Three of the top horror novels of all time have been newly adapted into novellas, and are now side by side in this one audiobook. These world-famous monsters are familiar household names. These are the monsters that authors and filmmakers continue to draw from again and again. And these are stories that introduced them to the world over a century ago. So turn down the lights, and experience triple the action, suspense, chills, and thrills, as you listen to all three classic tales.
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I have two things to say about Joseph Lanzara and his condensed versions of Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Invisible Man. First, thank goodness he wrote it, because I don’t think I could have dragged myself through Frankenstein any other way. Second, thank goodness he had Brad Wills read it.
I’m going to expose my ignorance here, but I am mostly familiar with these stories through the many films and plays that have sprouted from them. I have read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, though it was a long time ago, but the other two are unfamiliar to me in written form. I applaud Lanzara for plucking out what I assume were the best parts in Frankenstein, though it seems he took great effort to preserve Miss Shelley’s language. I wish he hadn’t. It’s flowery, pretentious and dated, and her use of first person turns all drama into exhaustive exposition. I applaud Miss Shelley for a phenomenal story, but the years have not been kind to her text. So I was thankful for Wills’ superb character voices. He did his best to lighten the weight of her words and for the most part, succeeded admirably, though I didn’t envy him his task.
I wish Frankenstein were the last story in the book, because in my very humble opinion, I found it the least interesting of the three. Dracula was like meeting up with an old friend, albeit a friend that had changed a bit from the original, as I recall. I won’t spoil this for future listeners, but the twist Lanzara gave Jonathan Harker’s character -- though it’s logical -- was disconcerting, because it was unexpected. Maybe he felt this particular change in the character arc was necessary to condense the book. He’s not the first to approach the story in this way, but if my memory is correct, the original takes a different route.
Wills grabs this tale off the printed page and leaps with it onto the stage. If you like old radio dramas, you’ll love his rendition. I give him credit; Dracula has two strong women characters, and Wills conveys their femininity and strength beautifully, without rising into a falsetto or otherwise trying to do a realistic impression of a woman’s voice. And his Abraham van Helsing is completely endearing. I listened to Dracula (and the other stories) on a long, July road trip. All the time, I thought how nice it would be to have friends over on a chilly October night, light a fire, turn down the lights and play this story for them.
I have to admit, after hours of death, destruction, and wolves howling on the moors (the latter from my own imagination), I was delighted to reach H.G. Wells’s The Invisible Man. Of course, Wells and Stoker both wrote closer to our own times, so their language isn’t the problem that Shelley’s is. But Wells’s language has a lightness to it that was a joy to hear, particularly as interpreted by Wills. I couldn’t stop grinning as I listened to Mr. Thomas Marvel in the first chapter, and I belly-laughed twice. Wills absolutely rocks this character, as he does the other characters in the story. Having never read the original -- again, I expose my ignorance -- I can’t tell you if Lanzara left out any important elements. But the story flowed well and quickly, and I have no complaints. Well, except for the point where the invisible man begins to tell his story and once again we slip into a long first person exposition. But is this Lanzara’s fault? I doubt it.
This review is just about as long as the audiobook, which runs nearly nine hours. But if you’re looking for something in the classics that is above and beyond the usual dry audiobook, download this one. Joseph Lanzara and Brad Wills will provide luscious entertainment on any dark and stormy night.
I have to confess that the last time I listened to an audio book was in the 90’s. It was a dreadful book read by the author with lots of swallowing, lip smacking, and pregnant pauses. It made a long commute seem that much longer. Imagine my surprise and delight when listening to this trio of classic tales; Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Bram Stoker's Dracula, H. G. Wells' The Invisible Man: Classic Monster Novels Condensed [Abridged] [Audible Audio Edition] by Joseph Lanzara (Author), Mary Shelley (Author), Bram Stoker (Author), H. G. Wells (Author), Brad Wills (Narrator). The collaboration between Lanzara and Wills on this audio book was mesmerizing. The quality of the recording is superb. Joseph Lanzara has done a great job condensing these stories for the modern listener while maintaining a sense of the time period in which they were written. The essence of each story remains without clutter or a slowing down of the tempo. Words don’t feel wasted. Brad Wills’ narration of Lanzara’s work is masterful and the real show piece of this book. Wills brings a depth to these stories that eclipse the written word. His interpretation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was my favorite. He managed to capture the fanaticism and horror of Victor Frankenstein in equal measure. It fascinated me that he could manipulate his voice in such a way as to give one a real sense of Victor’s character and his crisis. Brad also imbued Victor’s creature with genuine pain and longing. The story evolved in the telling from a “scary story” to an exposé of the human condition. Wills’ rendering of the creature’s need for connection, love and understanding was truly heart wrenching. The creature’s quest to comprehend his creator and his purpose in the world is a timeless, human theme; one that resonates with today’s reader. Brad also brought talent to his reading of Dracula. I felt a chill go up my spine when poor Jonathan Harker found himself trapped in Dracula’s castle, surrounded by the trio of vampires and then rescued by the Count only to discover that he was being saved for the Count’s nefarious purposes. Dracula came alive in all his wickedness. This is a story for "a dark and stormy night" in the capable hands of Brad Wills. The final reading of the trio, The Invisible Man, is also well told. I enjoyed Wills’ use of what I can only assume is a Cockney accent for his version of Griffin. I am now intrigued by the unlimited possibilities of audio books. They become a sort of fusion of the written word and theater when done properly. I will look forward to my next audio book, especially if it is of the same caliber and quality as the work of Joseph Lanzara and Brad Wills.