Jon Padgett's The Secret of Ventriloquism, named the Best Fiction Book of 2016 by Rue Morgue Magazine, heralds the arrival of a significant new literary talent. With themes reminiscent of Shirley Jackson, Thomas Ligotti, and Bruno Schulz, but with a strikingly unique vision, Padgett's work explores the mystery of human suffering, the agony of personal existence, and the ghastly means by which someone might achieve salvation from both.
A bullied child seeks vengeance within a bed's hollow box spring. A lucid dreamer is haunted by an impossible house. A dummy reveals its own anatomy in 20 simple steps. A stuttering librarian holds the key to a mill town's unspeakable secrets. A commuter's worldview is shattered by two words printed on a cardboard sign. An aspiring ventriloquist spends a little too much time looking at himself in a mirror. And a presence speaks through them all.
©2016 Jon Padgett (P)2016 Jon Padgett
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I've been excited about this book since it was announced and I'm pleased to say it was worth the wait. Jon Padgett has created a mythology, no a universe populated with characters eccentric and horrific where nothing is at all what it seems.
The author as reader is always an excellent idea as who knows their character's thoughts better than the god who created them?
"Being a ventriloquist is a lot of fun"
Yes, I would and have recommended "The Secret of Ventriloquism" to many people, but not everyone has what it takes to become a greater ventriloquist. Some people that I have recommended this audiobook to won't talk to me anymore. I'm fine with that. Those people are dummies.
I love this whole book, but as with any good instructional tome; I try to memorize as much as I can with each listen. The more you memorize the better you will become. I have listened to this book many times and I will listen many more.
I cannot imagine anyone other than Jon Padgett narrating this audiobook. When I read this book for reference and instruction it is his voice that I hear in my head making my dummy eyes move across the page.
This is a dark nightmarish fever dream that unfolds into the path of greater ventriloquism. Five spindly stars.
"Terrifying Ligottian-esque tales of horror"
This book was incredible. If you like Thomas Ligotti's brand of horror, this book will not disappoint. Jon Padgett, the author, lends his years of experience as a ventriloquist both to his stories and to the creepy, creepy voices of his characters, dummy and animal-dummy alike.
"Eerie, Linked Stories"
The way the world descends into the uncanny and the way that the linked stories invite you to make subtle connections between them.
Jeffrey Ford has stories that remind of some things here. Because of the linkages, I also thought of Millhauser's Enchanted Night, though these stories are linked more glancingly.
Really enjoyed this. A dark and creepy world, but often with a bit of the cartoony about it, which works well. I enjoy a voice that has a spark of wittiness in it, and Padgett's has more than a spark.
"Organ Void" is a story that makes me slightly hesitant to recommend this. Not that it's so shocking, but if there's a line for most people, that story is on the other side of it.
"Superb writing and brooding atmosphere"
A dark and brooding collection of Ligotti inspired shorts. Make no mistake about it though, the superb writing and brooding atmosphere is all Padgett.
Plus, everybody knows ventriloquist dummies are creepy.
Ligotti would be proud.
"Become a Greater Ventriloquist"
This is an incredible collection, both dark and imaginative. Also, even though this is a collection of short stories rather than a single novel, it very effectively uses repeated motifs and common set-pieces to posit its very own mythos of lesser and greater ventriloquists. Lesser ventriloquists are those we're familiar with, voice throwers and puppeteers, the greater variety? They can make dummies of the very world around them, pulling peoples strings to tragic and devastating effect. The structure of these stories vary from straight-forward storytelling to the truest form of non-linear dream-logic imaginable. This is profoundly unique and intelligent weird-horror fiction, and I couldn't recommend it more.
Yes. Jon's narration adds so much to the already amazing stories.
Closest comparisons would have to be authors such as Thomas Ligotti, Laird Barron, H.P. lovecraft, Poe, and Orrin Grey. They match in tone and quality.
No need to rename it. It's the perfect title for what it is.
I suggest purchasing an book or physical copy as well as the audiobook. If I were only able to purchase one and was on the fence about which, I'd go with the audiobook. As I stated before, Padgett's tone and pace add so much more to the already heavy fear factor.
"A stand out collection of the weird!"
Jon Padgett in his debut collection slowly builds up details and suggestions until you are experiencing the stuff of nightmares. This is about as good as it gets for fans of the supernatural or weird. For those more inclined towards more straight horror or gore--look elsewhere!
"Stunning Modern Weird!"
At this point after the release of Jon Padgett's debut collection it isn’t really a question of whether or not you should purchase and read a copy of The Secret of Ventriloquism. If that were a question the answer and therefore the review would be a succinct yes.
There is no such thing as a perfect book, The Secret of Ventriloquism however might be a contender for the title if there were such a thing.
Everything about Padgett’s book beckons the reader to enter it’s macabre and despairing world. The cover art by Dave Felton is truly creepy. The introduction by Matt Cardin is enticing, flattering and scholarly all at once. Most importantly the stories contained inside are truly marvelous.
I have read TheSecret of Ventriloquism about three times now, and listened to it all the way through once.
