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Editorial Reviews

Laird Barron's debut novel plays to his strengths as a short story writer by fragmenting the chapters with a mind suffering from senile dementia. Flashbacks and forgetfulness build character of Don, a doomed man walking the edge of cosmic horror that the listener alone perceives, like a killer waiting in a closet.

The delicate-voiced Emily Zeller highlights how expertly and carefully Barron chooses his words, and also allows The Croning's horror to sneak up and stab the listener when it unexpectedly rears its hideous head. The quiet, exacting sweetness of Zeller's performance offsets the coldness of Barron's universe, its indifference to human suffering, and the sureness of its ultimate victory.

Publisher's Summary

Strange things exist on the periphery of our existence, haunting us from the darkness looming beyond our firelight. Black magic, weird cults, and worse things loom in the shadows. The Children of Old Leech have been with us from time immemorial. And they love us....

Donald Miller, geologist and academic, has walked along the edge of a chasm for most of his nearly 80 years, leading a charmed life between endearing absent-mindedness and sanity-shattering realization. Now, all things must converge. Donald will discover the dark secrets along the edges, unearthing savage truths about his wife Michelle, their adult twins, and all he knows and trusts. For Donald is about to stumble on the secret... of The Croning.

From Laird Barron, Shirley Jackson Award-winning author of The Imago Sequence and Occultation, comes The Croning, a debut novel of cosmic horror.

©2012 Laird Barron (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"It’s a rare year in which a superabundance of fine horror novels — novels that reward rereading — appears. That said, most years bring at least a handful of novels whose titles can stand to be mentioned alongside Matheson’s I Am Legend, Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, and King’s The Shining. To this year’s list, add Laird Barron’s The Croning." ( Los Angeles Review of Books)

What listeners say about The Croning

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

where are parental advisory warnings

I really do not need that kind of letter to playboy without warning, thank you.

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This was bad

This is very odd. I would not recommend

Just awful writing that sounds extremely amateurish

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Needs concentration

I found it a little convoluted at the beginning and thought of giving up.
I persevered and finally was able to follow the thread to an ending that made the book clearer. Ending was satisfying.
just an added note to say that mispronunciations by the narrator were mildly annoying.

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Too much build up not enough pay off =(

This book has the common issue many other cosmic horror stories have. The pay off is disappointing.

The story jumps around in time with a old man as our main character. It's just a shame nothing really happens. Sure he is likeable... But when the only time things actually start getting a bit weird is well into the last hour of the book something is wrong. And what then? Do we get a climax? No. We get an old man dying in a bed.

Decent performance. Shame about the book

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The most Lovecraft thing I have read in a while.

This book drew me in very fast as a horror fan, it creates a malevolence and corruption in the first few chapters equal to some of the genre's finest. I loved the atmosphere and unfolding terror of the first third of this book but as quickly as it starts, towards the middle it began to vanish into what I call Stephenkingitis.

This phenomenon is when I feel an author goes to a great deal of effort to building backdrop to events, but slows the story down to a crawl. I feel this dominates the mid third of the book, frustrating me a bit but Laird ends up playing his hand in the final act to sort of justify what I felt was disjointed unrelated memories. During this final act, I really enjoyed the character development and naked horror that returns to bring it all back together, dwarfing us with the staggering implications. I felt like this was one of the better horror novels I have read in recent years and I would recommend it heartily to fans of horror and Lovecraft.

Emily Zeller did a excellent job narrating and giving distinction to different characters in the novel. I know some other people did not enjoy her masculine or child characters but I didn't mind them, I felt chilled by some of her female character's voice.

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  • Old ManParker
  • 17-10-2012

Great Writer - Good story - VERY Wrong Reader,

Is there anything you would change about this book?

