More fascinating lock-down literature this week – listening, rather than reading though. In its many forms over the years, H.G. Wells’ alien invasion epic ‘The War of the Worlds’ has provided a rich source of inspiration for film-makers on both the large and small screens. Ranging from Byron Haskin’s 1953 movie, to Steven Speilberg’s 2005 version and, on TV the 2008/2009 and more recently, the 2019 series (neither of which I have seen). I’ve also listened to several radio dramatisations of it as well. As a kid in the 1960’s, the 1953 movie really got to me: the killing of the group of men soon after the Martian craft landed seemed horribly cruel and marked out the alien invaders as cold and heartless (which is exactly as Wells described them). There were three scenes in the Speilberg version that stood out for me: the destruction of the flyover near the beginning of the movie and the blazing railway train at the road crossing, which was horrifying in so many ways. Bleakest of all though was the sight of countless bodies floating down the river, witnessed by Dakota Fanning’s character. Again, another moment when you realise that the invaders are ruthless, cold and inexorable.
Both movies are set, for purely artistic reasons I’m sure, in the USA, whereas the first person narrative in the book is set in South East England (the Martian invaders were obviously attracted by the convenient rail links to London). Like all good story-telling, in both the book and the films, we see the effects of the invasion in individual incidents and on individual people.
However, while these pictures are made for us, to experience in the cinema or at home, they compare poorly with the pictures created in our minds by a good story-teller. It’s often been said that radio has the best pictures and Michael Bertenshaw’s narration of pretty much the unabridged book has the best pictures of all (sorry Mr Speilberg). It is a combination of master story-telling, a ripping yarn and top-notch voice acting. If you want to have a listen, it can be found on BBC Sounds:
It’s a great example of what good audiobooks can do and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Incidentally, I have a paperback copy of the novel with Eddie Izzard’s autograph in it – strange, but true.
Like many families across the world, the current ‘situation’ has forced us to share more time with each other and for many this can be good or bad or some of both. We seem to be coping well, all things considered, and there have been some positive experiences, one of which has been watching films/TV shows that mean something to each of us. Fortunately, I’m ok with wall-to-wall Harry Potter, up to a point, but I’ve had to think twice about inflicting Lord of the Rings (extended versions, naturally) on the rest of my family. Common ground has been found in two movies which we’ve all really appreciated: Wayne’s World and This is Spinal Tap, both ‘laddish’ in some ways (and both centred around rock music) but still possessing the ability to entertain wider audiences.
Wayne’s World we enjoyed for its exuberance and youthful silliness and I was pleased that Spinal Tap was a palpable hit with my, now grown-up, daughters. I first saw it in the early 80’s soon after release and as I was in a band at the time, its themes and humour resonated with me quite strongly. Our band was never anything to write home about but the movie’s takes on rehearsal, performance, egos, rapidly changing band members and vomit made us feel a part of a wider, wild, wacky world of rock. I believe the phrase ‘taking it up to 11’ came from Spinal Tap, but I may be wrong. Fans will know what I mean.
What pleased me is the common ground and connections we made watching movies that could now be regarded as cultural milestones. They made me laugh when I first saw them and now they’re making my children laugh. Thanks guys.
I am pleased to have been given the opportunity to narrate a collection of stories by Indonesian author Dimas Rio, as it has been a new departure for me. The book consists of five tales, of varying length, having a distinct flavour of Asian horror in the style of The Ring or The Grudge. Other themes are invoked, such as domestic abuse, bereavement, revenge from beyond the grave and legendary nightmare creatures.
My particular favourite is The Voice Canal, a heartwarming story of a young student coming to terms with the loss of his father. The Wandering, the longest of the five stories, is perhaps the most complex, with the use of forgotten correspondence as a means of gradually revealing a shocking truth denied by the protagonist.
Here are some reviews of the book:
“Dark stories that entrance and unnerve.” – Kirkus Reviews
“Nail-biting, psychological and truly thrilling stories. Horror in its most tasteful sense” – K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite
“Slow-burn, modern, psychological tales that will appeal to horror fans… an entertaining Southeast Asian flavor of horror for fans of the genre.” – Lit Amri for Readers’ Favorite
“Eerie… gives the reader a creep-out factor on a personal level.” – Tiffany Ferrell for Readers’ Favorite
Have a look on Amazon – the book is available in paperback and Kindle – the Audiobook will be available soon.
