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Review: Audiobook Version of 27 Hours, narr. Michael Crouch

HELLO FRIENDS, I know I only just said I was taking a bit of time off blogging to sort shit out, but I HAVE GOT TO TELL YOU about the audiobook I just got. Not the book, which I'm sure is fine, but the performance. 

It sucked. 

[Standard disclaimer: I got 27 Hours by Tristina Wright with the credits that Audible refunded me for returning Eona, a book whose narrator was good but whose story I strongly disliked.

Trigger warnings below: ableism irt d/Deaf people and ASL]

I'm now going to return this audiobook, which is frustrating -- but I think I can stand at least 3 hours or so of it on the drive back home tomorrow morning. Or maybe not. Blegh.

The Narration Style 

The speaker's narration is painfully slow and monotonous. He frequently uses pauses at the end of commas that are so long, they sound like periods -- only to resume speaking the rest of the sentence. Crouch makes no vocal differentiation in inflection or pitch between comma pauses and period pauses, which makes it even more confusing. 

This causes a hiccup in my brain which makes me have to stop and "rewrite" the sentence mentally. Several times, it's caused serious comprehension problems and I've had to go back and listen to the same passage more than once. 

Also, there is little to no difference between Rumor and Eric's voices in the first chapter, which added to my comprehension problems as I could not tell who was speaking. Later, women's and enbies'* voices are rendered more distinct through use of different accents (Southern, British) and pitches, but the men's voices are more difficult to tell apart. The similarity of Rumor and Eric's voices made it hard to listen to and, since it lost me so early on, was a key factor in the frustration which will lead me to return this audiobook.

Apart from that, his performance is bland and lacks...performance. It sounds like, well, mere narration. By a bored narrator. The emotions are barely there and each sentence is, tonally, much the same as another. The reading pace picks up during action scenes, but Crouch seems to mistake a faster pace for emotion when really, it's just one aspect of the performance. Everything falls...rather flat. 


OK, this is the part that really flips my burger.

So far, there are two d/Deaf characters -- Nyx and her grandmother. Nyx prefers to sign, since her hearing aids make her head hurt. Nyx's internal monologue and the speech of all the speaking, hearing characters are read normally, in Crouch's natural pace. When a character has an accent, that is rendered faithfully as well. 

When Nyx and her grandmother speak in sign language, however, Crouch switches gears to a choppy, robotic, disjointed delivery that I found to be incredibly patronizing and ableist. The book tells the reader that they are d/Deaf and using ASL -- there's no need for an auditory signal to mark their difference as well. 

Rather than let the words flow like the dialogue of the hearing characters, Crouch "others" ASL through his delivery of overemphasized, choppy words -- making it clear to the listener that ASL is not as smooth or "natural" a language as verbal speech. These characters, his delivery says, need to be set apart from the rest of the hearing characters not just by how the book describes their d/Deafness but in how they communicate and "sound" to a listener. ASL is so physically expressive -- but in rendering it into speech, Crouch completely robs it of expression and emotion.

This is some BS in my humble opinion. I am not, however, d/Deaf, so someone who is may have a different take on it. 

In conclusion, I'm enjoying the story OK, but hells, avoid this audiobook. 

*enbies = plural of enby, or n/b, meaning nonbinary; someone whose gender is not man or woman.


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