Wide Reeds, Arizona, is a small town on the Navajo reservation that you won’t find on any tourist map. The people who live there keep their secrets, their dreams, and their fears to themselves. But when a stranger with gold and turquoise eyes hitchhikes into town, the people of Wide Reeds learn that their secrets are no longer safe. Coyote (Ma’ii) - the trickster, thief, warrior, wizard, coward, clown, and savior - has come to call; and over the course of a year, life becomes strangely wonderful and terrifying.
In nine short stories and a novella that have been called part Sherman Alexie and part Stephen King, Coyote Tales leads listeners through the harsh and beautiful world of the modern Navajo Nation. Tracing the traditional yearly cycle of Early Dawn, Blue Daylight, and Evening Twilight, the separate paths of each story lead to the same Folding Darkness. And the only way out of that darkness is to follow the tracks of Coyote.
This book is a collection of stories with a Navajo influence that only adds to the telling. Cayenne Chris Conroy is a long-experienced audio artist-cum-narrator with a solid grasp of voice, tenor, and character. The two meet in a perfect storm of an audiobook I couldn't stop listening to.
The stories pull no punches and don't apologize for offending the reader or making them uncomfortable. That only makes them more fascinating and addictive, really. The short-story lengths don't detract from the individual tales; they were written to be consumed in sips, not long draughts. The characters are complex and interesting without long back stories and Cayenne carries them higher than the words alone ever could.
This audiobook makes a good gift, like many stand alone books. The stories don't require a prior love for Native stories, horror or strange fiction, or even audiobooks in general. The stories are just good. The reader is just good. "Coyote Tales" is great.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Like another reviewer here, I first heard a few of Jim Bihyeh's tales on a podcast. Out of the hundreds of tales of I have heard on that particular program, I must say Bihyeh's were among the few that stood out to me over the others. They are well written, well performed by Conroy and most importantly, unique.
The stories are saturated in Navajo folklore, and to me, that is something I have seldom (if ever) have come across outside of an actual book written about a particular culture's folklore. Not only are you listening to captivating stories, but you feel as if you're learning a little something about the Navajo culture throughout the collection's entirety, which is definitely a plus for me or any avid reader for that matter.
These stories reminded me of reading legends and mythology when I was a child. Full of mysticism, magic, superstition.... but here these things seem almost believable. The look into the lives of the characters of each story paints an all too realistic world while there are dark forces at work all around them. When Coyote crosses your path, he can give hope, he can break you, he does as he pleases. Sometimes you aren't sure whether he's the bad guy or the good guy.
Conroy gives an almost perfect voice to these stories. His interpretation of Bihyeh's writing is impeccable. I am surprised to see that there are only 9 reviews of this collection so far. Any horror or fantasy enthusiast would enjoy these. Heck, I believe anyone would!
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Like many others I began listening to Jim Bihyeh and the excellent readings that Cayenne Chris Conroy gives of Bihyeh's work. The stories feel very grounded and the characters believable even though awesome and massive events are unfolding around them. The lives of the characters feel, sound, and smell real although they are constantly being invaded by forces that they can barely comprehend, let alone have any effect on.
The natural sounding dialogue is to me one of the single strongest parts of this collection and it is truly brought to life by Conroy's excellent acting. He reads each character with a distinctive and immediately recognizable tone that makes the characters seem so much like real people that I found myself forgetting that they were all coming from one person.
There is a sense with Bihyeh's writing that he is not a mere tourist who did some research for his book, visited the rez for a couple of weeks, and then decided how these people really should be instead of how they actually are. There are no noble savages here but there are some decent people.
Bihyeh has written his characters as varied and as flawed as actual humans. This naturalness quickly immerses the reader into this world and makes us give a damn about the characters. This also makes it heart-wrenching when the subtle horrors of Navajo magic begin to take their toll.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
Yes. If you enjoy a a blend of fantasy, terror, Native American folklore and well written characters. This book flows from one story to the next with a connecting thread flowing
through all of them. That with the combination of a skilled reader makes this a credit worthy
What other book might you compare Coyote Tales to and why?
I can see many influences the author drew from. Stephen King, Neil Gaimen and many others. The stories themselves are unique and rich in detail and atmosphere.
What does Cayenne Chris Conroy bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
I felt he was very skillful at finding a proper voice for the characters and pacing for the stories themselves. He read a little fast at the start, but then slowed down. That worked much better. I look forward to more of his work.
If you could rename Coyote Tales, what would you call it?
After finishing the book the title works perfectly. I sensed a sequel and will look forward to it.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Enjoyed the book, great stories with a Dine' twist. The reader does very well, very animated.
What made the experience of listening to Coyote Tales the most enjoyable?
I really enjoyed these first three stories as stand-alone pieces. Then, I listen to this as a whole and they weave a cohesive whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Maybe they were adjusted slightly for the collection, but if they were I can’t find the seams. Every single story in this collection is worth your time. The creepy imagery in “Black Body” felt very resonant with King’s IT. I was pleasantly surprised by all the almost documentarian approach to uncomfortable and difficult situations (like abortion, parenthood, abuse, and euthanasia) without ever feeling didactic.
I love how these stories are linked but do not rely on one another. The setting is compelling and opens a window into a culture that is often overlooked. It is fully populated with a broad range of human beings who are interesting and complex and uniquely burdened.
I came to this collection via PseudoPod. If you want a sample of what to expect, check out the first three stories there.
What about Cayenne Chris Conroy’s performance did you like?
Cayenne Chris Conroy has done a bunch of awesome narrations at Pseudopod and his prior work encouraged me to check the whole collection out.
Any additional comments?
Coyote is a real jerk. He uses everyone for personal gain and chaos and sometimes they come out a little less worse for wear. But I can’t say he’s a monster. He’s easy to empathize with, to be angry with, and to fear.
Where does Coyote Tales rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
one of the best audiobooks i've got. Have listened multiple times, always enjoyed.
Any additional comments?
Perfect pairing of author and narrator.
What did you love best about Coyote Tales?
I have heard Bihyeh's work on a podcast and was really excited to see he had finally put out a collection. It is similar to some of Stephen King's horror, but with Navajo folklore. A great listen!