YES! The narrator! Laird Barron writes Horror Noir - a dark & scary cross of Mikey Spillane & H. P. Lovecraft. He is bound for not just being good, but being GREAT. He writes from a first person view of gritty tough-guys that have stepped right out of a violent 1940's crime pulp novel. His characters gruffly talk about their cocks, and middle age, and death, and killing, and horror. Audible, for some strange reason, chose the very beautiful, young, very feminine voice of "Emily Zeller" to read you this story. This story: of a tough old man facing cosmic inhuman mind-bending vile evil.
It's like picking "Hanna Montanna" to sing KISS's "Destroyer" album. It's as wrong as "The Captain and Tennille" singing Judas Priest's "Sad Wings of Destiny" Album, or Metalica's "Black" album. Julie Andrews should NOT sing Rob Zombie's "Hellbilly Deluxe"!
Ya' gettin' me here?
It just don't work!
The greatest reader of H. P. Lovecraft work is "Wayne June". His voice is deep, rough, and sounds like he's had a life of first hand experience of... evil things, he's walked to the edge of the pit, looked in, and made it back.
Do you want to hear Laird Barron and a correct narrator? I urge you now to go to "Tales To Terrify" (the pod cast) and listen to episode # 40. Listen to "Frontier Death Song" by Laird Barron and read by "David Robison". David has a whiskey and smokes rough voice that turns Laird's tough, noir, words into cryptic-dark-spine-freezing passages punched out of the Necronomicon by way of a 40's detective radio show wearing brass knucles. Awesome.
Don't get me wrong, Emily Zeller is a fine reader.
I want Emily Zeller to read me "The Hobbit".
Or "Lord of the Rings". Something with Elves in it.
What I DON'T want is Emily Zelle, who sounds like my cute 20 year old niece, telling me about HER dick "shooting blanks"... I don't even want to think about her thinking about things like that, let alone trying her best to sound "tough" and "mean" and middle aged, and well, male.
OK, maybe a woman could have narrated this book. However, she needs to sound like she could eat bullets and spit nails. She needs "the chops" to do it - she needs the sound in her voice of a life of hard drinking, smoking, heart breaking, and ass-kicking.
Audible - you forgot the golden first rule on this one!!!
RULE #1.) You need to know the book, and you need to know the narrator and "IF" they will work together. This is maybe one of the worst choices of reader for this novel. We needed "Mickey Rourke" , instead we got "Annette Funicello"!

What did you like best about this story?

Laird Barron is a good talent, becoming GREAT!

How could the performance have been better?

You needed "David Robison", or "Wayne June" to read this, NOT "Emily Zeller".

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Yes.

Any additional comments?

Please know the material and put it together with the right reader! This is a good/ maybe great horror noir book, but it's hard to tell because the narration is done by the wrong person.

57 people found this helpful

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  • Wendigo1
  • 10-03-2015

Skip the audiobook, buy the novel.

Would you try another book from Laird Barron and/or Emily Zeller?

Barron, yes. I have and would buy other books of his. Zeller I'm not sure about.

What did you like best about this story?

The slow burn would have been nice with the right narrator.

Would you be willing to try another one of Emily Zeller’s performances?

Zeller is problematic. Her narration is fine but her in character voices sound like a little girl doing impressions of grownups. It just sounds goofy and this isn't the book for that. She'd have done better just to do the voices naturally and hope for the best. I swear some of the female character's voices are so high pitched at times it sounds like Edith Bunker without the accent. She might be great for children's books or really anything but dark gritty pulp horror if she'd stay away from the goofy voices.

Was The Croning worth the listening time?

It's all I'm going to get because I don't have time to sit down and read these days. But if I had a choice I'd rather have read the book.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Daniel O. Williams
  • 26-02-2014

Very problematic narration performance

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

I really wanted to like this audiobook, but the narration really killed the experience.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Croning?

The slow reveal.

What didn’t you like about Emily Zeller’s performance?

