Review: The Dispatcher by John Scalzi, read by Zachary Quinto for Audible

The Dispatcher by John Scalzi
Read by Zachary Quinto for Audible

Free until November 2, The Dispatcher is an audio-exclusive short novella from John Scalzi, read by Zachary Quinto — best known for his role as the Nimoy-approved Spock in the recent Star Trek reboot and the menacing, power-stealing serial killer, Sylar, in Heroes — who “brings his well-earned sci-fi credentials and simmering intensity to this audio-exclusive novella from master storyteller John Scalzi.”

The book starts just a bit heavy in the “exposition through dialogue” front, but builds into something pretty good. The speculative element here is completely unexplained — basically, one day, people who are murdered start just going “pop!” out of existence and waking up safe in their own beds. (999 times out of 1000, at least.) So, “dispatchers” stand by during complicated medical operations, or suitably dangerous activity (imagine helmet- and safety-net-free skateboard jumps of near-suicidal intent, and you’ll have a non-spoilery idea), to, er, “dispatch” those dying from mistakes or accidents. There’s some interesting moral questions there, which Scalzi goes a little bit into, but he only teases about the possible cosmological or other questions involved, both in terms of what’s behind what’s going on and/or how it works, and the moral and ethical implications thereof.

Our “dispatcher” here is, pretty much, strong-armed into consulting for a Chicago police detective, looking into a disappearance. Things end a bit too predictably and “pat” or “neat” if you will, but it was engaging enough, and in a short novella there’s only so many twists and turns you can squeeze in. A few comic (usually dark comedy, but still comic!) incidents give one the recommended Scalzian humor quotient, but in the end it’s “merely” a good (free!) yarn. But! The 4+ star thing here is the performance of Zachary Quinto. He was legitimately very, very good here, and! actually his performance shows he was thoughtfully well cast, not just a “hey, what celebrity sci-fi narrator can we find for this Scalzi story?” kind of thing. The disposition one needs to handle being a “dispatcher” — a detached, logical approach — really works when coming from Quinto here, and I look forward to hearing him in future audiobooks if he does keep doing voice work, which I truly hope he does.

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September #WhispersyncDeal roundup: Octavia Butler, Jay Posey, Richard Matheson, R. A. MacAvoy, Jose Saramago, Carl Hiassen, Karen Lord, and more

In the latest crop of the monthly 3.99 or less Kindle titles, there’s 174 Whispersync-enabled deals to check out, with no shortage of fantastic books and audiobooks from classic and current sf to epic fantasy to thrillers and more. When you add the monthly $2 or less listings with its own 52 Whispersync deals, there’s certainly a lot to tempt you as September comes to a close. And! While you’re at it, don’t forget that Audible’s $4.95 members-only “Win-Win” sale was extended through the end of the month as well, and my picks from that crop include The Hobbit and Ray Bradbury. OK, enough preamble, on to the best of this month’s Whispersync deals! (And yes, this is coming out on the last day of the month, again, sorry about that, but do get your shopping done before midnight!)

Bloodchild and Other Stories Audiobook Outriders Audiobook

Bloodchild: And Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler, read by Janina Edwards for $1.99+$3.49 — This book, people. It’s full of amazing science fiction, from the titular “Bloodchild” on and on, with some great author’s notes and a brilliant essay to close. Edwards is a wonderful narrator for Butler’s work here, and this really is one of the 100%, guaranteed, can’t-miss audiobooks I can highly recommend.

Outriders by Jay Posey, read by James Lindgren for $2.99+$3.49 — Out not even 5 months ago, this is a fantastic start to a new series of space science fiction from Posey, the author of the post-apocalyptic Legend of the Duskwalker series. Here it’s a military sf series, with a focus on the “Outriders” a special forces group full of squad roles and tactics, read by new-to-me narrator Lindgren whose narration on this one reminded me quite a bit, in a very good way, of some of Tom Cruise’s science fictional and thriller turns on the big screen. Jack Reacher in space? With clones? “Captain Lincoln Suh died on a Wednesday. And things only got harder from there.”


More adult science fiction and fantasy titles I consider most worth checking out:

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Audible’s latest members-only “Win-Win” sale

I had such plans for this month, to get the #WhispersyncDeal roundup out early, and then, well, more and more deals just kept needing to be added, and then this deal rolled out. So, before it’s entirely too late instead of nearly, and before I get to the more “regularly scheduled” Whispersync deals, first up this month is my top 18 picks from a glance through Audible’s Members-Only “Win-Win” sale, with over 200 titles for just $4.95 each. The sale ends September 26, 2016 at 11:59 PM PT (US) so as of this writing there’s just about 36 hours. Get going! UPDATE SEP 26: The deal has been extended through September 30, so! You’ve got a few more days.

