Tag Archives: audio

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (unabridged audiobook read by Davina Porter; 32.5 hrs on 28 discs): Claire is vacationing in Scotland with her husband Frank in 1945 when suddenly she is transported 200 years into the past. This is more historical romance than science fiction, and a lot of it is quite unsettling: graphic violence, corporal punishment of children and spouses alike, and lots and lots of sex, much of it very rough. The homosexual characters are all pedophiles, sadists, and/or rapists. I did, however, really enjoy the glimpse of ordinary life in the 1740s, the witch trials, and the comparison of medical practices between the 18th and 20th centuries. I may actually give the second book in the series a try, as the ending of this one implies it may have more to do with actual time travel, changing history, and the like. This book is mostly about Claire’s relationship with Jamie, an intriguing Scotsman whose fate seems intertwined with her own. Which is fine, as far as that goes, but don’t come into this expecting a science fiction tale. That said, if you’re a sucker for 18th century Highlands romance, this is not to be missed.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross

Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross (unabridged audiobook read by Emily Gray; 12 hrs on 10 discs): It’s the far future, and our narrator is Krina, a sort of being we might consider to be somewhere between an android and a clone. It’s several thousand years in the future, and almost nothing is familiar to someone from the 21st century, from the extreme genetic modifications to the spaceship planets to the monetary system. In fact, I felt like there was too much going on here. I like extensive world-building, especially in science fiction, but I had a lot of trouble keeping up. It didn’t help that many of the differences between Krina’s world and our own were explained in lengthy essays on the different speeds of money, financial fraud, semi-autonomous clones, mermaids, and bats, rather than as a natural part of the plot. Had the people been physically familiar with a crazy economic system (I never quite got the hang of slow money); or barely humanoid cyborg clones living on a planet without needing to organize their economy around slower-than-light space travel; or the plot focused mainly on the interactions between clones, their originals, copied soul chips, and the tricky ethics thereof; or the characters had been either bat-humans or insurance pirates but not both; or even just focusing on the underused Church of the Fragile, a cult dedicated to humans without any physical modifications — any of those alone could have been fascinating. All of them stuffed into a single novel got in the way of the story. I had a lot of trouble following what was going on and keeping the characters straight. There is surely a very specific audience who would love this sort of ultra-exotic science fiction, but I prefer my story/concept balance to be tipped just a little bit further toward the former.

A note on the audio: Gray is a splendid reader, but this was a little strange for me because the audiobook I finished just before this was also read by her, but completely different (one of Jasper Fforde’s delightfully silly Thursday Next novels), so it took me a while to get accustomed to the new crop of characters using her voice.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde

First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde (unabridged audiobook read by Emily Gray; 12.75 hrs on 11 discs): Several years have passed since we last checked in with Thursday Next, and now she is the mother of three children, the eldest a despondent teen. SpecOps was disbanded and she swore off the book world, but still works as both a literary detective and for Jurisfiction in secret. Her latest assignment for the latter is training the latest recruit: herself. That is, herself as portrayed in the novels based on her life. Meanwhile, Pride and Prejudice is on the verge of being turned into a reality show, highly dangerous cheeses are being traded on the black market, and time travel may not actually have been invented after all. In short, it’s the same sort of silliness we’ve come to expect from this series, though for some reason it felt kind of lacking compared to previous installments. I think not enough was resolved, with too many elements tossed in, presumably to be dealt with in future books. I don’t need each book in a series to stand on its own, but several scenes felt like they should have been delayed until the book in which they are actually addressed. Of course, this all means I’ll probably read the next book as soon as possible, just to find out how it all turns out. If it all turns out in the next book, anyway – the Minotaur’s been hanging out, unresolved, for two books and over a decade in story years now, so my hopes for imminent and thorough resolution are not high.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins (unabridged audiobook read by Paul Boehmer; 6.5 hrs on 6 discs): When cockroaches abscond with his baby sister, Gregor once again finds himself in the Underland, once again risking life and limb to fulfill a prophecy. Mostly this book was just okay. While I can see my younger self enjoying this, as an adult I found the prophecy angle far less interesting than it tried to be. Yes, the prophecy will come true but not in the way you expect it to. That’s just how it always go. And I’d be more forgiving except that that’s exactly what happened in the previous book in this series. I guess if you adored the first book and want that all over again, then you’ll like this one. As for me, I think I’ll be giving the rest of the series a miss.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Gregor The Overlander by Suzanne Collins (unabridged audiobook read by Paul Boehmer; 6.5 hrs on 6 discs): This is sort of Alice in Wonderland for urban kids. When Gregor and his baby sister Boots fall through a grate in the laundry room, they find themselves in an amazing world of pale-skinned but normal-sized humans who live among enormous bats, rats, cockroaches, and spiders. Gregor soon learns that this is where his father went when he went missing more than two years prior, and immediately sets off on a quest to find him. Coincidentally, this all matches up with an old prophecy, the fulfillment of which drives much of the story. It was a decent adventure story and I plan on reading the next book in the series, but the world itself didn’t grab me as much as I’d expected it to. I had a lot of trouble picturing the surroundings for some reason. I did, however, appreciate the way a bunch of relatively overused story elements (underground cities, prophecies, rescues) came together in surprising ways. I liked how you could never be quite sure who to believe. Hopefully the next one is similarly unpredictable.

