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Universal Harvester: A Novel Audiobook, by John Darnielle Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: John Darnielle Narrator: John Darnielle Publisher: Macmillan Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2017 ISBN: 9781427282873
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Jeremy works at the Video Hut in Nevada, Iowa. It’s a small town in the center of the state—the first a in Nevada pronounced ay. This is the late 1990s, and even if the Hollywood Video in Ames poses an existential threat to Video Hut, there are still regular customers, a rush in the late afternoon. It’s good enough for Jeremy: it’s a job, quiet and predictable, and it gets him out of the house, where he lives with his dad and where they both try to avoid missing Mom, who died six years ago in a car wreck.

But when a local schoolteacher comes in to return her copy of Targets—an old movie, starring Boris Karloff, one Jeremy himself had ordered for the store—she has an odd complaint: “There’s something on it,” she says, but doesn’t elaborate. Two days later, a different customer returns a different tape, a new release, and says it’s not defective, exactly, but altered: “There’s another movie on this tape.”

Jeremy doesn’t want to be curious, but he brings the movies home to take a look. And, indeed, in the middle of each movie, the screen blinks dark for a moment and the movie is replaced by a few minutes of jagged, poorly lit home video. The scenes are odd and sometimes violent, dark, and deeply disquieting. There are no identifiable faces, no dialogue or explanation—the first video has just the faint sound of someone breathing— but there are some recognizable landmarks. These have been shot just outside of town.

So begins John Darnielle’s haunting and masterfully unsettling Universal Harvester: the once placid Iowa fields and farmhouses now sinister and imbued with loss and instability and profound foreboding. The audiobook will take Jeremy and those around him deeper into this landscape than they have ever expected to go. They will become part of a story that unfolds years into the past and years into the future, part of an impossible search for something someone once lost that they would do anything to regain.

This program is read by the author and includes original music.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Darnielle’s understated narration is a perfect match for the quiet story. His restrained delivery highlights the steady Midwestern attitude of his characters, making the story’s pensive strangeness that much more unsettling. Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award.”

    AudioFile

  • Universal Harvester is a novel about noticing hidden things, particularly the hurt and desperation that people bear under their exterior of polite reserve…Darnielle possesses the clairvoyant’s gift for looking beneath the surface.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “[Universal Harvester is] constantly unnerving, wrapped in a depressed dread that haunts every passage. But it all pays off with surprising emotionality.”

    GQ

  • “Brilliant…Darnielle is a master at building suspense, and his writing is propulsive and urgent; it’s nearly impossible to stop reading.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “Reads like several Twilight Zone scripts cut together by a poet.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Opens like a dark suspense story…but he ultimately pursues a softer and more nuanced exploration of family and loss.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month, Editor's Top Pick for February 2017
  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • Among longlisted titles for NPR Best Book of the Year, 2017
  • Among longlisted titles for Washington Post Best Books of the Year, 2017
  • Among longlisted titles for Hudson Booksellers Best of the Year, 2017

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About the Author

John Darnielle is a writer, composer, guitarist, and vocalist for the band the Mountain Goats; he is widely considered one of the best lyricists of his generation. He lives in Durham, North Carolina, with his wife and son.