Friday, September 3, 2010

"A Horseman in the Sky" by Ambrose Bierce

Source: Spoken Alexandria (zipped mp3)
Length: 17 min
Reader: Alex Wilson

The story: In the Civil War, a young Virginian has chosen to join the Union Army despite his father's wishes. Now out on guard duty, he's faced with the consequences of his decision. Should he, from his place of concealment, ruthlessly shoot the Rebel scout that has discovered the army's location or should he risk the lives of his comrades by holding his fire?

This little story and it's surprising conclusion highlight what made the Civil War such an important event in American history. For the first time since the Revolution, Americans were fighting their fellow Americans, giving the war a intimate reality that struck home for many families. Was it right to kill people with whom they had more in common than in difference, or were some principles, like state's rights, abolition, and duty to country more important that blood?

Rating: 7/10

The reader: Alex Wilson is a superb reader and his Tell Tale Weekly website, along with its free component, Spoken Alexandria, is a worthy project that has been largely overshadowed by the bulk of LibriVox. Wilson's goal was to produce a free audio library using professional narrators, charging a low price per download at first to recoup the cost of the recording, then release each recording under a Creative Commons license after 5 years. Unfortunately, it looks like Tell Tale is no longer producing new works, but the recordings produced in 2005 are, true to promise, being released for free now in 2010. Wilson is an excellent narrator. He has an actor's feel for delivering words and his confident American voice fits well with this story. This recording would have been worth paying for, but now it's yours for free.

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