The decision to use a young female narrator to perform a hard-boiled story about an old man's masculinity in the face of cosmic horror was an audacious one that doesn't pay off. Zeller has poor cadence, spotty pronunciation, and wobbly voice acting skills. All the characters are squeaky and singsongy. A story which could have been rich, scary, sad, and dramatic just clunks along from dud to dud. Disappointing.

18 people found this helpful

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  • Casey A. Wollberg
  • 10-12-2020

terrible narration...cliche gender role inversion

i like barrons short weird fiction stuff, and that mostly shines through here. but he spends way too much time with a hamhanded attempt at portraying the tired cliche of the weak dopey husband paired with and dominated by a flawless and powerful wife. its sitcom level cringe. and the narration is ridiculous. all her male voices sound like Saturday morning cartoon characters. they should be delivering lines like, 'golly gee willikers!' and 'shuckydarn' instead of showing up in a gritty tale of cosmic horror. and what is with the mispronounciation of common English words? how does one get into a profession like this without developing a suffiently large speaking vocabulary?

2 people found this helpful

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  • ben
  • 05-10-2017

great start and finish but middle was meh

This felt like it should have been a short story, but instead the editor allowed a couple hundred pages of filler in the middle.

Female narrator had a very high voice for a primarily male cast and I felt it was distracting to listen to.

2 people found this helpful

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  • guitarplayer
  • 16-11-2020

Perhaps laird barrons best book

I don’t often write reviews but the way this novel folds in on itself is wonderful. Humorous and spooky at the same time, I enjoyed the entire thing. The narrator was good, I don’t understand why everyone is so down on her?

1 person found this helpful

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  • Stephen
  • 15-08-2018

Narrator was Ideal for the Material

Narrator choice was ideal and I think the people who say otherwise have missed the point. She was subtle and delicate in her delivery, which is what this book needed because the central story was about a brittle, old man who can't save himself from a monstrous conspiracy. Her delivery of the book's final lines was chilling.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Ben
  • 23-10-2017

Interesting concept with poor execution

The first few scenes in this story are deceptively gripping. After the incident in the 1950s, the narrator slogs through hours of mostly pointless and clunky elbow rubbing between forgettable and prententious characters. The transitions between the 80s and the present day are confusing, at least in the audio format.

SPOILER: Perhaps this effect is intended to reflect Don's state of mind, but it did not seem that way. Perhaps there is more literary depth and symbolism than I'm privy to. Regardless, this is not a good choice for horror entertainment during your daily commute, in my opinion.

The last two hours or so are far more enjoyable than what comes before.

The narrator, however - ugh. Her narrating voice is fine, but her character voices are often so ill-fitting and obnoxious as to nearly ruin the entire experience. I would greatly recommend skipping the audio book and reading this in paper format.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Gary Girod
  • 02-09-2021

Good horror

Fantastic beginning and end. Drags in the middle. Well-written, good delivery by the reader.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Scott Ellis
  • 20-07-2021

The Droning

Strong points in the book, the beginning and end specifically, however it drones on in the middle. Found myself rewinding multiple times as I lost focus and wasn't paying attention. Narration was fine, very consistent voices and pacing, doesn't add to the story but tells it spot on.

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  • Rose
  • 26-03-2016

quack novelist selling suspect literature to a gullible public

This book has what I have come to term the emperor's new clothes syndrome written all over it. In other words I'm not exactly surprised it won a horror award. it's just bad enough to be the kind of thing judges go for because they probably haven't read half the cooks shortlisted and it adds prestige to the title making it easier to sell to the public who love it just because it's won an award and they feel they just have to like it. They don't actually and not everybody does. I don't for one.

The narator is very good. it's just a shame she had to read such dross as this. It was written for television by a writer who, like so many others, is too dumb even to be aware that a question mark is not followed by the word 'said' but then as a reader you just have to get used to that.

If you like visual effects and have enough imagination to see the movie potential in this book then you might get something out of this. The plot is really pretty good. It's just the writing of it that lets it down.

5 people found this helpful

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