Read by Tom Weiner
Length: 3 Hrs 39 Min
Quick Thoughts: This is a great series of stories for those cold autumn nights. Maberry has a good mix of outright horror and subtle psychology terror and with his penchant for visual action and vivid imagery, this collection is a sure hit. So, welcome to Maberry’s Fire Zone, but be warned, you may just get a little singed in the process.
It’s October, and that means it’s time to turn our listening experiences over to the spooky side. OK, not much of a stretch for me. Personally, I believe that monster stories, intense thrillers and the paranormal are a year long delight, but that little bit of chill in the air and the early onslaught of darkness give these stories just a bit more bite. Also, since misery loves company, I’ll be joining up in the fun over at Jenn’s Bookshelves Murder, Monsters and Mayhem event. For my first October audiobook review I decided to take on one of the modern masters of horror, Jonathan Maberry and his audio short story collection, Tales from the Fire Zone. In all truthfulness, outside of the horror genre, I have never been a huge short story fan. I always enjoy sitting down with a good novel, and letting the plot swim over me. Yet, I think horror tales are specifically suited for the short story format. Over the years, I have enjoyed the shorter works of authors like Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Brian Keene and Dead Koontz. The shocks and horrors come quick and fast in these tales, and the final moments rarely give you closure, but instead hover over you like a permeating sense of dread. A good horror short is the literary version of yelling BOO! in a dark room. It is an instant scare that lingers even after you realize there really isn’t anything to be scared of. A horror short story will make you uncomfortable in the most comfy of bedrooms, and uneasy in the places you usually feel safe.
Tales from the Fire Zone is a collection of five spooky stories from the mind of Jonathan Maberry, one of which has written exclusively for Blackstone Audio. The first story, Like Part of the Family, may have been my favorite, since it’s a simple noir styled Detective tale with a paranormal edge. A women contacts former policeman and current Private Investigator to scare off her abusive ex husband. The husband, the operator of a Goth themed bar had recently undergone some drastic changes that led him to turn physically and emotionally abusive towards his wife. This tale offers a few twists and an enjoyable edgy protagonist with a secret. Maberry turns up the creepy with Doctor Nine. Doctor Nine takes us into the mind of a burgeoning serial killer. While my least favorite of the collection, it is one that provided for some real psychological suspense. The collection has an added treat, in "Property Condemned." It takes us back to Pine Deep and reintroduces us to the characters from the Pine Deep Trilogy back when they were kids. It’s a genre bending tale that mixes a haunted house with weird physics and gives us an insight into these characters that you will eventually see play out in the trilogy. In his Blackstone Exclusive tale, Cooked, Maberry tells us a tale of drugs and revenge with a mix of Haitian mysticism. Cooked is full of the stunning imagery that Maberry is known for in his longer works, and has one of the best endings in the collection. The true real gem of the production though is Adventure of the Greenbrier Ghost. This tale is based on a true story about a trial where the testimony of a ghost is admitted into evidence. To add to the fun, Maberry brings legendary detective Sherlock Holmes and his companion Dr. Watson across the pond to get mixed up in the proceedings. It’s a lot of fun and sure to please fans of ghost stories and the gruff troubled detective. All together, this is a great series of stories for those cold autumn nights. Maberry has a good mix of outright horror and subtle psychology terror and with his penchant for visual action and vivid imagery, this collection is a sure hit. So, welcome to Maberry’s Fire Zone, but be warned, you may just get a little singed in the process.
This collection is ably narrated by Pine Deep Veteran Tom Weiner. Weiner does a great job on all the stories, although Doctor Nine may have been a little out of his wheelhouse, making it the hardest tale to engage with. Elsewhere he shines. He does a great job with Adventure of the Greenbrier Ghost, effortlessly jumping between the detectives British accents and the local West Virginian drawls. His depiction of a Haitian spiritual man is chilling, and his return to Pine Deep is pulled off flawlessly. His deep voice is perfect for the noir styling of Like Part of the Family, and all the tales are told in a moody pace that adds to the chills. Tales From the Fire Zone is a great audio short story collection, a quick but scary jaunt into a modern master’s twisted mind.
Note: Thanks to Blackstone Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.