Local Custom by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Short Review: Star crossed lovers set in an intricately woven universe including space ships, elements of magic and linguistics. The reader needed someone to insist on better pacing in an otherwise very solid performance.
Long Review: The list of things I enjoyed about this audio book is fairly long. Deeply developed characters with a solid back story, a carefully crafted universe and enough suspense to keep you guessing.
Often with a story like this, the author is tempted to start too early – but Lee and Miller toss us into the middle with fine results. I love books with compelling characters, and on that front this one definitely delivers. I care about the whole lot of them. I want everything to work out, but am not quite sure how it might. I also like that just when I was getting frustrated by the lack of communication between characters, one of them steps forward and starts dealing. Much of the fabric of this story is tied up in how hard it is to communicate with someone who cannot totally understand local customs. Even the learned linguist who can manage to navigate conversations that require careful use of just the right ‘voice’ cannot anticipate culturally based responses to her actions.
It was only after I had finished listening to this book that I realized that it is in fact Book 1 of a full series set in the Liaden Universe. It does not seem that any others are available (yet) in audio form, but I like the story enough that I plan to read the rest on paper.
The biggest drawback to this audio book was getting used to the reader. Michael Shanks, who portrayed Dr. Daniel Jackson in Stargate SG-1, does a fine job with the actual reading and voices. My frustration is with his phrasing. The first time he shifted to a new character’s point of view I was very confused for a minute or two until I figured out that I was now hearing someone else’s thoughts. I often experienced a sort of point of view whiplash throughout the book.
I haven’t seen this book in paper – but a quick peek Local Custom on Amazon.com shows me that there are in fact numbered chapters and paragraphs separated by extra space. There is no mention of chapters and no pauses between sections. It sometimes felt like he was in a rush to keep moving through the book. I was able to adjust to this odd pacing, but your mileage may vary. You can download the first three chapters for free from the Buzzy Multimedia page for Local Custom, so you can easily see if this bothers you before you purchase it.
I wish they could re-edit it and just add in more pauses and chapter breaks. It would bring this book up to a five star experience.