Top critical review
Twelve Hours with the Thief of Time
on August 24, 2001
Experimentation can be an amazing and fruitful endeavor. Where would we be if our ancestors hadn’t experimented with fire, horticulture, or metallurgy? What would life be like if Claudius Galen hadn’t experimented with physiology, if Galileo hadn’t experimented with falling bodies (no, I’m not referring to corpses), if Pierre and Marie Curie hadn’t isolated radium and polonium from uranium ore? What kind of world would we live in without the experimentation of Edison, Tesla, or the Wright brothers? Experimentation is nearly always a good thing. That is, with the possible exception of the audio book presentation of Terry Pratchett’s, Thief of Time by Fantastic Audio. I was drawn to this adaptation in Pratchett’s Discworld series due to the presence of Harlan Ellison, whose work as a voice actor is as exceptional as is his work on the written page. Ellison doesn’t just read the words he lives the part, and that is the beginning of the problems with this audio book because Ellison isn’t given a role, but only paragraphs, sentences, and fragments of sentences. Listed as “a guest appearance by Harlan Ellison”, his role comes off more like someone hired to patch holes left by others. In the twelve hours, Ellison’s appearances come across as startling and discordant due to their dropped-in nature. I don’t blame Ellison, but I do hold the producer, Stefan Rudnicki, responsible for wasting not only the talents of Ellison, but also those of the other actors in this audio book adaptation: Christopher Cazenove, Gabrielle De Cuir, Karesa McElheny, and John Rubinstein. Their talents are diluted by Rudnicki’s experimentation with identification of characters. Each of the actors is given certain characters to portray through most of the eight tapes, but near the end chaos reigns supreme as actors switch roles and voice characterizations! If you’re like me and listen to an audiotape to make your commute to and from work bearable, this type of experimentation is frustrating, jarring, and drains the pleasure I derive from the authors work. Fortunately, the quality of Pratchett’s wit and his mastery of satire and parody shine through and I will sample his written works. It remains to be seen if I will experiment with other audio book adaptations by Fantastic Audio (an imprint of American Audio Literature, Inc.) in the future, but it’s unlikely...