Are you at home networking while listening to audiobooks? Do you have a long drive in front of you, and you need something to keep you occupied on your journey? Looking for something light and fun and horror-tinged, but not so graphic as to make you want to run from the room and pee your pants? Here are three fun listens available on Audible for some amusing monstrous titles.
A Dirty Job (2006)
★★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Written by Christopher Moore
Published by Harper Audio
Narrated by Fisher Stevens
The story of Charlie Asher, a non-descript shopkeeper in San Francisco has had the worst sort of epiphany. Lo, he is the bringer of death. As in he’s the grim reaper. All those dead bodies around him? That’s his doing, and it’s very amusing finding out how he ended in this predicament. Also, poor Charlie is having to deal with raising a toddler, and when menacing demons and foul creatures start visiting him, it’s all a bit much. He is bolstered by some very wacky supporting cast, and the snappy dialogue is constantly entertaining. It all adds up to a recipe for a very breezy twelve hours of listening.
This is the first book of a two-part series. It’s very San Francisco-centric, so those who know the city will have a particularly good time with this story. Leave it to The City to bring out the eccentrics and the oddballs. A Dirty Job is also a bit more of a dark fantasy than a true horror book. Moore has another enjoyable, and perhaps more horror-themed series about vampires that starts with “Bloodsucking Fiends“. I would suggest that the only real demerit of this book is that it is purely popular fiction. It’s not exactly Tolstoy. But then again, who wants to listen to War and Peace on a long road trip? Not me!
Veteran character actor Fisher Stevens (Short Circuit) is a man with an impressive repertoire of voices at his disposal, and he manages to bring this quirky cast to life. It’s funny somehow that it’s the oddball character actors who are the thespians who have the biggest arsenal of accents and personalities that they can tap into. They got into the business through a chameleon’s talent rather than being the prettiest person in the casting room.
Moore’s prose is loose, and conversational, which lends itself very well to audiobooks. He also has a way of using profanity in just the right way at just the right time. His work is laugh-out-loud funny, and his plots instantly hook you in. There are few if any lags in the plot, and it won’t require you to memorize a complex plot, which is essentially pretty silly and of course, the tagline being “Death. Hey, it’s a dirty job… but somebody’s got to do it.”
“When Charlie arrived home from his mother’s funeral, he was met at the door by two very large very enthusiastic canines, who, undistracted by keeping watch over Sophie’s love hostage, were now able to visit the full measure of their affection and joy upon their returning master. It is generally agreed, and in fact stated in the bylaws of the American Kennel Club, that you have not been truly dog-humped until you have been double-dog-humped by a pair of four-hundred-pound hounds from hell (Section 5, paragraph 7: Standards of Humping and Ass-dragging). And despite having used an extra-strength antiperspirant that very morning before leaving Sedona, Charlie found that getting poked repeatedly in the armpits by two damp devil-dog dicks was leaving him feeling less than fresh.
Sophie, call them off. Call them off.”
The puppies are dancing with Daddy,” Sophie giggled. “Dance, Daddy!”Christopher Moore – A Dirty Job
★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Written by John Scalzi
Published by Audible Studios
Narrated by Will Wheaton
Many of you may be familiar with Scalzi’s Red Shirts, his loving homage to Star Trek’s expendable crewmembers. He has a savant’s take on the pulse of Geek culture, and with his latest book The Kaiju Preservation Society, he really knows his way around the behemoths and leviathans of the genre. Remarkably, this is not the book that Scalzi had intended to write. In his epilogue, he confesses that he had a much more serious novel in the works… and then the pandemic hit, and he suffered from serious writer’s block, and so with a deadline looming, he produced this book instead. And I, for one, am glad he had writer’s block, and what he delivered was a concise re-imagining of a world where the giant kaiju monsters are REAL.
Jamie Gray is a young-ish hipster in NYC who had the prescient business sense to predict the value of food delivery service, just as the pandemic was hitting, only to be betrayed by his unscrupulous boss, forcing Jamie to be a food delivery guy, instead of the one making the master strategy and getting wealthy off the content. An old friend gives him a lifeline, that informs him of a job opening for his company that works with “large animals”. REALLY large animals. Kaiju, in fact.
