Audiobook Review: The Original by Brandon Sanderson and Mary Robinette Kowal

Cover Reveal for The Original | Brandon Sanderson

The Original // by Brandon Sanderson and Mary Robinette Kowal // narrated by Julia Whelan

Pub Day: September 14, 2020

Publisher: RB Media


The Original takes place over the course of four days and revolves around the murder of a man named Jonathan Winseed by his wife Holly, who then goes on the run. It questions things like identity, what drives a person to be a killer, and what one is willing to do in order to stay alive.

The world of The Original takes place in a near future version of our current world where humans are essentially immortal. But this immortality comes at a price. It is achieved through nanotechnology that reverses aging and disease. However, the nanites that allow people to live indefinitely also make possible an all-seeing surveillance apparatus. This is tightly regulated by the government with significant emphasis on social liberty and individual privacy protections. Judicial, legislative and executive checks and balances are all in place, but nonetheless it is still a world in which the cost of immortality is the loss of personal privacy.

My Thoughts:

I am not usually into either novellas nor science fiction but I chose this book without even reading the blurb because I was sure to love it since Brandon Sanderson is one of the authors. The world-building is as great as you would expect from a Sanderson story but this world is unlike anything else I have read from him.

The narration starts literally right away. I don’t know if this is because this is an ARC or if that is intentional. There was no intro, dedication, or anything else that you would usually expect. It pushes you straight into the story. While that was a little startling at first, I honestly liked the confused feeling because it matched the way the narrating character felt as well when she woke up in an unfamiliar bed. It set the scene and tone really well.

I really liked the narrator right from the start. Julia Whelan does a great job in this audiobook. She speaks very clearly and her inflections and tone always fit the situations she narrates. She conveys the emotions of the main character so well. But she is not the only reason why this audiobook stands out so much to me. There are also music and sound effects that are used frequently throughout the story that takes this experience to a whole new level as well. They assist in making you feel more nervous, creeped out, expectant, and other emotions, and were so well done. It was especially great during a club scene but I won’t go into detail. You just need to experience this yourself!

As I said above, I did not really pay attention to the book blurb and therefore had no specific expectations going in besides knowing it would be great. And I was not disappointed! I have recently read a futuristic story set in space and while this one is futuristic as well, I liked that it was set on Earth instead. That made it feel just a little bit more tangible, especially since at one point the characters referred to a time before their current nanotechnology. While they did explain some of the technology, this is not one of those stories where you get a whole lot of detail about that. You just get enough to understand what is going on. This definitely has an exciting plot so I cannot just call it a character-focused story but its focus was still a lot on emotions and the reasoning behind certain decisions so I cannot say it’s solely plot-driven either. It was actually a very good mix of both of them, which is impressive for such a short audiobook.

The entire story is told from Holly’s point of view so we get to hear all of her thoughts along the way. As many people do when they are nervous, their thoughts get the better of them and they start to ramble on. This made her seem like such a real character and while I do not want to give away an important (albeit very quickly revealed) detail of this story, this is a testament to the technology of the society to be able to imitate thought processes so well. She also internally discusses a lot of topics, such as religious groups, conspiracies (her paranoia is conveyed SO well by Julia Whelan!), checked in vs. checked out, transferring themes (what an awesome clubbing experience it must be there!), that directly affect her mission as well as ethical things, such as life after death, souls, and other such things, that give us a huge insight into this world without becoming overbearing in a way that distracts from the story.

This audiobook really is such a well put together production and I highly recommend it. The ending blew me away and I personally never saw it coming. It reminded me of my love for Sanderson’s works and introduced me to Mary Robinette Kowal who I had not known before so I am exciting to look into her other books as well. This audiobook is less than 3.5 hours long so perfect if you’re looking for something quick but don’t let the length fool you. It is packed full with exciting content!

About the Authors:

Brandon Sanderson was born in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1975. After completing a two-year LDS mission in Seoul, South Korea in 1997 he attended Brigham Young University as an English major. During his graduate program at BYU Sanderson was on the staff of Leading Edge, a semi-professional speculative fiction magazine published by the university. He completed his master’s degree in creative writing in 2005.

In 2006 Sanderson married Emily Bushman, a fellow English major and teacher, who later became his business manager. They have three children and reside in American Fork, Utah.

