Review of Consumed by David Cronenberg

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

SFFaudio Review

consumedConsumed
By David Cronenberg; Narrated by William Hurt
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: 30 September 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 12 hours, 50 minutes

Themes: / body horror / technofear / medical / sex / conspiracy /

Publisher summary:

The exhilarating debut novel by iconic filmmaker David Cronenberg: the story of two journalists whose entanglement in a French philosopher’s death becomes a surreal journey into global conspiracy.

Stylish and camera-obsessed, Naomi and Nathan thrive on the yellow journalism of the social-media age. They are lovers and competitors – nomadic freelancers in pursuit of sensation and depravity, encountering each other only in airport hotels and browser windows.

Naomi finds herself drawn to the headlines surrounding Célestine and Aristide Arosteguy, Marxist philosophers and sexual libertines. Célestine has been found dead and mutilated in her Paris apartment. Aristide has disappeared. Police suspect him of killing her and consuming parts of her body. With the help of an eccentric graduate student named Hervé Blomqvist, Naomi sets off in pursuit of Aristide. As she delves deeper into Célestine and Aristide’s lives, disturbing details emerge about their sex life – which included trysts with Hervé and others. Can Naomi trust Hervé to help her?

Nathan, meanwhile, is in Budapest photographing the controversial work of an unlicensed surgeon named Zoltán Molnár, once sought by Interpol for organ trafficking. After sleeping with one of Molnár’s patients, Nathan contracts a rare STD called Roiphe’s. Nathan then travels to Toronto, determined to meet the man who discovered the syndrome. Dr. Barry Roiphe, Nathan learns, now studies his own adult daughter, whose bizarre behavior masks a devastating secret. These parallel narratives become entwined in a gripping, dreamlike plot that involves geopolitics, 3-D printing, North Korea, the Cannes Film Festival, cancer, and, in an incredible number of varieties, sex. Consumed is an exuberant, provocative debut novel from one of the world’s leading film directors.

“Let me unbox you…”
-Aristide Arosteguy

This is a novel best suited to two audiences: those looking for innovative horror, and people interested in visionary possibilities of new media. It would also be good for fans of first-time novelist David Cronenberg’s work in film, but I suspect they’d fall into the first two categories.

(I fall into all three, being a lifelong Cronenberg fan since I first saw the mad genius of Videodrome.)

Consumed is, as one might expect from the author, a challenging and strange book. I can describe the plot like this: two journalists investigate a Parisian crime, wherein a husband killed and ate part of his wife. The (former) couple were influential philosophers, Célestine and Aristide Arosteguy, and a cute parody of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. They made waves with a theory of consumer society (hence one meaning of the title). Naomi and Nathan are lovers and colleagues, fellow gadget hounds, but they usually live apart, and follow their joint inquiry along separate, parallel lines.

What follows is a picaresque or road trip, as the two N’s travel the world: Paris, Japan, Canada, Hungary, Cannes, Holland. Cronenberg teasingly refuses to give us much local color, offering instead the thin, usually tech-mediated views of our protagonists, or sketches of the people they meet.

So much for the plot’s initial action. But I’d also need to tell you more about the book’s style. Consumed adores its surfaces and fetishes. It lovingly describes clothing, technologies, record covers (oh yes), body parts, and interior decorating exactly as far as major characters obsess over them. Technology looms large; this is very much a novel about modern digital devices and how we intimately use them.

Consumed is also about pushing against discussing awkward or awful topics, mostly in a horrific way. Without spoilering too much, I can mention offhandedly cannibalism, murder, autocannibalism, apotemnophilia, acrotomophilia, deformed body parts, sexually transmitted diseases, cancerous body parts, and medical fetishism. Which brings us back to Cronenberg’s tone. He doesn’t revel in these topics, but comes to them thoughtfully, from a character’s mind, almost (and sometimes literally) clinically.

In a sense Consumed is an update of Videodrome, a deep dive into our current media obsessions and how they warp (and delight) ourselves. “Naomi was in the screen” is how it begins. In a sense this is about limitation, especially by the end. Yet Cronenberg isn’t simply a techno-skeptic, at least not in the text; he’s too fond of devices and their powers. He sees their depths, and shares them with us through his well-informed, perverse vision.

