Audie Award, Audio Drama, 2013
Award-winning author, narrator, and screenwriter Neil Gaiman personally selected this book, and, using the tools of the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), cast the narrator and produced this work for his audiobook label, Neil Gaiman Presents.
A few words from Neil on Swordspoint: "It's as if Jane Austen wrote fantasy... an imaginary world where the characters are real people: a Vanity Fair of aristocrats, rogues, orphans, and heroes; a book where the best swordsman in the land can make far more money dueling at private parties than he can as a knight-errant. Ellen Kushner casts her sharp eye over them all, but with great affection and lavish detaiI.... couldn't think of a better performer for Swordspoint than Ellen, and her reading is polished, intimate, and – since Riverside is of her creation – wholly authentic.
"What really makes this production of Swordspoint unique, though, is the supporting cast in this special "illuminated production". Several key scenes are fully dramatized, and throughout the entire book's soundscapes you will hear the cadences of the marketplace, the music of the drawing rooms, and of course the ring of steel drawn from the scabbard. Ellen actually wrote new dialogue for the crowd scenes, so the actors aren't just mumbling "rhubarb rhubarb" to simulate speech.... You'll be able to hear performances from acclaimed and award-winning actors, including Dion Graham, Katherine Kellgren, Robert Fass, Nick Sullivan, and the remarkable Simon Jones."
In this exciting new "illuminated production", the author herself reads her own work, supported by a full cast. Author Ellen Kushner is also a popular performer and National Public Radio host (Sound & Spirit). For years, fans have been asking her to record her own audiobook of Swordspoint. To mark the 25th anniversary of the book's publication, Ellen teamed up with Sue Zizza of SueMedia Productions, known for her signature touches of soundscapes and sound effects, multi-voiced dramatizations, and all the techniques of "illuminated production". Together they have made Swordspoint a brand-new audio experience, in which the full supporting cast dramatizes and illuminates key scenes from Ellen's compelling narration.
On the streets of Riverside, a man lives and dies by the sword. Even the nobles on the Hill turn to duels to settle their disputes. And in this city, the swordsman Richard St. Vier is the undisputed master, as skilled as he is ruthless – until a death by the sword is met with outrage instead of awe, and the city discovers that the line between hero and villain can be altered in the blink of an eye. Because every man lives at sword's point, if you can only find his weakness. And even the greatest swordsman in Riverside has one thing he cares for deeply.
Hailed by critics as "a bravura performance, a delight from start to finish" (Locus), "intelligent, humorous and dramatic" (Publishers Weekly) and "witty, beguiling and ingenious" (Interzone) , Kushner's "Melodrama of Manners" has become a classic, a favorite not only of Neil Gaiman but a host of distinguished colleagues, including George R. R. Martin ("unforgettable!"), Orson Scott Card ("powerful") and Gene Wolfe ("as if Noel Coward had written a vehicle for Errol Flynn!").
The artwork used for the audiobook edition of Swordspoint is based on the artwork and design by Thomas Canty for the original first US edition of the book.
To hear more from Neil Gaiman on Swordspoint, click here, or listen to the introduction at the beginning of the book itself.
©1987 Ellen Kushner (P)2011 SueMedia Productions
"A glorious thing, the book we might have had if Noel Coward had written a vehicle for Errol Flynn. It’s wicked and visual and witty, and it pulls you in like the doorman of a Bourbon Street bar." (Gene Wolfe)
"Swordspoint begins with a single drop of blood on a field of new-fallen snow, an image that burned itself forever into my mind the first time I encountered it. I can close my eyes and see it still. It’s a terrific opening, an unforgettable opening... and the book just gets better from there." (George R. R. Martin)
“Ellen Kushner delivers her utterly unique blend of modern fantasy and nineteenth-century novel of manners with absolute conviction, affectionate humor, and perfect phrasing. “Neil Gaiman Presents” has provided original music, lively soundscapes, and the voices of some of the audio world’s most distinguished performers. Hearing Katherine Kellgren, Dion Graham, and others sharpen the cutting, insightful dialogue is pure pleasure.” (Audiofile)
The well-described locations and complex relationships among the many characters gave this story a solidity that I appreciated.
Genre fiction, trashy to literary--mystery, action, sci fi, fantasy, and, yes, even romance. Also history. Listener reviews help a lot!
Unlike most of the other reviewers posting early, I had never read (or even heard of) this book. I scooped it up based on (1) Neil Gaiman's recommendation and (2) the presence of Simon Jones, my all-time favorite narrator, in the cast.
The story is offbeat, as one might expect from Gaiman's choice of it, but is fast-moving, enjoyable, and thought-provoking, with drama, action, and an undertone of humor. The production values are great; it combines the soundtrack elements of a radio play with straight narration, and does so with superb dexterity.
