An Audio-Book Review: You’re Looking Sharp Today.


The Crystal Singer Series:

Crystal Singer
Killashandra
Crystal Line

By Anne McCaffrey

Abridged recordings published by Dove Audio, Inc.

Read by Adrienne Barbeau

The Books:

I will admit up front that while I have always enjoyed most of the Pern books by Anne McCaffrey, I do not hold all her works in the same esteem. However, I think that if I like any of her stories better than those that take place on Pern it has to be the Crystal Singer trilogy. This series takes place in the same future universe as so many others by McCaffrey, so a long-time reader of  her work will instantly be at home, knowing that somewhere out there is the isolated Pern System, that The Ship Who Sang is a part of their history and so forth.

Crystal Singer starts out with a young music student, Killashandra Ree, who has just failed out as a soloist at her school. Through a fortunate accident she meets a member of the Heptite Guild from the world, Ballybran (also known as a Crystal Singer), on vacation. He charms her and they spend a few weeks living off his seemingly limitless credit until his health seems to fail suddenly. Another accident nearly kills him and leave him in a coma-like state and KIllashandra chooses, against all advice, to accompany him back to Ballybran.

Once there, the Guild grants her a generous reward, but in the meantime she has decided to become a Crystal Singer herself. The first book of the series introduces Killashandra and the reader to the enhancements and weaknesses of Crystal Singers as Killashandra, herself goes through the rigorous training required of all Heptite Guild members and at last achieves full membership in the Guild as a fully-fledged Crystal Singer.

Crystal Singers are, as a lot, self-confident and frequently arrogant. They rely far too much on their ability to heal rapidly, for example and when travelling they rely too much on the reputation of their guild. So when, in the second book, Killashandra accepts an assignment to repair one of the sensory organs on Optheria, performance instruments that play to all the senses, she almost immediately finds herself in trouble. Stranded on a desert island, she hardly has the luxury of waiting for rescue since, any Crystal Singer who stays away from Ballybran too long suffers a wide range of  health issues, such as what happened to the first singer Killashandra ever met. So she must rescue herself, confront the villains who trapped her there and then proceed to unravel the mystery that leads to Optheria’s true criminals. This is a story about Crystal Singers at the height of their powers.

In the third book we watch, over a series of decades, as Killashandra ages and gradually falls prey to the worst Crystal Singer problem, memory loss. She gradually loses almost all her memories save how to mine the crystal her occupation is named for, and loses so much more besides. Such loss has never been reversible before, but can it be reversed now in time to save Killashandra Ree?

This series is fun to read and easy to get into. Good SF adventure for anyone!

The Audiobooks:

When I first saw that Adrienne Barbeau had read these books, I felt a shiver of dread. My previous knowledge of this talented actress was as one of the support characters in the Archie Bunker spin-off, “Maude,” which you may recall starred Bea Arthur. I didn’t like “All in the Family” or any of its spin-off series.

Fortunately, I was plainly impressed and delighted by Ms Barbeau’s readings of these stories. My only complaint, in fact, is that Dove Audio chose to make these very abridged editions. There is so much more to these stories than the recordings present. And it is a shame we cannot listen to Adrienne Barbeau read the books as they were originally published.

However, even badly chopped up as they are, McCaffrey’s characters shine through and are brought to life marvelously by Ms Barbeau. I highly recommend both the original books and her performance.

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