Colorado Springs, Colorado United States | Member Since 2011
I recently undertook the personal challenge to listen to five different versions of DRACULA because listening to Bram Stoker’s classic years ago made me a fan of audiobooks. I enjoyed that experience so much that I decided to try to determine if I had just gotten lucky or if there was an even better version available. Besides, I wanted to listen to it again. With most books I feel fortunate to have just one audio version available, but with DRACULA there are so many versions offered that listening to them all is not practical. I first figured that I could handle maybe three different versions but then discovered two more that I thought deserved attention. The Audible list had these five that I thought might be contenders:
Listed in my order of listening preference:
1) Susan Adams & Alexander Spencer (Recorded Books 1980)
2) Peter Sciarrio & Kris Faulkner & a FULL CAST, (Books in Motion 2008)
3) Greg Wise & Saskia Reeves (BBC Audiobooks 2008)
4) Robert Whitfield (aka Simon Vance), (Blackstone edition 1998)
5) Alan Cumming & Tim Curry & cast (Audible edition 2011)
Review for this version:
5) Alan Cumming (m) Tim Curry (m) & additional cast, Audible Edition 2011 [run time 15:28],
This is the newest version on my list and the one produced by Audible Inc. This is billed as having a full cast and features Alan Cumming as Dr. John Seward, Simon Vance as Jonathan Harker and the usually fabulous Tim Curry as Dr. Van Helsing. This is a fine version even though it was my least favorite of the five in this group. My chief criticism is the failure to utilize the cast at every opportunity. This novel is a compilation of a series of journals, diary entries, telegrams, newspaper reports and transcripts of phonograph recordings. The editorial strategy for this version was to employ the actor reading his own journal even when that journal entry contains the quotes and dialog of other characters. Because of this Alan Cumming as Seward and Simon Vance as Harker get the lion's share of the men's voices. Tim Curry as Van Helsing gets scant air time because the character rarely writes down his own words. This under-utilization of Curry is a shame for he is wonderful when he does appear.
In chapter 12 Alan Cumming does all the talking during the reading of Dr. Seward's diary account of Lucy’s death, despite the many different characters whose words are captured. This is baffling since there are actors on the cast that elsewhere portray these characters and could have contributed to the variety and energy of the performance. I do not understand the decision of the producers to, at the onset of the project, hire multiple actors to portray the various characters, then fail to use those actors at every opportunity, instead choosing to restrict the actors to reading their character’s lines strictly to those instances where their character makes his own journal entry or sends a telegram. The producers seemingly want to preserve some of the charm of the diary format, that of Mina relating the professor's words, and also add richness by giving Van Helsing his own voice on occasion. But since Van Helsing's words are most often remembered by other characters we seldom get to hear Tim Curry.
Lest I start sounding as if this is a poor version, let me assure that it is good by any audiobook standards. I would be overjoyed to have a production of this quality available for many of my favorite novels that will probably never ever become audiobooks at all, but with four other quality versions to compete with, this version comes in fifth place. If this is the only version you ever listen to you will be pleased with it and become immersed in the novel DRACULA. You will, however, not be getting the greater enjoyment you could get from the novel in one of the other versions. Why not try several and see?
Chapter stops match book chapter numbers.
The sound quality is very good. Very high production values.
00:00:33 Includes the brief introduction: “How these papers have been placed in sequence will be made clear in the reading of them…”
7:18:39 (Repeated phrase) Mina’s telegram inviting Van Helsing is read twice.
10:27:40 Mispronunciation of “sentience.” (as SEN-t-ence)
Follows the text of THE ANNOTATED DRACULA (TAD)
1:25:00 “Occupied in bygone days,” (TAD p. 38.1) When listening to this it sounds like there is a break between the words "occupied" and "in bygone days." It is as if the words "by the ladies," as in the text of THE ESSENTIAL DRACULA, were initially read by Cumming then edited out in post production to match a different text.
2:00:32 “To-morrow night, to-morrow night is yours.” (TAD p. 53.5)
I listened to this after finishing the three Grimnoir Chronicles because it is rated even higher. Since that series turned out to be a pleasant surprise, due primarily to the sublime performance of Bronson Pinchot, I thought this one deserved a listen. Both are tightly-plotted non-stop action adventures with a nerdy strong man as hero. I never warmed up to this story or the characters. I much prefer the quasi-Science Fiction super-hero trappings of the Grimnoir Chronicles to this supernatural motivated monster shoot-em-up story. The novel did have occasional moments of greatness when it provides character situations that the narrator can really bring to life.
