on February 9, 2004
I'm a big LOTR fan. I hoped to find this a way to enjoy the books while walking, etc. And up to now it has been wonderful.
The production of this audiobook is great (five stars)--the care in putting it together physically is nil stars--so I've opted for three.
Inglis manages to bring Middle Earth and its inhabitants to life--and while some say he sounds bored at times, I think it may be that curious "story-telling" inflection, not boredom at all. It's like having someone tell you a rousing good story without being over dramatic and loud. No musical distractions No bombast, no sound effects. Just a warm, jolly voice telling me a great tale. Although I must say I was disappointed not to hear the prologue.
However, I am missing disk 16. I see someone else is missing disk 15. I wonder if the makers were in a rush to get some product out there after the success of the films, and were a bit lax in quality control.
I wish to make it clear that in NO way do I blame AMAZON for this problem. They have been more than fair...and I am quite happy with their service and wouldn't hesitate to deal with them again. I will also say that the package arrived almost a full month before I expected it! I will put it down to a freak of packaging.
Still...one anticipates, and I am disappointed.
on February 16, 2003
This full-cast abridgement of THE LORD OF THE RINGS is The Mind's Eye version produced for American radio in 1979, several years before the infinitely superior BBC version with Ian Holm. The eleven-hour-plus dramatization deserves recognition as a sincere, pioneering attempt to bring J. R. R. Tolkien's epic fantasy to imaginative life for an American audience in a way that the animated films of the period could not. The production was very well-received at the time and appreciated as a folk-culture event. Radio drama has been a rarity in the United States since the early 1950's whereas it has always thrived in the United Kingdom. (There had been an early British radio broadcast of LotR of which Tolkien, who disliked dramatic forms in general, disapproved.) While the subsequent 1981 BBC masterwork is a lavish, technically dazzling production sporting internationally acclaimed actors, the humble Mind's Eye version, utilizing a small cast of local-theatre players, is a low-budget, no-frills affair reputed to have been recorded in a bathroom in Pittsburgh with the microphone taped to a rubber duck. Most of the voices are wrong and pronunciation awkward, but everyone makes an enthusiastic effort, which is the main reason that the marathon show remains so endearing despite its uneven quality. Scriptwriter Bernard Mayes had his task cut out for him, considering that it no doubt was a labor of love which had to be done quickly for little or no money. According to the conventions of the radio drama format, the adaptation emphasizes dialogue over description, and while the merest sketch of the novel, Mayes' script is generally an effective condensation, highlighted by the inclusion of the beloved Tom Bombadil episode. Scripter Mayes also plays Gandalf quite splendidly and his fine, robust performance make this version worth a listen for all but the most cringing of purists. Gale Chugg (a notable cartoon voice) gives a spirited and straightforward account of the narration and doubles as a delightfully creepy Gollum. Other voices do not fare so well, but weaknesses among the supporting cast would mean little if the protagonists were not so drastically miscast. Samwise (Lou Bliss) is energetic and cheeky but sounds like a contemporary Noo Yawk street kid; while Frodo (James Arrington) starts out with an appropriate clear-speaking earnestness, only to become a monotonous, whining drone when crushed by the terrible burden of the evil One Ring. This means that THE RETURN OF THE KING, which places an inordinate burden of its own on these young actors, is rendered a painfully draggy conclusion to the epic narrative. The overall result would not seem such a travesty if so much better had not since come from Ian Holm, Martin Shaw, Rob Inglis and of course the Peter Jackson films. For all its gross imperfection, The Mind's Eye LORD OF THE RINGS maintains a nostalgic charm for listeners who can be forgiving of the primitive circumstances of the little production and focus on its historocity and ambitious, well-meaning intent.
on April 27, 2002
Everyone knows at least some of the plot, so I won't go into that.
I found Fellowship of the Ring to be rather dull, except for a few scenes.
I found Two Towers to be little better, and by the beginning of the Return of the King I was sick of the whole thing. The biggest problem had to be their change of speech.Did anyone else notice that in the beginning they talked just about the same as one might hear walking down the street, and that by the end of The Return of the King the characters sounded like they were quoting Shakespeare?
Also, some times Tolkien had his characters say very strange things, for example:
Sam says "Ninnyhammer! Noodles! My beautiful rope!" something like that, but.. honestly, NINNYHAMMER??
And then, before that, when discussing the elven rope, Sam also says "the rope is as soft as milk" or the like.
Anyways, overall, a great book, Tolkien really started off the entire Fantasy genre, but just because he was the first, doesn't mean he's the best. I prefer Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series, but then again, several of Jordan's stuff came from The Lord of the Rings, so.. I just don't know..
By the way, I liked the movie better, which almost NEVER happens.
on March 28, 2002
Now, this is probably going to be an unpopular review because people will see the three stars and think, "What, is he out of his mind? The Lord of the Rings is one of the best books ever written". And it is. But this is not a review of the book, it is a review of Rob Inglis' READING of the book. And the editorial raves not withstanding, I am sorry to say that this is not a reader that EVERYONE will like. Before I get lynched, here's why I think so.
I have listened to HUNDREDS of audio books. All unabridged. Inglis falls somewhere in the middle of the pack. He has a deep voice -- this would not normally be an issue were he reading a historical work. But Inglis is one of those readers who does "voices". NOw some people are genius at this. For example, the incomparable Frederick Davidson. But for Inglis, the deep voice is a liability when he tries to pitch it high to do an elf voice or, good heavens, a woman's voice. The result is very annoying.
Also, fans of the Trilogy will know that it is filled with song. Inglis' rendering of the songs was grating (at times almost embarassing) -- and got my fast forward finger working over-time. He is over-matched by this, particularly when it comes to Galadriel or Legolas.
Next there is the manner, or tone, in which Inglis has chosen to pitch his reading. He has adopted a wistful, elegiac, far away manner -- it is almost pretentious, I have to say. And it becomes tedious because he almost never varies it. He is, as the saying goes, "a bit one paced". Now, some people will like his voice and manner, I do not deny this -- because it does, as one of the editorial reviews says, emphasize the fairy tale aspect of the Trilogy.
But to me is drains some of the manliness and power from some of the dialogue. Aragorn, to me the quintessential man of action and mystery, a true hero, comes across as a man obessesed with what has been lost; a man trapped in the past. Which he clearly isn't.
Some examples. Aragorn and Boromir are virtually indistinguishable. The Hobbits (apart from Frodo), Sam in particular, are rendered in a country bumpkin voice that is out of all keeping with what I see as the inherent dignity of the Hobbits. It also serves to underscore Sam as the servant of Frodo, rather than his friend. Legolas ends up with a reedy, strained voice, because Inglis can not get into the higher register. I was left thinking, "who ever made the rule that Elves had little high voices?"
HAVING SAID ALL THAT, this is the ONLY unabridged version. And as such, falls into the "must have" category. For all of the foregoing quibbles, Inglis' reading is serviceable and entertaining. Buy it -- you will enjoy it -- but do not expect the definitive reading -- that awaits us! Which is an ocassion for celebration I suppose. Because surely it will come.
on February 7, 2002
I got this massive thing for christmas and I must say I was a bit daunted. I've read a lot of books in the 600 to 700 page realm but very few this long. So I figure it can't be to difficult, so I dove right in and what did I find?
What I found was a great concept delivered in a pretty dull fashion. The Lord of the Rings is a 1000 page epic adventure, which if you narrowed it down could have probably been a lot shorter, a lot more concise and a lot easier to read. I don't know about anyone else, but I found the endless pages of descriptions of then walking around and where the hills were in comparison to their location a bit tiresome. After a while I began to just skim over those parts and hope for some action to come.
And when the action came, it was horribly underwhelming. It was hard to realize when it should be exciting.
For example, in the climatic scene with Gollum, Frodo, and Sam in Mordor, when the climax finally happened(I don't want to go into the details and spoil it for anyone wanting to read it) I didn't really feel anything about it. Nothing at all. It sort of just went through me. Was I susposed to feel excited or something?
Anyway, I still think this book was worth reading, if not for the fact that it's one of those cultural standards that everyone has read. I give it three stars because the story is well thoughtout and Mr. Tolkien was definatly not lazy, hell he created a whole language and all those family trees. It was just more than a little dull for my liking.
By the way, i'm reading The Hobbit as we speak and finding it a much better read. Theirs no endless stream of names that I have no idea about, or endless descriptions of things I don't care about, and (gasp), I actually feel suspense in certain parts, eh gad.
on January 18, 2002
I have just yesterday finished reading the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and "the Hobbit". After being incredibly intrigued by
"the Hobbit", I can honestly say this book disappointed me. A precaution though: I loved "the Two Towers" and "the Return of the King", but "the Fellowship of the Ring" is the worst book in the series.
To begin with, lots of stuff we learn in the beginning seems irrelevent. I confess, I eventually gave up on the seemingly inconsequential prologue and skipped right to chapter 1. While this problem doesn't taint the rest of the book too much, the prologue is just too long and showcases this flaw too much to just ignore.
Even once the story begins, you still have to deal with the slow pace that I'm sure you've read about in the negative reviews. Tolkien just takes too much time describing things. Basically, the problem runs through almost the whole book, but especially in the early going. I realize some description is needed, but "the Hobbit" was just as descriptive, yet had far less space devoted to descriptions.
But there's good stuff as well, Namely the charactor interactions. Scenes like Gandalf revealing the truth about the Ring to Frodo and Frodo's chat with Gimli's father Gloin really redeem this book.
But that doesn't change the fact that this is the worst of the trilogy. I'd give it 31/2 stars, rounded down. It is true "the Fellowship of the Ring" will be remembered as the book that started the original fantasy series, but being there first only holds so much credibility. Thankfully though, "the Two Towers" and "the Return of the King" were giant steps up from this book.
on January 13, 2002
I wanted to love this book, but it just didn't happen. I liked it up until about 2/3 of the way through. Tolkien has a keen imagination and a talent for making the reader want to believe in his creations. But there's also an undramatic over-reliance on exposition in his writing that needlessly bogs down the story, ultimately putting a wedge between the characters and reader (at least this one).
