Reviews: e-books and audiobooks - Stephen King, Bear Grylls, Jeff Lindsay
Drunken Fireworks is a short story advertising Stephen King's forthcoming collection, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. It is also proof that audiobooks are one of literature's major growth areas, critically and commercially: sales rose 27 per cent in 2014. As King said recently: "Are audiobooks as good as books in print?", and the answer to me is a no-brainer. "Yes, they are, and they might even be better." The form is a police report delivered by the first part of the title. Alden McClausland is a boozer who has developed an obsessive and increasingly dangerous rivalry with a neighbour over who can throw the best July 4 fireworks display. Tim Sample renders the old policeman and rambling Alden with ease. His cheerful, daft tones - which digress and demand to be heard - catch the unsteady comedy of the premise: a seemingly harmless old geezer getting in over his head. It whets the appetite beautifully, but even hardcore fans might want to wait for the long player.
Drunken Fireworks by Stephen King (read by Tim Sample) Hodder and Stoughton (audiobook)
Bear Grylls is not a children's story about a grizzly's barbecue. He is, for those who ignore television, one of those media adventurers who eats bugs, climbs mountains and risks life and limb, all in the name of entertainment. He has now taken on what might be his riskiest challenge yet: a novel. Ghost Flight is, it was announced last year, the first of several action thrillers for which he received £1 million (HK$12 million). The set-up is familiar to fans of Clive Cussler, James Patterson and Andy McNab. Will Jaeger is the sort of granite-jawed, ruthless but tender hero who has either jumped off or clung to a million helicopters. He works for Target Force, an elite squad of highly trained soldiers set up by no less than Winston Churchill. Devastated by the murder of his wife and son, he leads a do-or-die expedition to the Amazon, where the Mountain of the Gods awaits with its dark Nazi secrets. Grylls might be an ex-soldier, but this mix of authenticity and speed cannot mask the silliness of the tale. Perfect for that short, boring flight.
Ghost Flight by Bear Grylls (Orion) e-book
Audible has released all of Jeff Lindsay's Dexter series on downloadable audiobook, which is exciting news for fans either of the original novels or the wildly successful, if uneven, television series driven by the marvellous Michael C. Hall as Miami's No1 blood-spatter analyst. Hall's light but devastating performance would pose a challenge for any narrator, which possibly explains why Lindsay himself reads it. Hall catches Dexter's confusion with emotional relationships, his desperation to hide his "Dark Passenger" (he has harnessed his murderous impulses into killing bad people), and the pain he has buried after a formative childhood trauma. All this circles around his relationship with his dead father, who whispers in flashback; his shy girlfriend, Rita; his sister, Deborah; and, here, his step-brother, Brian. Lindsay's careful, unflashy reading emphasises Dexter's clinical violence - the matter-of-fact way he dispatches a nasty old priest, for example - and robotic attempts at moral clarity.
Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay (Orion) audiobook