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 Nightmares on Congress Street Part IV

SFFaudio Review

Horror Audiobook - Nightmares on Congress Street 4Nightmares on Congress Street Part IV
by Various, performed by the Rocky Coast Radio Theatre
1 MP3-CD – 2 Hours 35 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Paperback Digital
Published: 2004
ISBN: 1584390069
Themes: / Horror / Poetry / Zombies / Poe / Cremation /

“Nightmares on Congress Street” is a radio show that has been broadcast each Halloween Eve since 2001. This is “Part IV” because it’s a recording of the 4th annual broadcast. It’s not “Part IV” in the sense that you need to run out and find parts I-III before listening to this one. As far as I know, they aren’t available. The shows are recorded by a group of theatrical professionals from the Portland, ME area, and are broadcast on Maine Public Radio.

It’s rare that I hear something modern that captures the spirit of Halloween. Sure, there’s some scary stuff out there, and some funny scary stuff out there, but “Nightmares on Congress Street” really catches the fun spirit of Halloween. There are scares and laughs in good measure throughout, and you’d be hard-pressed to find better production quality anywhere.

Included here are six productions:

The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs
A mummified monkey’s paw seems to grant wishes, but, as always, a person should be careful what he wishes for.

The Cremation Of Sam McGee by Robert W. Service
The cover doesn’t list who does which part, but the actor who performed this horror poem was just fabulous. The poem tell the story of Sam McGee, who stumbles into the camp of a cowboy, and who asks that cowboy to make sure to cremate him if he dies.

The Cabin in the Woods by Clay T. Graybeal
A bunch of folks go to a cabin to spend some time, but doesn’t that plant outside look like someone we know? Ridiculous.

The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe
One of the finest renditions of this Poe classic that I’ve ever heard.
The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitely, settled –but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish but punish with impunity.
And punish he does. Bravo to the actors on this one.

The Librarian by Rhonda Carlson
This piece is done by Rhonda Carlson, Rocky Coast Radio Theatre’s composer. Delightful mayhem, this one.

The Horror of Walker Point by Anthony S. Marino
This one is an excellent tale right out of George Romero’s playbook. It is performed in a kind of “War of the Worlds” style – regular programming is interrupted for important news about a chemical spill. As more and more people are affected by these chemicals, the newscasters bravely stay on the air.

I thoroughly enjoyed this production, and am eager to hear this year’s show!

You can get this title at Paperback Digital, Audible, and at Tantor.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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 Twisted Rhymes

Review

Twisted Rhymes by Bob HarperTwisted Rhymes
Performed by Bob Harper
1 CD – 52 minutes
Published by: Bob Harper Productions
Themes: / Horror / Royalty / Ghosts / Zombies / Medieval / Tavern / Revenge /

I played this CD not knowing at all what to expect. I heard some music and some background voices that quickly established the setting of a royal feast. Then the voice of Bob Harper started to perform a poem and I was pulled right in. The poem starts well enough “…it was a marvelous affair…” but I realized that the affair was not so marvelous. The king, not sane, describes his burdens to the lords in attendence… and things get horrifying from there. I immediately played the 5 minute track again. And again. Like a good song, I wanted to keep listening, but I continued on and listened to the rest of the CD in one mesmerized sitting.

Harper’s resonant tone in combination with the sound effects and music – it just works beautifully. These poems are great scary fun, suitable for family listening; though some scenes are definitely intense, I would not call the horror “graphic”. They are more in the Poe tradition – in fact, a few of the tracks are influenced directly enough by Poe to be called homage.

The entire CD was a very pleasant surprise. These ten short horror stories left me a nice creepy feeling this season the likes of which I haven’t experienced for a long time. Highly recommended!

You can buy this at Horrorsound, the website for Bob Harper Productions.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson