The WitchesBy Roald Dahl; Read by Miranda Richardson
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: September 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 4 hours, 28 minutes
Themes: / children’s fantasy / witches /
This is not a fairy tale. This is about real witches. Grandmamma loves to tell about witches. Real witches are the most dangerous of all living creatures on earth. There’s nothing they hate so much as children, and they work all kinds of terrifying spells to get rid of them. Her grandson listens closely to Grandmamma’s stories – but nothing can prepare him for the day he comes face-to-face with The Grand High Witch herself!
In The Witches, a seven-year-old boy and his grandmother must use their cleverness to stop an evil witch conspiracy. It’s a lovely, funny and nightmarish tale. In the prologue, there is a direct warning to the children reading: witches are all around us but are disguised as kind and normal ladies… and they hate children and want to squelch them.
“For all you know, a witch might be living next door to you right now. … She might even – and this will make you jump – she might even be your lovely school teacher who is reading these words to you at this very moment. Look carefully at that teacher. Perhaps she is smiling at the absurdity of such a suggestion. Don’t let that put you off. It could be part of your cleverness.”
It might seem a little mean to scare children like that, but then again it’s no lie that some very cruel people disguise themselves as regular kind people, so maybe this is a theme that should appear in more children’s books.
The whole story is told from the little boy’s perspective, after he is orphaned during a trip to visit his grandmother. The family car skids off the road and crashes into a rocky ravine, killing both of his parents, and next day as they mourn, his grandmother distracts him from the tragedy by telling him all about witches: they’re real, she tells him, and they’re hidden among us, and she knows at least five children who have been taken by them.
An odd way to comfort a recently orphaned boy, but lucky too, considering the witch-encounters lurking in his near future.
The audiobook narration is beautifully performed and complete with subtle sound effects like chirping birds and the crackling of a fireplace. I found the witches’ screechy voices difficult to listen to in one chapter and had to adjust the volume a little now and then, but this wasn’t a problem overall. The grandmother’s voice is especially well narrated: I loved her accent, and her consistently warm and affectionate tone.
The cigar-smoking grandmother was my favourite character. She is not fazed by anything and has a kooky alternative streak when it comes to caring for children. At one point she offers her little grandson a puff of her cigar, and when he reminds her he’s only seven, she says, “I don’t care what age you are. You’ll never catch a cold if you smoke cigars!”
I’ve tried not to give away too much in this review because The Witches is so much fun to discover, and it has some unusual twists and turns. Definitely worth listening to… it’s funny and magical, with haunting little tales hidden within the main story.
Posted by Marissa van Uden
The SFFaudio Podcast #227 – The Dreams In The Witch House by H.P. Lovecraft; read by Julie Hoverson. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the novelette (1 hour 42 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Julie Hoverson, Mirko Stauch, and John Feaster.
Talked about on today’s show:
1933, a pretty terrible Lovecraft story, which story?, science fiction vs. horror, crappy cheesy, Julie’s audio drama adaptation of The Dreams In The Witch House, bad ending vs. interesting journey, nobody wants August Derleth to be right, Mirko likes it, a magnificent failure?, an unusual narrative, standard witch story #4, The Size Of The Universe by Willem de Sitter, is the Dark Man made out of dark matter?, the first fanfic Mary Sue writer, Hypnos, witches, magic, what does a being from beyond space need with baby guts, why is Nyarlathotep crusing the streets with a dude in his pajamas?, Prohibition, a supervillain squad, a nerve specialist, Herbert West, Re-Animator, Douglas Adams, space is really really really big, the total perspective vortex, Lovecraft humour, Pickman’s Model, Walter Gilman is blind to the danger, the Masters Of Horror adaptation, The Whisperer In Darkness, The Colour Out Of Space, a homesteading concept, Darkest Of The Hillside Thickets, The Shadow Out of Tim, the science fiction aspect, a scary fascination, the sunburn, the blown out ear drums, Azathoth, the Pythagorean view, “everything is made of numbers”, mathematics, Galen, is Keziah Mason dead?, is Walter Gilman doomed from the start?, Brown Jenkin looks like