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  • Redwall: Redwall, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Brian Jacques
    • Narrated By Brian Jacques, Full Cast

    When Redwall was published in 1987 it catapulted author Brian Jacques to international stardom. And small wonder! This enthralling tale is jam-packed with the things we long for in a great adventure: danger, laughter, hairbreadth escapes, tragedy, mystery, a touch of wonder, a truly despicable villain, and a hero we can take to heart.

    David says: "Two paws up from an initially skeptical listener"
    "Two paws up from an initially skeptical listener"

    I was doubly a skeptic before downloading this title: I had picked up Redwall (in print) a couple of times before and failed to get into it; and I generally dislike any form of "full cast" production. But I took a chance, and I'm very glad I did, since I'm enjoying the heck out of this recording!

    The key problem with most full cast recordings is that they usually involve drastic abridgements of the text, a failing that negates any benefit to having a bunch of voices. Here they use a much more sensible approach: the full text is still there, but when each character speaks, their dialogue is read by whatever voice actor is playing that part. The effect combines the best aspects of a radio play and an unabridged recording of a book: you still get all the narration and interior dialogue, but there's a wide range of distinct voices to bring the characters to life. A book that never really grabbed me in print became a pleasure to listen to.

    The story itself is entertaining, though perhaps not brilliant, but overall it's great fun. It's my first exposure to this style of recording, and I'd rate it a success. I hope other books explore this method of presenting the text, rather than succumbing to the temptation to do highly abridged dramatizations.

    28 of 28 people found this review helpful
  • The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World

    • ORIGINAL (24 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By The Great Courses, Robert Garland
    • Narrated By Professor Robert Garland

    Look beyond the abstract dates and figures, kings and queens, and battles and wars that make up so many historical accounts. Over the course of 48 richly detailed lectures, Professor Garland covers the breadth and depth of human history from the perspective of the so-called ordinary people, from its earliest beginnings through the Middle Ages.

    Mark says: "Tantalizing time trip"
    "The course I've been searching for"
    Any additional comments?

    Prof. Garland begins the course by noting that it's one that he's been preparing for all his life. Listening to it, I feel like this is the course I've been searching for all my life -- or at least, for as long as I've had an interest in history. I've always been fascinated by the question of what life was like in the streets and farms and backwaters of history, rather than in the palaces, and it's always been a topic that tends to be given short shrift. This course covers the daily lives of ancient peoples in exuberant detail. It's a lovely series of lectures, enthusiastically presented and richly detailed. I'm two-thirds of the way through, now, and not looking forward to having it end.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Tommyknockers

    • UNABRIDGED (27 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Stephen King
    • Narrated By Edward Hermann
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Bobbi Anderson and the other good folks of Haven, Maine, have sold their souls to reap the rewards of the most deadly evil this side of Hell.

    Grant S. Burroughs says: "The old Stephen King"
    "Fantastic narration of an enjoyable story"
    Any additional comments?

    This may be the closest thing I've ever heard to a *perfect* narration of a book! Edward Hermann really knocks it out of the park with his casual, understated, but perfectly inflected reading. It's like he's just recalling a story and telling it to you as it occurs to him. Really remarkably well done.

    The story itself is vintage King, so if you enjoy his work as I do, you'll enjoy this. Maybe not the best of his that I've ever encountered, but very solid. Kept me interested to the end!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Pawn of Prophecy: The Belgariad, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By David Eddings
    • Narrated By Cameron Beierle

    Long ago, so the Storyteller claimed, the evil god Torak sought dominion and drove men and Gods to war. But Belgrath the Sorcerer led men to reclaim the Orb that protected the West. So long as it lay at Riva, the prophecy went, men would be safe. That was only a story, and Garion did not believe in magic dooms, even though the man without a shadow had haunted him for years.

    Michael says: "My literary "comfort food""
    "Rip-roaring fantasy adventure"

    I'm honestly baffled by all the hostility toward the narration of this series. The narrator uses accents to represent the different nations, and that's a bold choice, one that can be jarring at first --but after a while, I came to really appreciate it. The nations of the West are sort of like European countries in size and diversity, and on reflection it made a lot of sense that they would have varying accents: Sendarians sound vaguely British, Arends vaguely French, and so on. It's true that the accents do drift around a bit, he doesn't hit them spot-on every time, but I didn't find this at all a problem.

    The story itself is a classic, and sure to be enjoyed by young (and young-at-heart) adults, with strong, memorable characters and a story of grand adventure to carry them along.

    I'd recommend it strongly (and the other four books in the series)! Don't be scared off by the negative reviews of the narration without at least checking out the sample and seeing for yourself.

