Audiobook Editions

I will,' he went on, `tell you the story of what has happened to me, if you like, but you must refrain from interruptions. I want to tell it. Badly. Most of it will sound like lying. So be it! It's true--every word of it, all the same.

There are a lot of audiobook versions of "The Time Machine" out there.

That's what happens to books that travel through time and reach the public domain.

Most of the audio editions are worth your time and dollars.
Some obscure versions are even worth tracking down, though they're hard to find.

I've focused on some of the more notable audio editions -- and their idiosyncrasies --
on this page. Editions that are available have their titles linked to their pages at Amazon.Com.

No one has yet... as far as I know... recorded the Holt Version,
either by design or by accident.

The most glaring omission: Why don't we have a version narrated by Rod Taylor?
Seems like a natural!

The Incredible Time Machine by H.G. Wells (Jabberwocky) 1973 Cassette

Adapted and Directed by Bob Lewis, featuring Bernard Mayes as the Time Traveler, with Rick Cimino, Joseph Gostanian, James Arrington, and Carolyn Lewis. ISBN 0-88142002-6. The Mind's Eye, Produced by Jabberwocky, P.O. Box 6727, San Francisco, CA 94101. Performance copyright date 1973.

1 Hour - Dramatized

Fans of Monty Python will remember "The Knights (pronounced kuh-nye-gets) Who Say 'Nee!' "  in the film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." Well, in this faithful - but rather lifeless - hour-long dramatized adaptation, the Morlocks actually say "Nee!" as they caper about.

The background music is sparse and very, very old; the sound effects are rudimentary (feedback through a spring-reverb amp creates the sound of time travelling); and the acting is a bunch of us yanks trying to put on upper-class British accents. The attempt at Brit laughter around the Time Traveler's table (Haw, haw, haw!) is teeth-grinding. The Eloi sound suspiciously like prairie dogs... and giggle in the speeded-up style of the Munchkins. The acting is semi-competent, but rather undifferentiated: The Time Traveler sounds as shocked by the sight of rhododendrons as he is by the Morlocks. The performance of "Weena" is particularly distressing.

In one of the oddest "abridgments" ever, the Time Traveler only travels to 800,701... sacrificing a full 2,000 years - one assumes - on the altar of brevity.

Grade: D+

kingsleytm.gif (13377 bytes)  A Natural Infinity of the Flesh

The Time Machine (Dove Audio) (1994) Cassette

Performed by Ben Kingsley, Executive Producers Michael Viner and Deborah Raffin, Directed by Deborah Raffin, Production Coordinator Cindy Jo Hinkleman. ISBN 1-55800-885-3.

Unabridged Reading; Three Hours and Twenty Minutes on two Dolby Cassettes.

I like Ben Kingsley. I like him in "Searching for Bobby Fischer." I'm glad that he landed the title role... as opposed to, say, Robert Redford... in "Ghandi." They were right to give him the Oscar. Ben Kingsley is great on screen. He has a wonderful intensity that's conveyed even when he's not speaking... you can see the mental wheels turning. He acts "thinking silently" better than anyone in the entire world.

That's lost in an audio book, however, and this reading is at times oddly flat, unenthusiastic and slow-moving. If we could watch Ben Kingsley's face during the frequent pauses, this would be a tour de force. But we can't. Perhaps some would prefer this style of reading; perhaps it's even what the producers intended. It... is... a.... bit... slow... however. Three hours and twenty minutes -- the Commuter's Library unabridged reading is two and a half hours. That's a rather dramatic difference in pace.

There is a major gaffe in the first few minutes of the tape. When Wells writes about humankind's indifference to the constant passage of time, because our consciousness flows along with it, he terms this "a natural infirmity of the flesh."

Ben Kingsley reads this as  "a natural infinity of the flesh." 

The error eluded both Kingsley and Executive Producer and Director Deborah Raffin (herself a former actress; "Dance of the Dwarfs," 1983; "Ski Lift to Death," 1978;  "Jacqueline Susann's Once is not Enough", 1975). The task of offering desperately needed direction to Ben Kingsley ("Pick it up a little, Ben, and for God's sake, put some more punch into it!") would be an imposing task for most for us. But the IMDB lists five movie producing credits for Raffin since 1996; she's been quite successful behind the scenes; perhaps, minor gaffe aside, this is the way she envisioned (enheard?) the book.

Grade: B-

Click here to enlarge the front side of the Alien Voices case  The Quality You've Come to Expect from Leonard Nimoy!

Alien Voices� Presents H.G. Wells' The Time Machine (1997) CD

Alien Voices� Presents H.G. Wells' The Time Machine (1997)Cassette

Simon and Shuster Audio Dramatization starring Leonard Nimoy and John de Lancie. Featuring Roxann Dawson, Robert Ellenstein, Marnie Mosiman, Andrew Robinson, Armin Shimerman. With Keegan de Lancie and Owen de Lancie. Directed by Jack Fletcher. Script by Nat Segaloff. Music composed and performed by Peter Erskine.

