Sunday 29 August 2021

My First Audible Return


Last week, I made my first ever Audible return. 

It's something I never thought I'd do. I'm usually happy to give anything a go, from classical literature, to horror, to fantasy and edgy contemporary. It's rare that I give a really bad review, I try to find something constructive to say. I'm also very aware of how much work goes into the writing of a book, the narration of a book, and the editing. Which is why I've decided not to name this one.

The decision was pretty quick, within the first twenty minutes. Made all the more surprising because it's a popular title, having just landed a streaming deal.

So, why did I do it? Well, maybe a build-up of things. I'd just come out of a run of fairly heavy books, including American Psycho, What Dreams May Come, and The Savage Detectives, plus I'm in the middle of The Untamed State, which isn't a laugh a minute (and no, I didn't pick it up because I thought it said The Untamed! - though I would definitely get right on that if they ever Audibled it in English).

After all of that, I was in the mood for some high fantasy. Something divorced from reality and a little bit fun. But I do like my high fantasy with a touch of believability. I like characters to be quirky, but also have a little depth to them. I really haven't been having much luck with that lately. 

I didn't realise until I stopped it and hit the 'information' tab that it was YA fantasy. This in itself isn't always a problem, there's some really great YA fantasy out there, but it reminded me of the way I wrote when I was a teenager. It just didn't feel developed. There was a bit of word repetition going on, but the main female character, having just been pulled out of a labour camp after years of back-breaking servitude, only seems able to comment on how handsome (or not) the male characters are that she comes into contact with. There doesn't seem to be any acknowledgement of everything that's happened to her. It was all a bit shallow. I know there must be a specific word for this style of fantasy? It's got to be a genre style because there's a lot of it. I felt it with The Redemption of Althalus - just that really jaunty, oh-nothing-really-matters sort of vibe. And I love a good assassin, too. I can get behind a down-and-dirty thief or ne'er-do-well, but they can't just be invincible from the outset. 

Except if you're the Witcher. For some reason, you can get away with that. There's something about the way Andrzej Sapkowski writes - he's just got a free pass on that one.

But this just didn't feel like it had depth in either the characters or the language. Maybe that's it. You can put up with a bad story if the language is beautiful, and you can put up with shonky language if the story is gripping, but if you're not feeling either of those two things, then it's a no from me. 

Due to my guilt over how much work goes into books and audiobooks, I've sat through a few that really didn't enthrall me in the past, and I think I've just come to a point now where I can't do it, because there are so many great books out there, and the time you spend on something you're not enjoying could be spent on something you really do.

Still, it was a tough decision to return it. I know there's a huge amount of controversy about Audible returns, and whether they should be allowed. If you go to your purchase history, you'll see that next to every audiobook you buy, there's a 'return' button. Honestly, I don't think there's anything wrong with that in the first couple of chapters. However, I do find it weird that I have the option to return (and get a refund for) books that I have finished listening to. Apparently, you can return any book within a year of purchasing it, even if you've listened to it. That doesn't sit right with me. Surely you know by midway if you're not enjoying it? Although, there does appear to be a two-books-per-year return cap. 

What makes me sad is that I saw a post recently on Twitter where an indie author said she'd just received her first Audible return. I don't think I could bring myself to do that to a self-published author. It seems a little harsh that Audible would actually tell her that, though maybe it's required for accounting purposes. I didn't feel so bad about returning this one because it's clearly sold a lot of copies and has enough good reviews on Amazon that they've probably stopped counting. 

Anyway. It was an experience.

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