Review of The Ardulum series by JS Fields, Audiobooks narrated by Lynn Norris
I’ve had this series in my TBR list for ages but as I’m not a Sci-fi fan, it was kept in that ever-growing pile of books for the not nearest future. My friend Jude kept insisting that I should read it but the “so many books, so little time” excuse was always at hand. However, by a twist of fate, I had just listened to Lynn Norris’s narration of When Sparks Fly by Kristen Zimmer and her performance was enough to boost this series to the top of the list. I’m happy that I did.
Ardulum… A travelling planet? A land of gods? A myth? Neek believes it’s the latter but her heretical views brought her a life of exile from her own home planet whose population venerate Ardulans as gods. Now piloting a dilapidated cargo space ship, she comes across a girl slave who has the ability to telepathically manipulate cellulose, a talent known only to Ardulan gods. As she tries to reconcile her beliefs with reality, she decides to protect the girl but at high risk of her own life.
‘m leaving the plot summary intentionally vague to avoid the risk of spoiling anything. This series should be read in order without skipping any installments. There are lots to unpack in the four books: Ardulum: First Don, Ardulum: Second Don, Ardulum: Third Don, and Tales of Ardulum, (the latter are short stories based on the different characters of the series). To start with, there is a huge universe, set out somewhere in the future, with a good number of different planets, species and genders, that the author presents at the beginning of the series and continues to unveil in the rest of the books, which is testament to their incredible imagination. Even though it took me some time to get used to that strange universe, the descriptions never felt like info dump. They were all gradually introduced as the story developed.
There is a lot going on in this series but what surprised me most was the diversity of species, genders, family units, bodies, sexualities, beliefs and abilities. A great metaphor of how to coexist with the other, the different, the alien. In this universe, everyone’s ability to survive depends on this peaceful cooperation and mutual respect, another great life lesson. Beyond that, many of the telltales of a space opera are present: the epic space battles, the bravery, the sense of adventure, the risk-taking, and even a little romance.
The story is told from multiple points of view to make sense of the complex web of interconnected stories, plots and subplots. The main character, however, is Neek, the exile from the planet with the same name, yet another metaphor of how we deal with someone who dares to voice their dissent. The author puts Neek through the wringer in the whole series and the reader is witness to her struggle to make sense of her own past while trying to build her future. A group of endearing friends accompanies her in that epic journey full of action, intrigue, adventure and a little dose of romance.
The four books in this series have been narrated by Lynn Norris. I am still in awe of Ms. Norris’s ability to create distinct voices for a variety of characters of different genders, ages and even species. Her interpretation of Captain Yorden Kuebrich was one of my favourites along with the robotic voices of a strange species or the crying sounds of trees on fire. This book in the hands of a subpar narrator would have been a recipe for disaster but Ms. Norris performance was the equivalent to having the filmed version in front of my eyes.
Excellent series even if you aren’t a Sci-fi fan. 5 stars.
Book 1 Length: 9 hrs and 11 mins
Book 2 Length: 10 hrs and 5 mins
Book 3 Length: 11 hrs and 7 mins
Tales of Ardulum Length: 5 hrs and 51 mins