AudioFile Magazine’s Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Autumn 2020

Six suggestions from AudioFile Magazine of new and classic sff audiobooks for fans to enjoy this fall.

DON’T PANIC: Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

  • by Neil Gaiman | Read by Simon Jones, Neil Gaiman [Intro.]
  • [Harper Audio]

If you’re a superfan of Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, you’ve likely already encountered this book, first written in 1987 (and revised several times since) by young journalist Neil Gaiman. However, with the narration of Simon Jones—who starred in the original Hitchhiker’s radio drama—this audio version offers something new. The real joy comes when Jones gets the chance to perform script excerpts from various incarnations of Hitchhiker’s—and play all of the parts.

ALLIANCE: Devotion Duology

  • by E.B. Bridenstine | Read by Kirby Heyborne
  • [Bridenstine Books] Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

Kirby Heyborne narrates a captivating fantasy romance centered on an unlikely place: a magical circus in which creatures are forced to perform for humans. Elven Ranamayve, who stands out even among her kind, finds herself thrust into a world of brutality. But she finds solace in the warm heart of a half-orc named Bozek. Heyborne commands listeners’ attention with a careful tone that captures the ear before unleashing a bevy of strange and wondrous accents, including the thundering voice of Bozek.

THE DEVIL IN AMERICA

  • by Kai Ashante Wilson | Read by Janina Edwards
  • [Macmillan Audio]

Narrator Janina Edwards’s compelling tone draws listeners into Wilson’s searing narrative as a family reckons with a supernatural legacy. Chilling events and mythology are interspersed with descriptions of historical events. As Easter and her family wield old magic against sinister forces, these elements illustrate how the evils of this story persevere into today’s world. Immersive world-building heightens skilled characterizations of Easter’s loving, courageous family and friends, the fervently whispering Angels, and the slippery, unyielding Devil.

MALORIE

  • by Josh Malerman | Read by Cassandra Campbell
  • [Random House Audio]  Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator Cassandra Campbell exquisitely evokes the existential dread that permeates Malerman’s well-wrought follow-up to his popular sci-fi suspense novel, BIRD BOX. America remains rife with creatures that drive viewers insane. Blindfolded and hooded, Malorie has kept her now-teenage children safe for 16 frightening years. Campbell’s vivid audio portraits of fierce Malorie, rebellious Tom, and conflicted Olympia heighten the drama and draw listeners into a story that takes place as much inside the protagonists’ heads as in the action.

THE SANDMAN

  • by Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs [Adapt.] | Read by Riz Ahmed, Kat Dennings, Taron Egerton, Neil Gaiman, James McAvoy, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis, Michael Sheen, and a Full Cast
  • [Audible, Inc.]   Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

James McAvoy leads an all-star cast in narrating this magnificent audio adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s iconic graphic novel series, The Sandman. McAvoy, who portrays Morpheus, the King of Dreams, leans hard on his polished English accent, the embodiment of the Brits’ determination to keep calm and carry on—no matter what. As listeners are swept up in a saga, special mention goes to the production staff. The sound effects are immersive, and there is a wonderful cinematic score. Listeners won’t be able to pause once they hit play.

TROUBLE THE SAINTS

  • by Alaya Dawn Johnson | Read by Shayna Small, Neil Shah
  • [Macmillan Audio]

Narrators Shayna Small and Neil Shah transport listeners to 1940s New York in this dark fantasy set against a backdrop of racial tension and brewing war. In a world in which people of color are sometimes born with magical powers that manifest through their hands, three characters struggle to survive in the city’s seedy underbelly. Small portrays Phyllis, a Black woman whose hands make her a master assassin. Shah is equally outstanding as her lover, Dev, an Indian man whose hands sense threats. His tone is lighter and often tinged with longing and humor. This audiobook is a fully immersive experience.


“Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Summer 2020” was curated by AudioFile.  AudioFile is an independent source of audiobook reviews and recommendations with a clear focus on the performance and listening experience.

Learning From Fireside Fiction’s #BlackSpecFic Reports

SFWA President Cat Rambo, in “Talking About Fireside Fiction’s #BlackSpecFic Reports, Part 1 of 2”, is joined by Steven Barnes, Maurice Broaddus, Tananarive Due, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Tonya Liburd, and Nisi Shawl for a roundtable discussion of Fireside Fiction’s reports on blacks in speculative fiction and what the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America might take away from it as action items. Listen to the recording at Soundcloud.

The reports driving their discussion are Antiblack Racism in Speculative Fiction: #BlackSpecFic: A Fireside Fiction Company special report (2015), the follow-up 2016 #BlackSpecFic Report, and the accompanying essays by black writers.

Cat Rambo notes in her introduction:

Here is the central fact they present. Black writers are underrepresented in fantasy and science fiction short fiction magazines. The 2015 figures: 2039 stories in 63 magazines, of which 38 stories were by black authors, in 2015….

For the sake of very broad comparison, American demographics as of July 2016 (according to Wikipedia) were 13.3% African American, 17.8% Latino/Hispanic, and 61.3% white. Like the magazines when it comes to publishing black writers, SFWA’s population skews much whiter than figures might lead one to assume.

Rambo plans to follow the up the two-part discussion with a post about her own takeaway, and how SFWA can respond.

This was a terrific conversation. I was scribbling notes down throughout most of it. In a day or two I’ll post those notes and action items, along with an account of what’s happened so far, but today the focus should be that discussion.