Bottom Line
Audio Book Review
Books to read with your eyes on the road

Jonathan Lowe
Audio Book Reviewer

In their best production yet, Timberwolf Press has dramatized the Battle of Manila Bay in the Philippines and the siege of Peking, China, during the Boxer Rebellion in “Blood & Iron” by Dan MacGregor. The story is a coming-of-age tale that follows young Marine Corporal Levi Rankin as he enters the fray of little-known Naval battles fought near the turn of the 20th century. The story is particularly descriptive in the battle scenes, which are accompanied by sound effects. This military adventure helps transport the listener back to an age more characterized by civility, honor, and valor than by the cynical random terror that characterizes our own. (7.5 hours on cassettes or CDs/Timberwolf Press)

Imagine you suspect the president killed your only son — or had him killed — and you want revenge. Now, how would you accomplish this? There are several perimeters of defense around him 24/7. “The Fourth Perimeter” is a ring of Secret Service agents shielding the president from harm, men who are willing to give up their very lives to save his. Ah, but in this novel by Tim Green the protagonist (Kurt Ford) is a former Secret Service agent, and his son was an agent too, before he witnessed something he shouldn’t have. Now a high-tech billionaire, Ford is able to lure the president with promises of campaign donations, and he hatches an elaborate plan for escape. Actor Ron Perlman’s somewhat detached, dazed reading is oddly appropriate to the story because of the protagonist’s grief and suppressed anger. While this reading at times may have benefited from more intensity, the emotional truth of much of the dialog -— along with the music — will sustain your interest. (Time Warner Audiobooks/6 hours abridged)

In Tom Clancy’s vision, the world in 2010 will be run by super computers, and the FBI will have a special security agency within it called the Net Force. In “Net Force: Cybernation” terrorists have taken the Internet hostage from a virtual country. Steve Perry, the author of this novel, is relatively unknown. Perry’s bio doesn’t even appear in the book, so in effect he is the ghost writer of the Net Force series. But while Perry is not Clancy, this tale certainly exhibits a personal style Clancy would not have written himself, with romance and a more personal, humanistic touch alongside the high-tech storyline. In the end, listeners won’t be disappointed because narrator/actor Sam Freed does an excellent job conveying both male and female voices with believable performances that show he has done his homework. (Harper Audio/6 hours abridged)

After a few critical flops, John Grisham is attempting to return to his former modus operandi with “The Summons,” about a dying judge who calls his two sons home to discuss his estate. Before the younger black-sheep son arrives, the other discovers the old man dead and in possession of a fortune in cash. The source of the money is unknown, but someone else knows about it and is watching. While this is not the Grisham we read in “The Firm” or “The Pelican Brief,” it is certainly better fare than his last three books. Actor Michael Beck narrates, chosen more for his regional Mississippi accent than for his dramatic vocal characteristics. (Random House/8.5 hours unabridged)

If you love westerns, try “San Antonio” by Hank Mitchum, part of the Stagecoach Station series from the creators of “Wagons West.” In this story, a convict raised by Indians must lead the children of Mexico’s president to safety, battling rebels and road agents along the way. If he succeeds, he’ll not only escape a hangman’s noose, but also grab some gold for his trouble. Charlie O’Dowd narrates this tale with believable skill in the interpretation of character.” (Americana Publishing/5.5 hours)

If you asked Steven King who influenced him the most, he would tell you Ray Bradbury. He is a man of ideas, a consummate master storyteller whose tales are fantastical at times, but always human and believable. In his new collection “One More For the Road,” you’ll hear more Bradbury magic and learn that age is an illusion. While he may be an old man himself now, his spirit and mind are forever young. Actor Campbell Scott lends dignity and wonder to these stories, which know exactly when to end and what they intend. Only a few can be classified as science fiction because hard science was never Bradbury’s forte, nor is it King’s. So picking up a Bradbury book, as I did as a kid, is a little like picking up a time machine. (Harper Audio/6 hours)

Audio books can be rented from Audio Adventures in many truckstops or by calling 1-800-551-6692. Reviewer Jonathan Lowe is the award-winning author of Postal and Dark Fire.