Review of Skeleton Crew by Stephen King

November 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

skeletonSkeleton Crew
By Stephen King; Narrated by Stephen King, Matthew Broderick, Michael C. Hall, Paul Giamatti, Will Patton, Norbert Leo Butz, Lois Smith, Dylan Baker
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: 5 July 2016
[UNABRIDGED] – 22 hours, 37 minutes

Themes: / short stories / horror /

Publisher summary:

The master at his scarifying best! From heart-pounding terror to the eeriest of whimsy – tales from the outer limits of one of the greatest imaginations of our time!

In “The Mist”, a supermarket becomes the last bastion of humanity as a peril beyond dimension invades the earth.

Touch “The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands”, and say your prayers.

There are some things in attics that are better left alone – things like “The Monkey”.

The most sublime woman driver on earth offers a man “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut” to paradise.

A boy’s sanity is pushed to the edge when he’s left alone with the odious corpse of “Gramma”.

If you were stunned by Gremlins, the Fornits of “The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet” will knock your socks off.

Trucks that punish and beautiful teen demons who seduce a young man to massacre; curses whose malevolence grows through the years; obscene presences and angels of grace – here, indeed, is a night-blooming bouquet of chills and thrills.

Review:

I’m not generally a fan of short stories, but I am a big fan of Stephen King. I’ve read two collections by him prior to this one: Hearts in Atlantis and Different Seasons. I thought both of them were stronger collections. The main difference is those contain fewer, but longer stories I think.

This one has been on my radar for a long time, in particular because of The Mist, which is the first (and longest) story. It’s actually a Novella, where the rest are short stories. It’s supposed to have “major” ties to his Dark Tower series, and one of the few in that category I haven’t read already. Personally I found it being a “major” connection to be a stretch, especially compared with most of the others. So if like me, you’re wanting to read all the associated works, I personally think you can skip this one without much issue.

There are 3 stories worth calling out for this collection of 22 (although calling 2 of them stories is overly generous). The best story was probably Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut. I thought it was fantastic. I also really enjoyed The Monkey and Gramma.

Paranoid: A Chant and For Owen round out the bottom. I guess if you have little fragments of writing you think are interesting, sticking them in such a large collection is the best way to publish them, but I think the collection would have been stronger without them personally.

As to the rest you can consult my list of ratings below.

Audio
This book has 13 unique narrators, some of them reading several stories. Will Patton, Frances Sternhagen, Paul Giamatti, and Norbert Leo Butz were the best narrators of the group. None of the narrators were bad, but most of them were unmemorable. You can see my full ratings below for each performance.

Ratings
StoryStory RatingNarratorNarrator Rating

The Mist – 3 – Will Patton- 4.5
Here There Be Tygers – 2.5 – Kyle Beltran – 3
The Monkey – 4.5 – Matthew Broderick – 3
Cain Rose Up – 1.5 – Kyle Beltran – 3
Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut – 4.5 – Dana Ivey – 3.5
The Jaunt – 3 – Robert Petkoff – 3
The Wedding Gig – 2.5 – Paul Giamatti – 4
Paranoid: A Chant – 1 – Will Patton – 3
The Raft – 3 – Stephen King – 3
Word Processor of the Gods – 3.5 – Norbert Leo Butz – 3.5
The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands – 2 – Paul Giamatti – 4
Beachworld – 2.5 – Michael C. Hall – 3
The Reaper’s Image – 2 – David Morse – 3
Nona – 3 – Norbert Leo Butz – 3.5
For Owen – 1.5 – David Morse – 3
Survivor Type – 2.5 – Norbert Leo Butz – 3.5
Uncle Otto’s Truck – 3 – David Morse – 3
Morning Deliveries (Milkman #1) – 3 – Dylan Baker – 3
Big Wheels: A Tale of The Laundry Game (Milkman #2) – 3 – Dylan Baker – 3
Gramma – 4 – Frances Sternhagen – 4.5
The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet – 3.5 – Michael C. Hall – 3
The Reach – 2.5 – Lois Smith – 3

Review by Rob Zak.

The SFFaudio Podcast #329 – NEW RELEASES/RECENT ARRIVALS

August 10, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #329 – Jesse, Scott, Jenny, Tamahome and Paul talk about new audiobook releases and recent audiobook arrivals.

