When I commuted to work by car—a 20-mile drive that took anywhere from one to two-and-a-half hours—I was in a pretty deep pit, emotionally speaking.
There was something oppressive about the drive. There was a misery in sitting in stop-and-go traffic, watching the drained faces of other commuters as they snailed along to their respective workplaces, wearing expressions of defeat identical to my own. I can only scratch the surface of how commuting affected me emotionally and, in truth, it’s only relevant to this review for one reason.
Audiobooks were my saving grace during those years. A beacon of light and creative expression in a world that grew increasingly gray around me. They took the restless, dissatisfied part of my mind away, to adventures on beautiful worlds, to catch a glimpse of promethean fire, to feel something other than crushing boredom.
What I’m saying is that I love audiobooks. So when Audible emailed me recently to ask if I’d be interested in reviewing audiobooks, you’ll understand why I freaked out a bit. I even have danced a jig. But you’ll never know.
That’s how I came upon Into the Darkness, the first book in Jay Allan’s Crimson Worlds Refugees series, which is evidently a spinoff of another series he wrote. It was masterfully read by Jay Snyder.
Into the Darkness is classic military sci-fi; no funny business—just soldiers, admirals, and scientists doing their jobs, and dammit if they’re not all the absolute best at what they do.
Humanity is at war with a fearsome enemy: the First Imperium, an ancient machine-army bent on achieving the utter destruction of the human species. Nobody knows who built the First Imperium, or why. But their technology and capacity for war eclipses Humanity’s to such an extent that war—however noble its intentions may be—is futile.
A last-ditch, hail-Mary plan by the courageous Admiral Compton leaves Earth and most of humanity safe from the First Imperium—for a while at least. It also leaves Compton and his division of some fifty thousand women and men and 300-ish ships stranded in enemy territory.
And the Admiral will not search for a way home, knowing it would lead the enemy to a defenseless homeworld. So he decides to take the fight to the enemy, flying into unknown territory; into the darkness. Unfortunately, not everyone is on board with that plan, and the enemy is never too far behind. Internal struggles and massive battles on a planetary scale make Into the Darkness a particularly exciting read—or listen, in this case.
The cast of Into the Darkness, a tenuous-at-best multinational coalition held together by rigorous training and their mutually-assured destruction, is brought to life by Jay Snyder’s wonderful delivery of accents, character, and emotion. His Compton sounds just enough like Sir Patrick Stewart that I imagined Jean-Luc Picard at the helm as often as I imagined Admiral Compton at the helm of his battleship.
A good portion of what made this book so fun was contained within the listening experience. The tension in Snyder’s delivery, the increased tempo of the frantic battles, and the personality with which he imbued each of the characters made them that much more of a pleasure to perceive.
When I started taking public transit to work, my audiobook consumption dropped precipitously, in large part because I was so excited to read paper books again. Having a chance to listen to a book again—and a very well-read book, at that—has completely rekindled my love for audiobooks. There are absolutely times and places for both. For instance, I can happily see myself putting on a new audiobook when I get home today, and mopping the floors while my mind travels to other worlds.