Jim Cline,
A Small Percentage
(Timberwolf, 2000)

Two alien species are at war and Earth becomes one of their battlefields in the science-fiction thriller A Small Percentage by Jim Cline. The story starts out with a space battle between the fierce, cat/bear-like Harmaty and the humanoid Bexxus. Which race started the war depends upon whose version of events you care to believe. As for which race is more despicable depends upon where you are in the story. By the end of the 16th CD of this unabridged audiobook version of the tale, you will be introduced to humans, Harmaty and Bexxus who represent the best and the worst their races have to offer.

The Harmaty are in need of metals, foods and other resources to continue their fight against the hated Bexxus. Generations ago, Harmaty scientists proved the link between their mortal enemy and the technologically backward residents of Earth. During their conquest of the planet, the Harmaty demonstrate their power by killing leaders and armed forces from around the globe. The invaders offer humans the choice of cooperating while the Harmaty take only a small percentage of the planet's resources -- or face the consequences. Not surprisingly, the humans fight the hopeless fight for their freedom. When a small craft of Bexxus arrive on the scene, it seems as if the residents of Earth might actually have a chance. However, Cline has a couple of surprises in store as A Small Percentage suddenly goes in directions you were not expecting.

At more than 19 hours, this is an extremely long story to get through. The battle scenes are very thorough. Jim goes into extraordinarily gory detail and the killing tends to get quite graphic. At the same time, I have to admit that halfway through the story, I did not want to quit listening. A Small Percentage had my attention. I really enjoyed the technical details explaining how weapons work or how advanced technology allowed the alien races to accomplish certain feats. (In this regard, I disagree with Laurie Thayer's review of the printed novel, although we both, incidentally, recommend the story when all is said and done.)

I have to caution the listener to focus on the story more than the actors. Donny Barton narrates and also speaks for several of the main characters. Barton keeps the story flowing with smooth, believable dialogue and storytelling. Cline, the author, also does several of the voices. His acting skills are a little lacking, but tolerable. Dawn Seaman is terrible regardless of which character she reads for. Her dialogue is stilted and fake. For the first several CDs I kept chuckling at what were intended as serious parts. I finally convinced myself that her stumbling speech worked for alien voices that were unused to the English language. However, I could not help but cringe when Seaman spoke for a human character. I hope her acting is not enough to turn anyone off from an otherwise decent audiobook.

I like this tale. A Small Percentage is worth listening to. While it will most likely not be the best science fiction tale you have heard, it is still very entertaining. And in my opinion, it is much better than your average audio adventure.

[ by Wil Owen ]

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