Review of Cell by Stephen King

SFFaudio Audiobook Review

Editor’s note: Our newest reviewer, a mysterious gent from the future known only as The Time Traveler, debuts on SFFaudio with this review of Stephen King’s latest. Be sure to sit down and read it before you pick up your cell phone.

Science Fiction & Horror Audiobook - Cell by Stephen KingCell
By Stephen King; Read by Campbell Scott
8 Cassettes or 12 CDs – 12.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio / Recorded Books
Published: 2006
ISBN: 0743554329 (Cassette), 0743554337 (CD)
Themes: / Horror / Science Fiction / Apocalypse / Zombies/ Journey /
Survivors / Terrorism

There’s a reason why cell rhymes with hell.

Stephen King’s latest book is a return to form for this master of horror. In it, everyone with a cell phone goes stark raving mad after they receive some kind of pulse through their cell. The pulse, likely sent by terrorists, wipes the victims’ minds clean. This story takes no time to get started. Within the first few minutes, you are drawn into this nightmare scenario, steeped in gore and horror.

The main character, Clayton Riddell, finds himself in Boston when the pulse drives the majority of people biting, scratching, and murderously mad. He is joined by a band of likable characters as they set off to get out of Boston. Meanwhile the victims of the pulse start behaving more like Zombies and start flocking together and evolving with even more unexpected behavior.

Much of this material is familiar ground for King. But the narrative drive is strong, and it doesn’t drag with shear verbosity as King’s writing sometimes does. Campbell Scott reads the audiobook. Scott is a very competent narrator who’s also a film actor and has appeared in movies like The Exorcism of Emily Rose. His narration is restrained and subdued which works well with the apocalyptic horror being described. His Boston accents are excellent without being overdone. He’s also the son of the late George C. Scott.

I’ve got two qualms with the audiobook. If it’s unabridged, shouldn’t it contain the dedication? I picked up the hardcover edition at the store and found it was dedicated to George Romero and Richard Matheson. George Romero was the director and writer of the Night of the Living Dead and it’s sequels. Richard Matheson wrote the seminal post-apocalyptic vampire novel, I am Legend, in 1954. There is no dedication on the audiobook. Doesn’t unabridged mean word for word? The dedication definitely foreshadows what kind of novel Cell is to be.

Also there are places in the second half of the book where the narrative voice totally changes. It sounds as if they needed some pick-ups done, to fix small mistakes, and Mr. Scott was not available so they plugged someone else in. Overall these are small distractions, and the audiobook is a hard to turn-off listen.

Review of The Shining by Stephen King

Horror Audiobooks - The Shining by Stephen KingThe Shining
By Stephen King; Read by Campbell Scott
14 CD’s – 16 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Audio
Published: 2005
ISBN: 0743537009
Themes: / Horror / Ghosts / Alcoholism /

The Shining was first published in 1977, and is one of my three favorite Stephen King novels, the other two being ‘Salem’s Lot and The Stand. Incidentally, Simon and Schuster Audio recently published a fine unabridged version of ‘Salem’s Lot, but no The Stand in sight!

The Shining‘s main characters are Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy, his psychically gifted son Daniel, and the majestic (and haunted) Overlook Hotel. The story begins when Jack Torrance accepts a job as winter caretaker of the hotel, which closes 6 months out of the year because of its remote location in Colorado. Jack and his family are to stay at the Overlook during the winter, taking care of the building while snow flies around them. The family looks forward to a healing time alone, but the hotel and its ghosts have different plans.

King creates a rich array of characters here. From Jack Torrance and his alcoholism to Wendy, a kind but damaged person in her own way, and Daniel, whose power inadvertently gives the spirit inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel a gateway to become more than just frightening apparitions.

Campbell Scott gives a superior performance here. I couldn’t imagine this novel being done any better. It was very difficult for me to keep Jack Nicholson’s performance of Jack Torrance from Stanley Kubrick’s film version of The Shining out of my head. Campbell Scott seemed to embrace this, though, because Nicholson is perfect for that part. Campbell Scott apparently is, too, because every character in this novel, including Torrance, was engaging and believable.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Here are this month’s new releases: AUDIO RENAI…

New Releases

Here are this month’s new releases:

AUDIO RENAISSANCE

There and Back Again: An Actor’s Tale by Sean Astin with Joe Layden, read by Sean Astin

I’m looking forward to this memoir of Astin’s experience working on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’m one of the folks who watched every extra goodie on the massive Extended LOTR DVD’s.