Talked about on today’s show:
ecomic, The BOZZ Chronicles by David Michelinie and Bret Blevins, Dover Publications, Iron Man, The New Mutants), a “plucky prostitute”, Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson, the Guardian Podcast, a tyranny of circumstances, The Cold Equations, The Coode Street Podcast, Interstellar, interestingly depressing, Ali Ahn, Hachette, this is all Paul, City of the Chasch: The Tschai, Planet of Adventure, Book 1 by Jack Vance, interesting language, strange customs, fun books, Blackstone Audio, Resurrection House, Reading Envy, Archangel (Book One of the Chronicles of Ubastis) by Marguerite Reed, beasts, military SF, on a planet?, she’s a mother, Terpkristin, Octavia Butler, Dark Disciple: Star Wars, Marc Thompson, Random House Audio, sound effects?, The Year’s Top Ten Tales of Science fiction 7, Infinivox, read by Tom Dheere and Nancy Linari, Bryan Alexander, Elizabeth Bear, Robert Reed, Alastair Reynolds, Michael Swanwick, Peter Watts, The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka, Keith Szarabajka, scientists in labs, Robert J. Sawyer, FlashForward, Blackstone Audio, throwing on a throwback, Thorns by Robert Silverberg, Stefan “the great” Rudnicki, Skyboat Media, from 1967, Ultima, Proxima Book 2 by Stephen Baxter, wild galaxy spanning stuff, Tantor Media, Per Ardua Ad Astra = by struggle to the stars, the Xeelee books, “Traditional Fantasy”, no homosexuals or gender swapping, Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb, lots of fantasy, she writes books people really like Queen of Fire by Anthony Ryan, read by Steven Brand, “urban or contemporary fantasy”, The City And The City, Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories by China Miéville, WORKING FOR BIGFOOT Stories from the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, Buffy, American Harry Potter?, James Marsters, The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth, Book 1 by N.K. Jemisin, secondary world fantasy, post apocalyptic fantasy, City Of Stairs, Deceptions A Cainsville Novel by Kelley Armstrong, The Tale Of The Body Thief, Anne Rice, The Undying Legion by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith, The Conquering Dark: (Crown & Key Book 3) by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith, read by Nicholas Guy Smith, paranormal romance, Earth Bound (Sea Haven #4), Christine Feehan, horror/suspense, Finders Keepers, Stephen King, audiobook exclusive, Drunken Fireworks, a sample of Tim Sample’s audio narration, THE BLUMHOUSE BOOK OF NIGHTMARES: The Haunted City edited by Jason Blum, The Geeks Guide To The Galaxy podcast, Joel and Ethan Cohen, The Purge, Ethan Hawke, Eli Roth, Alive, Scott Sigler, Empty Set Entertainment, the warping of society, contemporary criticism, nonfiction, Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will, Geoff Colvin, could our jobs be replaced by robots or computers?, Tam is their pet, Ex Machina is idea heavy, audio drama or “Audio Dramer”, an Idahoan accent?, And the Sun Stood Still, LA Theatre Works, Dava Sobel, Nicolaus Copernicus, Werner Heisenberg, Niels Bohr, how do we get access to plays, television seems insane to Jesse, there should be a Broadway channel, new podcasts: the Black Tapes podcast, SERIAL, NPR-style audio drama, fake pop journalism, The Great Courses’ The Torch podcast, Eric S. Rabkins course, The American Revolution (Great Courses), Neil deGrasse Tyson’s courses on Netflix, the GENRE STOP! podcast (a readalong style podcast), Ancillary Justice, The Martian, engineering fiction, applied science, readalong style, The Writer And The Critic, The Incomparable podcast, Read-A-Long, “when you hear a chime turn the page”, Books On The Nightstand podcast, The Readers podcast, Booktopia, Readercon, Fourth Street Fantasy, deep discussions, book centric panels, reader centric panels, a Roger Zelazny panel, a Jack Vance panel, Anne Vandermeer on Reading Envy, The Guardian Podcast, whooooah!, paperbook: The Dream Quest Of Unknown Kadath And Other Stories by H.P. Lovecraft and Jason Thompson (adaptor/illustrator) The White Ship by H.P. Lovecraft, Sergio Aragones, Groo, the marginalia in Mad magazine, page composition, J.H. Williams III, Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim, the final episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, a map of the dreamlands, it’s a map man!, illuminated maps,

