#RRSciFiMonth Audiobook Review: The Tourist by Robert Dickinson
Sci-Fi November is a month-long blog event hosted by Rinn Reads and Over The Effing Rainbow this year, created to celebrate everything amazing about science fiction! From TV shows to movies, books to comics, and everything else in between, it is intended to help science fiction lovers share their love and passion for this genre and its many, many fandoms.
A review copy was received from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Hachette Audio (October 18, 2016)
Length: 9 hrs and 53 mins
Author Information: Website
When I first found out about this book, I thought it had one of the most unique premises I’ve ever seen. But then the early reviews started trickling in, and it seems the one common opinion among a lot of them were “I had no idea what was going on,” or “I was so confused.” In part, that led me to my decision to listen to The Tourist audiobook in the hopes that the format will alleviate some of the issues, but also, I learned that it would be read by Peter Kenny, one of my favorite narrators.
In the end, the audiobook production itself was as fantastic as I expected; it was the story that left me with mixed feelings. The Tourist, as it turns out, is a time travel book, and “tourism” refers to the excursions back to the past by persons in the future. The 24th century is apparently a rather dreary and dull place, and the possibility of time travel has opened up a myriad options for your everyday jaded vacationer. The most popular destination by far is the 21st century, where the travelers can’t seem to get enough of our quaint shopping malls and fast food joints.
Our protagonist is a tour guide, ferrying his charges back and forth through time, making sure they follow all the complicated rules of time traveling and that they all get back home safely. Then one day, after tallying up his roster following a routine day on the job, he notices that a female passenger in his party has gone missing. She has, ostensibly, been left behind, but as our tour guide digs deeper to recover his lost client, it quickly becomes clear that there is more to the situation.
Ultimately, I think my decision to listen to the audiobook paid off in some ways, while putting me at a disadvantage in others. The story goes on multiple tangents throughout, and had I been reading The Tourist in prose form, these sections might have put me off the book immediately. Needless to say, I am much less likely to lose focus when I am listening to someone reading, especially when the narration is done well.
On the other hand, the audio format did nothing to help the story’s overall feeling of disjointedness; if anything, it might have made it feel worse. For one thing, this book lacks any kind of coherent plotting, and the narrative jumps from person to person, place to place, time to time. In audio, these frequent switches were made even more obvious and jarring. Peter Kenny did his best, but even with his excellent voice work to help differentiate who the story was following, it was hard to keep up. Furthermore, one of the main perspectives was presented in the second-person, a confusing narrative mode even under the best circumstances, and here it only muddied the waters even more.
I have a feeling this book will pose a head-scratcher even for fans of time travel stories, which is a shame because there are some truly original and fascinating concepts in here. Still, it doesn’t matter how amazing a novel’s ideas are, they mean very little if readers cannot make heads or tails out of its story or what the author is trying to accomplish. The Tourist is pitched as a suspenseful mystery thriller, but I am sad to say I didn’t feel any of the “thrills” at all. To be fair though, there actually is a mystery involved, except it just wasn’t the kind that pulled you in, or made you want to know more. Instead, it left me feeling more frustrated than anything else.
Still, while I may be disappointed with the story of The Tourist, I’m not sorry I listened to the audiobook. Even though I can’t wholly bring myself to recommend the novel, the ideas are cool enough that it might be worth picking up this book to experience them, especially if you’re into time traveling stories that are different, and if you’re feeling in the mood for a challenge. Also, given the convoluted nature of this novel, I am even more impressed with Peter Kenny’s narration. The book itself might not have worked for me, but I found little to complain about Kenny’s reading; he delivered an excellent performance as always, on top of which he narrated with an aplomb that gave me confidence that he knew what was going on even if I didn’t—sometimes that alone is enough to keep momentum going, when otherwise I would have set a print book aside.
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