E-books/audiobooks review: fiction
by Stephen King
Hard Case Crime/Hodder & Stoughton
Stephen King seems to be on a one-man mission to publish as many books, in as many different styles, as is humanly (or Kingly) possible. Take Joyland, which encompasses several genres, from crime to ghost to mystery to adventure. Devin Jones is a university student and wannabe writer who spends the summer of 1973 working in that creepiest of locations: the amusement park (or carny). Devin meets and impresses his eccentric employer, tries many, slightly degrading jobs, and falls in love with a fellow worker. Then it gets weird - this is Stephen King after all. Devin encounters a strange boy in a wheelchair who is supposed to be psychic. The ghost train seems haunted in a rather too literal sense. The plot shunts the reader from a delicate, nostalgic character study onto a fast-shifting plot that plays with reality and fantasy. Like 2005's The Colorado Kid, King wrote Joyland for the small publishing imprint Hard Case Crime. This is King on good form, but possibly not always on entirely safe ground. The old-school cover is wondrous.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette
by Maria Semple
(read by Kathleen Wilhoite)
Casting an eye across the excellent shortlist for the recent Woman's Prize for Fiction (won deservedly by A.M. Homes for May We Be Forgiven), I realised one title had escaped my notice: Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, a high-brow detective story by Maria Semple. The narrative, about a teenage girl searching for her unstable mother, comprises a series of e-mails, reports, FBI files and other written matter. How, I wondered, would these translate to audiobook? The answer is smoothly, although at times the shifting voices and registers stretch Kathleen Wilhoite to the maximum. Bernadette Fox is a brilliant architect with an erratic sense of self. When she vanishes from her Seattle home her daughter, Bee, refuses to take her disappearance lying down. Wilhoite catches the emotion underlying Semple's clever, knowing epistolary novel: in particular, Bernadette's loneliness, her painful past of dashed hopes, and her attempts to communicate with her loved ones through modern technology.
World War Z
by Max Brooks
(read by various)
How many narrators does it take to read an audiobook? In the case of World War Z - now a much-hyped movie starring the much-hyped Brad Pitt - the answer is a lot. This tale of zombie apocalypse (again?) is told from many different perspectives in the reportage style of Studs Terkel's oral history of the second world war. This diversity poses a challenge: do you hire a host of readers or a very good impressionist? When World War Z first came out in the US in 2006, the publishers hired a glamorous cast of voice talents. Many had strong connections with classic science fiction - Mark Hamill's name leaps off the page - while others are well known actors, writers and comedians such as Alan Alda, John Turturro, Rob and Carl Reiner. With the release of the movie, the all-star cast has become even more stellar: Simon Pegg, Nathan Fillion, Alfred Molina, Martin Scorsese… But the real star is the story, which Brooks narrates himself. World War Z: a heap of broken images that adds up to more than the sum of its parts.