Audiobook Review: Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi

For busy fans who race dangerously from point to point just so they have more time to sit down and read their favorite author, the hustle and bustle of everyday living can seem to get in the way of the important things in life. Like books. But thanks to 20th century technology (this coming from an old-time page turner), audio narration of literature has become a staple in the lifestyle of modern fandom as a practical and somewhat necessary tool for the busy reader.

Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi is a new unabridged publication just released January 3, 2017 from Audible Studios. The book collects John Scalzi’s work between 1991 and 2016, with four pieces exclusive to this collection. Though the print copy from Subterranean Press is almost 150 pages in length, the audio duration is about 2 hours and 45 minutes long.

Narrated by: Alyson Johnson, Dina Pearlman, Oliver Wyman, Fred Berman, Greg Cope White, Khristine Hvam, John Scalzi, Peter Ganim, Luke Daniels.

Cover by Natalie Metzger

Works include:

Introduction, or, Let’s Keep This Short – narrated by John Scalzi

Alien Animal Encounters (Scalzi’s first published story in Strange Horizons, October 2001)

Missives from Possible Futures #1: Alternate History Search Results (2007)

Pluto Tells All (2007)

Denise Jones, Superbooker (2008)

When the Yogurt Took Over (2010)

The Other Large Thing (2011, written on Twitter)

The State of Super Villainy (2008, follow-up to Denise Jones, Superbooker)

New Directive for Employee-Manxte Interactions (2005)

To Sue the World (2012)

How I keep Myself Amused on Long Flights: A Twitter Tale (2013)

How I keep Myself Amused on Long Flights: Part II: The Gremlining (2014)

Life on Earth: Human-Alien Relations (2008)

Morning Announcements at the Lucas Interspecies School for Troubled Youth (2010)

Your Smart Appliances Talk About You Behind Your Back (2015)

The AI are Absolutely Positively Without A Doubt Not Here to End Humanity. Honest. (First appearance here)

Important Holidays on Gronghu (First appearance here)

Cute Adorable Extortionists (1998)

Penelope (poem written in 1991)

Though each of these installments have their own individual charm and worthiness to be included in the collection, they all stand alone in their subject and entertainment. If there is one stumble in this book, it could perhaps be in Scalzi’s somewhat long-winded introduction. Contrary to the author’s title proclamation to “Let’s Keep This Short,” listeners (and readers) will have the preciseness in the author’s word count structure drummed into them, a distraction and, well, a contradiction to the fast paced “short” theme the rest of the book follows. Don’t let this sway you from picking up this book though, because the introduction is still quite humorous in typical Scalzi manner. On second thought, maybe this little snag is just one of those ironic slap in the face moments to keep you on your toes. After all, this is John Scalzi work we’re talking about.

Most of us probably remember those early days of learning to read when most of the work was read to us. We would try to follow along, bouncing the imaginary ball over the words. Eventually, we dismissed the ball and our minds eye began to visualize the story as we were drawn in. The words melted away as we were pulled in deeper and deeper until their meanings and sounds became thoughts. Walla! We could read.

Just like being visited by an old friend or rediscovering a favorite old film, sometimes it’s still nice to just be read to. This is where the audiobook world comes in. Services like OverDrive and Hoopla Digital cater more to the library community, so these books are typically obtained through a loan based transaction. But for those members of fandom who prefer to keep their editions indefinitely, purchase-based outlets like Audible may be something to consider.

If you’re new to the audio format in works of literature, Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi is a fine place to start. If you’re new to Scalzi’s work, this is even a better place to start. Offered in very short snippets of the authors work, there’s no better way to get a solid view of what his larger publications have to offer, only, in miniature.

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