Sunday, December 16, 2012

Review - The Listeners by Harrison Demchick

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.

He didn’t know much in those early days. He didn’t know how the plague began, but then, no one did. The doctors and emergency medical personnel said it was airborne, and highly contagious. They said those infected became distorted both inside and out, and very, very dangerous.

Then the helicopters came and took the doctors away, and no one said much of anything after that.

Except the police officers. They said they’d provide food and order, in exchange for guns and, ultimately, anything else they felt like taking.

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.

A harrowing work of literary horror, The Listeners, Harrison Demchick’s electrifying debut, is a dark and terrifying journey into loneliness, desperation, and the devastating experience of one young boy in a world gone mad.

4 stars

The Listeners by Harrison Demchick is a story of society breaking down.  When the plague hits and his neighborhood is quarantined life quickly changes for a 14 year old boy named Daniel.  Residents are encouraged to stay in their homes and that the plague should be contained shortly.  His mother leaves the house to get some more toilet paper she never returns, leaving Daniel to fend for himself.  After a run in with one of the infected and suffering from some police abusing their power Daniel meets some Listeners.  Daniel has heard of this gang from his friend Katie's father who is a local police officer.  The Listeners are said to be a group of violent criminals whose members all have an ear removed.

Daniel can't see anything wrong with them though.  He is adopted by the group and goes to live in their base in the basement of a grocery store.  Through this experience he learns a bit more about the plague and sees more of it's zombie like victims that the members call sickos.  As Daniel is indoctrinated into the brotherhood he begins to believe in the message spoken by their leader, the prophet Adam.

This book tells a haunting tale of what happens when the police become the only authority and they are abusing their power.  I was undecided on The Listeners trying to figure out if they were a force for good, a cult taking advantage of the terrible situation, or a criminal organization looking to muscle in and take the power.

As an unusual twist to the normal zombieish apocalypse story the infected are a background to this story.  There are not ravaging hordes trying to overwhelm a small group of survivors, they are the reason for the breakdown of society and an obstacle to those who are trying to survive.  The book follows Daniel for the most part with some offshoots following various other characters in the quarantine zone.  The book does show a bit from all angles with random people trying to survive as well as a viewpoint from some police officers in the crisis area.

This book had me guessing throughout.  I was constantly wavering on what I thought The Listeners were really trying to accomplish.  It's a great book for people who enjoy post apocalyptic, zombie, thriller books.  There is a bit of a surprise towards the end that really got me.  This book will definitely not be for everyone, but it is worth a look to see if it clicks for you.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review, Scott! I'm a sucker for zombie and post-apoc books. :) The twist with the gang sounds like an interesting take.