Audio books are awesome. We here at VIMES love them and you should love them too.
Here are 5 audio books we think should be in everyone’s library.
Off To Be The Wizard\Magic 2.0 Series – Scott Meyer
The Magic 2.0 series is a light, fun, and enjoyable romp through familiar science fiction and fantasy tropes while throwing in plenty of pop-culture references and humor.
Martin Banks is an ordinary millennial who discovers that the universe is one big computer simulation and that changing the world is just a few lines of code. Martin’s adventure leads him to medieval England to pursue life as a magic wielding “wizard”, only to find that that is a niche that is already populated.
The Magic 2.0 series gets a place on this list particularly due to the stellar narration provided by Luke Daniels who does some of the best character acting we have ever heard in an audio book. Daniels delivers the wit and humor of the source material with great timing, and keeps the pace moving through a few lull moments that pepper the series so that it never seems to drag.
The Magic 2.0 series is unlikely to trigger a deep emotional response from its readers and the story suffers because the stakes are never really very high, but the characters are likable, the themes light and (again) the narration brilliant so definitely worth checking out.
14\Threshold Trilogy – Peter Clines
This book really flew under the radar for a lot of people, mostly due to its terribly undescriptive name, but 14 is a hidden gem and a thrilling listen. A mix of mystery, science fiction and Lovecraftian horror, 14 will hook you early on with its story of locked doors, hidden rooms, a zealot cult and the appearance of strange equations graffitied on walls leads to a conclusion that is thoroughly unexpected and oddly satisfying.
14 as an audio book exceeds its text origin thanks to narration that pushes past otherwise occasionally clunky writing. Character depth is sacrificed for the sake of story, but the narrator does a good enough job of voicing individual characters which helps to convey motivation and emotion and there is no confusion as which character (which can a problem in some audio books).
14 is fast paced and hard to put down, with each revelation only deepening the mystery. If you liked the mystery-box stylings of TV’s Lost (think the numbers\Dharma Initiative\smoke monster\the “others”), then this audio book is definitely for you. 14 also spawned two loosely related sequels that take the core mystery of 14 and throw a few more genres at it and might not be for everyone, but are still among the best of Peter Clines work.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire North
You’re born, you live and then you die, and that is pretty much the story for most of us, but not for Harry August who finds himself born again, and again, and again – each time with all of his previous memories and the ability to make different decisions to change his life. The meeting of others with the same immortal affliction leads to a retro-causal grapevine, passing information backwards in time from the freshly born to the nearly dead, and with it the ability to change history. When a message arrives from the future that the end of the world is getting closer it is up to Harry to try and stop it.
If you are a fan of the Groundhog Day genre than you will love this book, if you are not a fan of the genre this book will make you a fan. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is fast paced, clever and thought provoking and will leave you hungry for more.
Peter Kenny does a solid job narrating and, unlike some of Clare North’s other works which tend to get lost in their own sense of conceptualism, the pacing of Harry August is tight, fast and satisfying with characters and settings changing rapidly to the beats of a solidly mapped non-linear plot.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August doesn’t rely on the clichés of the genre and is a truly refreshing listen that will make you say “wow” out loud. Listen to it now!
Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
Ready Player One is a terrible movie that squandered potential and was just bland and boring. Why include Ready Player One on a list of best audio books? Because the audio book is awesome.
Ernest Cline’s debut novel Ready Player One is a rollicking adventure story set in a world in which virtual reality is fully immersive and 100% ubiquitous. Wade Watts, username Parzival, spends his every waking moment logged into the Oasis, a virtual world where users can be anyone and do anything from piloting giant robots in a deathmatch battle to attending high school. Parzival and his friends are on a hunt to find an Easter Egg hidden by the Oasis’ creator James Halliday while having to find off other egg hunting “Gunters” and the evil IOI corporation.
Ready Player One is steeped in pop-culture references, particularly from the 1980’s as Halliday’s treasure map Is a series of 80’s nostalgia touch points with everything from Pacman to Monty Python getting a look in and actually playing a key role in the plot’s development.
The audio book is narrated by none other than Star Trek’s Wil Wheaton (who also gets a name drop in the book). Wheaton does a respectable job with the narration and you can tell that he is a fan of the subject matter and is having fun with it. The climax of the book will get your heart beating quickly and Wheaton really sells the adrenalin-inducing pace of events in the race to the story’s epic conclusion.
Ignore the movie and give this one a listen!
Red Rising Series – Pierce Brown
The Red Rising series gains the top spot on this list for being just a damned good bit of science-fiction. Often sold as belonging to the “young adult” genre, the series explores themes of race, revenge, power, betrayal and compassion while still being action packed with a rocketing pace. The first three books in the series (Red Rising, Golden Son, Morning Star) make up a stand-alone trilogy, with the fourth book (Iron Gold) marks the start of a new trilogy set some time after the first.
What makes Red Rising so good is the thoroughly fleshed out world-building coupled with well-defined characters and a ripping plot that will have you on the edge of your seat. Red Rising’s world is one is which mankind has long ago embraced genetic manipulation and has evolved into distinct castes, identified by colours and with divergent traits and niches. Golds are the supreme beings and subjugate the other colours, with lowliest among them being the Reds, the least evolved from the original human form and unwitting slaves living and dying in the mines of Mars.
The Red Rising series has space travel, interplanetary politics, sword fights (with a unique twist on the lightsaber cliché), epic space battles and a struggle for freedom that drives the protagonist Darrow from a life underground into a key player in an epic war. While rich in detail and fully committed to its science-fiction roots, it is well written and accessible to even the most passing of fans of the genre.
The first book in the series is often compared to the Hunger Games series, with similar dystopian themes and plenty of dead children, but Red Rising rises (ha!) above that motif and the scale becomes much grander and ultimately more satisfying.
The audio book is told in the first person and is narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds who does a fantastic job of character voicing, even slowly altering the accent of the primary narrator Darrow as he goes under cover amongst the higher colours. The first couple of chapters of book one do lag a bit, and the writing and themes in these sections feels a little immature which isn’t helped by Reynolds choices for the initial character accent, but once these chapters are out of the way the story takes over and everything seems to click.
Reynolds narration really hits his stride by the second book, with the emotion conveyed in the cliffhanger ending being almost palpable. His distinct stylings for the other characters is also well developed, expressing uncouthness, pride, pompousness and resentfulness as base characteristics of a characters personality naturally and consistently. The conclusion of the first trilogy is thrilling, thematically gratifying and enjoyable and is definitely highly recommended listening for everyone.
What do you think should also be on this list?