Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Narrators Make or Break an Audiobook

If you listen to audiobooks, you know what I’m talking about. The quality of the narrator can lift a good book to new heights – or bury it.

We all have our personal favourites, I’m sure, and our own preferences. My pet hates include male narrators who attempt female voices and don’t pull it off. In one book, the main character, who was supposed to be the holder of a PhD, sounded like a whiny bimbo because of the narrator’s ill-advised voices. It made it incredibly difficult to take her at all seriously. Women who attempt male voices seem to have more success, even when not brilliantly done. 

My other peeve is (and I apologise in advance to my American friends) American accents in high/epic fantasy books. I’m sorry, but it interferes with my suspension of disbelief when I hear an American accent in a setting I subconsciously associate with medieval Europe. I’m sure I’d have similar issues if the narrator was Aussie!

My favourite narrators are Simon Vance (he narrates Brent Weeks’ Lightbringer series) and Rupert Degas (who narrates Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles). If you are at all into epic fantasy, these are audiobooks worth checking out – the narrators do an incredible job of submersing you in the story.

Kate Reading has been an unexpected surprise. While I didn’t like her much in The Boneshaker (I found her reading clipped and containing an odd upward inflection) her accent is smoothed in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Paladin of Souls, such that I became uncertain if she was American or British and which accent it was she was imitating (she’s American by the way). While not as good as Simon Vance or Rupert Degas, she does a good job on Paladin of Souls.

Sadly, I have developed a real dislike for her husband, and I apologise to him, for I am sure as a person he has much to recommend him. My dislike is based purely on his narration, which I think is ill-suited for epic fantasy, and perhaps personally on the fact I can’t abide what he’s done to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. While I have only listened to samples of those books, and some were better examples than others, I weep to think what beautiful audiobooks the series might have made in the hands of Degas or Vance.

Style of narrator will affect what you enjoy in an audiobook as much as the style of the author – but the fact a good marriage between two is required certainly complicates the matter.

Who are your favourite narrators and what books do they narrate?

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Dee Solberg said...

Kate Danning is another really great one. I don't like the sound effects (heraldry and trumpets) but she's an amazing narrator and shouldn't be blamed for the producer's foibles.

safireblade said...

See this is the very reason audiobooks are hard on me. A narrator can just ruin the best of stories and because I have an audioographic memory - it sticks in my head so then even reading the book I'll hear them ;) I am however really thinking I need to hear Simon Vance and Rupert Degas since you've been bragging on them. It's not like you to brag on someone without reason ;)


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A.M. Guynes/Annikka Woods said...

I listened once a long time ago to an audiobook of Fellowship of the Ring with a full cast instead of one person. It was amazing. The woman who reads the Valdemar books by Mercedes Lackey gets on my nerves. The one that always puts me in stitches is Wil Wheaton's reading of Ready Player One. It's an almost 16 hour audiobook (the book itself is huge) but it's still fun.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Oh no, I definitely wouldn't keep saying it if it wasn't true! I don't lightly blow someone's trumpet ;-)

Ciara Ballintyne said...

I'm going to check her out. I can forgive trumpets. The Name of the Wind had really cool wind sound effects, which I expect is a little less in your face than trumpets

Dee Solberg said...

She did Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series and I think a damned fine story teller.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

I wouldn't want to be headbutted by one of these

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