Oliver Wyman is excellent here and I may choose to pick up the next in the series just to listen to his fine characterizations. He is the best reason to listen to this book. The super-heroes of the Grimnoir Chronicles and the Monster Hunters of this book would never find their way onto my reading shelf but when paired with great narrators, as these two series certainly are, I find that that is sometimes reason enough to give them my ear.
Peace Through Joy and Other Nazi Propaganda Schemes Exposed
I am grateful to Richard J. Evans for this history. His matter of fact narrative somehow makes this subject come alive. One of the most intriguing aspects of Nazi Germany was how they managed to quell the resistance of the German people. They did it by ruthless totalitarian intimidation. It is a study in human depravity and weakness to stand against injustice. Be careful when reading this for you will begin to see Nazis everywhere when you realize that our government is resorting to many of the same propaganda measures the Nazis used. Hitler artificially reported the unemployment numbers by removing the jobs lost from the reporting; our government foes the same thing. And then there is Hitler’s fanatical hatred of the Jews. Here Evans does the best job at explaining this that I have read. Antisemitism had long been a part of European culture, but it was not officially sanctioned. When Hitler institutionalized and authorized hatred of Jewish people he allowed this evil to have free reign and it quickly became a widespread no holds barred cultural obsession not just a series of disjointed acts of closet racial prejudice. It is shameful to realize that members of the human race can actively act in this genocidal manner. It is also shameful to see the Western leaders fail time and time again to act when at many points they could have stopped this reign of terror from ever being launched.
This is one of the most fascinating periods of human history: one, because it did not happen so very long ago that we cannot relate to the world situation; two, because the characters on opposing sides, such as Hitler and Goering, Stalin and Churchill, are so dominant in their own spheres if influence to seem super human caricatures or comic book villains and heroes; and three, because WWII altered the world in which we live so profoundly that we must delve into the causes of this upheaval. I have read and listened to many volumes of lore on the Second World War and find that I still learn something new in every section of this book by Evans. I have recently listened to THE STORM OF WAR by Andrew Roberts, THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH by William L. Shirer. This book covers the topic from an entirely different, and more insightful, angle.
Sean Pratt again does a great job at reading giving clear pronunciation throughout. His voice is pleasant and never becomes a distraction.
This is a contemporary Epic Fantasy with two lead characters that are talented and always in the center of the action. By that I mean that the language is standard 21st century English with few archaisms, and what genre story worth its salt would fail to make its protagonists top flight practitioners of their craft? The book is full of murder, political intrigue, religious corruption, conniving Dwarves, genocidal Elves, brave damsels, and a satisfying plot that drives the action. By the end of this first volume Sullivan takes the listener to see hidden prisons, Elven towers and hideous magical monsters. We are told that the future of mankind is at stake. Most importantly this novel tells an interesting story. The author has stated that this first volume starts slow and that the series really starts to take off in the next. I am anticipating learning what the whole thing is really about when I listen to volume two.
One piece of philosophical wisdom that struck me was this: “A Shark doesn’t eat fish because he likes seafood. He eats them because chickens don’t swim.”
Tim Gerard Reynolds narrates with a pleasant English accent. His various character voicings are easy to distinguish and sometimes brilliant, especially when he is delivering a bit of sarcasm, which the author has served up in plenty.
This is a loosely veiled Romance novel; a breathless love story cloaked in Urban Fantasy trappings. The protagonist Kat is motivated equally by (1) her need to fight the vampire bad guys and (2) her attraction to a man she is reluctantly falling in love with. This is an unfair gross oversimplification of the book, but does I believe accurately classify the genre in which this novel could be categorized. I acquired this first Night Huntress installment despite suspecting the above to be true because of the comments from other listeners on the performance of the narrator Tavia Gilbert. I am always on the lookout for narrators that put on a great act and this seemed like just such an offering. I was quite pleased. Tavia Gilbert has a wide range of character voices and emotional inflections that make this book a joy to listen to. With such a talent I wish she had more outlandish characters to work with. She even knows the correct pronunciation of the much maligned word “sentient.” (Go to hour 1:37 to hear the two syllable word “SEN-shunt”) This alone is enough to endear a narrator to me. She is one of the top audiobook performers I have heard.
