"Scowler" Audiobook Review
Written by A Girl Named Ed
Released by Random House Audio
Written by Daniel Kraus
Narrated by Kirby Heyborne
672 minutes, Fiction
Released on March 12th, 2013
I was more than thrilled to have the opportunity to listen to Scowler. I typically plow through audiobooks like a mass murderer though a group of copulating coeds and being unfamiliar with Daniel Kraus, I was happy to try out a new author. As much as I truly wanted to love this book, I was left wanting more, less, and also wishing for it just to be over already.
The story starts out with Ry, who at nineteen is several years older than his sister, Sarah. They spend the majority of their time in a constant battle of vile yet amusing banter on the family farm. A red herring shows up to the farm in the form of Jeremiah, a creepy old dude who as it turns out has just escaped from prison. Jeremiah brings with him a warning about Marvin, Ry's crazy, abusive, and supposedly incarcerated father. Did I mention the meteor shower? It's coming.
The story bounces back and forth between Ry's childhood and the current time line with a countdown to the imminent meteor touchdown at each chapter start. *Flashback* When Ry was young, Marvin kinda lost his shit, abused his wife, and chased Ry through the woods for hours after beating the crap out if him. While Ry ran and hid in the woods he carried with him three toys; a stuffed bear named Mr Furrington, a bendy man-like plastic Jesus Christ, and a creepy folk art monster named Scowler, a toy that Ry has always been afraid of.
The toys come to life and start talking to him, offering advice, and cheering him on. Mr Furrington is friendly, Jesus is supportive and quotes scripture, and Scowler is terrifying. When Marvin finally catches up with Ry, he almost kills him. Ry lives, and while Marvin ends up in the pokey, Ry spends more and more time with his talking toy friends but eventually they disappear and life for Ry and his family goes back to normal, or at least as normal as they can manage. Years pass, but the impending meteor shower and the threat of Marvin's return brings both old and new troubles to the Burke family.
With all the setup, the invisible friends, the creepy dad, and the meteor shower, I had some high expectations for this story. Unfortunately, they fell a bit flat. The story starts very slowly. There are some amusing bits between the brother and sister and Jeremiah's visit is somewhat ominous, but overall the first part of the book is a snooze-fest. I had a hard time staying with the story.
Eventually things do pick up, and once they do, the story has much nicer pacing. The family is once again terrorized and it's up to Ry and his long-forgotten toy friends to save his family, or will Ry lose himself instead? There is quite a bit of gore for the sake of gore towards the end, which is fun and all, but almost pointless when compared to the rest of the book, which seems innocuous by comparison. Kraus does show off his writing chops with his disturbing descriptions and characterizations, but the story seems to get lost underneath the gross out factor. I was left wanting to know more about what happened when Ry was younger and more about Marvin's background. If Kraus wanted to tell me a story about how people are more terrifying than any monster, he succeeded, but it's nothing that I didn't already know. I want to know more about these characters and how they got where they are.
The one thing that can make or break an audiobook is the narrator. Kirby Heyborne makes the opening part of the story an absolute challenge to listen to. I wanted him to pick up the pace. His voice is fine, but he just drones on and on. It is really frustrating. Thankfully, he did a great job with all of the character voices. Once the story takes off, which took just this side of forever with his slow droning pace, he does an awesome job. Hell, with Scowler, he doesn't use words, he just makes noises and it's creepy as hell. Mr Furrington has a British accent and when he used Marvin's voice, I kinda needed to look over my shoulder more than once to make sure he wasn't waiting to clock me in the head with a shovel. Had Heyborne spoke with the same kind of liveliness in his narration as he did with the voices of the characters he portrayed, I'm sure I would have enjoyed this audiobook more.