Audiobook Review: Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan

2 07 2012

Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan (Last Werewolf, Book 2)

Read by Penelope Rawlins

Random House Audio

Length: 14 Hrs 8 Min

Genre: Horror

Quick Thoughts: Talulla Rising works well as the follow up to The Last Werewolf, largely because Duncan was willing to change the tone and style of his tale, while having it fit well within the world he created in the first novel. While still graphic and obscene in many ways, Talulla Rising is visually tamer in comparison, but is also a heck of an engaging tale with an intricate and well delivered plot that should please both literary and genre fans. Sadly, a poor casting choice and inconsistent narration blunts the effectiveness of this novel, and while it is listenable, it is not a good example of what proper narration can do for a book. 

Grade: B (An A level story drug down by the poor audio production)

While there are many monsters that come in human form, popular culture has seemed to embrace three main types. First, the zombie, which is basically humans, stripped of everything that makes us what we are, driven to the ultimate human taboo of cannibalism. Yet, with the vampire, there is an almost erotic temptation to their story. While the Vampire is a monster, it is also one that uses charm and deception to lull victims, and offers gift like immortality to those who embrace it. Then comes werewolves. I think the portrayals of werewolves in popular culture have been quite interesting. Often times we’ll have characters like George from Being Human, who resents the life that has been forced on him, and is basically a good bloke until that monthly transformation. There are lots portrayals of "good" werewolves in today’s culture. True Blood’s Alcide is a heck of a guy, and quite fetching to the ladies. The young wolf pack in the Dresden’s Files often comes to the rescue of our favorite wizard, and are chief among his allies. Often the Were aspects of Werewolves is just something that happens to them when the full moon hits, and other than that, they are normal people with human strengths and frailties. Yet, in Glen Duncan’s werewolves tales he examines The Wolf as a constant influence on his characters. The lycanthrope nature comes to play in their sexuality and ability to relate with people even when in human form. I find this play on the mythology to be more compelling than many of the alternatives. Here, the Werewolves are truly monsters, not just one day a month, but throughout their entire existence.

So, I am going to start off simply by saying, I really, really liked Talulla Rising. That being said, this novel is different from The Last Werewolf in many ways, that I feel many fans of the first novel will be disappointed. Gone is the incredibly visceral prose, describing each function and transformation of the werewolf in vivid, almost scatological detail. I enjoyed this aspect of The Last Werewolf. Duncan had a way of finding poetry in the grotesque, and that is toned down to the point of absence in Talulla Rising. Yet, what we have is a better plotted tale and a novel that, and this is what is going to have many critics shrieking, borders on conventional genre fiction. Now, while the grotesque poetry of The Last Werewolf is understated, Duncan still manages to create a stunning characterization in the character of Talulla Demetriou. One of the weakness of The Last Werewolf was there was a sort of resignation in the character of Jake Marlowe. While we were discovering the bizarre nature of his monster, it was something Jake had already pretty much dealt with. With Talulla, we join in the discovery of just how much of her nature is now Wolf. What The Last Werewolf does on the scatological side, Talulla Rising does on the emotion cascades of Tallula’s existence. Talulla must learn to deal with her wolf urges, and not just the hyper sexuality and need to consume human victims, but in discovering how the wolf affects relationships and her role in life. Talulla must confront her role as a comrade, lover, enemy and mother, with the constant question of whether she can actually achieve any true human intimacy, while not being truly human. Duncan starts the book with Talulla reminiscing over her bad girl days, her dalliances into sexual deviancy that stunned her overly judgmental aunt. Personally, I think exploring the darkness of Tallulah’s pre wolf days blunted some of the effectiveness of Duncan’s purpose, but I understood why he did it. He wanted the reader to question how much of the wolf controlled Talulla and how much did she just use it as an excuse. While this was fascinating, it sort of created a grey area in her persona that I found unnecessary to understanding her character. That Duncan managed to portray this depth of character while writing a pretty conventional paranormal yarn was quite impressive. Talulla Rising works well as the follow up to The Last Werewolf, largely because Duncan was willing to change the tone and style of his tale, while having it fit well within the world he created in the first novel. While still graphic and obscene in many ways, Talulla Rising is visually tamer in comparison, but is also a heck of an engaging tale with an intricate and well delivered plot that should please both literary and genre fans. 

From the beginning moments of this audiobook knew I was going to be disappointed in the audiobook side. At first, I just chalked this up to poor, almost inappropriate casting choice. The narrator, Penelope Rawlins, has a voice that would be fitting for a young adult novel, bringing an almost "mean girl" vibe to her reading. For Talulla Rising this tone was just wrong. Rawlins voice took a complex character dealing with her sexualized urges, and made her sound like a teenager playing at adult, and almost giggling at all the dirty words and talks of masturbation. Duncan’s meshing of sex and violence needed a mature voice, that could capture the complexities, and that is not what we get here. Yet, I was resigned to not totally hold this against the narrator. Rawlins voice was not unpleasant, and she delivered her lines with a clear easy to follow tone. When I heard her come up with a strange pronunciation for the word tattoo, I chalked it up to her being young, and being a British narrator, voicing an American character. Yet, the problem with pronunciation continues. Throughout the tale she came out with either strange pronunciations or British pronunciations of words like capillary, figure, and many others. She had a tendency to insert an "er" sound into many words, like, nymp-er-maniac, and it became quite distracting. Worst yet, her American accent was inconsistent. The majority of the tale she read with a neutral American accent, yet occasionally a bit of Brahmin would sneak in, with extended "ah" sounds and dropped R’s. All in all, a poor casting choice, and inconsistent narration blunts the effectiveness of this novel, and while it is listenable, it is not a good example of what proper narration can do for a book. 

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6 responses

2 07 2012
Laurie C

Should have just had Robin Sachs do Talulla Rising too?!

2 07 2012
dogearedcopy

I’m standing by my”Dream Narration” call to have had Xe Sands read the final chapters of The Last Werewolf and whatever parts of Talulla’s Rising were from Talulla’s POV. Robin & Xe have great narration chemistry that would have perfectly complimented Glen Duncan’s works.

While Talulla is young, she isn’t YA young and she’s certainly not British! I’ll go to print on this one… Thanks for the heads up!

6 07 2012
DevourerofBooks (@DevourerofBooks)

I was just thinking that from Bob’s description Xe would have been a great choice here!

3 07 2012
6 New Audiobook Reviews From Around The Web For Sun 01/07/2012

[…] Quick Thoughts: Talulla Rising works well as the follow up to The Last Werewolf, largely because Duncan was willing to change the tone and style of his tale, while having it fit well within the world he created in the first novel… Read this review → […]

23 02 2014
your first commissions review

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22 02 2015
Ratso

Narration totally put me off the audiobook. What a shame. Sounds more like an ‘Amy Stackhouse’ novel. I had to exert effort to hear the words behind the voice.

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