Listen to three different MP3 audio samples: The Beginning 9 Mb, Time Travel 10 Mb, Saving Weena 8 Mb

Ooh, I hated this at first sight and at first listen. Hated it.

First, there's this pomposity on the back cover: "After years of being associated with other people's projects, we wanted to enter the next century at the helm of our own," said Leonard Nimoy, best known for his portrayal of Mr. Spock in the original Star Trek productions. "Alien Voices gives us a chance to work with other artists who also want to branch out, yet still provide audiences with the quality they've come to expect from us."

As regards that legendary quality we've come to expect, let me ask you a question. Have you ever heard Leonard Nimoy sing "Proud Mary?" That happened one time when Nimoy decided to 'branch out,' and speaking for myself, that's the quality I've come to expect. If ever there was a guy who has not suffered from his association with other people's projects, it's Nimoy. This notion that Nimoy and his compatriots have been somehow held back by the people who have employed them in the past -- is downright silly.

(Parenthetically, if you're the kind of person who can't hear The William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger, prepare yourself for "Mr. Spock, Time Traveler.")

Nimoy also is quoted, on the back cover, as saying: "We are presenting Verne, Wells and other giants of the science fiction genre as they, themselves, might have wished to be heard." Well... maybe. Or maybe they would have preferred that you read their books.

You may come to think that this production is waiting for the next century  after you push the play button. Fully three-and-a-half minutes pass before anything happens. There's two minutes of music at the head, and it's another 1.5 minutes before the story gets underway. This probably has to do with the format of the "Alien Voices" series, which I assume runs on radio somewhere, but... well, it's a bit much.

Stealing a page from the Pal film, Filby is the narrator here. (Wonder if that's something Wells might have wished? And if so, why didn't he write it that way?) The Time Traveler is given the name John, who calls Filby "Filby." (And everyone else involved in this effort has the last name "de Lancie").

Another reason to hate this version right off the bat is the initial meeting between The Time Traveler and his guests. Nimoy's troupe interprets this not as intellectual sparring, but rather as bad tempers flaring. The opening scene turns into a yelling match. Nimoy's Time Traveler sounds positively furious at his guests. Everybody is annoyed with everybody else; you get the impression that The Time Traveler may set off on his journey just to get away from this bunch.

The adlibs by the Time Traveler's guests are terrible. And the producers  wanted to use sound effects wherever possible... but did we have to hear the guests knocking on the table as they're saying, "Well, we'll look under the table?"

All of that said, I have to admit... I started to like this version more... when it became Nimoy's monologue in the world of 802,701. Actually, it gets quite good. And Nimoy gets quite good! In the words of Sebastian Cabot: "I'll be damned!" 

Major Quibble 1: The voices of the Eloi are run through an audio processor and the results are robotic -- inappropriate and distracting. Oh! Wait! I get it! That's the "Alien Voice!" Never mind.

Quibble 2: A new character -- an Eloi named "Meendo" -- has been added for purposes of convenience. I don't think Wells would have liked "Meendo" any more than I did.

Bottom line: Seriously flawed, but  listenable and even kind of fun... if you're willing to switch off a few critical faculties.

Grade: C+
(Three MP3 audio samples above made by Sandra Petojvic, May 4, 2014)

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So engrossing, you'll be pleased to encounter traffic jams

The Time Machine (Commuter's Library) 1993 Cassette

Unabridged reading by Ralph Cosham. Commuter's Library. Produced by Sound Room Publishers, PO Box 3168, Falls Church, VA 22043; 1-800-643-0295. ISBN 1-883049-25-3. Copyright date 1993. [email protected]

Unabridged Reading; 2.5 Hours on two cassettes.

Listen to this on Youtube!

This is a solidly professional piece of work all round - well-planned, well-performed, highly entertaining. It does not have the "star power" that fuels other versions. But while reader Ralph Cosham doesn't have the 'name,' but he's got the audiobook chops to make this clearly one of the better unabridged readings currently on the market.

Part of his success comes from his pace. Ben Kingsley takes 200 minutes to read the Novella; Cosham zips through in 150, making this the edition of choice for Type A personalities and those who have attended the Evelyn Wood Speed Listening Course.

But, in fact, The Time Machine simply 'plays' better at this pace; it is, after all, an adventure story. Cosham gives an excellent reading and does justice to Wells' prose as well as to the story. Highly Recommended.

Grade: B
(Youtube link above made by Sandra Petojvic, May 4, 2014)

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Laurels to Hardy, but abridged too far?

The Time Machine (Music for Pleasure) 1979 Cassette

Abridged reading by Robert Hardy. Container: TC-LFP 80087/88; Tapes: LFP 7044. Producer for and distributed by Listen for Pleasure Ltd., 111 Martin Ross Avenue, Downsview, Ontario, Canada M3J 2M1  Copyright date 1979; Performance copyright 1981; no running time listed.

