Friday, March 9, 2007

Fearless Pluck!

So, it's March 9 ... we're more than a month into audiobook review for Selected Audiobooks and I've been very wishywashy: Maybe I like Samurai Shortstop, but I'm not willing to commit to actually nominating it! My colleagues have been much the same: We've got a bunch of maybes floating around out there: An Abundance of Katherines, Flyte and The Book Thief are all in our "pending" folder. (I listened to The Book Thief last year and have some opinions about it that maybe I'll share later.)

Anyway, inspired by young Art Mumby's fearless pluck in the farthest reaches of space, I've decided to get down off the fence and nominate something I really enjoyed listening to: Larklight by Philip Reeve. Recall in an earlier post that I was put off by the narrator's fake-sounding English accent, but now -- about eight hours later -- I've let that go. Because as I got deeper into the story, that accent mattered less and less. What mattered more was narrator Greg Steinbruner's really terrific characterizations. The book had a cast of (at least) 30 and Steinbruner gave each one a distinct, original and clever voice:
  • Enthusiastic, a little naive Art Mumby
  • Prim, yet with an underlying sweetness Myrtle Mumby
  • Humble and insecure Cilissa [sp?], the space lizard
  • Honest and a little dim Nipper, the space crab
  • Heroic, fearless and dashing Jack Havock, the pirate
  • Valiant and pompous Sir Richard Burton (the 19th century explorer)
  • Nefarious and disguised spider leader, Mr. Webster (get it!)
  • Calm, immensely aged, yet human Mrs. Mumby, an alien from beyond our world
  • Insane, yet competent mad scientist ... whose name is temporarily eluding me

Each voice is still clear in my head, and this just adds to the enjoyment of this audiobook -- especially in complicated fantasy stories it's often difficult to keep characters straight. In Larklight, you knew exactly who was talking; it helped immensely!

Finally, the book (which I have not seen) has illustrations that -- according to reviews -- enhance the story. I didn't feel their lack while listening, and would posit that the vocal characterizations are yet another kind of enhancement. And, possibly, that the audiobook is more suited to an older, teen listener. (At my library, this is cataloged YA.)

Hmm... looking forward to our discussions next January on this one!

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