Neil Turner's Blog

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Listening to books, part V (Fiction edition)

It’s time for another update on the audiobooks that I’ve been listening to. As mentioned last time, I’ve been listening to a few fiction books lately, rather than just yet more celebrity memoirs. As someone who hasn’t read (or indeed listened to) fiction in many years, this was a bit of a departure for me. Indeed, Mitch Benn’s book Terra was the first in a long time.

Here’s what I’ve listened to:

Battlemage by Stephen Aryan

I’ll disclose a minor conflict of interest here: I used to work with Stephen’s partner. At the time, I remember hearing about how he was struggling to get a publisher. This was when self-publishing on Kindle and the like was becoming more popular. I’m pleased to see that Stephen’s persistence paid off, with this book being published by Orbit in September 2015. It’s available as an actual paperbook in real shops (or Amazon), and an audiobook on Audible.

Battlemage is among the longer books that I’ve listened to – roughly on a par with a typical Game of Thrones book. It tells the story of several battlemages, powerful and feared wizards, who are recruited to fight in a war against the ‘warlock’. It’s firmly in the ‘sword and sorcery’ subgenre of fantasy.

I really enjoyed this book; whilst I chose it principally to support someone I know, the story was good and the characters had depth. The narration by Mark Addis on the audiobook is good as well. It’s the first in a trilogy, and I’m looking forward to listening to the next book in the series.

Dietland by Sarai Walker

Dietland by Sarai WalkerI listened to this book on a recommendation from Sofie Hagen, formerly one half of The Guilty Feminist podcast. I didn’t really know what to expect, other than that it would likely criticise the diet industry.

Dietland (Amazon link) tells the story of Plum, a fat girl who doesn’t want to be fat. She signs up for a weight loss scheme called ‘The Baptist Plan’, but is left looking for other options when the company is closed by its founder’s daughter. Considering bariatric surgery, she’s recruited into a secretive collective and finds out the truth about dieting.

The reviews of this book are mixed, perhaps due to its controversial second half where the story takes an interesting twist. For me, I found the second half much stronger than the first. Initially I almost wrote this book off as being typical cheap ‘chick lit’, but I stuck with it and was rewarded. Drawing parallels with real-life events, it’s hilarious and empowering.

Lauren Henderson narrates the book, and whilst she does so well, she wouldn’t be my favourite voice actor.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Cover of The AlchemistI listened to The Alchemist (Amazon link) because it was available as a freebie on Audible back in November. I had run out of credits, didn’t fancy paying full price for another audiobook and saw that it was a relatively short 4 hour listen, which I completed in a week thanks to a few long car journeys.

It’s certainly not the sort of book that I would normally listen to, and it was okay, I guess. The story follows a young Spanish shepherd, as he travels to Africa to find treasure. The revelations he has on his journey end up changing the course of his life.

There’s a lot of religious imagery in the book, even if it isn’t overtly Christian. The narration was good, but you can tell that it has been translated into English. There’s not the level of nuance that I expect it would have if read in its original Portuguese.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

As a child, I read a few Terry Pratchett books – namely the Johnny Maxwell trilogy, but as yet I haven’t dabbled my toe into any of Pratchett’s books for adults. Similarly, I’ve not really read any Neil Gaiman books apart from a couple of short stories. So I thought that Good Omens (Amazon link), a collaboration between the two of them, would be a good introduction to both authors. It’s a standalone book that is not part of any wider series.

Good Omens follows Crowley and Aziraphale, a demon and an angel who live on Earth, and who aren’t very happy about its imminent destruction. As the four horsemen of the apocalypse gather, and the anti-christ goes missing, it’s up to them to save the world, with the help of a surprisingly accurate book of prophecies written by one Agnes Nutter.

There are some laugh-out-loud moments in Good Omens, especially in its comments about the M25, and how every cassette that spends more than a couple of weeks in a car becomes songs by Queen. Some of the pop culture references are a little dated – this book was first published in 1990 – but on the whole, it holds up well. Stephen Briggs offers an excellent narration in the audiobook.

Up next

At present I’m back to celebrity memoirs, but will be listening to more fiction books in future. I’m considering making a start on Game of Thrones, and perhaps making inroads into Terry Pratchett’s Discworld universe.

One Comment

  1. I’ve listened to several Terry Pratchett audio books – highly recommend them. Also reading the books themselves is highly recommended too. I think my books were on tape and I still have them in the basement although I don’t think I have a tape player to actually play them.