Review: Doctor Aphra, An Audiobook Original (Star Wars)

If you’re ever in trouble in the Star Wars galaxy, Doctor Chelli Lona Aphra is probably not going to be on the top of your list of who to call. The rogue archaeologist is chiefly out for herself, a running thread as Aphra branches out from comics into Doctor Aphra: A Star Wars Audiobook Original. Sarah Kuhn, author of the entertaining and empowering Heroine Complex book series as well as a slew of comics based on established pop culture properties, takes it to the next level expanding comic adaptations and weaving them into one big drama that leaves the door open for more adventures.

Doctor Aphra Audiobook Cover
Cover Image courtesy of Penguin Random House
Art by Kevin Tong

If you, like me, haven’t read all of the run of the Darth Vader comic, the main Star Wars comic, and the Vader Down crossover that the main storyline comes from, you’ll be glad to hear that it’s not a requirement to have done so. In fact, it’s really easy to follow. I’d say as long as you know who Darth Vader is, you’re set. As someone who also couldn’t sit down and listen to this whole audiobook in only one (or even a few sittings), it’s good to know it’s also really easy to find stopping places and jump back in. That’s the good news. The great news is having a full voice cast combined with Kuhn writing this specifically for this medium makes for a story experience that really shines.

Penguin Random House’s first Star Wars Audiobook Original Dooku: Jedi Lost was a bit hard to follow at times. With a small enough cast, distinct enough voices, and a writing structure that makes it easy to keep clear which character is which, Doctor Aphra does not share that issue. A voice or two for long-established characters were a bit rough. Fortunately Emily Woo Zeller’s dynamic performance as Aphra covers the narrating and a bulk of the dialogue.

What I appreciated most about both the narrative structure and Woo Zeller’s performance was the way she slides between the boastful bravado of Aphra recounting her exploits and how the character actually was in the moment. Kuhn has clearly put a lot of thought into why Aphra moves through the galaxy in the way she does. And the LGBT representation shown through Aphra’s complex relationship with Sana was blended in seamlessly. The story’s snarky comedy had me laughing out loud until a particularly dark plot point brought a heaviness that never left through the rest of my listening. Comedic moments still happen after that, it was just harder to laugh at them.

The storytelling is buoyed by the high production value that doesn’t distract from the words – with sound effects and familiar music serving as underpinning. All in all Doctor Aphra: An Audiobook Original is a vivid Star Wars experience. More full cast audiobooks, more audiobook originals, and more Sana Starros please.

Doctor Aphra is out now from Penguin Random House in audiobook format.

The publisher provided FANgirl with a copy of the book for review. As usual opinions are my own.

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She grew up wanting to be an astronaut. After seeing Star Wars, she wanted to be Princess Leia, Han Solo, and an astronaut. Life’s taken her on a bit of a different path, but she’s okay with that. Kay is FANgirl's resident geek fashion expert and co-host of the Hyperspace Theories podcast. She reviews books and movies for the site with a heart for storytelling and a mind that likes to analyze. Kay's been a guest on various podcasts sharing her love and knowledge of storytelling, film-making, fashion, and of course, Star Wars. Most days are filled with her work as a creative services professional - designing websites & branding, photographing, voice acting, editing, and more. Kay spends the little bit of free time she has reading, costuming, and, of course, making pew pew noises. She would pick up more jobs and hobbies if she was a Time Lord.