Cheeseburger Gothic

Bookclub World War Z. (Audio)

Posted August 11, 2013 into Book Club by John Birmingham

Firstly, apologies for moving the time of this book club around again and again and again. It moved so often, in fact, I have no idea whether anybody will even be here this afternoon. But I do know that plenty of people have listened to, or read the book, and Sunday afternoon isn't a bad time to sit down with a glass of vino… So here we be.

This is the fourth or fifth time I have been through Max Brooks's World War Z, but the first time in audio format. It was a fascinating contrast that mirrored my experience recently with Iain M Banks The Player of Games. It wasn't like listening to a different story, but it was like coming at it in a very different way. The voice acting is a huge part of this. I hadn't realized until listening to the Audible version that some of the characters actually recurred. The guy who tells the story of the Battle of Yonkers, for instance, is the same character who narrates the first battle in which the New Army gets the better of Zack. Two of my favorite parts of the book, that I hadn't attributed to the same storyteller before now.
The voice acting was exemplary. I'm sure we can all forgive the terrible Australian accent, the flat nasal delivery from down under being one of the most difficult English dialects of all to get right. And even then I thought the actor did a pretty good job of it.
If possible, the experience of hearing the book was even more unsettling than reading it. Having been through the text a couple of times now, it's lost a lot of the initial power to shock and overwhelm. But hearing the actors do their Studs Terkel routine, ahem, reanimated some passages of text which had previously gone a bit lifeless for me.
I suppose it goes without saying that the greatest triumph of Brooks novel is "voice". And of course you really get to hear the different nuances of each character when they are being read out to you by talented narrators. I always found the passage where he interviewed the teenage girl with a mental age of four or five to be one of the most eerie and disturbing interludes. It was even more so here.
But putting aside the most obvious advantage of an audiobook I was again reminded of something else Brooks had done with the unusual format in which he chose to tell his story. He was able to very deftly give us both the strategic and tactical levels of this story. One of the challenges facing you as a writer when you decide to do an end of the world story is settling on how tightly to focus the arcs. Are we going to get lots of meetings in the White House with generals briefing the president, admirals directing fleets, foreign leaders discussing grand strategy? Or are we going to stay down in the mud with the grunts?
With Brooks, of course, you get it all. This was one of the great disappointments for people who were hoping for a faithful adaptation of the book by Brad Pitt. But as has been pretty well-established by now, unless Pitt decided to put his money into something like a twelve part mockumentary on HBO, that was never going to happen. Even a generous ensemble cast could not have faithfully translated this book to the screen. I still haven't seen World War Z at the movies, and won't now until it makes its way to cable. But I'm cool with that. One Saturday night six or seven months from now, I will sit down with a couple of drinks and a few salty snacks and take it in purely as an adventure film.
I won't say much more than that now. I just wanted to dash off a few quick thoughts in case anybody turned up here at four o'clock. I'm single parenting this afternoon, and this evening, but will keep an eye out in case anybody drops by.

My wine this arvo is Jim Barry's 2006 Macrae Hill Shiraz

39 Responses to ‘Bookclub World War Z. (Audio)’

Spanner would have you know...

Posted August 11, 2013

I loathed this audiobook. I hated it so much that when the second half glitched I didn't even bother to download it again from my library.

There was no suspense because I know every character survived otherwise they wouldn't be being interviewed.

There was no character development because each story was too short.

The voice acting was terrible.

The actions of the characters was at times moronic and unbelievable.

There was no redeeming character. No hero. No anti hero. Nobody I remotely cared about or even wanted to engage with. All the characters were meh multiplied by shut up and die. It was a thoroughly irritating experience listing to characters crap on.

I wished the zombies had eaten the lot of them just so the book was never written.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted August 11, 2013

No, please, tell us what you really thought.

Spanner mutters...

Posted August 11, 2013

The one redeeming feature of the book was that it had zombies.

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pitpat would have you know...

