Making Our Own Audiobook: Our Empire’s End Reading Adventure

When you and your husband receive one copy of a book you’ve both been dying to read, and you’re both super wary about spoilers, there’s only one logical solution: read the book aloud to each other!

We received our review copy of Empire’s End on a Friday evening, when we got home from work. I immediately proposed the idea that we spend the weekend (thankfully with no pre-existing plans!) reading to each other. Brian agreed. All in all, it took about sixteen hours to get through the entire book: two hours Friday night, eight hours Saturday afternoon and evening, and six hours Sunday morning and afternoon. We took turns reading so we could eat and rest our voices. It was a great time, and we’d like to share it with you.

Minor spoilers after the cut.

Star Wars Names and Words are Really Hard to Pronounce

Nanci: Whenever I read a Star Wars book and get to a name or term I can’t figure out how to pronounce, I usually end up coming up with my own pronunciation that may or may not have all the same letters and syllables. Whatever, it works, and it lets me skim over the word fast and get on with the reading.

But when I’m reading aloud, however, my brain can’t take short cuts. I had to figure out how to pronounce names like “Maracavanya” (which my brain wanted to short-cut to Macarena). I had to force my mouth to say “Tolwar Wartol”–which is fine to read in your head but absolutely impossible to pronounce. (Try to say it five times fast and laugh at how ridiculous you sound.)

It was very interesting for me, a long-time EU fan who rarely discussed the books “IRL” but spent a lot of time on forums and social media. It wasn’t until recently, when I started going to conventions, not to mention married another EU enthusiast, that I found myself thinking about how to properly pronounce EU terms. You take for granted this sort of thing when you watch movies or TV shows. But anyone who read the EU before the prequels and pronounced the planet “Corus-kant” understands what I mean with all this rambling.  

Brian: I can’t remember which part it was, I think it was the Kashyyyk interlude, but I got six words in, hit a certain proper noun, and shouted “#*!&, Chuck!” To be clear this isn’t a criticism of Chuck or the book! This is an amusing, silly, and often fun feature of Star Wars. Names are absurdly nonsensical at times, and in that moment I felt the pain of every actor, voice actor, and audiobook reader ever to work on Star Wars. Trying to figure out how a seemingly random series of consonants and vowels are supposed to be pronounced could quickly turn into fits of giggles.

Another fun thing? Doing voices. I got to do a Wookiee rraaarrghhhh, a Gungan (holy crap I didn’t realize how tongue-twistery their speech patterns are), and of course, our favorite B1 murderbot Mr. Bones. There’s something about reading out loud, to a listener, that just makes the experience a little more colorful.

Building the Anticipation and Adjusting Expectations

Nanci: Both Brian and I were super excited about Empire’s End, which is why we embarked on this experiment in the first place. As we made our way slowly through the book, I found my anticipation growing, especially for the Battle of Jakku. In my Go/No-Go review, I noted that the book started out slow for me, which contributed to the anticipation building. But as the plot progressed, I found myself getting excited for other events: like more scenes (and a possible reconciliation) between Sinjir and Conder, a showdown between Rax and Sloane, and the birth of Ben Solo. I also had to adjust expectations; for example, thinking the Battle of Jakku would start right away, or that it would be more of a military story. It was almost like binging a TV show.

Brian: I feel like my anticipation was super heightened reading it out loud, and I’m not sure I realized how silently reading to yourself can have a tendency to sterilize the pacing and excitement. There’s no skimming when you’re reading aloud, you’re getting the pacing exactly as the author meant it. Which means I got to really appreciate the slow burn of the first two parts to build the anticipation. Which snowballed as the pace picked up which caused my heart to start racing and the intensity in my voice to spike and OH GOD THIS WAS A MUCH MORE EXCITING/SCARY EXPERIENCE THIS WAY.

Experiencing a Literary Story Together

Nanci: One of the best things about Star Wars is experiencing the story with fellow fans. It’s why we go to the first possible showing of every movie, why we live-tweet episodes of Rebels, and why we attend Celebration. It’s why we go on social media and forums to discuss books and comics. But we usually can’t experience those stories simultaneously. Our reactions are filtered or delayed. And reading is, ultimately, a solitary endeavour.

On the other hand, reading a book aloud to each other (also listening to an audiobook together) lets you experience the story at the same time. I loved seeing Brian’s reaction to certain scenes in Empire’s End. While he was reading a suspenseful fight scene, I found myself covering my face with fear of what would happen to a certain character. (This prompted Brian to ask, “Do you know something I don’t?” I had to reassure him I hadn’t stumbled upon any spoilers, but was just nervous.) During an emotional scene at the end, Brian’s voice broke and I looked over to see that he was crying while reading aloud. It was actually very touching, and made me more emotional than i would have been reading on my own.

Brian: This, far and away, was the best part of this whole experiment. It was a lot more like seeing a Star Wars film on premiere day in a theater with your friends. Sharing the story at the same time and reacting to moments together amplified the whole experience. Like Nanci, I loved sharing and experiencing reactions in real time. A book that I feel was Star Wars as it should be felt even more Star Warsian because it suddenly became a communal activity. I don’t think I’ll do this for every book, but boy, I wouldn’t mind doing it again. Now I almost wonder what it would be like to get a group together and read aloud.

In Conclusion

I don’t know if I’d want to read aloud every book to each other. It takes a long time, and if we’d had plans there’s no way we would have finished that weekend. I found myself getting antsy and wishing I could have just read to myself to get ahead faster. I also plan to reread the book as soon as I get a digital copy; I’m a visual learner, so I miss a lot when I can’t see words on the page. But for this story, it was a great experience and I’m glad we embarked on this experiment.