AUDIOBOOKS: Scary stories for long winter nights

Here are three scary audiobooks to occupy those long winter evenings approaching the winter solstice.

Here are three scary audiobooks to occupy those long winter evenings approaching the winter solstice.

Sleeping Beauties
Stephen King and Owen King; read by Marin Ireland
Simon & Schuster Audio, 21 CDs, 25.5 hours, $59.99/ download, $41.99

Buried inside of this 720-page novel is a great audiobook. Unfortunately, Stephen King and his son Owen so overwrote this tale of women infected with a sleeping virus that you can’t keep track of the many, many characters. (The printed book includes a glossary of names.) Eve Black, a kind of succubus with a magical tree, is at the heart of this dark fantasy, and one wishes the Kings had fleshed her out more thoroughly and not, in general, relied so heavily on the stereotypical roles played by men and women. Still, there is much to like, including narrator Ireland and her malleable voice. She trots out a unique interpretation for each character, including male intonations and Appalachian accents. Grade: B-plus

Dead Trees Give No Shelter
Wil Wheaton; read by the author
Blackstone Audio, two CDs, 1.5 hours, $19.95/ download, $13.95

This creepy little novella by actor/narrator Wheaton concerns Jay Turner, an unhappy alcoholic who returns to his hometown 20 years after his brother’s death. Nothing is quite as he remembered it. This is a quick, solid story, but one can’t help feeling that the ending is rushed and Wheaton could have further fleshed this out; there certainly was the possibility of a full novel in the material. He did, however, do a bang-up job reading it. He lets the tension build and allows the main character’s weariness and confusion enter into the narrative. Grade: B

The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Nine
Edited by Ellen Datlow; 20 authors; read by Christina Delaine, James Anderson Foster
Tantor Audio, 13 CDs, 16 hours and 21 minutes, $34.99/ download, $34.99

With 21 stories in one anthology, you can expect some to be better than others. There are several standouts, but sadly, a few of these feel underdeveloped and therefore less frightening that one would expect. All manner of subgenres are covered, including several that appear to pay homage to Lovecraft. Expect ghosts, demons, crazies and the undead, all well-read by Foster and Delaine. Foster’s voice, deep and soothing, lets the creepiness envelop us, whereas Delaine is quicker and more energetic. All in all a decent scarefest, though not a particularly memorable one. Grade: B