    16 of 18 people found this review helpful
  • Dune

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Frank Herbert
    • Narrated By Scott Brick, Orlagh Cassidy, Euan Morton, and others

    Here is the novel that will be forever considered a triumph of the imagination. Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Maud'dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family and would bring to fruition humankind's most ancient and unattainable dream.

    Joshua says: "Wonderful production!"
    "A lavish production"

    This is a fantastic presentation of an SF classic, combining the best of two worlds: a dramatized, full-cast rendition that still retains the full unabridged text. I love this style of recording, where each character is done in a different actor's voice, but the whole text is read, with another actor doing the main narration. It allows you to get the feel of a "radio play" without the massive cuts and loss of background narration that actual dramatizations normally suffer. If you've listened to other SF works from Audible, you'll recognize many of the usual suspects at work here (especially the Ender's Game crew), and they do their usual top-notch job. As to the story . . . well, what needs to be said? One of the all-time greats, a truly magnificent piece of science fiction. One could call it "Lawrence of Arabia in space" (and it was published just a few years after the film was made), but that would be to underestimates the complexity and power of the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

    • UNABRIDGED (32 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Susanna Clarke
    • Narrated By Simon Prebble

    English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy servants are nothing but a fading memory.

    David says: "Hang in there!"
    "Hang in there!"

    Both of the following are true: 1) This is a very good book; and 2) That fact is not obvious for about the first eight hours of the audio version. It starts very slowly, reading much like Jane Austen with magicians (though not as funny as Austen). But after a while, the plot really takes off, and it becomes an aborbing, even gripping, "read". Alas, it may have lost many listeners by that point; it nearly lost me! I don't think it's particularly well served by the audiobook format, since in text one can easily skim ahead if things are moving too slowly. I ended up doing something similar with the audiobook: I'd listen at night, with a sleep timer, and not worry too much about backing up if I fell asleep and missed fifteen or thirty minutes here or there.

    My advice: Hang in there! There's a great novel in store, if you can make it through the opening.

    35 of 38 people found this review helpful
  • Wyrd Sisters: Discworld #6

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Terry Pratchett
    • Narrated By Celia Imrie
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Chris says: "Which Discworld?"
    "Give the narrator a break!"

    I love all of Pratchett's books, so I'm not reviewing the text itself, here. I wanted to respond to all the negative comments on the narration, which I just don't understand. I thought Celia Imrie did a perfectly good job, and I don't find her voice "grating" or "un-understandable" at all! Don't let those earlier reviews scare you away from this title. To be honest, I disagree with some of Imrie's choices in terms of vocal characterization -- for instance, the elder witches are a bit too quavery and weak sounding to match my own mental image of them, but it's hardly a deal-breaker. (And after all, they are supposed to be quite old! But I never picture that as coming through in their voices.) In the end, I prefer Planer and Briggs, but I enjoyed Imrie's reading of Wyrd Sisters. And the material is so great, it would be a shame to miss it because of all these groundless concerns over the narration.

    1 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Interesting Times: Discworld #17

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By Terry Pratchett
    • Narrated By Nigel Planer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    David says: "Great reading of a Pratchett classic!"
    "Great reading of a Pratchett classic!"

    "Interesting Times" is one of my favourite Pratchett books, and Nigel Planer does his usual terrific job converting it to audio. The story pokes fun at all things Oriental (or Auriental in the story -- where the gold comes from, you see), or more to the point, it makes fun of Western cliches about the Orient. The scene where Cohen and his horde of elderly barbarians take on the ninjas is perhaps one of the funniest things I've ever read/heard. "That was impressive," says one barbarian, "the way that lad jumped backwards across the room like that." "You shouldn't ought to have stuck your sword out in his way like that, though," another chimes in. "He's learned a valuable lesson!"

    Any Pratchett fan will love this book.

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • Snow Crash

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Neal Stephenson
    • Narrated By Jonathan Davis
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Neal Stephenson is a blazing new force on the sci-fi scene. With the groundbreaking cyberpunk novel Snow Crash, he has "vaulted onto the literary stage." It weaves virtual reality, Sumerian myth, and just about everything in between with a cool, hip cybersensibility - in short, it is the gigathriller of the information age.

    A. Tuck says: "Classic Stephenson"
    "You'll love it or you'll hate"

    I love the fact that the reviews of "Snow Crash" are so mixed -- if someone doesn't give it a 4 or 5, they give it a 1 (and probably only because they can't give it a zero). It's probably very much a function of your personality: if you're the right type, it'll grab you and you'll love it. Otherwise, it'll seem stupid, boring, and pointless. I'm in the former group: I love it!

    Either way, you won't have anything to complain about in the narration, in my opinion. Jonathan Davis does an excellent job.

    32 of 37 people found this review helpful

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