Written by: Todd Keisling
The first audiobook I ever listened to was Stephen King’s DESPERATION, read by the inimitable Kathy Bates. This was back in the mid-90s, when buying an audiobook meant an enormous case with 20 audio cassettes or CDs. I listened to Kathy Bates for an entire week, thoroughly creeped out and mesmerized by her vocal characterizations, and when I’d finished the book I begged my mom to take me back to the library so I could check out another one.
So began a harsh lesson: not all audiobooks are created equal. Some readers are great, and others are not. James Spader, for example, recorded Koontz’s STRANGE HIGHWAYS, but I found the man’s delivery so deathly dry that it put me to sleep, and I resorted to reading the actual novella to find out what happened. I listened to a number of audiobooks in the years that followed, and although some came close to surpassing my first audiobook (George Guidall’s reading of Neil Gaiman’s AMERICAN GODS stands out in my memory), none of them kept me glued to my headphones quite like Kathy Bates managed to do when I was a kid.
Then I discovered Eric Luke.
Let me back up a moment. I subscribe to Pseudopod, a weekly horror podcast that consistently produces high quality horror fiction in audio format. They are donation-driven, using those funds to pay their writers ($100 for a story up to 5k words) and the readers who narrate said stories. I tell you all of this because this is how I came to know Eric Luke. (He read a short story called “Night Fishing” by Ray Cluley which is incredible—go check it out! I don’t actually know Mr. Luke personally, although I feel like I should considering all of the stories he’s narrated for the ‘pod.
Eric Luke is a screenwriter by trade, having penned the scripts for EXPLORERS, as well as the comic books GHOST and WONDER WOMAN. According to his Amazon bio, “his recent work explores the genre of Apocalyptic Meta Horror.”
“Apocalyptic Meta Horror.” That’s a great way to describe his novel, INTERFERENCE, and a perfect segue opportunity . . .
INTERFERENCE asks a simple question: What if a podcast could kill?
The story begins in 1938, on the night of the famous Orson Welles broadcast of War of the Worlds. A young boy named Jimmy is at once terrified—and entranced—by the possibility of an invasion from another world. Panicked, his parents retreat to their car and head into town for answers—and along the way, Jimmy glimpses something out the window, near the radio tower transmitting the broadcast. This enigmatic “something” isn’t revealed until the story’s climax, but its presence is felt immediately, haunting Jimmy for the rest of his life.
Jump ahead to the modern day where we’re introduced to Ethan, a sound engineer dealing with a recent heartbreak, Vivian, a woman who fears her daughter has been kidnapped, and Hank, a huge cosplaying recluse who still lives with his mother. These three characters have one thing in common: they’re listening to audiobooks released for free through a podcast website—audiobooks that happen to be dialed in to their specific forms of grief, amplifying them, toying with them. And then the narrators of their audiobooks begin to address them directly through the recordings, predicting events that haven’t occurred yet, directing them to follow a set of instructions lest they suffer dire consequences.
What malignant force is behind these bizarre podcasts? What does it have to do with that little boy in the 1930s? Furthermore, what does it want with these three particular people—and why? The answers to those questions are woven across both timelines as Luke takes us back and forth between 1939, following the life of Jimmy as his favorite teacher plans his own broadcast of War of the Worlds, and the lives of those three, desperate souls in the present day.
This story kept me guessing at every turn, and it was Mr. Luke’s performance as the story’s narrator that kept me hooked every minute. His delivery and characterizations are top-notch (I would expect nothing less), infusing the right amount of emotion into the narrative. After the first couple of chapters, I couldn’t turn it off, sometimes sitting in my car long after the engine had cooled. This story took me back to Dean Koontz’s golden years, when he was writing hit after hit, crafting pure tension on a page. Yeah. I think the story is that good.
I love high concept stories (those of you who’ve read my work know this for a fact), and as with most high concept ideas, you have to be willing to buy into the story’s premise and its characters’ reactions to it. A friend of mine criticized the story’s latter half, citing that he couldn’t believe some of the characters’ actions, and he felt that the ending fell flat because of it. Personally, I was with those characters every step of the way, and by the halfway point I was invested enough that I wanted to see where they would end up. Your mileage may vary—especially if this isn’t something you would normally read and/or listen to.
All in all, I have to say that Eric Luke’s INTERFERENCE is one of the better speculative horror novels I’ve experienced in years. That isn’t lip service. I mean it sincerely. There’s a reason this book was nominated for a Parsec Award. I haven’t been this engaged with an audiobook in a very long time—not since Kathy Bates read DESPERATION to me—and if I have to give it a rating, it would be a very enthusiastic 4.5 out of 5.
If you enjoy the early work of Dean Koontz or just simply enjoy a good audiobook, please check out INTERFERENCE by Eric Luke. It’s $2.99 on Kindle, $9.49 in Paperback, and best of all, it’s completely free in podcast form on iTunes and Podiobooks. Just click play . . .
All the links you could ask for: