I read a lot of books. I mean, a lot. If I have the time, am in the mood, and can ignore my hubby for long periods of time, I can plow through several novels in a day. Not War and Peace length novels, but standard 70k – 100k word novels. Thank all the gods above and below for the King County Library and their ebook program or my poor bank balance would weep. Because I also have a few other hobbies which require actually looking away from a computer screen now and then, I’ve started trying out audiobooks. Here are my thoughts.
First off, narrators matter. It seems stupidly obvious but I wanted that out there and up front. I’m not fond of the robo-voice, monotone style, not even for narrative. Some things just need to have emotion, even if it’s just background info, in order to retain the author’s voice.
Next…why can’t publishing houses, especially the Big Five, hire at least two narrators? It’s a bit weird listening to an ensemble book with a single narrator attempting all of the voices, male and female. Some inevitably turn out similar. Others sound a bit…silly. Also, interruption by other characters aren’t as believable when you know it’s the same voice “breaking in.”
Cadence matters. If the narrator worries so much about diction that they end up sounding like a graduate of the William Shatner School of Speech, they’re doing it wrong. I think I spent more time guessing when she’d pause than I did listening to what she was saying. Oddly enough, and other than her weird pauses, I really enjoyed her narration. Just…dayum. Those pauses annoyed me.
Sex scenes are another thing that’s slightly odd about listening to a novel. With a single narrator, it’s akin to listening to verbal masturbation. Strange and slightly awkward. One side of your brain says, “these are two (or more) different fictional characters,” while the other side points out that, “this is the same voice calling themselves ‘darling.’” I think dual narrators would remove that strange level of squick.
On the plus side, it allows me to do other things while still indulging in my love of books. I can enjoy other hobbies without dividing my attention, having the book on speaker. Crafts generally require eyes on the project if I want to avoid almost losing a finger (again!), so audiobooks are definitely a plus there.
Single narrator issues notwithstanding, I have enjoyed some of the voices they’ve come up with. The accents and inflections are sometimes what I expected to hear, sometimes not, and can make or break a character.
I also love hearing the pronunciation of certain words—other languages, odd names. Lets me know if I’m pronouncing them correctly or just mangling someone’s language. Usually, I’m mangling.
All in all, I haven’t listened to a large variety of audiobooks so the jury is still out. I want to listen to a few more—different series, different narrators, even different genres—before I decide yes or no. It may be that, like authors, I like this narrator but not that one. Again, thanks to the library, I can sample them like a literary buffet. Go me!
So, do you listen to audiobooks? What genre, authors, or narrators are you favorites?