The Hobbit Audiobook Fahrenheit 451 Audiobook Off to Be the Wizard Audiobook

  • By J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Narrated by Rob Inglis — “In this fantasy classic, master storyteller J.R.R. Tolkien creates a bewitching world filled with delightful creatures and thrilling dangers. Performed with as much imagination and originality as Tolkien conjured to create this epic, narrator Rob Inglis will hold listeners of all ages spellbound with his skillful portrayal of hobbits, dwarves, and enchanted beasts.”
  • By Ray Bradbury
  • Narrated by Tim Robbins — “Ray Bradbury’s internationally acclaimed novel Fahrenheit 451 is a masterwork of 20th-century literature set in a bleak, dystopian future, narrated here by Academy Award-winning actor Tim Robbins.”
  • By Scott Meyer
  • Narrated by Luke Daniels — “It’s a simple story. Boy finds proof that reality is a computer program. Boy uses program to manipulate time and space. Boy gets in trouble. Boy flees back in time to Medieval England to live as a wizard while he tries to think of a way to fix things. Boy gets in more trouble. Oh, and boy meets girl at some point. Off to Be the Wizard is a light, comedic novel about computers, time travel, and human stupidity, written by Scott Meyer, the creator of the internationally known comic strip Basic Instructions. Magic will be made! Legends will be created! Stew will be eaten!”

Nine Princes in Amber Audiobook Fuzzy Nation Audiobook Abaddon's Gate Audiobook

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Why Are People Sending You Legs? — Dave Reviews Career of Evil

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike, Book 3)
by Robert Galbraith, read by Robert Glenister
Length: 17 hours, 58 minutes
Buy: [ Downpour | Audible | IndieBound ]

“How many people do you know would send you a severed leg in the mail?” an investigating police inspector asks Cormoran Strike just after the detective reported he’d received an appendage in the post.

“Four,” replies Strike, without missing a beat.

Welcome to Career of Evil, the third Cormoran Strike book by Robert Galbraith, a.k.a. J.K. Rowling’s pseudonym. I enjoyed the previous books in this series — but they took their time setting up all the pieces on the board. In this outing, Rowling starts off at a much faster clip than the previous books. The pace is unrelenting — I finished listening to it in five days.

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August #WhispersyncDeal roundup: Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence, Alex Bledsoe’s Wisp of a Thing, Marko Kloos, Alan Cumming, Tim Powers, and much more

August is almost over, which means it’s #WhispersyncDeal roundup time! Before I get to the regular Monthly Deals in Kindle Books and 50 Kindle Book Deals for $2 Each listings, and the huge list of titles in Audible’s “3 years of daily deals” sale, though, a completely separate deal headlines my picks this month:

Per Tor and editor Marco Palmieri, Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence is moving from Tor Books to Publishing, and the series-wide $4.99 sale continues through August. The bad news is that only books 1 and 2 (Three Parts Dead, actually just $3.99 in Kindle during the deal, and Two Serpents Rise, both fantastic) are in audio — yes, you’ve seen the other books in my “most missing” roundups ever since — but the good news is that both are Whispersync-enabled, with a $4.49 Audible add-on price tag. “A god has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart. Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis’s steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot. Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who’s having an understandable crisis of faith. When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts–and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb’s slim hope of survival. Set in a phenomenally built world in which justice is a collective force bestowed on a few, craftsmen fly on lightning bolts, and gargoyles can rule cities, Three Parts Dead introduces readers to an ethical landscape in which the line between right and wrong blurs.” Claudia Alick reads Three Parts Dead, and Chris Andrew Ciulla reads Two Serpents Rise.

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Wednesday’s #WhispersyncDeal roundup: Connie Willis, Diana Gabaldon, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Matthew Reilly

Bit too big of a day to link them all one at a time, so here’s four great deals today to check out:

Blackout (All Clear Book 1) by Connie Willis, read by Katherine Kellgren for $1.99+$4.49 is the first half of the Hugo Award winning time-travel duology Blackout/All Clear: “Oxford in 2060 is a chaotic place, with scores of time-traveling historians being sent into the past. Michael Davies is prepping to go to Pearl Harbor. Merope Ward is coping with a bunch of bratty 1940 evacuees and trying to talk her thesis adviser into letting her go to VE-Day. Polly Churchill’s next assignment will be as a shopgirl in the middle of London’s Blitz. But now the time-travel lab is suddenly canceling assignments and switching around everyone’s schedules. And when Michael, Merope, and Polly finally get to World War II, things just get worse. For there they face air raids, blackouts, and dive-bombing Stukas—to say nothing of a growing feeling that not only their assignments but the war and history itself are spiraling out of control. Because suddenly the once-reliable mechanisms of time travel are showing significant glitches, and our heroes are beginning to question their most firmly held belief: that no historian can possibly change the past.”

