthy, who is young, thoroughly messed up and often angry, frustrated and confused. His psychological state is well-established in the first two books, as is his vulnerability, and that's crucial to understanding his behavior in this one.

In A Rage for Revenge, Jim finds himself captured, manipulated and indoctrinated into a cult. The cult represents one of the aforementioned adaptations to the alien Chtorran presence. It's an effort to live in harmony with the Chtorran ecology. Gerrold handles this quite well and the chapters involving the cult are both believable and unsettling. The section that follows is unnerving too and the book deals with difficult and uncomfortable themes (including pedophilia) in ways that some readers will find hard to handle. However, when viewed within the larger psychological context described above, I think it works. In other words, we're supposed to feel uncomfortable.

Much of the aforementioned didacticism involves chapters describing the Mode training, another (and controversial) human response to the invasion, designed to help humanity successfully hold itself together and find a winning strategy.

None of these books are for the timid or easily offended. In addition to the controversial themes mentioned above, this one features dirty limericks at the beginning of every chapter (for reasons explained in the book).

I've read this novel 3 times now and although I don't think it's one of the best books I've ever read, it's certainly among the most memorable. As good as it is in some places, it's didactic nature wears a little and there's an aspect of the story near the end that doesn't quite ring true to me. Nevertheless, I recommend it.

John Pruden's performance is excellent.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-06-18

A Sequel that's Superb

A Day for Damnation is my favorite book in David Gerrold's excellent-but-unfinished War Against the Chtorr series. Gerrold ramps up the story in this second book, delving more deeply into the nature and diversity of the alien ecology that's invading the planet and into the impact living in a post-apocalypse world is having on the human race. The book features an extended sequence in which the main characters are trapped in something akin to an alien "blizzard" that is among the most memorable sequences I've encountered in decades of reading and listening to science fiction.

John Pruden's narration is excellent. Highly recommended.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-29-18

A Great Beginning!

I've read A Matter for Men 3 times before listening to this version so obviously, I'm a fan. This book and the rest of the still unfinished War Against the Chtorr series owe a debt to the work of Robert Heinlein (and Starship Troopers in particular) but Gerrold's take on alien invasion is fresh and original (even though this novel first appeared decades ago). The great twist of these novels is that the very nature of the invasion itself is a mystery. There are no massive spaceships hovering over cities. There's no advanced weaponry wielded by a hi-tech alien civilization, no contact or negotiation with an intelligent, technologically advanced alien race. Instead, Earth is being invaded by an alien ecology that slowly reveals itself and grows more complex. It's source is unknown but it is voracious and dangerous.

Much of the groundwork for subsequent entries in the series is laid in this first novel but A Matter for Men tells a satisfying story on it's own too. The main character, Jim, goes through an emotional and psychological grinder almost from the very beginning and is well-developed. Some of the more philosophical and political aspects of the book may put a few readers off but they're an important part of the character development and they help explain the form humanity's response to the invasion takes. There's even a nod to a memorable scene in King Kong!

The audio version is well-narrated by John Pruden.

I can't recommend this series enough. It remains unfinished to this day but Mr. Gerrold is still working on the rest of the series. Hopefully, those books will see print soon but even if they don't, The War Against the Chtorr is worth your time.

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2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-24-18

A Unfortunate Misfire

Watch the Girls has a great premise and I found the first third of the book compelling but the intriguing mystery at the center of the story gave way pretty quickly to predictable reveals, painfully written sex scenes and a "startling" ending that felt both preposterous and unsatisfactory. I wish I had liked this more but it just wasn't for me.

Khristine Hvam gives her usual outstanding performance.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-22-18

I was riveted.

This is a perfect summer listen, reminiscent of a good mystery/thriller at the movies. I ripped through it in just a few days and found myself lingering at times to listen to just one more chapter.

The narration by Nicol Zanzarella is excellent.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-06-18

A Compelling Psychological Thriller

The less said about the details of this carefully crafted novel, the better. Pinborough's story of a love triangle in which everyone's motives are questionable is an excellent listen. The story is told using a first person narrative that alternates between two of the main characters, a young, divorced mother named Louise and a beautiful woman named Adele. Adele's husband, David, completes the triangle but this isn't simply a book about an affair and it's consequences. It goes to dark and unexpected places and the psychological portrait Pinborough paints of these characters is very compelling. The book builds to quite a finish but I'm not about to spoil any of it for you. However, I do recommend it!

The narration is excellent.

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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-03-18

A Good Summer Listen!

This creepy, if oddly structured, horror novel was my first exposure to Little's work and I found it quite entertaining. The premise is original, the characters relatable and the suspense and weirdness build nicely. The narration by Chris Andrew Ciulla is excellent.

Recommended!

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-17-18

Truly Frightening

Enter, Night is a deeply moving and, at times, quite terrifying vampire novel. The book is broken into two distinct-but-related stories. The first is set in 1972 and the second takes place in the days when Canada was still "New France". The story builds slowly but when it kicks in, it kicks in with a vengeance.

A warning to readers with delicate sensibilities: this isn't the book for you. It's both vividly gruesome and sexually explicit.

Kevin Stillwell does a superb job with the narration.

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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-30-18

Missed it by that much...

A mix of police procedural, murder mystery and supernatural thriller, The Ridge's varying elements never quite coalesced into a satisfying whole for me. It's written pretty well and the narration is solid but by the last third of the book, I was struggling to get to the finish line.

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