Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Melin the Machine

This is a different kind of post. I'm about to review a couple books that I doubt I would ever have read in the conventional way but which I consider well worth reading. The only reason I bothered with them was that they showed up on LibriVox and were read by Roger Melin.

It's difficult to do justice to Melin as a reader. Simply put, he is consistently professional. LibriVox readers are volunteers (= amateurs), and many of them sound like it. But there are some who are reliably professional, and Melin is one of them. When I see a new title from him, I'm more likely to check it out, simply because I know I won't have to put up with reader problems. I may not like the story; that's always possible. But in using LibriVox, there have been cases where I liked a story but could not recommend the audiobook; Melin's work is never in that class.

His genre is hard to define. He tends toward adventure stories, often with a romantic angle, but the recent Flood Tide, which I'll review soon, doesn't fit that classification.

Another quirk of Melin's seems like a negative but actually works: he's not a voice actor. Some readers are very good at doing different voices, dialects, and such. (Other fail painfully.) Melin doesn't appear to bother with that, but his reading is not expressionless. In fact, I've had the odd effect of remembering something he's read as though he had acted it: perhaps my own imagination fills in the gap. However one might explain it, it works quite well. (This is especially tricky where voicing the opposite sex is concerned: generally women voice men better than men voice women, though the failures are especially painful. Melin's technique is immune to the problem.)

Melin has, apparently, a list of more than 150 titles he hopes to read out, and he's so productive he may succeed. This is why I call him "the Machine": he churns out an impressive body of work with mechanical regularity and accuracy, but with very non-mechanical quality. He's worth listening to, and while I don't always agree with his taste in texts, he has put me onto some books and writers I might never have discovered otherwise.

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