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Audio Book Review
Pass the miles and the time with comedy, sci-fi, horror and intrigue

Jonathan Lowe
AUDIO BOOK REVIEWER

George Carlin is one weird dude. Armed with an offbeat point of view and an attitude, Carlin examines an entire list of subjects, either briefly or in depth. You never know where he’s going because there’s no rhyme or reason to his ramblings, except to make you laugh. Carlin’s acid tongue is now out and on display in a new compilation taken from three previous audio books, and titled “George Carlin Reads to You.” The Grammy winners “Brain Droppings” and “Napalm & Silly Putty” are included in this six CD set, which is contained in individual clear plastic holders that fan open like a book so you can see through it without fumbling. It’s the best audio book packaging for this droll performer, whose biting satire will keep you smiling for more than seven hours. (Highbridge Audio – 7.5 hours abridged) ˜˜˜˜

If you like very tall tales, Barrett Whitener reads “Callahan’s Con” by Spider Robinson for Blackstone Audio. It’s a comic science fiction novel about a group of zany bar flies who happen to have access to other-worldly powers, like teleportation and telepathy. Never mind that they have names like “Long Drink McGonnigle” and “Fast Eddie Costigan,” their lives are now interrupted by the demands of “Tony Donuts Jr.” while Jake’s wife, Zoey, disappears into time and space. What’s it all mean? There isn’t space to explain, except that this latest of the Callahan books is also recommended by Publishers Weekly and The New York Times, while narrator Whitener was nominated for an Audie award for reading the series. (Blackstone Audio – 9 hours unabridged) ˜˜˜

Next, Richard Ferrone reads “Abarat – Days of Magic, Nights of War” by Clive Barker, an unusual followup fantasy by the bestselling horror author about the abduction of Candy Quackenbush, a girl from Minnesota, who must discover why the land of Abarat seems so familiar to her before Christopher Carrion, the Lord of Midnight, takes total control of the islands. She evidently knows magic, although she can’t remember learning it. It’s a strange and beguiling novel read by one of the best mystery readers in the business. The Audie-winning Richard Ferrone can also be heard narrating many titles for Recorded Books. (Harper Audio – 12 hours unabridged) ˜˜˜

It’s Ron McLarty who reads “Black Wind,” a suspense novel by Clive Cussler and his son Dirk Cussler featuring not one but two Dirk Pitts. The book is about two Japanese submarines that were sent to attack the U.S. mainland in the last days of World War II, but which sank offshore instead. Now someone intends to retrieve the deadly biological cargo and complete the attack, but there’s a pretty marine biologist named Summer and both Dirk Pitt Jr. and Sr. to outwit first. The real life Dirk Cussler has an MBA, and was an active participant in his father’s underwater explorations until he was persuaded to join dad in writing more bestsellers. Clive himself has a cameo role in the book, too, much like Alfred Hitchcock, who often appeared in his own films. If there’s nepotism involved here, it’s all in good fun, while veteran mystery reader McLarty possesses the instincts to carry it off — as he did reading the six-hour abridged versions of “Valhalla Rising” and “Trojan Odyssey.” But if you prefer the full unabridged version, the always-on-target Scott Brick reads that version. (Penguin Audio – 6 hours abridged) ˜˜˜½

Want more underwater intrigue? Arguably the best Tom Clancy book was one of his first, “The Hunt for Red October,” published in 1984 and featuring Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst who believes one of the most technically advanced submarines in the Soviet fleet is attempting to defect. While the U.S. Navy tries to find the sub and guide her to port, the Russians have orders to sink her at all costs. This cat and mouse game makes for some of the most rousing suspense ever written, but which, unfortunately, Clancy has not been able to match since, opting for ever more politically entangled plots and homages to weapons and war. To hear it unabridged for the first time on CD, listen to the engaging J. Charles as he narrates the story. (Brilliance Audio – 15 hours unabridged) ˜˜˜˜

These audio books may be rented from Audio Adventures in truck stops or by calling 1-800-551-6692. Jonathan Lowe’s adventure tale “Fame Island,” read by Emmy-winning Hollywood actor Kristoffer Tabori, is available at BlackstoneAudio.com.