I’m a big fan of audiobooks. The radio doesn’t work for me during a commute or while running errands anymore. Since I acquired the iPhone, I’ve got even more reason to enjoy audiobooks every day. The connection in the car is great, and all it takes is a set of earbuds to get me mobile.
Over the years, I’ve learned to tell good readers from lesser ones in only a matter of minutes. Sometimes the book suffers from the experience of a weak reader who is just not capable of doing a good job of keeping all the various characters separate with only one voice.
However, GraphicAudio is a great little company whose slogan guarantees “a movie in your mind.” After listening to Batman: Inferno, I have to agree. They have a full ensemble cast and provide myriad background noises and sounds that pull listeners into a scene the way that Old Time Radio does. They also restructure the story to take advantage of those aural anchors that keep the imaginary world sounding so real. I’m looking forward to more of their books.
But onto the book review. I really enjoyed Alex Irvine’s take on a Batman novel. I thought he kind of overplayed the whole “Batman’s gonna kill the Joker” mantra, but the Joker parts were totally entertaining. They were also a mix of the recent movie Joker played by Heath Ledger and the Clown Prince of Crime from the early Batman issues. The Joker’s really not tied into the real world, and brings real menace to anyone who lives there.
The plot in this book also offers a new villain that I hadn’t before encountered in Batman mythos. His name is Enfer, and he’s an ex-fireman turned pyromaniac with delusions of grandeur. As it turns out, he’s one of Dr. Crane’s (Scarecrow) pet projects. With all the psychological “care” he’s given Enfer, the patient becomes dedicated to the destruction of Batman and Gotham City.
The book moves around through the different hero and villain viewpoints. Irvine did an excellent job of making the Joker’s insanity come to life as well as James Gordon’s walk along a knife edge of uncertainty as he serves as Gotham’s most honest cop and Batman’s confidante. It’s those subtle understandings of these characters that pushed this novel into a great read. The plot spins well, and I liked the way Gotham’s deadlier populace was explored.
I cringed when the Joker “accidentally” discovered Batman’s Batcave and decided not to unmask who Batman really was. That somehow didn’t make sense to me no matter how hard the author tried to sell that. I also had to severely suspend disbelief when the Joker stole the Batmobile. Wouldn’t Batman have had it locked up so that only he could start it and drive it? Especially with all the technology he had? Couldn’t he have installed a GPS unit to track the stolen Batmobile? One Lo-Jack and the plot would have cratered regarding the Batmobile’s theft. And barring that, couldn’t Batman have hacked into street cameras and tracked the Batmobile?
Still, there are a lot of good bits in this book. GraphicAudio makes the most of them, and the “read” only lasts about seven hours, so a few long commutes will get you through this one. During that time, you’ll swear you were in Gotham City, hugging the shadows and looking for villains.