The Dead Lands, written by Benjamin Percy, read by Holter Graham (Hachette Audio)

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Readers may have expected that Percy might follow up his excellent werewolf novel Red Moon (2013) with a sequel; instead, he’s given us a postapocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis and Clark expedition. And it is brilliant, rich in character and theme, wonderfully written. It’s so good, in fact, that it must have been a daunting challenge for narrator Graham to bring this epic-sized story to life. Thankfully, he’s up to the job. Not only can he give each of the story’s many key players his or her own voice—mostly by creating distinctive speech patterns and inflections—but he seems to know exactly when to ratchet up his dramatic performance and when to stay out of the author’s way and let the words speak for themselves. The story is punctuated by moments of intense drama; in some of these, Graham gives us a full-on dramatic reading, as if he’s performing a one-man stage show, belting it out for the audience in the back rows, but in others, he simply reads the author’s words, underplaying the moment, letting Percy’s writing and our own imaginations take over. A thoughtful, textured performance.

This review originally appeared in Booklist, October 2015.


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