An Audio-Book Review: Hey! A “Talking Book” with a Talking Book In It!


Myth-Gotten Gains

By Robert Lynn Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye

Published by Audible Frontiers

Read by Noah Michael Levine

 

The Book:

The Myth Adventures of Skeeve and Aahz have been a mixed lot. The series started out strong with Another Fine Myth (by Robert Asprin writing solo) which I enjoyed greatly. It was followed up with the fairly solid Myth Conceptions and then Myth Directions, but by the aptly-named fourth book, it became clear that Bob’s humorous series was going to be (sorry can’t resist the pun) Hit or Myth, and sometimes it missed. Well, when writing a very long and open-ended series that is likely to happen.

Part of the problem may have been the large and ever-growing cast of characters. For a while all those characters seemed to be demanding at least a cameo appearance in each story, but what made all those stories hang together was that the first-person narrator was always Skeeve, the young and inexperienced magician being thrown into always new and dangerous situations through which he had to bumble through as best he could. It was fun.

Then came the great change. I don’t know if Bob Asprin was running out of fresh ideas or else was afraid the series was slipping into a rut (which I have to admit it was), but he came up with a new sub-series – M.Y.T.H. Inc. – which was often very episodic and changed first person voices to one of the other characters. The problem I had as a reader was that these characters spoke in their own dialects which as an occasional line of dialogue was okay, but when that was all you heard (or read) was horribly annoying. I particularly hated the section narrated by Guido and Nunzio who sounded like really bad and cheap imitations of Damon Runyon’s characters. Imagine Guys and Dolls done really badly but with fantasy elements. The mobsters of his world are still mobsters and trying to make sympathetic characters out of them and justify their modes of thought and action was a major turn off.

But in between, each M.Y.T.H. Inc. book there were one or two regular Myth-Adventures, and I found myself looking forward to them. To Bob’s credit he always built each story on the last so unlike episodes in a sitcom, stuff that happened before still played a part in the following adventures. Unfortunately, the way it worked out is that it all got hopelessly complex.

And then Bob Asprin started collaborating with another talented author, Jody Lynn Nye. Their first few Myth Adventures together were a bit shaky and read as though neither had read what the other had written so that there was a lot of useless repetition with two points of view that gave away the whole story long before the read got beyond a few chapters. However, they grew as a team and of their stories together I have read Myth-Gotten Gains is probably the best so far.

My major complaint is that timeline-wise, Skeeve is still out of the story and on sabbatical trying to learn as much magic as he is reputed to know. The Myth Adventures fall flat without him which is probably why he finally returns in the next book (which I have not read yet)

In this one we find Aahz, the loud-mouthed demon from the dimension, Perv (call him a Pervect to his face and think of him as a Pervert when he cannot hear you) strolling through an other-dimensional flea market when he happens on a talking sword. That sword turns out to be the legendary blade “Ersatz,” featured in so many tales of daring do and copied so frequently that its very name has come to mean “imitation.”

Ersatz is a member of the fabulous “Golden Horde” or treasures and he leads Aahz into a quest to reunite the Horde. Along the way he joins up with series favorite Tananda the Trollop (from Trollia where the men are Trolls) and a young bird lady from Walt, a dimension where dancing is so advanced the other dimensions have a dance named after them. Together they must gather the members of the Horde (who apparently hate each other… like any broken-up rock band) in order to rescue the young Walt’s grandfather… Well anymore and I might as well tell you the story.

It’s a pretty good story and if you have enjoyed the rest of the series, this one should be to your taste as well.

 

The Audiobook:

The story might have been pretty good, but Noah Michael Levine totally ruined it for me. As I have said in the past I knew Bob Asprin before he published his first book (I think that was The Cold Cash War) and also knew some of the people on whom he based p[arts of his characters, so when they are portrayed in a manner that is utterly opposed to them, it drives me up the wall. However, this time I did my best to shelve my prejudices on that count and judge this as most listeners might.

He still scores an F in my book. Sorry, but thick, phony-sounding and insulting accents to differentiate the characters just do not cut it. Mister Levine has a collection of voices that is very wide in scope, but subtlety is not in his lexicon. So Aahz sounds like a Jew from Brooklyn on a bad day, the Walts have what I think is an Austrian accent and Tananda sounds like a cheap imitation of Marilyn Monroe. For the record, while Marilyn was certainly a sexy woman, I never found her little-girl soprano voice particularly enticing (with the possible exception of “Happy birthday, Mister President.”). Actually, I find the little girl voice a major turn-off, though maybe I’m alone on that, but it seems particularly wrong for Tananda who in my opinion should have a deep and throaty voice.

However, I have complained about Mister Levine’s characterizations before and at least this time he did not mangle the pronunciations of words like Djinger.

All told, however, while I enjoyed the story, I cringed through this entire reading of it. If there is another audio edition of this story, you might want to look for it.

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