Audiobook Review: Yikes! Another Quirky Audio Book, by Adele Park

Adele Park (Author), Steve Campbell (Narrator), Melissa Sandberg (Narrator), Alexandra Harbold (Narrator), Garry Morris (Narrator), Brittany Shamy (Narrator), Jesse Pepe (Narrator), Rhett Guter (Narrator), Kent Hayes (Narrator) 

So this is my first proper review on the blog.  I know. Contain yourself; it's almost too exciting.

This is part of the Blogger Book Fair that I've been participating in all week.  Today is the last day, and as well as hosting some guest bloggers (who have been a nice and varied crew!) I also volunteered to offer a review, and the book I picked from the long list available was this one: Yikes! Another Quirky Audio Book by Adele Park.

The Description

When marijuana enthusiast Blue McKenna suffers an apocalyptic case of writer's block, reality TV seems like an easy way out. A conglomerate of kooky contestants invades the polygamist community of Navel, Utah, to compete in a reality TV show called Yikes! Participants include Steven Finch, a lovable stoner who develops a conspiracy theory involving a rock band called the Rectal Surgeons, and Randall Smoot, a member of the Gay Mafia. Yikes! Another Quirky Audio Book features a cast of 11 actors who portray the characters in funny, engaging narratives.

The Review

I love an audio book.  I like the enveloping sensation you get when you plug in your earphones, switch on your MP3 player of choice, and sit back and let someone else's words wash over you.  My personal problem with audio books is that I tend to get so relaxed listening to them that I drop off... This isn't a reflection on the quality of the writing, necessarily, so much as a result of the soothing and dulcet tones of whoever is reading the thing.  Susanna Clarke's "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell" is a case in point.  Simon Prebble's voice has such a rich tone that, despite how engaging the book was, I kept dozing off.  But we're not here to discuss Jonathan Strange (which is excellent, by the way), we're here so that I can tell you what I think about Yikes! I have to confess to not reaching the end yet.  I know.  I feel terrible about it.  It turns out that the ten hours required to listen to it is not something I can easily find.  I won't go into the tedious detail, but apparently when you have a small child and you no longer commute, your listening opportunities are somewhat reduced. So, in order to participate properly in the Blogger Book Fair, I am posting a "my thoughts so far" review.  I fully intend to listen to the rest of the book and then, because I want to be completely fair to Adele Park, who has clearly done SO much work writing and then recording the thing, I will post a "my thoughts upon completing".  I hope this is alright with all of you - I do feel as though I am subverting some reviewer etiquette and I am going to plead ignorance and blame the baby.  It's all her fault.

So - Yikes!

The first thing I was thrilled about was the number of actors involved.  My favourite audiobook is "The Time Traveler's Wife", which uses the excellent voice talents of Fred Berman and Pheobe Strole to awesome effect.  Allowing every character to have their own defined voice is a great way to bring the book completely to life.  Yikes! uses 11 different voices, so I was really keen to hear how they all lifted the book to a new level.  All of the voice actors are great - they have measured timing and rhythm, and Adele Park's writing lends itself beautifully to being read aloud.

Each chapter of the book is from a different character's perspective, and here's where my only criticism comes; maybe there are too many voices.  I think I would have preferred the book to have been reigned in to just three voices; Moon McKenna, Blue McKenna and Chet Waterhouse.  Adele Park's writing style is so rhythmic and, after a couple of chapters, so recognisable, that even though each character's voice sounds completely different, they also sound sort of the same...

This isn't a criticism of how the author writes - I love her style. It reminded me of Joseph Heller's "Catch 22" (one of my favourite books); every new character is introduced with a neat little anecdote that tells you everything you need to know about them.  There are no blunt phrases, no cliched descriptions, just a lively tangent into their background, and then you're back to what's happening now.  The storyline takes it's time, but the characters are so amusing to be around that you don't really mind how long it takes to get where they're going; you're just enjoying their company.  But, after a while, you notice the same patterns in their speech.  So perhaps (and this is a ridiculously cumbersome editing suggestion) if the other character's portions could all have been told by Blue, Moon, or Chet in the third person, that would alleviate how the writer's style starts to become the thing you hear the most...
But this isn't something that will stop me from finishing the book.  It's just something your ear becomes attuned to when you listen for any length of time.

On a whole other note - I love what an audio book can do for descriptive passages.  My favourite moment so far is Moon describing using her mother's home lab to create lotions and scents.  For me, listening to someone describe how beautiful something smells, even if they're just listing the ingredients, is much more evocative than reading the words.

The quality of the recording is really good.  I've listened to some audio books that sound as though they've been recorded outside using a phone, and some where the narrator clearly doesn't understand what they're reading.  This is extremely well balanced, contains some unexpected additions (rapping!), and all of the artists get big ticks for clarity and character.

So - the story itself. Well, I won't go there; it's not fair. I haven't finished it yet.  But so far I am enjoying the ride.  It's wry, it's dry, and even the characters who are of dubious moral disposition are enjoyable to listen to.

The Technical Details:

Listening Length: 10 hours and 27 minutes
Program Type: Audiobook
Version: Unabridged
Publisher: Straight to Audio Productions Release Date: 24 Sep 2012
Language: English