Impact Winter by Travis Beacham

Impact Winter is less of an audiobook than an homage to old-school radio dramas. Travis Beacham, along with a full cast of magnificent voice actors, a collection of sound technicians and foley artists, and a vast array of supporters (including the illustrious Robert Kirkman), brings to life a vampire tale that is both original and rooted in well-established mythology.
When an asteroid impact devastates the world and plunges everything into darkness and storms, creatures that had hidden in the night are free to wreak havoc upon the human survivors. Hunted, and forced into hiding, sisters Darcy and Hope Dunraven find refuge with a band of refugees in an old military installation beneath a castle-turned-museum.
As hopeless as humanity’s future might appear, a glimmer of salvation may be on the horizon. But what sacrifices will be required in pursuit of that new day?
The story that unfolds through the twelve episodes of Impact Winter is a thrilling one populated by characters who defy generic templates and archetypes. It’s a shame that it has to end, though there’s more than enough left in the air for listeners to hope for a second season.
The voice talent of performers like Holliday Grainger, Esme Creed-Miles, Himesh Patel, David Gyasi, Caroline Ford, Indira Varma, Bella Ramsey, and Liam Cunningham has a lot to do with the compelling and captivating nature of Impact Winter. An excellent script only goes so far, and it takes the talent of people like those involved with this project to elevate it to the next level.

Ferocious by Jeff Strand, Narrated by Scott Thomas

Ferocious is a perfect blend of witty dialogue, quirky characters, and nightmarish horror. But what else could we expect from Jeff Strand?
When Mia’s parents die in an accident, it’s up to her reclusive, misanthropic uncle Rusty to step up and care for his baby niece. He’s in no way equipped to take on the role of parent, and it’s nothing he ever expected of his life, but he’s determined to do the best job he can.
Surprisingly enough, he manages to do a fine job, home-schooling Mia and teaching her his woodworking trade as they live a life of quiet solitude in the forest. He may not have believed it possible at first, but Rusty managed to raise her almost to adulthood, and he’s proud of how she’s grown up.
Just as Rusty begins to question whether he’s shortchanged Mia by raising her in such isolation, their world is shattered by wildlife gone mad. Squirrels, birds, deer, wolves, bears, and other creatures have become aggressive and determined to kill Rusty and Mia–but the aggression isn’t the hardest part to comprehend, it’s the fact that they’re all dead.
Strand drags us at breakneck speed through a sequence of events that would be horrible under the best of circumstances; but miles into the woods without any hope of salvation nearby, these are far from optimal conditions.
Scott Thomas’s narration captures the wry wit of the two protagonists even as they grow increasingly exhausted and violated as the narrative progresses. The quality of the narration never took away from this being a Jeff Strand story, and that’s something to be proud of.

Winterset Hollow by Jonathan Edward Durham, Narrated by Jonathan Edward Durham

Winnie-the-Pooh and The Wind In The Willows collide with The Most Dangerous Game and Animal Farm in Durham’s Winterset Hollow. Exciting, surreal, and defying all expectations, the author has crafted something both somber and thought-provoking.
John Eamon Buckley and his two closest friends join a group of fellow fans of Winterset Hollow to embark on a pilgrimage to the isolated island home of the children’s poem’s author, E. B. Addington. The crowd of friends and strangers couldn’t have prepared for–and never imagined–how intimate their glimpse into Addington’s life would be.
What follows is a dizzying upheaval of everything they thought they knew and understood about the world around them. Awaiting the fans is a dark and scathing denunciation of the history they assumed to be true and a personal journey for Eamon as he discovers his connection to the beloved childhood story is deeper and more horrible than he’d suspected.
The poem at the heart of Winterset Hollow is something I could imagine published on its own, and I could understand how the fictional characters might have cherished its captivating story.
It’s the larger narrative, beautifully written and complete with its damning subtext of the evils associated with colonization and Westward expansion in early America that I adore, though. It’s so well-written and ingenious in its acknowledgment that Manifest Destiny and the American Dream were constructed on a substrate of nightmares levied against all those unfortunate enough to be in the path.
The audiobook narrated by Jonathan Edward Durham himself was a spectacular way to experience this story, and he managed to capture both the tarnished innocence of Eamon and the bitterness combined with the sadness of the residents of Addington Isle.

