Review of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl

October 15, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Henry Sugar by Roald DahlThe Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More
By Roald Dahl; Read by Andrew Scott
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 25 July 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 7 hours
Listen to an excerpt: | Link |

Themes: / children’s fantasy / short stories / animals / buried treasure / turtles / trains /

Publisher summary:

Meet the boy who can talk to animals and the man who can see with his eyes closed. And find out about the treasure buried deep underground. A cleaver mix of fact and fiction, this collection also includes how master storyteller Roald Dahl became a writer. With Roald Dahl, you can never be sure where reality ends and fantasy begins.

Roald Dahl’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar: and six more, is a collection of seven brilliant short stories. Andrew Scott narrates this audio, and I speak true when I say his voice along with Dahl’s words produce a galvanic amalgam of magic intimacy for the ear and mind.

The seven stories are:
* The Boy Who Talked with Animals
* The Hitchhiker
* The Mildenhall Treasure
* The Swan
* The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar
* Lucky Break
* A Piece of Cake.

These are all fine specimen. In “The Boy Who Talked with Animals,” I became spellbound with the plight of the large old turtle on its back as crowds of people gathered close. Maybe it was the idea of a helpless animal being pulled up to the kitchens where the sharp knives waited, but I could sense the immediacy of the old sea turtle’s predicament. As a gauge, this story is good and solid.

The three stories that stole my breath?
* The Mildenhall Treasure
* The Swan
* A Piece of Cake.

Out of these, “The Swan” is reason enough to read this collection. This story is haunting. It lingers in the mind and tied me into knots. Dahl made me taste the hot close breath of the train. It frightened me, and I’m a grown man. When you reach the duck and swan on the water, Dahl’s description is heart-wrenchingly beautiful.

To all the folks at Penguin Audio, “Thank you.” Thank you for getting this right.” Thank you for not cluttering up the tracks with God Damn sentimental music that’s supposed to tell me how and when to feel. Thank you for not mucking about with narrators trying to needlessly inject drama into stories that only require reading, not a performance. Thank you Penguin Audio for doing one of the best production jobs I’ve come across in a while. Sometimes the best ingredients are truly simple, a healthy appetite and a pinch of salt.

Here is an interesting video on the process of recording Dahl’s books:

Posted by Casey Hampton.

Five Children and It on BBC7

August 15, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

BBC Radio 7 - BBC7 Good stuff is happening on BBC7 lately, like Mike Walker’s remarkable 6-part historical drama series, Caesar!, that aired over the last two weeks. This Saturday, 7 Drama will present the full cast dramatization of Edith Nesbit’s Five Children and It (which certainly ranks as one of the best ever titles for a kids novel), a story about a magical sand fairy (that) grants five children a series of wishes

A little background, quoting here from Wikipedia, Edith Nesbit popularized an innovative style of children’s fantasy that combined realistic, contemporary children in real-world settings with magical objects and adventures. In doing so, she was a direct or indirect influence on many subsequent writers, including P. L. Travers (author of Mary Poppins), Edward Eager, Diana Wynne Jones and J. K. Rowling -as well as C. S. Lewis and Michael Moorcock. Yow!

Some will recall Nesbit for her memorable novel, The Railway Children, and the film and BBC television series based on the book (presented wayyy back in the 1960’s). I said some will -if they’re willing to admit that they’re old enough to have watched Star Trek: TOS in prime time.

Now, I have to admit that I haven’t heard this production before but given the Beeb’s track record, the play should be good. At an hour and a half long, there should be enough time to cover the story while keeping things moving at a brisk pace. Also, BBC dramatizations tend to feature excellent child actors. This should be a big plus here. -A lot of “shoulds”, I know, but being a fan of Edith Nesbit’s books to begin with, of course I’m looking forward to this.

Check out Five Children and It with me on Saturday, August 16 from 12:00- 13:30 GMT. Teleport to 7 Drama here to do so. Or you can use the Listen Again feature to hear the show for six days after it airs.