Outlander: A Novel by Diana Gabaldon, read by Davina Porter for $1.99+$3.99 — Now a television series on Starz: “Unrivaled storytelling. Unforgettable characters. Rich historical detail. These are the hallmarks of Diana Gabaldon’s work. Her New York Times bestselling Outlander novels have earned the praise of critics and captured the hearts of millions of fans. Here is the story that started it all, introducing two remarkable characters, Claire Beauchamp Randall and Jamie Fraser, in a spellbinding novel of passion and history that combines exhilarating adventure with a love story for the ages. Scottish Highlands, 1945. Claire Randall, a former British combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding clans in the year of Our Lord . . . 1743.”

Sailing to Sarantium: Book One of the Sarantine Mosaic by Guy Gavriel Kay, read by Bernie Clark for $3.99+$4.49 — First published in 1998, a richly layered fantasy (what else?) from Kay: “Crispin is a master mosaicist, creating beautiful art with colored stones and glass. Summoned to Sarantium by imperial request, he bears a Queen’s secret mission, and a talisman from an alchemist. Once in the fabled city, with its taverns and gilded sanctuaries, chariot races and palaces, intrigues and violence, Crispin must find his own source of power in order to survive-and unexpectedly discovers it high on the scaffolding of his own greatest creation.”

Not a Whispersync deal but rather’s Daily Deal today is The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly, read by Rich Orlow for $3.95 — “In the blockbuster and best-selling tradition of Jurassic Park comes the breakneck new adventure from New York Times and number-one internationally best-selling author Matthew Reilly, whose imaginative, cinematic thrillers “make you feel like a kid again; [they’re] a blast” (Booklist). It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for 40 years. They have proven the existence of dragons – a landmark discovery no one could ever believe is real and a scientific revelation that will amaze the world. Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing findings within the greatest zoo ever constructed. A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see these fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr. Cassandra Jane “CJ” Cameron, a writer for National Geographic, and an expert on reptiles. The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that the dragons are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong. Of course it can’t….”

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July #WhispersyncDeal roundup: Ken Liu, Kat Howard, Octavia Butler, Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Matheson, Walter Mosley, Field of Dreams, Scott Westerfeld’s Zeroes, and much more

July brought a refreshed list of Summer Reading Deals and 50 Kindle Books for $2 Each to the Kindle store, and there’s over 700 titles in there, 387 of which are Whispersync for Voice enabled in the “Summer Reading Deals” alone. (There’s another 46 in the $2 Kindle listings.) What’s most worth checking out? There’s a lot, even there, including a few titles from 2016 from Saga Press and Simon & Schuster Audio, classics, and more. Here you go, starting with those Saga/S&S titles that I can hardly believe can be had for this price so soon:

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu, read by Corey Brill and Joy Osmanski for $1.99+$3.99 — Even with all of the other audiobooks in this roundup, I absolutely have to lead off right here. Liu is one of the great young writers of science fiction and fantasy today, and this collection includes some absolutely fantastic stories: “Best-selling author Ken Liu selects his award-winning science fiction and fantasy tales for a groundbreaking collection – including a brand-new piece exclusive to this volume. With his debut novel, The Grace of Kings, taking the literary world by storm, Ken Liu now shares his finest short fiction in The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. This mesmerizing collection features all of Ken’s award-winning and award-finalist stories, including: “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” (finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon Awards); “Mono No Aware” (Hugo Award winner); “The Waves” (Nebula Award finalist); “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” (Nebula and Sturgeon Award finalist); “All the Flavors” (Nebula award finalist); “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” (Nebula Award finalist); and the most awarded story in the genre’s history, “The Paper Menagerie” (the only story to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards). A must-have for every science fiction and fantasy fan, this beautiful book is an anthology to savor.” Continue reading

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Downpour’s 100-title science fiction $5.95 audiobook sale: Ian McDonald’s Luna: New Moon, Molly Tanzer’s Vermilion, Cory Doctorow, Jeff VanderMeer, Ray Bradbury, and more:

In Downpour’s 100-book $5.95 Sci-Fi sale there are dozens of highly-rated and recommended titles. Here’s what most caught my eye, from a quartet of great titles from 2015, to Cory Doctorow, Jeff VanderMeer, Catherine Asaro, Walter Mosley, Jane Rogers, and Brenda Cooper, to classics from Ray Bradbury and Walter M. Miller. (If you really love classic sf there’s plenty of Heinlein and Bova to peruse as well.)

