Top Steampunk audiobooks from Audible.com
- Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
- Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel
- Soulless by Gail Carriger
- Clementine by Cherie Priest
- The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman
- The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
- Pavane by Keith Roberts
- The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist
- The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia
- Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne: The other trouble with classics in audiobook is that if they're in translation, odds are its an old one, since those versions are the ones in the public domain. In the case of Verne's works, that means the translation is likely garbage, since most of the early English translations were plagued by rush-jobs or censorship. This particular version is one of those bad translations, but given the choice of unabridged audio versions of 20,000 Leagues, this one struck me as the best - Frederick Davidson, the actual narrator (part of the website states that it's Alfred Molina), does a passable job. I'm personally looking forward to an audioversion of Walter James Miller's translation, read by someone with a French accent.
The Affinity Bridge by George Mann: I wouldn't recommend the actual book of this audiobook, and lesser still it's amateur-hour audio version, which is plagued by poor fidelity and a terrible narrator. This is one of the worst audiobooks I've ever listened to, and one of my least favorite steampunk books to boot. Two thumbs way, way down.
Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon: Not including the classics that inspired steampunk, this was the first steampunk-related-book I could find at Audible a year ago. The reader is Dick Hill, and while he's the right man for the job of delivering the complex ironic tone of Pynchon's epic monstrosity, many listeners reviewing the audio version have missed these nuances entirely, thinking him an over-actor. Hill is a master of accents, bring to life the multicultural cast of Against the Day. At over 53 hours, it's an investment of time, but clearly demonstrates the value of a membership with Audible, since it's still only 1 credit (I get 2 credits a month under Audible's platinum plan for 22.95 USD)!
Agatha H and the Airship City: Girl Genius #1 - the prose adventures of Phil and Kaja Folio's steampunk webcomic!
The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia
Anno Dracula by Kim Newman: One of the best alt-history/steampunk/horror novels I've ever read. This book is jaw dropping. If you dig neo-Victorian horror, this one's for you. Check out my review here.
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest: I gave this book a second run by audiobook, because Kate Reading, one of my favorite narrators, reads Briar, the female lead's point-of-view, and Wil Wheaton reads Briar's son Ezekiel's parts. Sometimes books are just meant to be read out loud (Gail Carriger's Soulless being an excellent example), and it seems that Boneshaker is one of those. Arguably, all of Priest's are, since her prose shines best when her characters are engaged in witty banter. Priest's excellent Dreadnought (one of my fave steampunk books of all time, read again by the inimitable Kate Reading, my favorite female narrator!) and the novella Clementine are also available. All three are spectacular audiobooks. If you're looking for something to wile away the hours on a long car trip, consider taking a voyage in Priest's Clockwork Century universe.
Captain Nemo: The Fantastic History of a Dark Genius by Kevin J. Anderson
Clockwork Angel: The Infernal Devices Book I by Cassandra Clare - I have no experience with this series, so I can't comment on it.
The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man by Mark Hodder: I haven't listened to the audiobook yet, but you can check out my review here.
The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson: Jennifer Wiltsie's narration adds a wonderful layer to Stephenson's already wonderful text, and each chapter break is heralded by some appropriate classical music, which adds both to flavor and comprehension. I can recommend this audiobook without reservation.
The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling: While I've read it on the page, I look forward to another journey through this alternate history tour-de-force. Those who have never been able to finish it might find Simon Vance's superior narration the key to making it all the way to the end.
The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter Palmer: A steampunk novel-of-ideas with Shakespeare's Tempest as its foundation - sounds like it would be great, and if postmodern fiction is your cup-of-tea, and you can stomach William Dufris' adenoidal narration, I highly recommend it. Dufris nearly ruined my listening of Mainspring, until I adjusted my brain to get over how much I dislike his voice. In some ways, he does suit the voice of the narrator, but there's only so much of his nasal whining I can take. Make sure and check out the preview first.
Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon by Mark Hodder
Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve
The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist: This is an abridgment of volumes 1 & 2, which is a little disappointing, but on the plus side, unlike 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, this one is really read by Alfred Molina. I recommend listening to the audiobook if you need some tight pacing, but if you need full explanation, then combine the audiobook with the hard-copies. That's what I did, listening to the audiobook at a breakneck pace (by way of comparison to reading), and then re-reading and skimming over passages in the hard copies. Made for a great experience of this artfully written, by-the-numbers adventure story. While the tone is very literate, don't expect this book to change your world. It's the sort of escapism Michael Chabon champions. The narrator's quite good, but I should warn the prudish to steer clear of this one, which gets a bit naughty in a Victorian way many times. You can also get the unabridged version of The Dark Volume as well.
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman: Whether they're steampunk or not is up for debate I'm sure, but these full cast dramatizations (and yet not abridged!) audiobooks of Pullman's His Dark Materials are among my favorite audiobooks of all time, with Pullman himself providing very able narration. If you enjoyed the books, these audio versions are a great way to revisit the adventures of Lyra and Pan.
The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman: I have no intention of ever listening myself, as Audible's preview of narrator Tamara Marston gives me pause. If it's the only way you'll get a chance to read this superior piece of American steampunk, then go for it: she's not terrible, just flat in her delivery.
The Hidden Goddess by MK Hobson
Hunchback Assignments and The Dark Deeps, Arthur Slade's YA steampunk adventures, are both recommended - good, fast-paced, youth-friendly fun.
The Iron Thorn: The Iron Codex, Book 1, by Caitlin Kittredge: I'm looking forward to listening to this one, as I'm encouraged by the reviews, and love the cover.
Larklight by Philip Reeve: Narrator Greg Steinbruner is not a favorite of mine, and the editor left great looming gaps in the audio, ostensibly for young listeners to absorb the text. For an adult, it's maddening, and I've been forced to listen to it at double speed on my iPod. Further, Steinbrunner is an adult, and the first-person narrator of Larklight is a young boy - listening to Oppel's Skybreaker demonstrates the efficacy of using young voice talent to read young personas. Steinbruner sounds like an adult playing a kid, and mostly comes off petulant. Finally, the audiobook for Larklight should be seen only as accompaniment for the book, which features great illustrations that contribute greatly to the narrative. Sequels Starcross and Mothstorm are also available.
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld: This audiobook is as gorgeous as the hardcover print edition. Alan Cumming (Nightcrawler from the X-men movies) does a wonderful job of narration, and the opening theme music sets the mood for the entire piece. At 8 hours, it's an easy listen, and Westerfeld's pacing and enjoyable characters are a delight - it made my commute on the bus blur by! The sequel Behemoth is also available, and is once again read by Cumming.
Mainspring by Jay Lake: I've wondered several times if I would have liked Mainspring better if I hadn't listened to it. William Dufris is a little too breathy, seemingly trying too hard to convey how awesome Lake's secondary world is, rather than letting the text to speak for itself. I'd recommend reading over listening, but then again, I like Dick Hill.
The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma
The Native Star by M.K. Hobson
Pavane by Keith Roberts: I don't think of Pavane as steampunk, but it's the sort of story steampunks love, and it is clearly an influence on the aesthetic. This is a brilliantly crafted cylce of tales in an alternate history where electricity and combustion have been outlawed, and the twentieth century is a very different time as a result. Those looking for action-packed high-flying adventure should look elsewhere. Those looking for a thoughtful reflection on the power of belief, the corruption that can infect the institutions of belief, and the indomitable will of the human spirit towards progress, both technological and social, need to check this out.
Perdido Street Station by China Mieville: I had taken a previous stab at reading Perdido and couldn't get into it, but when I saw the audio version read by John Lee show up on Audible earlier this summer, I thought I'd give it another shot. Even at 2 credits (which seems a ridiculous price to pay for an audiobook half the length of Pynchon's Against the Day) this is still an audiobook worth having. I've listened to John Lee read Orhan Pamuk's Snow, and while I didn't really love the book, I loved Lee's narration. He has a great voice, and he does a fantastic job with Perdido. In my reading so far, I think Perdido should be considered steampunk canon, so it's required for any serious steampunk scholar.
Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel by Pip Ballantine and Lee Morris.
