Review of The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Science Fiction Audiobook Review

Science Fiction Audio Drama - The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan DoyleThe Lost World
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, performed by a full cast
2 Cassettes, 2 CDs, Approx. 2 hours – [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Published: 1997
ISBN: 7671401800 (cassettes), 9780671577209 (CDs)
Themes: / Science fiction / Adventure / Exploration / Dinosaurs / Lost Civilizations / Archeology /

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is known as the creator and writer of that most famous sleuth, Sherlock Homes. Doyle was somewhat resentful of that character’s phenomenal success as it overshadowed all his other writings. His most popular and enduring work that did not feature Sherlock Homes is The Lost World, the story of Professor Challenger and his team of explorers that go to the Amazon jungle and find a primeval plateau inhabited by dinosaurs and ape-men.

Alien Voices was formed in 1996 by Star Trek alumni Leonard Nimoy and John de Lancie with writer-producer Nat Segaloff. These are full cast adaptations with sound effects and music. The Lost World was released as the third Alien Voices title after The Time Machine and Journey to the Center of the Earth. They recorded this release in front of a live audience during the Grand Slam’s Star Trek convention in 1997. The production values are great with terrific sound and a talented cast.

I’ve never read the original work by Doyle, so I won’t speak on the adaptation’s faithfulness. I did look over the text enough to know that the character of Professor Summerlee was switched from male to female for this adaptation. This was a wise move that added a dimension that was not in the original work. Professor Summerlee is played by Roxann Dawson and is strong-willed and independent. Which is as it should be, and Prof. Summerlee stands out as the most interesting character in the cast. Unfortunately, this is one of the few elements that seem fresh and interesting.

My main contention with this adaptation is that it moves too slowly in the beginning. Nearly the first third of the story takes place in London as Professor Challenger gathers his crew for the expedition. This story is an old one. Although as I mentioned I haven’t read the book, I am familiar with the story. We know there are dinosaurs coming, and yet we have to wade through the lengthy backstory. The narrative follows a straight chronological order. A better approach, while still being a faithful adaptation, would be starting the story in the Lost World with some heavy action. The backstory could then be filled with flashbacks in more episodic doses. One of the characters, Malone, is a newspaper reporter that goes on the expedition as a correspondent. The reporter sends dispatches to the newspaper. This narrative device could have been easily utilized to encompass these expositorial flashbacks. So despite a great performance by cast and crew, this versions pacing and lack of surprises makes it a tiring listen.

Review of Merian C. Cooper’s King Kong by Joe DeVito and Brad Stickland

Horror Audiobook - Merian C. Cooper's King KongMerian C. Cooper’s King Kong
By Joe DeVito and Brad Stickland; Read by a Full Cast
6 CDs – 6.75 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Full Cast Audio
Published: 2005
ISBN: 1933322497
Themes: / Science Fiction / Horror / Movie making / Gorillas / Dinosaurs /

Full Cast Audio has really perfected their style. The first audio I listened to by them was back in 2002 – I reviewed it for SFSite, and you can find it here. Their Full Cast style of audiobook narration was new to me, I was a little put off by it, though I enjoyed the book (as did my son).

Here we are in 2006, and Full Cast Audio presents Merian C. Cooper’s King Kong, during which I marveled at the expert production. The skillful acting, the flawless editing, and the classic story make this a title not to be missed. Nobody does Full Cast Unabridged narration better than Full Cast Audio.

The story is familiar to nearly all of us. Carl Denham is a recklessly ambitious filmmaker in 1930’s New York City. He gathers a crew and an actress (Ann Darrow) to sail to a secret destination where he can film his masterpiece. The crew finds the mysterious island, where they find King Kong in an adventure that turns dangerous in a big hurry.

