At 53 hours, “Shogun” makes you feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth from your monthly Audible membership. The novel is thoroughly engaging and Ralph Lister’s performance is sharp, yet I felt disappointed at its conclusion, a disappointment caused by the limitations of the medium I chose to use.
Listening to an audiobook on your daily commute has several disadvantages over reading; distractions along the route and anticipation of what awaits at office or home easily break your concentration, and flipping back to earlier passages is inconvenient to the point of impossibility. When you read, you can study and analyze; listening to an audiobook is almost entirely a passive act.
“Shogun” has a fantastic amount of detail, on a wide range of topics — history, religion, warrior culture, navigation, shipbuilding. And Clavell’s narrative is engaging enough to make you want to learn more about these topics. I ended the audiobook feeling I hadn’t fully appreciated this novel, that listening to the performance, despite its obvious quality, was not sufficient. I may indeed return to “Shogun” in the future, but next time I will approach the book as a reader, not a listener.