A 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.
The SFFaudio Podcast #355 – Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, and Paul Weimer talk about The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath by H.P. Lovecraft
Talked about on today’s show:
novel or novella, would Lovecraft have published it had he lived longer?, left in a drawer, a first draft, smoothing out, an amazing talent, a fascinating fun world, The Wizard Of Oz, a tour of Lovecraft’s material, not the place to start with Lovecraft, no existential bleakness, surprisingly gentle, even Nyarlathotep is kind of nice, more adventurous, extended into nonsense, marshaling armies, Conan’s messing about is strictly small potatoes, a gregarious jolly man, a sense of fun, poems about Frank Belknap Long’s cat, more lucidity than you expect, the ghouls, the Fungi From Yuggoth cycle, three travelers who’d previously visited the dreamland, one must be the unnamed narrator of The Crawling Chaos, King Kuranes, the narrator of Hypnos, the smoking cosmic gun, The Other Gods, the priest, The Strange High House In The Mist, a night-gaunt, the mythos was largely invented by fans, the nexus point, The Statement Of Randolph Carter, is the graveyard in the Dreamlands?, other ways to get to the Dreamlands, ghoul tunnels, the ghouls are quite friendly, Warren is dead!, the enchanted wood, the Vaults Of Zin, the realm of the Gugs, The Divine Comedy, The Cats Of Ulthar, lots of cats from Ulthar, almost an anime style plot, hilarious, whimsical, swarming cats, unlocking, context, Dunsananian, Polaris, the Land Of Lomar, ahead of Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Paul’s own RPG Dreamlands, slavers, fighting the Moon Men, surprisingly visual, Celephaïs and The White ship, much mining, the Moon wine, lava gatherers, chalcedony mining, Mr. Merchant, Nyarlathotep is the wizard (and the wicked witch), Sauron, Azathoth does the gnawing, Carter’s passivity, Carter’s activity, Indiana Jones in Raiders Of The Lost Ark, an explorer’s adventure, the hound is Belloq, Bryan Alexander, not a horror book, more comedy than horror, the Nigh-Gaunts sound scary but their major power is tickling, Lovecraft has a wicked dry sense of humour, playing with a caricature of himself, based on his own nightmares, squirming feelings, “there’s more of gravy than of the grave about you”, Marley’s ghost, a bit of undigested beef, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, the HPLHS’ A Solstice Carol, adapting three Lovecraft stories by way of Dickens, The Festival, Pickman’s Model, The Outsider, it all connects up, Richard Upton Pickman, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, this grand tapestry, Jim’s ball of wax, The Thing On The Doorstep, a shoggoth in those pits, Night-Gaunts (the poem), not seeing the whimsical side of it, a gamer style fashion, in Deities & Demigods, that was all bullshit, Michael Moorcock’s Elric, flying on the night-winds with the ghouls, an internal Lovecraftian world, maps, the map from the Call Of Cthulhu‘s Dreamland Supplements, Sandy Petersen, Jason Thompson’s Dreamlands map, The Green Meadow, the Vaults Of Yin, the Gardens of Zin, how do they get to the Moon on this map?, straight on until morning…, dream logic supplies an endless supply of water, how much is personal and how much is external?, Carter’s Sunset City (Kadath), the gods of earth have abandoned it for Kadath, cosmic horrors, the Games of Divinity, Fungi From Yuggoth, Homecoming (Sonnet V), our experience of reading Lovecraft, Recognition, the book is the key,
The day had come again, when as a child
I saw—just once—that hollow of old oaks,
Grey with a ground-mist that enfolds and chokes
The slinking shapes which madness has defiled.
It was the same—an herbage rank and wild
Clings round an altar whose carved sign invokes
That Nameless One to whom a thousand smokes
Rose, aeons gone, from unclean towers up-piled.
I saw the body spread on that dank stone,
And knew those things which feasted were not men;
I knew this strange, grey world was not my own,
But Yuggoth, past the starry voids—and then
The body shrieked at me with a dead cry,
And all too late I knew that it was I!
, the next poem
The daemon said that he would take me home
To the pale, shadowy land I half recalled
As a high place of stair and terrace, walled
With marble balustrades that sky-winds comb,
While miles below a maze of dome on dome
And tower on tower beside a sea lies sprawled.
Once more, he told me, I would stand enthralled
On those old heights, and hear the far-off foam.
All this he promised, and through sunset’s gate
He swept me, past the lapping lakes of flame,
And red-gold thrones of gods without a name
Who shriek in fear at some impending fate.
