Robby Asaro is dead.
He's a ghost in the machine, keeping a watchful eye on the arcade where he lost his life two decades before. And the afterlife is good. The best thing ever to have happened to him. But when the conscious electric current formerly known as Robby Asaro makes a decision to protect one of his favorite patrons, Tiffany Park, from a bully, he sets loose a series of violent supernatural events that can't be stopped.
Trapped inside the arcade as the kill count rises, Tiffany and a group of gamers must band together to escape from what used to be their favorite place on Earth...and the ghost of Robby Asaro.
From the author of Tribesmen, Video Night, and The Summer Job, Zero Lives Remaining is a masterful mix of horror and suspense, dread and wonder, and a timeless ghost story that solidifies Adam Cesare's reputation as one of the best up-and-coming storytellers around. This is Adam Cesare firing on all cylinders - and he's just getting started.
©2016 Adam Cesare (P)2016 Adam Cesare
The short, punchy story.
He's a fantastic reader.
Robby Asaro is dead.
There’s something strange in the neighbourhood… notably the Fun Cave, a sticky floored arcade filled with nostalgic games and the misfits that play them. Several years after a very grisly death at the property, maintenance man and general dogsbody, Dan Boden discovers a strange substance oozing from the circuit boards of Ms. Pac Man. Like any good horror, discovering a sticky discharge in some dark crevice is usually the harbinger for some terrible monster. And so it begins.
With an equal measure of geeky nostalgia and blood drenched fury, Cesare weaves the tale of one night trapped in a gaming arcade as a vengeful spirit takes hold of the electronics in a Maximum Overdrive type fashion. Burnings, electrocutions and a couple of folk get maimed in inventive fashions; Cesare brings death in new and exciting ways as victims get in the way of his pulsing poltergeist, which seems intent on destroying everybody in sight. In a short space of time, he creates a wonderful sense of pathos with a group of damaged characters, slightly befuddled with society, as they move from being comfortably drenched in geek sweat and the stench of burger grease, to the arterial spray of blood and hot guts.
I recently experienced Joe Hempel’s awesome telling of Family Business by Brett Williams and adored his voice work and clear delivery. He succeeds again in this story, making each character his own with a triumphant versatility, bringing definite individuals to life with the true craft of a professional.
Zero Lives Remaining plays out like a 80’s video nasty, offing characters off one by one (often in two), with pocketful of nostalgic references to assorted fandoms and enough humour to stop it from getting too dark. If you want some cheesy, though well thought out horror, drop a few coins in this way.
Game over man. Game over.
I received a copy of the audiobook in exchange for an honest review. I was previously familiar with the story from the limited hardback edition.
And honestly, that should tell you something right there. I was keen to revisit this story in audio form, see how it held up. And the short answer is, very well indeed.
One thing the audiobook version highlighted was how much humor there is here. I think I hadn’t realised just how conversational and jokey Cesare’s prose style was until I heard it spoken aloud. In this regard, narrator Joe Hempel does a superb job - his light, laconic delivery lands the comedy well, without ever hamming it up or overplaying it. It was a welcome discovery of a layer I hadn’t fully appreciated on my first read through.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the characters - they were as strong and vivid as I remember. Hempel does a superb job with the voices, finding ways to clearly delineate between the characters without overplaying it. I was especially impressed with his handling of Dan Boden. Let’s face it, it’s a nightmare brief for a narrator - portray a character with a speech impediment, induced by a stroke. It’s a gig fraught with peril - underplay it and you lose a vital part of the character, overdo it or slip into caricature and, well, yuck. Hempel navigate this with real skill, delivering a brave and honest performance of Dan that doesn’t minimise the disability, but categorically preserves the humanity and dignity of the character. And sure, a lot of that is there in the writing, but still, it could have gone horribly wrong, and it didn’t and Hempel deserves a lot of credit for that.
Overall, it’s a superb narration of a gloriously fun horror story, and I really enjoyed revisiting the claustrophobic arcade of Zero Lives Remaining.
I love the vintage feel of it... the videogame flashbacks to my youth. I remember being OBSESSED with Ms. Pacman at the pizza parlor, then on my Atari.
Tiffany. She embodied my nerdy superhero spirit. I felt her self confidence fading in and out, and I could totally relate, especially in regards to Chris.
He is concise, not too overdone, and malleable. He can voice a stroke victim, whose face is partially paralyzed, and a teenager, with equal aplomb, without being over the top.
Unfortunately, in the short time given, I felt connections with each of the characters in the story. There was some part of me that resonated deeply in all of them. Unfortunate, because almost nobody survived. Sorry if this is a spoiler, but I didn't tell you who....
My biggest thought about this story... hmmmm... I want to say it's a cross between Five Nights At Freddy's and Ready Player One, with a strong dose of horrific violence and a wicked amount of 80s nostalgia. A heady mix, in my opinion. I won a copy of this book via a Facebook party.
"plays with the haunted house trope"
At little more than 2 1/2 hours, Zero Lives Remaining is a fun, punchy listen chock full of B-movie horror thrills.
Adam Cesare’s latest plays with the haunted house trope, placing a group of teenagers in an arcade where a ghost haunts the video game cabinets and everyone’s lives are in danger. The ghost in the machine runs rampant along the arcade’s electrical wiring, snaring its victims in ectoplasmic tendrils and dispatching the trapped teens one by one. Given its short run-time, the focus here is on the action with the characters only subtly shaded in but not deeply enough to get too attached to. There’s the teenage gaming queen, the schoolyard bully who isn’t quite sure how to express his affection for her, the arcade’s maintenance man who suffered a stroke that ended his gaming hobby but whose work allows him to still feel connected, and a handful of others that serve largely as bloody fodder.
