China Miéville's writing is both dense and fragmented—reading it aloud is no easy task, so it is no great criticism of Jonathan Cowley to say that he is not suited for the role he has assumed in narrating Railsea. His reading is warm and personal, but he stumbles on the nuances of the language—those the finicky inflections and the odd staccato that characterizes the calculated casualness of Mr Miéville's distinct voice. Much is lost as a result, and the narrative seems murkier and less impressive than it does on the page.
It would have been more difficult to isolate the faults of Mr Cowley's performance had it not been for narrator John Lee's masterful renditions of previous works by Mr Miéville. Mr Lee has a rare crispness in his delivery that allows Mr Miéville's punctuation to survive the transition from the written to the oral miraculously intact. We can only hope that he will bestow his talent on Railsea somewhere down the line, for this novel, while not as awe-inspiring as Mr Miéville's best works, is still worthy of the best possible delivery.
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