Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams (William Heinemann, 1992); audiobook read by Martin Freeman (Bolinda, 2006) An ingeniously plotted novel—by far the most coherent of the Hitchhiker’s books—and one in which Adams at last paid attention to characterisation; but the effect is spoiled somewhat by an incongruous (if by then expected) jokiness in the prose style.
Doctor Who: The Stone Rose by Jacqueline Rayner (BBC, 2006); abridged audiobook read by David Tennant (BBC Audio, 2006) David Tennant’s narration goes some way towards saving this novel, but for all his exuberance the plot remains structured around obtuse main characters and a pantheon of dei ex machina. (Additionally, the Doctor’s escapades at the Flavian Amphitheatre form a new…
Hitler’s Daughter by Jackie French (HarperCollins, 1999); audiobook read by Caroline Lee (Bolinda, 2014) The framing narrative of this cleverly structured middle grade book sees three rural Aussie kids sharing a story while waiting for their school bus. The tale of Hitler’s daughter raises the disturbing question: should children be held responsible for their parents’ beliefs.
The Truth by Michael Palin (Orion, 2012); audiobook read by Alex Jennings (Tantor, 2013) Michael Palin, having made a career observing all parts of the world, crafts fiction that feels very real. The Truth flows like a river, slow but deep, its protagonist (captured perfectly by Alex Jennings) gradually breaking free from passivity and cosmic irony.
Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett (Victor Gollancz, 1996); audiobook read by Nigel Planer (ISIS, 1999) Feet of Clay continues the examination of racism (on the Discworld, species-ism) begun in Men at Arms, adding little except welcome reiteration. Although the golems make for interesting characters, Fred Colon and Nobby Nobbs—two of Pratchett’s less explicably favoured creations—don’t.
Doctor Who: Survival by Rona Munro (Target, 1990); audiobook read by Lisa Bowerman (BBC Audio, 2018) The Target range of Doctor Who books for the most part offered mere echoes of the televised serials. Survival is something of an exception, Rona Munro turning her scripts into a straightforward but effective novel operating free of the story’s on-screen limitations.
Jeeves in the Offing by P. G. Wodehouse (Herbert Jenkins, 1960); audiobook read by Ian Carmichael (Chivers, 1990) ‘In the Offing’ is an apt title, for the valet Jeeves remains all but absent from this novel, leaving Bertie Wooster to thrive on his own initiative and witterings, thwarted less by inherent haplessness than by the tangled Gordian knot of circumstance.…
The Sarah Jane Adventures: Deadly Download by Jason Arnopp; audiobook read by Elisabeth Sladen (AudioGO, 2010) Cyber safety gets the alien treatment as the internet paves the way for mind control (through curiously unnecessary hardware reassembly). Elisabeth Sladen again reads with distinction but this audio adventure still comes across as a rather lightweight observance of the show’s formula.