The Troop by Nick Cutter, Narrated by Corey Brill

Scoutmaster Tim Riggs should have postponed the Troop 52 camping trip to Falstaff Island off the coast of Prince Edward Island when he heard that a storm might be heading their way. If only he’d done so, the tragic and horrifying events that followed could have been avoided. Of course, if that had been the case, what would Nick Cutter have written instead of The Troop?
The book begins with an emaciated, starving man, sick in appearance and erratic in behavior, venturing into a diner where he struggles to satisfy his intense and unrelenting hunger. Filled to bursting, he leaves and ultimately makes his way to the shore of Falstaff Island, where he takes the hideous and insidious life teeming within him on a collision course with Tim and the five boys of Troop 52. With no way to escape, a storm brewing on the horizon, and an unseen threat looming beneath the sick man’s skin, no amount of scout know-how can prepare the boys for the nightmare that is about to devour what should have been a fun and adventure-filled camping trip.
Intensely disquieting body horror meets man-vs-nature in an absolute masterpiece that combines Lord of the Flies with an almost Cronenberg-style narrative of infection and parasites. As Ephriam, Max, and Newt struggle to survive, they tap into resources they didn’t know they had and learn more about themselves and each other than they’d ever expected. It’s not only the microscopic peril brought to the island by its host but also the unbridled machismo of Kent and the serial killer-in-the-making of Shelley that pushes the boys past their limits.
Interspersed throughout the narrative are supplemental reports and investigative elements that fill in the blanks for the reader, adding to the discomfort as we learn more about what awaits the boys than they know for themselves.
There is harm done to animals throughout this book. That can be uncomfortable to read, but it serves the narrative well and never feels gratuitous. In particular, the experience with the turtle is poignant, and it reminds us that these are children we’re following on this harrowing and torturous odyssey.
Corey Brill’s narration of the audiobook is fantastic. He does an excellent job of providing each of the boys with their own distinctive voices and cadence, never forcing the listener to keep track of who they’re listening to at any given time. While I loathed the character, Brill’s performance of Shelley was the stand-out portrayal, instilling the skin-crawling sensation that boy would surely produce.

The Night Parade by Ronald Malfi, Narrated By Tom Taylorson

At its heart, The Night Parade is a story about a father’s love for his daughter and the risks a parent will take to keep their child safe from what they perceive as harmful. It’s also a story about mortality; it’s about coming to terms with it and recognizing that we won’t always be there for those we love. All of this heavy emotional content Malfi explores within the story is played out against the backdrop of a society in the process of collapsing, as madness consumes both those infected by “Wanderer’s Folly” and those forced to react to something so devastating.
Given no time to mourn the loss of his wife, David has no choice but to pack up their eight-year-old daughter, Ellie, and hopefully keep her away from the doctors and scientists he blames for his wife’s death. Immune to the disease ravaging the world, both Ellie and her mother were of great interest to the authorities who hoped to find a cure in their blood. But Ellie is special in a way her mother was not; she has a gift that might make her even more valuable to those who seek to exploit her.
Unfortunately, David is not immune. As he races across the steadily decaying husk of the United States in search of somewhere he can shelter Ellie, he’s also racing against time as his mental state declines. The reader’s forced to wonder how much of what he’s experiencing is real. How much is the result of hallucinatory nightmares that will ultimately consume what’s left of his mind?
The Night Parade is a horror story, but it’s also a tragically poignant tale. Malfi digs into the reader’s heart and begins systematically tearing away at it piece by piece as the narrative continues.
Tom Taylorson’s narration is largely excellent, though his performance of Ellie’s voice falls a bit flat. As a whole, where female voices are concerned, there’s a little left to be desired, but that’s a problem that plagues many male narrators. I certainly couldn’t have done any better.

Bobcats by Matthew Weber

Matthew Weber’s Bobcats succeeds as a coming-of-age horror tale not altogether unlike Ketchum’s Hide and Seek and King’s IT. In fact, if one were to mix those two books together with a dash of the King novella, The Body, and just a smidge of Deliverance for flavor–as well as a touch of Friday the 13th–one might have a good starting point for the story that Weber’s put together.
Joey and his four compatriots in the Bobcats–a small fraternal outdoors troop not altogether unlike BSA–plan to hike The Gauntlet, a trail that weaves through the wilderness of Black Oak Mountain. The adventure is the boys’ plan to honor the legacy of Joey’s father, the foundation of The Bobcats, who recently died of cancer. More than that, it’s a rite of passage into manhood for the five adolescent boys.
As a powerful thunderstorm rolls into the area, the expedition becomes true to its name, becoming more a gauntlet than it already might have been. Sadly, nature is only the beginning of the challenges the boys face.
Black Oak Mountain is home to more than the expected wildlife, and for the Bobcats, it’s one of the inhabitants of that dark forest that changes their lives forever. The Cleaver soon has the five boys in his sights, and no amount of preparation and survival training could have adequately qualified the Bobcats to deal with an inhuman monster who makes his living slaughtering people for money with his cruel, handcrafted blades.
Weber does not shy away from the harsh reality of precisely how an encounter like this would turn out. Bobcats is not a feel-good story with a tidy, cheerful ending replete with plot armor and reliance on suspension of disbelief. To learn how it ends–or whom it ends–you’ll have to read it for yourself.
Matthew Weber deserves additional points for hinting at a history of mysterious occurrences on and near Black Oak Mountain without delving into them and erasing the mystery. It seems like a sequel could be in order, as there’s plenty more to fear in the night than solely The Cleaver.