Archives for category: audiobooks

Sanford Greenberg – Hello Darkness, My Old Friend (audio) – Memoir

Confucius – The Analects (translated by James Legge) – Philosophy

Travis Baldacre – Legends and Lattes – Fantasy

Lina Rather – Sisters of the Forsaken Stars – SF

P. Djeli Clark – A Master of Djinn – Steampunk/Detective

Lina Rather – Sisters of the Vast Black – Very good novella of nuns in space in a sentient organic spaceship. This does not do it any justice. Definitely for fans of Becky Chambers, MR Kowal and the like. Looking forward to sequel Sisters of the Forsaken Stars.

Gertrude Bell – The Desert and the Sown – Gracious, but this took me ages to finish. I’m pretty sure I started reading it about eight months ago. Bell’s travels in 1903 Palestine and Syria are fascinating. She tells of her meetings with the members of various tribes with the eyes and ears of an archeologist, linguist and historian. (Bell is namechecked in a book I read last year by Vita Sackville-West and I had to find out who she was. Often referred to as the female Lawrence of Arabia, she led a fascinating life. And was recently portrayed by Nicole Kidman (Queen of the Desert which is on my to-see list).

John Doe, et al – Under the Big Black Sun (audio) – Gorgeous evocations of the late 70s Los Angeles punk scene as told by members of the various acts who made it happen including (but not limited to) Doe, Henry Rollins, Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey, and the man who later became El Vez. I was just a little too young at the time, I remember the acts and the times with greatly renewed fondness.

Joshua Winning – The Shadow Glass – Written for all the fans of gorgeous 80s fantasy movies. A beautiful homage to the ones who’ve kept the fandom going. Follows the estranged son of the recently deceased creator of a perfect movie that stands alongside Labyrinth and The Neverending Story who doesn’t quite know what to do when his father’s creations come to life. The fandom come to his aid.

Jessica Khoury – The Mystwick School of Musicraft (audio)
Jessica Khoury – The Midnight Orchestra (audio) – These two middle-grade (9-12 year old target audience) stories are absolutely charming and I recommend them highly. Khoury was interviewed on the Exolore podcast about cartography and mentioned these books in closing. The narrator earns a spot in the the titular Mystwick school and adventures ensue with new friends and new adversaries. Extra shout-outs for inclusivity and fantastic sound design. (These are also free if you have an Audible subscription.)

Last year I signed up for Audible for the sole purpose of listening to the new audio version of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. And I enjoyed it greatly, even though it comprised only a small portion of the 75-issue comic that ran between 1989 and 1996. I think there must have been a selection process to determine whether there was sufficient interest to cover the whole thing. The first release included Morpheus’ first trip into hell, the brutal Collectors episode, Calliope, Facade, The Dream of a Thousand Cats, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But wait! What about Orpheus, Augustus, and The World’s End? Well, fast forward to a few months ago when Audible released Sandman Act II.

Ah, there we find some more of my beloved favourite stories. It seems like they’re working around to doing the whole thing. Eventually. In Act II, we meet Orpheus (in the French Revolution-set Thermidor – Where do you hide a severed head?) and having met his mother in Act I.

In general, they’re doing a good job of telling the essential stories – there are so many characters and there’s so much rich storytelling in Gaiman’s original material (not to mention in Gaiman’s own source material, which includes Shakespeare, Greek mythology, science, fiction, and the mythologies that make up a lot of history) that planning this out required a lot of choices regarding order and the transition from illustrated storytelling to audio. When the original run of Gaiman’s Sandman concluded in 1996, it was obvious that its conclusions had been in mind from very nearly the beginning (this remains a spoiler-free zone, note). Almost everyone we meet has a role.

My main issue, has to do with that very transition. When you read a graphic novel, there’s no reason to describe all the characters – we can see them. What we get in the audio drama is a lot more exposition than perhaps the story needs. We know what Dream and Death, Desire and Despair look like from their first descriptions. There’s no need, usually, to repeat. And it’s okay for the listener to fill things in that are left out of the text. These stories are especially strong and, mellifluous as Gaiman’s voice is, this kind of exposition could have been trimmed in favour of more showing. (I’ll note that being familiar with the source material, I can picture a lot of the story based in the original illustrations. I do wonder what listeners coming to this without the prior experience think.)

Having finished the last couple chapters (The Hunt, Soft Places, The Parliament of Rooks, and Ramadan), I’m overall very pleased with the production values, the acting, and the script. My gripes regarding exposition are minor. I think a lot depends on the story. I didn’t feel the descriptions were problematic or overtaking the stories as the audiobook progressed.

It’s interesting how the people working on this have balanced the overarching story with pieces that are one-offs in context. The framing of Three Septembers, for example, provide some background on the conflict between Dream and Desire. The last four stories are all self-contained, but provide more context about who Dream is. Weirdly, Act II’s centerpiece, A Game of You, only has a couple of scenes with Dream at the very end. And it can be hard to see how it fits into the greater narrative. (In this moment it comes to me that it bears a structural affinity to The Hound of the Baskervilles in which Sherlock Holmes only shows up at the very end.)

In considering the stories not yet shared in audiobook form, I wonder if a forthcoming Act III or Act IV will cover The World’s End which had some insanely good artwork and at least two wordless two-page spreads that will be hard to describe. As the series progressed, the art got more and more interesting (and even the earliest issues weren’t slouching in this department). This might also be why the audio exposition is so detailed sometimes.

In any event, I definitely recommend it, whether you’ve read the graphic novels or not.