Then a black gulf with sea-sounds in the night:
“Here was your home,” he mocked, “when you had sight!”
then we get The Lamp, Zaman’s Hill, The Port, The Courtyard, XX. Night-Gaunts, XXI. Nyarlathotep, XXII. Azathoth, XXV. St. Toad’s, seeking after visions, XVI. The Window, I.N.G. Culbard’s adaptation of The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath, this is a poem as well, word choices for assonance and alliterative sound, very aural, a pleasure to listen to, meant to be read aloud, Carter looks a lot like Lovecraft (in I.N.G. Culbard’s adaptation, Jason Thompson’s adaptation of The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath, from Dunsany and Poe, it all goes back to Poe with his Dream-land poem, Ulalume, The Narrative Of Arthur Gordon Pym Of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe,
by Edgar Allan Poe
By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule—
From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime,
Out of SPACE—Out of TIME.
Bottomless vales and boundless floods,
And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods,
With forms that no man can discover
For the tears that drip all over;
Mountains toppling evermore
Into seas without a shore;
Seas that restlessly aspire,
Surging, unto skies of fire;
Lakes that endlessly outspread
Their lone waters—lone and dead,—
Their still waters—still and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily.
By the lakes that thus outspread
Their lone waters, lone and dead,—
Their sad waters, sad and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily,—
By the mountains—near the river
Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever,—
By the grey woods,—by the swamp
Where the toad and the newt encamp,—
By the dismal tarns and pools
Where dwell the Ghouls,—
By each spot the most unholy—
In each nook most melancholy,—
There the traveller meets, aghast,
Sheeted Memories of the Past—
Shrouded forms that start and sigh
As they pass the wanderer by—
White-robed forms of friends long given,
In agony, to the Earth—and Heaven.
For the heart whose woes are legion
’T is a peaceful, soothing region—
For the spirit that walks in shadow
’T is—oh, ’t is an Eldorado!
But the traveller, travelling through it,
May not—dare not openly view it;
Never its mysteries are exposed
To the weak human eye unclosed;
So wills its King, who hath forbid
The uplifting of the fring’d lid;
And thus the sad Soul that here passes
Beholds it but through darkened glasses.
By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have wandered home but newly
From this ultimate dim Thule.
the double negative, seeing the mysteries of the dreamlands with the eyes unclosed, protean quality, an evolution of that Dream-Land, the seed that took root in Lovecraft’s mind, pools with lolling lilies, Eldorado, a prodigious dreamer, Tweeting dreams, “I’m prodigious dreamer.”, keeping a dream diary, deeper and more vivid, a dream New York City, Jesse recounts dream of swimming through the streets, a sea-monster, rafts, tables, wonderful wonderful comic books, it is very difficult to read books in dreams, #nightmare, forgetting that he is dreaming, close to waking, dreams while dreaming, Dennis Quaid, Dreamscape (1984), if we can just get the internet of dreams working, awesome and amazing, Waking Life (2001), dreams as prison, Curanes story is in the middle, Curanes has trained a bunch of locals to act English, totally Wizard Of Oz, the magic of three, The Crawling Chaos by H.P Lovecraft and Winifred Virginia Jackson, some sort of plague, opium, he’s inside his own head and walks into the Dreamlands, all cities of amber and chalcedony, deserted cities, amazing imagery, inside baseball, once you’re deep into the trenches…, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman has the same kind of ghouls, the way ghouls get their names (the first person they eat), maybe Pickman got eaten by a ghoul (retcon), meeps or glibbers, planning the assault on Kadath.
