The Hobbit (audiobook) | The Adventure Zone: Balance, "Moonlighting"
Wizards, dwarves and warriors abound.
AUDIOBOOK REVIEW // The Hobbit
Book summary: Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely travelling further than the pantry of his hobbit-hole in Bag End. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard, Gandalf, and a company of thirteen dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day, to whisk him away on a journey ‘there and back again’. (Google Play Store)
I hadn't read The Hobbit for a long while, so it was interesting to go through it again as an audiobook, especially come so soon after watching the movie trilogy adaptation. I have to say that I think the movies must've really soured my memory of the book, because I absolutely loved it and was genuinely frustrated that it had to end - a stark comparison to the Lord of the Rings audiobooks which I now think I rated a little too highly.
Part of it is the story, which was a lot of fun to go through and made me realise that a single movie adaptation wouldn't have worked thanks to the sheer number of locations, characters and mini-adventures that take place. Even more so than the Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit really gave me a sense of just how large and varied Middle-Earth is as a setting, and the variety of peoples living in it.
The best example of how much better the (audio)book is than the movies is the final battle, which Bilbo almost entirely misses due to being knocked out early on, with only the invisibility granted by the One Ring saving him from being killed before he woke. I get that movies and books are very different forms of media, but the book feels more epic in scale despite the lack of visuals and the title character not being all that involved.
We might not get much of the battle, but Tolkien's descriptions of how it all unfolds creates a greater sense of danger and that this really was a life and death struggle between opposing forces intent on killing each other rather than CGI bodies acting in way to make the battle more visually interesting rather than acting like armies would do when they want to destroy their enemies.
A big reason for why this all works so well here in comparison to the Lord of the Rings audiobooks is the performance of Andy Serkis, who plays Gollum in the movies. His narration is excellent and his talent for providing so many unique voices to make so many different characters stand out from each other elevates this audiobook substantially.
It should go without saying that his shining moment is the contest of riddles between Bilbo and Gollum, with Serkis using the same voice here as he does in the movies. It's a little strange at first, because none of the other characters sound like their movie counterparts (although he does seem to be imitating Lee Pace's Thranduil somewhat), but he's just so good in the role that you don't care.
If anything, Gandalf's description of Bilbo as "only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all" feels a perfect description for The Hobbit, with much smaller stakes and a more personal story taking place across vast distances and in so many locations that the world really does feel huge. It might not be as serious or as ultimately important as the War of the Ring, but Bilbo's adventure with Gandalf and the dwarves is definitely much more enjoyable as an audiobook.
The Hobbit makes for an excellent audiobook, both for being a great story in the first place and also thanks to Andy Serkis' excellent narration, providing distinctive voices for the array of characters featured - including his 'Gollum voice' from the movies. It's a top production from start to finish that I'm sure I'll listen to again soon and would thoroughly recommend it.
[10/10 - Incredible]
PODCAST REVIEW // The Adventure Zone: Balance, "Moonlighting"
Story summary: In this interlude chapter to the Adventure Zone saga, the mysteries of the universe are revealed to our heroes. (The Adventure Zone)
There's a lot about "Moonlighting" that may put some people off, as there's a huge information dump, with a lot of backstory and world-building in just a short time with little plot progression, but this is exposition done very well. Too often, stories can trip up by having to explain something to the audience that the characters should already know, making them seem like idiots for needing things explained to them again.
Here, the trio of Taako, Merle and Magnus have no idea what's going on, so the information being received is just as vital for them as it is for the audience, justifying being given out in this manner. There were issues understanding others in the first story arc, but even once this effect is negated (thanks to the Voidfish), they're still not any clearer on what's happening and need explanations about what the newly-met Bureau of Balance is and what they do.
It's a bit of a slow piece of the story as a result, but is vital to where the plot will eventually lead and you should pay more attention than the leading trio do if you want any hints about where this is all going. On the other hand, there's also a lot of out-of-character work as the three all level up and have to figure out how to do that too - as someone who likes role-playing games, I like this (and I know that they get better at it), but a lot of talking about numbers isn't going to be for everyone.
"Moonlighting" may well be an interlude chapter and very little plot progression features across the three episodes, but a lot of world-building is done with the introduction of the Bureau of Balance and key characters who will re-appear regularly. It does mean a lot of exposition and number-crunching, but the former is done well and the latter is still interesting, although won't be for all audiences.