Monday, July 17, 2017

Now NOT To Make An Audiobook

Before I get into this I'd like to say that I mean no disrespect to the narrator of this series of audiobooks. Eric Vincent is a fine narrator, he was just not right for this project. Much like Ryan Reynolds as The Green Lantern, he is a competent performer put in the wrong role. He wouldn't even be out of his depth in pulp stories, as his voice and manner of speech would be well suited to almost any of Lovecraft's protagonists. But in listening to A Princess of Mars over the course of several days, just having finished it today, it became apparent that this audiobook is damn near an insult to the legacy of Mr. Burroughs, as well as the character of John Carter.

That being said, I bought this while at my last job because it has, as advertised, 7 of the John Carter books, coming to over 54 hours of audio. I believe I got it with one of my Audible credits, so 54 hours of John Carter for about $15 USD is a pretty damn good deal. Or, so I had thought.

The problems with this audio are numerous, and few of them are the fault of the narrator, to get that out of the way. As I said, somebody picked him, and they picked wrong. A Princess of Mars, at least, is told in a first person perspective by John Carter himself, not in third person or some other perspective. When I heard what John Carter was like, the last voice I expected him to have was Eric Vincent's thin, higher pitched, almost quavery voice. From the wikipedia description:

Carter stands 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m) and has close-cropped black hair and steel-grey eyes. Burroughs describes him as immortal. In the opening pages of A Princess of Mars, it is revealed that Carter can remember no childhood, having always been a man of about thirty years old. Many generations have known him as "Uncle Jack," but he always lived to see them grow old and die, while he remained young.

His character and courtesy exemplify the ideals of the antebellum South. A Virginian, he served as a captain in the American Civil War on the side of the Confederacy. After the war, Carter and his companion Powell, who was also a captain in the Civil War, became gold prospectors. Carter and Powell struck it rich by finding gold in Arizona. While hiding from Apaches in a cave, he appears to die; leaving his inanimate body behind, he is mysteriously transported by a form of astral projection to the planet Mars, where he finds himself re-embodied in a form identical to his earthly one. Accustomed to the greater gravity of Earth, he finds himself to be much stronger and more agile than the natives of Mars.

Now does that sound like the man you hear speaking in the audio sample on Audible?  It doesn't even sound close to me. Part of the problem is the simple timbre of Vincent's voice, another part of this problem is that he doesn't attempt much voice acting, except on the Green Martians, with which he has limited success. I'm one to talk, I'm not exactly Peter Kenny over here, but I have been doing this voice acting/narrating stories thing for a few years, and I can tell when someone's really trying and when they're phoning it in. Although, maybe I haven't listened to enough of Vincent's work to know his reading style. He certainly tried to give the prose some punch as he was reading, with dramatic pauses and a non-monotone delivery.

But this leads me to my next problem: The editing. I don't know who the editor on this was, but I hope that asshole got fired and is flipping burgers somewhere. Part of why my audiobooks sound so seamless is that I edit out as many breaths and mouth noises as possible except in the case of dialogue, because it's meant to sound like someone is talking rather than someone reading a sequence of events. Now I'm certain that Mr. Vincent made his mistakes throughout the book, we all do, but the editor being able to edit those out while completely ignoring the vast silences lasting seconds, the deep breaths, and the swallowing noises that were left in the final product that you have to pay money for is unconscionable, and this editor deserves to lose his job over this.

At least in my opinion. Maybe my editing is a bit more intensive than other people's. But this seems to me to be a hallmark of professionalism. I, as a consumer, don't want to listen to the narrator breathing, or swallowing, while I'm trying to hear the story. It's immersion breaking, and should be kept to an absolute bare minimum. It was not in this series, and that reflects badly on the editor, not Mr. Vincent, although it's easy to see why people would blame him for it. Like how a singer in a band will be blamed for the lyrical content even though the bassist is writing all the songs, or something of that nature.

And then there's my biggest issue.

Because this whole project is so large, they've broken it up into several parts to facilitate faster downloads. This is all fine and dandy. You have seven books, split it into seven parts. That way I can download each individual book one at a time, listen to them, then move on to the next. That's how you would normally expect this to go, right?

Well guess what these geniuses did.

They split the books at the most asinine of places!

Part 1 is most of A Princess of Mars. Part 2 is the very ass-end of Princess (the last five or six chapters or so), and then we kick into The Gods of Mars with nary a break in between except to announce the title of the second book. The worst part of this is that there is an audio track at the beginning of each part that tells you who the narrator is, the writer is, the names of the books, and the company that produced this unevenly crafted abomination and spittle on Burroughs's face. And this is put around the end of chapter 25, right after John & Dejah marry.

Which lead me to think the book was over and I was already ruminating on what an awesome literary experience I'd just had...

When the next part starts up and Princess continues!

This is bad decision-making and retardation on such a massive scale that I doubt I'll be buying any of this company's audiobooks in the future. If this is the kind of care and respect they show to Edgar Rice Burroughs, the grandfather of modern science fiction, I can't imagine they would care too much about anybody else's work.

If you're looking for a John Carter audiobook collection, for the love of all the Jedaks on Barsoom, avoid this one!

Unfortunately for myself I can't find my John Carter dead-tree collection, so I'm kind of stuck with it for now. But you don't have to be! Take care when you're purchasing an audiobook! Make sure the company actually has respect for what they're working on!


  1. Librivox is your friend.

    1. The issue with Librivox is that

      A. all of their content has to be public domain, and nobody is allowed to make money off of it, and as a consequence of this

      B. they have precisely ZERO quality control, so anyone with a sound-recording potato and a quarter of an idea of what they're doing can just record a story and post it there.

      But it's entirely possible there's a better copy of this book over there, so I'll give it a shot and go hunting one of these days.