I love listening to or reading books--especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, classics, & historical.
Brave New World is a bitterly funny and humorously tragic dystopian novel in which Aldous Huxley satirizes modern civilization’s obsession with consumerism, sensual pleasure, popular culture entertainment, mass production, and eugenics. His far future world limits individual freedom in exchange for communal happiness via mass culture arts like “feelies” (movies with sensual immersion), the state-produced feel-good drug soma, sex-hormone gum, popular sports like “obstacle golf,” and the assembly line chemical manipulation of ova and fetuses so as to decant from their bottles babies perfectly suited for their destined castes and jobs, babies who are then mentally conditioned to become satisfied workers and consumers who believe that everyone belongs to everyone. In a way it’s more horrible than the more obviously brutal and violent repression of individuals by totalitarian systems in dystopias like George Orwell’s 1984, because Huxley’s novel implies that people are happy being mindless cogs in the wheels of economic production as long as they get their entertainments and new goods.
Michael York does a great job reading the novel, his voice oozing satire for the long opening tour of the Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, and then modifying in timbre and dialect for the various characters, among them the self-centered brooder Bernard Marx, the budding intellectual poet Helmholtz Howard, the sexy, sensitive, and increasingly confused Lenina Crowne, the spookily understanding Resident World Controller of Western Europe Mustapha Mond, and especially the good-natured, sad, and conflicted Shakespearean quoting “savage” John.
I had never read this classic of dystopian science fiction, so I’m glad to have listened to this excellent audiobook, because it is entertaining and devastating in its depiction of human nature and modern civilization, especially timely in our own brave new Facebook world.
The three readers are well-suited to their roles. Simon Templeman is sensitive and vigorous as the frame-narrator, the idealistic and lonely explorer Walton, Anthony Heald is fragile and feverish as the self-pitying, obsessed, and played-out Frankenstein, and Stefan Rudnicki is baritone and bare as the rational, wronged, and vengeful Creature.
And what a fascinating, nightmarish, sublime, melodramatic, elegant, and surprising novel it is! Told by letters and interviews and by narratives inside narratives, glossing over the science and diving into the morality of the creation of artificial life, exploring the glories and dangers of the heroic (and tragic) quests for knowledge and discovery, expressing the best and worst of human nature, laying bare the sadness of loss and alienation. If, at times, I feel like slapping Frankenstein out of his self-centered wallows in guilty misery, the Creature's autobiography is compelling, and the scenes on the Arctic ice are terrific. And Mary Shelley often effectively builds up and then thwarts or shocks reader expectations. The novel has little in common with most movie adaptations of it, but it is well worth listening to so as to experience the source of so much popular culture Frankenstein material, as well as a representative example of the Romantic era.
This audiobook combines two Holmes collections (The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes and The Return of Sherlock Holmes) and one novel (The Hound of the Baskervilles). The near 28 hours of stories make a solid addition to the Holmes canon, cleanly and vividly written, with occasional flashes of humor, brilliance, and intellectual play. They even include the death and resurrection of Doyle’s genius detective. Sometimes the culprit is rather guessable early on, and there is little action in the way of gunfights and brawls and the like. But it is a pleasure to watch Holmes at work through Watson’s idolizing eyes.
As for Charlton Griffin’s reading of the three books, it is appealing if you like his voice and approach to reading in general. I first heard him reading The Iliad and found it wonderful. As in that book, in this one his pronunciation of words is clear and his delivery authoritative. He does tend to get rolling on the Griffin Rhythm, which at times threatens to make the different books by different authors he reads sound as if they were written by the same person. But I do like his distinctive style. Because Griffin is American, his British accents may be a little dodgy, but he uses an effective, neutrally British-flavored accent for Watson’s narration. And his Holmes is pleasurably intellectual, proud, and sardonic. The only criticism I’d make is that most of his women sound simpering, nasal, high-pitched, and weak; I wish he’d try less hard to make them sound “female.” But the majority of voices in this audiobook are male, and he’s quite good with them.
Griffin effectively uses mood music related to the subjects of the stories to introduce and conclude each one, as well as spooky hound howls to introduce the chapters of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Apart from one story featuring gunshots, there are no other sound effects in this audiobook.
In conclusion, this is a fine Holmes collection.
I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.
The Canterbury Tales has withstood the test of time because within them, Chaucer paints character portraits of the kinds of people he met in his time. I have read both modern translations and translations that are closer to Chaucer's original, keeping in mind that English was a foreign language back then compared to anything we understand now. It's the kind of thing that makes Shakespeare far easier to understand. In fact, I had the same problem with Shakespeare and Chaucer both back in school in that I felt like I was missing a vital ingredient in truly being able to understand and appreciate them.
While it took some time to get through this because I was constantly comparing the audio with the printed versions I have, I found that the extra time was well spent. I have a love for the printed word, but I tend to learn and retain information better through audio. As much as I hate to admit it, reading something like this is more akin to literary scholarship than it is reading an anthology of short stories as it might have been in Chaucer's day. I found this audio version to be of immense value in that I could hear the stories perhaps as Chaucer himself might have told them to other people that he met along the way. The character studies become people, even if they are perhaps exaggerated here and there, and that sort of thing helps to bring both this work - and the history of the time in which it was written - to vibrant life. And now that my appreciation has grown enough to catch up to my curiosity, I can truly say that I understand now that it's not simply the age of the work that makes The Canterbury Tales the classics they are. It's the character studies and the stories that make them the classics they are.
As with any translation, there is the risk of potentially losing something. Advanced scholars might be more inclined to try the original versions after hearing this. As it is, maybe it's the style, but it seemed to me pretty close. Most of what I didn't translate well for me was more a case of not understanding some of the vocabulary of the age, which is why I kept comparing the printed texts; I had to keep looking things up as some things that were common in Chaucer's time simply do not exist in ours. Again, well worth it, I think, though I understand most won't take that kind of time or effort. Audio will probably help considerably. There's something about hearing things in context that help a reader to fill in the gaps. If you love old literature, or if you have a fascination with the Middle Ages as I do, this is positively a must-read, for through the arts we better understand our histories.