Review of Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

September 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen KingMr. Mercedes
By Stephen King; Narrated by Will Patton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: June 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 14 hours, 22 minutes

Themes: / suspense / thriller / horror /

Publisher summary:

In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands.

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.

I think last year’s Joyland was one of my favorite Stephen King novels in awhile, meaning this book had a lot to live up to. I don’t this one is nearly as good, but I think most fans of Mr. King will find this enjoyable. Most of the novels by Mr. King I read have some sense of the fantastical to them. This one doesn’t. It’s straight up horror/thriller. No supernatural beings or unexplained phenomena here. That might be why I didn’t like it as much.

The premise is pretty straightforward. A decorated retired cop whose depression is suddenly shelved after being taunted by the perpetrator of one his most high profile unsolved cases. The killer murdered a crowd of people, including a baby using a big stolen gray Mercedes. They are a lot of psychological elements as both cop and criminal attempt to out think one another. While the majority of the story is told from Retired Detective Bill Hodges point of view, we are also given numerous chapters told from the killer’s perspective as well.

The story itself is nothing that special. Where this book shines (as usual) is in the characters. Mr. King always seems to write the most realistic and interesting characters. They aren’t necessarily someone you’d want to hang out with or even know, but they are the type that make it hard to look away (or in this case stop listening to the book).

Holly and Jerome are both memorable characters to add depth to the duel between our retired detective and the killer who got away. I especially enjoyed Holly’s character.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read, but far from a must read.

Will Patton seems to be an excellent fit for this story. His natural reading voice just seems to suit the tone of the book. He doesn’t really do voices, but you can tell his characters apart. I’m not sure how I’d like him as a narrator in general, but for this book, he’s an excellent choice.

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of High Midnight

September 2, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

High Midnight by Rob MoscaHigh Midnight
By Rob Mosca; Narrated by Bernard Setaro Clark
Publisher: ListenUp Audiobooks
Publication Date: June 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 hours, 3 minutes

Themes: / horror / drunk monkeys / psychotic clowns / zombies / Texas /

Publisher summary:

Welcome to Unity, Texas. Population: Bizarre. The only thing protecting the residents of Unity from a stream of nightmares is Laredo Beaumont, the town’s hard-drinking, ass-kicking sheriff, and Cicero, his knife-wielding chimpanzee deputy. It’s a thankless job that leaves Laredo drained and nearly broken. The only solace he can find is in the arms of his beloved Sally Mae, a ghostly soiled dove from a phantom bordello where only the most daring of men would think to step foot.

We’ve all heard that old saying about book cover judgments. Perhaps now it’s time we block out blurb-based reckonings. Rob Mosca’s High Midnight is bursting with criminally psychotic clowns, zombies with a twist, spectral prostitutes, and strange creatures. But it’s also a prime example of good, at times strong writing.

I’m uncertain into which genre High Midnight ought slide. More than likely, it’s a sub-subgenre. Something like Gritty Redneck Bizarro. In the beginning, the weird hyperbolic writing style and content is intriguing. When combined with crisp and skilled writing, you feel anxious and excited. Like a passenger on a hijacked locomotive, you feel your heart speed up to mirror the rushing landscape and you begin wondering where you’re going, and what will happen when you get there. But as the story progresses, we climax, reaching a point at which we can go no faster, further, or weirder, and everything beyond becomes a repetitive flatlining disappointment due to the lack of contrast.

I liked how Mosca would introduce a character, and then immediately leap back in time to show a slivered piece of the character’s history. This allows for a streamlining of exposition without getting bogged down in unnecessary detail. But this approach comes with a price. The story’s momentum becomes the engine, the driving force behind the storytelling. When this occurs, character submits to situation, preventing reader from forging strong bonds with character. Before we know it, and no matter how good the writing, the story is the situation acting upon character, rather than the characters reacting to situation. The result is uninteresting characters. And it’s difficult to create tension when I don’t give a damn if someone lives, dies, laughs, or cries. Situation will always grab our attention, but it is forever characters that maintain it.

