For those of us who fondly remember shoving disc after disc into our car CD players for company on our long drives, the audio book has certainly come a long way. From the first days of single voice actors narrating entire novels, the audio book has evolved into an aural universe complete with full musical score, sound effects, and multiple well-known actors lending their talents to the dialogue. For this article, please find five recommended audio novels of fiction performed by a single voice actor.
For the secret historical romantics out there who wouldn’t dream of reading Outlander (and heads up, that’s a free audio book for Audible members this month) – we suggest The Song of Achilles.
Sweet Roman sandals, there’s a lot to sigh over in this audio book. This is an intense narration that details the life of the warrior Princes Achilles and his second, Prince Patroclus, from boyhood right through to the death of both men on the battle fields of Troy. The Song of Achilles is absolutely heart breaking, and actor David Thorpe tears through the narration, voicing Patroclus in particular with such passion that you wish this classic tale had a different outcome. Nothing is held back in this beautiful and bloody story of love and loyalty between two men.
Start anywhere in this series and you will be just fine – though we all know its best to begin at the start. Stuart MacBride is a whipsmart and incisively clever Scottish crime author who has written a large number of novels in his career, the most brilliantly entertaining of these being those of the Logan McRae series.
Logan McRae is a long suffering police officer based in Aberdeen who never gets the respect he deserves. So determined and resilient is McRae that his colleagues fondly call him Laz, in reference to how McRae is able to keep rising up despite how many times he is shot at, stabbed, or simply has the stuffing beaten out of him.
Stuart MacBride is very funny to hear speak in person so happy to pass on that he also narrates many of his own audio books. Whilst you will have more than a chuckle or twelve listening to these books, you will need to keep sharp as they are police procedurals of the best kind – meticulously plotted with twists a plenty, tense showdowns and large casts of fully realized characters.
There are a few truly superstar narrators in the world of audio books, and one of these is Will Patton. Patton has popped up in more TV shows and movies that you can poke your remote at (Falling Skies, The Good Wife; Remember the Titans, Armageddon) and has one of those voices that wraps itself around you, coaxing you into other worlds with convincing warmth.
The Bill Hodges novels were something of a diversion for Master King, best known of course for his horror works (Carrie, The Shining, The Stand, and the stellar list goes on). Every crime reader in the world who also read horror felt it was a jolly good move in the right direction by our most imaginative living author.
Retired Detective Bill Hodges hit the couch with the knowledge that he never caught the killer who ploughed through a group of hopeful job seekers, queuing outside in the early morning hours for a job fair. When the unknown killer makes contact with Bill to say that the urge to kill is once again upon him, Hodges can’t let the possibility of more deaths become a reality.
The subject of artificial intelligence in the hands of a sophisticated writer like Ian McEwan is something both frightening and thought provoking.
Set in an alternate 1980’s where mathmetician Alan Turing is still alive and personal bots have hit the market, underemployed Charlie splurges what little money he has left of a small inheritance on the purchase of an ‘Adam’. Adam is personal service bot that acquires a persona and level of consciousness through preferences input on set up by its primary user. An intense book that asks more questions of the readers sensibilities than it provides answers.
Chronicling the story of the rise to power of King David, The Secret Chord is a powerful and richly illustrated historical drama that gives vivid life to people and events from the time of the second Iron Age.
Voiced by the talented Paul Boehmer, The Secret Chord pieces together all that you thought you knew of this biblical tale of rags to riches, depicting all the struggles and political treachery that plagued the legendary King. Narrated by Natan, the King’s closest advisor, The Secret Chord requires a fair bit of concentration and patience (such as with the pronunciation of ancient places) at times, with the reward being a greater understanding of why this one man is remembered, three thousand years after his forty year reign.
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Andy is a Perth based reviewer who has been moderating online book clubs and working with not-for-profits since the interwebs were young. Andy contributes to The Blurb on books, streaming TV, movies and Western Australian theatre. She is also a bit obsessed with podcasts.