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Audio Books - Yay or Nay?

February 28, 2011 - Amy Phelps
I haven't really been a fan of audio books - for some reason I get impatient being read to as an adult and just want to read it myself. Some of my coworkers have been listening to several audio books, including a recent Star Wars book, "Death Troopers" about zombies in which the chapter titles are screamed repeatedly - "Where the Bad Air Goes...BAD AIR!" and has become somewhat of a running joke, and Jim Butcher's "Harry Dresden" series, narrated by James Marsters. It wasn't until there were some new Doctor Who books that were issued exclusively as audio books and read by the Doctor himself, David Tennant, that I took a chance and got one, figuring the Doctor could read to me anytime.

In "The Last Voyage" by Dan Abnett (AudioGO Ltd., $24.95.) the Doctor shows up on an interdimensional-traveling ship (hey, kind of like the TARDIS!) on its maiden voyage. The crew and passengers, including "comfort mediator" Sugar McCauley, are all excited to be aboard. But during travel there is a jolt. The ship isn't actually moving, reality is moving around it, so what happened? As the Doctor investigates with Sugar's help, they find that half of the passengers and crew are just...gone. And then they keep hearing voices calling their names...And Sugar sees a swirling mass that starts to take on shape. Is something trying to get into our dimension? And when the ship "lands" what will they find?

The story itself was well-written and quite exciting. I enjoyed the supporting characters, and, of course, the Doctor. As for the audio book experience, I wasn't disappointed. It was actually quite entertaining. For one, David Tennant does the voices of different characters in different accents. As the narrator, he reads in his normal Scottish voice, as the Doctor, in British tones, and as the female main character, Sugar McCauley, an American accent, to name a few. After a while, I actually forgot he was doing all of the voices because they all sounded so different. I also think it makes a world of difference to have an actor, especially an actor familiar with the series if possible, to read the story. I know Tennant created a sense of tension and urgency with his reading.

An even bigger plus for me was that car rides became VERY quiet. My kids, who normally fight over what music to listen to or seem determined to talk as loud as humanly possible in a small space, were quiet so they could hear the story. They also became adamant about listening to it every second we were in the car ("Turn on the Doctor, Mom!") and that I was not to listen to it without them because they didn't want to miss what happened next. This was also a shorter book than some audio books I've seen with a running time of 2 hours and 30 minutes, so they didn't forget what happened 4 hours ago. I'm actually looking forward to trying the stories out the next trip we take.

So what do you think of audio books? Do you like them or would rather read the print copies?


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