—————————-

BLACKSTONE AUDIO

Callahan’s Con by Spider Robinson, read by Barrett Whitener

Barrett Whitener read Spider Robinson’s The Callahan Chronicals, which we reviewed on SFFAudio a while back. The Callahan stories are among the most empathic high-quality stories you’ll find in the world of science fiction, and this title is likely no different. The description says that Death himself walks into the bar this time…

Jesse:

I just finished listening to Callahan’s Key, also read by Barrett Whitener. Where you’ve described Robinson’s work as “empathic high-quality stories” I would describe it as “high-functioning fan-fiction”. That isn’t a bad thing, I like the stuff myself, but it certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste.

—————————-

HARPER AUDIO

A Coyote In The House by Elmore Leonard

This is a kids book in the tradition of “Call of The Wild” – told from the animal’s perspective.

Jesse:

If nothing else, crime and western writer Elmore Leonard has a great ear for dialogue, so this should be a fun tale with respect to that. But he’s never written juvenile fiction before, so its also unknown territory in some respects.

—————————-

PAPERBACK DIGITAL

Cally’s War by John Ringo and Julie Cochrane, read by William Dufris and Christine Marshall

A novel by military SF writer and Baen author John Ringo and Julie Cochrane. Cally had been fighting for the future of the human race, but now she is in a war for survival: the survival of her soul…

Paperback Digital has also released several OTR audio dramas on Fictionwise.com: “The Green Hills of Earth” by Robert A. Heinlein, “Drop Dead” by Clifford D. Simak, “Destination: Moon” by Robert A. Heinlein, and “With Folded Hands” by Jack Williamson.

And look for Charlaine Harris’ Vampire Mystery novel Dead Until Dark, which will be released on Halloween. Paperback Digital titles can be purchased on their site (http://www.paperbackdigital.com) or on Fictionwise.

Jesse:

It should also be noted that Paperback Digital has remastered and cleaned up these 1950s era radio dramas. Something which they sorely needed.

—————————-

RANDOM HOUSE AUDIO

Legends II: New Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy, Volume III, edited by Robert Silverberg

This volume of the Legends II series contains stories by two of my favorites: “The Monarch of the Glen” by Neil Gaiman and “The Yazoo Queen” by Orson Scott Card. I’m a fan of the short novel length – there is so much treasure out there in the novella and novelette size. While I’m talking about these, Legends II, Vol. 1 contains “The Sworn Sword” by George R.R. Martin and “Beyond Between” by Anne McCaffrey, and Legends II, Vol 2 contains “Lord John and the Succubus” by Diana Gabaldon and “Indomitable” by Terry Brooks.

Jesse:

I look forward to hearing these! The first Legends anthologies were released by HarperAudio last time. Hopefully Random House Audio will do as good a job.

Star Wars: Jedi Trial by David Sherman and Dan Cragg, read by Jonathan Davis

Random House’s Star Wars titles rival Simon and Schuster’s Star Trek titles in production value and style. If you enjoy Star Wars stories, these books are quite good. Also quite good is Jonathan Davis, who I first heard when he read Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash.

—————————-

RECORDED BOOKS

Raketty Tam by Brian Jacques, read by Brian Jacques

A title in the Redwall fantasy series!

Another note from Recorded Books – they have a rental program that looks a lot like Netflix. Unlimited audiobook rentals for $29.99/month. Check it out here.

—————————-

SIMON AND SCHUSTER AUDIO

Night of the Living Dead by John Russo and George Romero

An audio drama featuring the original cast!

Dark Tower VII by Stephen King, read by George Guidall

The final volume of Stephen King’s epic series. Stephen King read by George Guidall? Yeah, baby. I’m a Stephen King fan, but have not kept up with this series. I’ve heard “The Gunslinger” and “The Drawing of the Three“, and enjoyed them both – time to start on the rest of them.

—————————-

COMING SOON!

Wil Wheaton, of wilwheaton.net, has published a book called Just a Geek (which is excellent) and I’m thrilled to report that he’s recording an audio version. Wil says the audiobook has some extra asides, and that it’s more like a performance, or director’s cut, than a straight-forward reading. Look for it on his website in the coming weeks! In the meantime, ITConversations has posted audio of Wil’s recent performance at Gnomedex, where he read excerpts from the book.

Jesse:

This sounds like a terrific idea! Wheaton experimented a little with audio blogging a while back – posting to his website by telephone. He’s also read at least one audiobook short story that I know of. It can be found in Dove Audio’s The Greatest Science Fiction Stories of the 20th Century (which is available on Audible.com). The story is called “Why I left Harry’s All Night Hamburgers” by Lawrence Watt-Evans.

