Audiobook Review: A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor
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: 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Short Stories, Horror
Publisher: Random House Audio (November 8, 2022)
Length: 8 hrs and 17 mins
Narrators: C. J. Tudor, Richie Campbell, Dakota Blue Richards, Roy McMillan, Richard Armitage, Adam Sims
After reading her four novels, I’ve become quite the fan of C.J. Tudor, so when she released her first short story collection, I decided to throw caution to the wind and check out the audiobook edition of A Sliver of Darkness.
In the interest of full disclosure though, I’m not really a big reader of short fiction, and unfortunately, this collection reminded me why. I’m the type of reader who prefers to settle in with a book where the plot, setting, and characters are given plenty of time to develop, which in turn gives me the time to feel more connected to them. I can’t say I got that with most of the stories here, though it wasn’t a complete loss, as there were a few gems that stood out. All together there are eleven tales in this collection, but I will only comment on a handful in this review—mainly those that stood out to me, for better or worse.
We’ll begin with the stories that impressed me, and by far my favorite was “Runaway Blues”. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was also a favorite for many others as this one felt meatier and more substantial than a lot of the other stories in here. The author took the time to build up the creepy atmosphere so that when the ending revelation was finally revealed, she stuck a perfect landing. Huge props also to the narrator of this story, whose nailed the 1930s blues bar vibes and accents.
Another standout to me was “End of the Liner”. Imagine it’s the apocalypse and you’ve survived by spending last fifty years living in a dystopian society board a Disney-like cruise ship sailing endlessly around the world. Once a passenger reaches their 75th birthday though, they are forcibly “retired” in a macabre ceremony that involves the entire ship. This one was a great opener that set the tone for the rest of the offerings in this book, letting the reader know to expect the eerie, the twisted, and the uncanny.
I also really enjoyed “Completion” which was a surprise, since the main character in it was so thoroughly unlikeable! What I loved about it was so how unabashedly over-the-top it was, and the ending was so unexpectedly bizarre and steeped in dark humor that I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Butterfly Island” was a fun read too. No pretenses or anything too complicated about this one, which had B-horror movie vibes and could have been something more if it hadn’t ended so quickly and abruptly. But then, that was my one complaint about pretty much all of these.
In the end, I also didn’t find too many stories that were as memorable. I wouldn’t say any of them were bad, just too short to register as more than a blip and to be forgotten as soon as they were finished. Most of them fell into this category, like the “The Block”, “Dust”, or “Final Course”. All had great concepts, but like I said, a great concept alone won’t carry a story for me.
And finally, there were a couple stories that read more like thought experiments, and these simply did not do anything for me at all. “I’m Not Ted” immediately comes to mind, and in a way, so did “The Lion at the Gate.” Again, neat concept, but nope on the execution.
That said, one thing I do want to highlight about this collection, and what I thought was an amazing addition, was the author’s notes that preceded each story. In some cases, I enjoyed learning about the inspiration and process that went into writing the story more so than the story itself. Tudor is such a talented writer, and it was fascinating for me to see where she gets some of her ideas. As an extra bonus, Tudor narrated these forewords herself, which made them feel more personal, especially as some of her commentary included details of her family life. I’m still a big fan of her work, but I think I’ve had my fill of her short stories for now, and I’m much more excited about the fact that her next project will be another novel.