Laird Barron's debut novel plays to his strengths as a short story writer by fragmenting the chapters with a mind suffering from senile dementia. Flashbacks and forgetfulness build character of Don, a doomed man walking the edge of cosmic horror that the listener alone perceives, like a killer waiting in a closet.
The delicate-voiced Emily Zeller highlights how expertly and carefully Barron chooses his words, and also allows The Croning's horror to sneak up and stab the listener when it unexpectedly rears its hideous head. The quiet, exacting sweetness of Zeller's performance offsets the coldness of Barron's universe, its indifference to human suffering, and the sureness of its ultimate victory.
Strange things exist on the periphery of our existence, haunting us from the darkness looming beyond our firelight. Black magic, weird cults, and worse things loom in the shadows. The Children of Old Leech have been with us from time immemorial. And they love us....
Donald Miller, geologist and academic, has walked along the edge of a chasm for most of his nearly 80 years, leading a charmed life between endearing absent-mindedness and sanity-shattering realization. Now, all things must converge. Donald will discover the dark secrets along the edges, unearthing savage truths about his wife Michelle, their adult twins, and all he knows and trusts. For Donald is about to stumble on the secret... of The Croning.
From Laird Barron, Shirley Jackson Award-winning author of The Imago Sequence and Occultation, comes The Croning, a debut novel of cosmic horror.
©2012 Laird Barron (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
"It’s a rare year in which a superabundance of fine horror novels — novels that reward rereading — appears. That said, most years bring at least a handful of novels whose titles can stand to be mentioned alongside Matheson’s I Am Legend, Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, and King’s The Shining. To this year’s list, add Laird Barron’s The Croning." (Los Angeles Review of Books)
I'm just a crazy old man, what the heck do you care what I think anyways?
YES! The narrator! Laird Barron writes Horror Noir - a dark & scary cross of Mikey Spillane & H. P. Lovecraft. He is bound for not just being good, but being GREAT. He writes from a first person view of gritty tough-guys that have stepped right out of a violent 1940's crime pulp novel. His characters gruffly talk about their cocks, and middle age, and death, and killing, and horror. Audible, for some strange reason, chose the very beautiful, young, very feminine voice of "Emily Zeller" to read you this story. This story: of a tough old man facing cosmic inhuman mind-bending vile evil.
It's like picking "Hanna Montanna" to sing KISS's "Destroyer" album. It's as wrong as "The Captain and Tennille" singing Judas Priest's "Sad Wings of Destiny" Album, or Metalica's "Black" album. Julie Andrews should NOT sing Rob Zombie's "Hellbilly Deluxe"!
Ya' gettin' me here?
It just don't work!
The greatest reader of H. P. Lovecraft work is "Wayne June". His voice is deep, rough, and sounds like he's had a life of first hand experience of... evil things, he's walked to the edge of the pit, looked in, and made it back.
Do you want to hear Laird Barron and a correct narrator? I urge you now to go to "Tales To Terrify" (the pod cast) and listen to episode # 40. Listen to "Frontier Death Song" by Laird Barron and read by "David Robison". David has a whiskey and smokes rough voice that turns Laird's tough, noir, words into cryptic-dark-spine-freezing passages punched out of the Necronomicon by way of a 40's detective radio show wearing brass knucles. Awesome.
Don't get me wrong, Emily Zeller is a fine reader.
I want Emily Zeller to read me "The Hobbit".
Or "Lord of the Rings". Something with Elves in it.
What I DON'T want is Emily Zelle, who sounds like my cute 20 year old niece, telling me about HER dick "shooting blanks"... I don't even want to think about her thinking about things like that, let alone trying her best to sound "tough" and "mean" and middle aged, and well, male.
OK, maybe a woman could have narrated this book. However, she needs to sound like she could eat bullets and spit nails. She needs "the chops" to do it - she needs the sound in her voice of a life of hard drinking, smoking, heart breaking, and ass-kicking.
Audible - you forgot the golden first rule on this one!!!
RULE #1.) You need to know the book, and you need to know the narrator and "IF" they will work together. This is maybe one of the worst choices of reader for this novel. We needed "Mickey Rourke" , instead we got "Annette Funicello"!
Laird Barron is a good talent, becoming GREAT!
You needed "David Robison", or "Wayne June" to read this, NOT "Emily Zeller".
