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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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on December 7, 2001
There is so much to be said against The Lord Of The Rings that it shouldn't be worth the effort. A book that, judged by conventional standards, contains so many appalling lapses of taste and so much coarse vulgarity really ought, by now, to have faded from sight.
From many points of view, it has dated badly, and its aesthetics and politics are now so odd that you might be forgiven for thinking, as Peter Jackson's new trilogy of movies rapidly approaches, that its appeal, after all, is one of a delicious period piece.
But all judgements have always been confounded by this extraordinary book. It ought to be too long, and too pointlessly abstruse, to command wide popularity; it is not a book for children, and yet not a book for adults either; its style is too elevated for popular literature, but too coarse for "high" literature. There is no reason on earth for anyone to like it, and there are plenty of readers who still think that the judgement of JRR Tolkien's first publisher - who was surprised when it started to look as if the book might make as much as £1,000 - was much sounder than the people who, in the past 50 years, have bought more than 100 million copies of the book.
However, by now, The Lord Of The Rings is unarguably a part of English literature. Contrary to popular belief, 100 million readers can perfectly well be wrong; but the continuing life of the book cannot just be ignored. It is just there, massively.
But, in many ways, it is just awful. It is amazingly humourless, and Tolkien knows it - over and over again, he writes " 'Come, master Pippin!' Gandalf laughed" - a very bad sign, all those laughing wizards. You don't have to be politically correct to be mildly alarmed by some aspects of it. Apart from Eowyn, the women in it are not madly significant, or allowed to do anything much. There is Galadriel, who stays at home being Wise; there are Goldberry or Rose, who stay at home being Patient Helpmeets; there are Lobelia Sackville Baggins and Shelob, who stay at home being completely ghastly.
It is an appallingly naïve fantasy of good and evil races; mostly, the good people are tall and blond and speak Nordic or Celtic languages, and the bad ones are dark and hairy and talk a sort of Persian - those guttural dwarves are allowed a sort of virtue, but it is rather grudging in tone. Sam Gamgee is a loyal retainer of the most frightful variety, still "Mr Frodo-ing" away and knowing his place 1,000 pages in; basically, he is Dickens's Sam Weller, and Tolkien couldn't even be bothered to change his name.
Tolkien probably knew as much about language as anyone, but it would be fair to say that his interest stopped at grammatical inflection. The Lord of the Rings, by ordinary standards, is just badly written. Great swathes of it are in a sort of Ben-Hur biblical: "And all the host laughed and wept, and in the midst of their merriment and tears the clear voice of the minstrel rose like silver and gold, and all men were hushed. And he sang to them... until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords..."
There are endless mock subtleties of the "It seemed to Sam that he saw..." variety. And there is, too, that infallible sign of a really bad writer, the overuse of the word "suddenly". Everything in The Lord of the Rings happens suddenly, dozens of times a chapter. And yet it is one of those very rare books that confounds all objections, all standards, and which in the end may make its own standards. Nobody, I think, has ever produced anything with the imaginative density and intricacy of the book. The reviewer's cliché is, for once, apt here; he really created a world.
The power and resonance of the book come in part from an ethical debate that is much more adult than one remembers - it is haunted by the cruelty of its age, and is not, in fact, just about the alternative of Good and Evil, the elves and the orcs, but largely about the possibility of becoming evil through the best intentions. It is really about slow corruption, and is at its finest in the portraits of Saruman and Denethor, characters who it is not difficult to parallel in 20th-century history.
But its claim on real greatness comes from the sense of huge, half-glimpsed vistas of history and language, the illusion (which may not be an illusion) that its author knew exactly the languages each of its characters would have spoken and understood the events of ancient history that lead all of them to act as they do.
In a realistic novelist, writing about a real war, this would be a remarkable feat of intelligence; when you consider that Tolkien invented absolutely everything - the backstory, the languages, the geography - it quickly becomes almost incredible. At some point, the critics and the literati have to admit that they were just wrong, and, by now, it is probably time to start considering his extraordinary flight of imagination as one of the key works of modern literature.
