by Ian Watson

Read by Jim Bond



72 minutes/$10.99/1997

Originally Published in

The Magazine of

Fantasy & Science Fiction

June 1983

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Generally, I don't listen to books on tape. My commute to work is short, so it would take close to a month for me to make it through an unabridged book, and abridged books have no interest for me. I was therefore intrigued by the new series of SF tapes launched by Infinivox. Rather than issue abridgements of novels, they have decided to provide complete short stories on tape. Unabridged, I can listen to the entire story within a day or two, even with my short drive time.

"Slow Birds," by Ian Watson tells the story of a strangely idyllic world which is plagues by mysterious invaders. Dubbed "slow birds," because the cylindrical objects fly at the rate of only a few feet per minute, the artefacts are a complete mystery. Jason Babbidge's life is inexorably changed and linked to the slow birds when his brother, Daniel, climbs aboard a slowbird shortly before it disappears into the unknown. Watson's story deals with Jason's quest for his brother and later the revelation which comes to him as he climbs aboard a slow bird of his own.

Watson spends a great deal of time laying the foundation for the story and for Jason Babbidge's character. Although each of the events of the story follow from what Watson has described, the way Jason's character changes throughout the course of the story is handled very well, leaving the reader stunned.

Infinivox has selected a good story to help launch their line of tapes. Unfortunately, Jim Bond, the narrator, does not have particularly clear ennunciation. Frequently it is difficult to understand what he is saying. Although Bond's use of various accents to differentiate the characters is nice, the technique is hindered by this non-clarity of his speech. Unfortunately, with a book (or story) on tape, it is not as easy to go back and discover what may have been missed as it would be with the printed word.

My first encounter with Infinivox leads me to say that they have a product which is definitely worth listening to. The compactness of the story permits the listener to hear the entire tape in a short time and Infinivox seems to have made good selections regarding the stories they have chosen to record.

Purchase this tape from Amazon Books.

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