—————————-

If you’ve got something you’d like to show up on our monthly New Releases post, write me and let me know. Enjoy, everybody!

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

John Joseph Adams has started a new column on audi…

SFFaudio News

John Joseph Adams has started a new column on audiobooks for Locus Magazine. It appeared in the July issue, and has just been posted on the magazine’s website. Click here for the complete column. It’s great to see some audiobook coverage in Locus!

In my review of the unabridged version of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, I stated that this was the only audio version of Salem’s Lot of which I was aware. A reader from the UK informs me that Salem’s Lot was dramatized as a BBC Radio production in the mid 1990’s, but was unsure whether or not it was made available for sale anywhere. Anybody out there know? If so, drop me note! Better yet, send me your copy so I can hear it… :)

All my best, everybody, and thanks for visiting!

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Salem’s Lot
By Stephen King; Read by Ron McLarty
11 Cassettes – 17.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Audio
Published: 2004
ISBN: 0743536959
Themes: / Horror / Vampires / Maine / Small town /

Simon and Schuster recently published this unabridged version of ‘Salem’s Lot, the only appearance of this 1975 Stephen King novel on audio of which I’m aware. This is the second novel published by King, and in my opinion is one of his finest.

Ben Mears, a successful author, returns to the small town of Jerusalem’s Lot to research a book he’s writing. Things get complicated quickly when a man named Barlow moves into town and folks start disappearing. Even more complicated – they start re-appearing. As vampires. As Ben Mears absorbs this fact, he meets the young Mark Petrie, and together they fight Barlow and his growing army.

The characters are the most striking attribute of any Stephen King novel, and this early novel is no exception. The numerous characters breathe with detail, and they all seem like people that I’ve met or could meet today. King lays the small town of Salem’s Lot out for all to see, warts and all, and then commences to destroying it while the reader watches. The actions and fates of the small town characters King has brought to life are where the story lies – not in Barlow himself.

Ron McLarty performs the novel, and does a fine job of it. He handles all the characters with great skill, reading in a clear and often tense manner. As you can probably tell, I really like Salem’s Lot. It’s one of the few novels that I revisit every so often. McLarty treated it well, and I thank him.

Now, I’d love to hear an unabridged audio version of the other two of what I’ve heard called King’s Trinity: one of The Shining, and one of the uncut version of The Stand. I’ll wait patiently…

NOTE: Did anyone catch that recent USA Network TV version of Salem’s Lot? Why the heck did they change so many small details? OK, OK, it’s a different medium, yadda yadda yadda, but wow. They had a perfectly good story to start with. ‘Nuff said. Back to the audio.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King

SFFaudio Review

The Dark Tower II: The Drawing Of The Three by Stephen KingThe Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three
By Stephen King; Read by Frank Muller
Publisher: Penguin Audiobooks [UNABRIDGED]
Date Published: November 1997
ISBN: 0140867155
Themes: / Fantasy / Parallel worlds /

This is the second book in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I read the first volume a few months ago (in print) and found it very different from Stephen King’s other work. To start with, it was not set in our world, where King sets nearly all of his novels. This volume is set both in the wasteland of the first novel and this world. King expertly uses the setting along with his unforgettable characters to explore the notions of Good and Evil in a grand fashion.

The main character in the books is Roland, a gunslinger, possibly the last gunslinger, who travels in a world separate but somehow connected to our own. This second volume starts within hours after the first ends. Roland is required to draw three people from our world into his to help him on his quest to reach the Dark Tower. If none of this makes sense, that’s okay. I’m hesitant to provide too much detail. It is enough to say that what you have here is a contemporary fantasy novel written by one of the finest creators of believable characters in fiction.

And Frank Muller does the narrating. I’ve never been disappointed in a Muller narration, and this certainly is no exception. His voice is perfect for this material – I imagine Roland’s voice to be Muller’s – and the great energy which he provides this novel probably made it more interesting than it actually was. Several times when listening time came to and end, I took an extra lap around the block or listened for an extra ten minutes… and Muller’s reading is as responsible for that as King’s writing.

I am definitely a Stephen King fan. I enjoy nearly all of his stories. My favorites are from his early career, The Stand and Salem’s Lot especially. Neither of those have audio versions, unfortunately. (Well, there is a version of The Stand available from Books on Tape, but it is not the complete version of the novel that King released later in his career.)

For more info on the Dark Tower series, check the Dark Tower Compendium.