Review of A Coyote in the House By Elmore Leonard

A Coyote's in the House by Elmore LeonardA Coyote In The House
By Elmore Leonard; Read by Neil Patrick Harris
3 CDs – 3 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Children’s Audio
Published: 2004
ISBN: 0060728825
Themes: / Fantasy / Anthropomorphic Fiction / Movies / Crime /

This dog was cool for a homeboy, an older male who had peed all over this big yard, marking it to let everybody know this was his turf and nobody else’s. Keep it, homes. Live here and get food handed to you. Believe you’re somebody in your pitiful kept world, no better than a slave.”

Buddy’s the aging movie star, Antwan’s the streetwise hipster and Miss Betty is the showgirl. Buddy also happens to be a German Shepherd, Antwan is a wild and wily Coyote and Miss Betty is a bouffant Poodle. A Coyote In The House is a kid’s book in the tradition of Jack London’s The Call of The Wild. In essence this it is the same story, simply with a sub-urban as opposed to an arctic setting – that and Elmore Leonard’s patented prose. It’s not just Leonard’s dialogue that’s distinctive; it’s his story structure, characters, and cadence that all scream Elmore Leonard. And that’s very disconcerting. Leonard hasn’t written anything but adult crime novels and westerns so to hear this audiobook was truly odd. I think kids and adults who listen with together will both be pleased. It’s a fun story but it’s a strange experience for fans of Elmore Leonard’s other novels.

I couldn’t get over how Leonard completely ignores the impossibility of the situation he’s created. I know it’s a kid’s story, and kids won’t likely see it the way I do, but this story is utterly impossible. It basically ignores everything we do know about animal intelligence and replaces it with hipster lingo and human motivations and then marches on, oblivious to all the impossibilities those things entail. As an example, Buddy, the aging German Shepherd movie star, watches his old movies all day long – every animal in A Coyote In The House is intimately familiar with movies and movie stars – this despite the story logic that these canines, felines and avians can’t understand most of what humans say (and vice versa). Further, the animals can’t manipulate objects with their paws like in a Disney movie say, and yet somehow Buddy is able to – off screen – grab a VHS tape of one of his movies put it in the VCR and watch it, rewind it and put it back before his owners get home and see him. “Oh come on,” you say. “It’s a kids story, it doesn’t have to make sense.” Maybe. It didn’t ruin the experience for me but it didn’t let me fully enjoy it either. I just think that it’d have been a far better story to tackle, realistically, the animal’s perspective head on.

One other curious thing of note. The use of the word “bitch.” In any other Leonard novel it wouldn’t be a novelty – here it refers doubly as a slang term (for adult listeners) and as a female canine for children. Some adults may have a problem letting their kids hear such words, when the usage is not clear cut but I think that’d be the wrong attitude to take – the word is legitimately used here and I’d be far more concerned about kids thinking that animals are just like people – when they aren’t – than learning a “bad” word. Performed by Neil Patrick Harris, A Coyote In The House has a goodly number characters with distinctive voices. Harris is quite impressive as a reader! His audiography seems to consist mostly of children’s novels, perhaps a legacy from his child stardom. In any case he’d be a good reader of adult novels too.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Tales From The Crypt

SFFaudio Review

Tales from the CryptTales From The Crypt
Performed by Tim Curry, Gina Gershon, Luke Perry, Oliver Platt, John Ritter, Campbell Scott and others
4 CDs – Aprox 3 hrs. [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Highbridge Audio
Published: 2002
ISBN: 1565116747
Themes: / Fantasy / Horror / Crime / Murder / Humor / Undead / Music / Zombies /

Produced by the now defunct Sci-Fi Channel’s Seeing Ear Theatre, these seven audio plays are based on EC comicbook stories from the 1950s, skillfully updated and masterfully produced its one of the best anthology audio drama series of the last 25 years! Unfortunately, only seven of the eight episodes actually produced are included. And that is the biggest disappointment with this collection. The actors are awesome, the sound effects and music fill the audio landscape without drowning out their performances – but all this would be nothing without good writing, and again we’ve lucked-out. All seven tales are a whole lot of fun. Each episode is bookended by the Cryptkeeper’s introduction and comments on the story. The Cryptkeeper is voiced by John Kassir, the same actor as in the television series. This undead host’s obsession with horror is only exceeded with his obsession with frightfully bad puns. It is really good stuff boys and ghouls!

