Genre: modern fantasy
Length: 8h 47m
Read by: Edoardo Ballerini
Audio publisher: Neil Gaiman Presents, 2011
Story: Tomas Abbey isn't sure what to do with his life. He teaches English in a New England prep school, but he doesn't like teaching, literature, or New England. He's thinking about writing a biography of his beloved children's author, Marshall France, but he's not sure how to go about it. No one knows much about the deceased author of The Land of Laughs, and France's daughter Anna has vowed never to authorized a biography. Tomas sets out to learn more about France, France's daughter, and her strangely isolated Missouri town.
Thoughts: With a title like The Land of Laughs, I was expecting insincere strongmen and menacing clowns. The cover image doesn't dispel these thoughts, but that's not this book. There are marionettes, but no clowns. Instead, The Land of Laughs is a story where the eerieness is just hinted at the edges, which to me is the best kind of horror. It's an excellent episode of Twilight Zone. It's my favorite type of book. The story moves smoothly, introducing neurotic and insecure Tomas and his fixation with the author Marshall France. This is a book where every character has a complex, and trying to determine which complex each person has is half the fun. Since the book was published in 1980, it has a nostalgic feel to it, which is magnified as Thomas takes his road trip into small-town Missouri which seems to be stuck back in time.
Reading: Edoardo Ballerini is a the perfect person to read this book. He gives just the right amount of pathos to Tomas without letting him get whiny. There aren't very many characters in the book, but each is distinct and recognizable.
Final thoughts: A great book anyone who likes a nice, slow burning mystery with just a touch of menace. Don't let the awful cover image scare you away.
TV appearance: A first edition hard copy of The Land of Laughs is shown in the Season 1 episode of Fringe, "Ability," when a customer sells the book to Markam, the rare book dealer.
Grade: 5 out of 5