"Please. Stop. Singing."
Granted, it's very hard to deal with a cast of 14-15 characters, but many of the characters' voices made me want to stop listening altogether. The narrator's default voice for every person other than most of the dwarves is a stuffy, old-fashioned sounding affair. Think of how you would imagine a stereotypical, British, upper-middle class grandfather of the 1940s to sound. Congratulations. You have heard Bilbo, Elrond, Gandalf, the LakeTown Master, and pretty much everyone over 4 feet tall. Thorin gets more of the same, but with an extremely affected, trying-to-be-posh inflection to top it off. However, on the dwarves, the narrator goes to the opposite extreme. Every single dwarf has his own "unique" voice, and most of these are incredibly annoying. Fili and Kili sound like idiots. They speak in a veeeerrrrrryyyy slllloooowwwwww, overly deep voice and mumble through consonants. They sounded, actually, rather like Crabbe and Goyle from Harry Potter. The voice made me think that the author was implying that they were extremely stupid goons.I would have preferred less "personalization" and more "reading what Tolkien actually wrote," as he's pretty good at identifying the speaker. The mixed-up, everyone-is-arguing parts are supposed to be muddled, so it's extremely unnecessary to inject a separate voice for everyone.This became utterly unbearable during the singing portions. In the narrator's defense, it is hard to come up with tunes for Tolkien's stuff, and it is acutely awkward to expect someone to sing a page's worth of unwritten melody, but augh! I had to fast forward through the elf songs. Rather than "elvish" or "merry" or "different but appealing" or anything Tolkien implied, the elvish music is closer to, "stuffy old guy blissed out on something very relaxing and probably illegal." By contrast, the narrator seems to be trying to rush through the dwarf songs, setting them at an overly brisk cadence and singing them as if he wants to get through as quickly as possible and is rather bored of the song. Awful stuff.
No; I liked parts of it, but the songs always made me abandon the story for at least a day or so, and the voices grated on my nerves.
Fair warning: I am a huge Star Wars nerd and love the print versions of these books. This set the bar EXTREMELY high, but the audiobooks are arguably better than the print version. (Yeah, really.)Between the narration and the touches of the original soundtrack that the editors wove in at key points, it really felt as through the book was part of the Star Wars universe. Better yet, the music made otherwise unlikeable characters more understandable. I didn't think it would be so compelling, but small details such as throwing in the sad music from Darth Vader's funeral as the narrator spoke of Captain Pellaeon's memory of watching the Executor crash into the Death Star made his mental anguish seem substantially more sympathetic. (Considering that he's one of the "bad guys" and not entirely likeable, getting any sympathy is tough.) Star Wars wouldn't be the same without Williams's soundtrack, so it was a good play to incorporate that.
I really enjoyed his take on the characters' voices. I was terrified that he would mess up Thrawn, but Thompson made Thrawn seem cool, calculating, and impeccably cultured to the point of being utterly alien. (Convenient, that.) His version of Captain Pellaeon is also very well done. Thompson aced the loyal, highly military, bright-but-not-bright-enough, Empire's man who is totally aware of his lack of genius. He injected the right tough of awkwardness into interactions with Thrawn, making it heartily apparent how utterly out of his depth the Captain knows he is and how totally flatfooted most of Thrawn's decisions make the Captain feel.I also really, really, really appreciated that Thompson managed to convey "this is a woman speaking" without falling into the trap of affecting a high pitched, squeaky voice. (Ahem, Jim Dale.) Leia actually sounded Leia-ish in inflection.
My only real criticism of the book is that Thompson's read on Mara made me really dislike her. He took the "bitter" thing and blew it up to mammoth proportions. Yeah, she's a bitter character, but ai! Enough!
In some ways, yes. The narrator did an excellent job of capturing Lovecraft's somewhat hysterical, overblown, exaggerated writing style without excessively dramatic flourishes. (I was pretty worried about that -- most stories do revolve around characters going insane, and Lovecraft's descriptions are sort of over the top, so I was expecting a multiple hour verbal freakout.)
The touches of soundtrack also added to the mood. The music isn't constant, but there are occasional snippets of spooky music.
Listeners should note that this work dates from the 1920s. Every now and then, Lovecraft will throw in a description that is not exactly polite by today's standards. (For example, his descriptions of voodoo rituals are definitely not PC.) It's not malicious; it's just the style of the time. However, be warned.
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