Planetfall by Emma Newman Luna by Ian McDonaldVermilion by Molly Tanzer Dark Orbit by Carolyn Ives Gilman
The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn by Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky The Pnume by Jack Vance
Eastern Standard Tribe by Cory Doctorow Overclocked by Cory Doctorow
A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias Inside a Silver Box by Walter Mosley
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer The Veiled Web by Catherine Asaro
The New Space Opera by Gardner Dozois, Jonathan Strahan The New Space Opera 2 by Gardner Dozois, Jonathan Strahan
The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers Building Harlequin’s Moon by Larry Niven, Brenda Cooper
A Pleasure to Burn by Ray Bradbury A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.
Exogene by T. C. McCarthy Chimera by T. C. McCarthy

Happy $5.95 deal-hunting! But don’t wait too long, this sale ends July 31.

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June #WhispersyncDeal roundup: Umberto Eco, T. Kingfisher, Scott Meyer, Rysa Walker, Gwenda Bond, Steve McHugh, Dennis Lehane, Ian Fleming, and more

Between this month’s Summer Reading Deals in Kindle Books and 50 Kindle Book Deals for $2 Each listings there’s quite a few (over 300!) Whispersync for Voice titles to check out. From comedic fantasy to YA time travel, Umberto Eco to new fiction in translation, there’s something for everybody to check out:

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco for $2.99+$3.99 is the legendary Eco’s award-winning first novel, read by the marvelous Sean Barrett along with Nicholas Rowe and Neville Jason: “The year is 1327. Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective. His tools are the logic of Aristotle, the theology of Aquinas, the empirical insights of Roger Bacon—all sharpened to a glistening edge by wry humor and a ferocious curiosity. He collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey, where “the most interesting things happen at night.””

The Seventh Bride by T. Kingfisher, read by Kaylin Heath for $1.99+$1.99 — T. Kingfisher is the Hugo Award and Nebula Award nominated author Ursula Vernon’s pseudonym for writing for grownups. Here: “Young Rhea is a miller’s daughter of low birth, so she is understandably surprised when a mysterious nobleman, Lord Crevan, shows up on her doorstep and proposes marriage. Since commoners don’t turn down lords – no matter how sinister they may seem – Rhea is forced to agree to the engagement. Lord Crevan demands that Rhea visit his remote manor before their wedding. Upon arrival, she discovers that not only was her betrothed married six times before, but his previous wives are all imprisoned in his enchanted castle. Determined not to share their same fate, Rhea asserts her desire for freedom. In answer, Lord Crevan gives Rhea a series of magical tasks to complete, with the threat “Come back before dawn, or else I’ll marry you.” With time running out and each task more dangerous and bizarre than the last, Rhea must use her resourcefulness, compassion, and bravery to rally the other wives and defeat the sorcerer before he binds her to him forever.”

Spell or High Water and An Unwelcome Quest by Scott Meyer, read by Luke Daniels for $1.99+$1.99 each, are Books 2 and 3 of the Magic 2.0 series: “Martin Banks is just a normal guy who has made an abnormal discovery: he can manipulate reality, thanks to reality being nothing more than a computer program. With every use of this ability, though, Martin finds his little “tweaks” have not escaped notice. Rather than face prosecution, he decides instead to travel back in time to the Middle Ages and pose as a wizard. What could possibly go wrong? An American hacker in King Arthur’s court, Martin must now train to become a full-fledged master of his powers, discover the truth behind the ancient wizard Merlin…and not, y’know, die or anything.” While Book 1 of the series, Off to Be the Wizard, isn’t in this month’s sale listings, it is however one of those “evergreen” Whispersync deals at $3.99+$1.99, so if you haven’t jumped aboard this series, it’s still crazy cheap to get started.

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Audible’s $4.95 “Editors’ Picks” sale ends today: Octavia E. Butler, Ursula K. Le guin, Cixin Liu, Lev Grossman, Patrick Rothfuss, Susanna Clarke, Junot Diaz, Justin Cronin, and more

And there are a ton of science fiction and fantasy books to choose from. Here’s my absolute favorite audiobooks from the sale:

Kindred Audiobook The Dispossessed Audiobook The Three-Body Problem Audiobook

  • By Octavia E. Butler
  • Narrated by Kim Staunton
  • By Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Narrated by Don Leslie
  • By Cixin Liu
  • Narrated by Luke Daniels

The Magicians Audiobook The Name of the Wind Audiobook Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell Audiobook

  • By Lev Grossman
  • Narrated by Mark Bramhall
  • By Patrick Rothfuss
  • Narrated by Nick Podehl
  • By Susanna Clarke
  • Narrated by Simon Prebble

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Audiobook The Passage Audiobook

  • By Junot Diaz
  • Narrated by Jonathan Davis, Staci Snell
  • By Justin Cronin
  • Narrated by Scott Brick, Adenrele Ojo, Abby Craden

And there’s a dozen more I can certainly recommend out of this sale: Michael J. Sullivan’s Theft of Swords, Kevin Hearne’s Hounded, Jim Butcher’s Storm Front, Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama, James S.A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes, Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, and plenty more that I’ve heard good things about as well.

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