Please know the material and put it together with the right reader! This is a good/ maybe great horror noir book, but it's hard to tell because the narration is done by the wrong person.
I really wanted to like this audiobook, but the narration really killed the experience.
The slow reveal.
The decision to use a young female narrator to perform a hard-boiled story about an old man's masculinity in the face of cosmic horror was an audacious one that doesn't pay off. Zeller has poor cadence, spotty pronunciation, and wobbly voice acting skills. All the characters are squeaky and singsongy. A story which could have been rich, scary, sad, and dramatic just clunks along from dud to dud. Disappointing.
Barron, yes. I have and would buy other books of his. Zeller I'm not sure about.
The slow burn would have been nice with the right narrator.
Zeller is problematic. Her narration is fine but her in character voices sound like a little girl doing impressions of grownups. It just sounds goofy and this isn't the book for that. She'd have done better just to do the voices naturally and hope for the best. I swear some of the female character's voices are so high pitched at times it sounds like Edith Bunker without the accent. She might be great for children's books or really anything but dark gritty pulp horror if she'd stay away from the goofy voices.
It's all I'm going to get because I don't have time to sit down and read these days. But if I had a choice I'd rather have read the book.
I've never written a review but felt compelled to for this book.
Bottom line: the first quarter of the book is intriguing and entertaining. The story of Don and Michelle's trip to Mexico is where it drops off and it gets unbearably boring. I realized it's a story based on a man who's memory is failing so continued on. I kept listening hoping that any of stories being told would ignite into tales that were like the ones I listened to in the beginning. But it never did. After 2 1/2 hours uneventful listening I gave up and purchased a different book.
I'm somewhat surprised that the lower reviews focused on the narration! She wasn't too bad - given the story she was performing.
Fantastic Cosmic Horror
Don, the protagonist, is really the only character anyone would be rooting for, though it's difficult not to like the old, gregarious, larger-than-life family friend Argyle.
I don't have any problem with a woman narrating the story just because the protagonist is an elderly man. Emily Zeller's voices were just fine, I was happy with them and I appreciated that she aged the characters' voices appropriately during the various flashbacks. However, there seems to have been absolutely no editorial oversight on this production. She mispronounces quite a few words throughout the entire novel, which really started to distract; I can see, maybe, getting 'copse' wrong, but 'chasm'? Also, somewhere around the final third of the novel, she utterly switches two characters' dialog, reading Michelle's lines in Don's voice and vice versa. I don't know how she managed to end up doing that, but it was especially egregious that it wasn't caught in post. I very definitely got the impression that this was recorded in one take and then uploaded immediately. I was very disappointed with the result.
Skip the audiobook and get the novel, and get Barron's three short story collections that co-habitate the same universe with it - The Imago Sequence, Occulations, and The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All.
Gritty + Lovecraft - Mythos
So much of it was from the point of view of Miller, that it's hard to have any favorite besides him. It works OK -- I wish Barron had developed other PoV characters, because Miller spends so much time hallucinating or suffering from various mental upsets that the story drags a bit in the third quarter. Tim Powers had a similar problem in his early novels, and he got over it by developing more characters.
Barron does a good job of building uncertainty and dread, and I liked the way the first four chapters seemed unconnected, until you have enough information to piece it together. I also like how he used Lovecraftian images without recycling a bunch of Mythos names.
Emily Zeller does an entirely adequate job with the book -- I found her voice pleasant, and her "voices" no worse than the majority of readers. I thought her cadence, which some other reviewers have criticized, helped tie the disperate chapters together.
"quack novelist selling suspect literature to a gullible public"
This book has what I have come to term the emperor's new clothes syndrome written all over it. In other words I'm not exactly surprised it won a horror award. it's just bad enough to be the kind of thing judges go for because they probably haven't read half the cooks shortlisted and it adds prestige to the title making it easier to sell to the public who love it just because it's won an award and they feel they just have to like it. They don't actually and not everybody does. I don't for one.
The narator is very good. it's just a shame she had to read such dross as this. It was written for television by a writer who, like so many others, is too dumb even to be aware that a question mark is not followed by the word 'said' but then as a reader you just have to get used to that.
If you like visual effects and have enough imagination to see the movie potential in this book then you might get something out of this. The plot is really pretty good. It's just the writing of it that lets it down.
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