Written by Stephen King
Read by Boyd Gaines, Judith Ivey, Justin Long, Oliver Platt & Jay O. Sanders
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio
Unabridged: No. Only five of the fourteen stories appear here--the five that do are unabridged, however.
King's new audiobook anthology--the first one in nine years to be actually adapted from a print anthology--is here. The five stories presented are all over the map. You've got a supernatural serial killer in a painting, a novella from the King Dark Tower series, a story about the true meaning of luck to a young mother, a monologue from the perspective of a live man about to have an autopsy performed on him, and the titular story, in which a young boy with strange powers gets a very interesting job.
Now, there's good news and bad news to be had. First, there's the content itself. My review of the book itself outlined my reservations with the subtitle ("Dark Tales") and the content, much of which is nothing special given anyone's knowledge of the horror/dark fantasy fiction genre. So I won't go into that here except to say that as far as the majority of the stories included in the book go, it's nothing you haven't seen before. Which is disappointing.
Another disappointment content-wise is that we're only getting five of the fourteen stories. This is pretty much unavoidable, considering that five of them made their debut in audiobook form (the anthology Blood and Smoke as well as the standalone story "L.T.'s Theory of Pets"). It's unfortunate that some of the stories not already in "audio-print" could not be included, however. There's just something fascinating about the prospect of Tim Curry reading "The Man in the Black Suit" or William Hurt reading "All That You Love Will Be Carried Away," the latter being my personal favorite from the collection.
I know you're looking for the good news, and here it is. The majority of the performances on this five story set are worthy. Even stories that are not the best in their field can be given new life in the mouths of the right readers. Justin Long is pretty much a perfect pick to embody the alienated teenage misfit of "Everything's Eventual." As well, Judith Ivey's interp of "Luckey Quarter" is extremely appropriate to the down-on-her-luck single mom protagonist. Needcoffee.com face Oliver Platt appears to be having the most fun with his take on "Autopsy Room Four", and character actor Jay O. Sanders makes the most of a mediocre story (albeit one with a cool name), "The Road Virus Heads North".
Of the five performances, the only one I take issue with would be Boyd Gaines' interp of "The Little Sisters of Eleuria," a Dark Tower story of the gunslinger Roland that takes place after the flashback events of Book Four, Wizard and Glass and yet before we met Roland for the first time in Book One. Gaines shines when he's doing the many "sisters" in the story, and gives each one a perfect and individual crone's voice, but his take on the narration part of the story is a bit too boisterous considering the earthy feel of the story. It's akin to having Paul Frees in his full-on narrator style reading a book by Zane Grey. Making matters worse is that he makes Roland, King's number one protagonist, sound like Jethro. Maybe it's just me, but it flat out didn't work.
All in all, the collection is a decent one for King fans, with mostly solid readings. Again, it would have been nice to have something akin to Nightmares and Dreamscapes, in which over the course of a couple of volumes, everything was covered, but now we have an excuse to go out and buy other King audiobooks, yes?
Review submitted by Widgett
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