Audiobook Review: Mr. Monster by Dan Wells

6 04 2011

Mr. Monster by Dan Wells (John Cleaver, Book 2)

Read by Kirby Heyborne

Tantor Media

Genre: Horror

Quick Thoughts: Mr. Monster is so full of unique twists and turns, both in the inner dialogue of the main character, and the plot itself, that it is easily one of more surprising novels I have listened to this year.

Grade: A

Personally, I believe there are significant stylistic differences between young adult novels, and adult novels. Young adult novels are not just novels about young adults, without too much cursing, sex or viscera, but almost a stylistic genre in itself. That being said, I think it is very hard, bordering on impossible, to write an Adult novel about a teenager in a typical modern high school setting as the main character, that has an adult feel to it. There have been plenty of Adult novels where a teenager is the main character, yet most of them are period pieces, or place our teenage main character in an utterly different social setting, from war, to a zombie apocalypse. Last year, I listened to I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells, and was shocked to see my theory blown out of the water. Here was a story about a teenager, who went to a small town high school, had a crush on the prettiest girl around, had a geeky best friend and problems with the school bully, yet, this book read, stylistically as an Adult novel. Unlike books like The Hunger Games, or even Harry Potter, this was not young adult fiction that adults can enjoy, but thematically and stylistically Adult Fiction, which a teenager can enjoy, if they are mature, and intelligent enough to grasp the nuisances of the novel.

Now, with Mr. Monster, the second book in the John Cleaver series, Dan Wells has decided to destroy another of my theories. That theory is that the second book in a series, because it is responsible for both expanding the first, and setting up the third, will inherently be the poorest book in the trilogy. Mr. Monster utterly annihilates that idea. Mr. Monster definitely takes a step beyond the first book. It both ups the action, and the risk, and moves teenage sociopath John Cleaver’s character places I haven’t expected. Mr. Monster explores an idea that has fascinated me for years, on what scale should people be similarly judged and labeled by their desires as they are by their actions. Does having evil impulses make you evil or does that line not get crossed until you actually act on those impulses? Yet, Mr. Monster isn’t just a fascinating thought experiment, but a hell of a good story as well. Full of as many moments that will touch you as will make you cringe, Wells has truly turned genre fiction on its head. Mr. Monster is so full of unique twists and turns, both in the inner dialogue of the main character, and the plot itself, that it is easily one of more surprising novels I have listened to this year.

While I am usually annoyed when producers change narrators in the midst of the series, having Kirby Heyborne take over as narrator probably saved this series for me. The narrator of the first novel was a glaringly bad choice, being that he sounded like a 50 year old man. Heyborne is a perfect replacement bringing youthfulness and skill to the reading. He handles the characters of the novel brilliantly, from teenage girls, to grizzled FBI agents to John’s twin mother/aunt. Each character was dead on appropriate. Yet, what really makes this audiobook superb was his reading of John. Heyborne pulled off the perfect balance of confused teenage innocence with sociopath creepiness. In fact, even after the novel was finished and Heyborne was reading the Tantor taglines and catalogue advert, his voice was still creeping me out. Luckily the combination of Wells and Heyborne will have, at least one more go, with the final novel of the series, recently released by Tantor. I for one am looking forward to the experience.

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3 10 2011
Seven Questions with Dan Wells « The Guilded Earlobe

[…] Mr. Monster […]

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