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on December 7, 2001
There is so much to be said against The Lord Of The Rings that it shouldn't be worth the effort. A book that, judged by conventional standards, contains so many appalling lapses of taste and so much coarse vulgarity really ought, by now, to have faded from sight.
From many points of view, it has dated badly, and its aesthetics and politics are now so odd that you might be forgiven for thinking, as Peter Jackson's new trilogy of movies rapidly approaches, that its appeal, after all, is one of a delicious period piece.
But all judgements have always been confounded by this extraordinary book. It ought to be too long, and too pointlessly abstruse, to command wide popularity; it is not a book for children, and yet not a book for adults either; its style is too elevated for popular literature, but too coarse for "high" literature. There is no reason on earth for anyone to like it, and there are plenty of readers who still think that the judgement of JRR Tolkien's first publisher - who was surprised when it started to look as if the book might make as much as £1,000 - was much sounder than the people who, in the past 50 years, have bought more than 100 million copies of the book.
However, by now, The Lord Of The Rings is unarguably a part of English literature. Contrary to popular belief, 100 million readers can perfectly well be wrong; but the continuing life of the book cannot just be ignored. It is just there, massively.
But, in many ways, it is just awful. It is amazingly humourless, and Tolkien knows it - over and over again, he writes " 'Come, master Pippin!' Gandalf laughed" - a very bad sign, all those laughing wizards. You don't have to be politically correct to be mildly alarmed by some aspects of it. Apart from Eowyn, the women in it are not madly significant, or allowed to do anything much. There is Galadriel, who stays at home being Wise; there are Goldberry or Rose, who stay at home being Patient Helpmeets; there are Lobelia Sackville Baggins and Shelob, who stay at home being completely ghastly.
It is an appallingly naïve fantasy of good and evil races; mostly, the good people are tall and blond and speak Nordic or Celtic languages, and the bad ones are dark and hairy and talk a sort of Persian - those guttural dwarves are allowed a sort of virtue, but it is rather grudging in tone. Sam Gamgee is a loyal retainer of the most frightful variety, still "Mr Frodo-ing" away and knowing his place 1,000 pages in; basically, he is Dickens's Sam Weller, and Tolkien couldn't even be bothered to change his name.
Tolkien probably knew as much about language as anyone, but it would be fair to say that his interest stopped at grammatical inflection. The Lord of the Rings, by ordinary standards, is just badly written. Great swathes of it are in a sort of Ben-Hur biblical: "And all the host laughed and wept, and in the midst of their merriment and tears the clear voice of the minstrel rose like silver and gold, and all men were hushed. And he sang to them... until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords..."
There are endless mock subtleties of the "It seemed to Sam that he saw..." variety. And there is, too, that infallible sign of a really bad writer, the overuse of the word "suddenly". Everything in The Lord of the Rings happens suddenly, dozens of times a chapter. And yet it is one of those very rare books that confounds all objections, all standards, and which in the end may make its own standards. Nobody, I think, has ever produced anything with the imaginative density and intricacy of the book. The reviewer's cliché is, for once, apt here; he really created a world.
The power and resonance of the book come in part from an ethical debate that is much more adult than one remembers - it is haunted by the cruelty of its age, and is not, in fact, just about the alternative of Good and Evil, the elves and the orcs, but largely about the possibility of becoming evil through the best intentions. It is really about slow corruption, and is at its finest in the portraits of Saruman and Denethor, characters who it is not difficult to parallel in 20th-century history.
But its claim on real greatness comes from the sense of huge, half-glimpsed vistas of history and language, the illusion (which may not be an illusion) that its author knew exactly the languages each of its characters would have spoken and understood the events of ancient history that lead all of them to act as they do.
In a realistic novelist, writing about a real war, this would be a remarkable feat of intelligence; when you consider that Tolkien invented absolutely everything - the backstory, the languages, the geography - it quickly becomes almost incredible. At some point, the critics and the literati have to admit that they were just wrong, and, by now, it is probably time to start considering his extraordinary flight of imagination as one of the key works of modern literature.
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