High Midnight gets high marks for the audiobook. Bernard Setaro Clark is a name to remember. Clark narrates the audiobook, and captures the story’s voice. Whether it’s a clown’s ghastly giggle, drawling redneck sheriff, or explicit ghostly fornication, Clark delivers a tremendous reading. If you’re going to give this a read, I highly recommend listening to the audiobook.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

Review of Pilo Family Circus by Will Elliott

August 2, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Pilo Family CircusPilo Family Circus
By Will Elliot; Read by Mark Stephens
Publisher: Audible Studios for Underland Press
Publication Date: 27 May 2014
[UNABRIDGED] 11 hours 5 minutes

Themes: / horror / circus / psychotic clowns /

Publisher summary:

“You have two days to pass your audition. You better pass it, feller. You’re joining the circus. Ain’t that the best news you ever got?” Delivered by a trio of psychotic clowns, this ultimatum plunges Jamie into the horrific alternate universe that is the centuries-old Pilo Family Circus, a borderline world between Hell and Earth from which humankind’s greatest tragedies have been perpetrated. Yet in this place – peopled by the gruesome, grotesque, and monstrous – where violence and savagery are the norm, Jamie finds that his worst enemy is himself. When he applies the white face paint, he is transformed into JJ, the most vicious clown of all. And JJ wants Jamie dead! Echoes of Lovecraft, Bret Easton Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk, and early Stephen King resound through the pages of this magical, gleefully macabre work nominated as Best Novel by the International Horror Guild.

I almost hate to recommend this book because … what does that say about me?

The Pilo Family Circus is both completely creepy and absolutely fascinating. If you like clowns, you might change your mind after this. If you already don’t like them, you’ll probably think I knew it!

Jamie almost runs down an odd-looking clown and quickly finds his life changing forever. He has 48 hours to pass his “audition” and failing is not an option.

With some creativity, he finds himself in a circus that’s strange even for circus standards … and deadly. Monsters lurk in dark corners and out in the open too and you don’t even want to mess with the proprietor of the whole thing.

Then there are the factions, some of whom absolutely despise each other, such as the Clowns and the Acrobats and what happens in the circus, even a death or two, is overlooked for the most part.

Couple the imaginative world-building with a knack for storytelling and a dark sense of humor (you know, where you laugh and cringe at the same time) and you’ve got a book I couldn’t put down.

I know I go into sales-pitch mode when I talk about a book I really enjoyed, but this one’s highly recommended. The audio on this was astounding too. Mark Stephens does a wonderfully creepy job with his Australian accent. Fishboy alone killed me. This character has a high voice, such as when someone inhales helium, and Stephens stuck it perfectly.

This is an unusual book for me to love, but it’s a true love. It’s different and gruesome and somehow I couldn’t put it down. I stayed longer in the car on my drives, I brought headphones to bed when I usual save bedtime reading for my eyes. This is one of those unique books that really stunned me.

4.5 out of 5 Stars (very highly recommended)

Posted by Bryce L.

The SFFaudio Podcast #274 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: Facts Concerning The Late Arthur Jermyn And His Family by H.P. Lovecraft

July 21, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

Facts Concerning The Late Arthur Jermyn And His Family
The SFFaudio PodcastEldritch Tales by H.P. LovecraftThe SFFaudio Podcast #274 – Facts Concerning The Late Arthur Jermyn And His Family by H.P. Lovecraft, read by Gildart Jackson (this audiobook comes to us courtesy of Blackstone Audio’s Eldritch Tales). This is a complete and unabridged reading of the story (28 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, and Samantha Wikan