Dreamlands poster by Jason Thompson

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Carrie by Stephen King

September 22, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

carrieCarrie
By Stephen King; Narrated by Sissy Spacek
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (now only available through Audible.com)
Publication Date: 24 August 2012
[Unabridged] – 7 hours; 20 minutes

Themes: / telekinesis / adolescent bullying / religious fervor / hog slaughter / revenge / horror /

Publisher summary:

An unpopular teenage girl, whose mother is a religious fanatic, is tormented and teased to the breaking point by her more popular schoolmates. She uses her hidden telekinetic powers to inflict a terrifying revenge.

I’ve wanted to read Carrie for a while now.  It’s one of those iconic works that you’re compelled to read, more out of a sense of obligation to the author’s craft than a product of individual literary desire.  I’m not one of those Stephen King aficionados that could play King Trivia and know every answer.  I’ve read some of his books, and most of those have been fantastic.  Some weren’t.  Truthfully, I’d love to sit down and just talk shop with King.  Just to be able to shoot the breeze about writing, the shape of a story, how to switch tense to make something pop, and a load of other stuff that most likely doesn’t blow the hair back for that many folks.

Stephen King has a knack for drawing a character that evokes empathy from the reader.  I can’t say I enjoyed the question and answer portions, the jagged breakaways from the main narrative flow, or the investigation that lies at the far end of this story.  But I love how King slows down a scene, making time stretch beyond normal, beyond the pocketful of seconds, far past the internal clockwork of mind can account for in a passing moment.  I also really appreciated some of King’s choice of language.  And I’m giving King bonus points for quoting Dylan lyrics, thanks Stevie!

I don’t believe it’s a secret that there’s blood in this story.  There’s also murder and violence.  What most surprised me was my reaction to the scene with the pigs.  I won’t go into detail here, but this scene evoked the most emotional reaction for me, and I found this interesting.  I had and felt compassion for Carrie, but the part with the pigs and potato chips stood out like broken glass under a bright moon.

Sissy Spacek as narrator does a solid job.  Her delivery is dependable, and she does not try to act the story.  She does not insert herself as a character in her reading.  I was able to hear a slight amount of audible feedback in this audio rendition, and am disappointed that the sound engineers didn’t clean the tracks up before distribution.  This audiobook is prefaced with a few words from Stephen King.  He gives a little background to how Carrie was saved from the dustbin, and how its publication came just in time.  I for one am a fan of Stephen King speaking about his history and life, and so I enjoyed this little introduction.  I find King’s voice pleasant and easy to listen to.

 Posted by Casey Hampton.

Review of Carniepunk

September 14, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

CarniepunkCarniepunk
By Rachel Caine, Rob Thurman, Kevin Hearne, Seanan McGuire, Jennifer Estep, Allison Pang, Kelly Gay, Delilah S. Dawson and Kelly Meding
Narrated by Candace Thaxton and Kirby Heyborne
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: 23 July 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 14 hours
Themes: / carnivals / urban fantasy / paranormal romance / mind-readers / synaesthesia / imprisoned goddesses / mermaids / short stories / tie-ins /
Publisher summary:
Come one, come all! The Carniepunk Midway promises you every thrill and chill a traveling carnival can provide. But fear not! Urban fantasy’s biggest stars are here to guide you through this strange and dangerous world. . . .

RACHEL CAINE’s vampires aren’t child’s play, as a naïve teen discovers when her heart leads her far, far astray in “The Cold Girl.” With “Parlor Tricks,” JENNIFER ESTEP pits Gin Blanco, the Elemental Assassin, against the Wheel of Death and some dangerously creepy clowns. SEANAN McGUIRE narrates a poignant, ethereal tale of a mysterious carnival that returns to a dangerous town after twenty years in “Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea.” KEVIN HEARNE’s Iron Druid and his wisecracking Irish wolfhound discover in “The Demon Barker of Wheat Street” that the impossibly wholesome sounding Kansas Wheat Festival is actually not a healthy place to hang out. With an eerie, unpredictable twist, ROB THURMAN reveals the fate of a psychopath stalking two young carnies in “Painted Love.”

