Review of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

February 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Brilliance Audio - A Monster Calls by Patrick NessA Monster Calls
By Patrick Ness; Narrated by Jason Isaacs
4 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 23 September 2011

Tags: / YA / fantasy / monsters / nightmares / illness /

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…. This monster, though, is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final story idea of Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself.
Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.

This book is inspired by an idea from author Siobhan Dowd (4 February 1960 – 21 August 2007). Patrick Ness was granted the opportunity to explore these ideas, and soon ideas gave way to other ideas, which yielded this book. There’s a terrific interview that follows the audiobook reading wherein Ness discusses the writing process and challenges he faced in such an undertaking. Ness successfully sidesteps weighty sentiment and delivers emotional authenticity while allowing room for empathy, and it is for these reasons that this book resonates long after reading.

The writing is clean and the story is as deep and layered as you wish it to be. Don’t let the young protagonist fool you. This isn’t your generic YA plastic-wrap fantasy story packed with breathless bubblegum adventure and paint-by-number characters. There are monsters and there is loss. The emotion is real, and Ness allows enough room for empathy to turn, to circle like an unquiet animal that knows the end isn’t far. Couple this with genuine wisdom, and we have a story that demands attention, that successfully spans that artificial genre-based boundary to shake reader out their slumber.

Jason Isaacs narrates the audiobook, and conducts the follow-up interview with Patrick Ness at the book’s conclusion. Isaacs nails the reading. In my opinion the audiobook is flawless, and Isaacs never makes himself known to the listener, rather he is a conduit, something only the very best readers manage to pull off. Too many contemporary audiobook narrators perform the text when all they need to do is get out of the way and read. Thank you, Jason Isaacs.

Posted by Casey Hampton

Review of The Incredible Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson

July 10, 2006 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Incredible Shrinking Man by Richard MathesonThe Incredible Shrinking Man
By Richard Matheson; Read by Yuri Rasovsky
1 MP3 disc, 7 CDs, 6 cassettes – 8 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2006
ISBN: 0786178515(MP3), 0786175761(CD), 0786137924 (cassettes)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Atomic Radiation / Illness / Transcendence / Miniaturization / Horror

Scott Carey is a man suffering from a freak accident during which he was exposed to radiation dust and pesticides. He begins to slowly shrink. He finds not only the physical challenges of getting smaller but the social as well. In fact it is in this social arena where must of the intensity of the book comes from.

Scott Carey has a good life with his beautiful wife, Lou. When he begins to shrink tension between him and his wife grows, and their relationship begins to change. Although we feel sympathy for Scott’s plight, we don’t necessarily like him. He’s one pissed-off little guy. Ultimately this is a story of impotence. Not just sexually but for all aspects of his life. He can no longer satisfy his wife sexually (even though he still has his sex drive). He cannot meet his family’s economic needs except by selling his story to tabloid-styled newspapers. And he has a daughter that he has to fear because she may crush him just by playing with him.

Yuri Rasovsky does a great job on the audiobook. In an early dialogue scene with Scott and his wife Lou, the character voices sounded very much the same. My first response was that Yuri didn’t differentiate between characters much. On second reflection, I realized this was intentional. Later in the book as Scott is shrinking, he begins to sound like a little boy when talking with his wife. This helps create the vulnerable and impotent stature of Scott, making him less of a man. It was no accident that Matheson used “Lou” as a nickname for Scott’s wife, Louise. It demeans Scott’s masculinity even more.

Richard Matheson is a wonderfully expressive author, drawing emotion out with every turn. Granted, they are mostly dark emotions.

Matheson also adapted this novel to a screenplay for the classic movie. I watched the movie right after finishing the audiobook to see how a master adapts his own work to screen. It’s an experience I strongly recommend. Some of the most powerful scenes in the book do not make it into the movie. There’s a gang of youths that beat Scott. There’s the drunken child molester that picks up Scott hitchhiking and mistakes him for a boy.

And there are scenes that work better in the movie than in the book. These are the action scenes when Scott is fighting cats and spiders. Those scenes in the book become tedious because they take so long to explain.

But the book surpasses the movie again with an ending that is more poignantly transcendent.