Audiobook Review: Ghost Walk by Brian Keene

30 04 2017

Ghost Walk

Ghost Walk by Brian Keene

Read by Chet Williamson

Crossroad Press

Grade: B

I have had a very sporadic love affair with Brian Keene. Well, at least his books. I’ve loved many of his books, particularly is apocalyptic novels, but have only read a few of his more traditional horror novels. Now that he has a deal with Crossroads Press to release his books into audio, I plan to flesh out my collection. My first foray into this is Ghost Walk, the loose follow up to his novel Dark Hollow. Ghost Walk is a serviceable one-off horror tale of a Halloween Attraction gone tragically awry due to supernatural interventions. Yet, where it truly excels in it’s place in Brian Keene’s larger mythos and in particular, the introduction of one of his reoccurring character, Levi Stoltzfus. One thing you learn quickly in Brian Keene’s scarred from their encounters with the entities from the labyrinth, and the implications of these scars ripple out beyond the ending of any particular book. Ghost Walk is old school horror that truly is horrific.

Chet Williamson is one of those narrators that isn’t always my cup of tea. He has more of the old school style akin to many of the originals big voices of audiobook Narration like George Guidall or Richard Ferrone. I’m not typically a fan of this style yet occasionally, with the right book it works. I though his performance in Keene’s The Complex was outstanding. I wasn’t as enamored here, but as the book played out, and things seemed to get more bizarre and crazy I fell under his spell. Williamson is strongest in this genre, and he delivers a solid performance that is suited to this book.





Audiobook Review: Zombie: A Love Story by Patricia Lee Macomber

30 05 2013

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2013 Zombie Awareness Month

Zombie: A Love Story by Patricia Lee Macomber

Read by Chet Williamson

Crossroad Press

Length: 3 Hrs 54 Min

Genre: Zombie Romantic Comedy

Quick Thoughts: Zombie: a Love Story gives new meaning to the term Zombie Road Trip. It is what a good romantic comedy should be, a tale of epic love with a few surprises and plenty of laughs.

Grade: B

The great urban poet, Meatloaf once declared, "I will do anything for love, but I won’t do that." Now, I am not exactly sure what THAT is or why a man would willingly choose to be called Meatloaf, but this concept always leads to an interesting moment of self evaluation…. What exactly would I do for love, and what is MY that. Honest answer, I have no friggin’ clue. Despite the fact that I am quite clever, write excellent Facebook statuses, and am slightly lumpy and awkward looking but not a total train wreck, I am still single. In fact, I scoff at romance novels and movies mostly due to a total inability to buy into them due to an egregious lack of similar life experiences. Sure, I have people who I love, and women who I thought maybe someday I could quite possibly feel an increased level of affection for, but shockingly, I am not much of a romantic.  Now, I am willing to do many things for people I care about. I put up with family members eccentricities and neurosis and act supportive. I spend my weekends when I could be out boozing and whoring with people who I feel deserves my time. I slip my dog an extra meat stick when he looks cute and scratches my leg as I am attempting to write reviews. Yet, a love that defies death, I am not so sure about that. In all likelihood, if I become a Zombie, no matter how much I believe I care about you, I will probably care more about sampling your tasty innards, than professing my undying love in a final grand gesture. Maybe I’m a pragmatist, or maybe I have just yet to meet the right undead girl.