In December 2007 Brandon was chosen by Harriet McDougal Rigney to complete Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series after his untimely passing. 2009’s The Gathering Storm and 2010’s Towers of Midnight was followed by the final volume in the series, A Memory of Light, in January 2013.

The only author to make the short list for the David Gemmell Legend Award eight times in seven years, Brandon won that award in 2011 for The Way of Kings. He has also won the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice award for Best Epic Fantasy twice and has been nominated three other years. His novella The Emperor’s Soul won the Hugo Award in 2013. Brandon has been serving as a judge for Writers of the Future since 2016. He has hit the New York Times Best-Seller List fifteen times, most recently at #1 with Oathbringer, book three of The Stormlight Archive, which is also Audible’s most pre-ordered book of all time. DMG Entertainment optioned the rights to the Cosmere universe shared by his fantasy novels, and Fox acquired the Reckoners trilogy for Shawn Levy’s production company 21 Laps. Brandon’s books have been published in thirty-five languages.

Brandon Sanderson Set to Release Anniversary Edition of 'Way of Kings'

Nebula- and Hugo-award winning author Mary Robinette Kowal is a novelist and professional puppeteer. In 2008 she won the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, then went on to win three Hugo awards. In 2019, the first book in the Lady Astronaut series The Calculating Stars (Tor 2018), was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the Locus award for Best SF novel, and won the Nebula Award for Best Novel. Her stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov’s, and several Year’s Best anthologies, as well as in her collection Word Puppets from Prime.

Kowal is also an award-winning puppeteer. In high school, she took up puppetry as a hobby, but as Kowal says, she “never thought of it as something you could get paid for.” Instead, she went to East Carolina University to pursue an art degree, minoring in theater and speech. While performing as Audrey II in a performance of Little Shop of Horrors, she learned that a professional puppeteer had come to the show. It was a turning point. Kowal went on to intern at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, GA. With over twenty years of experience, she has performed for LazyTown (CBS), the Center for Puppetry Arts, Jim Henson Pictures and founded Other Hand Productions. Her designs have garnered two UNIMA-USA Citations of Excellence, the highest award an American puppeteer can achieve.

Her career in puppetry consumed the much of Kowal’s creative energy for over ten years. Although she wrote in high school and college, it wasn’t until her brother moved his family to China that she began writing again. Like Lewis Carroll and J.M. Barrie, she started creating children’s fantasy as a way to stay connected to her young niece and nephew. Reminded of how much she enjoyed writing, she began submitting short stories and made her first sale in 2005, and her first professional sale to Strange Horizons in 2006.

When she isn’t writing or puppeteering, Kowal brings her speech and theater background to her work as a voice actor. As the voice behind several audio books and short stories, she has recorded fiction for authors such as Kage Baker, Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi. She likes to describe voice acting as “puppetry, without the pain.”

Mary Robinette lives in Nashville with her husband Rob and over a dozen manual typewriters. Sometimes she even writes on them.

Mary Robinette Kowal (Author of The Calculating Stars)

About the Publisher:

RBmedia is a global leader in spoken audio content and digital media distribution technology that reaches millions of consumers — at home, in the car, and wherever their mobile devices take them. RBmedia produces exclusive titles and delivers the finest digital content and information — including audiobooks, educational courses, entertainment titles, and much more.

Thank you to the authors, publisher, and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review. I really hope we will get to hear or read more about this world!

11 thoughts on “Audiobook Review: The Original by Brandon Sanderson and Mary Robinette Kowal

Add yours

  1. It sounds really interesting! I love when they find the right narrator for an audiobook, it really helps the reading/listening experience immensely!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it does! It can make such a big difference. This was also one of the first audiobooks for me with music and sound effects incorporates as well. I didn’t realize those could have such a big effect as well. I could feel my heart race or calm down just based on that!


  2. That sounds like a really interesting book, I would assume I’d pick immortality at the cost of my personal freedom, it’d be hard to imagine not doing so, especially if it’d fix my health issues which affect my quality of life. Which would you honestly pick, immortality or personal freedom?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can see why some people would pick personal freedom but I think I would be ok with immortality if I could really do what I felt like most of the time to entertain myself. I could see how even that could get old eventually though. It’s a difficult decision.

      Liked by 1 person

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