Whilst Camus’ ‘The Plague’ focused on the effects of contagion on a relatively small community, Max Brooks’ ‘World War Z’ paints a similar story, but with a much broader brush and encompasses themes going far beyond the parochial.
I’ve been meaning to read it for a long time, having listened to the audio book twice (more on that in a minute), so I’ve borrowed my daughter’s copy. It is subtitled ‘An oral history of the Zombie War’ and is a collection of fictional (but somehow very real) accounts, from many and various sources, of the results of an infection that reanimates corpses. I won’t go into detail but, if you are interested, buy a copy and find out what happens. It’s nothing like the Brad Pitt movie, so don’t think of it as a book of the film. The film of the book is pale imitation. The accounts are transcripts of interviews with survivors of the Zombie War – which is difficult to make into a movie without breaking the convention that makes the book so believable.
The audio book, on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish. The 2007 version is the one to get hold of, as it is not only narrated by Brooks himself but includes, among many other others, Nathan Fillion, Martin Scorsese, Simon Pegg, Mark Hamill, Alan Alda, Rob Reiner, Alfred Molina and F. Murray Abraham. It is utterly fascinating and will keep you gripped for all of its 13 hours running time.
With the world currently suffering from a contagion that has its own perils and problems, World War Z offers remarkably perceptive insights into the behaviour of governments, individuals and big business that have, unfortunately, a disturbing ring of truth. Without the reanimated corpses, of course.
There is a great site run by voice artist Jeffrey Kafer, one of Audible’s most prominent narrators, where anyone can get hold of codes that entitle them to free audiobooks from Audible. Go to freeaudiobooks.com and have a look. There is an 18+ age restriction, as a small number of books are of, ahem, an adult nature but most of the books aren’t. Maybe you might come across some of mine (but not in the ‘adult’ section, I hasten to add).
There seems to have been a delay in the publication of my latest audiobook ‘The Vampire Hunter’s Field Manual – A Survivor’s Guide to Narcissistic Abuse’, by Matt Davis. It was submitted well over three week’s ago and is still up for ‘audio review’ by ACX/Audible. It must be a sign of the times and I’m not going to be chasing this one in the circumstances we find ourselves in. However, the paperback/Kindle versions are on sale and here are edited highlights of some of the reviews so far:
*****Essential read for anyone one in or who has left an abusive relationship. Buy without hesitation.
*****A shocking but easy to understand manual of the worst kind of relationship possible!
****A strong and insightful look at the dark side of relationship
*****The perfect gift I found for a friend who has ‘lived experiences’ of the situations and people described in this book. She told me that this book was like reading her own life! She loves it.
I hope I have done justice to Matt’s book and that it will be on sale soon.
As an audiobook narrator, spending considerable lengths of time alone and in confined spaces is something you get used to. It’s self-imposed and related to work, but entirely optional – it is currently my chosen profession and working at home is not going to be a problem. During the current crisis, it seems that changes to how we live and relate to each other are becoming mandatory, in some areas, and it will be interesting to see if they have any long-term effects. Although neither myself nor any family members have (yet) been affected by coronavirus in terms of health, it has today denied me the opportunity to audition for a touring production of Antony and Cleopatra. The tour has been cancelled due to concerns over infection. It would have been unlikely that any audience for the production could honestly be described as a ‘mass gathering’ (but you never know). It’s a shame, as I had put a lot of preparation into the audition pieces, but definitely NOT a disaster for me.
Perversely, I discovered a very old (1963) copy of Albert Camus’ ‘The Plague’ on my bookshelf, that I must have bought decades ago, as it had ’60p’ inscribed on the inside cover. Its original retail price was ‘3 shillings and sixpence’ – pre-decimal money for non-Brits. I haven’t read it in years, but will do so again as I find Camus’ style (or this translation’s) sublime. With an economy of words, his narrative is full of strong images, believable characters and a gripping story – I only wish my French was good enough to be able to read it in the original language.
The book describes events in the Algerian town of Oran in the 1940’s, before, during and after a visitation of the plague – probably bubonic – and its effects on the inhabitants. With themes related to materialism and community, combined with a subversive attack on fascism, it has lessons for us at this difficult time. I cannot recommend it more highly.