Monday, September 28, 2009

Immortality isn't all it's cracked up to be

I have been busy listening for the past two weeks, but everything has been a little underwhelming; I've not been particularly inspired to comment on anything. But, now I'm quite behind, so I'd better man up and start typing. I started off liking Fragile Eternity -- mostly because it's "I want to be immortal" shtick was the boy's complaint not the girl's. But the whining just went on for bloody ever and it became a slog to the end.

In Melissa Marr's initial installment in this series, Wicked Lovely, Aislinn -- who can see faeries -- and her boyfriend Seth come up with an original plan for faery power-sharing: Keenan, the Summer King, wants Aislinn as his Queen (transformation into faery status involves a dangerous kiss), but Aislinn is in love with Seth. They propose that Aislinn and Keenan be the Summer King and Queen, but without the romantic entanglement ... it's just a job (I found myself occasionally intrigued about what exactly a faery's job is ... but that's another story, I guess). Keenan, desperate to get out from under the not-so-friendly rule of his mother -- the Winter Queen -- agrees.

Now, in Fragile Eternity (there is an intermediate book called Ink Exchange where Aislinn, Seth and Keenan play supporting roles), Summer is ascendent, the solstice approaches and Aislinn is experiencing some unwanted, yet romantic, feelings about Keenan. Seth is jealous and depressed that he'll eventually die and Aislinn will be free to consort with Keenan. So, he concocts a plan to approach the fourth faery court (the third being the Dark ... who knew there were so many?) -- the High (I might be forgetting this name considering it's been over a week) so that this Queen (completely blanking on her name!) can convert him -- with conditions -- to immortality.

So, this is intriguing, yes? I liked Wicked Lovely and its premise (although not as much as its cousin, Holly Black's "modern faerie" books). Marr's faery world is a complex one -- people fall in and out of love, alliances are formed and dissolve, and there's a significant amount of violence and unpleasantness. But, the ongoing internal agonizing -- do I love Seth or Keenan ... Aislinn will forget me when I get old and ugly ... why has Seth left me ... the Summer Court needs Aislinn and Keenan to be lovers ... etc. -- just got repetitive and ultimately dull. Even when Seth heads to the High Court for conversion, he enters into this fugue state where he loves the Queen who transforms him ... and he (and she) go on about that.

The audiobook is narrated by Nick Landrum; someone I never would have picked for this title. I listened to him a couple of years ago read two stories about slightly feral young boys who are searching for loving adults. He's got a deep, twangy, slightly rumbling speaking voice that seemed perfect for those titles. So, I was surprised to see him attached to an exotic, urban tale. (See, just like publishers, I can typecast a narrator!) And I was pleasantly surprised to find his reading of Fragile Eternity was not the genre-bender I thought it would be. While not an outstanding performance, Landrum certainly is up to the change.

He's got a couple quirks that make listening a little tricky. He keeps voicing to a minimum, and tracking conversations between people of the same gender can be confusing. I had to rewind and listen again occasionally because of this. He also has this odd habit of starting a sentence, pausing at a place where there isn't a comma, and then completing it. At the beginning of the novel, I heard this frequently ... often following a name or an unusual word: (freely improvising here) "Aislinn [pause pause] thought about what Seth had said." Is he giving us a moment to orient ourselves? If so, that's helpful. But as it occurs frequently, the mannerism itself becomes the thing I focus on -- instead of what he was saying. As with any listening, I think I got used to this, because I only remember it bothering me in the beginning.

Ultimately, though, I think he's got a reading pattern that doesn't help this angsty novel. His calm voice is soothing and lulling and its mostly unvarying rhythm adds up to a soporific effect. Oddly, this quietness seems matched to the interior monologue approach of the novel, but its sheer length (11+ hours) makes a listener crave for a little more excitement in order to keep going.

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