I love Ben Hur. It is one of my favorite books of all time. I got into it after I fell in love with the 1959 movie, which is my favorite film. I also enjoy audio books quite a bit. I got this one for Christmas last year and finally managed to find the time to get through the whole thing. I wanted to post a review of the audio book because it is difficult to find one that actually reviews the audio book rather than just the book, which is of course excellent. I felt it was warranted because those who enjoy audio books often wonder about the quality of those they are looking to purchase, which can vary wildly depending on how well the reader(s) invests him or herself into the characters. Thus, this is for you, fellow audio book lovers.
Lloyd James reads the book [in the version I’m reviewing], and his voice is quite good for the reading. He does do a few different voices depending on the character. These become fairly recognizable, though he doesn’t have quite the range of Jim Dale (see his phenomenal readings of the Harry Potter books). However, Ben Hur, Simonides, and other major characters are distinct in how they speak. James sounds about the right age for Ben Hur himself, which lends some credibility to the reading.
The recording is generally excellent as well, with no shifting volume between tracks. (That is, there are no portions I could tell where it was louder or quieter than the rest of the book, such that I had to mess with the volume.) It is steadily recorded, with track breaks at around 3 minutes on the dot every time. It runs about 24 hours and spans 19 discs.
I do have two problems with the recording, which are fairly minor compared to the whole recording. First, about an average of once per disc, there is a skip in a track. It’s seemingly random and it really just splits one word in half. I noticed this both on the CD and in the same place on my iPod, which suggests that the skip is in the recording. I never felt it meant I didn’t understand what happened, but there was at least one of them that seemed to leave out a word. The other problem is that there are a very few (I can only remember about twice where it happened) times where James’ voice sounds quite tinny, as though he was too far away from the mic. This only happened for about 2-3 seconds each time I heard it.
The discs are in three separate booklets, which are of average quality. The discs slip out if you hold the booklets upside down, so if you take them in the car you’ll want to make sure to store them safely.
Overall, I’d highly recommend this audio book. The only downside is the occasional skips in the reading. The book is phenomenal, of course, and the recording does it justice. James did a great job reading the book, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it.
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