Thursday, February 12, 2015

Audie Awards and Those Who Wish Me Dead

On Wednesday, the Audie Awards were announced online via Twitter. The awards are essentially the Oscars of the audiobook industry and consisted of 29 categories. Since I only started listening to audiobooks full-time in late December, I've got some catching up to do. However, there were plenty of books on my wish list, such as James Lee Burke's Wayfaring Stranger, Michael Lewis' Flash Boys, Hampton Sides' In the Kingdom of Ice and even some like Amy Poehler's Yes Please that I've gone back and forth on. For a full list of categories and nominees, click here.

But I did manage to read one nominated book...

Those Who Wish Me Dead (2014)
Written by Michael Koryta
Narrated by Robert Petkoff
Run Time: 10 hours, 30 minutes
Publisher: Hachette Audio/Little, Brown

It's a scary thing to trek into the wilderness without much experience. It's even scarier to see a murder. It's unbelievably scary when you have two killers tracking your every move. For teenager Jace Wilson, he has the misfortune of having all three happen to him over the course of a summer as he tries to evade two murderous brothers in a burning Montana wilderness.

Luckily for Jace, there's Ethan Serbin, who runs a wilderness survival program the teen has been entered into under a false ID. There's also an emotionally scarred fire lookout that becomes entangled in the escalating cat-and-mouse game. Ethan's wife Allison also has a role to play as the admirable husband and wife team up to protect the boy from two of the creepiest villains I've seen in a long time.

Patrick and Jack Blackwell are like a weird cross between the albino twins from The Matrix sequels and Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men. They finish each other's sentences in a creepy monotone and are deadly accurate. When they aren't around, the book lagged a bit, but it absolutely crackles with them. The tension ratcheted up as I went about my work commute and often took the long way home so I could hear what would happen next. Petkoff's narrating of these two cold and calculating characters is stellar and made them that much more unnerving.

The main contention I had with the book, which was very good overall, was that the climax hinged on the audience not deducing the true identity of a key character. I figured it out way early and there's a point where the character is nearly found out, but it manages to delay for a few more chapters. Despite this setback, the book is still recommended and I'd read Koryta again in the future.

Grade: 3.5/5 stars. Come for the superb narration by Petkoff and excellent story set up and stay for the memorable villains, despite the blown plot twist.

The book is currently available in the U.S. in hardcover, ebook and audiobook formats. A paperback edition is expected in mid-July from Back Bay.

As one might expect, Hollywood has set its sights on Koryta's novel and with such memorable villains, why not? 20th Century Fox acquired the film rights in September 2013 with Steve Zaillian set to produce. He is best known for being the screenwriter of such films as Schindler's List, Gangs of New York, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, American Gangster and Moneyball. A year ago, Charles Leavitt, who wrote the Blood Diamond screenplay as well as the first draft of the upcoming In the Heart of the Sea, was hired to write the script.

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