An Audio-Book Review: Pride and Promises Among the Swamp Foxes


Myth Chief

By Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye

Published by Audible Studios

Read by Noah Michael Levine

 

The Book:

Here we go again. It should be noted that this is the seventeenth book of the series, so a few more will start to rival Nancy Drew, Tom Swift and The Hardy Boys (NB: Yes, I know that is a gross exaggeration, but as a series of novels go, this one has had a fairly long run

This time Skeeve is finally back which should be a good thing because the Myth stories fall really flat without him and this one does start out close to the old form. It also starts out in an episodic fashion as though the two authors wrote two different openings and could not come to a consensus as to which one they should use, so instead used both. That is possibly not what happened but the first section read like a short story and the second could have stood on its own with both explaining the same bit of back story for first time readers.

Another service for first-time readers are the built in cheesy advertisements. I appreciate that the Myth series is not a TV sitcom so anything that happens in one book does not get relegated to the “Forget-me Closet” in time for the next episode, but I did not need, “To get the full story, go out and buy the wonderful book “Myth-FillintheBlank” available at discerning booksellers” and variations on that theme five or six times whenever Skeeve or another character recalled a previous adventure. It was not new to this series, but the ads were certainly more plentiful in this volume. (NB to Jody: yeah, we know it’s a long series that builds on previous stories. We don’t need a commercial break every time one of those earlier stories is referred to.)

As stories go, it does show that Myth Adventures with Skeeve as the first person narrator are better than ones in which someone else narrates. In this case, we get to compare Skeeve (from the Dimension Klah – he’s a Klahd) side-by-side with Aahz (from the Dimension Perv… call him what you will). My personal conclusion: Aahz is a great character, but his narrations read like “I’m always right. Why doesn’t anyone ever agree with me.” Come to think about it, certain political candidates run on that platform and are just as convincing when they do it. Maybe Aahz should run for President of the US. We could do far worse than a fictional character.

I hate to give the story away, but this plotline is typical of the stories co-authored by Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye in that it relies on a lack of communications between opposing sides in a conflict. Admittedly that has been a frequent hallmark of the series for which the basic plot has been: 1 We are (re)introduced to our characters. 2 They stumble into a problem or accept a job which turns out to be more of a problem that expected. 3 They spend most of the book bumbling from one situation to the next without making any real headway against the real problem. 4 Suddenly both parties start talking and one of the characters come up with a perfect solution out of thin air. It’s not a bad basic outline for one or two books, but on the seventeenth iteration even a semi-comatose reader is going to see it coming.

However, the humor was mostly back up to snuff and the sections in which we were not drowning in Aahz’s ego problems were entertaining. If you have been a fan of the series, you should enjoy this one too

 

The Audiobook:

I have complained before about the readings of Noah Michael Levine. I find his choices of accents insulting to the intellect and grating on the ears. {art of that might be that I knew Robert Asprin back before he published his first book and recognize a few of the characters in the Myth Adventures as having been partially borrowed from mutual acquaintances, none of whom sounded like Mister Levine’s characterizations. However, his manner of reading is also typical of many narrations styles I do not enjoy.

His accents are almost all over the top (except for Skeeve, who may be the only character without a pronounced accent… well there had to be one, I suppose), but they are also inconsistent. I should think that people from the same place should have the same accent, but this is not how Mister Levine reads the characters. Some accents and vocal mannerisms are understandable; Tananda sounds like Marilyn Monroe (I always thought of Tanda’s voice as a sexy contralto, but then I’m not into baby-doll voices), Guido and Nunzio sound like Damon Runyon characters (which is how they were written – and it was annoying to read them like that too), but Bunny, who sounds like a Runyon-style gun moll probably should have been modified many books ago when it turned out she had a real brain and that his brash behavior was just a front. Once she could be herself, I would have expected her to sound like the intelligent and educated woman she is. Aahz, however, sounds like a Jewish shyster from Eastern Europe who immigrated to Brooklyn. I find that mannerism hard to swallow, but why doesn’t his cousin Pookie have the same accent? And two of the guest characters in this book come from the same castle and yet sound like they lived a thousand miles apart.

It all led me to conclude that Mister Levine was using his wide-ranging talent for accents and vocalizations (and they are impressive even if they grate on my nerves) like a sledge hammer. He forces the differences on the listener as though he doubts the authors’ ability to convey the characters by means of their words.

And that might just be what is happening here, a battle between the authors and the narrator over who is actually telling us the story. I have listened to (and reviewed) books of this series that were read by others and not had this problem, but each reader has his or her own style.

So to sum it up, I think the story should appeal to long-time fans, but new readers should perhaps put this one aside and go back to the first book “Another Fine Myth” (which is still available in new and used condition – I recommend purchasing one of the original trade paperbacks for the marvelous illustrations and cover by Kelly Freas). In spite of my reservations, I think some will enjoy Noah Michael Levine’s reading. It all depends on your personal feelings on how much a reader should contribute to an author’s work.

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