Reviews: E-books and audiobooks: J.G. Ballard, Harlan Coben, Kathy and Brendan Reichs
by J.G. Ballard
(read by Tom Hiddleston)
The celebrity audiobook is a hot property: Colin Firth, Claire Danes, Alan Cumming and Meryl Streep have all produced inspired performances. Now Tom "Loki" Hiddleston gets in on the act. Anyone who has seen him perform Shakespeare or heard him recite poetry knows he has the form. His debut, J.G. Ballard's classic tale of dystopian communal living, High-Rise, is a smart piece of cross-promotion: Hiddleston will star as Robert Laing in a long-awaited movie of the book later this year. The action takes place in a seemingly idyllic social experiment: a block of flats that mixes comfort, safety and convenience from a vaguely threatening outside world. We soon realise the floors conform to a very English class structure, with the uppers on high and the workers down below. Rather icy tensions soon boil over into strife as all hell breaks loose. Hiddleston's intelligent, cultured tones are perfect for Ballard's exacting prose, which offers crystal-clear images and descriptions worthy of a draughtsman.
by Kathy and Brendan Reichs
(read by Cristin Milioti)
Kathy Reichs is a busy so-and-so. Not content with writing the bestselling series starring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, she is a professor of anthropology, a producer of hit TV series Bones (inspired by her fiction) and co-author with son Brendan of the "Virals" adventures aimed at young adults. Terminal is the final episode of a five-part series. Its heroine is another Brennan, Tory, an actual relative of Temperance. Unlike her great-aunt, Tory has some superish powers, picked up at the Loggerheads Island Research Institute. Along with her gang (think Enid Blyton's Famous Five on steroids), she has fought a host of shady enemies (the Gamesmaster) and solved more puzzles than a kid at Christmas. Here, they confront their mirror image: a band of super-teens called The Trinity who want them wiped off the face of the earth. Fans of the series will both love and hate the cliff-hanger ending, which apparently will be resolved in the forthcoming add-on Spike. Cristin Milioti reads with commitment and intensity.
by Harlan Coben
Harlan Coben is not the first novelist to write a book called The Stranger; Albert Camus beat him to it by 73 years. In Coben's latest smartly plotted thriller, the titular Stranger wanders up to unsuspecting individuals and whispers softly in their ears. What he says is life changing and not in a good way. Secrets are vouchsafed that destroy lives, families and peace of mind. This shadowy figure, who seems to have no identity or purpose beyond ruination, feels like something out of a John Connolly novel - an other-worldly horror-book villain. Coben handles his charge deftly enough. This owes something to the utter ordinariness of the world that he shatters. The prime target is Adam Price, a middle-class everyman. He learns that his wife, Corinne, faked her pregnancy and that neither of his adored sons is really his. When Corinne vanishes - a Gone Woman, perhaps - Adam has to unearth the truth of the Stranger himself, one that offers a tart, if obvious, critique on society ruled by modern surveillance.