Read by Phil Gigante
Length: 8 Hrs 36 Min
Genre: Apocalyptic Thriller
Quick Thoughts: Run in very many ways is popcorn fiction, yet very effective popcorn fiction. I actually grew to like these characters and long for their safety. Crouch creates some vivid scenes of utter brutality that messed with my head, and left me disturbed and uncomfortable. Yet, overall I found Run to be a very engaging thriller with an apocalyptic edge.
One of the reasons I think that apocalyptic fiction, particularly human based apocalypses resonate so well is the fact that humanity is its own worse enemy. Humanity has been brutalizing itself, committing atrocities on its brothers, since that first squabble between Cain and Able over the proper godly sacrifice. Our histories are full of holocausts and genocide that the idea of a mass slaughter of humans by other humans is hauntingly realistic. Yet, there is also a tendency to create some uncontrollable force to explain such atrocities. We create monsters of ourselves in the forms of zombie and vampires, predators that hunt humanity, and while they still look like us, are not really us. We even go so far as to call the essence of a person that keeps them from hurting others, their humanity. Yet, Wars have been waged, peoples have been slaughtered by those who are very much human. In most apocalyptic fiction, the first wave of destruction, usually by an outside force, is only the catalyst that gets the ball rolling. The true death blow to society comes in the form of human survivors who are either doing whatever it takes to guarantee their own survival, or using the situation to give into the basest desires. As a fan of horror fiction, I enjoy ghosts, goblins, ghouls and other monsters of mythology. Yet, rarely do they scare me. Yet, realistic portrayals of the evils that man can do to their neighbors will often keep me up at night.
In Blake Crouch’s Run, a strange atmospheric light display is witnessed by thousands under the skies of Continental America. It’s beautiful, and haunting, and it changes people. The people who witness this phenomenon are so moved by the experience, they believe it may have been sent by God, and that those who didn’t witness it must die… horrifically. College professor Jake Colclough didn’t witness the phenomena, and now he has only one choice to keep him and his family safe by the roving gangs of the affected, he must run. As I have often said, I am no literary critic tasked to keep literature thriving in this culture where everyone with a computer can spout their opinion. In fact, I may very well be part of the problem. From a straight up critical perspective, there is a lot not to like in Blake Crouch’s Run. Crouch writes in a bare bones style that I felt left some characters underdeveloped and his world basically surface level. At points the writing came off a bit clunky, with some real groaners along the way. Yet, from the very start of the book, I was totally into it. The book starts with a bang, and just keeps moving forward, never giving you a chance to breathe. It was sort of funny, the first third of the book was basically, "people are trying to kill us" and "we’re almost out of gas" but in Crouch’s hands it was more like, "OMG! PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO KILL US AND WE"RE ALMOST OUT OF GAS!!!!!!" Despite its repetitiousness, it actually created genuine tension. Crouch also created a realistic family dynamic with his characters that while at times frustrating, could also be heartfelt and touching. The story itself was as much a journey of a father rebuilding his relationships as it was a family trying to survive. Run also did what very few novels are able to pull off anymore, it disturbed the shit out of me. There are scenes of such human depravity, performed by callous affected men, which lingered in my head long after I stopped listening. The idea that on some level these people were not totally responsible for their action did very little to diminish the affects it had on me. Run in very many ways is popcorn fiction, yet very effective popcorn fiction. I actually grew to like these characters and long for their safety. Crouch creates some vivid scenes of utter brutality that messed with my head, and left me disturbed and uncomfortable. Yet, overall I found Run to be a very engaging thriller with an apocalyptic edge.
You know, I almost feel bad that my praise of Phil Gigante as a narrator is always so effusive. Sometimes I wish he would just totally screw the pooch one day, so I can just bash him around a bit, you know, for a change of pace. So, I will try to temper my praise today by saying that Run is not my favorite performance by Phil Gigante. If this was the only audiobook by him I had ever listened to, I would probably say, "You know, this guy is a damn good narrator" and not my typical, "I fall down and worship at the feet of narrating god Phil Gigante." Here, in Run, Phil gives a damn good performance. The key to Run is in the pacing, Gigante keeps the story moving, allowing the listeners to just get absorbed in the story. Since most of the characters are standard American, Gigante uses his stock characters voices, which are all pretty strong. He gives the children the right amount of petulance, but also allowed the traumatic elements of the situation to come through in his reading. I think in the end, it came down to Gigante just allowing the story to take over. There was no need for clever voices or vocal gymnastics, just a fast and furious pace that never lets up.
Note: Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.
This review is part of my weekly, “Welcome to the Apocalypse” Theme.