There’s a fun superficiality to the nostalgia-driven proceedings (Centipede and Ms. Pac-Man get plenty of shout-outs), but I never felt terribly connected to the cast even as many of them met their gruesome fates in varied and interesting ways. The creators of Mortal Kombat may want to get Cesare on the line for “fatality” suggestions, as he presents some strong finishing moves against his beleaguered teens. I may never look at a claw arcade game quite the same way again.
Joe Hempel’s narration is solid, and he gives his character voices are distinct enough to help separate dialogue during all the calamity. He has a straight-forward, somewhat airy, presentation style that brings a sense of fun and whimsy to the listening experience, and the production quality is perfect.
Ultimately, Zero Lives Remaining is an enjoyable way to kill a couple hours if you’re in the mood for bloody mayhem set against the intriguing background of a video game arcade palace.
Audiobook was provided for review by the narrator.
Please find this complete review and many others at my review blog
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Joe Hempel is an amazing narrator and really brought this story to life and I definitely plan to check out more of Adam Cesare's work! Being trapped in a video arcade for the rest of my afterlife sounds pretty fun! Then again, maybe not...
"old school horror........LOVED it!"
WOW Joe was cool and creepy as usual.!
Man killed 1989 & his soul was pulled into the machine. Know he jumps around to all the machines living in them. His favorite (like the rest of us) is Ms. Pac Man. Tiffany loves that game and he looks at her as if she's his daughter. He protects her from the local bully.
The Suspense and horror scenes are just like I like them. No pixie dust vampires and gore just good suspenseful horror. AWESOME!!!
Audiobook was provided for review by the narrator.
"Cheesy but entertaining"
A somewhat cheesy but entertaining short story of possessed killer video machines. Robby is killed in a pizza making accident at work in the Funcave Arcade. His ghost becomes one with the electrical current running through the game machines and all is well until he zaps and kills a boy who attacks Tiffany, an arcade regular that is special to Robby. The boys badness is absorbed into both Robby and the machines and things start to go badly for everyone from here on in. Old arcade favourites add a nostalgic feel, while the high body count, trapped teens and ectoplasmic tendrils places it as a B movie type story. The narration in the audiobook fits the story well, imparting both a sense action and of the 1980's horror era. It is quick, fast paced story that any cheesy horror movie lover will like. I received the audiobook in exchange for my honest opinion.
"Video game ghosts! Awesome!"
Great new take on a ghost in the machine. Dead arcade employee possessing the games. Good ghosts evil ghosts. Intense story conveyed in a short time. Would make a great movie for the syfy network. Narrator brought the story to life and gave the characters a depth beyond that of the written word. I received this audiobook from the author narrator or publisher for free via audiobookboom in exchange for an unbiased review
"Great old school horror feel."
Well what an awesome old school horror!
When Robby Asaro dies, he ends up a ghost in the machine. He has the ability to control things and every once in a while he helps out some of his favourite gamers. Tiffany Park is one such gamer. Robby likes her and when she is the subject of a bully, Robby takes things into his own "hands" and things turn deadly. Now Tiffany and a few others are trapped in the arcade with thing rapidly escalating. Can they survive?
Everything about this screamed old school! Despite being a horror, this was a fun read. It reminded me of the horror films my parents used to watch. Creepy arcade, gamers glued to the screens, ghosts and plenty of scares = a pretty great read. Because this is such a short book, there's not much character development but it doesn't suffer because of it! The plot is fast paced enough that you just fly through the story. This is a book I highly recommend!!
Joe Hempel did an amazing job with the narration of this one. He had plenty of different tones and voices for the different characters and his voice is easy to listen to too. It sounded like he had fun narrating this!
*I received a copy of this for review. This in no way affected my thoughts.*
I was gifted a copy of this book for an honest review.
That being said, probably not a book I would have chosen on my own, but I certainly did enjoy it. If you are someone who played video games in the arcades in the 80's you will love it! What would happen if all that electrical energy was channeled through an entity that would not otherwise have a living form? Say a ghost?
Joe Hempel does a great job with the narration. He kept me interested throughout and adds just enough "creep" in the right places to bring the story alive (pun intended).
"Fun, old school horror story! :)"
Awesome old school horror story. Anyone who likes the cheesy b- movie horror would love this. I thought the whole arcade idea was original. The story was so much fun, but creepy at the same time. I also liked the length of the audiobook. It was short enough that I easily listened to the whole thing in one sitting, yet wasn't too short. I really enjoyed this audiobook a lot and I highly recommend if you think this sounds interesting at all!
** I was provided this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.
"HANK HAD FRECKLES, WASN'T THAT AMAZING"
IF ONY SHE WAS ONE OF THOSE GIRLS WHO ALWAYS CARRIED A COMPACT
This is a good book for six graders. It is not awful, it just is not ready for prime time. Ever notice that the reviewers who get free books for their honest opinion are the same people who love everything they read. I am sure I will pay for that remark, but I am kind of po'ed. I bought this book the same day I bought Tribesman. Both books had amazing reviews from an author I had never heard of. Rest assured I will never receive a free book for my honest opinion, cause if your book sucks, I will let the readers know it. It is our money!! If the book is good I will praise it to the heavens, I love a good book. There are no short cuts, write a good book and the good reviews will come.
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