Book Review – Jeff Wayne’s The War of The Worlds: The Musical Drama

books, reviews

618b-vihcyl._sl500_5_star_rating_system_5_stars After the success of my audiobook on Sunday, I decided it was a great idea to try another one to get me out of my slump. This is the audiobook that had me go back to Audible recently. Not only do I love H.G. Wells but I really love Jeff Wayne’s music. Speaking of, I’m still extremely bitter about a pub quiz question regarding this album. It was something like “which book was the subject of an album during the 1970s?” or something like that. Obviously, I knew the answer but my friend’s dad would not listen. In the end, he answered Wuthering Heights because of Kate Bush. I was so mad and I’ve never quite let it go. A classic case of mansplaining gone wrong. Anyway, there was another reason that I was so keen to listen to this Audible Original: Michael Sheen. God, I love that man. I have done for years. Since I was about 16 in fact. He’s lovely. His face is lovely and, more importantly for an audiobook, his voice is lovely.  Also, quite fitting for him to be taking the role that was originally given to Richard Burton, right? So, I was all set to enjoy this and to be able to knock off another book this week. This audiobook thing might be the key to getting my numbers up.

This audible dramatisation of The War of the Worlds is based on the musical version by Jeff Wayne. Released in 1978, it was Wayne’s debut album and, quite frankly, it’s awesome. It’s a retelling of H.G. Wells’ classic science fiction novel in the form of a rock opera. It’s all prog rock and strings. Basically, totally epic. For the audiobook, the music of Jeff Wayne is mixed together with the narrative of Wells’ original novel. It pads out Wayne’s original concept with more narration and characterisation. Or, more accurately, it’s an audiobook that has moments of pure musical genius woven into it.

First off, the cast for this audiobook is pretty perfect. I found Carrie slightly annoying because she was doing that classic actor thing of leaving dramatic pauses in everything. Still, it didn’t put me off. I think everyone was well cast and they really brought the characters to life. Michael Sheen plays the journalist, unnamed in the original book but here called George. George is one of the first people to experience the Martian invasion along with Oglivy, an astronomer who first noticed strange behaviour on the Red Planet.

After the strange cylinders start to fall to Earth and the Martians begin attacking, George realises that he must get his wife to safety. Unfortunately, the pair become separated. Carrie heads to London before escaping with two women she encounters. George finds himself in the path of danger and meets plenty of people along the way. With the Martians laying waste to so many towns and moving towards London, society is starting to break apart. Meaning the pair must not only survive the invasion but also the people they meet along the way. Can the couple get back to each other?

Jeff Wayne’s musical accompaniment to the novel really does add an extra layer of tension and drama. It’s certainly not a distraction nor does it overwhelm the story. The score only heightens the mood and really helps build the scene. And the original score has been updated slightly for the new adaptation. Not in such a dramatic way that you won’t recognise it but enough to give everything a slightly fresh and contemporary feel. I mostly read this book in bed which is a really bad idea because it’s so atmospheric. You can’t help but get sucked into it and the tension becomes very real.

As a story, War of the Worlds is still a classic and this dramatisation is fairly faithful. There are several changes to the novel which gives it an original feel. I liked the fact that Carrie’s character was given more to do as she took the place of the journalist’s brother. I loved the way the story played out. Everything really does work together to make a truly engaging and immersive experience. There are bound to be people who complain that there is too much music for an audiobook but I would disagree. This was a super fun dramatisation of a classic novel. It really managed to breath new life into it.

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