Dead Air is Jasper Bark’s new, audio only, anthology. In an age where increased commuting means increased audio book popularity, Jasper’s collection is the ideal length for injecting brief bursts of horror into otherwise quick, but bland, journeys. Dead Air clocks in at just over two hours and consists of six original stories. With tales lasting anything from ten to forty minutes there’s a good mix to captivate you however much – or little – time you have.
The collection opens with Jasper’s ominous and downright creepy narrating, setting the scene for the ‘Dead Air’ radio station. The premise – the voices of ghosts can be heard telling their tales of terror on this hidden station. If you’ve seen any of Jasper’s previous animated efforts – such as The Way of the Barefoot Zombie trailers – it should come as no surprise that Jasper is a fine narrator that injects both horror and comedy into his work. His unique brand of black comedy is particularly apparent in collection opener The Castigation Crunch that follows Humphrey Suchs, economic advisor to world leaders and best selling author, as he is sent to hell; Jasper muses that most economists were sent to the fifth level sector. This satirical laugh-filled story parodies the current economic climate and towards the climax there appears to be a good-humoured parody of the crucifixion of Christ. The Castigation Crunch is full of modern, hip references which is both its strength and downfall. Whilst it is brilliantly funny now, one can’t help but wonder if “Ashmodial was struggling with a tangle of USB cables” and “what I’m going to do to you is going to be seven hundred billion times worse than what Simon Cowell does to the trouser leg” will be lost on future generations. Irrespective, for now this is dangerously funny.
Whilst it is probably impossible to remove all elements of humour from Jasper’s work, And the light is his Garment is a much more serious and philosophical tale. To write much on it would remove some of its impact. What starts off as an exploration into finite human existence and extraordinary will turns into an absurd satire and consideration into conflicting alternate perspectives. It is a story that will stick with you far longer than Faust and Loose, a tale that delves – where Goethe and Marlowe didn’t – into Dr. Faustus’ secret past, but is ultimately overshadowed by the rest of the collection, including humorous yarn, Nasal Sex that follows an eighty-five year old man that can seduce any woman he wants through simply blowing his nose.
The final story, Haunting the past is a brilliant ghost story that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Solaris’ recently released House of Fear. This monologue at times is reminiscent of Clive Barker’s Mister B. Gone as it follows the protagonist’s current situation – he’s trapped and starving, reflects on his life and asks the reader to consider whether karma can work in such a way that actions you perform in the present can shape things that have happened in the past.
Yet the standout story is Ill met by moonlight, a very human tale that explores relationships, adultery and just how far some may go to find true love. The reveal will give you, and main character Ben a cold, sinking feeling in the gut.
If you’re looking for an audio collection infused with both horror and humour that echoes old spooky staples of the horror tradition such as The Twilight Zone then you should pick up your radio and uncover the broadcasts that lurk in the black static between stations, alternatively, save yourself the hassle and buy Dead Air off Audible. The choice is yours.