I love Terry Pratchett's novels, and I think he has been very lucky in having two excellent readers for the audio versions. There is just so much humor, satire, and depth crammed into every line of a Pratchett novel that you really need a highly skilled reader to do them justice. I feel like Nigel Planer always does a fantastic job with wizards (his treatment of Poons in this particular story had me in stitches) and non-humans, but he struggles with female characters. As much as I thoroughly loved this story, with its positively hundreds of puns and spoofs, I really didn't like how Planer portrayed Ginger. The voice was just annoying and there was nothing remotely feminine about her. The dogs, on the other hand, were spot-on -- again, I was in stitches as I listened. So I do recommend this book (and Planer), but you have to accept that one main character will make you grit your teeth a bit.
June Whitfield has done a very good job of voicing Miss Marple each time she's done it, and the BBC is quite reliable for putting together good casts, good scripts, and overall good performances. I like these radio play adaptations of Agatha Christie because they're a little safer for listening to while driving, in my opinion, than audio books would be -- I say this because with the plays, you don't have to pay as close of attention to every word in order to follow the story, thus enabling you to remain a good, attentive driver. They're nice for airports, too, because you can usually fit one or two right into the average layover. Nothing too deep to weary the mind; just a fun little mystery.
In this instance, I felt like the BBC trimmed out a few too many of the details, which made the solution and the story itself far less interesting (and also made things less clear than they were in the book). For instance, Joanna's entire storyline was pretty much removed. Those secondary storylines are, in my opinion, part of what makes a Christie novel so enjoyable to readers. So, the story does suffer when you remove them, even though they may not directly advance the main plot. If you are a Miss Marple fan than this might not be the book for you -- her part in this story is very "deus ex machina"-esque, although the BBC manages to insert her a bit more in the radio drama than she appears in the book (in the book, she doesn't really show up prominently until the last fourth or so).
Most of the cast did quite well, although I really didn't like how they interpreted Megan -- she's kind of a space cadet in the novel, but in this radio play she's so irritating that I could scarcely stand her voice! I kept wishing I could step in and rewrite the script to have her killed off!
Overall opinion: This is not one of the best Christie adaptations put out by the BBC, but if you are already a fan of the novels, you'll still probably enjoy it. I would buy many of the others before this one, however.
When I was a high-schooler having a rough day and crying in the girls' bathroom, our school librarian found me and gave me a copy of this book. It's one of the most joyful, happy books you'll ever read, and the fact that it's a true story just makes it that much more magical. The Gilbreths were such a fascinating family: parents who were motion study experts raising their twelve children in accordance with the principals of motion study. It's almost as though the parents decided to script out their very own comedy from the beginning! And the love that this family had comes through, too, and (for me, at least) makes you start reminiscing about family stories of your own. In short, every person ought to read this book.
That being said, this is one of the worst narrations I've come across. In the first ten minutes, I wondered if the narrator was trying to set some sort of speed record, as she was racing through the text so fast that I could barely follow her! To make matters worse, she had the backdrop of a hideously loud incompetent musician belting out poorly scored hits of the gay nineties. I almost returned the book without finishing it at that point, because the loud music (for lack of a better term for the noise) and the speed-demon narrator were about to give me a headache rather than lull me to sleep (as had been my hope). I stuck with it, though, and learned that the narrator does eventually slow down, and the music only happens for the first page or two of each chapter (and is equally terrible each time).
After we got into the story, my chief complaints were that the narrator makes every child sound cloying and high pitched, and the mother always sounds like a washrag or prude. Quite a disservice to the real Lillian Gilbreth, I felt, since she was such an accomplished and remarkable woman. If I were a child listening to this story, I would likely feel insulted that the narrator was talking down to me, and as an adult listening, I feel like it's a dreadful thing to have happen to such a wonderful story. I stuck with it to the end only because I love the book so much. My advice is to only buy this one if you are a diehard fan of the book -- otherwise, there are simply hundreds are far better narrators to listen to on Audible.
To be honest, I was a little reluctant to purchase this one because I didn't think I'd like a female narrator tackling Narnia -- and although Lynn Redgrave is a celebrated actress, she's not really my "cup of tea" as a viewer. However, I am now pretty well sold as to her virtues as a narrator.
Story-wise, you simply can't go wrong with any Narnia book. Or any C.S. Lewis book, for that matter! Prince Caspian marks the second appearance in Narnia for the Pevensies, and it absolutely lives up to the high standard set by The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. This is great story for bringing up interesting doctrinal discussions later with friends/kids/anyone you listen with, but a non-Christian reader could enjoy the story perfectly well without getting smacked over the head with allegory.
For me, one of the crucial characters to get right in this particular book is Reepicheep. Being a mouse and yet also a noble warrior, he's not the easiest character to give a voice to, and I worried about him coming out too squeaky and/or irritating and thus spoiling the book for me. Fortunately, Lynn Redgrave managed to do quite a decent voice for him, as well as for most other characters. Her reading of Lucy was a bit cloying at first, but you get used to it as the story goes on. I was, frankly, impressed at just how different Ms. Redgrave was able to voice all of the many, many characters in the story. She has a good pace, as well, and really understands how to move with the story, pause at the right moments, etc. I felt that she had a deep affection for the story as she was reading it (or perhaps she really is that great of an actress), which made her storytelling even more effective.
