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Vox: SF For Your Ears
by Scott Danielson

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A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin; Read by Roy Dotrice 19 Cassettes - 34 Hours [UNABRIDGED] Publisher: Random House Audio
A Game of Thrones A Game of Thrones is the first of six projected volumes of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series. It was published in 1997, where it joined a host of other fat fantasy series, including Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series and Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. With many fully realized characters and subplots that don't fail to surprise, Martin's series stands tall above the rest in the genre. This particular volume won the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel (1997) and was nominated for the Best Novel Nebula Award.

I was very much looking forward to the audio version of this novel, and followed some of the discussion on George R.R. Martin's website concerning it. He apparently rejected an offer to make a 9-hour abridged version of the book, which he felt would be more of a summary than a novel. He was right -- this unabridged version is 34 hours long, and I for one am delighted that he waited.

A Game of Thrones is not fantasy in the style of Tolkien. In fact, it has much more in common with Herbert's Dune than Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. The book is a chess game played by various Houses in a quest for power in a land called Westeros. The setting is medieval, with kings, knights, lords, and ladies. At the beginning of the novel, we're introduced to House Stark, led by Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell. He and his family live in a castle in the northern country, and are reminded often that winter is coming... in more ways than one. Eddard's wife is Catelyn, formerly of House Tully, and their children are Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon. Eddard also fathered a bastard named Jon Snow -- his mother is a mystery to all but Eddard.

The struggle around which everything revolves is between House Stark and House Lannister. Cersei, the king's wife, is of that house, as is Jaime, her twin brother, and Tyrion, a dwarf. Every one of the characters mentioned play important roles in the story, and because they are so realistically portrayed, they are not difficult to tell apart, nor are they hard to remember as they love, fight, promise, and betray.

What makes this novel fantasy? Magic plays a very small role in the story. The characters in this novel are all grey, unlike the black and white good/evil of typical fantasy characters. But there is a growing supernatural threat in the north, introduced in the Prologue. And there is also Danerys Targaryen, of the house that held the throne years before the events in this novel, who is coming of age... and Targaryens are known for their dragons.

George R.R. Martin's writing style is very easy to follow, and translates beautifully to the spoken word. Roy Dotrice does an excellent job. In my opinion, his performance is on par with Jim Dale's reading of the Harry Potter novels. Many, many characters present themselves here, just as in the Potter novels, yet Dotrice, like Dale, manages to keep them all separated and gives them all distinct mannerisms and voices that keep the story flowing. I caught a few mispronunciations in the book, all names where Dotrice gets caught up in the moment and calls Prince Joffrey "Jeffrey", for example, or pronounces the name "Varys" two different ways. This did cause me pause, but it happened only a few times in the 34 hour performance.

A Clash of Kings This was one of my favorite novels before I listened to this audiobook. Martin has created a realistic world peopled with authentic characters that are not difficult to care about. The book runs me through a huge range of emotions as the complex plot runs its course. Listening to the audiobook enhanced the experience - listening to Dotrice's performance was like reading it again for the first time.

Also recently released by Random House is the second novel, A Clash of Kings, which is 37 hours long, and also read by Roy Dotrice. The third volume, A Storm of Swords, is scheduled for release in mid-March. Besides being available everywhere Random House books are sold, the books can be rented at Books on Tape or purchased from Audible.com.

A Pair of Audio Dramas

Anne Manx and the Trouble on Chromius Claudia Christian stars in Anne Manx and the Trouble on Chromius, where she plays a tough private eye who travels to the planet Chromius to solve a mystery. The dialogue is light hearted, fast paced, and well-acted. This production won the Mark Time Gold Award for Science Fiction Audio in 2002. This is available on from the The Radio Repertory Company of America, or on Audible.com.

Big Big Space Roger Gregg's Big Big Space is the funniest SF I've experienced since Red Dwarf. None of the tropes of science fiction is safe from the crew of the starship Amadan as they travel through space dealing with teenage quarks, vicious accountants, and demanding extras. One of the episodes contained here ("Who's Afraid of Rotwang Krell?") won the Mark Time Gold Award for Science Fiction Audio in 2001. In North America, this is available from ZBS (link at left).

And Some News

Big on the audio horizon is the continuation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio dramas. Hitchhiker's Guide was originally a radio drama, written by Douglas Adams. They did two rounds of shows, after which Adams wrote the first two Hitchhiker's novels. Then he wrote another three novels. Now, the story comes full circle, as the last three of Adams' novels are adapted for three more rounds of radio drama. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Tertiary Phase, produced by Dirk Maggs, is in the can, and will be broadcast soon on BBC Radio 4.

And here are this year's nominees in the Science Fiction category for the 2004 Audie Award, which are given by the Audio Publishers Association:
The Callahan Chronicles Written by: Spider Robinson Read by: Barrett Whitener Blackstone Audiobooks
Darwin's Children Written by: Greg Bear Read by: Scott Brick Books on Tape, A Division of Random House, Inc.
Dune: The Machine Crusade Written by: Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson Read by: Scott Brick Audio Renaissance, A Division of Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC, Books on Tape, A Division of Random House, Inc.
Monstrous Regiment Written by: Terry Pratchett Read by: Stephen Briggs Harper Audio
Still Life With Crows Written by: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child Read by: Rene Auberjonois Time Warner AudioBooks

Copyright © 2004 Scott Danielson

Scott discovered the world of SF audio years ago, when he spent hours a day in his car. His commute has since shortened considerably, but his love for audio remains. By trade, he's an control engineer for a manufacturing plant. Aside from reading and writing science fiction, his hobbies include community theater, where he can often be found behind the soundboard or (much less often) on the stage. Scott can also be found at SFFAudio.


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