I’ve been thinking a lot about audio books lately – what makes a good audio book and what doesn’t. In part, this has to do with my recent listening experience. My family listened to The Blackthorn Key on a recent road trip. Excellent book. Actually it was perfect for the three of us because it combines science, history, a mystery and codes. What more could you ask for?
Apparently, you could ask to see the code vs hear the code. When the voice actor gets to the coded message, he reads it character by character. That means that you get line after line of “YYEGQRLZ(pronounced zed)” and more. Yes it is fairly amusing when the oh-so British narrator says “zed” instead of “zee” and “full stop” for period. But over all listening to someone read line after line of code is tedious. And that when the code is in English letters. It gets even stranger when it involves “sword pointing down,” “triangle up,” and more.
I have to admit that it has made me look at story a bit differently. I catch myself thinking “how would you read this aloud?” That applies to codes, tables, schematics and more. Granted, some of these things matter more in nonfiction than fiction but they do matter. I can’t even imagine trying to explain the Mayan number system without a diagram. Granted the diagram I provided my editors wasn’t gorgeous but I did provide it because I knew they would need it to understand my text. And then there’s the Mayan system of interlocking calendars.
In the past when I’ve failed to love an audio book, its been because the voice actor grated on my nerves. Sometimes the person’s voice was too flat and without inflection. Other times it was just whiny and … eeeew. This is the first time I’ve ever encountered a book with lengthy coded passages that just left me wondering what was going on. This makes me wonder if some books simply aren’t made into audiobooks because graphics or other elements wouldn’t lend themselves to this format.
No conclusions, just something to consider as I write.