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Story: Real Worlds, by Salieri
Reader: luzula
Fandom: Due South
Length: 5 hours, 9 minutes

luzula is a prolific reader who makes podfic in an interesting range of fandoms of which Due South and its C6D branchings are the most mainstream. There's an emphasis on the mythic and the fantastic in her work (she has made Gilgamesh and Watership Down podfic!).

This story is one of only two pieces by luzula that I've heard, and it's a story I haven't read and wasn't familiar with, so I'm reviewing it outside the context of her or the author's body of work. I note only that its posting date of September 2009 makes it one of the most recent in a long line of contributions stretching back into podfic ancient history, August 2007.

I establish all this to make it clear that I, a podfic n00b, am reviewing the work of a highly original and very experienced veteran. So, cum grano salis, everybody.



Recording quality: luzula must have an excellent recording set-up. The recording quality is clear and practically noiseless, with good volume level, and no vocal pops or hisses. The overall ambience has a large-room quality. I can hear computer fan (I think) come on from time to time, and now and then some household sounds, but only with both earphones in a quiet setting, and these are in the realm of "slight imperfections" rather than problems. One caveat: the recording quality is so good that through in-ear stereo earphones, I kept thinking the sounds were in my own house!

Levels from one section to the next are as near identical as makes no difference. luzula produces a solid, worry-free recording that never detracts from the story.

Editing: It almost sounds like there wasn't any. It's that good. She manages the pauses well--no inadvertent gaps between sentences that made me think a new scene was starting where it wasn't, and no real smushed-together, too-close cuts. This long podfic sounds as if it was recorded in one magical, almost cut-free session. This must be experience at work! It's very impressive.

Reader's voice: You would be hard-pressed to find a more pleasant vocal quality than luzula's. She has a low-to-mid-range voice with soft, cool-and-dry characteristics that make her very easy to listen to. She told me that she's not a native speaker of English, but what accent she has is so faint that I can't even tell what language group it comes from.

I did, however, notice a number of surprising word mispronunciations ("loot" pronounced to rhyme with "foot," for instance, and "mic", short for microphone, pronounced "mick" instead of the usual "mike", "a-come-you-late" for accumulate). These weren't show-stoppers, but would definitely be something that a beta could help with in future productions.

Intro and Outro: These were simple and straightforward: At the beginning, story title, author and reader; in closing, a very nice "Thank you for listening" (after a good pause--no "the end"), followed by the author's fic website URL. Professional and just enough.

Reading style: luzula has a set of little "melodies" that she uses repeatedly. (I mean speaking melodies, not actual singing, though I know she's a musician.) I suspect her of having perfect pitch because she lands on the same note with amazing consistency at periods and commas, and rises to a different but equally consistent one at the peak of each phrase. This makes for a somewhat hypnotic reading, though the notes are far enough apart, and there are enough of them, that it's not monotonous.

While this characteristic makes pleasant listening--and is exactly what some listeners look for in podfic--for me it tended to overpower the meaning of the text and give every sentence equal weight. Because I'm a passive listener, I prefer a more interpreted reading--more ups and downs and variation to help carry the meaning to my lazy brain.

luzula can act--there are a number of places in dialog where she brings a wonderful emotional variation to her "song," and she does an absolutely stellar job at one point of conveying a broken-up radio transmission. (That's hard!) I could have wished her to bring a little more acting to the narrative sections as well.

Reader/story fit: This brings me to the heart of the matter: "Real Worlds" is a difficult story to sell. It's extremely AU (Fraser and Ray in an almost Firefly-like setting in which spaceships and sheep ranching converge. "Space Mounties Guard the Skies!" (Really--go look at the artwork for the fic--it's awesome!). Like all good AUs, it depends heavily on known character voices to orient the reader in an unknown setting. In this case the setting is a whole new and futuristic sci-fi world, with all the attendant unfamiliar vocabulary of names, places, technologies, etc.

And this is where I struggled the most with this production. luzula's voice is the sound of comfort and familiarity. She has a kind voice--a healing sort of voice. The smooth, soothing regularity of her reading style was at odds with the staccato space-ship-and-robot action, the explosions and crashes, the fast jive of banter between the two Rays, and the quirky Due South tone of the whole narrative. Because it's such a strange AU, it needs a LOT of selling, and I couldn't help thinking that a harder-voiced, more arm-waving type of reader would have been a better fit.

Nevertheless, "Real Worlds" is a fantastic story read by a very talented podficcer, and listeners who prefer even raucous stories to be read peacefully will get a lot of pleasure from this work.

This entry is cross-posted from DarkEmeralds on Dreamwidth.

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