Book Review – The Shape of Things to Come (Audio)

  • Title: The Shape of Things to Come
  • Series: Big Finish Classics
  • Author: H.G. Wells (original novel)
  • Adapted by: Guy Adams
  • Director: Lisa Bowerman
  • Characters: Dr. Philip Raven, Jane
  • Cast: Sam Troughton, Nicola Walker


I was first introduced to Big Finish back in 2001, when I discovered their full-cast original Doctor Who audio plays. I liked the audios, and even subscribed to the main monthly line for a while. I continue to purchase Big Finish audios, when I can, to this day. H.G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come is a full-cast audio drama of Wells’ famous novel. Although I have read some of Wells books (The Time Machine, The Invisible Man) I have not previously read The Shape of Things to Come so I had no previous expectations for this story, other than a few general assumptions about Wells.

The audio is really good. It’s extremely well-produced. The acting is extremely good. It draws you in to its’ world completely, even though I listened to it while driving back and forth to work during an extremely trying week. Even though it is a full-cast audio drama, in many ways it feels like a two-hander (e.g. a play starring only two actors) – yes there are other parts besides the two main characters, and they are performed by others (this is not a dry oral reading of Wells’ novel), but the majority of the novel is about Dr. Philip Raven and Jane. Philip is a diplomat, who, when the story starts is on a plane heading for the UN in the US on a diplomatic mission. Jane is a historian and archivist from the future – from an alternative future.

Jane meets Philip on the plane and takes him on a journey. A journey through events in his future and her past. As these vignettes covering a future history are told and experienced by Jane and Philip, Jane explains her mission. She shows him horrible events: a world war where toxic gas is dropped on civilian populations; the complete destinigration of any sort of political or social order; disease and plague (including bubonic plague); a world where society has fractured to not even towns or villages but neighborhoods where everyone is armed to the teeth and shoots to kill any “strangers” without even finding out who they are, why they are there, or if they need help; a world where zoo keepers are forced to kill their charges. It is bleak and unrelentingly depressing. And, at the end of Disc 1, Jane tells Philip that she doesn’t want him to prevent this horrific alternative timeline – she wants him to ensure that it happens.

Disc 2 explains why. Jane shows him how, once the old world had been completely destroyed – with no government, no order, no law, and even no social order – it began to come back. The transportation unions banded together and took control, controlling first all air transport of goods (with no government, no law, and no rules – goods were no longer moved from place to place, neither necessary goods like food or luxury goods. And with no markets, the factories producing those goods collapsed), then all shipping, and finally all roads. The transport unions had their own private police, they developed and imposed the first law and order for decades. Eventually, what developed was a single world state. