#SciFiMonth Audiobook Review: The Original by Brandon Sanderson & Mary Robinette Kowal

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The Original by Brandon Sanderson & Mary Robinette Kowal

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Recorded Books (September 14, 2020)

Length: 3 hrs and 30 mins

Author Information: Brandon Sanderson | Mary Robinette Kowal

Narrator: Julia Whelan

I’m a big fan of Brandon Sanderson, and I’ve also enjoyed the Mary Robinette Kowal’s work in the past, so you can imagine my excitement for their futuristic sci-fi action-thriller collaboration. There’s a couple things you need to know, however. First, this is novella-length story, and second, it is only available as an audiobook, and both these factors have the possibility to influence your enjoyment as it did mine.

The Original starts with protagonist Holly Winseed waking up in a hospital room with no recollection of how she ended up there, surrounded by government agents waiting to interrogate her, and based on their questions, her heart immediately fills with a sense of dread as she realizes what must have happened. She is a Provisional Replica, a clone that is created only in cases where their Original had committed a serious crime. In this case, the real Holly had murdered her husband Jonathan in cold blood and is now on the run, evading all attempts to track her down. The task now falls to replica Holly to find and kill her. If she succeeds, she will be given the opportunity to assume her Original’s place and petition for Jonathan to be revived. But if she fails, her life-sustaining treatments required by replicas will be halted, and she will die.

But the government had underestimated Holly’s persistence for answers. As a clone, she has all her Original’s memories and emotions, and she cannot fathom any scenario in which she would ever want to kill her husband. With her new combat implants and enhanced abilities, replica Holly sets out to find her Original, convinced of her innocence. But as the trail of clues takes her closer to her goal, Holly comes under attack by terrorists and other shadowy enemies, forcing her to confront some uncomfortable truths.

Sad to say, despite the incredible premise and some of the very cool ideas here, I can’t say I enjoyed this one as much as I wanted to. The good news, however, is that the world-building is fantastic. There was definitely some of that Sanderson magic shining through, especially the points about injectable nanite technology allowing humans to essentially choose eternal life should they want it. Those who decide to live on the edge and “checkout” of this system become the ones that go against the prevailing norm for a variety of reasons, which can range from risk-taking to the preservation of personal privacy. This creates the basis for further exploration—from social, moral, and emotional standpoints and more—quite typical for Sanderson stories, if you’re familiar with his work.

Unfortunately, the world-building is about the only aspect I found to truly stand out. This was a relatively a short novella, so that might a restricting factor, limiting development to the characters and plot. As for Holly, I didn’t feel much sympathy towards her, and felt like there may have been slight overwriting and too much telling-not-showing when it came to her feelings and motivations (which incidentally is a weakness I’ve noted in Kowal’s books in the past). I also could have done with more action and thrills, and less time spent in Holly’s head watching her bemoan her situation and wallow in self-pity.

All in all, The Original was enjoyable enough, but I have to say I’d expected a bit more from a collab project between these two powerhouses of SFF. It’s still a good listen and worth your time, but it didn’t wow me, and on top of that, there were a few things about the audiobook I found irritating. Narrator Julia Whelan delivered a fantastic performance, as she always does, but I had no idea what the production team were thinking when they added in the sound effects, which came in at the most random times. Instead of adding to the atmosphere and immersion, they were just plain annoying, and is definitely not usual for an audiobook.

23 Comments on “#SciFiMonth Audiobook Review: The Original by Brandon Sanderson & Mary Robinette Kowal”

  1. Pingback: #SciFiMonth Audiobook Review: The Original by Brandon Sanderson & Mary Robinette Kowal — The BiblioSanctum | Slattery's Magazine for Writers

  2. This is an interesting authorial duo, and indeed the premise is a good one: who knows? Maybe they need to… straighten some wrinkles in their collaboration and the next work – should they decided to continue – will be more in synch with the promise it represents 🙂


  3. Hmmm, sounds interesting. I, too, would’ve expected more wow from Kowal and Sandrrson, but there are some intriguing ideas here still. 😃
    I really don’t like sound effects in audio books though. They invariably push me out of the story.


    • Very true, author duos can be a tricky thing, and they only work if their styles mesh. I’ve read Sanderson’s YA sci-fi books and enjoyed them, but that’s still a far cry from his usual style, plus I felt more of Kowal’s voice in this one, tbh!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, that’s too bad. I was hoping you’d really enjoy this one. I’d still like to try it at some point, but at least my expectations won’t be too high. Perhaps I’ll end up enjoying it more going in with lower expectations.


  5. Pingback: Bookshelf Roundup 11/14/20: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

  6. Oh, what a shame! Sound effects??? Nope – absolutely not going to work… And, like you, I’m guessing too much telling is going to particularly grate when the story is on the shorter side.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: