It’s my industry shame that I don’t read as much as I should – between work and child and fitness and my own writing schedule, finding the time is hard – finding the peace is harder. I feel I’m doing the authors that visit the business a disservice – I’m only now beginning to understand how much sheer hard work their creativity is.

It seems, though, that my continuing twitchiness about my bike has had a silver lining.


In the past, I’ve had real issues with them – listening to Richard Morgan’s ‘Steel Remains’ nearly drove me batshit because it was so SLOW. I gave up in the end, and just read the bloody book.

Now, sans bike, I’ve made a breakthrough discovery – audiobooks are MADE for commuting.

The morning cattletruck is sweaty claustro hell; you need your ipod to give you that aural illusion of personal space – to escape the crush. Now, my ipod is not only shield, it’s gateway. Listening to Joe Abercrombie’s ‘Blade itself’ has made me an audiobook convert – rather than the train, it’s 50 minutes in another world.

More recently, I’m halfway through Tony Ballantyne’s ‘Blood and Iron’, the follow-up to ‘Twisted Metal’, which was one of my absolute favourite recent reads. I’m enjoying the book, but it’s thrown up one of the reasons why audiobooks can jar – the overuse of colloquial accents falls at the edge of cringeworthy comedy. The story’s phenomenal – but one robot sounds like Marvin the Paranoid Android and another one, inexplicably, is broadly Welsh, the accent so strong it’s undermining both the character and the story. And that’s a shame.

The gripe, though can be weighted against the positive – the fun and games of listening to a blood-spattered combat scene while faced with a wall of police at the Elephant and Castle, or entering Titan Towers just as something blows the fuck up… along with actually getting back into reading (whatever!) the good points are more than enough to surpass the annoyance.

But the best of point of all?

I’ve heard many people say, ‘If you don’t read, you can’t write’. Listening to an audiobook means you take in every word; you don’t skim, assume or find your eyes flicking down the page. And finding an hour or so a day to absorb to someone else’s vision of genius has reminded and taught me how better to work on the detail of my own.

Now, if only I can work out how to listen to them on the bike…

3 thoughts on “Audiobooks

  1. I love audiobooks, but the narrator is crucial. Nigel Planer and Celia Imrie just don’t seem to get Pratchett, but Stephen Briggs nails the Discworld books. Likewise, it must be unabridged – listening to the early Stuart MacBride books, I kept on thinking something was missing (admittedly those were books I knew very well from multiple readings of the original MSS and rewrites). Joe Abercrombie is on my audible list, so hopefully the books have been done justice.

  2. I’ve made a point of listening to books I haven’t read, that way there are no expectations of how the characters will sound – but yes, the narrator can either bring a story to life or flog it to within an inch.

    And Joe himself said he was pleased with the way his books had turned out – so I’d take that as a ‘yes’!

  3. It’s 50/50 for me. I still prefer to use my imagination when I read a book. Sometimes my mind’s eye is better with interpreting a book than an audio version. I think that’s why people say “The book was better than the movie.”

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