Armchair Audies Roundup: Science Fiction

29 05 2012

Introduction:

This Week, along with my normal reviews, I will be presenting my roundup posts for The Armchair Audies. If this is the first time you’ve heard of the Armchair Audies, the process is pretty simple. Myself, and a bunch of other bloggers have decided to listen to audiobooks nominated for the Audio Publishers Association prestigious Audie Award. The categories I have listened to and reviewed were Science Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal.

For each category, I will post the list of nominees, with a link to my review. Then I will offer evaluation of category overall. I will be picking which title was my favorite, which title I would vote for if I was a judge, and which title I feel will win. Also, I will include titles for each category that I feel were overlooked. Make sure you check out The Armchair Audies home page at The Literate Housewife.

Today’s Category: Science Fiction

Nominees:

Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

Narrated by Wil Wheaton

Audible Frontiers

My Review (Stroll Down to Entry #5)

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

Narrated by Jefferson Mays

Recorded Books

My Review

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

Narrated by Wil Wheaton

Audible Frontiers

My Review

The Cold Commands by Richard K. Morgan

Narrated by Simon Vance

Tantor Audio

My Review

The Tears of the Sun by S. M. Stirling

Narrated by Todd McLaren

Tantor Audio

My Review

Solaris: The Definitive Edition by Stanislaw Lem

Narrated by Allesandro Juliani

Audible, Inc.

My Review

Overview

While I probably shouldn’t have been shocked, I found the Science Fiction category a bit strange. First off, it’s the only category with six nominees, which I am assuming is because one author/narrator team received two nominations. Also, two of the nominees were mid series entries, and arguably actually Fantasies, although they did have some small science fiction elements to them. What stands out for me in those titles, The Tears of the Sun and The Cold Commands is that they are both rather mediocre entries in their respective series, yet both have excellent performances by their narrators. I think the battle in this category is between titles which content is mediocre, yet with excellent narration versus titles which are excellent science fiction yet the narration doesn’t particularly stand out.

My Favorite: Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

Agent to the Stars is a wonderfully little story, and so different from all the other titles. It is the only Earth based, modern set entry and has an almost pulpish quality that I feel is a whole lot of fun. It is also significant because it is the first pairing of Author John Scalzi with narrator Wil Wheaton, a match made in audio heaven. I think of all the titles, Agent to the Stars is the most accessible, easily enjoyed by listeners whether they are science fiction fans or not. It is also the most surprising entry of the list. If I had to compile a list of the most likely scifi audiobooks to get a nomination, I don’t think Agent to the Stars would have been anywhere near the top. Yet, I think its good natured skewing of celebrity culture makes it something that many people can enjoy.

My Vote: Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

While I love Agent to the Stars, I feel the second Scalzi/Wheaton nominated book Fuzzy Nation would be more deserved of a vote because Wil’s narration here is better, more nuanced and well paced. When compared to the rest of the entries in this category, it achieves the best balance between the content of the tale, and the performance of the narrator. Yet, Fuzzy Nation will not blow anyone away. It’s a solid, fun science fiction story, but isn’t as expansive and world bending as some of the other entries, and probably won’t achieve classic status like Solaris already has, and Leviathan Wakes is destined to. This is why, despite the fact I would vote for Fuzzy Nation, I don’t think it is really in contention to win the category.

Who Will Win: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A, Corey

So, I have to admit, I’m taking a bit of a risk on this pick, but I have my reasons. On paper, I think Solaris has the edge. It’s a science fiction classic which Audible actually commissioned a new translation of for this audiobook production. For this alone I feel it could easily take this award, and I feel that there will be a temptation by the judges to go in this direction. But, in my opinion, Leviathan Wakes is just a better novel. It has been nominated for both a Hugo and Locus award this year and I think that science fiction credibility will help it in the end. It is also an excellent story, and while I was under whelmed by Jefferson May’s performance when compared to some of the other narrators in this category, his reading is solid and enjoyable and does just enough to make me comfortable predicting its win.

Some Overlooked Titles:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Deadline by Mira Grant

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Germline by T.C. McCarthy

Vortex by Robert Charles Wilson


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13 responses

29 05 2012
montsamu

Another great roundup. I’ll add one of my favorites of 2011 as an overlooked sf title here, Glimpses by Lewis Shiner, read by Stefan Rudnicki, along with Journal of a UFO Investigator by David Halperin. Other really good 2011 audiobooks in the sf space: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, China Mieville’s Embassytown, and Hannu Rajaniemi’s The Quantum Thief (read by Scott Brick). (And Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City, though that’s maybe more on the fantasy side of things.)

And I can tell we’re both looking forward to Wheaton reading Scalzi’s Redshirts, eh?

29 05 2012
theguildedearlobe

I actually included Zoo City in my Overlooked Paranormal titles. It’s such a hard title to define by genre, probably could have fit into any of the Spec fiction categories.

And, I have a credit just sitting there waiting for Redshirts.

29 05 2012
Carl V.

I need to snag Scalzi’s audio books. I have them in print, but the more I listen to Wheaton narrate books the more I enjoy him and I’d love to get these audio versions.

29 05 2012
Dave Thompson

Man, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Fuzzy Nation, and how emotional it got by the end of the book. Seriously looking forward to Redshirts.

I read Leviathan Wakes and loved it – so that would probably get my vote – it was just the most fun book I’ve experienced this past year. (Although Embassytown is also quite good.)

30 05 2012
theguildedearlobe

I’m planning to listen to Embassytown. I’m thinking of doing a post like this for the Hugos, and it’s the only one of the nominated titles I haven’t yet listened to. I’ve actually never listened to any of his books, so it should be interesting.

30 05 2012
Dave Thompson

It’s really weird and unique, but it’s also good! Although I think I prefer The City and the City more (and I would LOVE to get his other Bas Lag books – particularly The Scar – in audio.

Look forward to reading your thoughts on Embassytown when you get around to it :)

29 05 2012
Carl V.

Not sure what the date range for this is, but I also thought Robopocalypse was a very well narrated audio book.

30 05 2012
theguildedearlobe

I actually hated the narration on Robopocalyse. It’s funny because I know a lot of people who liked it, and the narrator had a decent voice, but he managed to hit many of my pet peeves. It wasn’t bad narration, as much as inconsistent choices made by the narrator. I did review it, so if you want to know why, I won’t rehash it here. It definitely is one of those titles I point to as a prime example of “different strokes for different folks.”

30 05 2012
Carl V.

I’m sorry to hear that, but it is true, we all do see…and hear…things differently.

3 06 2012
Armchair BEA 2012: Introductions « The Guilded Earlobe

[...] The Audio Publishers Audie Awards, and then made their predictions. My contributions were in the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal Categories, and this event was one of my most rewarding blogging [...]

7 06 2012
Laurie C

Ready Player One was insanely great as an audiobook done by Wil Wheaton. It didn’t even get nominated??? Boo.

7 06 2012
theguildedearlobe

When we were talking about it earlier, the question came up whether it was even submitted for consideration by Random House.

8 06 2012
Laurie C

Oh, right. That makes sense.

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