I’m truly amazed by the man sometimes. John Scalzi is always pushing the envelope, trying out new things that no one else in his level of fame ever dares to.

Today I got an email with a choice to make. I can either get the tried and true Wil Wheaton narration which I’m sure I’ll enjoy, or the alternative sex narration by Amber Benson. I ended up with Amber because I wanted to see the difference.

Now, some background. This works because the first story (and I assume the second) has an asexual investigator as a protagonist. To be honest, it was irritating when I read Lock In because I didn’t know anything about it, and one page I was picturing him male, the other female. But that was Scalzi’s goal, so in that area he succeeded. When it’s done by accident, it’s a mistake. When it’s deliberate, it’s art.

I hadn’t noticed that the experiment took place in the audiobook version of Lock In, with the alternative narrators, or if they released it just now as such. But the important thing is that this is a great experiment with such a famous writer. Granted, to make the experiment even more fair, they’d need to have someone else narrate the male version, or have a woman who is at least as famous as Wil Wheaton do the second (Amber Benson is famous and a cult symbol from her role in Buffy, but she hasn’t been in the spotlight recently even though she’s still working on films, IMDB says. As for narrator experience, she’s on par with the bestseller Uglies series so that won’t be an issue.) His celebrity name will definitely skew the results. I’m curious to see how people react to it, I hope Scalzi posts something on his blog or Whatever.

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I’d never try anything like that for now, as narration costs a few thousand dollars. And Amazon seems incapable of handling the alternative version, as searches on the site bring only the one version, and allow linking of the other in the author’s profile. It’s a mess, and I had to take the time to locate them in order to link them here. But I do love the experiment, and it’s not just tacked on, the story itself supports it.

After recently finishing the delightful Collapsing Empire with its awesome dialogue, I can’t wait to listen to the sequel of Lock In.

Lock In, and I can only assume Head On as well, is more serious, dealing with major issues, disabilities and the transhumanist way of powering through them.

Which one will you choose?

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