Thursday, September 18, 2008

Confessions of an OUTLANDER Audiobook Addict

Well, all right, to be honest, I'm just addicted to the series, period. In whatever form. [g] But I wanted to share some thoughts on the unabridged audio versions of the OUTLANDER and Lord John books, which I've now been listening to almost daily since about April 2007.

First of all, if you don't know what the unabridged audio versions are or where to get them, go to Diana Gabaldon's web site, which explains it all in detail.

(Can I say this without sounding like I'm bragging? I was the one who suggested to Diana, in this thread on Compuserve, that putting together a comprehensive explanation of the current audiobook situation on her blog would be very useful to the fan community. And she posted this entry just three days after I made that suggestion. And included every single item I suggested that she put in it. I was flabbergasted. Not only does she listen to me. Occasionally -- very occasionally -- she actually takes my advice. Wow.)

Things I Like About the Audiobooks:

1) They force you to sloooow doooown [g] and take in all the details.

I have always been a fast reader, and a "skimmer". I missed huge chunks of Good Stuff the first time around, particularly in DRAGONFLY, because I was reading much too fast. (Example: "Wait, you mean to tell me Claire lost the baby? When did that happen? Did I miss something?" [frantically flipping back through the book]) Because the audiobook narrators read Every Single Word, you learn to slow down and listen for the smaller details, the subtleties, the lyrical descriptions that skim-readers like myself often breeze right past. Slowing down has enabled me to see things in Diana's writing that I never would have picked up on otherwise, no matter how many times I re-read the books, because I just read too fast.

2) The narrators are terrific.

Davina Porter's voice is so expressive, and she does a wonderful job with all of the accents. (Well, almost all. See Things I Don't Like, below.) I love being able to hear what the Scottish accents and Gaelic phrases actually sound like. And she can be very creative with the voices at times. I absolutely love the way her voice for Roger changes in FIERY CROSS, for example: strong and resonant in the beginning; barely more than a hoarse whisper when he begins to speak again after the hanging; and by the end, a sort of harsh, rasping shadow of his original voice. Very much as it's described in the book, in other words. And Davina Porter's voice for Mrs. Bug sounds so exactly like the way I imagined, that I always have to laugh whenever I hear it.

Jeff Woodman, narrator of the Lord John audiobooks, is also a wonderful reader. I love his voices for Lord John, Hal, Tom Byrd, and Harry Quarry. He doesn't do so well (understandably enough) with the female voices, but overall he does a good job.

3) You can listen anywhere, any time.

I experimented for a while with listening to the audio CD's while driving back and forth to work. It works out pretty well, especially if you are sitting in traffic, but I would recommend caution if you are listening to one of the really emotionally intense parts of the books! One day last fall, I was driving home while listening to the scene in OUTLANDER where Jamie is being given last rites. I suddenly found myself half-blinded by tears, still driving down the road, about a mile from my house. I got home without incident, but it was a pretty scary experience.

I would also recommend that those of you with young children be careful which parts of the books you listen to when your kids are around. There are a lot of scenes in these books that would be awkward to explain, to put it mildly. [g]

Things I Don't Like:

Some of the voices are just plain wrong. If you've read A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, you'll recall Wendigo Donner, the time-travelling Native American who whistles "Yellow Submarine". He's clearly not British in the book:

"Man," he said, longing clear in his voice, "what I wouldn't give for a cold Bud
and a baseball game on TV." (From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by
Diana Gabaldon, chapter 123 ("Return of the Native"). Copyright© 2005 by
Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

But the voice Davina Porter uses for him in the audio version sounds, to my American ears at least, like a Liverpudlian or something. [g] Certainly he doesn't sound like a man born and raised in the U.S.

Brianna's accent is also a bit odd. She lived her whole childhood in Boston, yet she doesn't have a trace of a Boston accent. I've always thought she should.

