AUDIOBOOKS: Science, literary fiction and a thriller

Intriguing science, literary fiction and a thriller are on the agenda this month.

Intriguing science, literary fiction and a thriller are on the agenda this month.

Proving Ground
Peter Blauner; read by Ari Fliakos
Macmillan Audio, 10 CDs, 13 hours, $39.99/ download, $27.99

Blauner is off to a strong start with this first installment in a series featuring edgy Latina NYPD Detective Lourdes Robles and Natty Dread, an Iraq war vet with severe PTSD whom Robles suspects is up to no good. Much of the story is internalized so don’t expect a ton of action, but the characters are nuanced and clever enough for audiophiles to follow in subsequent installments. Fliakos displays a broad range of accents and voices, but his female characters are troublesome and less than convincing; one wishes the producer had hired a female narrator to carry Robles into the series. Grade A-minus

Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently
Beau Lotto; read by the author; includes a PDF of supplemental material
Hachette Audio, seven CDs, 8.5 hours, $30/ download, $24.98

Lotto, a neuroscientist, entrepreneur and TED Talk speaker, will alter the way you perceive your world in this fascinating and illuminating lecture. He believes he can change the way we think and he makes a good case for his convictions, providing research and examples. From a layperson’s views, he is convincing and his manner is entertaining enough to keep one’s attention, but he speaks much too quickly and he gleefully overuses exclamation marks, which becomes wearisome. As optical illusions figure heavily into the narrative, the PDF allows you to experience Lotto’s findings visually and it enhances your understanding of the material. Grade: A-minus

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
Arundhati Roy; read by the author
Random House Audio, 13 CDs, 16.5 hours, $50/ download, $31.50

If ever an audiobook is going to give you agita, it is this one. Outcasts and people judged as misfits by society in Old and New Delhi populate the novel, weaving their stories in and out of the narrative. Roy is a writer of great strengths, but this is really two separate novels with so many subplots that it quickly becomes convoluted and difficult to follow. Not helping is Roy’s narration, which is just too one-note to keep us hooked. She has lovely diction and a pretty voice, but her delivery lacks grit and variety. If you must tackle this, try the hard copy; it may be easier to follow if you jot down notes. Grade: C-plus