Review of The Greatest Horror Stories of the 20th Century

Horror Audiobooks - The Greatest Horror StoriesThe Greatest Horror Stories Of The 20th Century
Edited by Martin Greenberg; Read by Various Readers
4 Cassettes – Approx. 6 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Dove Audio
Published: 1998
ISBN: 0787117234
Themes: / Horror / Fantasy / Science Fiction / Urban Fantasy / Magic / Curses / Telepathy / Childhood / Demons /

“Featuring some of the masters of the genre, past and present, The Greatest Horror Stories Of The 20th Century are as remarkable for their literary value as for their scream factor. Whether you are a passionate horror lover or a devotee in the making, you will find much to entertain. Listen for screams as ancient and unspeakable evil meets the modern psyche.”

Judicious use of musical cues are the only enhancement to these horror stories. Twelve horrific short stories, to be sure, but are they truly the greatest of the 20th century? Read on, MacDuff….

“The Graveyard Rats” by Henry Kuttner
Read by Michael Gross
A creepy Lovecraftian tale that almost could have been written by H.P. Lovecraft himself. It was first published in Weird Tales’ March 1936 issue. A worthy addition to the list of The Greatest Horror Stories Of The 20th Century list and Michael Gross does a good job with it. And by the way, the R.O.U.S.’s probably don’t really exist.

“Calling Card” by Ramsey Campbell
Read by Juliet Mills
First published in 1982, Ramsey Campbell’s entry in this anthology is more confusing than scary. Juliet Mills is fine but she couldn’t help unravel what we’re supposed to be afraid of. Something about a nice old lady and her mailman delivering a 60-year-old Christmas card?

“Something Had To Be Done” by David Drake
Read by John Aprea
First published in Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine’s February 1975 issue, this is an excellent Vietnam War era is a freakshow of the ‘coming home in a bodybag story’. It combines the friendly fire and frag stories of that war with the accelerating fear of the supernatural – the tension builds until the closing moment – very similar in tone and quality to Robert R. McCammon’s Nightcrawlers. Reader John Aprea does good work with good material!

“The Viaduct” by Brian Lumley
Read by Roger Rees
“The Viaduct” is a Stephen King-ish tale without the supernatural element – two boys make an enemy of another and come to a sticky end. This is the longest tale in the collection, overly long in my estimation. I was amazed how little content this story has, especially for its length, none of the characters are sympathetic and by the end I was almost rooting for them all to be killed- just as long as it was done soon. Ineffectual because of its length and exploitative and I don’t mean that as an insult, it plays, if it plays at all, on fear without telling us anything about ourselves or anything else. On the other hand Roger Rees’ reading was just fine. “The Viaduct” is in my opinion not up to the standards of some of the stories in this collection.

“Smoke Ghost” by Fritz Leiber
Read by Beverly Garland
An early Fritz Leiber yarn, “Smoke Ghost” posits what a ghost from an urban industrial society would be like, as opposed rattling chains, old bed sheets and creaky haunted houses of the pre-industrial age. Frighteningly well written and very well read. First published in Unknown Magazine’s October 1941 issue.

“Passengers” by Robert Silverberg
Read by William Atherton
William Atherton did a very nice reading of this Hugo Award nominated and Nebula winning short story (1969). “Passengers” is more SF than horror but it is 100% worthy of inclusion. It is about the uninvited guests who wouldn’t leave. These evil aliens have invaded the Earth telepathically and at unpredictable times, seize control of a human mind and force a person to do… things(!). Society has adjusted, but not every individual person will go along with all the conventions humanity has adopted to deal with the “Passengers”. Silverberg’s story examines a relatively small SF theme, stories involving involuntary control of one’s body… think the character of Molly in Neuromancer or the Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth’s short story Sitting Around the Pool, Soaking Up Some Rays or Robert A. Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters – it is a horror story because it speaks to such a violation of one’s body. Also interesting is the counterfactual raised by the premise – illustrating how difficult it is to determine exactly where the boundary line between free-will and determinism lies.

“Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner
Read by Patrick MacNee
Set in 1942, “Sticks” is a World Fantasy Award nominated story (1974) that is decidedly Lovecraftian in content and execution. Think Blair Witch Project meets pulp magazine illustrations and you’ll get the idea. Narrator Patrick MacNee does fine work with it too. With all this inspired by Lovecraft storytelling I only wish they’d included some of H.P.’s original prose, but in lieu of that “Sticks” is a good substitute.

“Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper” by Robert Bloch
Read by Robert Forster
First published in Weird Tales’ July 1943 issue “Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper” is actually a better story than it reads now. What seems a mite cliched today was quite fresh in 1943 and this tale was one of the earliest works of fiction to use ‘the ripper redjack’ – something that is relatively common today. Some narrators have a voice that grabs you and won’t let go, Robert Forster is one of them, his range is good, he does a great English accent on this one too – but its his cadence and his gravelly voice that pull me into his orbit every time. Well read and a good yarn.

“The Small Assassin” by Ray Bradbury
Read by Alyssa Bresnahan
Alyssa Bresnahan, professional full time narrator and AudioFile Magazine Golden Voice, does a very good reading of Bradbury’s short story. “The Small Assassin” is about a young couple and their first child; everything would be okay if only the newborn would only accept the world outside the womb. Horror as parenthood – who’d of thunk it? Newly minted parents probably. This tale was previously recorded by Ray Bradbury himself by pioneering audiobooks publisher Caedmon.

“The Words Of Guru” by C.M. Kornbluth
Read by Susan Anspach
Originally published under Kornbluth’s “Kenneth Falconer” pseudonym, in Stirring Science Stories’ June 1941 issue. Well regarded despite its pulpy exposition, “The Words Of Guru” is a genre-crosser full of cosmic demonism and full-tilt weirdness that comes to a thundering crash just minutes after it starts.

“Casting The Runes” by M.R. James
Read by David Warner
I was quite lost listening to this one. I couldn’t tell who was speaking much of the time, this has to do with the fact that many of the characters aren’t given names and the fact that the way this tale was written it would flow far easier on the printed page than it does aurally. In the paper version some names are blanked out (as if censored), David Warner does his best to fill in these gaps which are unreproducable in audio, but ultimately his efforts are unsuccessful. Magic and curses. First published in 1911!

“Coin Of The Realm” by Charles L. Grant
Read by Louise Sorel
Reminiscent in theme of Neil Gaiman’s style of urban fantasy, “Coin Of The Realm” is an interesting tale of the employees of a toll booth on a lonely highway who occasionally collect some very odd coins from the drivers on their road. First published in a 1981 Arkham House collection entitled Tales from the Nightside.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Here are the New Releases for December! AUDIO R…

New Releases

Here are the New Releases for December!

AUDIO RENAISSANCE

The Dragon Reborn, Book Three of The Wheel of Time

By Robert Jordan, Read by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer

Unabridged

The Shadow Rising, Book Four of The Wheel of Time

By Robert Jordan, Read by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer

Unabridged

I’ve listened to Book 2 of this massive (and massively popular) epic fantasy. I enjoyed it, but not so much that I would be eager for all ten (currently) volumes. I do know that Kate Reading and Michael Kramer did a wonderful job with the material, and can be expected to do so again.

Jesse:

Absolutely, Michael Kramer is a truly excellent reader.

Crystal City, Book Six of Alvin Maker

By Orson Scott Card, Read by Stefan Rudnicki, M.E. Willis, and cast

Unabridged

Ender’s Game: Special 20th Anniversary Edition

By Orson Scott Card, Read by Stefan Rudnicki, Harlan Ellison, and cast

Unabridged

Ah, Orson Scott Card. Audio Renaissance is re-releasing some of Fantastic Audio’s old titles, and this version of Ender’s Game is one of the most heard in my collection. I read Crystal City in print and enjoyed it, so the place your bets that the audio is going to be good too, since it’s in the safe hands of Stefan Rudnicki and cast.

Jesse:

That 20th anniversary one may actually make me read an Orson Scott Card novel. I like his short stories but I somehow never read Ender’s Game back in the 1980s.

