Infinivox were kind enough to send me a copy of their recent audio cassette release for review, Rammer by Larry Niven. The last time I listened to taped readings of books was as a child listening to Beatrix Potters Peter the Rabbit stories during long car trips with my family. I was interested to see how a more adult story might translate to recorded format.
The Rammer cassette arrived in its own double-cassette box (much more substantial than a normal case) with a full-colour cover insert. Reader Pat Bottino speaks clearly and slowly without an overly strong accent, and with the excellent sound quality of the tape there are no problems catching every word. Pat varies tone and inflection to differentiate the main character's voices, a convention which feels a little artificial but allows no doubt about who is speaking.
I have to admit an initial bias, in that I have previously read the story in its original form (published both as a stand-alone short story and as the first chapter of A World Out of Time) and I think it's a terrific story. I haven't listened to a lot of recorded stories but I am certain that there are subtle difficulties translating a story from print to spoken word. I feel that part of the power of the story comes in the visual layout of the text, the deliberate use of paragraphs and other punctuation. This of course cannot be completely translated to the spoken format. However, just like a television or movie adaptation of a book permits an additional dimension in terms of visual special effects, the audio translation can add to the experience with effective and creative use of sound effects.
Some use of music and effects is made in Rammer, with short musical passages at the beginning and between each chapter, and simulated radio conversations. In general though the non-vocal sounds were sparse and I feel that the tape could have been enhanced somewhat with more use of effects.
Overall Infinivox have produced an entertaining, high-quality product, which I can confidently recommend to everyone.
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