Posted August 11, 2013

It was my first audio book and really my first toe dip into the pool that is the Zombie genre. I was pleasantly surprised by both. I thought the book was perfect for the format with multiple POVs being held together by a central effectively nuetral narrator. With the earbuds in I would find myself effectively mimicing the mindless automaton that is Zac while children screamed. In some ways it remined me of This American Life as it would be if set in a post apocalyptic future.

On the drive to and from work I would get in a chapter or two and then often sit in the car waiting to see how each character dealt. Might have more but children beckon.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted August 11, 2013

Ah yes, the inconvenience of the chapter with just a few more minutes to go. I've driven a few laps of our block waiting for Zack to finish his meal.

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Spanner swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted August 11, 2013

There is no comparison between the voice acting in Joe Abercrobie's First Law trilogy and WWZ. I found all of the accents grating in WWZ. Yet I loved the accents used by the narrator in First Law and in Name of the Wind.

pitpat mutters...

Posted August 11, 2013

My only other refernce is David Tennant doing the Hiccup novels ( How to train your dragon) and that is a bit unfair because it is David tennant and I could listen to him recite the chemicals found in Tomato Suace bottles, and secondly there is only one POV. I would imagine the cost of multiple voice actors would be prohibitive and am curious as to how many they did use in WWZ.

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AuntyLou reckons...

Posted August 11, 2013

Wow, really wow......

I guess I have to preface my two bobs worth with the fact that this is my very first attempt at the audiobook format. And this was probably not the book to start with. I have to say I loved the concept of interviews providing the narrative & thought the interviews seemed well written - especially in keeping the interviewer's voice as unobtrusive as possible. It was just that the narration was so...languid? No matter what I did I just couldn't stay focussed! And, for all the attempted accents, I really couldn't really say that the characters seemed real/believable. I did try to wangle a copy of the text but failed to access anything before today. Is it just me, this particular example, or the nature of audiobooks that this format is more time consuming?

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Blarkon would have you know...

Posted August 11, 2013

Horror/Suspense on Audiobook gets to me more than on the big screen or in text. It might be the "Jaws Effect" of the shark being scarier if you don't see it - and an audiobook taps into a different part of the brain than when consuming the same story through text (or seeing it in a movie)

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John Birmingham mutters...

Posted August 11, 2013

Hmm. This is very odd. I've listened to a heap of audiobooks this year. It's my new fave fomrat just because it lets me get through more 'reading' than I'd have any hope of doing nomrally. And I LOVED this title.

Didn't have Spanner's or Lou's prblem with the voice acting in 90% of the stories.

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MickH has opinions thus...

Posted August 11, 2013

Well some of us have been checking in JB.

I read this book a couple of novels back so Its not completely fresh, particularly when I've just got past the red wedding in GoT.

But I'm somewhere between yourself and spanner. I did have difficulty reading the book for many of the reasons that Spanner mentioned, But I did enjoy the many voices and the patch work way he covered all the bases.

For me it was a harrowing and depressing read. Probably because it came across as very real. It was just as well the zombies in the book we slow movers, if they had been fast, ant like ones in the movie then we'd all be fucked. Period.

I truely hope we don't have a zombie appocolypse.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted August 11, 2013

If they'd be fast zombies (Pfft, like they even exist) it woulda been a short story. A very short story.

AuntyLou is gonna tell you...

Posted August 11, 2013

I am of the old fashioned "if it ain't shamblin' it ain't a zombie" mindset.

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Anthony ducks in to say...

Posted August 11, 2013

I enjoyed it. Some of the characters were a bit dubiously voiced so overall I'd say an A-. There were parts of the story that I must not have taken in while reading that seemed to leap out during the audiobook. It's a format that was really well suited to an audiobook and it came across as a radio documentary rather than a novel.

I do find audiobook quality a bit hit and miss but the hits are increasing. Recent hits have been the Terry Pratchett Guards! Guards! read by the inimitable (I have a cunning plan) Tony Robinson - a voice perfectly suited to the task.

Another lot I've been enjoying have been the Inspector Montalbano novels. SWBMO is a crime novel fanatic and they are a good compromise for a long car journey.

