The best part of being a nerd and being able to review things is the fact I get to go to other places and worlds on the magic carpet that is other people’s words. And it is a pleasure when you actually find yourself wanting to go back again.
My first taste of audio books was a 99p cassette I bought when I was at school. It was the adaption of Doctor Who State of Decay read by the fourth Doctor himself, Tom Baker. It was magical. The Doctor was telling me his story as if we were sitting in a room talking. And now twenty odd years later we are literally spoiled for choice for audio books. I really should look into getting the Time Warriors done in this format but I digress. I fell away from audio books basically because I hadn’t time to sit and listen to them; life gets in the way, you know?
So when I was asked to review the products from TextbookStuff I wasn’t expecting to enjoy them so much. Don’t hate me; I fall asleep telling my kid his bedtime story.
The company was created by Barnaby Edwards to bring classic literature to the masses in a new way and give it a new generation of fans. Barnaby is best known to you as the man who operates the Daleks in new Doctor Who but he is more than just a driver. By employing actors to tell the stories, I won’t say celebrities as I’ll explain, but actors.
Each audio book uses music and sound effects to enhance the tale and give it a new edge. Well, Mr Edwards, you have done so with aplomb.
He reads Edward Thomas selected poems – and poetry is so far off my scale it’s non-existent – but Barnaby has a deeply rich voice which I never realised before. You can listen to him without wanting to smash your headphones off the wall and he makes it accessible to the listener. Not that I’m going to rush out and buy books of poetry but as a writer I have a new appreciation of poetry which I last encountered in school. There’s a beauty in the words, a story, a dance of English that takes you along with it and that I never expected at all.
In Dracula’s Guest, read by Peter Guinness, we revisit Bram Stoker’s classic tale. And I have to say I liked this a lot. It listens like a stage play and Peter brings a richness to the performance as he tackles European accents and frightened villagers. There is an atmosphere as you listen. It was lunchtime when I listened to this but I was on that mountain in the carriage with the frightened horses and frantic driver trying to warn of the darkness that lived nearby. I also learned something new. I never knew it was a tradition to bury those that commit suicide at a crossroads.
In the Edgar Allan Poe stories, read by David Soul (yes, that David Soul), I thought what a strange choice putting Hutch and horror together but Mr. Edwards did a very clever thing here. When David begins to read you are thrown back to Salem’s Lot, not Starsky and Hutch, and that immediately helps cement the creepiness of Poe’s work as he progresses. I never realized that each actor is suited to each specific story and it works well. Dracula may be a timeless story that has been done to death but it works perfectly here. Poe’s work, which I had a passing familiarity with, feels like a brand new work of fiction to me.
There are some great names here which make these work and that’s why I never used the word celebrity. These works remind us they are actors and bloody good at their jobs too. Miriam Margoyles from Harry Potter has a great vocal nuance for poetry and is a funny lady, Martin Jarvis, Andrew Sachs and many more form a collective that I have to say I can’t find fault with. And that I never expected.
Find them all at www.textbookstuff.com. Wonderful.