Chuck E. Cheese, what is Brown Jenkin?, witches familiars, Blackadder, “bloody milk!”, bubbles -> Beelzebubbles, modern witches, “the witch stole my penis”, mob mentality, Caligula, proscription, Crassus, the Polish landlord and tenants, a drunken loom-mender?, the looming evil, the cross prayer, the cross giver, the cross as a weapon, Walpurgis Night, the skeleton is quantum physics, Halloween, the maypole, the Brocken, pagan rituals, prank gardening, tree stealing, mascot kidnapping, “excessively religious”, Elwood, The Thing On The Doorstep is internally logical, Tales From The Crypt, Lovecraft’s racism, The Haunter Of The Dark, presenting light, superstition, Mount Everest, icky areas, Lovecraft’s characters aren’t into self-preservation, 1960s, addiction, psychedelics, helmet refusers, “outspokenly Wiccan”, The Call Of Cthulhu RPG, 20 sided die, weird angles, 4 sided die, Julie’s die scar, sharp Doritos, caltrops, “grimoire”, sleeping on Elwood’s couch, a cohesive awesome, the endings, the star wanderings, Beyond The Wall Of Sleep, Polaris, an obsession with evil stars, astral projection, the movement of the stars, Lovecraft’s astronomic efforts, The Festival, a weird plot thread, Lovecraft as an untethered balloon, there’s a lot of puppy dog in H.P. Lovecraft, “the poky little Lovecraft”, Montreal, a historical-building-o-phile, Bingo The Birthday Clown, Star Crunch (a Lovecraftian sponsor), “a field of red jelly with bones floating in it”, hot dog water, ultimately everyone is consumed, Tunus the Unstoppable, a soap opera with only three people, an anthropomorphic supercomputer, Krusty the Klown, a fascinating unpleasant series, The Lovecraft Five, Facts Concerning The Late Arthur Jermyn And His Family, He, The Picture In The House, H. Rider Haggard’s She done as a comedy, Brown Monkey’s The Dreams In The Witch House, Uncle George’s House Party, 19 Nocturne Boulevard, The Hole Behind Midnight by Clinton Boomer, Broken Eye Books’s Kickstarter, a professional audio novel, a giant evil naked clown, the HPLHS movie adaptation of The Whisperer In Darkness, the changes, Mr. Jim Moon’s review of The Whisperer In Darkness, it’s fucking terrifying, Julie’s reading, Julie loves to play crazy old people, a love letter to H.P. Lovecraft, “fun, surprising, and terrifying”, The Creeping Unknown, more suspense and less action, Charles Fort (played by Andrew Leman), Septimius Felton by Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Doctor Portsoaken”, “Robert Hagburn”, Charles Dickens, Curse Of The Crimson Altar, Die, Monster, Die!, The Curse, Thriller, Pigeons From Hell, The Resurrected, Bleeders (aka Hemoglobin), a micro-budget with Rutger Hauer.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Bryan Baugh‘s illustration of The Dreams In The Witch House is fabulous.
It captures everything I love about this novelette. In a stating his inspiration for the illustration Baugh explains his own experiences, of not being able to appreciate The Dreams In The Witch House, until he had matured. But he also goes on to call it “[an] insane little epic” one “which offers a mind boggling blend of old fashioned haunted-house horror with sci-fi quantum physics and alternate dimensions.
In The Nyarlathotep Cycle, a collection of related stories by various authors, editor R.M. Price wrote this for the introduction to The Dreams In The Witch House:
“Fritz Leiber was right: Lovecraft effected a Copernican revolution in horror by using the fearsome implications of modern science as the subtext for Gothic horror.”
Julie Hoverson, a Seattleite polymath and sometime guest on the SFFaudio Podcast, narrates it for us. A Lovecraft expert herself, Julie has adapted several of his short stories as audio dramas for her 19 Nocturne Boulevard series.
And me? I’m just glad that the twisting non-Euclidean angles of the actual real life witch house, as seen in the Masters Of Horror adaptation of this story, allow me to live within driving distance of Caprica City (where I attended university), the Tomb of Athena (where I went hiking), and Kobol (where I go dog walking).
The Dreams In The Witch House
By H.P. Lovecraft; Read by Julie Hoverson
1 |MP3| – Approx. 1 Hour 42 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Provider: Julie Hoverson
Provided: April 2013
Walter Gilman, a student of mathematics and folklore at Miskatonic University, rents a local rooming house. First published in the July 1933 issue of Weird Tales.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1)
By Melissa F. Olson; Performed by Amy McFadden
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Release Date: 2012
Publisher summary: A woman with the ability to counteract magic is in a race against time–and the supernatural underworld–to catch a killer before another body drops.
