The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Short Review: A fantastic tale of adventure, rebellion, childhood, growth, and bears told by a surprisingly-talented author-narrator and a full cast.
Long Review: I’m a big fan of this book and the others in the trilogy, so I was excited to listen to it. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Pullman is a great reader–I think his narration in the audio book compares to the reading of greats like Derek Jacobi and Campbell Scott. I also liked the majority of the other voices in the full cast, only hearing a false note now and again. If I had to complain about anything, it’s that, for whatever reason, the default for female voices in the audiobook is “breathy.” My brain hears “breathy” as “weak” most of the time. I wanted the breathy women reading in this book to be more forceful throughout.
I think adolescent fiction and fantasy are both particularly well-suited to the audio book format. Stories like this beg to be told aloud, because the characters are so engaging and the plot flows from beginning to end, rather than backtracking or spending a lot of time on introspection or exposition, which is generally harder to pay close attention to while listening.
I guess this is my favorite book in the trilogy, because it’s the opening, and because the concepts of daemons and panzerbjorn are both so intriguing to me. That said, the three belong together. Each has its failings. And, of course, its strident critics and supporters. I’d encourage folks unfamiliar with the story to ignore all the hype (if it’s not too late) and just listen as a child would. This is an audiobook, and a series, I will listen to again.