By Christopher Golden. Read by Robert Fass.
2017. 10.5hr. Blackstone, CD, $34.95 (9781455127474).
An avalanche on Turkey’s Mount Ararat exposes a cave and ancient remains within—immediately suspected to be Noah’s ark.
Journalists Meryam Karga and Adam Holzer, creators of a popular true-adventure film series, clamber up the mountain to be the
first to explore and document the find. Early on, they discover a
coffin and the bones of a demon, and while scientists and scholars
process the scene, the mood changes. Tempers flare for no reason,
headaches plague the team, members mysteriously disappear, and
an approaching blizzard threatens to trap them between hazardous
terrain without and a monster within. Fass’ pleasant baritone makes
the horror, as it is slowly unveiled, all the more shocking. From
almost the beginning, there’s a palpable sense of dread. Fass masterfully sets the mood—whispering to presage the most ominous
passages, then voicing the monster in conniving, menacing tones.
Pregnant pauses as listeners realize the extent of the danger contrast
with a quickened pace during the most terrifying portions. Fass effectively voices the large, mostly male cast from America, Italy, and
Turkey, but his real accomplishment is his ability to set and sustain
the nightmare tone until the very end and the final, delicious twist.
Solid horror fare for fans of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s
The Relic and Dan Simmons’ The Terror. —Joyce Saricks
Carve the Mark.
By Veronica Roth. Read by Austin Butler and Emily
2017. 15hr. Harper, CD, $36.99 (9780062642011). Gr. 9–12.
Cyra is a member of the ruling family of Shotet, and Akos is a captive from their rival nation, Thuvhe, taken with his brother to serve
Cyra’s family. As unrest and intrigue surround them, they must decide whether they will rely on or destroy each other to get what each
wants. Akos—loyal, gentle, and determined—has a steadiness and
warmth that Butler teases out in his narration. However, the effects
of his trauma come through in his somewhat detached tone. Cyra,
in contrast, is quick-witted and calculating, her speech marked by
Rankin’s crisp and precise narration and broken up by her bouts
of intense pain and indecision. The relationship between Cyra and
Akos and the way they are changed as a result form the core of this
intense and dark sci-fi novel. Narrators Butler and Rankin ensure
that listeners remain engrossed in the give-and-take between the
two in this series opener. —Lizzie Matkowski
Gwendy’s Button Box.
By Stephen King and Richard Chizmar. Read by Maggie
2017. 2.5hr. Simon & Schuster Audio, CD, $14.99 (9781508242048).
In King’s new novella, listeners meet 12-year-old Gwendy on a
hilltop overlooking Castle Rock, Maine, with a view of her world
at her feet. That’s appropriate because on this summer day in 1974,
she’s about to be put in charge of something that makes her the most
powerful—and dangerous—person in the world: a box that produc-
es amazing delights but can also cause worldwide devastation. Siff’s
melodious narration immerses listeners in Gwendy’s world, and her
voice reflects both wonder
and pleasure, which contrast
dramatically with her horror
when she pushes a button
and witnesses the devastating
results. There’s a more menac-
ing twist in the bonus story, “The Music Room,” but both have the
feel of Twilight Zone episodes. Siff’s fluid reading and precise charac-
terizations draw listeners into these quirky tales. Her fine performance
underscores the power of horror on audio. A conversation between
King and cowriter Chizmar concludes the recording. —Joyce Saricks
YA: King has plenty of teen fans already, and this latest, with its
teenage protagonist and thought-provoking coming-of-age themes,
is a particularly excellent option. BS.
By Brendan Reichs. Read by Kirby Heyborne and others.
2017. 13.5hr. Listening Library, CD, $60 (9781524750107). Gr. 8–12.
Every two years since she turned eight, Min is hunted down by a
man in a black suit who murders her on her birthday. Then she wakes
up in a clearing without a scratch on her. Noah also has nightmares
of being murdered. While the world waits to hear whether a huge
asteroid will wipe out all life, Min and Noah start to uncover a vast
conspiracy. Emily Rankin and Heyborne alternate narration as the
perspective switches between Min and Noah, while Paul Boehmer
narrates segments of recorded conversations. Min is self-assured and
strong, but Rankin’s nuanced performance allows her vulnerability
to surface. In contrast, Noah is almost fragile as he struggles with his
insecurity and reluctance to change while also searching for answers.
As their worlds unravel, both narrators amp up the emotions and tension. With multiple twists and well-developed characters, this sci-fi
thriller will keep readers on the edge of their seats. —Lizzie Matkowski
Princess Cora and the Crocodile.
By Laura Amy Schlitz. Read by Davina Porter.
2017. 30min. Recorded Books, CD, $15.75 (9781501959035). Gr. 1–3.
Even kings and queens, it turns out, can be helicopter parents, and
little princesses overscheduled, underappreciated, and fed up. In the
case of Cora, the dutiful mini royal in this lighter-than-air tale, salvation is no more than a fairy godmother’s wand-tip away, though when
it arrives, it’s a bit scaly, green, and rambunctious. Porter, who once
assumed the voice and personality of a historical horse (Robert Lawson’s Mr. Revere and I), is blithely adept at transforming herself into a
crocodile, too. And while she creates a king who is gruff but well-intentioned, a queen who’s kind but oblivious, and a meekly rebellious
Cora, it is on the nonroyals that she lavishes her considerable narrative
wiles. Young listeners will cheer when officious Scots-flavored Nanny
(“Into the tub . . . and scrub-a-dub-dub till I say stop!”) is banished
to the bathtub herself. And it will be the rare listener who can keep
a straight face when our reptilian hero catches the king’s trousers between his nippy teeth. Carefully calculated to tickle early elementary
funny bones, this rollicking confection is even better enjoyed with a
copy of the book so that young readers can savor Brian Floca’s jaunty
illustrations as they lap up Porter’s invocation of the world’s most unrepentant cream-puff-popping croc. —Kristi Elle Jemtegaard
SF/FANTASY & HORROR ON AUDIO