Friday, May 11, 2007

I am just not a fan ...

... of full-cast recordings. I have tried ... although I will admit I still haven't listened to very many. Even though it was on our list last year, I confess I never did get around to listening to Airborn last year. (Can you tell I'm enjoying having discovered that linking button?)

I have wanted to do His Dark Materials for several years, but that will have to wait until after I'm done with my YALSA listening: there just isn't time to devote 34 hours to that right now! In the past, I've also listened to the previous Harry Potter -- I listened to Jim Dale do Order of the Phoenix while waiting for Half Blood Prince -- but that won't be happening either. I guess I just have to talk to my friend Marie to remind me of the important plot points in HP VI before I delve into VII (on audio, of course, I've already got my plan about taking it with me to the wedding I'm headed to in Boston -- I sincerely hope that LL will cooperate with my plan and get me my copy in a timely fashion). It would've been nice to get through The Golden Compass before the movie comes out in December ... I guess I could skip it in the movie theatres and wait for the DVD.

But I digress ...

Full-cast recordings ... I don't know, they just sound so amateurish. Everyone reads with such fake-sounding actorly precision -- so many unnaturally enunciated words. In the title I'm listening to now, one of the characters is described in the story as having a slight slur to her speech, and the reader is simply not even trying! Now, take a deep breath and remember that young listeners probably especially enjoy listening to someone their own age reading a book -- but is that a reason for amateurish reading? Absolutely not! It's like having a child in a play who mugs the entire time because someone has told them how cute they are up there.

So, I'm trying desperately to keep an open mind while listening to Street Magic, Full Cast Audio's interpretation of the Tamora Pierce novel. (And may I ask why Full Cast Audio started with the second novel in a series? How annoying is that?) Following the book discussion group rules, positives first.

FCA founder Bruce Coville is the narrator, and he is doing a fine job -- he has a nice rumbling baritone and brings a measured thoughtfulness to all that "he said, in a surprised tone of voice," etc. that is another one of the things I have difficulty with in this kind of audiobook.

The readers playing the two young characters -- whose names I haven't gotten to since the cast is not on the FCA website and I'm not at the end yet -- are performing with enthusiasm and emotion. I think they must be experienced readers because they definitely can manage what I think the hardest part of this kind of voice acting: jumping in with their lines without the benefit of the narration to help build character or feeling (the job I thought Richard Morant did so well in The White Darkness). The young girl playing Evvy has a tendency to employ screeching when she is expressing strong emotions -- and listening to that register plus her upstate New York accent (that exaggerated aaah -- I'm sure the linguists would have a little symbol for that) can be like fingernails on a blackboard.

The remaining readers enliven the story with their different voices -- the point of this kind of audiobook, I think -- although I just listened to a part last night where the reader playing a small role seemed to concentrating on reading with absolutely no emotion at all. And, I remain mystified by the woman reading Rosethorn, the character with the slurred speech, who is pronouncing all of the words on the page with precision and accuracy.

The story lends itself to being read aloud -- it's fast-paced and there's lots of action. With the different voices it is definitely easier to keep track of plot and characters. FCA makes a special effort with music, and here it gives the book a great feel for Asia, a bustling marketplace, and magical goings-on.

I'm not being swept away, but will listen until the end. It seems unlikely that this will get a nomination from me -- when I review all the books I've listened to so far, this one simply doesn't stand out.

No comments: