Authors: James S. Murray and Darren Wearmouth
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Audiobook Narrator: James S. Murray
My sister sent me a text message sometime during the summer of 2018, and it contained a link to an article about one of her favorite reality star’s new horror book. She hates horror, but knows my love for it, so she thought I might be interested. The reality star was James S. Murray, one of the four hysterical hosts of Impractical Jokers, a show that my sister is utterly obsessed with (it’s almost unhealthy, really). I like the show as well, so I was really interested to see what “Murr”, as he is called on the show, would be able to do with a horror novel. Unfortunately, Murr’s first attempt at horror, with co-author Darren Wearmouth, is not an impressive outing.
Awakened tells the story of a new Z-train subway system built beneath the Hudson River. I believe it is supposed to connect New Jersey and Manhattan, but don’t quote me on that. Either way, the opening of this subway line is such a historical event, apparently, that not only is the mayor, who’s dedicated his life to this project for the past decade or so, present, but also the President of the United States of America. That’s when I really started to question what I was reading. Why in the world would the President be at something like this? It just doesn’t make sense. But in order for this story – series – to reach the heights Murr and Wearmouth intend, the President has to be there.
As the Z-train sets off on its first trip to celebrate the ribbon-cutting, it quickly loses communication with the Mayor and the rest of the crew at the station, which consists of mostly press, secret service agents, and Z-train engineers. Right before the communication goes dark, though, screams are heard, and one the train car arrives, bloody and broken, as if a bomb went off. That is when all hell breaks loose, and the President is quickly ushered away into a locked command center. The Secret Service only let a handful of people in to the center because they fear this is a terrorist attack, and do not know who to trust. The Mayor doesn’t make the cut, but since his wife was one of the featured individuals on the inaugural Z-train car, he has bigger problems to deal with.
Awakened is essentially an over-the-top C-level action flick with a mix of horror thanks to the creatures involved. The dialogue was as ham-fisted as it gets, and I couldn’t stop uttering the word “ridiculous” over and over as the novel continued. It had no interest in keeping one foot in reality to keep things grounded, and instead, continued to get crazier as it went. If this were a 90-minute action movie, I might’ve enjoyed this a lot more. As an over 9-hour audiobook (or about a 300-page novel), though, it got too much, too fast, and I just couldn’t buy into what was happening at all.
I didn’t have high expectations going in to Awakened, but I was hoping for something that rested in the horror realm more so than the action world, and this is very much the opposite. The story is not well-developed, the writing is poor overall, and the scope is much too ambitious to work for such a new author. It, unfortunately, never comes together in the end.
Murr narrates the audiobook himself, and he is fine. He doesn’t do a lot of different voices, and the characters tend to run together at times, but that is more likely due to the writing than the voice acting. He was easy to understand, and got into the characters as well as he could. It’s clear he was having fun recording his first book, which is always good to hear. I don’t think I’d seek him out as a narrator on other books in the future, but he does a sufficient job here.
James S. Murray seems like a genuinely good guy, so I hate to say this, but Awakened isn’t a good book. I’m sure there is an audience for something like this, but if I’m going to spend time with mindless action and over-the-top, archetypal characters, I would rather waste 90-minutes doing that versus 9-hours. I have no interest in continuing with this series, but if this sounds like something you might enjoy, give it a shot if you can find it cheap. My library had Awakened available via Hoopla on audiobook, so check there first if you’re at all interested in stereotypical characters making their way through an interesting premise. Be warned, though, the writing leaves a lot to be desired, and the idea for this novel is a lot better than the execution.
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.