When I first discovered Padgett by reading 20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism in the anthology Grimscribe's Puppets, I was immediately hooked.
It soon became apparent to me that Padgett has been quietly moving in the dark corners of the weird fiction world for some time. Running Thomas Ligotti Online, as well as appearing in the wonderful podcast Pseudopod as a narrator.
On Pseudopod he narrates both his own stories, and the stories of others. It is these episodes of the podcast that I would often return to while working at my place of employment. I work in a machine shop so Padgett’s clear annunciation, and steady pacing is appreciated because it can be heard over the din of the environment. The recording Pseudopod has of 20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism is an instant classic, with record scratches and a deadpan delivery by Padgett. At times Padgett’s voice reminds me of the actor Jeffrey Combs.
Judging by the quality of his already released work it was a no brainer to pre-order of a copy Jon Padgett’s debut collection The Secret of Ventriloquism when it was announced. To those that missed out, the hardcover, illustrated edition was well worth the expense.
There is not a single weak story in The Secret of Ventriloquism, every short is a chilling invitation to temporarily inhabit Dunnstown. A bizarre city that has been intruded upon (or created by) a malignant god-like entity. All of the stories explicitly take place here except for the first two, although they could easily be part of the setting.
This review is intended to more explicitly address the audiobook version of The Secret of Ventriloquism.
Jon Padgett narrates the entire book and does an excellent job in doing so.
Just as it is a satisfying reading experience the book is a satisfying, even sublime listening experience. Different stories take on a different life while listened to as apposed to read. Thus in the different medium the strengths and weaknesses of the different tales can be observed in a new light.
When I read the book, it seemed to me like Organ Void was one of the weaker stories. I read it in a more languid, casual pace. When narrated by the author the story has a more frantic and staccato sound, and during portions of it Padgett raps the prose like a crazed beatnik.
The titular story The Secret of Ventriloquism, which is a play, is unique in a number of ways. First of all it does not stand on its own in a way that some of the other pieces do. Although it would be unnerving and surreal otherwise, the play heavily relies on the context of the other stories.
Despite this Padgett’s audio performance of The Secret of Ventriloquism is absolutely unmissable. His inflections and character voices are intense and distinct. My favorite voice he uses is that of his “dummy voice” for Reggie. Which is hilarious and frightening at the same time.
When read, the one act play hums with malice. When listened to, it sings with dark intent.
Escape to Thin Mountain also transcends the written word in the audio book. There is no way that Little Evie’s strange singing is performed by the author.
On the flip side of this coin is The Infusorium, which is one of the most important stories in the book. At times the narration becomes too quiet, and I missed scenes that I was excited to listen to.
The Secret of Ventriloquism definitely warrants more than one reading, and upon the second, or even third reading one wonders if perhaps the stories would have benefited from being arranged in a different order.
The Indoor Swamp, a masterpiece about a nightmarish landscape is well placed and lends weight to a scene in Origami Dreams. The last story in the book Escape to Thin Mountain also references The Indoor Swamp.
Origami Dreams and The Infusorium are heavily connected, and I wonder if some of the more subtle allusions in Origami Dreams would have more impact if the reader had read The Infusorium first.
20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism brought Padgett’s work to everyone’s attention, and I can envision it becoming to the author like the song Blitzkrieg Bop is to the Ramones. It is a lovely work of art, that already has a dedicated fan following and it is so sublime, and so well crafted that it informs, and at times overshadows the other stories.
Because Dunnstown’s current state, perhaps its very existence is due to the mad ventriloquist Joseph Snavely’s actions, maybe 20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism should have been the third story in the book as opposed to the fifth.
Despite this nitpicking The Secret of Ventriloquism shows a dramatic and thematic unity that is extremely rare in short story collections. If you are a similar reader to me, you will become infatuated with the world of Dunnstown and your brain will stay there long after your eyes or ears have left the page.
It has been difficult to write this review because there is so much to say about this book. This book is a literary exercise in dread and divine masochism.
For everything there is to be written about The Secret of Ventriloquism, there are a thousands thoughts to be had. These musings would require a more skilled linguist than I to put into words.
The final observation I will make is that Padgett is a master of closing lines. Murmurs of a Voice Foreknown is just a grimly humorous tale until the last line in which it becomes a full blown exercise in dread. The last sentence of Origami Dreams will prick the corners of your eyes with tears out of pity for the poor narrator, especially when one listens to its delivery in the audio version.
Stop reading my ramblings! My mind is ravaged from too much time spent in Dunnstown.
Buy your ticket here so that you can join me in this tortured place. This surreal and terrible town where the Paper Mill days get longer every year.
Purchase this book and let Jon Padgett put you together.
"Creepy in the wrong way"
Characters that I care about. That's what makes horror gripping. The first story about the two brothers was the best. I really did care about the tormented little brother, but I didn't get that again with any other story.
Yes, the narrator had the drama and passion down, but lacked the vocal chops. That's a gift, either you have the right voice to carry a five hour performance or you don't. I think that authors make the worst narrators. You need an actor to read.
Some real interesting ideas that just weren't executed in a satisfying way.
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