On Audible

Despite the current circumstances I’m not working from home or anything like that because ha ha ha, retail, am I right?

Well.

I didn’t realise that memes could be so terrifyingly prescient. Anyway! It might be a good idea if you are stuck in self isolation to check out the glorious world of audio books, and you know, if you’re not stuck in self isolation then maybe give it a go anyway?

I’ve been listening to a fair bit recently, and I intend on listening to a lot more. I figured it might be fun to do a bit of a round up of what words have been filling my ears recently.

Thunderball (read by Jason Isaacs) and Casino Royale (read by Dan Stephens), both written by Ian Fleming.

Audible has got the James Bond series completely covered, with a terrific range of actors narrating each of 007’s exotic adventures.

Thunderball with Jason Isaacs was my first ever Bond read, and it was a lot of fun, in huge part thanks to Isaacs committed performance. The story finds Bond racing against time to stop SPECTRE (and the infamous Blofeld) from detonating two stolen nuclear devices off the southern coast of the United States. Isaacs manages to find a wonderful middle ground between pure corn and weighty gravitas, which lends itself quite perfectly to the tone of the novel. Unsurprisingly, the writing does have some problems. It’s an overused term, but Bond is certainly a problematic and out-of-date character here, but I don’t think that makes his stories completely impossible to enjoy. Thunderball is a sun soaked nuclear romp, but what made it stand out beyond the performance of Isaacs is how vulnerable and dogged Bond is. In the movies he is completely slick, completely smooth in everything he does, but in this novel the line he walks between success and failure is far thinner, and his inevitable victory is harder fought.   

Casino Royale, the first of the Bond books, has aged slightly worse than Thunderball. Stephens gives a jolly performance, but as it is a more introverted tale, we spend more time with Bond’s inner thoughts. They aren’t always particularly well phrased, and are suitably misogynistic for a gentleman bachelor from the 1950s. Of course, you probably could have guessed this even if you haven’t read the novels, and with this knowledge in your locker I’m sure you can avoid being too offended.

Underland read by Roy McMillan and written by Robert McFarlane, and Around the World in 80 Days read and written by Michael Palin.

What better way to spend a bunch of time indoors than to explore the world?

In Underland Robert McFarlane explores the deep parts of our world in an expansive and poetic prose, which, in my totally honest opinion is at times a bit much. It might work better for you though, and at times there is no denying the fact that McFarlane manages to capture the enigmatic beauty of places that we would otherwise not consider to beautiful. These are deep, dark, dangerous places, and they exist in a nether plane beneath our feet that most of us would never deign to enter. On this journey you will dive beneath Paris, into it’s dank catacombs, you will explore intricate fungal networks, and linger in the tombs of nuclear waste. It is a story of what lies beneath, all that has come before, but more importantly, what is to come next for the human race.

Around the World in 80 Days is an altogether lighter affair, no surprise I suppose considering it has a bonafide Python as author/narrator. Originally this was a BBC television programme (back in 1989!), but Audible have turned it into an engaging audio adventure, full of good humour and keen observations from one of Britain’s finest exports as he circumnavigates the globe in the faded footsteps of Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg.

Next up on my to-listen list is Once Upon a River read by Juliet Stevenson and written by Diane Setterfield. Why? Well, for the same reason you pick up any book on a bookshelf, the blurb intrigued me:

A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child. 

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.  

Is it a miracle?  

Is it magic?  

Or can it be explained by science?’   

And, also, the above four selections have given me quite enough old white bloke content for a while, nice as I’m sure they all are.

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