I’m assuming that you know about Dune, so I’ll not detail it here. Did you watch Farscape? If you did, you’ll remember that everyone save the US astronaut thrown into that weird setting spoke with a variety of Australian accents? Well welcome to the Macmillan Audio full cast adaptation of the Hugo Award winning novel where everyone has a British accent. Snark by me notwithstanding, this is a superb production well worth the time to listen to it.
I first encountered this novel in the late seventies and have read it maybe a half dozen times since then. I consider it one of the finest sf novels ever written, so I was delighted when the publicist for the Macmillan Audio sent me this some years back. (Digression: I adore downloads for review copies of audiobooks as, if I remember correctly this came on some two dozen audiobook discs!) I admit that I was nervous that it wouldn’t live up up to my memories of the novel as a reading experience.
I’m not discussing the novel because I’m reasonably sure that you’ve got more than a passing familiarity of it; if you do not, trust me and go read it after you read this review; it is without doubt of one of the finest novels ever written and certainly is in my top ten sf novels I’ve experienced. Though you could just listen to this instead as I’ll detail shortly. Either way you’re for a treat.
When adapting text to a full cast production, the writer doing so irretrievably changes the source. Where the text might say that The Baron in a deep voice said follow that man and see what he’s doing, the framing words must be carried by the voice actor doing that character by using his skills as an actor. Now some audio productions have one or two actors voice all of the characters, but I must admit I do prefer this approach when it’s done right as it is here.
Baron Harkonnen works better here for me than he does either in the weirdly awful David Lynch directed Dune film or the Scifi miniseries of the novel.
The cast here is brilliant. Consisting of Scott Brick, Orlagh Cassidy, Euan Morton, Simon Vance and Ilyana Kadushin, each character, primary and secondary alike, is given a unique enough voice that telling who is who poses no problem whatsoever. Simon Vance is the narrator and does a very nice job of giving what can be a tricky text to give life to, a proper voice.
The second area of this production that makes it outstanding is the sound effects of which I include the musical score which is quite excellent. There’s not much for sound effects but there’s enough to give the story a subtle added feel.
You can hear an excerpt here.
(Macmillan Audio, 2007)