By the way JB - you are responsible for keeping SWMBO awake the past couple of nights. I bought Girt - The Unauthorised History of Australia by Hunt David, after a quick skim through and then noticing your reommendation on the cover. My sniggering and guffawing kept wotsername awake. I normally ignore recommendations from authors on the cover but it rather resonated and knowing that you a person of taste I decided to purchase it. An excellent (and funny) book that may go well for a future book club. I can especially recommend it to our Septic Brethren who may frequent these parts.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted August 11, 2013

INdeed, I have an extract somewhere I'm supposed to run here at the Burger. i'll do so next weekend.

And yeah:

'There were parts of the story that I must not have taken in while reading that seemed to leap out during the audiobook'

I find it incredible that after repeated reads I still kept discovering new stuff in the audio format.

NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted August 12, 2013

Well that answers that question. I was going to ask if you knew about Girt, after I hear a bit about it on the radio the other day. If you've done a cover endorsement then, er yeah. Probably.

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JG is gonna tell you...

Posted August 11, 2013

I only listened to a few hours of the audio book. Liked it. I thought the actors were great and enjoyed getting sucked in with the different voices and stories.

I also loved the movie which I viewed a couple or so months ago. Surprised that the movie is completely different from the book--focusing on a small, adapted chapter.

Can't say I preferred one over the other. Didn't finish audio book because I couldn't be bothered and didn't like the thought of having to write a review essay for this. Prefer to be non committal here.

I was a bit miffed that the zombies were always referred to as the undead, living dead, or dead reactivated. Made the stories more convincing, I suppose.

Anyway, good to hear reactions from those with diverse backgrounds from each other.


John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted August 11, 2013

It's a perculiar trope of some zombie genre stuff that they refuse to call 'em by their name.

Barnesm mutters...

Posted August 11, 2013

Thou some more recent works also reconize that they are the zombies from so much of our culture Mira Grant's 'Feed' for example.

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John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted August 11, 2013

Damn zombies.

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w from brisbane ducks in to say...

Posted August 11, 2013

No, haven't read it or listened to it.
Though I am very familiar with the audio book for various reasons.
I prefer reading. Though it can be instructive to dip into an audio book with a book you are struggling with. A good actor can open up a better way of reading the book that better reveals its pleasures.
I find the funny thing about audio books is that you have to be doing something else. Driving or cooking are the best for me. I walk a lot, but audio books don't work for me while walking, though it can do for others.

AuntyLou mutters...

Posted August 11, 2013 may have a point. I tried to listen in the same way I with as few distractions as possible (maybe just hubby snoring!). And without fail my brain started doing other stuff or - how embarrassing - went straight to sleep! Maybe if I listened while doing a thing it may work. With my Audible subscription I got myself a work by OGH. Will give that a go while...don't know but I'll think of something!

w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted August 12, 2013

AuntyLou. It must be something with the auditory, but if you listen to audio books in the same circumstances that you might listen to radio or privately listen to music, then that is probably the go.

AuntyLou reckons...

Posted August 12, 2013

So...dancing around the lounge room it is!

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JG reckons...

Posted August 11, 2013

It was a book of memories of survivors of the zombies war and I think it was great in producing that with such interesting stories. All human stories and they covered a lot of current world problems.

A few of the issues covered included body parts trafficking for transplantation, military regimes and political control at all levels (eg in the workplace), international relations (eg Israeli-Palestinian conflict), citizenship, refugees and resettlement, peacekeeping, opportunism, and scientific and human ethics.

It made me think: who is the real enemy here--the zombies or the living. My conclusion: both.

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JG is gonna tell you...

Posted August 11, 2013

Speaking of the living dead, I'll be listening to the great debate tonight. Look forward to the televised Crudd-Rabbit fight off. Have downloaded Roy Morgan free Reactor app on my phone.

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Barnesm would have you know...