The strong point of this book is that it is a lesson in American history that gives a viewpoint that is not taught to our children any more. The Plymouth Colony first tried a socialistic work arrangement but had to resort to a reward system to motivate the people to do the necessary work. In these dark times when we are witnessing the European Socialist states implode under the weight of their unsustainable welfare yet still see the progressive creep toward the same failed system here on our shores.
As a work of fiction, this short book is clearly a piece is targeting young skulls full of mush. But as a history lesson it is very accessible for kids and it presents a message I want my kids to know.
Rush Limbaugh, well-known for his flowing speech when speaking unscripted off the cuff, here gives a strangely stilted reading of his own words. But there is a certain appeal to having the text read by the author.
This book begins with an introduction that was a bit off-putting. I had just finished listening to William L. Shirer’s popular THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH (RFTR) and learned a lot from Shirer’s narrative of the inside workings of the Nazi Party. Evan’s introduction pointed out that RFTR has been universally panned by the more academic historians. I then approached the balance of the book with some trepidation; not anxious to listen to some pompous dry work of pure scholarship or to possibly have my preconceptions shattered on what I thought I knew about WWII history. What followed was less a deconstruction of my WWII knowledge than an expansion. I thought the strong point of RFTR was on the rise of the Nazi party to power but Shirer barely scratched the surface. Richard J. Evans goes into the various cultural, political and economic currents that led to the Nazi Party. He traces the history of Germanic thought back to the time of Charlemagne, to the First Reich. I found this narrative history to be eminently accessible and engaging. After listening to this book I can begin to understand why the account of RFTR was incomplete; it just does not dig deep enough into the background of the German people to offer a full understanding ot the factors that led to the rise of Adolph Hitler. The Nazi movement was a product of years of Teutonic life in the shadow of strong rulers and a patriotic fervor that bordered on religion. Evans puts forth so many interesting concepts that I think it will require a second listening for me to grasp an understanding of the factors that led to the rise of National Socialism in Germany in the 20th century..
Sean Pratt reads the text clearly and has excellent enunciation. His narration becomes transparent quickly making assimilation of the material possible.
This book had been sitting on my bookcase for thirty years. It had always intimidated me, whether it was the nearly three inches it covered on the shelf or the prominent swastika on the spine, I never had the spine to read it. Now that I have finally adopted the technology to listen to it, plugging in my ear-buds seemed to be an easy was to cover this material. I found the first part of the narrative, The Rise, to be very informative. Having read or listened to many WWII books I was familiar with the general series of events surrounding Hitler’s rise to power, but Shirer’s account made it all make sense to me. I can now relate with some sense of confidence the importance of the Beer Hall Putsch. I had always though of it as some sort of comedic blunder but now I realize it to be the pivotal event propelling Hitler into the National Socialist he would become. This behind the scenes information is the best feature of the book. What I did not get from this book is the overall sense of the progress of the war. Shirer is focused solely on the machinations of the Nazi Party and the megalomania of Adolph Hiler. The amount of narrative space given to the attempts on Hitler’s life, including the famous Valkyrie plot, is enormous considered against the backdrop of the Third Reich. This account does give one a sense that Hitler was a figure of destiny and nothing was to deter him from accomplishing his nefarious goals. I enjoyed this narrative history very much, the lacuna concerning the balance of the goings on of the was have rekindled my interest so that I will certainly seek out more WWII history.
Grover Gardner is for me an acquired taste. His high-pitched nasally voice grates on my ears. But over the course of the first few hours I came to enjoy his perfect pronunciation and steady pacing. He became the voice in my head for William L. Shirer; he became transparent. Perhaps it is good to have a monotonous reader for works of history thus allowing the direct transmission of the words on the page to the brain. I found Gardner’s lack of intonation to be an obstacle to be overcome. That it can be overcome is a testimony to the dynamic force of the narrative.