Talked about on today’s show:
The story was also published as Arthur Jermyn and The White Ape, Weird Tales, 1921, The Wolverine, the 1980s, “that’s not a big deal”, “our more enlightened times”, Lovecraft’s letter to Weird Tales, Rhodesia, “the Dark Continent”, “our brothers and sister in the jungle”, racism, Allan Quatermain, telegraphing the twist, is Lovecraft making a joke?, a more horrific reading, no Elder Gods, no Dreamlands, atavism and degeneration, great grandmother was a gorilla, miscegenation, bestiality, Dagon, Shadow Over Innsmouth, atavism, losing sanity points, Sir Wade Jermyn (African explorer with a “Portuguese wife” -> Philip Jermyn (a very agile sailor) -> Robert Jermyn (an anthropologist) -> Nevil Jermyn (runs off with a dancer) – > Alfred Jermyn (joins the circus) -> Arthur Jermyn (the poet scholar), Lovecraft became despondent when his family had to leave their home, Lovecraft’s mom said he was “exceedingly ugly”, Lovecraft’s father (died in an asylum), a tainted heritage, fear of degeneration, the ape goddess, diluting the noble bloodline, Arthur was the most unattractive one that was allowed out of the bedroom, Nevil’s siblings, a music hall singer of “unknown origin”, a lack of respect for the lower classes, below or above one’s station, a common sailor, the gamekeeper’s daughter, Winesburg, Ohio, Ray Bradbury’s inspiration for The Martian Chronicles, who is telling this story?, “demoniacal hints”, oppressive science, a future echo to Pickman’s Model, squamous eldritch adjectives, a gentleman in a club, “the gorilla boxing match death”, a smoking jacket holding court, clubman tales, Lord Dunsany, Arthur C. Clarke’s Tales Of The White Hart, Isaac Asimov’s The Black Widowers Club, Supernatural (1977 BBC TV series), “the club of the damned”, blood freezingly funny, “really ugly or unconventionally beautiful”, Arthur’s life story is quite sad, we really empathize with Arthur Jermyn, Victorian society, aren’t we all Arthur?, a lot of people probably don’t like the idea we are related to apes, maybe we should reject it even though its true, Douglas Adams “Earthmen are not proud of their ancestors and never invite them around to dinner”, digital watches, the ape city, hybrids, what of the other side?, S.T. Joshi’s reading, “that last clause is critical”, the white apes as the missing link, “the entire white race”, the only explanation, miscegenation assumes certain things, eugenics, “he married that ape”, “he made an honest ape of her”, the illustration from Weird Tales, how pretty was she?, the community’s contempt, judgements from a group of racist assholes, “that being said I’d rather be a poet than a sailor”, the butler, the servants, the black nanny, “the aged Soames”, the 1993 comic book adaptation by Stephen Phillip Jones, the visitor named “Seaton”, the only one who survives is Alfred, the adaptation goes off on this weird tangent -> The Terror Of Blue John Gap (first published in 1910), Samuel Seaton is in both stories (The Facts Concerning The Late Arthur Jermyn And His Family and The Terror Of Blue John Gap, She by H. Rider Haggard, a more realistic version of that story, Tarzan series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the lost city of Opar (a lost colony of Atlantis), the John Carter books, this story is underrated, the humour and the pathos, not going into purple overdrive, the Jorkens tales, dry British wit, take off the Cthulhu blinkers, Jesse would like Mr Jim Moon to read aloud The Terror Of The Blue John Gap, Blue John (the mineral), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “obviously its insane”, Heart Of Darkness , Henry Morton Stanley, Dr. Livingston, Penny Dreadful is a mash-up of late 19th century horror fiction, Timothy Dalton plays a kind of Allan Quatermain kind of character, Mina Harker, demon possession, “raping their way across Africa”, the Grand Tour, “sending sons to the colonies for hunting, drinking, and whoring”, Sir Wade is the White God, the Congolese natives’ stories are all true, what’s in the box?, two statues?, a subterranean ocean, a fish man?, “I’m your great grandfather boy”, the Spawn of Cthulhu, “Deep Ones can mate with any species”, when we read Lovecraft we do a disservice to force connections to the Cthulhu Mythos, presenting it as a theory, “the locket!”, “what’s in the locket?”, the locket was empty, they threw the locket in a well, interpretations, stopping the spread vs. just being horrified, putting them over the percentage, “they had to make it not be”, having an ancestor delivered to your door, “Sir Wade collected things one wouldn’t ordinarily collect”, what did he bring back?, tending away from the Cthulhu Mythos, Cthulhu plushie, Lovecraft would never have said: “Sanity points?! Great idea!”, The Hound by H.P. Lovecraft (and it’s black museum), Lovecraft used the Necronomicon as “a backdrop and a reference and a flavour”, appreciating the stories as stories, it’s touching!

The White Ape - illustration by William F. Heitman

The Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft - art by Wayne Reid

The Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft (1993 Caliber Comics) art by Wayne Reid

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Flesh and Blood by Daniel Dersch

May 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

fleshandbloodFlesh and Blood
By Daniel Dersch; read by Amy McFadden
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 4 March 2014
[UNABRRIDGED] – 7 discs; 8 hours

Themes: / Vatican / vampires / Nazis / horror / romance /

Publisher summary:

A veteran New York City journalist, Claire Hagen has learned not to trust everything she hears. So when her younger sister lands in a mental hospital after claiming a vampire is feeding off her blood, Claire is naturally skeptical. A search of her sister’s apartment convinces her: The delusions are a side effect of the drugs she discovers her sister had been taking.But a deeper investigation uncovers more than Claire bargained for. Why was a man who claimed to know her sister from an online vampire forum shot dead moments after Claire interviewed him? Why are her sister’s symptoms getting worse in the hospital? And why have agents from the Vatican taken a sudden interest in Claire?Consumed by doubt and growing paranoia, Claire barely has time to ponder her next move before a violent confrontation in her apartment changes everything. She quickly finds herself on the run with a mysterious stranger who says he wants to protect her but may not be quite what he seems. Can she trust him?