Posted August 11, 2013

I started reading the book while listening to the unnabridged audio book from audible as I wanted to establish which bits, if any had been left out of this version. It seemed to me pretty comprehensive only a few footnotes being left out. I had some problems with this plan as I kept reading ahead of the narration as I read faster.

The voice acting was superb but I didn't recognise some of the voice actors. According to the sleeve notes these should ahve been

Nicki Clyne as Sharon
Bruce Boxleitner as Gavin Blaire
Simon Pegg as Grover Carlson

Brian Tee as Hyungchoi and Michael Choi

Henry Rollins as T. Sean Collins
Frank Darabont as Roy Elliot
Common as Darnell Hackworth
Kal Penn as Sardar Khan
Alfred Molina as Terry Knox
David Ogden Stiers as Bohdan Taras Kondratiuk
Nathan Fillion as Stanley MacDonald
Denise Crosby as Mary Jo Miller
Ade M’Cormack as Jacob Nyathi
Paul Sorvino as Fernando Oliveira
Parminder Nagra as Barati Palshigar
Rene Auberjonois as Andre Renard
F. Murray Abraham as Father Sergei Ryzhkov
Martin Scorsese as Breckinridge “Breck” Scott
Masi Oka as Kondo Tatsumi
Ric Young as Admiral Xu Zhicai
Jeri Ryan as Maria Zhuganova

but they didn't sound like them on my version, did we get a different recording.

The book is a great set up, new way of telling the zombie story which came just before the reall new zombie fiction way, and helped create the wave I think. The characters I thought were well crafted and full other than Breckinridge “Breck” Scott who seemed to callous and unrepentant for me to believe.

The Warmbrunn-Knight report and the The Redeker Plan were marvolous plot devices for me and the concept refracted through the different experiences and POV help bind the disparte narratives for me.

The World Street Journal had a piece on how authors are getting more involved in the voices for the audio books either narrating the book themselves or selecting the voice actor. From the WSJ

"Other writers are getting involved in almost every aspect of the production, from auditioning and casting the narrators to directing readers in the booth. Max Brooks, author of the zombie novel “World War Z,” spent a year working on an elaborate, 12 hour long audio book edition of the book, with a full cast of 40 narrators.

Mr. Brooks said the narration mattered to him in part because “World War Z” was inspired by an audio book that he listened to as a kid: a recording of “The Good War,” Studs Terkel’s oral history of World War II. “World War Z” is written as an oral history of a zombie apocalypse, and unfolds as a series of testimonies from survivors all over the world".

Most of my reading is done while riding on trains, or waiting at a station adn i can read fast in text. For me audio come into its own with science podcasting wherethe interplay between the hosts provides a more dynamic experience than I would get from just reading the text.

Surtac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted August 12, 2013

Well, Planet Parenthood aligned with Planet Asperger to dump a whole metric truckload of RL issues here at Chateau Dysfunction over the weekend, so even with the shift to Sunday afternoon I couldn’t make it in here on time.

Here’s a few notes I was logging as I ‘read’ the book. Like Mr Barnes, I was reading ahead via Kindle, while listening to the audiobook version.

- At 15% in, I’m picking up some vibes about Brooks’ disenchantment with his federal government.

- The chapter with the CIA dude had me LOLing, with the comment about CIA saving every website you ever touched – very ironic post Snowden

- And the Simon Pegg chapter about the ex-politico sh*t-collector. Comedy gold.

- He’s having a real go at the artificiality and fragility of Western civilisation in the Alan Alda chapter …

- And the technology worship squee factor in the Roy Elliot Zeus/MTHEL chapter

- Lots more riffing on US and other countries attitudes towards nuclear weapons – if you combine the Iranian Japanese and later Chinese chapters (shades of Hunt for Red October in that last one btw) he seems very sceptical overall about this aspect of human nature and its relationship with close-held power.

General comments:

I was pretty happy with most of the voice actors with only one or two exceptions – the dodgy Aussie accent was a little too stereotyped, and Alan Alda’s Hahvarhd Yahrd voice actively irritated me.

