This is the fourth in the BBC Radio adaptations of Douglas Adams' "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series of books. Except that the first two BBC radio productions were the originals, and Adams wrote the first two HHG books based on the series. However, the third through fifth BBC radio adaptations are based on the three HHG books that Adams wrote after his first two books, but before the last three radio series. If that's not clear, consult any popular reference work on temporal causality.
To put this review in context, I ask that you read my Audible review of the previous BBC dramatization, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Tertiary Phase." Go ahead, I'll wait.
I see you're back. The "Quandary Phase" contains a four-episode radio series that's an adaptation of Adams' book "So Long and Thanks For All the Fish," the fourth book in the story of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."
Let me ease any concerns you may have after reading another reviewers' comments on the "Tertiary Phase." I had no difficulties purchasing the "Quandary Phase" from Audible, and I live in the US.
The first two episodes in the BBC radio dramatization suffer from the same problems I mentioned in my review of the "Tertiary Phase": I feel that they're over-produced, with too many audio effects layered at once; and that they're too faithful to the written books for a radio production.
However, the second two episodes reverse both of those issues. Finally, the emphasis is on the characters talking to one another; Adams' wit and humor (or should it be "humour"?) can finally shine through. Also, the presentation is tailored for the radio; some plot elements are re-arranged and presented in a way that's better to suited for listening.
If I'd purchased this from the UK, as I did the "Tertiary Phase", I probably would have felt it wasn't work the extra expense. But at Audible's lower prices, I recommend it. Listen and enjoy.
I'll start with the good: I admire John Scalzi as a writer, and all his skill with words is evident here. His "Old Man's War" series is a general homage to the works of Robert Heinlein; in this novel he captures the intelligence and attitude of a typical Heinlein precocious teenager from his young-adult novels.
I'll also compliment Tavia Gilbert as a reader. She gets the tone of a teen-age girl exactly right, along with the "I'm always in control" attitude of Zoe.
With all that, I can only give this two stars. The problem is that I listened to Scalzi's "The Last Colony" only a few months ago. Every plot point or bit of information I listened to in "Zoe's Tale" was something I already knew. There were no surprises. I found I simply was not interested.
I listened to first half hour of part 1, trying to give it a chance. Then I skipped to part 2. I listened to no more than five minutes before I realized I knew exactly in what part of the story from "The Last Colony" I was in, and listened to at least two plot points repeated from that previous book. I couldn't take it anymore.
If you haven't listened to "The Last Colony," I can recommend this audiobook. If you've listened "The Last Colony" and you like to listen to audiobooks more than once, wait whatever interval you normally wait between successive listens to the same book before listening to "Zoe's Tale."
Otherwise, I suggest you get "The Human Division" or "Redshirts", two other novels by John Scalzi available on Audible.
This book is the culmination of Heinlein's Future History series, unifying his earliest published works with his Lazarus Long novels. As the full title suggest, the book tells the story of Maureen Johnson, mother of Lazarus Long, from her youth in the late 19th century to her old age in one of the alternate future that Heinlein created for the stories he wrote in the 1940s.
Unfortunately, it's also one of his weakest. Heinlein is controversial for his depiction of what strong female characters should be, and in "To Sail Beyond the Sunset" he pulls out all the stops. There are sex-positive polyamorous women; I've met a few. But none of them are like how Maureen Johnson is depicted: not only accepting incest, but actively promoting it among her own children.
Frankly, there were points while I listened that I was embarrassed for the reader, Bernadette Dunne. She's the best female audiobook reader I've heard (I hope it isn't sexist to say so). However I cringed every time I heard her read Maureen Johnson's opinions of what it means to be a woman, on the character's desires for her father, and (what was probably worst of all) how raising 17 children was merely an exercise in household management. Dunne reads all of this in the tone of the character, but I couldn't help but think about Dunne's internal reaction as she did a professional job as an audiobook reader.
I also cringed at the few passages in which Heinlein indulges in some right-wing educational and political philosophy. But since I'm one of those bleeding-heart tax-the-rich liberals, you should take my reaction with a grain of salt.
Setting that aside (and it's a lot to set aside!) "To Sail Beyond the Sunset" still shows Heinlein near the peak of his skill with words. He paints his future and alternative worlds with an economy of phrase that many of his contemporaries never mastered.
