Audiobook Review: Night Train by David Quantick
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: 2 of 5 stars
Genre: Horror, Mystery
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Length: 8 hrs and 50 mins
Narrator: Eilidh Beaton
It’s interesting that on the cover of this one there is a blurb from Neil Gaiman, because Night Train actually feels like a story Gaiman could have written and that his fans would like. And I definitely mean that as a compliment.
However, despite the wildly imaginative concepts in this darkly eccentric horror, the style was simply not for me. To put it plainly, this book was just straight-up weird. So weird, I wouldn’t even know how I would go about summarizing the story, but here goes nothing. As the novel opens, a young woman wakes up on a train surrounded by corpses. She can’t remember who she is or how she got there, but decides to adopt the name Garland based on the name patch stitched to the uniform-like clothing she finds herself wearing.
As the train continues to hurtle through a nightmarish alien landscape, Garland soon discovers the presence of other passengers, who are just as frightened and confused as she is. As a group, they all decide to work together to make sense of their situation, beginning their exploration of the train by going from car to car. But instead of answers, they only find more strangeness, like bizarre creatures and pocket worlds of surreal and impossible environments. There is no rhyme or reason to the things they experience, as everything on their mysterious train seems to defy the laws of the real world.
I think I realized fairly early on that Night Train wasn’t for me, but I persisted anyway, hoping the story would start making sense. And in a very surface-level way, a rough framework of a plot did begin emerging after a certain point, but unfortunately, the disjointed and abstract structure of the book didn’t change one bit. Needless to say, I felt untethered and lost amidst all this ambiguity, and I struggled as a result.
That said, I will give this book some major points for humor, which was an element I did not expect in this strange dark tale. Clearly, the author used the laughs to emphasize the surrealism of it all, and I have to say he did with great effect. We mostly have the characters to thank for this, as well as the crackling dynamics that resulted from throwing together a group of confused strangers on a train from hell. The characters themselves were well-written, even the couple of those with personalities that were deliberately exaggerated or over-the-top. It made for some hilarious dialogue and lighter moments that left me howling.
But while the humor might have alleviated some of the frustration I felt from the confusing storyline, I couldn’t say I really enjoyed the book overall. In addition to the muddled plot, the overall mystery also dragged somewhat, ironically because the author kept ramping up the chaos by dropping our characters into increasingly crazy and nonsensical situations without giving up any solid answers. Bottom line, I can only put up with being left in the dark and going in circles for so long until I begin to lose my shit.
Ultimately, Night Train was not the book I expected, though I’m glad I plowed on if nothing else to experience the humor. But as a story, it simply felt too fragmented and confusing, leaving me lost for most of the time. That being said, I’m sure the book will find an audience. If you’re a fan of postmodern dark horror with a good dose of the weird and surreal, you may enjoy this.
Audiobook Comments: The narrator has a rather strong accent, one which made me listen the audio of Night Train on a slower speed setting than normal, at least until I could get used to her voice and pronunciations. But other than that, I found no issues with narration or production, had a good listen.