Abridged Reading.

Here's the one that gets my vote. A passionate, inspired reading packed with personality; a brilliant performance that sweeps you up and makes the text sound like poetry. Hardy breathes new life into book... so much so that it sounds like he's telling us the tale... rather than reading us the book.

The cuts in the text are small, numerous, and graceful.  

Hardy is perhaps best known for his performance as Siegfried Farnham in the television series based on the vet stories of James Herriot.

The performance to which all others must be compared.

Grade: A  

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Original Problem: Few Turntables spin at 16 rpm.  Current problem: Few turntables.

The Time Machine (Audio Book Company 1961) Vinyl

Unabridged reading by Dan O'Herlihy. Audio Book GL 17; Audio Book Company, St. Joseph, Michigan. On 4 ultra microgroove 7" (45 rpm-style) 16 rpm phonograph records.

Unabridged Reading.

If the information on the back cover is correct, what we have here is an historic recording: "Here, recorded in its entirety for the first time, is The Time Machine, the famous novel by H. G. Wells which has long been regarded as being perhaps the greatest science fiction story of them all."

So this is the first complete audio edition, made possible by "These revolutionary new 16 rpm Talking Book phonograph records [which] may be played on any 16 rpm record player. They may also be played on any 33 1/3 rpm phonograph by using the Audio Book speed reducing adapter available for that purpose. Simply place the adapter on the phonograph turntable and play as any other records."

We have no information on the adapter; the best guess of the audio technologists I contacted was that this "adapter" was a piece of plastic in the shape of a human finger that rubbed against the edge of the turntable. The Audio Book Company is currently celebrating the 28th anniversary of its bankruptcy and could not be reached for comment.

First prize for best cover artwork, though. And a really nice reading from Dan O'Herlihy.

Review to come.

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English Home Court Advantage

The Time Machine (Penguin Audiobooks) 1995 Cassette

Unabridged reading by Brian Cox. Penguin PEN 174, ISBN 0-14-086173-4. Produced by John Theocharis. 1995.

Unabridged Reading.

Worst Cover artwork. Or at least, most inappropriate: "City of the Future" by Frank R. Paul, from the April 1942 issue of Amazing Stories. I'm sure you remember the part about the Morlocks flying planes, don't you? Why do I envision a Penguin Art Director saying, "Yes, please send us a 'City of the Future' Picture, anything will do..."

Review to come.

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Fun for the Kiddos

H. G. Wells's The Time Machine (Wonderland Records) Vinyl LP

This is a faithful, highly abridged version of the story; basically a monologue with a few really bad sound effects scattered about (the Eloi are voices played at quadruple speed; the crackle of the forest fire is the crumpling and uncrumpling of a piece of wax paper which sound remarkably like the crumpling and uncrumpling of a piece of wax paper) and some music that dates (roughly) from the Jurassic era. The headline on the jacket says "Great Movie Adventures in Sound and Story," and though this production has nothing to do with the MGM film, the producers did find a young woman who sounds exactly like Yvette Mimieux in both in timbre and delivery. My favorite moment, though, is when one of the Time Traveler's guests comments at the end of the Time Traveler's story... in the voice of Cary Grant. Too dull (and faithful) to really interest young children.

Grade: D

Equal Opportunity Time Travel

The Time Machine (National Public Radio) 

This is a 58 Minute version that... are you ready?... is narrated by a woman - Winifred Phillips. You can hear a sample by clicking on the picture above, which will take you to her homesite. The emphasis here is on a balance between the music, especially composed for this program, and the reading, which is actually quite excellent. It's an enjoyable production with a solid performance by Phillips... recommended.

"The Time Machine" is a "scientific romance," not a traditional romance. 

But if you infer a little "traditional" romance between The Time Traveler and Weena, you might well wonder whether the first-person narrative sounds at all odd when a female Time Traveler speaks to us about Weena.

Not to worry. Also unique to this version: the character of Weena does not appear! 

NPR� Drama, on D.A.M. CD, which contains both a standard CD audio version and an MP3 version. The disc will play on standard CD audio players or on computer, either from the standard audio or from the MP3 file. Price: $12.99. Credits: Music composed by Winifred Phillips; Produced by Winnie Waldron; Written by H. G. Wells, Host: Winnie Waldron, Actress: Winifred Phillips.

Grade: B+
Click here or on the image above and hear an mp3-sample of the Winifred Phillips's Time Machine. Or right-click here and download the mp3-sample. And the link to Winifred Phillips is . Sandra Petojevic, Master of Arts, December 2, 2006.

Two Time Travelers

The Time Machine (the radio production) 

In this version of the Wells tale, originally heard on the program "Escape," two time travelers venture into the future together -- thus facilitating dialogue for a radio production rather nicely.

Grade: B+

Don Brockway, March 9 2001, updated October 12 2004.
Last update made by Sandra Petojevic, Master of Arts, May 4, 2014.


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