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Podfic review for the Podfic Critical Feedback Exchange

Name: [personal profile] twtd
Title: The Long Engagement by omg_wtf_yeah
Fandom: SGA
Length: 4h43min
Link: [mp3] or [m4b]

Quick review:
I thought this was a thoroughly enjoyable podfic. The story itself is a neat circus troupe/lost city/steampunk AU and I found twtd's reading of it very entertaining. If you've had issues with the volume being too quiet on some podfics, this is a good one to try. I found it to be loud enough even in public places and the sound in general is clear with few distractions. The length of the podfic lets both the listener and the reader really get into the story -- while twtd's reading is clear and pleasant throughout, it definitely gets better further into the recording. Her treatment of descriptive passages was especially enjoyable. Basically, this is a fun long-podfic that I can see myself coming back to in the future to tide me through long bus trips or any other time when I just need a few hours of good podfic to distract me. Thanks twtd!

Longer review:

I would just like to say first that I did listen to this podfic twice, because the first time I was just listening to the story and enjoying it a lot, and I didn't pick up on anything useful to say in a review. So some of what I do have to say might be a little nitpicky, I dunno.

Audio quality
On the more technical side, the quality of the audio seemed good to me. There was very little in almost 5 hours of reading that threw me out of the story or that intruded enough for me to notice it. One or two little rustles and that was it. There is a steady background hiss, but I found it mild and, personally, I completely stopped noticing it after a few minutes of listening.

On first listen, there was only one place where I really noticed the stops and starts in recording, aside from chapter breaks (and I forgot to note when it was, sorry). The rest of it was pretty seamless except for several minutes of blank time at the end of part 5. None of the story is missing, though, so you can just skip to the beginning of the next part.

Also, unlike many otherwise great podfics, I found that the volume was at a good level. I could listen on the bus or walking downtown without it even being all the way at full volume, but it was still a little quieter than most music so the volume never jarred.

There is no music or sound effects in this recording, so it's a good choice for those who like their podfic without.

As for the reading, I quite liked it. The pace felt good, not rushed or anything. I felt like twtd was reading me a book. (As someone who made my parents read to me before bed until an embarrassingly late age, I totally mean this as a compliment; it's what I look for in a podfic). There were a few places where there were words stumbled over, or where the flow of a sentence got a little lost, but not very many and I didn't find them distracting. Considering the length of the podfic, twtd is a very consistent reader. Some editing would have gotten rid of the few glitches there were.

twtd's reading gets better as she really gets into the story. The flow gets smoother and the characterizations more confident.

I felt like the mannerisms of the different characters fell into place over the course of the first couple of chapters, and after that the characterizations were clear and enjoyable. She doesn't really do different voices for the different characters, but they have their own personalities.

Sometimes, near the beginning, the transitions between dialogue, description and action aren't always as smooth as they could be.
For instance, there are a few places, again mostly at the start, where it seems like the reader is putting different expression into the dialogue that what we are being told is there. I think this is a challenge of recording a fic where the author surrounds the dialogue with a fair amount of description, since the author wasn't necessarily planning for how it would sound out loud.
To pick a fidly little example from the first chapter

"Shortcut" he replied curtly (5:33, part 1)

twtd has John saying "Shorcut" the way I would say "Shortcut" in that particular circumstance, but I don't know if it's exactly 'curtly'.
I don't know whether in cases like this it would be better to really stick with what's in the text, or maybe to drop one or two of the descriptors if the reader feels they don't flow well. Not sure. (Any opinions?)

On the other hand, I found that twtd reads the numerous descriptive passages really well right from the start. For me, this was key for bringing the sense of place necessary for an AU, and was especially enjoyable in an AU with a cool aesthetic like this one. The text is full of little details, and they were read in a way that kept me always visualizing the scene taking place. I didn't feel the description slowed down the pace the way it might have if I was just reading the text. The way she reads the bit with the body paint (around 10:50 in part 3) is just lovely.

Overall, I think the quality of the reading and the characterization is good and gets better throughout the podfic. I hope twtd will record more if she has the time/inclination, because I can only imagine that she will get even better in the future. I know I would enjoy hearing more from her.

Fic choice
In general this was a good choice for a podfic (at least as far as my podfic tastes go) as it was a relatively long, but self-contained story. It's one where I can really get into the story in audio form, and be satisfied with it in audio form. It stands well on its own, I don't need to go looking up a sequel, or have previous understanding of the author's versions of the characters to enjoy it.

I guess I've sort of touched on this further up, but I think this fic presented some interesting challenges and opportunities by being very heavy on description. I think that twtd dealt well with the challenges this posed, especially after the first couple of chapters. I also think it's a fic that plays to her strength in reading descriptive passages.

Another thing I noticed which I think has an impact on reading is that it changes tone (or something?) throughout the story. One of the commenters (I'm sorry I forget who!) in paraka's post on podfic feedback pointed out that in professional audiobooks, different people usually read in specific genres. In fandom, especially in longer fics, we have a tendency to hop among genres like nobody's business (certain genres anyway). In this case twtd is reading a romance story, with some very explicit parts, which is also sort of sci-fi/steampunk and sort of about a circus. It has character introspection, character interaction, action, weird technology, sex, world-building elements etc. Anyway, it requires the reader to be more versatile, and I think twtd did a good job of that, but I think it might have been one of the challenges of reading this particular story.

In summary, awesome podfic which was super-fun to review. Thanks to [personal profile] twtd for making it, and thanks to [personal profile] paraka for organizing this exchange!
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izzady: Graffiti loves you (Default)

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