For a good portion of the story in this novel, I was entertained. But the longer the story progressed, the more detached and less interested I became. By the time the end rolled around, I just didn’t care about the characters. While various portions of the story intrigued me, the narrative’s main flow felt too streamlined, structured, and shallow. I also depart feeling that the storyline was compressed. This is fifty pounds of story jammed into a twenty-pound sack. But Daniel Dersch shows promise, and I will be curious to observe his writing improve. He already does what many of his contemporary counterparts fail to do, which is to have a subject performing a verb upon an object. Dersch’s sentence construction is pleasing, and for what it’s worth, this small attention to good writing practice aided my enjoyment factor.

I felt Clair Hagen was a little too stereotyped. She seems driven to prove her resourcefulness, but appears to yearn for a strong man. The “daddy” references got a little weird, but maybe we can chalk that up to this being a translated work. The chapters in this book denote a change in POV (point of view). At first I liked this alternating split narrative thing that Dersch pulls off. But the longer this unspooled, the shorter the chapters got, and all too soon the shortness of the intervals became a distraction.

Amy McFadden narrates the audiobook, and at first I struggled with her rhythm and delivery. In the beginning, I thought her voice was grating. But the longer I listened, the more I felt McFadden captured the essence of Clair. Somewhere in the middle, McFadden won me over, and I think she does a great job with this audiobook.

Fans of contemporary vampire stories will most likely enjoy this for what it is.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

The SFFaudio Podcast #263 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Colour Out Of Space by H.P. Lovecraft

May 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #263 – The Colour Out Of Space by H.P. Lovecraft, read by Donal Buckley. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (68 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mirko, and Huan Vu (the director of the movie adaptation, Die Farbe).

Talked about on today’s show:
Arkham Insiders, Die Farbe (aka The Color), The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company adaptation, The H.P.L.H.S., Die Farbe gets a shout-out in the Dark Adventure Radio Theater adaptation, the novella/novelette, Amazing Stories, September 1927, science fiction and horror together, The Whisperer In Darkness, the framing story, American soldiers running away from the colour, unjustified punishment, cosmic horror, pre-WWII Germany, the symbology, the endings, mind control, zombie ants, parasites, the science of The Colour Out Of Space, The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, a pocket spectroscope, how do we see a new color?, discovering a new color, infra-red light, the blind and the colorblind, the black and white, film doing something an audio drama never could, a companion piece to The Whisperer In Darkness, the wasp, Formicula (aka Them!), an explanation for what the colour is, The Voice In The Night by William Hope Hodgson, anthropocentric aliens, an analogy, is The Colour Of Of Space SF?, alien flapjacks, spores, a sentient cloud of gas, “the Horla” (woops I mean the Horta), Star Trek‘s The Devil In The Dark, an alien (in much of SF is really about people), alien aliens, a corrective, John W. Campbell Who Goes There?, The Thing, whose who and whats what, it’s insidious, what will happen when you flood that valley?, Arkham Springs water, fear of radiation, a nuclear contamination story, “the blasted heat” is like Chernobyl, Macbeth, the meteor, dry ice, too creepy for night reading, Lovecraft’s opinion, The Willows by Algernon Blackwood, alien mind control, stealthy listening, the horror in the attic, The White People by Arthur Machen, the comic undercutting in The Dreams In The Witch-House, a mood study, Die Farbe is a wonderful adaptation of The Colour Out Of Space, the changes in the film version, the character names, Robert M. Price, a biblical reading of The Colour Out Of Space, He Am Himself, comets, reproduction, Monsters, cosmic bug spray, expanding your perspective, From Beyond, the running time, the chosen colour, Schindler’s List, you shouldn’t make evil that colour, taupe?, khaki?, a striking contrast, Sin City, color theory, signal colors, Ancient Greece, The Odyssey, “the wine dark sea”, “rosy fingered dawn”, what if my blue is your red?”, science over experience, dark matter/dark energy are placeholder words, science is mostly failure, “not optimistic at all”, if this happened in reality, the way out, The Dream Cycle Stories, going to The Dreamlands, Celephaïs by H.P. Lovecraft, To A Dreamer by H.P. Lovecraft, it’s not horror, The Dream-Quest For Unknown Kadath by H.P. Lovecraft, Lovecraft isn’t only horror, the IndieGoGo page for The Dream-Lands, The-Dreamlands.com, Die-Farbe.com, Gary Lovisi, the matchmaker.

The Colour Out Of Space by H.P. Lovecraft

The Colour Out Of Space - illustration by Virgil Finlay

The Colour Out Of Space by H.P. Lovecraft

Die Farbe

Posted by Jesse Willis

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