Mark Hamill’s turns as Todd Wainio were exactly on note for me – he nailed the world-weariness and mental fatigue of that character imo. And Nicki Clyne as the mentally damaged Sharon was downright spooky.

I’m quite the fan of audiobooks at times. When I had a longer commute involving school runs, Youngest Daughter and I went through a stack of Discword books (Tony Robinson and Nigel Planer as readers), all of Fleming’s James Bond titles, Simon R Green’s Deathstalker space operas and so on.

And directly because of WWZ, I’m now about 8-9 hours into The Name Of The Wind audiobook and thoroughly enjoying it.

Thanks for choosing this one, JB. A compelling story, well told.

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AkaSlymann swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted August 11, 2013

On the whole I thought it was good fun and an interesting method/style for a zombie story. But not engrossing.

I thought the voice acting was pretty good but I cant forgive the bad Aussie accent it was appalling but even worse was the supposed Aussie language, it was just too damned cliched.

Although, i havent read too many zombie stories it seemed more a post apocalypse story than zombie story, it wasnt really all that scary and was mainly to do with how people managed to survive and then recreate society.

There were a few things that let it down. First, the zombies were treated and talked about as some sort of alien like creature not former neighbours, friends and family. It seems to me that one of the key, scariest and most interesting elements about zombies is that they were once human, and it could have been abd still could happen to us. How does it feel to see your wife become a zombie and then having to blow her head off to survive, surely that is an interesting plot point.

Second, the style of interviewing key people after it happened meant that it was all first person with people 20 years on (?) remembering often very detailed and specific things. While for each person it was clearly a momentous occasion in my experience it would still be difficult to remember such specific details (specific conversations and actions).

Third, a number of the characters seemed totally unbelievable the one that comes to mind right now is the president's former chief of staff, he relived his and the then presidents decision about not doing anything about the imminent zombie apocalypse. But he didnt speak about it in hindsight, it was as if he was talking about it in real time. That was the case with a number of the characters and pointed to a major challenge of the style - how do you tell a story about something so significant after it is all over and has happened and we know the outcome, the characters survived as did humans mostly and the zombies were stopped.

Fourth, certain characters or at least their stories seemed redundant ie the Aussie astronaut; so they maintained the space station, so what, what was significant about that or did I miss something. I suspect it was just to include an Aussie character.

Fifth, I haven't listened to the last hour or so but i am not clear on how many people survived. Therefore, it was hard to really get a good understanding of the scale of it; it was clearly massive and global but how massive.

I am enjoying it and have persisted because I want to know what happened in a global zombie war but not because I was Interested in what may or may not happen to the various characters. In the end all the characters could of been killed or turned and I wouldn't have been concerned.

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MickH asserts...

Posted August 12, 2013

So whats the next book John and when?

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted August 12, 2013

Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre. I'm reading it now. It's awesome.

We'll have a talk about the date.

MickH would have you know...

Posted August 12, 2013

did you ever finish the painted man?

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Brother PorkChop asserts...

Posted August 12, 2013

How was the shiraz? I like Jim Barry wines a lot - whites and reds. just wish I could afford to dink The Armargh on a regular basis as opposed to once a decade, whilst starving my kids for a month.

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nadine asserts...

Posted August 12, 2013

I am a fan of the audiobook format as with a full-time job and children my drive to and from work is the only time I get for myself. Balancing a book on the steering wheel is of course possible and although many people do all sorts of things while parked in traffic and at red lights, I have never managed more that a UBD (thank god those days are gone).

But I digress.

By the time I got to the end of this book I felt I had read my first military novel. I love zombie stories so I am familiar with that but I don't read military style stories. In saying that I really loved that side of the book. Finding out what the military definition of decimated is and that the normal tactics to demoralize your enemy just wouldn't work was fascinating. One thing I always look for is that new thing I am introduced to in a novel.

I haven't seen the movie and by the sounds of it I will enjoy that even though its not like the novel. So I will catch the movie when it comes to QuickFlix.

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dewpoint is gonna tell you...

