Title: The Listeners
Author: Harrison Demchick
Publication Date: December 17, 2012
Target Age Group: Adult
My Rating: 4 out of 5
Book Jacket Blurb:
It's a bit long to put the entire blurb here, so here's the beginning and end of it:
Before the plague, and the quarantine, fourteen-year-old Daniel Raymond had only heard of the Listeners. They were a gang, maybe even a cult, or at least that's what his best friend Katie's police officer father had said. They were criminals, thieves, monsters - deadly men clearly identifiable by the removal of their right ears.
That's what Daniel had heard. But he didn't know.
Daniel's mother went out for toilet paper. She never came back. He hasn't heard from Katie since the phones went dead. And with his real family gone and surrogate family unreachable, Daniel, scared and alone, has nothing except the walls of his apartment, the window shattered, the poisonous air seeping in.
That's when the Listeners arrive. Derek, the one-eared man with the big, soulful eyes, promises protection, and hope, and the choice not to sit alone and wait to die in some horrific way. He offers a brotherhood under the watch of their leader, the prophet Adam. He offers a place in the world to come.
This book is called a literary horror novel, which is interesting in light of a recent post I put up regarding plot-based vs. character-based novels, or genre vs. literary novels. This book seems to work well on both sides of the fence. You get to know Daniel, his personality and his world, but then there's movement in this novel as well. Daniel travels down literal roads, moving from the instability of his own apartment into the care of the Listeners and then out into this apocalyptic world that Harrison Demchick has created, but Daniel also travels down a road in his head toward a grim understanding of himself and how he fits in this new world and the consequences of the choices he makes throughout the novel. This balance is brilliantly executed in this novel.
I love how the plague and the walking-dead-like people it's left in its wake is simply the vehicle in which to place Daniel, his family and friends, this group of people known as the Listeners, and the police in this lawless microcosm. It's very reminiscent of Stephen King's Under the Dome, which is another book I enjoyed that explores these same themes.
If I have to say anything negative about the book, it would have to be the places where the novel strays from Daniel's point of view. Harrison Demchick doesn't spend nearly enough time letting us get to know the other characters for us to have a vested interest in them. This fact ALMOST caused me to rate this a 3 or a 3.5 out of 5, but because the writing is so well done and the rest of the book is so well executed - even the appearance of these other characters reminds me of a Pulp Fiction kind of plot where characters have intertwined stories - that I feel more comfortable rating it a 4 out of 5.
If you're looking for a horror novel that is less horrifying because of the traditional horrors of a plague and walking dead (which this book does have as its backdrop) but more horrifying because of the experiences of a teenage boy trying to survive in a lawless, dangerous environment where nothing is quite as it seems and the truth of his situation is elusive and truly horrifying when finally known, then this is the perfect book for you.