Through an error on the part of yours truly, author Rachael Acks’ response was left off last week’s Mind Meld. That means she gets her own Mind Meld post! The prompt was:
Must-Hear Audiobooks and Audio Fiction
What audiobooks have you enjoyed that have taken advantage of the form that you like. Are there particular authors you like in audio format? Do you follow or listen to any particular narrators?
Here’s Rachael’s response:
Rachael Acks is a writer, geologist, and sharp-dressed sir. In addition to her steampunk novella series, she’s had short stories in Strange Horizons, Waylines, Daily Science Fiction, Penumbra, and more. She’s an active member of SFWA, the Northern Colorado Writer’s Workshop, and Codex.
She loves movies, nerdy things, cats, and writing, and blogs about all of those and more whenever the mood strikes. When things get too exciting, she makes a cup of tea and then picks heavy things up and puts them back down again in a controlled fashion, because that’s just the sort of person she is.
Rachael is also a working scientist, and it should be understood that any and all opinions on this website are hers alone and reflect in no way upon her employer.
Rachael lives in Houston (where she bicycles, drinks tea, and twirls her ever so dapper mustache) with her two
furry little bastards cats.
I listen to a lot of audio books, because I’ll have them playing while I’m describing core, processing data, or driving. (And I tend to listen to them over and over again, since I will miss things sometimes.) The two authors whose audiobooks I own the most of are Lois McMaster Bujold and NK Jemisin. I’m not sure if that’s because their work lends itself particularly well to the format, or just because I love everything they write anyway. I actually didn’t own a written copy of any of Bujold’s books until this year, and reading it normally felt weird—so many things weren’t spelled the way I thought they would be. This also made reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms after I’d listened to it first a slightly odd experience.
Some books actually do lend themselves more toward narration, at least for me. For example, I have a difficult time getting in to China Mieville’s work when I’m reading it, but I like listening to the audiobook versions. And I think the reason I ended up liking The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison so much was because I listened to it first as an audiobook; I normally don’t care for as much constructed language content as is present in the book, but the narrator kept me from getting hung up on it.
I think the narrator is actually more important than the writer, though. I’m more likely to try out an audiobook because the narrator is one I really like, and the author is almost immaterial at that point. A good narrator can make a terrible book almost work—for example, Mark Deakins kept me listening to The Maze Runner all the way through even though I ended up hating the book. On the other hand, I’ve given up on books I might have otherwise liked because I found the narrator so aggravating, or come out with a seriously negative impression of an otherwise good book because I just really could not get into the narrator—my opinion of Three Body Problem is probably lower than it should be for this reason.
The narrator is so important! You’ll be listening to them for 6-10 hours, and they have to help you sort out the characters because you’re not actually looking at names or parsing speech tags yourself. I really like it when the narrators sound like they’re getting in to the story, and for the most part I enjoy the distinctive voices they’ll give characters—though the standard Bad Russian Accent that gets whipped out far too often just makes me cringe. The narrators who I’ll follow anywhere are Kyle McCarley (The Goblin Emperor is the first of his I listened to, but I definitely recommend The Prince of Shadows and City of Bones), Cassaundra Freeman (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms), and Grover Gardner (he read all of the Vorkosigan series).