18 February 2008

Audiobooks of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

I have been waiting and waiting for dear George's next book to come out and thought I'd best refresh my memory on the characters and places before it did. (See my prior post, A Storm of Waiting for further thoughts on my travails). Unfortunately, I have more than an hour in the car daily on my regular commute so I'm becoming friendly with audiobooks. The first audiobooks for the Song of Ice and Fire series were narrated by Roy Dotrice and he is just perfect; his range is incredible and transports one into the story in the way of great dramatists, making you loose the barrier between your thinking and the story as it unfolds. In the narration, Mr. Dotrice is given no easy task - he has to encompass a multitude of characters, from a nanny a century old to a wary old smuggler. This is does elegantly, exquisitely, and unobtrusively. At the end of each book, I was ready to applaud. I restrained myself, and lived through the rush hour with both hands firmly on the wheel.

Any other narrator would be profoundly challenged to meet Mr. Dotrice's feat. John Lee, the narrator for Feast, seems unaware that there is a challenge. He pronounces character names differently from one chapter to the next (is Cersei "Sir-say" or "Seer-see"? I can forgive screwing up a minor character, but Cersei's a key character), and has characters from hugely divergent regions of Westeros speaking in the same tones, with no accent or diversity. Worse yet, Dotrice had established precedents for pronunciation "Da-Naer-is" as an example, vs. Lee's "Dan-air-is" and the precedents were not honored. In fairness, perhaps Mr. Lee was not given sufficient time to prepare for the role, and certainly he was going to be nitpicked by a bunch of nitpickers like myself who have combed over the books again and again. But I do recall that craftsmen have the ability - responsibility, perhaps - to turn down work they can't do well, given the constraints a client may impose.

I sure do hope as they look to turn these books into a movie that the producers can reflect back upon the excellent work that Dotrice did for the audiobooks - heck, maybe even cast him as narrator in the movie. But I'd be quite happy if they could simply review the beauty of Dotrice's work, and learn the lesson of the cost of the switch to another narrator.

To listen to Lee's recording, check out this narrative of a scene regarding three Citadel students A Feast for Crows:

For comparison, here is a clip of Dotrice's reading of the beginning scene with the night's watch in A Game of Thrones (note how he so well represents the brash lordling, the naive commoner and the old timer):

If you're over the top in outrage, check out the online petition “A Feast for Crows” Deserves Roy Dotrice!


pingnut said...

I totally agree. Roy Dotrice's narration is much more fun. He created a really excellent Tyrion. Sometimes you can just tell which character he is.