This was a favorite book of mine many (MANY) years ago, and I was interested in remembering why I liked it so much. It's a great story, a stand-out among many of the same genre from the same time.
I like the slowly revealing details of the quest as the hero recovers memories. I like that there are many different encounters with many different challenges instead of one huge mega-battle. I like the humor. I like the scientific-nerd-in-a-magical-environment. His empirical understanding of things that look magical are clever. (See, for example, his analysis of the source of the curse on the Giant's gold. See what I mean? Clever.)
That said, I have to say that Bronson Pinchot is completely phenomenal. I've listened to several of his audiobooks, and he just flabbergasts me with the range of his characterizations. In this book, the hero's slight Danish inflection is done perfectly. The other accents and voices are distinctive and each evokes a particular sense of that character. Honestly, I could listen to this storyteller all day!
This is a classic from the Golden Age of Fantasy, and the narrator is golden. Really, don't miss this one!
I wanted to like this book. I really did. I had high hopes at the beginning. The author had obviously done his homework and was referring to stories I had found classically scary in the past. I can even say in all honesty that about a third of he time I spent listening to this book was well spent. It had some genuinely creepy moments. It had some genuinely good writing. It certainly had some good ideas, and some of the characters were interesting and multi-faceted.
Unfortunately for me, the other two-thirds of my time was spent listening to repetitive prose, unsubtle attempts at scares, much MUCH more detail than I ever wanted to hear about the wrangles between players at a television network (honestly, hours and hours of wrangling politics between people, none of whom I liked.)
One reviewer called the plot 'bloated'. I think that is a very apt description. This book would have been much better with a fierce editor and a whole lot of red ink.
What would have made it better? Good question. I was thinking of that question as I was trudging through the story.
For one thing, Mr. Golemon seems to think that loud = scary. The amount of door booming and slamming and creaking and groaning ceased to be scary after the first third of the book. And it just escalated from there. I came to think of it as "The Mad Attack of the Booming Doors." I wish Mr. Golemon had remembered Shirley Jackson (whom he seems to have admired) used eerily quiet patting and footsteps and corner-of-the-eye glimpses much more liberally than she used creepy bulgy doors.
I became somewhat irritated as the characters would leave the site of a supernatural event right in he middle to run off to where another darn door was slamming or booming. Just as soon as it looks like something interesting is happening in the Basement, ooops we all have to rush up to the ballroom. Over and over again.
I mentioned that Mr Golemon told me so very much more than I wanted to know about television and politics. I didn't like any of hose characters, I wasn't rooting for them or against them, I just found all that tiresome, and I think the story would have been tighter and leaner without any of that. There, red pencil, do your worst!
Mr. Kafer was literate, somewhat nuanced, an okay reader all around. He has one vocal 'tic' that I always find totally distracting, and that is that he lowers his voice by a full dramatic third at the end of every single sentence. Sometimes people do that in real life at the end of a particular sentence to make a dramatic point. Mr. Kafer does it Every. Single. Time. Distracting? I hope to tell you.
The other thing that Mr. Kafer needs to avoid at all costs is attempting any kind of accent. His take on a Mexican accent sounded more Ukrainian than anything else. It always made me smile, and I was glad when he forgot about it and just used unaccented English.
I have heard much better readers than Mr. Kafer. I would cast just about any of them before I listened to another of his efforts. He's not the very worst I've listened to (see my review of "Or All The Seas With Oysters" for that reader), but I'd really like for him to work with a good vocal coach before he steps before another microphone.
As I said, I think there are the bones of a good tight scary haunted house novel here, and that is what I was hoping for. A strong edit and a good vocal director would help this author and narrator so much. I fear I hope in vain. I won't be purchasing the obvious sequel myself.
I love Avram Davidson. I've been a great fan forever. His work is subtle, engaging, interesting, and mind stretching. Unfortunately, Mr. Marlar's interpretation is better suited to a Noir Thriller or a Western than to such an erudite author.
The consistent mispronouncing of the word virulent as vai RUH lunt made want to weep. I stopped listening after that story. It was a little like watching someone you love being mugged.
The Adventures of Dr. Esterhazy is a consistent delight. I found Ursus of Ultima Thule to be a bit brutal way back when it first came out, so haven't listened to that one. Tim Power's work strikes me as equally brilliant, although he doesn't have many short stories on audible. Always love James P. Blaylock's stuff.
I found Robert Blumenthal's narration of The Adventures of Dr. Esterhazy to be excellent, and without reproach. He had a masterful command of the material and didn't mispronounce any of the words. I also would like to hear Bronson Pinchot have a run at this material. I find his vocal interpretations to be as nuanced and subtle as this writing requires.
Stephen Briggs is genius! His vocal interpretations of the different speakers rival live theater drama. I love how I can hear the seeds of real-life Dickens characters in Pratchett's story. Big fun.
This is not Discworld. I like Discworld. This is not Discworld. It's neither arch nor is the humor brittle. There are no sentient orangutan librarians or magic suitcases. In fact, there's nothing supernatural at all. And it made me grin out loud.
I can't say enough about Stephen Briggs. I would listen to that man read a book of recipes, for heaven's sake. Don't miss this one.
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