The Universe of Discourse

Wed, 29 Aug 2018

Holy cow audiobooks

On long road trips I spend a lot of time listening to music and even more time talking to myself. My recent road trip was longer than usual and I eventually grew tired of these amusements. I got the happy idea that I might listen to an audiobook, something I've never done before. Usually the thought of sitting and listening to someone droning out a book for 14 hours makes me want to dig my heart out with a spoon (“You say a word. Then I think for a long time. Then you say another word.”) but I had a long drive and I was not going anywhere anyway, so thought it might be a good way to pass the time.

The first thing I thought to try was Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice, which everyone says is excellent, and which I had wanted to read. I was delighted to learn that I could listen to the first hour or so before paying anything, so I downloaded the sample.

It was intolerable. The voice actor they chose (Celeste Ciulla) was hilariously inappropriate, so much so that, had I not gotten the book from the most unimpeachable source, I would have suspected I was being pranked. Ancillary Justice is a hard-boiled military story in which the protagonist is some sort of world-weary slave or robot, or at least so I gather from the first half of the first chapter. Everything that appears in the first chapter is terrible: the people, the situation, the weather. It opens with these words:

The body lay naked and facedown, a deathly gray, spatters of blood staining the snow around it. It was minus fifteen degrees Celsius and a storm had passed just hours before.

But Ms. Ciulla's voice… there's nothing wrong with it, maybe — but for some other book. I can imagine listening to her reading What Katy Did or Eight Cousins or some other 19th-century girl story.

I found myself mockingly repeating Ciulla's pronunciation. And about twelve minutes in I gave up and turned it off. Here's a sample of that point. It ends with:

“What do you want?” growled the shopkeeper.

Is Ciulla even capable of growling? Unclear.

I figured that the book was probably good, and I was afraid Ciulla would ruin it for me permanently.

Spotify had a recording of Sir Christopher Lee reading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, so I listened to that instead.

I think I could do a better job reading than most of the audiobook actors I sampled, and I might give it a try later. I think I might start with The 13 Clocks. Or maybe something by C.A. Stephens, which is in the public domain.

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