An Appreciation for Simon Vance, Audiobook Narrator Extraordinaire

From BookRiot:

Audiobooks are a tricky art. I got introduced to them in a strange way; our fourth grade class listened along to audiobooks of our assigned reading. I was starting to realize then that I loved reading and often would finish faster than the audiobook. It didn’t help that none of the books had full voice casts, instead one narrator. My childhood self couldn’t appreciate the work going into that.

I didn’t listen to audiobooks until I had long commutes, and I discovered Neil Gaiman could read very well. I started with whatever was available at my local libraries. Eventually, I realized that the best audio would come from recommendations. And I listened to the entire Millennium Trilogy, written by Stiegg Larson (RIP), narrated by a remarkable audiobook performer: Simon Vance.

Simon Vance is a British audiobook narrator, who has cemented himself in my mind as the best person for detective audio. He has dozens of books under his belt, where he alternates between a myriad of voices. His trademark is alternating between a stern, almost nasal tone and a grandfatherly, breathy narrator, at least in the stories I’ve heard, but many other voices exist in between. He does an amazing Holmes and Watson in the Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, as well as a heartbreaking Lawrence and Temeraire in His Majesty’s Dragon, written by Naomi Novik. I should find more stories that he reads aloud, because he makes you feel safe while the game is afoot, to repeat a cliche.

A good audiobook narrator, provided the audience is receptive, makes you believe that they aren’t just reading words off a page. They infuse emotion into their words, and pathos for the characters they act out.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

PG invites visitors to TPV to share their favorite audiobook narrators in the comments. He hasn’t listened to an audiobook and has decided he would like to listen to some excellent examples of the combined arts of writing and narrating.

17 thoughts on “An Appreciation for Simon Vance, Audiobook Narrator Extraordinaire”

  1. Not to knee-jerk immediately to Harry Potter, but Jim Dale’s reading of that entire series remains the pinnacle of my nearly 30-year passion for audiobooks. And yes, Gaiman is peerless when it comes to an author reading his/her own work.

  2. Have some fun and listen to Terry Pratchett’s “The Wee Free Men” as read by Stephen Briggs. Probably available through Overdrive. The entire Tiffany Aching series is very nice.

  3. Rob Ingles who narrated LoTR and the Hobbit. Flexible enough voice that when one character is described as imitating someone else (Pippin mimicking Treebeard for those who know the books) he makes it sound like Pippin’s voice imitating Treebeard.

  4. I would like to hear the commentariat’s opinion on what they look for in a narrator from the listener’s point of view. I have only heard a few audiobooks myself, but I want to have audio versions of all of my books. It’s difficult to figure out what expectations people have so I can match them with a good voice artist.

  5. My all-time favorite is George Guidall. I first found him when he read Piers Anthony’s wonderful “Incarnations of Immortality” series. He was the first narrator I found where I would try something simply because he narrated it.

    Ray Porter is also in this class for me. He can make an adequate book wonderful and an excellent book transcendent.

  6. James Langton sucks me straight into the story. I forget I’m being read to and find myself lost in the words. To me, that’s the mark of an excellent narrator. His voice took me away during the worst of Hurricane Irma when I needed distraction from vibrating walls and howling winds. Blessings upon him.

  7. I like George Guidall, Scott Brick, and Susan Ericksen. I love audiobooks – I listen to 1 to 3 a week. Wish I could find an easy and cheap way to convert my books into audio.

    If you wonder if you’ll like audios listen to the HP series or the audio of Grant or Washington by Ron Chernobyl.

  8. Roy Dotrice, all five audiobooks of Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire). Doesn’t get any better. His Tyrion Lannister has a depth that (alas) Peter Dinklage misses in the film version. Dotrice was originally unavailable to do the narration for A Feast of Crows (John Lee replaced him), but then the book was re-recorded by Dotrice. You can see Dotrice as Wisdom Hallyne, the pyromancer, on Season 2 of the HBO series. He recently passed away–a huge loss for future G of T audiobooks, should R. R. Martin ever get around to writing them.

  9. I’ve listened to hundreds of audiobooks, and two of my own novels have been made into audiobooks, so as subjective as my recommendations are, I hope they carry some weight. My favorites are:
    Buffalo Gals, by Larry McMurtry, narrated by Betty Buckley
    Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter, narrated by Edoardo Ballerini
    Her Royal Spyness, by Rhys Bowen, narrated by Katherine Kellgren
    A Christmas Carol, by Dickens, narrated by either Charlton Griffin or Simon Prebble

  10. Rob Ingles did an excellent job for Lord of the Rings, but Martin Shaw’s The Silmarillion is also wonderful. I prefer it to reading the Silmarillion in print because it is so easy to hear the music of the words.

    For female narrators, my favorite is Kate Reading. Her readings of Charles de Lint are magical.

    Ramon de Ocampo is fantastic for books with young male POV, like the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series by Brandon Sanderson.

  11. I love MacLeod Andrews as a narrator. He’s incredibly talented and can really perform a story in a way that brings it to amazing life. And he benefits from having a voice that’s more of a tenor, so he can drop lower to do tough male voice while being able to do believable female voices without sounding like a cartoonish mockery (something that I’ve noticed naturally deep-voiced male narrators have trouble with).

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