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)
A smart, fun, elegant gem of a story beautifully narrated by the author, enhanced by a tastefully deployed supporting cast. A delight to hear.
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.
reader, teacher, writer=happy person
The tagline on the book promises melodrama, and there is plenty of that. But there was also a sweetness to the characters and some pointed critique of the rigid class structure within the land of Riverside. I enjoyed the allusions to Chaucer, medieval fairy tales and even the Rape of the Lock. Rich, full and engaging. I want Richard St. Vier as a friend.
I am probably not doing this book justice as others have loved it. I was sure I would like it as I have read Ellen Kushner in print and enjoy this type of fantasy. I found the plot intriguing, but was put off by the radio play format. There are multiple actors as well as sound effects. I'm sure many people will enjoy this, but I found it artificial and distracting, as if it was getting between me and the story. Strange as it sounds, I found it harder to tell the characters apart with different voices than with one narrator, that is with different voices coming in and out, I couldn't remember which was who. Maybe just my quirks.
Altogether, this was an acceptable book; I didn't get really interested in the plot until the first half was almost over. Other reviews have addressed the shortcomings and good parts of the book, so I won't repeat them. I do want to point out, because it isn't clear in the other reviews or the summary of the book, that there is a LOT of homosexuality. Nothing particularly explicit, but very intimate. If that is something you don't want to hear about repeatedly, then you should avoid this book.
Pretty much the entire experience of this book was disappointing. I snagged it due to the awesome reviews. The story line was interesting, but tit never really sat well with me. I must admit I was not a huge fan of the whole gay main characters. I was more interested in the fancy sword play intrigue of why they needed swordsman to fight duels and the description of the duels themselves. I understand how the characters played into it, but for me it just caused me to lose interest. There was no avert sexual descriptions or truly erotic nature.
On top of this it was a cross between a narration and a drama. Sometimes characters would have their own voices, and others the author would be narrating. I was never sure when it would appear or why it would appear. I actually think I would have enjoyed it more if the whole book was voice actors with sound effects. Much more. This whole back and forth and it randomly starting up just drew me away from the book. It took me a month to finish such a short book. I would put off listening to it for the radio more times than not and decided to muscle my way through it.
It was definitely interesting to have the author read the book because the dialogue became how she intended it. The enunciation was what she had in her head when she was writing it. I definitely
The intrigue was good. It was quite interesting to see the plays moved by characters for power. This was almost as huge a point as the duels if not even more so. I almost feel like it would be a good arc in its own right.
This is just one man's opinion and as such it is an opinion. I am sure if you talk to others they will appreciate it.
Neil Gaiman's glowing review attracted me to this title. What a mistake. No wit, flat characters, and annoying voices. As a Jane Austen fan, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that this story has none of Austen's wit or depth of human understanding. I am baffled by the comparison. Really disappointing.
I live to ride my bike.
First, the narrators did an EXCELLENT job. The various voices added texture, individualism, and character to the interesting people in the fantasy of old world elegance.
Light Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night there are plot twist, lovers misunderstanding, old rivalries and new alliances, humor, loyalty and chivalry which makes this a enjoyable book to hear.
In Riverside the biggest dived between if you are a noble or not is which side of the river you live. It is the time when you live and die by the sword and the rules which apply, to you living or dying, depend on if you are a noble or not.
Richard St Vier is the pre-eminent swordsman who earns his living by fighting for the nobles. Alec is a former university student with a taste for danger and self-destruction and is St. Vier companion and lover.
When the machinations of the nobles effect Richard and Alex cause Richard to change the rules of the sword and impacts the residents on both sides of Riverside.
Believable, captivating, and enchanting.
I loved the intricate details and descriptions set forth by the author. Not one thing is left out, and her cast of characters are all richly defined. You can -see- the world, instead of just imagining it.
All of the narrators - Kushner, and guests, perfectly captured the nuances that make the characters human and believable. So many audiobooks glaze over those subtleties, which leaves a rather gaping hole. Not so with this work. Every one is done to excellence, hitting the nail on the proverbial head.
Both. Always both. It's an emotional journey from beginning to end.
I've loved this book for years for its elegant prose and detailed and interesting world and sense of honor, danger and romance. It is a great example of the 'show don't tell' theory of storytelling and really sets the standard for classic modern fantasy.
I've never been a huge fan of full cast recordings of audiobooks. I find many of them to be sort of overdone- all the background noise, various voice actors, etc. can just turn the story into a mish mash that can ruin the prose you enjoyed in the book in the first place.
So when I read that Swordspoint was being produced with a full cast, I was not enthused. Until I saw that it was being produced by Neil Gaiman and read by Ellen Kushner herself. I knew that if anyone could do it up right, it would be these two and my trust in them more than paid off.
This is simply lovely- deliriously fun and witty and clever to listen to. The background noise and actors are unobtrusive and a perfect counterpoint to Ms. Kushner's reading as well as the other actors who also portray the main characters. If you love fantasy, just get it and let yourself fall into Riverside. You'll be glad you went.
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