It’s also a horror novel by any stretch of the term. There’s body horror, dread, suspense, and even a touch of something deeper by the end.

It is also funny, although not everyone laughs with me. There are running gags, like many characters’ obsession with landing a New Yorker story, or in Naomi and Nathan’s banter, or nearly everything the bad Hungarian surgeon says.

I’d recommend this to the audiences mentioned above.

William Hurt does a terrific job with the audiobook overall, handling a wide range of accents. He seems especially at home with Aristide Arosteguy’s voice. Early on Hurt inserts odd, non-Shatnerian pauses into sentences that disconcert, but this ceases by the middle of the book. It’s a pleasure to listen to.

Posted by Bryan A.

New Releases – Jack O’Connell, Edgar Allan Poe, Tee Morris, C.S. Lewis, Ayn Rand

April 20, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: New Releases 

New Releases

This sounds just up our alley! it’s described as “Gritty noir fiction, mind-bending fantasy, and medical thriller combine in a new novel by an author dubbed the ‘cyberpunk Dashiell Hammett.'” Noir and Fantasy! Yum yum!

The Resurrectionist
by Jack O'ConnellThe Resurrectionist
By Jack O’Connell; Read by Holter Graham
9 CDs -11½ Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Highbridge Audio
Published: April 2008
ISBN: 9781598875942
[LISTEN TO AN MP3 SAMPLE]
Sweeney is a druggist by trade; Danny, his son, is in a persistent coma, the victim of an accident. Hoping for a miracle, they have come to the Peck Clinic, a fortress-like haven in a post-industrial city overrun by gangs. Doctors there claim to have resurrected two patients who were similarly lost in the void. Gradually, Sweeney realizes that the cure for his son’s condition may lie in “Limbo,” a fantasy comic-book world into which Danny had been drawn at the time of his accident. Plunged into the intrigue that surrounds the clinic, Sweeney searches for answers and instead finds sinister back alleys, brutal dead ends, and terrifying rabbit holes of mystery.

Narrator Wayne June assures us that he’s done his research on this new series of definitive Edgar Allan Poe readings…

Into That Darkness Peering: Nightmarish Tales Of The Macabre Vol. 1Into That Darkness Peering: Nightmarish Tales Of The Macabre – Vol. 1
By Edgar Allan Poe; Read by Wayne June
1 CD – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: AudioBookCase.com
Published: March 2008
ISBN: 0977845303
Three tales from the original master of horror fiction, Edgar Allan Poe! Included in this collection are “The Raven”, “The Black Cat” and “The Cask Of Amontillado.”

Tee Morris returns to his, and the world’s first podiobook, restoring lost scenes, adding more production and voices from other favorite podcasters. Read our review of the original version HERE, then set sail with Rafe and Askana again…

Morevi RemasteredMorevi: The Chronicles of Rafe and Askana (Remastered)
By Tee Morris and Lisa Lee; Read by Tee Morris and others
Podiobook (a podcast novel) – [UNABRIDGED?]
Publisher: Podiobooks.com
Published: 2008
Morevi, a landlocked kingdom shrouded by jungles and mystery, falls under the rule of Askana Moldarin. In the dawn of this New Age, hidden traitors in her own regime threaten to destroy everything. The First Queen, independent of council, seeks help to reveal the conspiracy against her… Enter Rafe Rafton, captain of the Defiant.

Soon to be a major motion picture, already an audiobook!

The Chronicles Of Narnia: Book 2 - Prince Caspian (Movie Tie-In)The Chronicles Of Narnia: Book 2 – Prince Caspian (Movie Tie-In)
By C. S. Lewis; Read by Lynn Redgrave
CDs – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Childrens Audio
Published: April 2008
ISBN: 0061435279
Narnia is in trouble! All the magical creatures and Talking Animals have been forced into hiding by an evil king. Fortunately, young Prince Caspian escapes in time to lead the Old Narnians in the fight for their freedom. But when the battle goes badly, Caspian blows an enchanted horn. Suddenly Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie are pulled back into Narnia from England, where they had returned after defeating the evil White Witch. In a race against time and with the aid of the Great Lion, Aslan, they join Caspian and his army in a battle to restore peace throughout Narnia.

At over 1,000 pages in length this is the longest work of speculative fiction published between two covers (Mission Earth by L. Ron Hubbard was published in separate volumes) – it becomes now one of the longest audiobooks ever made at a backbreaking 38 CDs!

