Title: The Fetishists
Author: A.S. Coomer
Publisher: Grindhouse Press
Audiobook Narrator: Sean Duregger
Thanks to A.S. Coomer’s The Fetishists, I now know what a “ponygirl” is. This information does nothing for me, of course, as I don’t imagine this answer ever popping up on Jeopardy, but that is really the name of the game for The Fetishists. This novel – which I guess could be classified as horror, but is really just the definition of torture porn – offers up virtually nothing of value, and just didn’t do a damn thing for me.
In The Fetishists, we follow Jefferson, who is having one hell of a weekend. All we know about Jefferson is that he has money and status thanks to his career as a lawyer. Oh, and he has some crazy, hardcore fetishes, the main one being the desire to have a ponygirl. Really, though, this breaks down to his desire to have full control over a woman; he wants to completely dominate her in every way imaginable. Between consenting adults, this is totally acceptable, of course. Here, though, Jefferson takes things too far thanks to a combination of power, sex, and drugs, and he remains an unlikable prick the entire time.
The first half of Jefferson’s story switches between the previous night, and the next morning. The scenes of the next morning are where Jefferson finds himself bloody, hazy about the night before, and missing a couple fingers. He quickly discovers that the events of the previous night have been taken to the extreme, and he must then figure out how he is going to get himself out of the situation.
About halfway through, The Fetishists basically flips the script, and even though we continue to follow Jefferson’s story, the situation is completely different. This change was interesting enough, but it was never really explained, came abruptly, and didn’t really feel justified at all. There was also a character trait that Jefferson experienced in the first half that just disappeared when the second half began. The character mentioned the change, but it was one line, and then Coomer blew past it, expecting the reader to just go along with it. Because none of these changes felt earned, this took me out of the story. I couldn’t justify it away, which really hurt the story overall.
The other major issue I had with The Fetishists was the characters. I do not have to like every character in a story, or even a single character if they are fully realized and interesting. Both of those aspects are completely missing here. We learn virtually nothing about Jefferson to make the reader care about him, and he treated his ponygirl in terrible, horrible ways – not all consensual, mind you – that made me dislike him. When the story flipped, I didn’t really care about Jefferson’s safety since, frankly, he deserved whatever came his way. You reap what you sow, as they say.
This next complaint is definitely contradictory, but even though I didn’t really care about what happened to Jefferson, I still wanted some sort of interesting, surprising, or, at the very least, entertaining conclusion to his story. That was not what we got here. Instead, Coomer opted for a “choose your own ending” style, leaving the reader to interpret the ending how they see fit. This type of ending can work when the author has built a fully-realized world, filled with interesting, dimensional characters that you care about. In The Fetishists, we were introduced to this sleazy, underground, Hostel-inspired setting, but virtually nothing was explained. Who are these characters? Why are they here? How are they getting away with this? What is their goal? Literally none of these questions were answered, which made the whole book feel amateurish.
The audiobook, which was just released last month, was narrated by Sean Duregger. This name might sound familiar to you because Sean is one of the minds behind The Scream Cast Podcast. And in the interest of full disclosure, I definitely consider myself an acquaintance of Sean’s, as I followed his podcast when it first started up, and I did know that he was dipping his toes into the world of audiobook narration. Sean has a great podcast voice, but I honestly didn’t know what to expect when it came to his audiobook work, which really is acting when it is done well. I am happy to say that Sean did a really nice job here. He found a number of different, interesting voices for each of the characters that made them unique. The story looks to stifle a lot of the emotion from the characters, which limits the narrator’s job, but he did what he could with the material. It is clear that Sean has a knack for narration, but he is still new to the scene, so I am sure he will continue to grow with each book.
The biggest complaint I have from the narration specifically is one of my pet peeves when it comes to listening to audiobooks, and that is hearing the narrator take breathes between lines. This is prevalent throughout the narration, and there were points where I would get distracted by it. It’s akin to when you notice that someone is saying “um” or “like” a lot, and then that is all you can notice while they talk. Once I started hearing it, I couldn’t stop myself from dwelling on it, and it was quite distracting. I have no idea how other narrators record without inhales between lines, but that is what I have grown accustomed to, and anything less is distracting. I am sure Sean will figure this technical aspect out as he gains more experience. I am interested to see where he takes this career, and would love to listen to an audiobook that embraces emotions to really see what he is capable of.
A.S. Coomer is not afraid to go to the darkest of places, both sexually and violently, and often intertwines the two with The Fetishists. I definitely appreciated this aspect of his work. The storytelling here, though, is where the novel floundered. Coomer was purposely vague about what was going on, so much so that it was a detriment to my enjoyment of the book. I can honestly say that I won’t forget some of the scenes in this book, but almost all of them happened in the first half. Once the twist hit, that’s when my interest dwindled, especially since most of it was left unexplained. This throwback to the torture porn genre is like the novel equivalent of Hostel, or The Human Centipede. It is darker than both of those, but not quite as good, either. Fortunately, at just over a five hour audiobook – or 176 physical pages – if you are morbidly curious about this one, it won’t be much of a time commitment.
This audiobook was provided to me for free via Audiobook Boom in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my review of this book.
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.