I wasn't wild about "The Hobbit," but still wanted to give the world of Middle Earth another try. I thought "The Hobbit" was a pretty good little adventure-quest story spoiled by a not so great ending.
I had a similar experience with "Fellowship". For the first couple hundred pages, Tolkien had me. "Fellowship" wasn't the best book I'd ever read, but I was certainly immersed in the world, and was enjoying turning the pages.
You'll have to excuse me for going to the Titanic for a fitting metaphor, but that's the only thing I can think of at the moment. I felt like the book hit its iceberg at the Meeting of Elron, about 2/3 of the way through.
The fun-if-slow-going story comes to a screeching halt as Tolkien goes into mind-numbing hyper-exposition mode for close to 30 pages. The story continues on after that, but falteringly--the fatal damage has already been done. The book just gets heavier and heavier after that, until it just can't stay afloat.
There are some great passages and concepts in "Fellowship" (I especially liked the psychological insitefulness Tolkien displays in having the ring possess its possessor). But there is a distance in the way that Tolkien writes his characters that just kept me from becoming fully engaged.
on January 6, 2002
"The Two Towers" -- the second volume in Tolkien's model-train-set of a novel, "The Lord of the Rings" -- has fewer of the pleasures to be found in the first volume ("The Fellowship of the Ring"), while enlarging many of the first volume's faults. As everyone in the world must know by now, "The Lord of the Rings" basically tells how various good-hearted fantasy creatures strive to destroy a magic ring that, if acquired by the Enemy, would result in the end of decent society. Here the journey continues just as in the first volume, but Tolkien now moves much more slowly. He introduces us to fewer characters and "wonders" than in the first volume (most interesting, to me, were the Tree Shepherds, the revamped Gollum, and Boromir's brother), while filling many pages with tedious faux Arthurianism involving the Riders of Rohan, and with deadly landscape descriptions that are at once long-winded and vague. Nevertheless, the old excitement returns often enough -- particularly in the last few chapters -- and by the end my desire to find out what happens in the final volume was as fresh as ever.
on January 4, 2002
J.R.R. Tolkien took forever to write this book, but I think both he and I would have been saved a lot of time if he just cut down his lenghthy descriptions and stuck to the plot. The ridiculous songs, included to add an ancient, mysterious tone to the book, really don't contribute to the book's success, nor do the historical ramblings or repetitive descriptions of the characters' surroundings.
Yes, yes, I know some nut who's so caught up in fantasy that he dresses like a hobbit himself will no doubt criticize my review, stating that the descriptions and songs and countless pages of dribble make the story SO REAL and it's the alternate reality that makes this story a masterpiece. But for those of us still living on planet earth, it's just a bit too much to have to deal with the long-winded, unnecessary parts of this book.
BUT, the plot is excellent, and that's what kept me reading. Although not as exciting as The Hobbit (a superior book in my opinion), the great storyline and exciting turn of events were enough for me to call this book a good one. I will read the other books in the trilogy, now knowing what to expect.
I do recommend this book, but just realize what you're in for. If you have the patience, it's worth your time.
on December 21, 2001
I somehow made it long past adolescence without reading THE LORD OF THE RINGS books. I read THE RETURN OF THE KING and the others (in order, of course) because I wanted to before the movies came out. Somehow I didn't get into these books as much as I felt I should. I found the battle scenes no less boring than the over-extended descriptions of journey. The smaller-scale conflict, especially the part of the story revolving around Frodo and Sam were more interesting, but requiring a greater suspension of disbelief. The climatic moment in the final book (more than 100 pages before the actual end of the book) was anti-climatic in the extreme, and while a friend of mine who is a devotee of these books found Sauron's lack of appearance to be "brilliant," I was disappointed. The evil faced by our heroes had a name, but no face, I guess (the move got around this by explaining that he is non-corporeal).
Still, the last 100 pages, essentially a post-script, brought the whole series together for me. The allegory was strongest, or at least most obvious, here. The hobbits are a race of Cincinatuses, only wanting to mind their own business. They are totally innocent and un-ambitious. That's why they were the only ones who could be trusted with the evil ring. At the same time, they were all too quick to accept authoritarian rule without question or resistance. Frodo lost his innocence to save the world, but a little loss of innocence was needed to save the hobbits from their own apathy. The message of the last part of the book is that evil must be engaged; those who hope to ignore evil will be suppressed like everyone else, and ultimately give in to its ways.
As for the battles and daring escapes, they didn't do it for me. Battle participants are often built up as Davids and Goliaths, with Goliath always losing because of David's will, luck, outside help, or reasons unexplained. Seldom do our heroes' wits or cleverness get them out of trouble, more often they are saved by eagles dropping out of the sky. Still I will miss these characters and enjoyed the movies. I'm actually thinking of re-reading THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING. Maybe someday I'll re-read this one, too.