If you are a fan of apocalyptic literature that includes some excellent story plots told from various perspectives, you will want to listen to “Madness”, the first book in the “Madness Chronicles” series written by M. L. Banner. The audiobook is well narrated by Gary Tiedemann; one of my favorite narrators of late. If you get anything from looking at the audiobook’s cover, you will quickly surmise the book is quite graphic and violent at times; you have been warned. What happens when a dormant bacteria/virus residing in a large number of the world’s mammals is triggered and makes them go mad with something similar to rabies, but worse? Are humans susceptible to this issue, and if so, what happens to them? This is what the story in this book details along with a number of people who lives are turned upside down while on a cruise ship vacation. And I thought I had a bad cruise experience. You might imagine that being at sea would be the safest option in a disaster like this, yet you would be wrong. If this sounds at all interesting to you, I recommend you pick up the audiobook and give it a listen.
The author opens the book in a quite visual and graphic way that hooks the listener into wanting more. Immediately, we feel like we are placed in a story from the masterful Hitchcock; “The Birds”. Yet, this is a bit more graphic and gruesome. It is only the first in a number of attacks that include; birds, monkeys and dogs to name a few. Not only do we have the main issues facing all our story characters, we are also given a view into many of their own demons that play a role in how they react externally. What I liked was that each of these traits was woven into the story without seeming obvious or forced. It is not until you realize, based on their reactions, that this internal struggle impacts their ability to cope with the situation they are placed. For me, it felt like the Fallout series blended with bits of The Poseidon Adventure; an oldy but goody.
The author did an exceptional job of creating a feeling of dread and despair. The scene, the characters, and the situations all play into the overall story and they all felt like they fit well together. Unlike other books I have listened to in the genre that feel incomplete, this one felt finished and well thought out. The situation with the animals seemed far-fetched to begin with, yet the author in the audiobook’s summary claims such a parasite exists today; scary. The way the author told the events from the different passengers or crew members, made it feel more realistic. There seemed to be some good research both around cruise ships and these medical conditions effecting animals. The author also did a very good job of building suspense and mystery as the book progressed. There was a fair blending of action along with times of contemplation allowing the listener to come up for a breath of fresh air. Let me say, if you are a fan of ferrets, this book is for you.
The book ties in well with some volcanic activity along with the threat of this thermophilic bacteria. That is a real term, give it a Google. The events, although over the top at times, seemed believable. As one of the characters said, It’s not “all sunshine and lollipops”; far from it. The listener is fully aware of the opening situation being bad and wondering how it can get worse. But, it does. The author is good at building the different scenes and including many elements of horror along the way. It should be noted that this is also the first book in what will becomes a series, so there are many open plot endings left dangling. If you enjoyed the book, you will need to wait for the second to be available.
The audiobook’s narration is no surprise when I state that it was top-notch. Mr. Tiedemann is a veteran to the narration scene and he works his magic on this book as well. The characters are well voiced, the audio quality is flawless, and he ability to make the characters feel unique and dimensional as expected. His richer and deeper voice helped in the feeling of dread and gloominess while I listened. I have listened and reviewed many of his performances, and I cannot recall any that I felt were subpar.
For parents and younger readers, due to the book’s use of vulgar language, sexual subject matter and overly graphic violence, I would not recommend this to anyone but mature readers. If you are offended by this type of content, please find another series to listen too.
In summary, the book is for those who enjoy an apocalyptic story with aspects of horror woven in. It is not the type of book for everyone, yet it was clearly planned out and well executed. It has all the parts of a good tale while also sprinkling in pieces of humor along the way. If this is one of your preferred genres of books, I would say keep your eyes opened for the second book in the series and watch where it goes.
Disclaimer: I was voluntarily provided this review copy audiobook at no charge by the author, publisher and/or narrator.