Don’t Read is the story of Chris, a lorry driver who is working on a horror novel. He’s completely unimpressed with the horror books he’s read in the past and decides to set out on his own to make a horror book that is more terrifying and disgusting than any that’s come before it. Here’s the thing though. He’s writing the book for himself, not for anyone else. Hence the name “Don’t Read” written on the book’s cover.
The book opens with Chris visiting a diner for a late night snack. The on-duty manager working that night is a man named Stephen (With a PH, not a V) and Stephen is a prick. He sends one of his employees, a girl named Haley, to take out the trash while the other employee, Sara, takes care of her one and only customer.
When Stephen shows his true colours, Chris nonchalantly asks Sara if she wants him to kill Stephen. Sara, thinking Chris is joking, says something to the effect of “Only if you can make it slow and painful. “ Chris does exactly that.
As the story unfolds, we learn that Chris keeps hostages in his lorry (semi-truck, or 18-wheeler for the Americans out there) and he makes them read aloud the entries in his books. These entries often go into great detail about how he chooses to kill another person.
In true Matt Shaw fashion, this book doesn’t end like I thought it would. He is the king of surprise endings, after all.
Now let’s talk about how I feel about Don’t Read. First of all, whether you read the book or listen to the audiobook, understand that this book is filled with gratuitous violence, gore and sex. It’s supposed to be. Chris has no reason for doing what he does other than he simply wants to. He wants to satisfy his curiosity and he sees no better way to do that than by trying new things on his victims. However, despite the disgusting nature of this book, it all fits together perfectly.
Know what you’re getting yourself into before you pick this one up. It’s Shaw’s sickest book to date and the way Chris Barnes reads it adds a whole new level of shock and disgust.
Reviews of “Don’t Read” say things like “Wow...very sick. Could not read,” and “I threw up in my mouth. Twice.”
One particular instance comes to mind as I sit here typing this review. In one part of the book, Chris wants to know if it is possible to slice a person in half – from the top of her head to the bottom of her torso, with an axe. Of course, because he’s curious, he does it. After he splits the body, he examines the organs and the contents of the woman’s stomach. He wants to know what these contents taste like and takes out a piece of partially digested bread, holds it to his mouth and decides to have a little taste.
When I read this book, that particular scene didn’t bother me. When I listened to it the first time, it still didn’t bother me. When I listened to it again, I found myself gagging. In public. Not my proudest moment and that’s not even the worst scene in the book.
Whilst we are talking about listening to the book, let’s look at Chris Barnes’s narration. I will tell you all right now that Chris is my favourite narrator. I love his Scottish accent, which contrary to what some of my American brothers and sisters would have you believe, is not at all hard to understand. I love that he puts himself inside each character’s head to bring out all kinds of different emotions. He doesn’t read each book, he performs it. Personally, I am amazed at the effort he puts in because it seems that many narrators couldn’t care less how intense or dramatic their characters are. They get paid to simply read and that is all they do. Chris can make me laugh, cry and even make me sick and so far, I’ve yet to find another narrator who has that same type of power over my emotions.
So, now that I’m done gushing, let me close by saying that yes, this book is extremely gross. Yes, it is filled with gratuitous scenes, but those scenes are absolutely necessary to keep the story moving along. And yes, the audiobook is far more disturbing than reading it yourself. Doesn’t that make you just a little curious?
Extreme horror fans will love “Don’t Read.” Just take my advice and don’t listen to it whilst eating your Sunday roast.
DAWN ANGRY PUPPY