Audio Books

I've been listening to Neal Stephenson's Anathem (an 800 page doorstop in its printed form) while walking, and I have to say, it's been a rousing success.

There are certain aspects of the story that I know I am missing. Stephenson has invented some of the language, and I'm sure I'd be picking up nuances better if I could see the structure and spelling of the words. In fact, I'm tempted to borrow the printed version too, just so I could flip through and catch a few of the things I think I'm missing. The complexity of the story is begging for a timeline, glossary, and a map. I believe at least two of these can be found in the book.

Part of the reason I'm missing nuances is that listening to an audio book is a little like riding in a car instead of walking. When you read and you come upon a difficult or interesting bit, you can stop, digest it, read it over, puzzle over the words. Listening to an audio book, difficult or interesting bits just fly by. "I'll get the gist of it next time they mention it," you think to yourself. This is sometimes justifiable, like now, when I am "reading" a book that is the equivalent of Montana. Interesting and beautiful, but geez, just too big! (The book actually IS quite enjoyable, despite a tendency to wander off the main topic to explain some minutiae.)


Nathan said...

I've mentioned that I'm not a big fan of audio books -- more my own defect than a criticism of audio books. I just don't have the patience to wait for some dude to tell me the story at his own pace and, like you said, for some reason, he refuses to read the same paragraph 4 times just because you want him to. And that's my attitude toward audio versions of 'accessible' fiction.

I'm a big fan of Stephenson but I just can't imagine trying to digest his stuff while someone reads it to me.

Charley said...

If you like Harry Potter, try them on audio books - you're probably familiar enough with the story that you needn't worry so much about having to go back and puzzle over things.

The voice acting is particularly delightful, as well, and the author makes Hermione as grating to the soul as I read her, so I appreciate his efforts :)

Janiece said...

I hear you. I'm currently listening to Team of Rivals - 36 disks, baby.


Anne C. said...

Ok, you've one upped me, Janiece. Anathem is only 28 disks.

Nathan, I do think I'll probably buy a copy of Anathem sometime and reread it, to catch the nuances. (And I do occasionally replay pieces if I feel like I've missed something significant.)