Sexy swashbuckling politicoes
Richard and Alec are kind of terrible but I love them in spite of themselves. Although hmm, the Duchess might beat them.
Well, I've heard Ellen read in person before, so sort of? She's a fantastic reader, and loves her characters and her settings so much. This was a great performance, and the sound effects and other actors for the dramatized scenes really added such richness to the recording.
Oh, those mad, bad boys.
I read this book a few years ago, and just loved it then. Having such a fantastic audio version made me wriggly with joy. The last line of dialog is so simple and, out of context, utterly mundane, and the fact that it made me weep into my steering wheel is a testament to Kushner's ability to make a reader care so much about the characters that all of the context can fit into such a short line.
Swordspoint is one of my all-time favorite books--one I re-read every few years. I find it exceptionally compelling as a story, and I love the complexity of the plot and the intricate maneuvering of the characters. Ellen Kushner is a superb writer, and I have read all her work, including the other tales of Riverside. Swordsman Richard St. Vier and his lover Alec are two amazing fictional characters and I love being a part of their world. The audio version of the book is terrific: Kushner and her supporting cast make the ten plus hours fly by. Congratulations to everyone involved in the production, and thanks to Neil Gaiman for selecting it.
I have read this book in Japanese more than 20years ago and this was the first time "reading" it in English and let me tell you...Wow
The audiobook version of this book was given as a gift to me and it was such a jewel. It is actually read by the author with the casts including music and sound effects. I was not only able to experience the original English version, but also could enjoy the nuances and the richness of the dialogues as well, through the wonderful narration by the author.
The experience of listening to this production was like watching (listening) to a classical Shakespeare-like periodic play. If you are a fan of this book, don't miss the experience!
I have read the original book several times and never dreamed I would get lucky enough to have the author herself read her work, with selected dramatization in parts. It's wonderful, it's fantastic, it's...well...it's Richard and Alec, the quintessential couple. And once again they are coming alive in my life, but this time via my ears instead of my eyes. I couldn't be much happier.
Neil Gaiman seemed inordinately proud of the supposedly full-voiced production. Why, then is this 99% Ellen Kushner reading it? MAYBE 1% is performed by the actors (who aren't terribly good) they advertised, and sometimes even those scenes shift abruptly into Ellen Kushner reading it again, Kushner voicing the same characters they had previously had voiced by actors & actresses; after the mid-way point, even that 1% ceases and it becomes all-Kushner-all-the-time. This was a sham, a case of false advertising, a waste of my time and money. Either have a single person read the whole thing, like most other audiobooks, or have a full cast performing the whole thing. You can't get away with this sort of piss-poor production if you plan to advertise it as something else.
I would have cast either a full cast or just Kushner. Make up your minds, folks.
No. It read like a female version of what women accuse men of writing when we write lesbians -- an adolescent fantasy. It's all fashion and parties and squabbling over status, with action sequences that usually occur off-stage or crawl along at a snail's pace, set in a world in which every man is only one meaningful glance away from hopping into bed with another man. It read like the sort of terrible Harry Potter slash-fics my female friends wrote in high school and college - a girl's fantasy of what men get up to when women aren't around.
I regret buying the sequel at the same time I bought this book. I anticipated loving this, since everyone seems to, and instead I find myself despising it.
I remember loving this book when I first read it and it was just as good the second time around. Brilliantly complex take on the swashbuckling story. The only negative is probably personal, I didn't care for the sound effects, some were just off, and others pulled me out of the story.
Overall it was an excellent listen and if you like sound effects it will be splendid.
There seems to be lots of great buzz and reviews about this book, so I had some high hopes going in. It wasn't that I was completely disappointed with the book, but I don't think it lived up to the hype.
I've listened to the novel several times in an attempt to figure out what exactly I dislike about it, but I still can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe it was the rather disjointed plot. Lots of things happen in the book that don't necessarily have much to do with any of the other things. The author mentions in her discussion of the book that it started as several short stories. You can tell. The storylines seemed jammed painfully together, resulting in some problems with timing (ie. look at the discrepancies in the passage of time in the Richard is first hired by the dragon chancellor and Michael Godwin's decision to take up swordsmanship).
Maybe I didn't like that you never really understand what's going on. It's hard to get too worked up about political plotting and rivalries when you get absolutely no explanation of any of the government system or positions. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Gene Wolfe fan and if there was ever an author who didn't feel the need to burden the narrative with explaining himself, its Wolfe, but Kushner's novel just didn't cut it for me.
I didn't mind the multiple narrators so much as the stupid sound effects that accompany the narration. The addition of things like the sound of spoons stirring when characters are having tea, is so juvenile a technique that it takes away from the book.
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