All right – inaugural review! We'll start with the audiobook I'm currently listening to.
Night Watch, by Terry Pratchett
Read by Stephen Briggs
Synopsis: There's a freak time-storm in the always tempestuous city of Ankh-Morpork and Sam Vimes, Commander of the City Watch, is thrown thirty years back in time. In fact, he's just in time to see his younger self join the Watch and teach himself everything he knows. He's also just in time to relive the Glorious Revolution of Treacle Mine Road and make sure that time stays in the right track. But all Vimes wants is to go back to his own time, where Lady Sybil is giving birth to their first child. Unfortunately, there's something Vimes has to do before he can go home.
Review: Let me state right out front that is my favorite book in one of my favorite series. So perhaps I'm a little biased. But, even taking that into account, this is an excellent audiobook. Stephen Briggs has recorded several of Terry Pratchett's books (taking over from Nigel Planer, who did the earlier books) and is at the top of his game here. His narration is in turns hilarious and heartbreaking, but always gripping.
Night Watch is, of course, a book that rewards the familiar reader more than the reader who is new to the series and the audiobook is no different. Just as it is a joy to recognize younger versions of well-known characters while reading (many of Ankh-Morpork's familiar faces show up here, though somewhat different than they will be in their older incarnations), it's also wonderful to recognize the characters through Mr Brigg's marvelously consistent voice work. Sgt Colon is immediately recognizable from other recordings of the Watch novels and even though Nobby is much too young to join the Watch at this point, his essential Nobby-ness shines through the slightly higher-pitched voice that he's sporting here. CMOT Dibbler, Rosie Palm, Mr Slant, and Vetinari are all present and accounted for, and sound just as you'd expect them to from Mr Brigg's prior work.
New characters are also well handled. Each is given a distinctive and recognizable voice. Of particular note is Captain Swing of the Unmentionables, who has some bizarre vocal tics in the text. These come across wonderfully in the recording and grant the character exactly the right sense of the bizarre.
The footnotes – a hallmark of Mr Pratchett's novels – are worked seamlessly into the text. Fortunately, the readers of Discworld novels have always managed this admirably.
Night Watch is a nearly perfect recording. There are, of course, a few moments that don't ring quite true – cut-off words that aren't pronounced quite right, moments where the tone doesn't quite fit the text – but these are few and far between. Even with those few moments, this is a wonderful audiobook and fully does justice to what is probably Mr Pratchett's finest work. I would whole-heartedly recommend this to anyone who's a fan of the Discworld novels.*
*If you've never read any of the Discworld novels before, this is, unfortunately, not the one to start with. It relies too heavily on the reader's knowledge of already established characters. However, if you like really good comic fantasy and haven't yet read the Discworld novels, you should totally get on that immediately. You're in for a treat.
(Though, if you take my advice, you'll skip the first 5 or so – they aren't really terribly good. Okay, the fourth one – Mort – is all right but you don't really need to read it. Start with Wyrd Sisters or Guards! Guards! and go from there.)