Godzilla, or the basis of Godzilla, apparently was true. The Nuclear bombs that hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki breached a world between ours and an alternate reality in which the world did not get wrecked by several extinction events, and led to the titans that we know, love, and fear. Jamie is now part of a field research society that observes and records the behavior and biology of these giants. The monsters were identified in the 1950s and the Society has been dedicated to researching them ever since in peace… that is until somebody on our side of the veil decided that they saw an opportunity to take advantage of these creatures, which brings up the age-old story of “who really is the monster here?”
Will Wheaton, Scalzi’s go-to voice actor is on point here, and his iconic status within geek genre culture really helps seal the premise. Wheaton owns this material. For a “last-minute edit” for Scalzi, this book has a really tight structure and feels thoroughly researched to the point where the concept of an ecosystem and model for the existence of Kaiju is lovingly, and thoroughly revealed to us. The symbiotic relationship of Kaiju to its parasites. The connection between these creatures and nuclear energy. It hits all its marks.
And, like A Dirty Job, this book is a popcorn-munching listen. Scalzi admitted that it’s a bit of pulp fiction, but I found it to be gloriously entertaining, and perhaps because it is pulpy, I enjoyed it more. One thing though that bothers me with Scalzi sometimes is his overuse of “He Said”, which for me in Redshirts was completely distracting. Some of that is present here too, but not distractingly so. If I wasn’t hyper-aware of it with Scalzi’s material in advance, I probably wouldn’t have singled it out this time. It feels like a book for the right-now, a story that takes place in the pandemic but is not ABOUT the pandemic, but rather some of the conditions that lead Jamie to take big chances. Worked.
“So we’re the monster police, too?” I said to Tom.
“Correct,” he replied. “The only real question is, who are the monsters?”
“They ask that question in every monster movie, you know. It’s an actual trope.”
“I know,” Tom said. “What does it say about us that it’s relevant every single time they ask it?”John Scalzi – The Kaiju Preservation Societ (2022)
Gil’s All Fright Diner (2009)
★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Written By A. Lee Martinez
Published by MacMillan Audio
Narrated by Fred Berman
A Lee Martinez is a bit like a Texan Terry Pratchett. His characters are outlandishly absurd caricatures that sometimes seem like they are trying too hard, but once the ideas mesh, the story sings along in a way that engrosses. Such is the story of Gil’s All Fright Diner, which takes place in the remote town of Rockwood (which in the Audiobook feels like it would be in Arkansas or Tennessee) and features the combination of Duke (a hefty werewolf) and Earl (a self-conscious middle-aged vampire) who stop by Gil’s Diner, which apparently is a focal node for the end of the world.
The teenage jailbait Tammy… or Miss Lilith, the sorceress as she prefers to be called… is hell-bent on raising the old gods, using a spell from the Necronomicon. The spell just so happens to be in Pig-Latin. (And when narrator Fred Berman starts going in rapid pace Pig-Latin, it’s impressive). Together with her dimwit horny boyfriend Chad, she wants to be on the seat of power when the monstrous Lovecraftian beings come forth from her summoning.
Duke and Earl, however, are jaded souls, traveling through town, but have seemingly been lured to this place, destined to be the ones who will stop the unfathomable evil from entering this reality. It’s a battle between bad vs. evil, and the final showdown is epic. There are times at which the dialogue slips into cliche, but then manages to find a coherent voice and have you rooting for the unlikely bedfellows of Duke and Earl to win the day.
The story, at times, feels like it is soaked in bourbon and beer, it’s a quintessentially American road trip. Berman plays all the characters to be exaggerations of the rural hillbilly infused with cultural nobility. It’s a “proud to be a red-neck vampire” ethos, and after taking a while to get used to it, it is very easy to adopt these characters and root for them as DOOM descends upon Rockwood and the world writ large.
I was a fan of Martinez’s road trip story Helen & Troy’s Epic Road Trip, which focused on a buddy team of a minotaur girl and an “all-American” boy, being pursued by orcs. Martinez loves a good pun and mixing up mythologies to form a through-line for his stories. Gil’s All Fright Diner doesn’t have the focus of Helen & Troy, but it does ooze with a languid atmosphere and even the villains are endearing. Gil’s is probably Martinez’s most recognizable title.
“Reality is like a fruitcake; pretty enough to look at but with all sorts of nasty things lurking just beneath the surface.”A Lee Martinez – Gil’s All Fright Diner
If you are a fan of light comedy genre fare, these three audiobooks will provide you with many hours of enjoyable entertainment. All of them, apart from profanity, would be good gateway material for teenage listeners on up. Light on the horror, heavy on the comedy, if you like that combination, check these titles out.