Lastly, you can read and download Edith Nesbit’s novels online at Project Gutenberg. All are in the public domain. Yay!

Posted by RC of Radio Tales of the Strange and Fantastic

Review of Rings, Swords, And Monsters: Exploring Fantasy Literature by Michael D.C. Drout

March 11, 2007 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Modern Scholar - Rings, Sword, Monsters Rings, Swords, And Monsters: Exploring Fantasy Literature
Lectures by Professor Michael D.C. Drout
7 CDs & Book – 7 Hours 51 Minutes [LECTURES]
Publisher: Recorded Books LLC / The Modern Scholar
Published: 2006
ISBN: 1419386956
Themes: / Non-Fiction / Lectures / Fantasy / J.R.R. Tolkien / Middle Earth / Beowulf / Children’s Fantasy / Arthurian Legend / Magic Realism / World Building /

“It used to be that fantasy was a boy’s genre and that was clear even back through the 80s and 90s, that 90% of your audience for fantasy literature, 90% of your audience for Tolkien was male. That is no longer the case. When I give lecturings [sic] at gatherings of Tolkien enthusiasts the crowd is easily 50-50 male female and often times more female than male – though I will have to say that many of the women in the crowd are wearing elf-princess costumes – I’m not really sure what that means.”
-Lecture 13: Arthurian Fantasy (on the ‘Marion Zimmer Bradley effect’)

Most of this lecture series is concerned with Tolkien. Drout explains what influenced Tolkien’s fiction, how his work impacted Fantasy and how later writers reacted to and imitated him. A full five of the 14 lectures are on Tolkien’s books proper, with another four on what influenced him, and who he influenced. The scholarship here is absolutely engrossing, hearing Drout tease out details from names, the structure and the philosophy of Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion will delight any Tolkien fan. At one point in Lecture 4 Drout explains the sources for the names of both the 13 dwarves of The Hobbit and Gandalf too. According to Drout, Gandalf was originally named “Bladderthin.” But this isn’t just scholarship here, Drout is very much a critic, a fan of the works he studies. He gives a critical examination of plots, themes and the worlds of each of the Fantasy novels he talks about. Drout dissects Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea books, calling them possibly the best Fantasy since Tolkien, on the one hand and also shows what doesn’t quite work in them. Drout, like Tolkien is an scholar of Anglo-Saxon so there is also plenty of talk about Beowulf and the impact it had on Tolkien. In fact, central to many of his arguments is the linguistic background each work of Fantasy makes use of. Tolkien works so well, argues Drout, in part, because it all hangs linguistically together. Stephen R. Donaldson’s The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, which Drout thinks immensely prominent in post-Tolkien Fantasy, doesn’t have a cohesive linguistic bedrock, and that hurts the series – which he thinks is otherwise one of the best realized “secondary worlds” created. Whatever it is Drout talks about, he backs up his critical opinion. Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, he’s read them, and has dissected the plots to show how as time has gone by and Brooks has written more, he’s come to have something of his own voice, and not just stayed the pale Tolkien imitator he started as.

The lectures on Tolkien inevitably lead to the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis. Drout gives them their due, and shows why some of it works and some of it doesn’t. Arthurian Fantasy, which predates Tolkien, seems to have run a parallel course to “secondary world” fantasy literature. After hearing Lecture 13 you’ll come away with a desire to find a copy of T.H. White’s The Once and Future King and Mary Stewart’s Merlin series. My own opinion is that Drout gives too much credit to J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter novels, he talks about her writing for about 8 minutes. In fairness it would probably not be possible to talk about Children’s Fantasy literature without mentioning her popular series. But on the other hand there are many different kinds of Fantasy that Drout doesn’t talk about at all. I wonder why Neil Gaiman isn’t mentioned. What of Robert E. Howard? And why almost no talk about short stories? James Powell’s A Dirge For Clowntown needs some attention! The only solution is for Recorded Books to go back and ask for more from this professor. Call it Gods, Barbarians, and Clowns: Further Explorations Of Fantasy Literature or something. Until then I’ll be working on my Cimmerian-clown costume.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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