The HG Wells Collection (audiobook review).

October 31, 2019 | By | Reply More

HG Wells is a pioneer of the Science Fiction genre and if you’ve not heard of him and his stories then I think you must have been living under a rock. Even if you only know ‘The War Of The Worlds’ and, even if it’s only the very American film version starring Tom Cruise, HG Wells is sure to have crossed your path at some point. However, if you’ve not yet got around to reading his work, then Audible have come out with a collection that’s perfect for you.

For the price of one credit (around £7.99 in the UK) you can treat yourself to not one, but five HG Wells novels, coming in at a length of around 27 hours, read by a selection of bona fide celebrities:-

The War Of The Worlds, read by David Tennant

The First Men In The Moon, read by Alexander Vlahos

The Time Machine, read by Hugh Bonneville

The Invisible Man, read by Sophie Okonedo

The Island Of Doctor Moreau, read by Jason Isaacs

I don’t know about you, but I was excited by that list of narrators and, for the most part, it didn’t disappoint.

‘The War Of The Worlds’ is a book I’ve read a couple of times before and it’s one I enjoy, but David Tennant was actually the most disappointing narrator. Although the language is a bit dated and the story drags a little in places, this classic tale of Martian invasion was ground-breaking when it was written and still delivers an interesting look at human behaviour in the face of adversity, along with some fascinatingly alien beings. If, like me, you hear the striking notes of Jeff Wayne’s musical version in your head any time the title is mentioned, you might find this a bit low key and David Tennant has a tendency to mumble through some sections, but it’s still a good reading of a story that has influenced so many things in the years since it was first published.

‘The First Men In The Moon’ was a new one for me and Alexander Vlahos was a superb narrator, probably my favourite in this collection. Arguably, it’s the most dated of the stories, dealing with two men who go to the Moon in a craft made from a special material that’s resistant to the forces of gravity. Scientifically, that’s clearly absurd these days but, as a story, I found it compelling. The two strongly contrasting personalities of the main characters as they travel to the Moon and encounter the native aliens worked very well and I was thoroughly carried along on their journey. Alexander Vlahos made the two characters so completely different that I would have believed it was two narrators, he really was excellent.

Hugh Bonneville did a good job narrating ‘The Time Machine’ but, although it’s one of Wells’ best known novels, I found the story a bit difficult to engage with. It follows a man who travels far into the future using a time machine he’s constructed in his basement, becoming trapped in that time when the locals steal his time machine. The main character was quite irritating and I found myself wanting the story to move faster or explore different things at several points. Perhaps it just hasn’t aged well, but I’d not be in a hurry to read or listen to this one again.

I thought it was an interesting choice to get a female narrator, Sophie Okonedo, to narrate ‘The Invisible Man’, where the protagonist is a gruff male, but she inhabited the role very convincingly. The main character is quite a troubled man, prone to violence and anger. His swings in personality make him unpredictable and this in turn makes the events in the story less obvious than perhaps others in this collection. It’s difficult to decide whether to hate or sympathise with him and I found it to be an interesting story largely because of this central character.

To finish off this collection, ‘The Island Of Doctor Moreau’ was very capably narrated by Jason Isaacs. It’s another story that I hadn’t previously read and, although I had a vague idea of some of the themes, genetic experimentation to create man/human hybrids being the main one, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I found it to be quite a sinister story in many ways. Moreau’s lack of morals and his creations’ ambitions to become better ‘men’ became quite a dark storyline and it made for very compelling listening.

I would not hesitate to recommend this audiobook collection. For the price of a single paperback, assuming you use an Audible credit, you get five well-narrated novels, not one of which is a dud. It’s great value and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole collection.

Vinca Russell

October 2019

(pub: Audible. Audio book 27 hours 15 minutes. Price: £49.99 (UK) or preferably £ 7.99/month after 30 days. ASIN: B07PP8N213)

narrators: Eli Roth, Hugh Bonneville, Jason Issacs, Sophie Okenedo, David Tennant and Alexander Vlahos

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Category: Music/Audio, Scifi

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