When I was a kid, my mom and dad bought a copy of the Orson Welles radio broadcast of War of the Worlds, a novel by H.G. Welles. It was the Halloween episode of a series of dramas by Mercury Theatre. The broadcast originally aired as news bulletins in 1938 and caused a stir of mass hysteria. People believed Martians were invading the world. I don’t know how true it is, but from my understanding some folks even committed suicide over this.
At the time I was maybe eleven or twelve. I don’t really remember. The broadcast was on a cassette tape and we played it on an old black (well, it wasn’t old back then) tape deck that had buttons that were as simple as, PLAY, STOP, FAST FORWARD (FF was on the button), REWIND and, yes, there was a PAUSE button. I remember listening to it and going, ‘Wow, that is so cool.’
I haven’t listened to anything even close to an audio book since.
I’m not a fan of the audio book. I admit it. I am one who likes to read stories at my own pace and picture them as I go along. I like to disappear into a book and come out when I’m ready. So, honestly, I’ve never really tried to listen to audio books.
Having said that, I may have to change my mind on the subject of audio books.
A while back I was asked if I would listen to an audio book put out by Stormblade Productions. I said yes. Unfortunately, I forgot about it. Until today when I was going through old messages of Facebook—yeah, Facebook—and came across the message the request was in, complete with download.
What did I do?
You guessed it. I downloaded the story, put on the earphones and pressed play. I leaned back in my chair, coffee in hand and propped my feet up on the desk.
Let me start by saying there will be no spoilers in here.
The story, titled Everett Smiles, starts out with music, much like a movie does. The score is relevant to the story in and of itself. It sets the tone for the story that follows.
Oh…the story that follows.
The opening words are simple, but telling:
‘Sheila is coming.’
They may not seem like much, but the opening three words are powerful, given the narration by Carrie Buchanan.
The story is told from the point of view of Paige, one of the last, if not the last person left on the planet, as we know it. Monsters—one in particular—have wiped out the world’s population and Paige is desperate to find her young son.
Other than that, I won’t say what the story is about, or even who Everett Smiles is, but rest assured, the story is brilliant. The word usage and turns of phrases are beautifully rendered and eloquently narrated. Mrs. Buchanan’s English accent is perfect for Everett Smiles. The way she enunciated certain words, and the tone she used throughout give the story an unquenchably desperate feel. She pulled me in and held me close as she whispered her words of sadness into my ear.
Unlike stories told around campfires, Everett Smiles feels like a story told in an asylum by a woman who had lost her mind to some trauma or other. I had the luxury of sitting at my desk with the lights out in the bedroom while everyone else in the house slept, adding a little more creep factor for effect.
The background noises and music are nice touches, but only the music is really noticed. Why, you ask? Because the narration and the story is that good.
The drama unfolds at a nice pace and there are many great lines. My favorite is:
“A summary of death at the end of the world.”
That particular line sums up Everett Smiles in ten perfectly placed words.
The ending of the story offers a promise of hope, but how much hope is there?
Let’s not forget Sheila, the antagonist throughout this piece. She looms throughout and brings us the story’s most dramatic moments.
Everett Smiles, written by Neil John Buchanan and narrated by Carrie Buchanan, had me listening through the entire (just under) 45 minutes with rapt attention. Rapt, I say.
But wait. What about Everett? Isn’t there an Everett in there? After all, the story is called Everett Smiles. Yes, Everett is in there, but to tell you about him gives away a touch of the unique insanity of this story.
Let me say this. Being one that doesn’t generally listen to audio books, I can say, without a doubt, that I will be listening to Everett Smiles again. And again. And again. I realize I’ve been a little vague in this review, but one thing I hate about a lot of book reviews are the spoilers, so I try not to give out any.
The bottom line is Everett Smiles is a beautifully unique work of insanity not to be listened to under the influence of anything mind altering, lest you experience the War of the Worlds in your nightmares afterward. Kudos to Neil John Buchanan for writing an unsettling story that will stick with me for far longer than most pieces I have read. Also, kudos to Carrie Buchanan for the wonderful narration of Everett Smiles. I’ve always thought good stories are often ruined by people who cannot tell them. This is not the case for Mrs. Buchanan. The desperation of Paige’s story came to life thanks to her exceptional narration.
Herbie and I are in agreement here. Everett Smiles gets Five out of Five Vials of Blood.
If you like audio books, then check out Everett Smiles on Amazon at:
Also, check out Stormblades Production’s website at: http://www.stormbladeproductions.com/catalogue.html
Thank you for reading, and until we meet again, my friends…