This was a short story collection with urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and carnival themes. On the whole, the book was fairly average. There were some fantastic stories and there were some terrible stories. I’ve reviewed each story individually, below. The narration was mostly done by Candace Thaxton, though Kirby Heyborne narrated a few including “Painted Love” and “The Demon Barker of Wheat Street.” All in all, I found Thaxton’s narration preferable to Heyborne’s, but that might have been because I liked more of the stories she narrated than Heyborne. Heyborne’s narration bordered on creepy, and while it fit the genre/story, it also made me kind of uncomfortable. In honesty, I’m not sure I can recommend this book unless someone is looking for a specific short story from one of the authors. There were a few stories that I read that I’m now interested in the world, but most were either very average or downright terrible. This is also not a book for younger readers–some of the stories are quite graphic, mostly sexually. So if you want the book, be warned that it’s probably not “good family listening.”

Stories:
“Painted Love” by Rob Thurman. A creepy tale of a carnival manager and his killer tendencies, seen through the eyes of a demon that escaped from Hell. The demon, called “Doodle,” wants to see the world and so latches onto people as he makes his way around, seeing people of all types. Unexpectedly, Doodle finds that he’s awed by the strength of the psychic at the carnival–and steps in when Bart, the manager, tries to kill her and rape her sister. It was an interesting idea, made all the more creepy by the narrator’s voice. Unfortunately, most of the story was character development of the members of the carnival; the actual meat of the story felt like it was fairly rushed.

“The Three Lives of Lydia” by Delilah S. Dawson. I believe this was said to be a story of “Blud,” though I haven’t read any of Dawson’s work to have familiarity with the story or the characters. This was a sad story of a girl who woke up on the outskirts of a carnival in a different world, a world called “Sang.” The girl, Lydia, is a “stranger” in the world, a transient. She falls in (and in love?) with a vampire, and takes a job at the carnival. Unfortunately, she’s also stalked by some of the less-nice members of the carnival, and skates the line between her waking life and the life in her “dream.” While this was a sad story and somewhat predictable, I actually kind of liked it. I think I might want to read more in this world, if it’s more of the carnival “dream” world.

“The Demon Barker of Wheat Street” by Kevin Hearne. A story from the world of The Iron Druid Chronicles, therefore starring the Druid Atticus O’Sullivan, his Irish wolfound, and his student Granwael (spelled wrong I’m sure). This is supposed to take place a few years after the events in Tricked, which I haven’t read yet (I’ve only read the first book in the series, Hounded). This time, Atticus and Granwael decide to go into a “freak show” in a carnival and find something much more sinister than a typical carnival freak show. It results in a battle with some ghouls, as might be expected. Just like Hounded, this story is pretty light but entertaining enough with a good bit of action, if slightly formulaic.

“The Sweeter the Juice” by Mark Henry. A terrible and disgusting story about a transvestite looking for a new street drug to help pay off her debt at a sex change clinic. This story had a lot of unnecessary detail. It was also needlessly disgusting. I regretted eating while listening. If I could give negative stars, this story would get them.

“The Werewife” by Jaye Wells. Be careful what you wish for, even if it’s only in the darkest recesses of your mind. That goes double when you’re at a carnival with a freak show run by someone who can read minds. A story, as you might guess from the title, about a man and his werewolf-wife. The ending in this was almost “happy” and the story didn’t go where I thought it would. It was a welcome relief after the last story.

“The Cold Girl” by Rachel Caine. A short story in the vein of Twilight, down to the emo teenager “in love.” This particular emo teenager’s boyfriend turns out to be a murderer and she looks to be his next victim. She’s warned by a psychic at the carnival, but is also told that there is nothing she can do, and that she will meet The Cold Girl soon. This was utter rubbish. I suppose that if you liked the Twilight series, you might like this, but the truth is, the Twilight series did terrible things for a wonderful genre, the least of which was inflicting further crap like this on unsuspecting readers.

