Audiobook Review: The Brink by James S. Murray with Darren Wearmouth
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Horror
Series: Book 2 of Awakened
Publisher: HarperAudio (June 18, 2019)
Length: 8 hrs and 3 mins
Narrator: James S. Murray
The Brink by James S. Murray and Darren Wearmouth is the sequel to the supernatural horror-thriller Awakened, which introduced a terrifying threat to the world in the form of an ancient breed of subterranean monsters. Compared to the first book, it is even edgier, bloodier, crazier—and fun for what it’s worth. At times the story gets to be so over the top it’s hard to take seriously, but as long as you go into the novel knowing what to expect, it has great potential to be an enjoyable summer popcorn read.
Picking things up following the events at the end of Awakened, The Brink follows now former New York City mayor Tom Cafferty who has become a changed man ever since surviving the horrors of the subway tunnels beneath the Hudson River. The encounter with the monsters has made him realize that humanity is under threat, and that New York isn’t the only place these bloodthirsty creatures have established a stronghold. All across the globe, they have been planning in their underground nests, preparing and growing stronger for the day they will finally conquer the sun and reclaim the world from humans.
One clandestine organization has known about these creatures for generations, and they been completely devoted to the goal of eradicating them from the planet. However, far from being altruistic, the head of this organization, a fanatical megalomaniac named Van Ness, is trying to hold the leaders of major countries hostage, demanding billions in payment for the knowledge on how to fight the creatures. Needless to say, the United States with its position on never negotiating with terrorists will have none of it, but Van Ness also holds all the cards, threatening the president with large-scale destruction and millions of Americans dead unless he gets what he wants. With their hands tied, the US government must put their trust in Cafferty and his team to infiltrate Van Ness’ organization which is situated in the heart one of the largest creature nests in the world, and pray that they put a stop to his plans before it is too late.
From Awakened to The Brink, there’s a noticeable effort to raise the stakes as well as a definite shift from a creepy and oppressive atmosphere to a flat-out action-horror thriller complete with a completely exaggerated Bond villain-type bad guy and a death toll in the millions. The authors are no longer keeping the monsters a localized threat in the subway tunnels beneath the city of New York; they’re taking things global and showing just how badly the human race is screwed. These creatures, now that they’ve been revealed, are also featured much more prominently in this sequel, and from the descriptions of their physical appearance and behavior, it’s obvious they are heavily influenced by the Alien franchise. In fact, I all but pictured them as the xenomorphs in my mind—not that it’s such bad thing, mind you, considering how terrified I was of those movies growing up. Still, I have to say I missed some of the more irresistible horror elements from the first book, including the claustrophobic mood and edge-of-your-seat suspense. It’s like the authors made a conscious decision not to waste time with the subtleties in this follow-up, turning up the campiness and blood-and-gore instead.
For one thing, we have a villain who’s so over-the-top evil and extreme he comes across as a goofy caricature. Shockingly, the creatures in The Brink aren’t the scariest thing in the novel, for that distinction belongs to Van Ness. The man is pure crazy. As the son a Nazi soldier, he’s hell bent on bringing back the Third Reich, but only after he has purged the world of the monsters and “impure” races so that civilization can start over. He also has no qualms about turning the entire planet into a nuclear wasteland in order to bring his vision about. The man operates out of a state-of-the-art underground lair with the monsters he claims to hate so much, protected by his unquestioning minions and billions of dollars’ worth in high-tech lasers, I kid you not. And of course, we mustn’t forget his pet peeve for naughty language, because all cheesy villains need an eccentric quirk.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to take The Brink too seriously, which is a shame because the first book really knocked it out of the park with regards to striking a balance between hair-raising horror and irreverent campy entertainment. Murray and Wearmouth carried things a bit too far in the latter direction this time, a shift that threw me off somewhat, I confess. Still, if you’re looking for a fun creature feature-type read and don’t mind if things get a little (okay, a lot) farfetched, give it a shot for your beach reading list this summer.
Audiobook Comments: Once again, I had the pleasure of listening to James “Murr” Murray narrate his own book, which definitely added an extra dimension of immersion since no one knows the story better. I think some of his accents could have been better, but overall his voice work was superb and it’s clear his theater and television experience has served him well.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Awakened (Book 1)