Checkmate Charlie Audiobook Review

How does one bring to a close a long-running series of nine audiobooks which follow the humble beginnings of a brilliant, unconfident, and immature spaceship engineer?  Yet, in this series we get the honor of seeing him grow and become even something he could never imagine.  From takeoff to level flight, the Dragon Mage series of books have entertained the listener with vast and distant worlds, unique creatures, and an expertly blending of both technology and magic.  We have seen tight friendships formed, the morning of lost comrades and even the growth of a great adversary.  Here in the final, landing phase, installment of the series, we are given the final title called “Checkmate Charlie”.  If you have been following Charlie for any period of time, picking up this audiobook is not even a question.  If you have not yet started the series, I would ask why not?  The time spent and the effort given to a new series such as this is well worth it.  Both in Audible credits and entertainment value.  Both Scott Baron and Garry Bennett have made the entire journey a pleasure, and I can honestly say that I’m sad to see it end.  If you are one who like science fiction with a blending of fantasy, you cannot go wrong with this series.  My only complaint is that this is the last we will see many of the wonderful characters in some time – if at all.  Charlie (and Scott/Gary) thank you for the journey you took me on. 

What a great conclusion to the series and it was wonderful to see most of the team here in the end pulling to overcome their foe.  Along with way, Charlie and his team intersect with another crew, from another series of Mr. Baron’s, consisting of Daisy and her rag-tag band of AI and alien counterparts.  Both of these groups, along with many others, band together in a final stand and crescendo against one of the most powerful and misleading opponents Charlie has ever faced.  Even with his growing magical abilities and his knowledge of technology, this fight will require everyone’s focus and abilities.  Yet, as fate would have it, one or more of the required characters seems to have gone off the rails and may be more a detriment then help to their cause.  Include the discovery of a new and unique civilization of aliens along the way and this adds the cherry on top of the sundae. 

I found the author’s use of technology to penetrate the worlds which are mainly focused on magic interesting while this seems to work in reverse as well.  I also like that there were a few flashbacks to items and characters from some of the earliest books in the series.  After spending this much time with the group, it was almost like having a reunion.  It brought back many memories which was a great experience.  The team would focus their attention on the special waters.  However, like with Newton’s law, this special water had both a negative and positive effect based on who it landed upon.  One may hope they would injure their opponent yet using it may do just the opposite.  To complicate things even more, one would not know for sure until placed in the situation where the waters needed to be used.  So, for me, the tension and way in which Charlie would succeed was most of the journey.  There never was a question if he would, but more on how he would accomplish it.

Both sides of the battle are at their peak performance and as with the Olympics, one slight misstep and all will be lost.  As things come to a head, winning requires a blending of technology and magic if the team even hopes to have a chance.  The fight also requires both parties to pull out the art of war manual as they are required to also include deception, diversions, and disinformation.  We even see the power and tight bonds of Charlie’s side as many have to sacrifice their own desires for the greater good of the whole.  For a few of the characters, this was not easy.  I also wanted to say that I liked the author’s use of metaphors and similes as this helps the listener to better paint the picture as they go through the audiobook.  It was a great book and a fine conclusion in the series.

The Audiobook’s narration by Gary Bennett is spot on and was solid all the way thought the series.  Sure, there were a few audio plugs here or there, but overall the series narration was exceptionally well done.  The recordings were professionally produced, and the characters wonderfully brought to life in his voice.  It was a pleasure having Gary Bennett as the narrator from start to finish.  I can only imagine what these two have planned to come up in a future series; maybe?

For parents and younger readers, this book (like the others) contains a fair amount of vulgar language.  There is some crude and mature humor used by a few of the characters as well.  If you have made it thought the previous eight books without issues, this one is no different. 

In summary, this book and series is a great piece of science fiction that will remain with you afterwards.  The places and characters are memorable, the characters complex, and the situation filled with tension.  The wonderful blending of technology and fantasy was always something I found enjoyable as the series progressed.  The narration was strong and consistent across the many audiobooks in the series.  I will say it again, I do not think you can go wrong picking up this series.  I enjoyed it very much.

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