This is a standard police procedural with a typical driven officer as the protagonist. Perhaps the character changes over the course of this long series, perhaps she comes to realize the futility of her rejection of morality, and perhaps then I would grow a level of respect for this character. As it is now, I find Eve Dallas to be a mere product of her society, going along with the decaying mores of the masses. She has the spirit of a rebel but it is the James Dean variety: a rebel without a cause. She diligently strives to hunt down the lawbreakers and along the way takes pot shots on the defining morality issue of our present day: abortion. The world of Lt. Eve Dallas is 50 years in our future and society has, predictably, degenerated from the not so lofty position it resides in today. As the book progressed I found that I recognized Ms. Dallas to be a product of her time. She has no definable religion, no mention of God as a factor in her thoughts. She has no compunction in letting herself be seduced by a rich playboy. Her best friend encourages her in this illicit relationship. ***SPOILER ALERT*** All this would only serve to flesh out one of any number of real people from our own time and would have made this a realistic secular crime novel, but the author chooses to make the perpetrator a conservative politician, a man pushing morality as his political agenda while hypocritically engaging in the very acts he is campaigning against, and somehow this then justifies Lt. Dallas into thinking she now occupies the moral high ground. It is a sad commentary on our time when the protagonist can be portrayed as the “good gal” when she herself lives in the same moral gutter as the perpetrator. I don’t appreciate this attempt at moralizing when there are no standards given for morality.
My second gripe is that the author seems to reject the Second Amendment of the US Constitution. Her near-future world lives under a “gun ban.” We are inculcated more than once on misleading statistics on the frequency of murder by handguns in the old USA (the early 21st century), and how the world is so much the better place now that guns have been banned. The facts do not bear this theory out; so it was very difficult, nay impossible, for me to suspend my disbelief and consider this a serious story about real people. Ironically, despite the gun ban the crimes in the novel are committed by people using banned guns.
Susan Erickson was a suitable narrator for this novel since it was written by a woman and the main character is also a woman. Her portrayal of the female voices is very good. To my, admittedly male, ears she did not adequately achieve the deeper intonations of the male character voices. Because of this the book seemed to be a mixed-gender play being performed by a all-girl cast. This must be what ancient Greek theater or Japanese Kabuki must be like for those in the audience: they have to pretend that they are seeing men and women. I had to pretend that some of the voices I was hearing were men talking. At times this was a bit of a stretch.
This is a vino-centric history of WWII. It is told in an anecdotal style that is quite entertaining if at times somewhat disjointed. The broader scope of the war and the global impact it had on the formation of the modern world are beyond the scope of this lighthearted work. This book relates the triumph of the human spirit over adversity and does it in an engaging feel-good manner. For me it was a nice departure from the usual WWII histories I delve into. Much of the book revolves around the ways the French wine makers managed to preserve some of their best vintages from the hands of their Nazi occupiers. At times it has a Hogan’s Heroes vibe to it with the French underground seeming to run circles around the oblivious German overlords. And isn’t this the real story of war; that no matter how tough are the times, people will always try to triumph? This is the story of people placed in a bad situation and not only make the best of it but look beyond to a better future time when life might return to normal. I think this is the kind of thing historians are really looking for in by returning time and again to the battlefields of WWII. It is curious to find such a profound truth is such a simple book. Perhaps one must first wade through a panoply of thirty-hour “serious” histories of WWII to be able to discover it here.
Todd McLaren gives a fine narration. I always enjoy his slightly sarcastic delivery. His accents of French and German voices are decidedly from a native English speaking American intonation, but that’s OK because that is how I sound when I think them in my own head.
This book gives the listener a broad perspective of the present day situation in the Middle East. All the power brokers that are in play in today’s Syrian crisis (2013) were also the participants in 1967. I especially enjoyed learning many of the behind-the-scenes decisions made by the Israelis concerning land acquisitions in the final few days of this very short war. They played a juggling match between being too aggressive and risking UN intervention and being too passive and blowing an opportunity to acquire critical regions essential to their future defensibility. The resulting map of the region is the Middle East we have in place today. This book will help anyone interested in the way the world works understand why there was such an outcry when the current US President announced that he thought that Israel should return to the pre-1967 borders as a prerequisite to serious peace negotiations.
Robert Whitfield (otherwise known as Simon Vance) is excellent as always in the narration for this history. His pronunciation of the foreign place names seems natural and correct. He has a pleasant mildly-British accent that is easy of my ears.
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