Posted August 12, 2013

Sounds like there's quite a contrast between the audio, print and film versions of WWZ. I saw the film & enjoyed it and was also good hearing others impressions.

But on more serious notes! Wine?? Or perhaps it was so bad it wasn't worth mentioning

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Blake reckons...

Posted August 13, 2013

A bit late to the party - weekend didn't go as planned and spent the tail end in bed.

I've done the audiobook thing a few times and it's never struck me, i think i was given a couple of Douglas Adams works; the radio plays, and a couple of his other novels. The reading pace drove me nuts - I'm a quick reader, if it's pulpy i want to be ingesting that textual content faster than Birmo with a bottle of wine on blog night.

WWZ though - didn't have that problem. There wasn't any breakneck pace to be bothered with - the plot unfrurled itself like a tarot cards in nicely segmented blocks, there was no immediate threats, crisis or shark jumping antics to need to read the next page for.

And yet Mr Brooks managed to tell a narrative and make some extremely poignant comments on the human condition. I found myself testing the the plausibility of each curious revelation at each turn, and then comparing to that other post apocalyptic series i read this month (After America etc.).

The 'overseas' part lost me for a bit, i wasn't going to make bookclub date and i couldn't work out why he needed an overseas part when so much of the rest of the book talked about the the whole of world anyway. I was trying to use the mp3 player on my kindle and so i didn't have the ability to seek in the chapters so i ended up skipping the end of a few when it lost my 'page' when i got out of the car. This wouldn't have been an issue if I'd used the audible version....

Which induces a small spittle flecked rage. Why not sell the complete version in Australia? I spent some time with the Unabridged Audible version to round out this review and found it lacking. There is a difference between a book reading and voice acting and it makes a huge difference to my interest in the medium.

Ont hat note, I'm not sure if i should be surprised that Max Brooks makes such a great narrator, i mean he wrote it, it's his 'voice' on the paper, but i'm a little jealous of his ability to write a very clever novel, and then back it up with some pretty spot on voice acting.

So yeah, enjoyned the book - love being able to keep 'reading' when i get into the car, but i'm not sure i would enjoy the medium as much for a regular novel WWZ works for the medium - but that should be obvious given it's subtitle.


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Moko asserts...

Posted August 16, 2013

I love audio books. I love books, but because of the hours I work I don't last a page. I listen to them to and from work.

The scene with the girl in the church with her community was creepy. I loved that. The female pilot getting to safety with the spotter on the radio was great. Many more stood out and there were a few dead spots - excuse the pun.

Overall, the attention to detail was soemthing I've never come across before in a book. IT seems he covered every possible general scenario and that blew me away.

Four stars for me.

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NBlob reckons...

Posted August 23, 2013

I just wanted to put it out there.

$12 movie tie-in paperback, WWZ, @ large UU type retail store.

Got me mine today.

Heavy dreams tonight.

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Suze has opinions thus...

Posted August 31, 2013

Obviously, I'm ridiculously late to comment, but I did actually do this one, so thought I'd throw my two cents worth. First time for an audio book and first zombie read for me, so a double 'first'. I don't know that I would have gotten through it in print - it's just not my bag. I would never have turned my attention to it, if not for Cheeseburger Book Club.

I can see why you chose this for us to do as an audio book, JB. It was a great introduction to this format for me. Is the voice acting in all audio books as good as this? As a visual person, I did struggle to engage with it a bit and (shamefully) found myself nodding off occassionally.

I also wonder if this is a typical example of zombie fiction ... Like a few others have expressed earlier, I felt this was as much comment on the human condition as anything - which is probably what kept me interested.

My favourite chapter was about the dogs. How awesome were those critters?

Barnes - I didn't have that cool set of voice actors either. Dang.

Overall, I'm not sold on audio-books, but it's pretty convenient for public transport (especially buses, upon which I become prone to motion sickness) so I'll persist and see if I just need to create some new neural pathways to stay focussed.

I'll be late to start the MacIntyre read, but will have a go at that on audio and will stop by on 13th ... if it goes ahead that night ...

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