Journey to the Center of the Earth
By Jules Verne, performed by a full cast
2 Tapes, Approx. 2 hours – [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Audio
Themes: / Science fiction / Adventure / Exploration / Geology /
One should not drink from the same well of audio books in rapid succession. I recently listened to Alien Voices’ The First Men in the Moon, and found this one just a little too similar for my liking. The main characters in both consist of a crusty professor and a younger, more energetic helper; in both cases the professor is voiced by Leonard Nimoy and the younger man by John DeLancie; and in both cases the two men go off to explore some unknown world and discover amazing adventures.
This book suffers in the comparison not just because it came second, but because it isn’t quite as good. The plot involves a wild trip, but one that brings the characters into contact with only monsters and forces of nature, not other intelligences; whereas The First Men in the Moon brings us into an alien society that has chilling implications for our own. The soundscapes of this book are neither as rich nor as immediately immersive as the first, and the characters are not played that distinctly different. Leonard Nimoy is good, but he’s just so darned good-natured that his character only seems foul tempered by others’ report. His heart isn’t really in it, and Herr Doktor Liedenbrock comes off no less pleasant than the buzzing Professor Caver. And John DeLancie’s true talent comes in portraying morally suspect characters. Here, his sweet Axel, the Doctor’s nephew, never quite rings true.
Not to say either man does a bad job, or that the sound isn’t excellent, or even that the adaptation doesn’t rip right along and offer plenty of adventure, quaint as the concepts are. But it just doesn’t grab you in the gut, it doesn’t feel inevitable, and it doesn’t offer any fresh insight into the human condition. In short, it doesn’t bring a classic story from the dawn of science fiction into our living presence, and as such, it really isn’t worth the time. Based on my previous exposure, I think it would be a mistake to write off other Alien Voices titles, but I wouldn’t break any bones rushing out to get hold of this one.
Posted by Kurt Dietz