Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
Graphic Audio format
Listened Jan 12 – Mar 17, 2018
This blabber specifically pertains to the graphic audio format of the book.
Elantris is Brandon Sanderson’s first published work, and seeing as I had never read him before, I figured I’d start at the beginning. I had heard that if you didn’t start there, that when you eventually went back to it, you wouldn’t like it as much as if you had begun there. Apparently Sanderson’s ‘new writer-ness’ shows in this book that he later corrects in other books. Therefore I decided to follow that advice to give myself the biggest chance of liking this book.
Well, I can see why this advice exists. The writing isn’t bad – don’t get me wrong. It’s just a bit rough at times with vocabulary, dialogue and plot devices. It definitely shows a lot of potential but it’s obvious why people suggest starting Sanderson’s work with this novel if his other books are written better.
In addition to that, I listened to the graphic audio of this book. If you haven’t listened to a graphic audio of a book before, it’s a bit different than your typical audiobook. The slogan of the graphic audio company is ‘Like a Movie in Your Mind’ and honestly they pull that off pretty well. There’s your basic narrator, but there’s also a voice for each character, there are sound effects like battles and doors closing and laughing and all sorts of stuff. It really sounds like you’re just watching a movie with your eyes closed. Instead of the narrator saying, “Character said,” and then having the character take over, the character just takes over. The supplemental writing to get into character dialogue is removed so it sounds more movie-like. Also small actions like ‘The door closed’ are removed from the writing to be replaced by the sound of a door closing. It’s really cool and really captivating.
That said, there were a couple of drawbacks, but they were specific to my preferences in audio books:
- The sound effects made it so listening at a higher speed was impossible. I usually listen between 1.2 and 1.5 times normal speed, but the sounds all mashed together and I couldn’t discern dialogue from narration from background noise. So 1x speed it was.
- During action scenes, the sounds of swords clashing and people screaming drowned out the narrator. He faded into the background and I had to really concentrate to catch his words. This made listening in the car (where I do most of my listening) difficult, as I’d have the battle scene noises plus driving noises to contend with to hear the narrator. So that’s why it took me so long to listen to – I had to do all my listening outside of commuting to work.
So aside from the technical difficulties I had actually listening to the thing, I really liked this format. And I know they go for ‘movie’ but with this book in particular it sounded more like a video game. In the beginning with the main character Raoden gets put into Elantris, he finds a guide and goes around asking about things – it sounded like a tutorial level of a video game. It was rather neat and it made the experience amusing.
So about the actual book: for the most part I liked it. I think this book lacks characterization, though. I didn’t really care about any of the characters. Sure they had personalities, but they were more told than shown, if that makes sense. Sarene was ‘smart and crafty’ but I knew that because they made a big deal about her faking dumb when ‘she was actually really smart and crafty’. Y’know? Like, it was weird. Raoden’s personality was a bit more fleshed out, but otherwise all the other characters to me were a bit one-dimensional.
The plot overall was pretty neat though – I liked the idea of this mysterious power that had destroyed a city some time ago and the remainder of its citizens reduced to nothing but a festering resemblance of what they used to be. The concept was fascinating and the execution was pretty good too. I tell ya what though, I wasn’t a fan of the action scenes, and I can’t tell you if it was because of the writing or the difficulty I had with listening. They seemed a bit clunky to me. There was a lot of ‘and then this happened and then this happened and then this happened’ coupled with ‘also this plot thing happened just at the right time’ – this last one wouldn’t have been so bad if the narrator wouldn’t have then said stuff like, ‘and it had perfect timing’ or ‘suddenly this happened and it was good because blah de blah’. See what I mean about the writing being clunky?
So, considering all the hype that Sanderson has, this book was okay. I feel like I will like his other works better and maybe I’ll come to appreciate this one more in the long run.