A note on the audio: Boehmer read the “geographic voices” quotes in Don’t Know Much about Geography by Kenneth C. Davis, which I wouldn’t have even noticed except that I just listened to it. Just a strange coincidence.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde

Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde (unabridged audiobook read by Emily Gray; 12.75 hrs on 11 discs): With every book I’ve read in this series, I’ve said the same thing: this was fun but I doubt I’ll continue on with the series. Well, this is the fourth book and I give up. I’m going to keep reading Thursday Next books because they’re absolutely ridiculous and they make me laugh. This time around, Thursday is back in the real world, where she has to deal with fictional would-be dictators, semi-dead presidents, a husband who may not actually exist, violent cricket matches, 13th century mystics, a perpetually dithering Hamlet, and – most daunting of all – motherhood. The whole thing is just marvelous. My favorite part was “Avoid the Question Time,” which is pretty much what all political interviews and debates actually are but won’t admit it. Nothing is too outlandish to show up in these stories, and I can’t wait for the next book.

Don’t Know Much about Geography by Kenneth C. Davis

Don’t Know Much About Geography by Kenneth C. Davis (unabridged audiobook; 13 hrs on 10 discs): This was just the book I was looking for. Geography is a science not just of place names and boundaries, but of politics and culture and environment and history. I learned tons about exploration and wars and colonization and weather and climate and more, all in bite-sized chunks that somehow managed to be very accessible without talking down to the reader. I never felt embarrassed by my lack of knowledge, and it opened my eyes to a number of subjects I never knew could be interesting. Definitely recommended as a solid introduction.

A note on the audio: There are six narrators credited here. Joe Ochman read about 95% of this book. Paul Boehmer read the “geographic voices” quotes. Kenneth C. Davis read the introduction. The rest of the folks read some (but not all) of the chapter titles. I have absolutely no idea why they were included, but I wish they hadn’t been, since changing narrators is kind of jarring.

The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore

The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore (unabridged audiobook read by Chris Henry Coffey; 8.25 hrs on 7 discs): When his father has a stroke, Ephraim’s family moves to Maine to live in his ancestral home, a place called the Water Castle because his family used to bottle the local spring water and sell it. The town of Crystal Springs is full of unusually talented people, which makes Ephraim feel even more out of place. Soon, however, he begins to suspect there is something strange going on in his family’s home. With the help of some new friends, he investigates a legacy that goes back more than a century. Tied into all this are the North Pole expeditions of Robert Peary, Matthew Henson, and Frederick Cook. This mix of fantasy and history and mysterious old houses is right up my alley. I liked this story as an adult, but I would have loved it in middle school. I was forever hoping for secret passages and magical relics to uncover. The story took a little bit to really get going, and the ending was a little abrupt (without technically leaving anything hanging), but otherwise it was a lovely little tale.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant

Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant (unabridged audiobook read by Rosalyn Landor; 15 hrs on 12 discs): When a particularly defiant novice, Serafina, is forced to join the convent of Santa Caterina, dispensary mistress Suora Zuana is sent to sedate her. Thus begins a friendship between two women living in a 16th century Italian convent. The descriptions of daily life are exquisitely detailed and often painfully direct. One of Dunant’s greatest talents is her ability to create multifaceted female characters who remained rooted in the time period in which they live, not anachronistically updated to fit contemporary sensibilities. If you enjoyed Dunant’s other historical novels, you’ll probably like this one. I did.

Reckless by Cornelia Funke

Reckless by Cornelia Funke (unabridged audiobook read by Elliot Hill; 6.75 hrs on 6 discs): I had a little trouble getting into this one. Jacob and Will’s father disappears through a magic mirror when they’re children, and Jacob spends most of the rest of his life making trips to the Mirrorworld to search for him. At some point Will joins him and is attacked by the Goyl, a race of stone beings who can cause men to turn into them. Will’s skin begins turning to jade, and Jacob – with the aid of Will’s girlfriend, Jacob’s werefox friend, and an unfriendly dwarf – sets off to find a cure for this supposedly incurable affliction. In the meantime, the Goyl are deeply interested in finding Will, as the famed jade-skinned Goyl is supposed to fulfill a prophecy. The Mirrorworld is an interesting mixture of classic fairy tales and other more unusual fantasy elements, brought together in a realm that is both familiar and quite new. I hope to give the next book in the series a try. Funke’s Inkheart trilogy started quite slow but the latter two volumes were un-put-downable so I have high hopes for this one. The world and characters are quite promising, and there is clearly quite a lot more of the story waiting to be told.

A note on the audio: Hill was fine, but for some reason I found his voice entirely too easy to tune out.

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