I’m listening to Eldest, Christopher Paolini’s sequel to Eragon on audio CD in my car. The same fellow that did the Eragon audio book narrates it. He’s got a British accent, which is usually a pleasure for me to hear. It would be now, if it weren’t for his inane affectations.
I am all for doing voices when narrating books. I do them for my daughters when I read bedtime stories. It’s fun and adds an extra element to the experience. Not so for Gerald Doyle, the narrator of Paolini’s books. This guy ends up sounding like a bad actor experimenting with different voices. His voice for Saphira, the protaginist’s dragon companion sounds like Ludo from Labyrinth. Keep in mind that Saphira is a female dragon voiced by Rachel Weisz in the movie adaptation. He gravels his voice for every dwarf in the story in such a contrived manner that it manages to shatter what little illusion the normal narration manages to create. I don’t even want to start on how annoying it is when he speaks the ridiculous dwarven that Paolini wrote. It’s gotten to the point that I will fast forward rather than hear him slurring out the words like he has a throat full of rocks.
I bring this up as an example of what seems to be a general trend in audio books. A complete disregard for the spirit of the books seems to be the norm in the industry. I have listened to many narrated novelizations during my daily commutes. Some are good, such as every Terry Pratchett novel narrated by Tony Robinson or the Series of Unfortunate Events read by Tim Curry.
That is one that frustrates me to no end. The first few of Lemony Snickett’s books were narrated by one of my favorite actors and voice over artists, the legendary Tim Curry. For some insane reason that totally eludes me and I’m too lazy to research, the Powers That Be decided to let the author of the books narrate the next few. He is horrible. His lispy voice rattles a monotone narrative through his own work as if he could care less if people enjoy the experience. What’s wrong with these people?
The best-case solution would be to hire a real cast of voice talent for every character in the book. I’m not talking about audio book narrators either, they generally suck. I guess you can’t expect much from a group of people that can’t hack it in the world of television and movie voice acting. I mean real voice-over talent, preferably with some star power. The talents and skills that make a good actor easily extend into voice-over work. Granted, hiring big-name talent, especially a whole cast, is not a very practical solution. Even a single actor worth the title narrating a book would be better than most of the narrators I have heard. At the very least, audio book companies could dip into the huge talent pool of standard voice actors that do cartoons and other popular media work. Even the standard Saturday morning voices are miles above most of the audio book narrators in the scale of talent and skill.
So there. You heard me, audio book industry! Now go forth and do my bidding! Fire the worthless hacks and get some real talent to read the books! Now, for my next trick, I will force comic book editors to maintain continuity across the board.
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