They Do the Police in Different Voices

I�m back from a lovely weekend at the Outer Banks. Food, friends, poolside ping pong, croquet, backgammon, Age of Mythology. The only downside whatsoever was the five-hour drive there and back, but even that was made tolerable and even mildly pleasant thanks to the magic of audiobooks.

I didn’t fully appreciate the advantages of having a book on the road until my recent trek to Gencon. With a borrowed copy of the unabridged Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as my constant companion, the nine hours (one way) felt like about six. And the book was so dang long that I only got a chance to finish it, at last, on the road home yesterday. The rest of the time, Suanna and I listened to Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse.

A good audiobook sinks or swims by who reads it. A few years ago I checked out an unabridged version of Mason & Dixon from the library, figuring it would serve us on the long haul to the Upper Peninsula. At first I thought the reader was just being dry, but it quickly became clear that he barely understood what he was reading, and in any case didn�t really get that it was supposed to be funny. We barely made it through one chapter of that one.

The Bestest Reader Ever Award of course goes to Martin Shaw for his reading of The Silmarillion, but Jim Dale, who reads the Potter books, gets very high marks as well. He does everybody in different voices, which is a delightful perk, but on occasion gets a wee bit strident with his portrayals. It�s all well and good if Hermione sounds shrill, but it shouldn�t literally hurt your ears, is all I�m saying. Still, dramatization goes a long way toward alleviating the dreaded Space Cadet Effect. S.C.E. is when you�re cruising along and something gets you thinking about something else, and suddenly you realize you haven�t been paying attention to the story for ten minutes or more. If you�re alone you can just skip back, no problem, but if somebody else is listening along, you�re screwed.

Carry On, Jeeves was done by Blackstone Audiobooks, which seems to be quite a class act. Frederick Davidson, the reader, did the voice of Jeeves with a little bit more basso profundo than you�d expect if you were used to Stephen Fry in the televised version, but it works. He only falters when he tries to do American accents in some of the New York stories. We�re so used to having all these Commonwealth actors � especially the Aussies � hit American speech perfectly in movies, hearing it done poorly is surprising. It was actually pretty funny � his �Midwest� accent was more of a Brooklyn, and for actual New York accents you could tell he had watched and rewatched The Sopranos for his research.

I wish there was an it-place to go to online for audiobooks reviews, especially notes on which authors are any good. Google proved unhelpful in this respect, turning up business site after business site. (Top of my Google wish list: a function that lets you filter out all sites that are trying to sell you something.) If anybody knows of a good site, or has some other audiobooks recommendations, feel free to throw �em in the comments.