I'll come clean from the start - I had an extra credit and nothing I particularly wanted to spend it on this month. My first credit went on Joe Hill's excellent new book, Horns - the second went on The Waiting Room almost at random. I've been pretty disappointed by a lot of the new horror that's come out over the last year or so, but it's books like The Waiting Room that make me try to keep abreast of them as much as possible.
The concept of the book is hardly the most original - listening made me think of Stephen King's Pet Sematary, M.R. James, Lovecraft and the like, and the ghost hunter angle's also fairly popular now - but most horror is very derivative now, and the way this book is written, coupled with David Ritoul's excellent reading, results in a subtle, genuinely disturbing but oddly comforting narrative. The atmosphere it creates reminds me fondly of the kind of ghost story classically told around the fireside, which I enjoyed immensely. There's very little violence and hardly any gore - the horror aspect is more atmospheric and subtle than that, which I admire in a genre increasingly affected by movies. Not that there's anything wrong with gore if it's done well, I just like to have the option.
Um - that probably got a bit wordy. Basically though, if you have a spare audible credit & are looking for a good piece of horror fiction, I'd really recommend The Waiting Room. If you enjoy this, you might enjoy Dark Matter (Michelle Paver) or maybe The Passage (by Justin Cronin), both of which are available on Audible (unfortunately I don't know a lot about F.G. Cottam's other works).
If you've listened to or read Bentley Little's The Collection (also on audible), you may well be wary of trying this book - even as a pretty hardcore fan of horror as a genre, I found stories in The Collection difficult to listen to (and often to stomach). Don't worry though - The Haunted is a much easier listen, and well worth the download.
It's a fairly standard haunted house story, but it's very well written and honestly compelling. From the comfortable, engaging trials and troubles of an american middle class family, the narrative turns in a heartbeat to something much more disturbing and other worldly. You find yourself waiting for the next thing to happen, but you're often genuinely surprised when it does. Unlike The Collection, which was very much about short, massive shocks, this is much more subtle. I've been very disappointed with horror releases on audible lately, but this book is a very welcome change from the general trend and well worth a credit.
I'm always hungry for collections of good short stories, especially horror, and often disappointed by what gets released. Thirteen, though, has everything I look for in a collection - good stories and great narration, with excellent sound effects and music as a very welcome (and effective) bonus.
The stories themselves are pretty diverse in terms of content, and while some are inevitably stronger than others, none of them are less than enjoyable to listen to, delivering genuine scares and a lingering atmosphere of building tension throughout. The collection even includes a modern-day retelling of the much-loved "the monkey's paw" and, though personally this is my least favourite tale, I have to admire the effort to bring the classic to a new audience.
The narration is excellent, as diverse as the stories themselves, and none of the actors involved deliver anything less than a brilliant performance. So many audio books suffer from poor narration, which, for me, can sometimes ruin a decent story entirely - I'm delighted to say that Thirteen doesn't fall in to this group.
Overall - it's definitely worthy of a place in any horror fan's collection, and I only wish it was called 14 or 25 or 62. Really hoping for a Thirteen volume 2 in the near future.