I still wish they had had Kenneth Branagh do the entire Narnia series, but at least my money was still well spent on this audio book.
The combination of Pratchett and Gaiman was a truly beautiful thing that absolutely should have culminated in more novels! Their styles weave together seamlessly in this story, with a result that you spend most of it laughing until your sides hurt . . . but you also find yourself doing a bit of thinking.
The narration, voice-wise and acting-wise, is stellar. I was a little sad not to have one of Pratchett's usual narrators, at first, but I rapidly came to love how Jarvis handled the material. My one complaint, though, is his lack of pauses. He doesn't give space from one section to the next, which actually does compromise the story a bit. It makes some scenes confusing for a minute or so, and renders others a little less effective. My advice is to go ahead and buy this one, because it's still brilliant, but read the book FIRST. That way, you can fully appreciate the full marvelousness of Pratchett and Gaiman's collaboration, and then you can have a great time listening to the story over and over again.
Moist von Lipwig, the oozingly charming and incredibly clever conman-turned-postal-worker, is probably my second favorite Pratchett character (I think I have to rate Death just a little higher, because he's just such a fantastic anthropomorphic personification). Moist is hilarious to get inside the mind of, and even though he's seemingly irredeamable for the first chunk of the story, you just can't help but root for the guy -- he's such a skilled con artist that he even charms the reader (or, in this instance, listener)!
On top of Moist, you have Adora Dearheart as his perfect love interest (perfect for giving bystanders great amusement, that is), the inimitable Night Watch, Lord Vetinari (the most genius totalitarian ruler anyone could ever meet), loads of other "usual suspects" from Discworld, and of course some great new characters from the post office and the world of crime, all tied neatly into a hilarious storyline. You really cannot ask for more from a novel.
I feel that Stephen Briggs is probably the best person possible for narrating a Pratchett novel (although I do like Nigel Planer, too). He does a great job of giving every character their own unique voice/personality, just as Pratchett intended. As much as I love reading these books, I think that Briggs actually emphasizes comedic elements that I sometimes miss when reading -- or maybe he just helps me see the material in a slightly different way. At any rate, I always feel that my money is well spent on these audio books, and this particular one is a clear favorite.
Word of caution: You might not want to listen to this one in public. I embarrassed myself a bit by snorting and chortling in a socially inappropriate manner on a Beijing bus while listening to this one. Witnesses to my behavior definitely thought I was nuts!
I honestly don't think Terry Pratchett is capable of writing a story that is less than excellent. He combines satire, social commentary, fantasy, and slapstick humor into absolute masterpieces -- and the way he uses and twists words about is something akin to a skilled painter with his brush. No matter how ridiculous the character or the situation, there's always something about it that you find yourself recognizing from real life. I've never seen another modern writer with a gift like Pratchett's.
As for the narration, Nigel Planer is well up to handling the material. I like Stephen Briggs a little bit better, personally, but Planer is also a delight. He really GETS Pratchett, and it's reflected in the treatment he gives to each character and to the story itself.
The quality of the recording is also quite good. I am immensely pleased with this purchase -- it made a thirteen-hour flight feel much, much shorter because I got so absorbed in listening.
This is best audio treatment of the Bible that I have ever listened to. The main narration is done in an excellent deep voice that embraces the words while also adding power to them. The sound effects, rather than distracting, add depth and make you feel more present as you listen. I particularly liked Richard Dreyfuss's reading of Moses -- he's a talented actor and he did a great job here. My one complaint was the reading of Esther -- she's made to sound like a sultry vixen, which completely distracts one from the power of that particular story (the real Esther was a scared teenage girl, making this a lamentable piece of poor casting). Ruth, I am happy to say, was handled very well. As for the New Testament, I felt like the reader who handled Paul did the best work -- that's very much how I imagine the real Paul might have sounded. On the whole, this work is truly a masterpiece.
Joss Ackland has SUCH a marvelously deep and expressive voice -- and this was the perfect vehicle for him. I absolutely LOVE his narration and the way he truly brings Screwtape to life. He knows exactly the tone to use with each individual word, and at all right moments gives a throaty chuckle well suited to a senior demon. The book itself is quite thought-provoking, so I was worried about missing some of the finer points of it if I listened rather than read, but Ackland is such an impeccable narrator that I actually got more out of this version than my dog-eared paperback. I really wish Ackland would do more audio books -- I think he's possibly my favorite reader of all time.
I had never heard of Rob Inglis before I purchased this book, so I was a tad nervous about actually going through with buying it, even though I desperately wanted to own The Hobbit on audio (it is by far one of my favorite books ever). I need not have feared -- Inglis is absolutely PERFECT as a reader for this story! He has a marvelously rich, deep voice that fits Tolkien flawlessly. There is a warmth that makes it feel almost like the most wonderful bedtime story of your entire childhood -- but Inglis likewise makes the darker portions even a bit darker. I think even Tolkien himself, that notorious perfectionist, would have been thoroughly pleased with Inglis as the reader.
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