Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Audio Buzz, Past
Audio Book News
By Jonathan Lowe

April 2011

by Jonathan Lowe

Given all our environment, debt, aging, and political crises, is obsessively playing video games the equivalent of sticking one's head in the sand? Far from being negative about gaming in REALITY IS BROKEN, author Jane McGonigal describes gamers as ambitious and inventive, willing to work hard to achieve new levels and goals. Their escape from the real world is due to boredom (and to a video culture of rapidly streaming images which lowers attention spans). Since technology is making alternate realities ever more desirable, the future challenge of gaming is to inspire gamers and developers to find solutions to problems in the real world by manipulating avatars in their virtual worlds. This untapped force is only now beginning to be utilized, as in one game she describes that tracks the excessive expenses incurred by politicians. Julia Whelan narrates with a focus on revelation and upbeat engagement.

In PHYSICS OF THE FUTURE popular TV physicist Michio Kaku imagines what it will be like working and living in the year 2100, after interviewing many scientists working on creating that future. Not just space ships, but also self driving magnetic cars and brain sensors enabling you to move objects by thoughts (if we manage to avoid nuclear winter, that is). Guide for this fascinating and imaginative journey is narrator Feodor Chin,) Another revealing science book is the new biography of physicist Richard Feynman as told through his science. QUANTUM MAN is read by the author. Feynman is everyone's favorite historical physicist, after Einstein, although he had a hand in making the first A bomb. A Nobel Prize winner, he is credited for validating quantum mechanics. (Footnote: my interview with physicist Brian Greene, who reads his book "The Hidden Reality" appears in April/May's Audiofile magazine; my own new novel "The Miraculous Plot of Leiter & Lott" is due near the end of April, and has a strong astronomy/physics connection, with an element of romantic suspense.)
THE LINCOLN LAWYER is here this month, so once you've seen it be sure to listen to the audio movie version (ie. the audiobook) to understand what's really going on behind the scenes (and with more added scenes than those deleted scenes that will eventually appear on the DVD). I would recommend hearing the book first, (narrated by Adam Gruper) except that usually when people do it that way they come away saying things like, "the book was better." Ever wonder why that is? Simple. When you read or hear a book, you create the characters in your mind's eye, utilizing your brain and imagination, and so the movie you see on the screen is always going to be different (ie. disappointing) by comparison. However, if you come to the book after seeing the movie, you will visualize the characters you saw in the film in your mind, although you'll have more motivation and scenes enabling you to see "between the frames."

Next, series hero Doc Ford makes a reappearance in NIGHT VISION by Randy White, narrated by George Guidall, an offbeat story about a saintly girl targeted for death (after witnessing a murder) by a criminal trailer park landlord. Guidall is one of the most prolific of audiobook narrators, a pioneer of the industry ever since the 70s, and a staple performer at Recorded Books (which leases out his readings to other publishers like Harper Audio). Having met and interviewed George, I admire his presence as well as his expertise in creating subtle character delineations amid spot-on accents. Randy White (like James Lee Burke and Carl Hiaasen) is one of those great writers who go largely unnoticed by the mass reading public, which (sadly) is more interested in serial killer and vampire clichés.

Finally, on a similar but non-exploitative note, novelist Les Standiford teams with investigator Joe Matthews and narrator Robert Fass to finally tell the entire story of the Adam Walsh murder that fathered the Missing Children Act. Disturbing and exhaustive, BRINGING ADAM HOME is a tragic story of sloppy police work, fights over jurisdiction, and the ultimate closure that resulted from the major cold case being privately investigated after 25 years. If you have kids, this is no doubt your worst nightmare: some sociopath with nothing better to do than kidnap and kill your child. And then police jurisdictions don't talk to each other, so you're left wondering for a third of a lifetime! Instructive, only from the standpoint of trying to understand how someone can have no emotional connection to anyone, or empathy with anyone. (Of course certain former bosses and CEOs on Wall Street come to mind in this regard, but at least they don't spill blood for kicks.) The only good thing that came from this tragedy involves John Walsh's starting America's Most Wanted.

2011 Past Columns