Review of A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

SFFaudio Review

A Clockwork Orange
By Anthony Burgess; Read by Tom Hollander
7 CDs – 8 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Caedmon /Harper Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 9780061170621
Themes: / Science Fiction / Dystopia / Youth Violence / Mind Control /

Anthony Burgess’ classic novel A Clockwork Orange is likely familiar to most science fiction fans through Stanley Kubrick’s film version. But the book is itself arguably the best post-Orwell dystopia novel. This new audiobook version, the first unabridged commercial release, captures every enthralling and disturbing word.

Set in a not too distant future the story centers around an anti-hero Alex, a fifteen year old juvenile delinquent, and his rather violent life. Alex and his three droogs (friends) are a small gang, one of many that preys upon this future society. These youth gangs are a very well developed subculture with their own slang called “Nadsat.” Alex enjoys his life of cruelty and commits several horrendous crimes early in the story (this is not for the squeamish). Eventually Alex becomes the subject of a government mind-control experiment which raises many questions about the value of free will.

Although the story fails to predict technological advances (word processors, CDs, etc) other parts, such as the “Ludovico Technique” seem even more plausible now. It is a fascinating world due in part to the wonderfully imagined Nadsat. Here the audiobook really impresses. Tom Hollander’s thoroughly professional reading of the story brings out the richness of the language and the setting. His performance helps make this one of the best single narrator audiobooks that I have ever heard!

It is an amazing story that both fascinates and repels. One of the best novels of the twentieth century has been given a worthy audiobook translation. It is not quite perfect for those new to the story, however. Anyone who has not read the full version, including the controversial twenty-first chapter, is advised to skip the first two tracks of the audiobook until after they have finished the story. These tracks are the spoiler filled introduction. I am very ambivalent about the inclusion of the twenty-first chapter. I feel the same about this chapter as most Alien/Aliens fans feel about Alien 3, but the inclusion does allow listeners to make up their own minds. Overall this is an A+ production of a great story. And I’m proud to have proved that it is possible to review A Clockwork Orange without overusing Nadsat to prove one’s coolness, O my little brothers.

Posted by Dave Tackett

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