Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Sagan Diary (audio book) by John Scalzi

The Sagan Diary is a novelette by John Scalzi that falls in between The Ghost Brigades and forthcoming The Lost Colony in the sequence he began with Old Man’s War. The presentation is a series of diary entries from Jane Sagan just prior to her retirement.

The Sagan Diary is not an action book – the diary entries are pure introspection of Jane Sagan, Special Forces officer. No background into the world is really given, or even much of an introduction to the character. For this reason (and the lack of action) The Sagan Diary will likely only appeal to fans of Scalzi’s other books. At some times the introspective exploration bored me, but at others it was a really powerful expression of emotion – particularly the chapter about sex (which is really a chapter about love); this is really the shining moment of The Sagan Diary. The chapter is basically the thoughts in Jane’s head while she ignores what her lover is trying to tell her – we’ve all been there before, and the playfully raw emotion expressed perfectly characterizes her.

My only real criticism of the book is the use of language. The language is very flowery and metaphorical at times, using lots of big words. These are supposed to be the internal thoughts of person who didn’t really learn to speak true language at first – just thoughts. She even describes at length her limited vocabulary and use of language. It becomes hard to believe that these diary entries are from this person.

I have not actually read the book yet (I’ll get it when Scalzi’s book tour comes through town next month) – this review is based on the audio book, making this one of the more difficult reviews I’ve written. Can I really tell how readable the book is? Would I feel the same about the use of language? Did I miss anything when that asshole cut me off?

The accessibility of this book is truly wonderful – by this I mean that you can download the audio files here for free and burn them on just two CDs. The audio length of the book is just under an hour and a half. Each chapter is read by a different author-friend of Scalzi's. Readers are Elizabeth Bear, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ellen Kushner, Karen Meisner, Cherie Priest and Helen Smith. All the readers do a wonderful job, with a couple perfectly capturing what I’ve imagined Jane’s inner voice to be – particularly Mary Robinette Kowal.

Due to the rather narrow range of audience that I would think The Sagan Diary will appeal to, I rate it a 6 on my 10-point scale. Fans of Scalzi’s books can likely ignore that rating, as they should like it. The best part is that you can try the audio version for free with little investment in time, and if you like it you can buy the snazzy Subterranean version.

1 comment:

Carl V. said...

I think the free download thing was a brilliant idea, especially given the type of book this is and the origins of why he wrote the story in the first place.

I tried listening to it but just couldn't get into the readings and enjoyed the written version much, much more. I found it a very enjoyable story mostly because I had made a connection with the characters through the other two books, but I definitely can't imagine anyone enjoying it if they aren't a fan or haven't read the books.


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