If you'd like to listen to Heinlein's Future History, I strongly recommend other audiobooks: The Green Hills of Earth and The Menace From Earth; after that perhaps Time Enough Fro Love; all these books are prequels to this one. For the best Heinlein, try listening to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Job: A Comedy of Justice, or Stranger in a Strange Land.
I recommend you only come to this one after you listened to other works by Heinlein, so you can accept how some of his fantasies got ahead of reality near the end of his life.
Unlike "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", this book has never been turned into a movie. When you listen to it, you'll understand why: It's just not as interesting as Dahl's earlier book. (It also involves trips to outer space and into an alternate universe that would be expensive to produce.)
The previous book is mainly remembered for its descriptions of Wonka's factory and its tale of the follies of children. This one is concerned mainly with the follies of adults; a good chunk of the book consists of political satire that had me laughing in spots, but would probably go over the heads of most children.
Eric Idle's narration is just as delightful as his work on the first book. In this audiobook, he shifts between several different American accents as easily as he shifts between the various British voices. (It doesn't hurt that all the Americans in "Glass Elevator" are portrayed as silly fools, making Idle's task easier.)
If you can listen to this audiobook with somewhat lower expectations than the "Chocolate Factory," and you'll enjoy it for what it is: light satire filled with Dahl's clever images. Expect the Glass Elevator to have the same magic as the factory, and you may be disappointed.
As the other reviewers noted, Nigel Planer adds something special to the narration of this audiobook.
Although I'm a Terry Pratchett fan, I never thought much of "Moving Pictures." I feel the book is an uncomfortable transition from his earlier Discworld novels, where he mostly parodied the characters and themes of typical fantasy novels, to his later Discworld books, in which he satirizes aspects of modern society. "Moving Pictures" is a rather unsubtle poke at the movie industry; I think Pratchett has done better.
I've listened to Nigel Planer read other Terry Pratchett books, and I thought I'd give this one a try. I'm glad I did. Somehow, Planer's itnerpretations smooths out Pratchett's rough spots. I enjoyed listening to "Moving Pictures" much more than I enjoyed reading it years ago. This is a case where a skilled reader can make a big difference in how you appreciate a book.
If you listened to the previous BBC radio productions of Douglas Adams "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series (including the "Tertiary Phase" and the "Quandary Phase"), you've probably already decided to complete the story by getting the "Quintessential Phase." You're in for a treat.
In my reviews of the previous two "phases", I said that portions were over-produced and too faithful an adaptation of the novels. All four radio episodes that make up the "Quintessential Phase" are free of those problems. Well, mostly free; there are one or two spots when there's too much going on. But they are brief, and you can figure things out afterwards.
If you've read the fifth book in the HHG series, "Mostly Harmless," you know that Adams ended the series on a depressing note. It was a clear message to his readers: that's the end of the story, there will be no more.
The radio series includes that ending. I listened to it... then saw on my iPod that there was still ten minutes of audio left to go. Huh?
I don't know if this was Adams' intent before he died, or a decision on the part of the writer who adapted the series for radio, but the radio story goes on. It ends on a glad note, not a sour one as in "Mostly Harmless." I laughed out loud at the inventiveness of it, for the first time since I started listening to the "phases." I don't mean to imply that the rest of the radio series is humorless, but I'd read all the books and was already familiar with the jokes. This was new... and funny.
It is a fitting celebration to the end of the story, and a touching tribute to Douglas Adams' creation. If you're fan of HHG, it's worth getting this audiobook for the ending alone. It even explains the transition between the end of the second BBC HHG radio series, and the start of the "Tertiary Phase." A neat trick!
I hope that someday Audible will make the first two BBC radio productions of HHG available, so new listeners can hear all five in sequence.
I purchased this online from a UK bookstore. I live in the US so I paid heavily for this, but I'm a Hitchhiker's fan and thought it would be worth it.
I'm not sure it was.
It's fun to hear the original actors voice their roles once again. Peter Jones was not available to be the voice of "the book," but they worked out a nice transition to a new actor. Adams' own voice is used for Agrajag, based on his recording of the audiobook and some with some digital editing.
However, this dramatization has problems.
First, it appears "over-produced" compared the previous two radio series. In the first two, there were times when the characters just spoke to each other, perhaps with only faint background sounds. In this one, there are almost no moments without music playing or some other loud effect. The earlier series relied on the power of Adams' words; this one seems to depend on ear candy.
This dramatization does _not_ continue the plotline of the first two BBC radio series. The BBC Radio production of "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" ended with Arthur going off in the Heart of Gold with Lintila and Marvin; this radio production of "Life, the Universe, and Everything" begins with Arthur on the earth six million years ago. It's an adaptation of the book. If you're listening to all three radio series sequently, it's a confusing switch.
And that leads to the final major problem: It's too faithful an adaptation. Some of Adams' written material just doesn't work as radio; a good example is the part where Arthur learns how to fly, which is taken from the book almost word-for-word. I wish Douglas Adams had lived long enough to revise his story for radio.
I kinda enjoyed listening to it... but I don't think it was worth the extra expense and effort to get it from Britain. If you're interested in the story of "Life, the Universe, and Everything", you'll probably enjoy Adams' audiobook reading about as much as this dramatization.
This collection of Heinlein's short science-fiction stories isn't bad. It's just that he did better.
In my opinion, the two best stories in the collection are: "By His Bootstraps", a nice time-travel story whose main points were endlessly imitated by later, lesser writers; and "The Menace From Earth", for its description of life on the moon, and a form of recreation possible on the moon but impractical on earth.
However, I feel that the collection "6xH" (first published under the title "The Unpleasant Profession of Johnathan Hoag") is a much better example of Heinlein in his mastery of the short story. This collection is not yet available as an audiobook; a shame, since I think those stories would lend themselves very well to the spoken form.
Until his other collections become available, I suppose this one will do. But I know there's better Heinlein out there, which is why I'm only giving it three stars.
I first read this book when I was about twelve, and last read it when I was thirty or so -- about fifteen years ago. It impressed the youngster, and as an adult I appreciated the points Heinlein made about responsibility and duty.
Heinlein was an expert at building societies, and showing us how they worked (and how they failed) by giving those societies challenges to overcome. You can find other examples of this in his "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", "Beyond This Horizon", "Space Cadet", and "Citizen of the Galaxy." You can't always tell if Heinlein believed that the societies he described were better than are own; he merely appeared to insist that they'd work.
The society in "Starship Troopers" sounds like it would work. The guiding principle is that no one is allowed to vote unless they've served their country. As a youngster, I believed this sincerely; as an oldster, I have my doubts. You can judge for yourself.
But why do I only give this book three stars?
This is the post-9/11 era. Like it or not, my perspectives have been changed by recent world events.
I was frankly horrified as I listed to Lloyd James' reading of the first chapter. To the youngster I was, it was a description of high technology and high adventure. Now, it sounds incredibly brutal as Johnny Rico slaughters the "enemy." Twenty years ago, the enemy was faceless and anonymous. Now I see them as parents, children, innocents, civilians.
I cannot cheer for Juan Rico anymore.
I still recommend the book as an example of thought-provoking science fiction. However, the thoughts it provokes are not the same as they were when I first read the book in the pre-Vietnam era.
This is the second volume of a two-volume audiobook. By the time you get to this review, you've probably already listened to volume one, and have a good idea of whether you'd enjoy volume two. But in case there's any doubt in your mind...
In volume one, Heinlein's themes were old age, wisdom, and memory. This second volume is in two parts: the first deals with his ideas on the nature of family; the second with "second childhood."
This volume opens about 15 years after the end of volume one. Lazarus Long has set up a family on the planet Tertius. It is a polyamorous multiple marriage. It's not quite as controversial as the one Heinlein described in "Stranger in a Strange Land", but it's still quite atypical. You'll ask yourself whether it could really work. (My answer is yes; what's yours?)
In the second half, Lazarus returns to the time and place of his childhood. He adopts an in-period masquerade, and arranges to meet the family of his birth. He finds, to his surprise, that his memory of them as elders and parents don't match the experience of meeting them as adults and equals.
Lloyd James does the best he can with the narration. The problem is that the text Heinlein wrote is very difficult to translate to audiobook form. For example, he has identical twins (with identical voices) alternate and interrupt each other's sentences. In printed form, this is clear enough -- but what is poor Lloyd James going to do? One chapter consists entirely of a newspaper clipping; the later chapters of the book are not named, but have musical scores. The narrator does the best he can, but Heinlein never wrote this book to be read out loud.
If you liked volume one, you'll like volume two. If you struggled through volume one, don't expect this volume to be any different. "Time Enough For Love" is concerned with challenging ideas, opinions, and relationships. If you want a laser battle, get a "Star Wars" novel instead.
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