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BLACKSTONE AUDIO

Citizen of the Galaxy

By Robert A. Heinlein, Read by Lloyd James

Click here for a sample

Unabridged

Who is this Heinlein guy, anyway? :)

Jesse:

Blackstone has made my wish come true! Lloyd James is the definitive voice of Heinlein on Audio and Citizen of the Galaxy is one of Heinlein’s best juvenile novels (juvenile as in starring a teenager not juvenile as in peurile)and the story concept is so fresh and new as to be singularily unreproduced to this day. I remember enjoying the heck out of it when I read it in paperback I expect it will be as good if not better on audio. The original cover art on this one looks amazing too by the way. This will surely be among the best audiobooks released in 2005. Thanks so much Blackstone!

Magic Time: Angelfire

By Marc Scott Zicree and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, Read by a full cast

Click here for a sample

Unabridged

This is volume 2 of a new fantasy series that I don’t have a full grasp on yet. I just starting listening to this volume last night, and am hoping it makes sense without hearing volume one, which is also available from Blackstone Audio.

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BOOKS ON TAPE

Fahrenheit 451

By Ray Bradbury, Read by Scott Brick

Unabridged

Fahrenheit 451 read by Scott Brick? Gotta get my hands on a copy of that. Books on Tape is still going through come changes over there – their website says that they won’t be resuming comsumer sales until January 3rd, 2005. I checked Audible.com for this title and it wasn’t there.

Jesse:

I believe BOT has released this title previously with a different narrator but I copuld be wrong. I think this Scott Brick version probably become the definitive edition. I thought that Harper Audio’s version from a couple of years ago, with Ray Bradbury narrating would be it, but I was disappointed in Bradbury’s reading. He’s an excellent author, and 451 is his most enduring novel but his performance didnt

enhance it at all. Scott Brick may bring a freshness that Bradbury couldnt muster.

The Runes of the Earth

By Stephen R. Donaldson, Read by Scott Brick

Unabridged

The return of Thomas Covenant! I have not read any of Stephen Donaldson’s books, so I can’t say anything there, but Scott Brick is a top narrator.

Jesse:

Nice title! Donaldson is almost as merciless with his tortured characters as is George R.R. Martin but I wish they’d release the original novel in the series first. I hate starting in the middle.

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CRAZY DOG AUDIO THEATRE

Diabolic Playhouse

By Roger Gregg, Performed by a full cast

Audio Drama

Roger Gregg and all the lunatics at Crazy Dog Audio Theatre have released a very nice looking MP3-CD containing all 6 episodes of their Diabolic Playhouse drama series, which broadcast on Ireland’s RTE Radio 1 earlier this year. The product is available at their site (based in Ireland) or at the ZBS website if you’re in the USA.

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HARPER AUDIO

The Wee Free Men

By Terry Pratchett, Read by Stephen Briggs

Unabridged

Another Discworld novel from Terry Pratchett!

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PAPERBACK DIGITAL

Reflex

By Steven Gould, Read by Christine Marshall and William Dufris

Unabridged

Nightmares on Congress Street – Part 4

By Rocky Coast Radio Theatre

Audio drama

Paperback Digital cruises along, with two more new releases. Their products are available for download on their own site or on Fictionwise. Hardcopies are available at Amazon.com or at Paperback Digital itself.

Jesse:

I’ve never heard of Gould nor his novel but with the Marshall and Dufris team working together it might be worth a blind buy.

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RECORDED BOOKS

State of Fear

By Michael Crichton, Read by George Wilson

Unabridged

Michael Crichton has stirring up some scientific controversy with this one. If I understand correctly, the environmentalists in this one are the bad guys.

Jesse:

I’ve liked Crichton’s early work, but have been tuning out since Jurassic Park.

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Happy Holidays, everyone! And thanks for reading SFFAudio.

NPR Weekend Edition "Arkham House & H.P. Lovecraf…

SFFaudio Online Audio

NPR Weekend EditionNPR Weekend Edition – Arkham House & H.P. Lovecraft
Sunday, October 31, 2004, 7 Minutes 31 Seconds
LINK TO THE NPR SHOW:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4133870 This all to short radio feature outline’s the history of small press publisher Arkham House, talks about H.P. Lovecraft and includes brief interviews with Gary Gygax, Greg Bear and Ray Bradbury. It also includes a snippet from Sunset Audio’s The Dunwich Horror audio dramatization. Cool stuff!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Fantasy Audiobooks - Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray BradburySomething Wicked This Way Comes
By Ray Bradbury; Read by Paul Hecht
7 CD’s – 8 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
ISBN: 0788746375
Date Published: 1999
Themes: / Fantasy / Halloween / Carnival / Magic / Supernatural / Aging /

First of all, it was October. A rare month for boys.
— Prologue, Something Wicked This Way Comes

As I write this, it’s a cool October night. The trees outside are starting to drop autumn leaves. It’s not difficult, especially after finishing this novel, to see why October turns my thoughts to Ray Bradbury more than any other author. He can instill the spirit of Halloween in a person the same way that Dickens instills the spirit of Christmas, and Something Wicked This Way Comes is his work that does it best.