And as for Jeff Woodman's voices: Well, let's just say that I don't care for his Jamie-voice at all. Jamie sounds half-dead in most of the scenes where he appears in BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE, his voice dull and almost inflectionless. And even if this is Woodman's way of showing a more subdued or even depressed Jamie than we're used to from the OUTLANDER books (which would be reasonable under the circumstances, I suppose), I still don't like it one bit. Especially compared to Davina Porter's Jamie.

Still, these are minor quibbles at best. I am thoroughly addicted to the unabridged OUTLANDER audiobooks, and I would strongly encourage anyone who's interested to go to one of the sites below to check them out:

Recorded Books (http://www.recordedbooks.com/)

Audible.com (http://www.audible.com/)

10 comments:

Janellybelly said...

Your comments on forum boards inspired me to listen to the Outlander series, they've been my 1st experience with audio books - and now I'm hooked. Thanks for that :)
Janelle N

Karen Henry said...

Janelle:

I got hooked on the audio versions exactly the same way. Someone on Compuserve was raving about how wonderful they are. I thought, "What do I need an audio version for? I read *all* the time!" But I decided to check out the free samples on audible.com, and the moment I heard the first bit of VOYAGER (on that site), I decided then and there that I had to have the whole set. And have been happily recommending them ever since, to anyone who asks. [g]

Karen

Janell said...

I have to agree with you on the benefit listening gives one because you "Hear" each and every word. I, too, am a real skimmer and must admit that I think I missed many nuances when first reading the books myself. I am half way through listening to Outlander and have the next 3 books sitting on my bookshelf at Audible.com just waiting for me. I travel a lot for work and have discovered the joys of listening and knitting or quilting while I wait for planes or am on planes. It is a wonderful blend-glad to hear how much you get out of them too. I may have to get the first Lord John book based on your comments.

Diane M. said...

Karen,

I share your love of the audiobooks. I too think I really pick up so much more than when I read. I've always thought of myself as a visual person. For example, if one of my kids is having an issue with a math problem, I can't understand it when they read it to me. I have to read it myself to get it. However, I must read Diana's books so fast that I miss things.

In any case, I highly recommend the experience. I listen in car (and also agree - watch out what scene is approaching with kids in the car!), I listen while biking, I listen while vacuuming, mowing the lawn, leaf blowing, raking, dusting, folding laundry...I just haven't figured out a way to listen while I'm working! Drat!

Electra said...

Hi Karen,

I really like your blog. I only came upon the Outlander series this past June while learning how to use my Creative Zen and trying out my trial audio book membership that came with the purchase. I had no idea that it was possible to be as captivated with a story line as I have found myself to be with Outlander.

Well, here I am another delighted fan of Diana Gabaldon. My next pleasant surprise which has added to my enjoyment of Ms. Gabaldon’s creation was discovering all of her online fans.

It has been such and enjoyable read and I am eagerly awaiting her next publication as I know all of you are as well.

I too share your affliction as well as your opinions of audio book likes and dislikes.

There is something that I would add to your ‘like’ list as it pertains to Davina Porter’s narrations… her singing. I loved that Roger actually sang. Hearing Roger sing added so much to his character for me. Not to mention hearing the different characters that sang Clementine.

To me, Jeff Woodman is Lord John’s voice as Davina Porter’s is Jaime’s. I find that I have to remind myself that a woman is speaking as Jaime. Oooh, it gives me chills, she is so good!

Electra

P.S. I don’t know how you control yourself as to not read the excerpts. You have amazing will power.

Mitzi said...

I have never lived around folks with different accents (raised in Northern California) and when I read the books I had a difficult time hearing the Scottish accents and an even harder time imagining the Gaelic words in my mind. But listening to the books has really brought them to life!! I love Jamie’s voice and IMO Davina Porter really captures his sense of humor. Claire sounds so English (prim/proper) like the Lady Jane that Joe Abernathy calls her and Lord John sounds so aristocratic. The fervor in Jenny comes through loud and clear as well as Marsali’s self confidence and Lizzie’s meekness. Not to mention the sadistic tone BJR possesses. And Richard Brown just sounds snide and cruel thru and thru.

