Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr, John Crowley; narrated by the author (Brilliance Audio 978-154361416-9, $14.99, MP3 CD, 15.5 hr., unabridged [also available as a digital download]) October 2017.
In a not-too-distant future short on resources and rife with disease, a dying man rescues an injured crow. They somehow learn to communicate, or at least the man believes they do, and the man hears the story of Dar Oakley, a crow who has lived many lifetimes and has crossed the border between life and death on multiple occasions, and as a result, has gained a certain wisdom about humanity and crowkind, the separate ways the two species understand the concepts of life and death, and how those differing perceptions have led to an evolving relationship between humans and crows.
With certain exceptions, John Crowley is not known for writing cohesive plots with a driving throughline (the short novel Engine Summer and his novella “Great Work of Time” are rare exceptions). The individual stories and meditations inside Little, Big and Aegypt were what made those books really shine. Ka is not about plot: It is a spiritual and philosophical work, of the sort that recounts a similar tale multiple times with small variations, allowing the layers to build toward enlightenment. Since listening to an audiobook is a slower process than reading and usually requires a fairly intense level of concentration, either this will be a profound or a tedious experience for the listener, or possibly either one in specific places.
Crowley himself narrates his book, which in general, I am in favor of, as who can represent a book as intimately as the author can? He is one impressive reader, lending an additional gloss of gravitas to this cerebral, poetic work. I have heard him read live many times, and I don’t understand how I could have forgotten just how good he is. This is an excellent choice for the patient and ruminative listener; those who prefer hard-driving audio action will have to listen elsewhere.
This review and more like it in the April 2018 issue of Locus.
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