Scarlett Bernard knows about personal space: step within ten feet of her, and any supernatural spells or demonic forces are instantly defused–vampires and werewolves become human again, and witches can’t get out so much as a “hocus pocus.” This special skill makes her a null and very valuable to Los Angeles’s three most powerful magical communities, who utilize her ability to scrub crime scenes clean of all traces of the paranormal to keep humanity, and the LAPD, in the dark.
But one night Scarlett’s late arrival to a grisly murder scene reveals her agenda and ends with LAPD’s Jesse Cruz tracking her down to strike a deal: he’ll keep quiet about the undead underworld if she helps solve the case. Their pact doesn’t sit well with Dash, the city’s chief bloodsucker, who fears his whole vampire empire is at stake. And when clues start to point to Scarlett, it’ll take more than her unique powers to catch the real killer and clear her name.
I snagged this audiobook to post about from the stack of urban fantasy because it was an author I had not heard of, the first of a series, and not previously published on Audible! Reviews I’ve seen so far are complimentary on the main character, and the complexity of the story.
Coincidentally, we are on the hunt for 1-2 paranormal romance or urban fantasy audiobook reviewers. If this kind of book is your kind of thing, please contact Jenny on the about page!
Posted by Jenny Colvin
“If any of [my stories] succeed in causing their readers to feel pleasantly uncomfortable when walking along a solitary road at nightfall, or sitting over a dying fire in the small hours, my purpose in writing them will have been attained.” – M.R. James
I’m just beginning to get into M.R. James so I’m not sure quite what to make of his stories yet. To me The Ash Tree felt restrained, subtle, and it was “pleasantly uncomfortable” to be sure – but is that enough?
I haven’t hit a story of his that has grabbed me the way Guy de Mapassaunt’s The Horla has or the way William Hope Hodgson’s The Voice In The Night has.
Maybe ghost stories just need to have something other than haunting to draw me in.
The Ash Tree
By M.R. James; Read by Peter Yearsley
1 |MP3| – Approx. 35 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: June 7th, 2006
A damp Suffolk house, with a curious ash tree growing close to it, may have been cursed by a woman once executed for witchcraft. First published in Ghost Stories Of An Antiquary, 1904.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
SciPodBooks.com, the SciPodCast, The Syndic by C.M. Kornbluth, The City At World’s End by Edmond Hamilton, the virtues of democracy, Oath Of Fealty by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, H. Beam Piper, Space Viking, a wealth of ideas, Frederik Pohl, the story as a straw man, Robert A. Heinlein, telepathy, witches, dystopia, utopia, polo played with jeeps (mounted with 50 caliber machine guns), the syndicate vs. the mob, Ireland, Iceland, libertarianism, the Prometheus Unbound review of The Syndic, polyandry, an economy run on alcohol, sex, and gambling, laissez faire capitalism, monopolies, robber barons, taxes vs. shakedowns, “a real mess of a book”, should a society compromise its ideals to save itself?, is the joke on us?, a velvet gloved invisible hand, The High Crusade by Poul Anderson, the children’s crusade, WWII, rule by mob vs. rule by mobsters, Ron Paul, the sustainability of a war based economy need not much concern the arms manufacturer, Isaac Asimov, The City At World’s End has a real plot, disaster stories, new ideas trump big flaws, “writing by the seat of your pants”, space opera, E.E. “Doc” Smith, respect for science and scientists, Farnham’s Freehold by Robert A. Heinlein, The Green Odyssey by Philip Jose Farmer, LibriVox.org, Riverworld series, rolling ships, Hyperion by Dan Simmons, the problem of endless series, StarShipSofa, The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman, A Princess Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Voyage To Arcturus by David Lindsay, “philosophy, philosophy, philosophy”, it starts with a séance, C.S. Lewis, Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse, Jeeves And Wooster, Leave It To Jeeves, LibriVox’s new funding (from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation), Orson Scott Card, Harlan Ellison, Airborn by Kenneth Oppel, Gregg Margarite, Lone Star Planet by H. Beam Piper, Kevin J. Anderson, Principles Of Economics, iambik audio, Wonder Audio, All Or Nothing by Preston L. Allen, The Tattoo Murder Case by Akimitsu Takagi, Toshiro Mifune, Akira Kurosawa, High And Low, Netflix, Sweet And Lowdown, One O’Clock Jump by Lise McClendon, A Is For Alibi by Sue Grafton, Talents Incorporated by Murray Leinster, goofy, the William Woodsworth Microphone Showdown, do expensive mics make great narrators?
Posted by Jesse Willis