Paul Hecht, in one of his finest narrating performances, reads this unabridged version of Bradbury’s novel, and adds an infectious enthusiasm to the poetic prose. I was captured by his performance.

The novel revolves around Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, who are best friends. They are both nearly thirteen years old, and it’s the week before Halloween. Into town comes a lightning rod salesman who warns of an approaching storm. Later that same night a carnival comes to town, full of bizarre people and sinister magic. The boys are immediately drawn to it and, after an unsettling event involving a carousel, know that they are dealing with something dangerous and powerful. The two boys are very different people, so they react to the carnival, its people, and its magic in different ways.

Something Wicked This Way Comes is a novel full of images. The carnival, the carousel, the boys themselves running here and there, the lightning rod covered with ancient symbols… those images come through with crystal clarity in this audiobook. Happy Halloween!

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of The Small Assassin by Ray Bradbury

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Small Assassin by Ray BradburyThe Small Assassin
By Ray Bradbury; Read by Ray Bradbury
1 Cassette – 39 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Caedmon
Published: 1981 – (OUT OF PRINT & HARD TO FIND)
ISBN: NONE (Library of Congress #91-740020)
Themes: / Fantasy / Childbirth / Babies /

Ray Bradbury is different from most speculative fiction authors. His stories feel almost organic – the ideas in them seem to grow out of a small seed rather than to be built, there is a structure present but the elegant symmetry of his tales appears to come solely from their functionality rather than deliberate act of ornamentation. This is doubly true in the case of “The Small Assassin”. Written in 1945, when he was only 25 years old, Bradbury sold the story to Dime Mystery Magazine and it appeared in the November 1946 issue. It tells the story of a brand new family, the father is a proud parent, the mother is dutiful but worried and the baby is trying to kill his parents. Its a slight premise, the story is short and it needs to be for the limited range of consequences it can explore. But its successful and leaves the listener with just that much more cautious about assumptions. A lesson Bradbury teaches well. Caedmon was the pioneer of audiobooks (Caedmon is now an imprint of HarperAudio), and like many of its earliest recordings it liked to have authors read their own stories. Bradbury reads his own tale here and he reads it well.

Review of A Sound Of Thunder by Ray Bradbury

SFFaudio Review

A Sound Of Thunder
By Ray Bradbury; Performed by a full cast
1 Cassette – Approx. 70 minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Durkin Hayes Audio
Published: 1992
ISBN: 0886466687
Themes: / Science Fiction / Time Travel / Dinosaurs / Mars /

Ray Bradbury is another author who is dear to me in both print and in audio. There is an old Caedmon production of his story “Usher II” (read by Leonard Nimoy) which I just love. And I’m currently listening through a collection of old-time radio shows called The 60 All-Time Greatest Science Fiction Radio Shows, selected by Ray Bradbury.

And the books – The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes… Bradbury is unique in my experience, and I really enjoy his stories.

There are two audio dramas on this single cassette program. The first is an excellent production called “A Sound of Thunder”, in which a man pays big bucks to be taken back in time to hunt the biggest of prey – a Tyrannosaurus Rex. But when you go back in time, there are rules… In the second story, “Night Call, Collect”, the last man in the universe receives… a phone call. A short interview of the author is also included.

The production quality – sound effects, music, the acting – is excellent, the scripts are wonderful. Highly recommended.

Both of the stories here (“A Sound of Thunder” and “Night Call, Collect“) are part of a radio series called The Bradbury 13. Twelve of the thirteen shows were released through Durkin Hayes/DHAudio. Jesse has some of these shows in stock – contact him here about getting a copy. A summary of all thirteen of the Bradbury 13 can be found here.

posted by Scott D. Danielson