Island of Death
A dot-com millionaire with a penchant for movie trivia crash lands on an isolated tropical island and becomes embroiled in a twisted cross between a reality television show and Odysseus’ encounter with the sea-nymph Kalypso. Luke Perry (Jeremiah) is teamed with Gina Gershon (Bound) for the least successful tale in this collection. Gershon and Perry are great, but the action is a might hard to follow.

A Little Stranger
They say politics makes for strange bedfellows, but did they really mean vampires and werewolves? Set in 1968, this is the sole episode without a major Hollywood star in the lead. Randy Maggiore and Lisa Nichole star, and make the horrific crossbreed of terror and comedy.

Tight Grip
Told from a truly bizarre perspective, this is a tale of a young concert violinist is boxed in by a terrible secret stars Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show). Original and really scary.

By the Fright of the Silvery Moon
A modern day sheriff in New Mexico faces deadly perils, irate environmentalists and angry ranchers. John Ritter (Three’s Company) stars as the sheriff.

Zombie!
The longest tale in the collection. An immigration lawyer who has stolen his client’s money retires to mysterious Haiti. What he finds there may just be enough to overcome a powerful zombie curse. Oliver Platt (Funny Bones) stars. An immersive and fascinating tale of horrific Caribbean curse that makes you crave the sweetmeats.

Carrion Death
A truly excellent “horrality” tale. A bookish schoolteacher – disgusted with his inept students – goes on a crime spree and lands himself in prison. When he escapes from custody into the desert the only thing that can stop him are the talking ants. Campbell Scott (The Spanish Prisoner) seems to revel in his character’s clear insanity.

Fare Tonight, Followed by Increasing Clottiness!
A vampire hunter takes cab ride to bloody peril during a citywide vampire outbreak. An ingenious pairing of a modern day Van Helsing and an East Indian taxi driver. Keith David (The Chronicles Of Riddick), is awesome in this one, and not just for his iconic maniacal laughter. Aasif Mandvi (Spider-Man 2) is also excellent, playing his meek humor close to the vest!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Virtual Light by William Gibson

SFFaudio Review

Virtual Light
By William Gibson
Read by Frank Muller
6 Cassettes – Approx. 9 hours UNABRIDGED
List Price: USD $34.95
RECORDED BOOKS LLC.
ISBN: 0788782533

William Gibson’s novel, Virtual Light (1995), is a bit of a letdown. But this is primarily because Neuromancer (1984), is one of the best novels of the 20th century – so its no wonder lightning hasn’t struck twice. Though comparisons between Neuromancer and Virtual Light are inevitable, and reasonable, we should try to forget that William Gibson wrote such an incredible first novel – Neuromancer won the three most important science fiction awards (The Hugo, Nebula and Philip K. Dick Award)… we should try to forget – it ain’t easy – but we should try because Virtual Light is a good SF.

That being said, Virtual Light is a whole different animal, more modest in scope, set closer to the present (in 2005) and more resembles a venture into Elmore Leonard territory than a cyberpunk adventure. It really is a crime novel with a science fiction McGuffin. The McGuffin being, a pair of sunglasses that not only make the wearer look cool, but also make him or her almost superhuman. Here’s the premise – Chevette Washington, a San Francisco bicycle courier has stole some high tech sunglasses. Berry Rydell, private security guard and ex-cop is sent to track her and the sunglasses down. As usual with Gibson novels, the atmosphere created by the prose is spectacular, we see, feel, touch, taste and smell the world Gibson describes and it’s visceral. The characters are compelling, motivated and have cool names like “Rydell” and “Warbaby”. The plot is almost labyrinthine despite the stated simplicity and there are many stops along the way, but we don’t mind too much, the journey is enjoyable, the people are cool and the ideas original.

And of course being an audiobook, the narrator plays an important role in determining the outcome. Thankfully, Virtual Light is read by Frank Muller, which is a good thing. Muller has a good range of voices and a huge vocabulary so there aren’t any pronunciation errors (something that can take a listener right out of the narrative). Virtual Light is an interesting listen, and the unabridged version is definitely superior. The Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio version read by Peter Weller, is well performed but hard to follow, being abridged to a mere 3 hours and two cassettes. But if you are going to listen to this audiobook and you haven’t heard Neuromancer (or read it yet) listen to this one first, it won’t be a let down that way, and it’ll likely whet you’re appetite for more William Gibson.