As Christopher Buckley does in The Relic Master (review adjacent), these authors create imaginative, sometimes adventurous tales filled with
quirky characters, humorous dialogue, and details
that set the stories in time and place. Skilled narrators highlight the humorous, often satirical tone that
links these novels.
Armada. By Ernest Cline. Read by Wil Wheaton.
2015. 12hr. Books on Tape, CD, $45 (9780804149136).
Wheaton may be portraying a contemporary teenager who looks out the window
during class one afternoon and sees an alien spaceship straight out of his
favorite video game, but he mirrors Cline’s tone, just as James Langton,
the reader of The Relic Master, does Buckley’s, creating a comic quest as
experienced through the lens of the sarcastic yet earnest protagonist.
The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons. By Lawrence Block.
Read by Richard Ferrone. 2014. 10hr. Recorded Books, CD, $92.75
Although he’s not a forger like Dismas the relic master, bookseller
Bernie Rhodenbarr is a skilled thief, and his entertaining and comical
adventures similarly entangle him in worst-case scenarios. Ferrone animates the quirky characters, and his deadpan delivery underlines the
humor in this enjoyable and satisfying romp.
Freddy and Fredericka. By Mark Helprin. Read by Robert Ian Mackenzie.
2005. 25.5hr. Recorded Books, CD, $123.75 (9781419344961).
For listeners who appreciate a taste of royalty, Helprin offers the Prince
and Princess of Wales (thinly disguised versions of Charles and Diana), literally dropped into New Jersey, where they begin a mission to recapture
America for the monarchy. Mackenzie excels in illuminating the slapstick
humor and verbal acrobatics in this irresistible and imaginative quest.
Jeeves and the Wedding Bells. By Sebastian Faulks. Read by Julian
Rhind-Tutt. 2013. 7hr. Macmillan, CD, $29.99 (9781427237828).
Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster tales are loved for their droll dialogue,
outlandish misadventures, and witty satire, and Faulks has matched that
appeal. Rhind-Tutt proves that audio enriches these stories, enlivening
characters and their amusing predicaments while conveying the delightful
satirical tone and animating antics.
The Last Bookaneer. By Matthew Pearl. Read by Simon Vance and JD
Jackson. 2015. 13hr. Books on Tape, CD, $45 (9781101914830).
The bookaneers of the age—literary pirates who steal manuscripts from
authors unprotected by modern copyright laws—were as roguish and
nimble-witted as Buckley’s relic dealers. Vance embodies the Dickensian
characters, emphasizing witty conversations and madcap exploits in this
caper novel full of clever twists and literary name-dropping.
The New Countess. By Fay Weldon. Read by Katherine Kellgren. 2013. 8.5hr. Macmillan,
CD, $39.99 (9781427232885).
Kellgren splendidly depicts characters and historical details in this wickedly sardonic
view of Edwardian England. Social tempests in teapots can prove as dangerous as deadly
threats from archbishops, and Kellgren matches Langton in celebrating the smart humor
and witty repartee and in reflecting a humorously snarky look at a changing way of life.
COMEDY ON AUDIO
BY JOYCE SARICKS
The Relic Master.
By Christopher Buckley. Read by James
2015. 11hr. Simon & Schuster Audio, DD, $23.99 (9781442394476).
Buckley transports listeners to Europe and the Holy
Roman Empire in 1517, where Dismas, the relic master,
trades in religious artifacts. An episode with a fake shroud
lands him in trouble with the archbishop of Mainz, and as
penance, he’s sent to steal another—supposedly authentic—
shroud, “the most closely guarded relic in Christendom.”
A quartet of burly Swiss Land-
sknechte guards the wily Dismas
and his unlikely accomplice,
Albrecht Dürer, Germany’s pre-
mier artist, on their imaginative
adventure. Langton voices the
lively and diverse cast in a light
baritone and a smooth British ac-
cent, rather than ones that reflect
characters’ nationality. Listeners can hear each character’s
rank in society in his cadence and tone, from the haughty
and sly archbishop and the thoughtful and regal Frederick
the Wise to the down-to-earth braggart Dürer, wisecrack-
ing and amiable Dismas, and the mercenary Landsknechte,
who speak in broad cockney accents. Langton accurately
pronounces the German and Italian personal names and
place-names and smoothly conveys the authentic histori-
cal details that fill the novel. He manages this elaborate
caper plot with excellent comic timing. His accomplished
reading enlivens the flawed and quirky characters and high-
lights the humor, not to mention the sharp satire, as no
one escapes Buckley’s satirical pen. This delightfully witty
comic romp, filled with fictional characters and historical
personages, should please his fans and any listeners who
appreciate amusing capers. —Joyce Saricks
Heyborne’s chameleonlike skill of rendering
secondary characters as fully-realized personalities. A meaty, engrossing listen for YA fans
of Heyborne and Kraus’ previous partnerships,
Odyssey Award winners Rotters and Scowler,
with strong adult crossover appeal in the red-hot horror genre. —Mary Burkey
The Lightning Queen.
By Laura Resau. Read by Christian
Barillas and Thom Rivera.
2015. 8hr. Scholastic, CD, $34.99 (9780545921176).
There is magic in the “Hill of Dust,” the rural Mixtec village in Mexico. Mateo, a young
American, has traveled there to visit his grandfather Teo, who proceeds to tell him of his
lifelong friendship with Esma, the “Gypsy
Queen of Lightning.” Esma was part of a traveling troupe of Romani gypsies who first came
to the village when Teo was 11 to show movies
and tell fortunes to the villagers in exchange for
food and goods. There was instant electricity
between Teo and Esma; lightning sparks flew
as they declared they would be friends for life.
Mateo, fascinated by the narrative, ends up
pursuing its outcome back in the present day.
In a folkloric account, Rivera delivers a riveting
performance, with an authentic Spanish accent
for Grandpa Teo; Barillas performs Mateo’s