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Audio Book Review
Over ‘The Precipice’ and into the West

Jonathan Lowe
Audio Book Reviewer

This month, we have another mix of genres. First, “The Precipice” by Ben Bova is book one of a new science fiction series by the six-time winner of the Hugo Award. The novel is about a future attempt to mine the asteroid belt for minerals when the Earth’s resources have been all but exhausted. Rivalries between companies and entrepreneurs escalate as the method to make the mining feasible – the production of fusion rockets – becomes reality. There are no space creatures here, just believable science and an introduction to the cast of characters, as narrated by Scott Brick, Amanda Karr and others. It’s a bit like the original movie “Alien,” but minus any slimy creatures, because if you’ll remember, the spaceship Nostromo was a cargo ship carrying ore, and there was bickering between crew members before the chest-popping moment. Maybe there’ll be more such action next time? (Audio Renaissance/12 hours unabridged) ˜˜˜

Actor Tom Wopat of “Dukes of Hazzard” fame reads “The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard.” These tales, by the author of “Get Shorty,” were first published in the early ’50s in magazines such as Dime Western and Zane Grey’s Western Magazine, and include “Blood Money,” “Trouble at Rindo’s Station” and “Saint with a Six Gun,” among others. Narrators also include actors David Strathairn, William Atherton and Henry Rollins. The 11 stories add up to six hours on six compact disks or cassettes, and are a must for any western fiction fan. So saddle up, gun those horses under the hood and try shifting back into the past for a change. (Harper Audio/6 hours unabridged) ˜˜˜1/2

In “The Ice Harvest” by Scott Phillips, the setting is Christmas Eve 1979 in Wichita, KS. A crooked lawyer and strip club owner intends to steal drug money while framing a corrupt politician with a photo catching him in a compromising position. Anything to get ahead, right? Well, Charlie Arglist is in for some just desserts of his own, and how that happens is amusingly ironic in this short R-rated crime novel, which is a first for the author. The narrator is one of the best, Grover Gardner, whose 13 Earphones Awards attest to his abilities in interpreting character. Never mind that his voice is also one of the most pleasant to listen to, something only God could have bestowed. Also available on Mp3-CD. (Blackstone Audio/4.5 hours unabridged) ˜˜˜˜

A detective named Elvis Cole is featured in “The Forgotten Man” by Robert Crais, author of “The Last Detective.” Here, Elvis is confronted by police investigating the mysterious death of a man who, in his dying breath, claimed to be the detectives’s father. Elvis has been haunted by the lack of news about his father all his life, having been told by his mother that the man was a traveling circus performer. But there is no identification on this dead man, so Elvis starts an investigation that ultimately uncovers a killer who now targets Elvis himself. It’s an unusual noir mystery in that Cole’s memories of his past play a part, and although the plot moves slowly at first, the narrative drive sustains it enough to keep you there, despite narrator James Daniels’ understated tone. Then a secret is revealed, and things quickly turn dicey. Forget Grisham; Crais is better. (Brilliance Audio/8 hours unabridged) ˜˜˜˜

Finally, if you’re a wrestling fan – and here I don’t mean the “professionals” in Spandex pants – you’ll enjoy “Pinned” by Alfred Martino, as narrated by actor Mark Shanahan. This is one of the most in-depth novels ever written utilizing the subject of high school wrestling. It features two high school seniors named Ivan and Bobby who are seeking the state championship in New Jersey, and in the end they learn what it takes in terms of dedication and resolve. Martino was a sports reporter, coach and college wrestler himself before he became president of his own audio company. Several Olympic wrestlers have also recommended the book for its authenticity, and so it should appeal to both teens and adults. (Listen & Live Audio/7 hours unabridged) ˜˜˜

These audio books may be rented from Audio Adventures in truck stops or by calling toll-free to 1-800-551-6692. Jonathan Lowe’s adventure “Fame Island” is for rent on cassette or CD or for sale on Mp3-CD from at 1-800-729-2665.