The Prestige by Christopher Priest: Simon Vance is one of the best narrators in audiobooks, and his voice is well matched to Priest's superb tale of obsession and revenge. Even if you've seen the film, the book is different enough to warrant reading - the ending has a decidedly different twist to it.
Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel: Some Canadian steampunk for your collection. I haven't finished wending my way through Airborn, book one of Oppel's high-flying series, but I needed another audiobook for my commute, and Skybreaker is the only book of the series available in Canada (feel the irony - it's as bad as the time I went to download Great White North by Bob and Doug MacKenzie on Itunes and was informed they couldn't sell that to my geographic location). It's not a huge problem though, as readers can come into this series anywhere without feeling disoriented, so if you have to start with Skybreaker, you'll be all right. Given the amazing full-cast reading (not a dramatization, but multiple readers), it would be worth jumping in mid-stream regardless. Oppel's a lot of fun if you're looking for a straightforward, high flying adventure. Recommended for car trips. US readers can grab Airborn here at Audible. Canadians should write their Member of Parliament and complain.
Soulless by Gail Carriger: Despite the narrator's mispronunciation of Lord Akeldema's name and a only passable Scottish brogue for Lord Connal Maccon, this is a deliciously listenable offering of the first book in Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series. Narrator Emily Gray has the right mix of droll and debutante to carry off Carriger's writing. Gail has often stated that she writes to be read aloud, and this audiobook proves it. Highly recommended. The sequels, Changeless, Blameless, and Heartless are also available.
Space Captain Smith by Toby Frost
Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel: The same full-cast approach as the first two books, so unless Oppel trips at the finish line with book three of this series, it's bound to be great!
Steampunk - Edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer: The seminal anthology is sadly not available from Audible, but you have the excellent option of buying it story-by-story at legalsounds.com. I haven't had a chance to do any more than check out the previews, but I'm excited at the prospect of seeing more steampunk short stories delivered in this way.
Steam and Sorcery by Cindy Spencer Pape
Steamed: A Steampunk Romance by Katie MacAlister
The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder: I haven't listened to the audiobook yet, but you can check out my review here.
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells: Classics are easy to come by in audiobook, but a lot of classic audiobooks are just cheap recordings by amateurs who like the fact they don't have to pay copyright for public domain works. What's nice about sites like Audible.com is that you have the option to preview the narrator. As I stated, I really liked Dick Hill's reading of Against the Day, but there are a number of unabridged audioversions of The Time Machine, so your mileage may vary.
The Windup Girl by Scott Bacigalupi: It's up for a stack of awards, and deservedly so. I'm hesitant to say its steampunk, but its in the general vicinity thereof. Plus, it was my best read of 2009, and I consumed most of it via audiobook. While Jonathan Davis will likely prove too deadpan a narrator for most, I really enjoyed his even-tempered vocalizing. He was great to listen to for Don DeLilllo's Cosmopolis, and I found myself making comparisons between the novels as a result. This book is highly, highly recommended.
Fans of steampunk may also enjoy Neal Stephenson's epic Baroque Cycle, unabridged: pack a lunch for this one.
For those interested in history relating to steampunk (or for those who hang out with steampunks who take their anachronism as seriously as a historical reenactor), I highly recommend Fire and Steam: A New History of the Railways in Britain and The Age of Victoria from the award winning BBC series This Sceptered Isle.
You can likely find a number of these books on iTunes as well, but you'll pay more money to get them than if you sign up at Audible. And they're not even paying me to say that!
Other Steampunk Audio sources
There are some wonderful odds and ends to grab for FREE as well, and SFF Audio has links to the steampunk classic "Lord Kelvin's Machine" by James P. Blaylock, "The Shattered Teacup" by George Mann (which comes after the Affinity Bridge), and a link to the now defunct Steampod.org, a podcast devoted solely to original steampunk short stories.I've only listened to "Cold Duty" by Dan Sawyer, but aside from the preamble by the editor-in-chief of Steampod, I found it to be well-written and narrated. I'm also interested in The Gearheart, a serialized steampunk tale, which I discovered putting this posting together, and is also available as a podcast through iTunes. Do a steampunk search in iTunes and you'll find Natania Barron's Aldersgate series in podcast, as well as the aforementioned Steampod.