I don’t think DG could have picked a better narrator for the books!! Nearly all the voices are wonderful and each person is easily definable by her voice narrative. I can select any portion of the books on my Ipod and I know who is talking. I think that is quite a feat when you consider how many characters there are in these books!!

I agree with you on Bree and Donner. I thought Bree should sound more Bostonian and Donner??? Well, I just had to laugh when I heard his voice….An English Indian that sounds like Ringo Starr?….I know that was just a simple mistake and even DG said she was surprised when she heard it too, but heck you can’t be perfect all the time and personally, I’ve always loved to listen to John, Paul, George or Ringo talk and have been in love with John since about 1968, so it really didn’t bother me.

That all being said, I hope that those who purchase the audio CDs today don’t have the problems I had when I bought them. I copied the CD’s to my hard drive using Itunes for the books (this was about 3 years ago), but when I put them on my Ipod and listened to them I quickly noticed that some of the CD’s were out of sequence. It took me a good week to figure out what was up and to get them all straightened out and in proper order. An example would be “Composed by Davina Porter and Narrated by Diana Gabaldon” or Gabaldon was spelled incorrectly and that messed things up, and the worst was a CD #21/22 from Drums of Autumn (both were numbered the same, such a small detail that it took me forever to figure out what was wrong) and I had to renumber each of them to get them to play in their correct sequence. I think I had to fix at least 1 or more CDs for each book (some books had several that needed correcting) and it did take many, many hours.

And then my computer crashed and I lost them all and had to recopy to my new computer. Thank goodness I’d made a written list of those needing to be fixed and stuck it in each CD box, so the second time I copied them to hard drive/Itunes it didn’t take so long….And now I have them on one of those micro stick things that I use for back-up in case it happens again.

I also hope that the newer versions have the chapter titles included. Only my ABOSAA has them and it is a very nice feature when looking for a particular scene you want to listen to. For those of you yet to add the books to your computer….Keep in mind these books are big and take up a lot of space on a hard drive (there are from 28 to 48 Cds for each book)…Itunes says it uses about 22GB of space or the equivalent of about 4500 songs!!!

I love having all the audio Cds. While listening to them, I’ve recognized many important small details that I never saw reading or rereading the books and it is such great fun to be able to turn them on and listen to your favorite scenes anytime you like. I personally love listening to them while I work posting to accounts (very boring job), or on an trip/errand in my car but especially next to my bed where I can listen to them if I’m not quite ready to go to sleep or wake up early and have time before I need to rise and get going.

Mitzi

Karen Henry said...

Electra:

Welcome! I saw your post on Compuserve too; it's always good to see new people posting over there.

Yes, Davina Porter does a great job with Roger's singing. You may remember the bit where he sings "Flower of Scotland"? I've had that song (or Davina/Roger's rendition of it) stuck in my head for the last two days. :-)

By the way, let me give you a piece of friendly advice. If you post on Compuserve, be aware that Diana can be a bit sensitive about people spelling Jamie's name right. It's JAMIE, not JAIME. This is something of a sore point with her...just so you know.

Thanks for your comments, and I'm glad you're enjoying the blog!

Karen

Karen Henry said...

Mitzi:

The biggest problem I've had with the disks has been skips on the OUTLANDER CD's. I ended up making my own copy of two of the CDs from that set just to get a version that wouldn't "skip".

Thanks for sharing your tips. I'm sure a lot of people will find them helpful. :-)

Karen

Electra said...

Hey Karen,

Thank you for your Welcome, and the friendly correction.

I work with a Jaime and couldn't even have imagined that I hit a sore spot...oops, a really very innocent mistake.

I haven't actually read the series, I have it all on audio, which by the way, I highly recommend!

Have a nice Sunday,

Electra

maryfaithpeace said...

Karen, is there a thread somewhere in your blog where you compare the pros/cons of Outlander in audiblebooks.com format vs. CD recorded books?