Author: Alan Dean Foster
Read by: Ben Browder
Buzzy Multimedia Audio
RRP: $47.95 (CD) / $24.99 (MP3-CD)
ISBN-13: 978 0 96572 554 5
ISBN-10: 0 9657255 4 5
Available 01 June 2007

Cody Westcott, a young archaeologist, returned from a dig at Apachetarimac with more than he bargained for. Seems the Chachapoyans that he had been studying had a lot to teach us all. Soon he steps through the looking glass but unlike Alice it's no fairytale world that he finds. Instead it is our own world teeming with Interlopers - Those Who Abide. Unseen by the mass of humanity they are aware that Cody can now see them. They don't like it. Thrust into a fight which finds him allied with highly unlikely characters he travels around the world to ancient centres of power. He calls on strength he never knew he possessed to save his wife and the future of humanity...

As this CD collection opened I really was preparing to settle in for several hours of tedium. It wasn't the story that had me concerned, but the vocal talents of Ben Browder. While he comes across as an impressive actor in both Farscape and Stargate: SG-1, he's not the sort of guy who should ever read children a bedtime story - his delivery is too rushed and devoid of any emotion.

But, as this eight CD collection unfolded I decided to give him a chance to redeem his wobbly start - that it may just have been that he had so much to record and that his voice was tired. For the opening few minutes, his voice is quite poor - as though he'd been reading a little too long. It could be that this was a retake after hours of reading.

To be perfectly honest though, even at its best, his delivery is not one of the most impressive I've ever heard - in fact it was well below average. Some sentences he reads too quickly, others he breaks up in the oddest of places, and quite a lot he reads without any emotion at all. It's almost as though he's doing this because he has too, but he's not happy about it.

To be perfectly honest I didn't make it past the second disc. Browder's delivery made it almost impossible to sit through some of the story and I had to keep relistening to chapters. If I'd been a paying customer I'd have thrown the thing in the bin.

Then there's the presentation. It's not particularly impressive. What we get are two cardboard gatefold packs (both of which contain four slots into which the CDs are slotted) that are housed in a cheap cardboard pack. I never like packaging like this as it stinks of penny pinching. Not only that, but with nothing to really hold the CDs in place you can almost guarantee that they'll be scratched within two minutes. So, it came as no surprise at all to discover that six of the CDs were heavily scratched before they'd even been out of the packaging.

At the end of the day, if you really want this CD I'd probably suggest you buy the book and get someone (preferably whose first language isn't English) to read it to you - it'll be cheaper, and probably much easier on your ears.

Nick Smithson

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