“A Duet with Darkness” by Allison Pang. This story is listed by Goodreads as “book 0.5” in the Abby Sinclair series. I’ve never read the series, but I do like the idea of music and synaesthesia as a tie to the magical world. In this story, Melanie is a violinist tied to a fallen angel, Numo (the description of whom reminds me of Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII a bit). She is insanely talented and her pride gets the best of her while at a gig she “duels” (plays violin with/against) someone who is better than her. Her opponent turns out to be the Devil’s violinist. This story was a bit heavy on introduction of characters that didn’t seem to matter much for this story (but probably makes sense for the larger world context). I may have to give this series a go.

“Recession of the Divine” by  Hillary Jacques. Can you imprison a goddess? What happens if you try? This story attempts to answer that as Mnemosyne (Goddess of Memory, a Titan) has renounced her Olympian ways and (in this century) is a loss specialist for an insurance company. She ends up at a carnival which has had a string of accidents. She finds that there is much more than meets the eye as one of the carnival members is using other divine techniques to have his way about things–including wooing/luring customers. Realizing what Olivia (Mnemosyne) is, he tries to use her abilities as a part of the show…and that may just be his undoing.

“Parlor tricks” by Jennifer Estep. This is an Elemental Assassin short story, another series I haven’t read but might look into based on this short story. This time, a girl goes missing while at a carnival and “The Spider” and her sister (a police detective) go there to search for her. What they uncover is a fairly typical trope in fantasy, but that doesn’t stop this story from being pretty good. One other thing that I really liked that not many of the stories in this collection have done well is that it only gave us detail we needed. Too many of the other stories in this collection have a lot of detail that is irrelevant to the story. The detail would be needed for a full-length novel or maybe even a novella…but not for the short story. So, in addition to enjoying this story, I have to give Estep credit for the focus in the story.

“Freak House” by Kelly Meding. Another concise story, and another one I was surprised to enjoy. This time, it’s a story of a daughter trying to find her kidnapped father. The twist? Well…how does one exactly kidnap a djinn to start with, and how does one rescue the djinn from whoever was powerful enough to kidnap him in the first place? Shiloh, half-djinn, teams up with a werewolf and a human to do just that…the narration said this was a “Strays” short story, but I can’t find any reference to that series on GR or on Meding’s website. Either way, it was another story, just enough detail without going overboard.

“The Inside Man” by Nicole Peeler. After a few strong stories, I guess I can’t complain too much when this one was not nearly as strong–or as interesting. The concept was interesting: a soul-stealer and those trying to fight against him, to reclaim the souls. The execution, though, was boring. I routinely found myself getting distracted during this story in the Jane True universe.

“A Chance in Hell” by Jackie Kessler. A story that starts and ends with gratuitous sex scenes, this one was also pretty boring. Jezebel used to be a succubus, but she has escaped hell and is living “topside” as a human, getting trained in the ways of being human by her roommates. One of her roommates, Cecilia, wants to go to a carnival, to show her a new view of humanity. What Cecilia doesn’t know, can’t know, is that this carnival is run by a powerful demon. A story in the Hell on Earth series, it was another that was predictably un-entertaining.

“Hell’s Menagerie” by Kelly Gay. At its crux, a story about a girl and her dog with some coming of age thrown in for good measure. This story is from the Charlie Madigan world, though from reading the description of the books in that series, I think it’s just set in the same world, not necessarily with the same character. In this story, Emma travels with her hellhound, Brim, to Charbydon to rescue Brim’s puppies and their mother. They track them to a menagerie and are forced to make the decision to trade Brim for the pups. Now on a mission to rescue Brim, Emma realizes she has some special powers, powers that extend above and beyond her connection with Brim. This story was cute, if predictable. Really, how can anybody not like a story with hellhounds?

“Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea” by Seanan McGuire. I don’t really know what to make of this story. It wasn’t bad…but I’m not sure I “got” it. There didn’t seem to be much real story…it was about a young woman who was part (or entirely) mermaid, visiting with a traveling carnival the city where her mother (also mermaid) was found (and subsequently joined the traveling carnival). There is a lot of discussion of a “possible” problem but the actual action was only in the last 10 minutes or so of the 45-minute story…and even then, it was pretty mundane. I haven’t read any of Seanan McGuire’s (or her alter ego, Mira Grant) works, and I’m not sure that this enticed me to do so. I wonder how similar this story is to others she’s written.

Posted by terpkristin.