High Midnight by Rob Mosca – Audiobook Review

By Brian Moakley Dec 5, 2023 #audiobook #review

Unity, Texas is not a town you visit. It’s a town you leave. And, if you actually do make your way to Unity, you’re either curling up to die or running from death. Either way, it always gets you in the end. Welcome to the world of High Midnight by Rob Mosca.

Things aren’t exactly normal in this town.

So when a pack of insane clowns arrive carrying a heavy grudge and the guns back it up, things fall apart in rather spectacular fashion. Thankfully the Sheriff and trusty chimpanzee deputy can save the day. Or can they?

Note – this is an audiobook review I wrote back in 2024. If you are interested in other other audiobook reviews, see my small albeit growing library of them. Maybe you’ll find something interesting.

The Story

Just take a look at the title and take a moment to meditate on it. Does it sound familiar? If you thought of High Noon, you’d be right on the money.

Imagine your job being so hard that an active zombie apocalypse is just a bullet point.

Just like that famous movie, this book features a tired run down sheriff who presides over a small town when a gang of trouble comes into town. He’s not a typical sheriff. For one thing, he has deputized a chimpanzee as his deputy. He also has a thing for Mexican wrestling. He’s also deeply in love with the ghost of a prostitute who lurks in the local haunted brothel.

He’s a tired man, maintaining the wall to keep all of the hell spawn out of it. On top of everything else, there’s even a zombie apocalypse happening so the Sheriff has hands full.

The book starts with the Sheriff giving the mayor an ultimatum. He demands funds for a real deputy, or he is going to quit. The mayor, also the local bar owner, calls his bluff which results in the sheriff quitting. Naturally, as he walks off into the sunset, the gang of killer clowns arrive and hold up the bar during a karaoke night.

Things get ugly pretty fast and the clowns themselves aren’t stingy with bullets.

Just reading the description, some of you may be raising an eyebrow or two. This sounds like the bottom of the slush pile, but here’s the thing, this book is well written. Very well written. All the characters have their own backstories and while they are absurd in their own right, they make sense taken as a whole.

Yes, there is a gang of killer clowns, but each clown their own reason for embracing the crazy. The mayor isn’t just some tough Mexican woman running the bar, she’s fully realized who is fully aware of the life and death choices that are made with each passing beat.

Zombie apocalypses are one thing, but killer clowns take it to the next level

This gives a weight to all the craziness and when a character has a pistol aimed at them, you really for them.

Is It Good?

While the book is really well done especially in maintaining the balancing act between the absurd and the seriousness, there’s a few points that really irked me.

First off, one of the critical characters is a chimpanzee. It’s a chimpanzee that pretty much has the functioning ability as a regular human. Out of all the crazy things featured in this book, this was one thing that was a bridge too far for me. I can believe the zombies, I can believe the jackalopes, but I could never suspend my disbelief about a chimpanzee that just wasn’t fully human capable, but also accepted as an authority figure in the town.

Kristoffer Kristofferson would be a perfect for the sheriff

Next, the sheriff is a pretty awesome character but there’s this scene where he takes a dead animal and moves its mouth like it were talking. It was played for laughs but felt so out of place for the character. It really put me off to him for awhile and just didn’t work for humor appeal.

Unfortunately, the book’s ending is a little to be desired. The book closes with the shadow of a sequel that never did arrive. In such a way, there wasn’t the needed resolution with some key conflicts. It left me disappointed in what I found to be a quirky interesting read.

The Audiobook

Wow. Just wow. The book is read by Bernard Setaro Clark and his performance is amazing. Each character literally has their own voice. Listening to him read this book is like listening to an cast of actors preform their parts.

The sheriff has a long slow Texas drawl when talking while the Red – the chief killer clown – has what I’d call a thick headed back robber voice. He sounds great.

Once the book really starts going, all his voices shine. His reading compliments this book in every way and truly breathes life into all the characters.

There’s only one weird section where the audiobook cuts between two scenes at once. I’m guessing the printed book had some visual cues to let you know when a different scene was transitioning, but in the audiobook, there are no indicators. In fact, during that moment, I was constantly confused and was quickly growing irritated. That may work well in films, but it fails miserably in an audiobook.

TL;DR

The Beautiful: Amazing, narration by Bernard Setaro Clark
The Good: Absurd setting and characters that are believable. Well done Rob Mosca!
The Bad: Except for the chimpanzee.
The Ugly: Lacks a satisfying conclusion.

Verdict:

3.5 out of 5 insane clowns

When I wrote this review, I gave this a ‘meh’. But honestly, this book has stuck with me for almost ten years. I’ve read so many books that I can’t even remember their names. But this book is something else. It swings for the fences, and while it quite doesn’t score a homerun – it’s one hell of an effort.

High Midnight at Audible.com

Review copy provided through Audiojukebox (no longer in business)

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By Brian Moakley

Brian Douglas Moakley is a writer and technologist who lives amongst the quiet hills in New England. When not reading tales of high adventure, he is often telling such stories to all who will listen.

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