Sunday, 11 January 2015

The Magic of Reality

Lowdown: Great narration turns an already great book into a great audiobook.
Long drives require special preparation. In Australia one is privileged to particularly long drives – 800 kilometers or 10 hours plus in one go, to name just one example that residents of other countries would find unimaginable. As in, how many other countries can generate GPS instructions along the lines of “drive straight for 576 kilometres, then turn right”?
Usually, I would prepare for these extra long drives with playlists of favourite music, particularly on the noisy side for that extra wakeful kick. In two words, Led Zeppelin. This time around we decided to try a different approach: identify an audiobook that would keep the whole family intrigued during the entire there-and-back-again drive.
We embarked ourselves on a quest to find the right audiobook. We needed something the whole family would like, for a start. Sampling various sources for both suitable fiction and non-fiction, it soon became apparent the challenge is a mighty one: picking material exciting enough to keep a driver alert and the whole family interested requires more than meets the ear. Worse, we noticed that in most cases the narration simply fails to turn us on regardless of how good the book is: even if the source material is exciting as hell, a boring/bored narrator will ruin the experience. And I was very surprised to hear how even A title releases sport narrators on sleeping pills.
Our quest seemed stuck.
I do not recall exactly how it happened, but it occurred to me that I might give Richard Dawkins a go. After all, his books are top favourites, he is my favourite author, and he does have one book that the whole family already likes and that book is of the type that one can read again and again: I’m talking, of course, of The Magic of Reality. A book I have even awarded best book of the year (here).
There were a couple of hurdles, though. The Magic of Reality is a rather interactive book, relying heavily on graphics. As it happens, it is narrated by a guy called Richard Dawkins, who may be a great scientist and a great author, but is he a great narrator? I was doubtful.
The drive came along and we gave several audiobooks a go. [Almost] all failed miserably; only one managed to make the cut, intrigue us through and through, and turn our car into an exciting venue of discussions: The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins, read by Richard Dawkins and wife Lalla Ward. I already knew the contents was great; but I was surprised by the quality of the narration. Dawkins’ is as clear as his text, making it very obvious he is really into it. Ward, for her part, is a professional actress that obviously knows how to convey a message effectively. Altogether, The Magic of Reality audiobook is no boring affair: it very effectively combines the excellent source material with excellent narration. I did not feel for even one second as if the absence of graphics and interactivity made for a lesser experience.
Overall: Yet another excellent, and unexpectedly so, production from the House of Dawkins. There really is a lot to learn from The Magic of Reality, and the audiobook version makes that learning accessible through yet another avenue. 5 out of 5 intrigued crabs.

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