By Orson Scott Card; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
10 CDs, 9 Cassettes,or 1 MP3 disc – 12.5 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
ISBN: 9780786178421 (CDs), 9780786180578 (MP3-CD), 9780786135097 (Cassettes)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Galactic Empire / Music / Education / Children / Despotism / Rebellion /
This early novel by Card is a precursor of many things to come from this great author. One of Orson’s favorite themes is that of a child with extraordinary talent coming of age. The child’s name is Ansset, and at very young age he is sent to the sequestered Songhouse. In the Songhouse, a powerful form of singing is taught that creates an abnormally strong emotional response in the listener. Ansset turns out to be exceptionally gifted singer and is groomed to be a Songbird.
The emperor, Mikal, who most believe to be the most horrible tyrant of the galaxy, wants to have a Songbird. Ansset is sent as a child to be Mikal’s Songbird. But there’s more to Ansset than what appears on the surface.
The writer’s credo “show, don’t tell” had to be abandoned in a sense. How does an author write about the impact of the music being sung without describing it? (telling). After all, the writer’s tools are words and not music. Card does show us the emotional impact that listeners have to the singing, so in that sense he is showing us. The great power of the songbird’s music could emotionally ravage a listener for good or ill. As a reader/listener, we need to believe this. So, how well does this novel succeed when it is about music, but is written in prose? In one word— beautifully. In the hands of less expressive author this could have been clumsy technique. This is a touching novel, in which you’ll care for Ansset.
The audiobook is narrated beautifully by Stefan Rudnicki. Mr. Rudnicki conveys an introspective and measured performance that suits the novel perfectly. There are parts of the text that he has to convey by singing. He does this in an understated manner that doesn’t undermine the emotional context of the scene. And the recording is up to the usually high standards that we expect of a Blackstone audiobook. If you’re fan of Ender’s Game or Card’s other works and you haven’t read or heard Songmaster—get it! If you’re not familiar with OSC’s works, this is a good place to start.