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Vox: SF For Your Ears
by Scott Danielson

Other Vox: SF For Your Ears Columns

Audio Drama
Giant Steps: An Apocalyptic Comedy for the World Wide Web
Mark Time Award
Seeing Ear Theater
Wollcott and Sheridan
Audio Publishers
Atlanta Radio Theater Company
Books on Tape
Defiance Audio
Fantastic Audio
Full Cast Audio Books
The Reader's Chair
Recorded Books, LLC
Star Trek Novels/Audio
Star Wars Novels/Audio
Timberwolf Press
SF Talk Radio
Book Crazy Radio
Cosmic Landscapes
The Dragon Page
Hour 25
Reality Break - a science fiction talk show
Sci Fi Overdrive
SF On the Radio
The Teaching Company
Timeship Studio
Voyage's Multimedia Project

The Reader's Chair -- Bujold on Audio

Barrayar There are three things that make an audiobook great. First: (obviously) it has to be a good story. No one I know can listen to a 10-hour audiobook version of an uninteresting novel. Even stuck in traffic. Second: the reader has to perform the book, not simply read it. If the reader sounds uninterested, or is just reciting the author's words, it is difficult for the listener to pay attention. Again, not even if stuck in traffic. Third: it has to be unabridged. Abridgements are rarely satisfying and often disjointed. I want the entire author's work; if I want an abridgment, I'll go to the movies.

The Reader's Chair is a company that produces audiobooks with all three of these qualities. They have published audio versions of nearly all of Lois McMaster Bujold's novels, and they have plans to finish the collection. I've listened to the first three of Bujold's Vorkosigan novels so far, and am looking forward to finishing the entire series. Falling Free is the first, though it doesn't directly involve the Vorkosigans, but is set earlier in the same universe. Shards of Honour and Barrayar start the Vorkosigan saga.

The team of Michael Hanson and Carol Cowan performs all of Bujold's works. This duo is a perfect fit for Bujold's writing. They trade off reading, often acting against each other while telling the story. The result is unique and very satisfying.

Falling Free introduces us to Leo Graf, an engineer hired to teach zero-g welding techniques to students at a space station. He's not told initially that the students are genetically engineered people (Quaddies) who were created to be efficient zero-g workers. The company that hires Graf owns the patent, and therefore believes that it owns the people.

Shards of Honor Shards of Honour gives us the story of Cordelia Naismith and Lord Aral Vorkosigan, who are on opposite sides of a war. Stranded on a planet together, they share many experiences in their struggle to survive.

Barrayar is best known for the first appearance of Miles Naismith Vorkosigan, whose life is the subject of many of Bujold's other novels. In this one, Bujold explores the difficulties of the relationship between Cordelia and Aral, and Cordelia's personal struggle for acceptance in a new society.

Falling Free All three of these books are well written, and I'm not the only one who thinks so -- Falling Free is a Nebula winner, and Barrayar won the Hugo. They are wonderful entertainment. The characters are interesting and well-rounded; the plots very quick and at times surprising.

The audio versions are first-rate. Hanson and Cowan read the books with enthusiasm, providing different characters with different inflections. Great care was taken to make these novels a listening pleasure.

The Reader's Chair recently announced that they are going to re-issue all their titles on MP3-CDs. These will be available in addition to their cassette versions. The MP3-CDs have many advantages -- they can cram 11 hours of quality sound on one CD. This allows a much lower price (from what I can tell, it's about half the cost). Their web site contains links to audio samples -- I invite you to give them a listen.

I hope to see The Reader's Chair branch out into more authors. They tell me there are some possibilities on the horizon, but offer no specifics yet. Their attention to quality in production makes me look forward to listening to many more authors in their list of offerings.

NEWS from the world of SF Audio

A new Star Trek release from Simon and Schuster Audio -- Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars, The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh, by Greg Cox, 3 hours, read by Anthony Stewart Head.

Copyright © 2001 Scott Danielson

Scott discovered the world of SF audio years ago, when he spent two hours a day in his car. His commute has since shortened considerably, but his love for audio remains.

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