Audiobook Review: H.G. Wells: The Science Fiction Collection: The War Of The Worlds

audiobookInformational Note: This audiobook collection is being reviewed by myself as I was given access to a review copy by the audiobook’s publisher.

“No one would have believed in the last years of the 19th century that this world was being watched, keenly and closely, by intelligences greater than Mans’ and yet as mortal as his own. That as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger. Or thought of then only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied their might be other men upon Mars. Perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise! Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic regarded this Earth with envious eyes. And slowly and surely drew their plans against us.”

…Dun Dun Dun!…oh wait wrong version.

I hope my readers forgive me for a rather extensive quotation at the beginning but I couldn’t resist the temptation to have the original opening speech set the tone for the article. Audible’s H.G.Wells collection also includes his most famous story The War Of The Worlds which I have reviewed a version of previously for The Orkney News. Nephrite’s Audiobook Review: Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds: The Musical Drama

The story is of course world famous so I won’t give specifics of the plot as my readers will all be familiar with at least one other version. I will however say the story is very well crafted and very engaging as befitting it’s status as a classic. Once you get caught the story just won’t let you put it down until you are done!

The narrator taking on the role of The Journalist and the various other characters involved in this version is David Tennant. Previous readers of my articles may be able to guess I have a confessed bias for David Tennant as I am an admitted Doctor Who fan but even discounting that he does an excellent job with the narration. His take on the time The Journalist spends trapped with The Curate – for my readers who don’t know what a curate is, imagine a parish priest – and how they slowly start to drive each other mad when they can’t be separated is chilling. As is his wonderfully  dark narration when describing the initial attack of the Martian tripods or the joy during the Thunder Child incident. He manages to do an excellent job of making it possible for listeners to imagine themselves in The Journalist’s shoes. All the required emotions are displayed wonderfully in the narration as is his somewhat detached sense of scientific curiosity at times.

I don’t have anything specific to critique with this adaptation personally – although it’s entirely possible that fellow listeners could be aggravated at times due to the occasional choice of certain character’s voices. More generally – and this applies to all five adaptations in Audible’s collection – I do wish that each story had some sound effects put in alongside the narration such as ‘Ullations’ for the Martians, animalistic sounds or jungle style sound effects for Doctor Moreau etc. Although a lack of sound effects or music can occasionally be a personal pet peeve of mine so I understand if that doesn’t bother other people.

Continuing with the imperial theme of my last H.G. Wells review, The War Of The Worlds can also be considered anti-imperial but much more explicitly (Just read that beginning paragraph!) and in a different way. The First Men In The Moon was an implicit critique of scientists and politicians who only thought in theories and didn’t question how they would be implemented in reality whilst also critiquing the belief of imperialists that they are inherently superior.

The War Of The Worlds however is anti-imperial as it shows just how easily the ‘greatest imperial power’ of the period could be easily overthrown by another force and considered as lowly by them as the British Empire considered the native inhabitants of their conquered territories. It wouldn’t take much for what is a great kingdom one day to become completely irrelevant by the next cycle of the moon. The Journalist practically says as much in all but name on at least two or three occasions. Keep an eye or ear out for them next time you listen to or read the original story!

I would highly recommend this collection. Be you a first time listener or reader in the original worlds of H.G. Wells or a long time fan. A lot of effort and time has been put into this and it is obvious to frequent listeners. It also helps that the narrators chosen for each individual story seem very enthusiastic about the project. But I will warn readers this costs quite a lot. Somewhere in the 40 pound range for Audible members with discounts. As a result there are three options for my readers.

Option 1: Get an Audible membership and choose this as your free book when you sign up.

Option 2 – Which I use: Get a regular Audible membership with however many Credits (i.e ‘free’ books for a set amount each month) and use one of those to get the Collection.

Option 3: Buy a different H.G. Wells collection with different narrators, stories or a different price.

NephriteI do recommend the set wholeheartedly as I very much enjoyed it but be forewarned about the price or potential possible hurdles. I hope some of you join me in listening to the tales of the ‘Father’ of science fiction. Regardless of if you have some trouble with the Morlocks, trying to survive on the Island of Doctor Moreau or watching the Martian cylinders I’m sure you’ll be lost in the stories before long!



H.G. Wells: The Science Fiction Collection 

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