One thing to keep in mind when picking an audio version is the production quality – e.g. I have encountered a few versions of Dune books I simply could not finish due to a monotonous or uninformed narrator.
Here is my top 10 list of books that do have great audio versions (some even with multiple narrators and music), along with corresponding links on Audible.
1. Frank Herbert: Dune Classic Series (6 books)
This original series containing Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse Dune is perhaps one of the most profound and well written works of science fiction I have ever encountered.
Strong elements of philosophy and religion – combined with great writing. Where other writers tell the story, Frank Herbert shows it.
2. Dan Simmons: Hyperion Cantos (4 books)
Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, The Rise of Endymion. As profound and memorable as Dune, the writing again near to perfect. Where Dune uses Near-Eastern inspired philosophy as a building block, Simmons pulls the reader/listener into a masterful transformation of the romanticist John Keats’ poetic legacy.
Very relevant references for present-day questions regarding the transformation and consumption of media as well as the interdependence of man and machine.
3. Orson Scott Card: Ender’s Game (4 books)
Very popular, contemporary, again emotionally very engaging and well written. For me, especially books 2 and 3 were very powerful.
4. Neal Stephenson: Cryptonomicon
Not really science fiction, but a must-listen for computer scientists. A great novel interweaving stories in WW2 and the present day, with emphasis on cryptology and wide-spread hacker appeal.
5. Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash
A great cyberpunk novel introducing the metaverse (inspired Second Life). Often surprising and funny, but also profound.
6. Arthur C. Clarke: Childhood’s End
An early Clarke novel, perhaps foolishly aspiring in trying to introduce one too many paradigm shifts in a few hours, but nonetheless thought provoking and a must-listen.
7. Neal Stephenson: Diamond Age
A novel about a young lady’s illustrated primer – contains a lot of visionary technological ideas and loads of good Stephenson writing.
8. Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle: The Mote in God’s Eye
Where Niven is good at dangling the carrot, Pournelle adds some excellent plotting in this very classical sci-fi novel. Hard sci-fi.
9. Larry Niven: Ringworld (2 books)
As with Mote, Niven’s novels are a bit blunt and straight-forward when compared to more profound masterpieces such Dune and Hyperion (at least in my opinion). But he definitely makes up with story-telling and just pure hard sci-fi.
10. Neal Stephenson: Anathem
Anathem on Audible – the link does not seem to work in Europe at the moment
At number 10 just because I have not managed to get through it. The premise has drawn me since before its release, so I will perhaps have to revisit this list once I am through.
That’s it – my top 10 sci-fi list for 2010.
I have been a fan of classic science fiction far longer than I have been listening to audio books, so I knew most of these books before getting an audio version.
A lot of people I know told me that they are not able to draw equal enjoyment from an audio book, especially not with fiction.
For me, the experience is very equal and I will often switch from audio to text and back in the middle of a single book, based solely on convenience (e.g. if I am traveling, enjoying the sun on a beach or jogging).
What is your top 10 sci-fi list? Am I missing a must-read/listen?