I haven’t seen the original King Kong film for many years, and it didn’t have the effect on me that it did on so many others, including Peter Jackson. I have seen Peter Jackson’s version, though. This version of the story is not a novelization of the Peter Jackson script. It is an expansion of the original novelization of Cooper’s original Kong story.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of King Kong by Edgar Wallace and Merion C. Cooper

SFFAudio Review Header

Science Fiction Audiobooks - King KongKing Kong
By Edgar Wallace and Merion C. Cooper; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
5 CD’s, 5.5 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2005
ISBN: 0786175362
Themes: / Science Fiction / Horror / Movie making / Gorillas / Dinosaurs / Commentary /

This audiobook has two phrases emblazoned on the cover: “Special Blackstone Collector’s Edition Audiobook” and “The Greatest Horror Story of All Time!!” (both exclamation points are there…) Of the first phrase I can say that this audiobook is certainly special. Not only does it include the unabridged audio version of the novelization of the original King Kong film, but it also includes a bonus disc containing commentary from Ray Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen, Orson Scott Card, Larry Niven, Catherine Asaro, Harlan Ellison, Jack Williamson, and Marc Scott Zicree. Is it the greatest horror story of all time? Not in my eyes, but the words fit nicely on this gorgeously packaged audiobook.

The original King Kong film (1933) holds a special place in a lot of hearts. I don’t share those feelings, possibly because the film predates me by 35 years. I recall more details about the 1976 remake starring Jessica Lange than I do the original. I was 10 in 1976 and, since that version of King Kong was mediocre, it stirred little in me. News of Peter Jackson’s remake didn’t excite me.

But this audiobook has awakened my interest in a big way, for two reasons. First, the story itself. Engagingly read by Stefan Rudnicki, the story of Kong, Denham, Ann Darrow, and Jack Driscoll is really a good story. The filmmaker Denham’s recklessness, actress Ann Darrow’s willingness to go along, and Jack Driscoll’s love keep things very interesting. Kong, of course, is the character around which the story revolves, and his journey from island to New York City and from beast to human-like ape fascinates.

The second thing that sparked my interest is the commentary. I loved the commentary included here. All of the people I mentioned above had a different and interesting take on King Kong, from Harlan Ellison’s declaration of the original film’s perfection to Catherine Asaro’s discussion of power unused. After listening to this, I’m now eager to see the new film, and even more eager to watch the original.

It would be an excellent thing if other books are given similar treatment. Unabridged classic science fiction novels with commentary would add a new and greatly appreciated dimension to the audiobook experience. Kudos to Blackstone for giving us this Special Edition.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of A Sound Of Thunder by Ray Bradbury

SFFaudio Review

A Sound Of Thunder
By Ray Bradbury; Performed by a full cast
1 Cassette – Approx. 70 minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Durkin Hayes Audio
Published: 1992
ISBN: 0886466687
Themes: / Science Fiction / Time Travel / Dinosaurs / Mars /

Ray Bradbury is another author who is dear to me in both print and in audio. There is an old Caedmon production of his story “Usher II” (read by Leonard Nimoy) which I just love. And I’m currently listening through a collection of old-time radio shows called The 60 All-Time Greatest Science Fiction Radio Shows, selected by Ray Bradbury.

And the books – The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes… Bradbury is unique in my experience, and I really enjoy his stories.

There are two audio dramas on this single cassette program. The first is an excellent production called “A Sound of Thunder”, in which a man pays big bucks to be taken back in time to hunt the biggest of prey – a Tyrannosaurus Rex. But when you go back in time, there are rules… In the second story, “Night Call, Collect”, the last man in the universe receives… a phone call. A short interview of the author is also included.

The production quality – sound effects, music, the acting – is excellent, the scripts are wonderful. Highly recommended.

Both of the stories here (“A Sound of Thunder” and “Night Call, Collect“) are part of a radio series called The Bradbury 13. Twelve of the thirteen shows were released through Durkin Hayes/DHAudio. Jesse has some of these shows in stock – contact him here about getting a copy. A summary of all thirteen of the Bradbury 13 can be found here.

posted by Scott D. Danielson