After an accidental exposure to a toxic substance at his job in the New York City subway, Paul Trembley died, only to wake up hours later in the morgue. Now, with his flesh rotting, and unable to properly communicate, Paul must attempt a cross country drive as his mental faculties begin to deteriorate, in order to express his love for his girlfriend and women of his dreams, Linda. This is if he can avoid car jackers, cops and his desire for raw meat. Zombie: a Love Story gives new meaning to the term Zombie Road Trip. It’s a funny undead trip across the country, all in the name of love. Patricia Lee Macomber has created an epic love story that may border on the edge of saccharin sweet, yet the aftertaste is more than covered up by the human flesh. Paul and Linda are the kind of couple that you groan to be around, full of inside jokes, special songs and shared memories, yet, on some level, deep in that secret spot in your soul where you admit to maybe tearing up a bit during the Forrest and Jenny scenes during Forrest Gump, you envy. While the story pushed the edges of slapstick, the humor comes in retrained waves instead of flung into you face. I think my favorite moments came with the outsider perspectives, with Paul’s best friend Matt attempting to explain to the cops about his dead best friend, or the police attempting to justify the image of good guy Paul with that of a cannibalistic killer. It all should be over the top, but it’s not. it’s just a good dose of fun, with some lovey dovey moments. I especially like that Macomber didn’t go for the straight out of Hollywood, romcom ending, but had some moments of emotionally brutality that you just didn’t expect. While everything is wrapped up in a cutesy manner, it still worked, and matched the tone of the book. Zombie: A Love Story is what a good romantic comedy should be, a tale of epic love with a few surprises and plenty of laughs.

Chet Williamson handles the narration for Zombie: A Love Story and gives it just the right feel. His deep voice takes on a whimsical feel that managed to make Paul’s earnestness and Linda’s positivity shine through. He does a good job showing Paul’s mental decline, allowing us to follow his increasingly scattershot thought process. Williamson allows the humor to shine through without trying to sell it, but just letting it come naturally. Matt’s slow surfer dude draw at times seemed a bit like a stereotypical Cali dimwit, but, being that Matt was a bit of a stoner, it fit well enough. There was one moment, where a character was referred to by the wrong name, yet, it’s hard to say whether this was a narrator mistake, or an editing slip in the script. Outside of that, the production was excellent, and made for an enjoyable listening experience.  

Note: This title was provided for me for review by Audiobook Jukebox’s Sold Gold Reviewers Program.





Audiobook Review: The Books of Blood Volume 1 by Clive Barker

17 05 2013

The Books of Blood: Volume 1 by Clive Barker

Read by Simon Vance, Dick Hill, Peter Berkrot, Jeffrey Kafer, Chet Williamson, and Chris Patton

Crossroad Press

Length: 6 Hrs 51 Min

Genre: Horror

Quick Thoughts: With each tale of The Books of Blood, Barker proves himself a modern master of horror, who uses his reader’s expectations to good effect, hooking you in, then shocking you in twisted and disturbing ways. The Books of Blood is a strong collection of horror takes that should, at times, make you laugh while inserting nightmarish visions into your brain to disturb your nights.

Grade: B+

Nearly 25 years ago, after receiving my first paycheck as a 15 year old working a horrible job doing phone surveys about soda and car repair, I walked into The Oxford Valley Mall’s Waldenbooks and bought my first adult books. Before this moment, I had very little control over the books I could read. Most I got from the public or school library and they had to be cleared with my mother. The few times I got my hands on unapproved books, like when my cousin slipped me a copy of Lord Foul’s Bane, I was caught, scolded for introducing satanic things like magic into my brain and forced to return to my copies of The Three Investigators or Agatha Christie or steal copies of my sister’s Danielle Steel or VC Andrews novel, secure in the thoughts that incest and sexual abuse was in no way as devastating as magical rings and Giants. Now, here I was, unsupervised, with my own money, ready to buy my own books. I picked out three novels, one was Stephen King’s It, which of course I loved. I had read Cujo and Christine before, which were, unbeknownst to my mother, available in my school library, so I knew what I was expecting. I also picked up a novel by a new to me author named Dean Koontz, The Bad Place, which sent me into a voracious need to read all his books. Finally, I picked up Clive Barker’s The Damnation Game. The Damnation game scared the hell out of me. I’m not sure I really got the surreal horror style, and some of the images truly disturbed me. I think I may have been too young at the time for that novel. I wanted tales with monsters and kids in peril, and strange weird science fictioney stuff, and I think Barker’s tale was a little beyond me at the time. It would be years later before I returned to one of his novels, the Fantasy tale of Imajica, and was blown away buy his writing.

