The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill
Read by Holter Graham
Length: 9 Hrs 4 Mins
Quick Thoughts: The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break is an audiobook experience that will play with your emotions. As the novel progresses “M” becomes inexplicably important to you, as he awkwardly attempts to bond with his coworkers and tries to find a place in this world. I challenge anyone to take a listen to this audioboo, and not be moved by this wonderfully conceived character.
I must admit, I have an immense jealousy of Neil Gaiman. Now this jealousy doesn’t spring from the fact that he is hugely talented as both a novelist and an audiobook narrator, among many other things, nor does it come from the fact that he is one of the most influential voices on social media, who with a simple tweet can cause a massive overload on a website. No, my jealousy comes from the fact that he is living one of my dreams, the ability to give some of his favorite overlooked books the audiobook treatment. So, my jealousy is peppered with appreciation. It’s a wonderful time to be an audiobook fan, especially a sci-fi/fantasy audiobook fan. With tools like ACX spawning audiobook lines like Neil Gaiman Presents, and other new initiatives, like Brilliance Audio’s teaming up with Angry Robot Books, fans of speculative fiction are seeing a wider variety of audiobook choices. As someone who wants to support efforts like this as much as possible, I just knew I would have to add some of these projects to my upcoming review list. Neil Gaiman Presents first offering of content was five audiobooks released last month. I really struggled with which of the five novels to listen to first. In fact, I moved various novels in and out of my shopping cart at dizzying speed. In the end, I decided on Steven Sherrill’s The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break as my first choice for various reasons, including the fascinating visual image of a Minotaur working as a line cook, and the fact that I am a fan of Holter Graham’s narration work.
The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break is a slice of life look at a creature that, while straight out of mythology, is now living a quiet life in the American South. “M” lives in trailer park, works as a line cook at a local restaurant, and spends his free time working on cars. Sherrill’s novel is unlike anything I typically read. There really isn’t much of a plot to the tale, The Minotaur doesn’t get pulled into some mystery, or comes to the rescue of his lady love, he just works his job, and lives his life. There is this overriding strangeness in this novel, yet, what truly makes the strangeness stand out in an almost poetic way is that it is wrapped up in the mundane. The Minotaur doesn’t live in a world full of mythological creatures. He just exists. His neighbors and coworkers are decidedly human. While he gets some shocked looks, and sneers from strangers, these responses are normal reactions to someone different and not the world altering reaction you would expect if a Minotaur walked into your local grocery store. While not a first person tale, the narrative is peppered with “M’s” perspective. You see the world through his eyes, and try to comprehend the actions of humans through his inner dialogue. It is so beautifully done, so full of sadness and heart that the listener becomes inexplicably engaged with this character. You want to experience all aspects of his life and are willing to follow him almost anywhere. The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break is an audiobook experience that will play with your emotions. As the novel progresses “M” becomes inexplicably important to you, as he awkwardly attempts to bond with his coworkers and tries to find a place in this world. I challenge anyone to take a listen to this audiobook, and not be moved by this wonderfully conceived character.
As Narrator, Holter Graham perfectly captures all aspects of this novel. While his grunts and gruff verbalizations of the Minotaur are expertly done, it’s his reading of the prose that wins me over. Graham reads the narrative as if he was the narrator of a wildlife documentary. His slow steady matter of fact approach allows us to experience the Minotaur as he should be experienced. Grahams reading enhances the normal/absurd paradox of this book in a way that just seems to match what the author intended. Grahams reading is pleasant on the ears and easy to follow, but beyond that, it brings a surprising amount of depth to the tale. The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break is simply a wonderful slice of life and one of the top audiobook productions of the year. I loved every moment of it.