Pseudopod 104: The Book in the Earth

By Lavie Tidhar

Read by Ralph Walters

“Excuse me,” said the old man by the door. He was hidden from view behind the bookshelves, and though Gerald had seen him come in, he couldn’t see who he was talking to. “Does the presence of this chapter make it the true first edition or the second state? I can never remember, you see, whether ‘Fathers’ is the missing chapter or the correct one.”

“The pulped version, of course,” said a gruff voice behind the books.

“Ah, of course. Thank you.”

Gerald sat behind the counter, wrapped up in a coat, wondering what on earth they were talking about. He applied for the job at the small bookshop just off Charing Cross the week before, and to his surprise the owner — a short, stocky man who looked more like a bare-knuckle boxer than a bookseller — hired him.

“You start on Monday,” he said. “And don’t let the bastards steal anything or spend too long in the basement. If they start tapping on walls, or doing any other strange shit, kick them out.”

Mr. Mendoza seemed to have a low opinion of his customers. After a week of being left in charge of the shop, however — Mr. Mendoza having left for an unspecified length of time on what he called, in his strangely accented English, a “trade trip” — Gerald began to wonder.

This week’s episode sponsored by, who has extended their generous offer of a free audiobook download of your choice from their selection of over 40,000 titles.

August 22nd, 2008 4:34 am

I enjoyed this story very much. It is/was the first thing I have ever heard on PseudoPod, inspiring me to listen to a whole bunch more.

Specifically, I liked the vagueness. By just hinting at what is actually going on, I was able to imagine quite a few different scenarios. This story could be anything from a Necronomicon type of situation all the way to an overly breathless description of an old folks’ home. It’s not often that many possibilities exist simultaneously, which is impressive. I would rather imagine many such stories could be told from this particular book shop.

Well done.

August 22nd, 2008 9:53 pm

Ralph Walters is one of my favorite readers. I love his voice. It has a sort of vibrato quality to it, an odd rattle at the deep end, a kind of tremulous rumbly jumbly bit that vibrates and resonates like an undercurrent, an octave or two away from the primary tone, carrying his words on it’s back.

It’s mesmerizing. More Ralph, please!

August 24th, 2008 8:44 pm

Loved the story, although that’s an interesting pronunciation of Leicester…

August 25th, 2008 5:21 am

I love whiskey.
Now I’m dying to get my hands on a bottle of Shabbos Regal.


Kate G
August 26th, 2008 11:33 pm

Sorry, this story didn’t do anything for me. It wandered, it was vague. Great beginning, great characters, but then it started jumping from point to point. He meets the Guardian, there’s this amazing peculiar ‘sacred’ character — and then there’s Mendoza with exposition and we breathlessly rush through the weeks leading up to — What? Up until this point we’ve heard that the elderly 36 want the book. But all of a sudden, the book wants them. And then Gerald saves them, with no effects whatsoever? What am I missing here?
Loved the reading — breathless and deep but with enough clarity for me to hear in my typical urban surroundings.

August 29th, 2008 1:45 pm

I agree.
It had great atmosphere, but got muddle in the last third.

September 4th, 2008 8:23 pm

So, this wasn’t a terrible story… good build up, lazy finish, which has become so common here on PP that I barely notice it anymore… but what’s with the happy ending? What’s ‘horror’ about that?

September 4th, 2008 9:38 pm

Interesting pronunciation throughout – for the real story of the “Lah-med Vav-niks” or “the 36 Tzaddikim”, see

September 21st, 2008 11:01 pm

Wonderful reading, with quite possibly the greatest line ever uttered, “I am the Guardian, who the fuck are you?”. That line had me in hysterics.

October 17th, 2008 8:28 pm

Sorry, not impressed. The writing and the reading were fine, but the idea… predictable. I had hoped for something more, right up until the last couple of minutes.

Mike G
October 18th, 2008 3:25 pm

Like Hyperion, this was my first pseudopod story – I enjoyed the narrator’s voice and the style and tone of the story. I will listen to many more.

October 22nd, 2008 5:43 pm

I love stories about creepy bookstores.

I did not care for Ralph Walters’ reading. It reminded me of the movie announcer guy.

When he did the voice of the old jewish guy, I liked very much.

I felt the title gave too much of the story away.

November 16th, 2008 5:17 pm

“I’m ze guardian! Who za fuck a’ you?!”

Lavie Tidhar’s best story I’ve heard yet; sort of like an evil, Jewish version of the Never-Ending Story.

My only problem was the reader, who, although very good, was a bit of an odd choice: an American reading a story set in London?