The Books of Blood is a short story collection told in a framework of stories written into the skin of a huckster medium when he was brought into investigate strange haunted house. This first volume had five unique and diverse tales spanning the themes of horror. I have always enjoyed short story collections, although I rarely listen to them in audio. One thing that impressed me with this collection is that for each story, I made an assumption early on in the tale, and each time Barker took the story in ways that surprised me. Most surprising of all was the dark humor that infused some of the tales. With the gruesome framework of the series, I was expecting a full on assault of dark and horrific tales and while he delivered on that, he also managed to make me laugh along the way. My favorite tale of the collection had to be The Yattering and Jack, a story of a battle of wills between a gherkin salesman and the demons assigned to drive him crazy. This story was full of such fun, funny moments that I didn’t expect some of the twists along the way. Being that it’s Zombie Awareness Month, it was nice to see that there was a story dealing with the living dead of a sort. In Sex, Death and Starshine, a struggling theatre is putting on a production of Twelth Night staring a vapid soap actress. When a strange accident befalls the star, the director finds the most odd of replacements, who finds an audience all her own. I loved this story. It started out strange to me, but I was instantly thrust into the story through a menagerie of outrageous characters. The Midnight Meat Train started as a traditional New York City serial killer tale, but takes a strange turn. Talking about strange, the last two tales had some of the most bizarre horror imagery I had ever read. and I won’t even describe them here because it may lessen the impact for those who end up reading.  With each tale, Barker proves himself a modern master of horror, who uses his reader’s expectations to good effect, hooking you in, then shocking you in twisted and disturbing ways. The Books of Blood is a strong collection of horror takes that should, at times, make you laugh while inserting nightmarish visions into your brain to disturb your nights,

Audiobook producers tend to take two approaches when casting anthologies, they either hire a single narrator to read all the tales, or they cast each story. Luckily, Crossroads Press took the later approach to casting, bringing in a strong group of narrators, each suited to the tale. Chris Patton started it off with the framework tale. Despite it being short Patton pulled all the creepiness out of the tale, and slung it right into the faces of the listeners. Jeffrey Kafer read The Midnight Meat Train. What I enjoyed about Kafer’s reading was that he didn’t fall into traditional stereotypical voices. I hate when a character runs into some conspiracy spouting dude at a bar in NYC and they make him sound like a West Virginian hick. Kafer created authentic characters and had a keen sense of pacing as the train sped to it’s horrific finale. Dick Hill was the perfect choice for The Yattering and Jack. His precise pacing accentuated the humor of the tale, upping each absurd moment to the max. Peter Berkrot’s reading of Pig Blood Blues gave me chills, balancing the matter of fact protagonist of the story with the ethereal tones. Sometimes when you become familiar with a narrator, you start imagining them in the role of the protagonist of the story you are reading. So, I wasn’t happy hearing Simon Vance describe the sexual encounters of Theater director Terry Calloway. Other than that, Vance gave his typical performance, which is spot on. The highlight of his story was the theatrical Mr. Litchfield which Vance captured perfectly. Finally, there was Chet Williamson. This was my first time listening to one of Williamson’s narrations, and I felt he had just the right raw creepiness in his tone. Honestly, this story, In the Hills, the Cities, was probably the tale I struggled with the most. It took me a bit to get into, but Williamson’s reading of the stunning finale was paced wonderfully creating one of the most strangely beautiful moments of the audiobook. The Books of Blood is an excellent audio production of one of the masters of horror. Even the stories that I struggled with managed to find a place in my nightmare, thanks largely to the excellent work of the narrators.

Special Thanks to Crossroad Press for providing me with a copy of the title for review.

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2013 Zombie Awareness Month