Talked about on today’s show:
1981, to a professor of Slavic languages, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, the “First Age”, Hyperborea, At The Mountains Of Madness, The Mound, high fantasy, monstrous survivals, “two-fisted mighty thewed”, meeting the monster, this is not Lovecraft anymore, “big speeches very evil”, the movie, HBO, the sword is a laser beam?, that thing from Krull?, like Skeletor but less impressive, D’Spayre (Marvel Comics), “I expected you to come in evening-wear”, “He’s not Hitler”, WWII, can you use evil to fight evil, Cuza, shades of grey, chancellorship, “are you with the forces of good?”, a pretty amazing book, the Adversary Cycle, The Tomb, the “Repairman Jack” cycle, Equalizer-style, ancient Hindu mythology, deeply interested in its subject, re-reads, “written with the energy and verve and economy of a pulp novel all the themes, and character and depth of a literary novel”, Protecting Project Pulp, yellow peril, “I’ve heard Lovecraft was good for sales”, Conan The Barbarian (1982), Thulsa Doom, red hair and olive skin, a mystery novel, making assumptions, is Glen a Templar?, “What’s in the box?”, Portugal, Spain, Wales, a little map, not a castle, not a keep, built backwards, go kill Hitler, The Salem’s Lot route, a mute Nosferatu, the seduction of Cuza, Glen is a morally ambiguous character, Magda is the main character, the resonance of the title, Rasalom, Hitler, Molosar, the SS dude (Kaempffer), Woermann, moving the date 1941 to 1942, in 1941 there really is no hope (as opposed to 1942), Twitter, which evil is worse?, Gabriel Byrne, Sir Ian McKellen, WWI, the Spanish Civil War, the Condor Legion, the German anti-fascist legion, “you collaborate with anti Wallachians?”, punch-ups, Germany back on its feet, dissension in the ranks, The Psychology Of Power, George W. Bush, Obama was reading Team Of Rivals, torturing folks but not prosecuting folks, John’s second book, The Beast Within by Edward Levy, The Shining by Stephen King, Dungeons & Dragons, Pnakotic Manuscripts, Cuza uses the manuscripts as a red herring, you can’t destroy knowledge, when Jesse was less sophisticated, somebody’s got to be the publisher that published Mein Kampff, Dianetics, maybe you’re not as committed to the cause?, letting the adults slide, the Hitler Youth was mandatory, excuses might have been deadly, The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall, school children were terrifying, Nineteen-Eighty Four, informing on mommy and daddy, The Cultural Revolution, Die Brucke (aka The Bridge), Volkssturm, MG-42, April 27th, 1945, Doctor Who, Beau Geste, Magneto (Marvel Comics), J. Michael Straczynski, J.R.R. Tolkien, the Vorlons and the Shadows, Chaos and Order, put these old gods to bed, maybe I can finally die, appeasement, Glaeken returns, The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan is a retelling of Dracula and Salem’s Lot, more gloopy gloppy blood, John Carpenter’s The Thing, this book has zombies, traditional zombies, the rats, the muddy boots, the fingers, the reversal, Molosar sounds like a mid-dark age wizard or Romanian lord, Rasalom sounds like a Doctor Who character or Absalom, Mordred, Woermann -> War Man, Kempffer -> fighter, Magda -> Mary Magdalene, Cuza -> count, Glen -> valley, Glaeken -> Glaaki (Ramsey Campbell), the Fungi From Yuggoth sonnet cycle, The Courtyard, Neonomicon by Allan Moore and Jacen Burrows, Aklo,
It was the city I had known before;
The ancient, leprous town where mongrel throngs
Chant to strange gods, and beat unhallowed gongs
In crypts beneath foul alleys near the shore.
The rotting, fish-eyed houses leered at me
From where they leaned, drunk and half-animate,
As edging through the filth I passed the gate
To the black courtyard where the man would be.
The dark walls closed me in, and loud I cursed
That ever I had come to such a den,
When suddenly a score of windows burst
Into wild light, and swarmed with dancing men:
Mad, soundless revels of the dragging dead –
And not a corpse had either hands or head!
the headless corpse, “leave my house”, shaping Cuza, we get tricked, there’s something you’ve both overlooked, “Draculian harmonics”, old Slavonic, he can’t be both ignorant and knowledgeable, psychological warfare, Molasar is so much smarter, Cuza is super-manipulative, double bluff, the Dracula mystique, Molasar has to be telepathic, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Woermann mentions having seen a pirated version of Nosferatu, Molasar was aware of Cuza’s previous visits, he’s had a lot of time to think, bad dreams, he’s not interested in crumbs, the Popes forgot about it, the battery for the enchantment of the keep, the evil events begin on April 30th (Walpurgisnacht), the birds as a barometer of evil, no sequel possible, a blue winged bid with a beak full of straw, Moroi, Highlander, Highlander II (the worst movie ever made), “that’s the quickening McLeod”, a Spanish Egyptian with a Scottish accent, where did Highlander come from?, magic swords drinking power, a katana for cutting wasabi, 1980s movies came out of nowhere (seemingly), Elric (Michael Moorcock), Highlander: The Series, The Red One by Jack London, collecting heads, headless soldiers are unthinking soldiers, puppets of dark sorcery, vampires have the power to heal?, True Blood, did Cuza get the illness as a part of Molasar’s long game?