The Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe is a book written by Daniel Defoe. It is widely considered to be one of the top 100 greatest books of all time. This great novel will surely attract a whole new generation of listeners. For many, The Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe is required reading for various courses and curriculums. And for others who simply enjoy reading timeless pieces of classic literature, this gem by Daniel Defoe is highly recommended.
Narrator Tom Aaron gives an accessible performance of this timeless classic, and his voice flows easily as Robinson Crusoe tells the story of the shipwreck that leaves him stranded on a Caribbean island for several years. Aaron adds youthfulness and vigor to Crusoe's recollections of his adventures: from his encounters with cannibals to his rescue of other shipwrecked sailors with the help of his native servant, Friday. Robinson's tales are familiar to generations by now, and Aaron shares them with zest and earnestness.
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After listening to the original Robinson Crusoe volume, I decided to listen to the sequel as well. Tom Aaron does a competent job narrating it, although I struggled at first with his American accent, after the mellifluous British tones of Simon Vance and John Lee.
In some ways, the story is just as adventurous as the original. Crusoe goes back down to the sea and this time covers even more territory. He revisits his old island, where a small colony of Spanish and English settlers, with some natives, has begun to thrive. A large part of the first half of the book is taken up with the story of this colony in Crusoe's absence. These are, for the most part, the people Crusoe left behind when he was rescued, and as such it ties up one of the major loose ends from the original.
From there, Crusoe continues to the East Indies, mostly as a merchant, but also as an insatiably curious traveller (and sometimes a tone-deaf cultural ambassador). He visits the Bay of Tonkin in what is now Vietnam; he goes to China, visits Nanking and Peking, and begins a massive trek across Russia to the port of Arkangel.
One of the products Crusoe is carrying in his hold is, of course, opium. Wars were fought, many years later, between China and various European powers over this: China objected to the opium trade because of its degrading effect on society; Europe insisted on being allowed to continue it. In many ways Crusoe was (unfortunately) a man of his times, but in this respect he was (unfortunately) ahead of it. He sells his vast cargo of opium to a Japanese merchant, relieving himself of numerous aspersions on this "cruel race" in the process. (Bridget Jones's mother would have been proud.)
In his trek across Russia, Crusoe is horrified to witness the "demon worship" of Tartars, who bow down before an idol. Rather than trying to persuade them of their "error," he gathers a party for a midnight raid on the village, packs the head of the idol with gunpowder, and sets it on fire. A priest and several others who are nearby are tied up and forced to watch the desecration of their sacred object. The trek across Russia is then spiced up a bit as thousands of Tartars pursue the marauding party, seeking revenge. Crusoe and his companions escape by a couple of clever ruses.
Friday, unfortunately, dies fairly early in the book. I guess that qualifies as a spoiler, but you probably should know that going in.
Despite its flaws, The Further Adventures is a pretty good listen. As in the first book, Defoe is able to create a surprisingly strong sense of reality: it's easy to forget you're reading fiction rather than an actual memoir. Crusoe himself feels like a real person, impetuous and given to anger (and racism), but always ready to learn something new.