Rob Reid’s After On is a surprisingly funny look at what happens when a Silicon Valley tech firm accidentally creates an artificial superintelligence. Reid tells his story through a wide array of formats familiar to any net denizen: Amazon reviews, social media updates, and blog posts, among them. Fonts and formatting tricks make it easy to replicate these in print, but recording an audiobook would likely be a challenge for a single narrator. Intent on preserving the patchwork style of the narrative, Reid called in a few of his famous friends. We asked the author how it all came together:
“One thing that makes After On unusual is the wide range of narrative elements at work within it. About 80% of the book is a fairly traditional narrative. But part of the story is told through Amazon reviews. Through tweets, texts, and blog posts. Through excerpts from a mysterious second novel. Through articles I attribute to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the San Francisco Chronicle. And more.
Fun as it was to write in multiple voices, I decided I had to record many voices as well. The first person I contacted was the gifted comedian, actor, and author John Hodgman. He recorded the whole of my first audiobook (Year Zero) quite ingeniously. The Amazon reviews in After On are penned by a sardonic Boston Brahmin named Charles Henry Higgensworth III, and I just knew Hodgman could nail that urbane voice. Also on the list were two friends of my wife: rightly-acclaimed fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss, and all-around geek heroine, Felicia Day.
Felicia took on the role of “NetGrrrl” – a very voice-y blogger in the novel – and Patrick narrates the excerpts of the mysterious second novel. Chronicling the adventures of one Special Agent Brock Hogan, these passages are in the style of a jingoistic, flag-waving Cold War cartoon. Patrick can playfully conjure this fabulously stentorian, braying voice, which I knew would be perfect for the part. The events of After On trigger all kinds of news coverage in the novel, so I recruited some fabulous news-reading voices.
Two of the truly great tech news reporters – Tom Merritt and Leo Laporte – play the roles of the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle respectively. A third omnitalented voice – that of YouTuber Jesse Cox – takes on the paranoid mutterings of a certain news-breaking blog.
Fantastic as all these people are (and they are beyond-words fantastic!), audiobooks ultimately rest on the shoulders of their principal narrators. And in this, After On has been wildly blessed by the gifts of January LaVoy and Sean Kenin. Veteran audiobook readers, January is also a perennial fixture on Broadway, and Sean has voiced innumerable TV shows, including Family Guy.”
Here’s a few samples from the completed audiobook, which you can find here or via your favorite book retailers.