Length: 1 hour, 13 minutes
Reader: Brandon Sanderson and Emily Sanderson
The story: If you keep up with fantasy literature, you probably know Brandon Sanderson from his own large fantasy novels, such as the excellent Mistborn, the juvenile fantasy Alcatraz series or as the writer called in from the bullpen to finish the late Robert Jordan's sprawling Wheel of Time fantasy series. So for Sanderson to be writing space opera science fiction and a short story is two unusual situations at once. He's so successful, at least in this story, that I wonder why he doesn't write more short science fiction.
"Firstborn" is set in a galactic empire where space navies do battle with rebel forces, complete with space fighters dogfights. Dennison Crestmar, a young nobleman in the Imperial Navy, is struggling as an unsuccessful officer who is constantly compared to his older brother, the famed admiral Varion Crestmar, who has never lost a battle. The setting, plot, and characters seem ripe for a series of clichés, but somehow Sanderson crafts these parts into an engaging and inventive story.
The reader: Sanderson, as he freely admits, is not a professional voice actor. He doesn't have the richness of sound that the pros have and the recording quality has a bit of hiss. Yet, Sanderson is a very good amateur reader. He is expressive and seems to be enjoying reading his own work. When his wife checks in to read some of the middle portion of the story, she does an equally fine job. Although he does a good job here, I don't think I'd like to see Sanderson narrate those fantasy novels he's best known for; those things are long and I'd rather have him writing sequels than reading!