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn RandAtlas Shrugged
By Ayn Rand; Read by Kate Reading
38 CDs – Approx. 40 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Books On Tape
Published: March 2008
ISBN: 1415949247
First published in 1957, Atlas Shrugged was Ayn Rand’s greatest achievement and last work of fiction. In this novel she dramatizes her unique philosophy through an intellectual mystery story that integrates ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, politics, economics, and sex. Set in a near-future U.S.A. whose economy is collapsing as a result of the mysterious disappearance of leading innovators and industrialists, this novel presents an astounding panorama of human life-from the productive genius who becomes a worthless playboy…to the great steel industrialist who does not know that he is working for his own destruction…to the philosopher who becomes a pirate…to the woman who runs a transcontinental railroad…to the lowest track worker in her train tunnels. Peopled by larger-than-life heroes and villains, charged with towering questions of good and evil, Atlas Shrugged is a philosophical revolution told in the form of an action thriller.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Gravity By Tess Gerritsen

January 7, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

Gravity by Tess GerritsenGravity
By Tess Gerritsen; Read by Campbell Scott
4 Cassettes – 4.5 Hours [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Published: 2002
ISBN: 0671046187
Themes: / Science Fiction / Disease / Disaster / Biology / Scientist / Medical /

Emma Watson, a brilliant research physician, has been training for the mission of a lifetime: to study living beings in space. Jack McCallum, Emma’s estranged husband, has shared her dream of space travel, but a medical condition has grounded and embittered him. He must watch from the sidelines as his wife prepares for her first mission to the International Space Station. Once aboard the space station, however, things start to go terribly wrong. A culture of single-celled organisms known as Archaeons, gathered from the deep sea, is to be monitored in the microgravity of space. The true and lethal nature of this experiment has not been revealed to NASA. In space, the cells rapidly multiply and soon begin to infect the crew-with agonizing and deadly results

If I had to write a review of this novel in one sentence it would read: “Gravity is like Blood Music for people who’ve never heard of Greg Bear.” Gravity is described by the publisher as “A Novel Of Medical Suspense”, which to me sounds like a crooked way of saying “science fiction for people who don’t like to get caught reading science fiction.” I used to have contempt for the writers of such deceptive doublespeak, but these days I’m more likely to save my contempt for the people who in actuality demand their literature be named in such disingenuous ways. The publishers really aren’t to blame. If they label it as science fiction it won’t get reviewed in the mainstream media – and it won’t be purchased by the fickle public who’d willfully pass up a book with a “science fiction” label in favor of a “medical thriller” or “techno thriller” label. Can someone please explain to me what is so wrong about being caught reading a novel with the words “science fiction” on the spine? I’ve heard people say they won’t buy books because the cover looked too “science-fictiony”. I suggest to you that to not like science fiction is to shut one’s self off from ideas. And though many people claim not to like science fiction, I think if they’d look critically at what they are reading they’d find themselves reading it – just under another name. Be honest with yourself, admit it, you do like it, that is all I ask.

But I stray from the path. Gravity reads a bit like Robin Cook’s Coma, but the major theme has more in common with Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain than it does with hospital politics. The abridgement here is successful and Tess Gerritsen’s descriptions are clear but a bit dumbed-down. As an M.D. she should be fully capable of ratcheting up the science-speak, but for one reason or another chose not to. Despite this, I have few complaints. This is a good time passer. The story has an interesting setting and overall I was left with a satisfactory feeling. That said, I felt no pressing need to track down more of Gerritsen’s ‘Novels Of Medical Suspense.’

A few other problems: Simon & Schuster Audio has not spaced the tapes properly. Each side is of unequal length requiring much fast-forwarding. They also declined to mention when a side is ending, so the reading of a sentence ends as if it were simply a thoughtful pause and then tape plays on for many minutes. This is bad planning – for such a big company there are no good excuses.

Reader Campbell Scott’s precise intonation and clinical reading matches the medical perspective taken by Gerritsen in Gravity. Scott is no cuddly-dear of a voice, nor is he a cuddly-dear of a film actor and yet I find myself always pleased to spend some time with him now and again – he always manages to somehow draw me in even though his stiff demeanor makes me want to shy away.

Posted by Jesse Willis