Informational Note: This is a collection I am reviewing as I was given access to a review copy by the audiobook’s publisher.
It feels good to return to audiobooks once again after my sojourn to the world of comic books in my last series of articles. This is a release I have been looking forward to since I heard it was due to release. I’ve been quite the fan of H.G. Wells for a number of years now. In particular classics like the 1933 Universal film The Invisible Man, the 1950s film adaptation of The War Of The Worlds and numerous others had sparked my interest previously.
I have decided to review two of the five audiobook adaptations contained in the Science Fiction Collection published and exclusively released by Audible, Amazon’s audiobook based subsidiary. First of all I will focus on The First Men In The Moon which I have no prior experience with. The version in this collection is narrated by an actor called Alexander Vlahos who readers may know as Phillippe, Duke of Orleans in the television drama Versailles or as Mordred in the semi-recent BBC version of Merlin. I will discuss a synopsis of the plot and then discuss the narration and certain other factors.
The plot begins when a London businessman called Mr Bedford withdraws to the countryside with the intent to write a play to alleviate his financial woes.He rents a country house to begin writing only to become heavily distracted at the same time every evening by a passerby who makes unusual and confusing noises. When Mr Bedford attempts to complain he discovers the man is an eccentric – to put it mildly! – scientist called Mr Cavor. Cavor tells Bedford about a theory he has developed for a potential substance called Cavorite which Bedford begins to get swept up in.
Together they plan future uses for Cavorite – once it is discovered – and eventually use it as a fuel source for a means to get to the moon. I won’t give away what occurs on the moon–for the sake of first time listeners or readers like myself – but I will say it is suitably fantastical and very well written as one would expect from the ‘Father’ of Science Fiction. If Mary Shelly is the‘Mother’as has been argued then H.G Wells and Jules Verne could easily be the ‘Father’.
The story is very engaging with an entertaining flow to the narrative. Bedford and Cavor are both very flawed individuals and hearing the story from Bedford’s point of view allows the reader to hear his perspective and thoughts on events. This can give some events an interesting twist as it becomes clear there are biases at work. There is also at least one very ‘interesting’ phrase I noticed you wouldn’t get away with now but was common at the time. I won’t specify but I commend Audible for not removing it or ‘sanitising’ the story as has happened over the years to other older classic authors.
Alexander Vlahos has done a rather enjoyable job with the narration. His tone was perfect for the mental image of Bedford as a slightly pathetic or somewhat sleazy Edwardian businessman down on his luck who latches on a somewhat crazy scheme, not realising what’s about to happen. Cavoron the other hand is the perfect example of the scientist or politician who only works in theoreticals with no understanding of how their theory would work in practicality combined with a belief that everyone thinks like them as well as both of them having strong imperialist streaks. In other words Vlahos is an excellent narrator who manages to bring out the social criticism of politics and imperialists in a way that even I as a modern listener was able to catch the undertone. I must commend him for that as quite often I only discover a text was supposed to have a subtext or hidden meaning after reading interviews with the author or reading several long discourses on the topic.
I would definitely recommend the collection as a whole. The team that worked on it definitely have put a lot of work into it and it shows. But one thing I will have to mention is the price. For an Audible member the price is a sizeable amount in the £40 range – unfortunately I am no longer able to see its price for Audible members as I used one of Audible’s credits (Basically a free book for a set amount every month) to buy a personal copy on release.
My readers and fellow audiobook listeners however have three options:
- Get an Audible membership and choose this collection as your free audiobook when you sign up.
- This is the option I use – Sign up for a regular membership with however many Credits (i.e. ‘Free’ books for a set amount every month) and use one to obtain this collection.
- Buy a different H.G Wells collection with different narrators or a different price.
The choice is yours as my reader but be forewarned. This collection is definitely worth your money in my opinion but know what you are getting into. My next article will be another story from this Collection but I will leave you guessing as to which H.G Wells classic it will be.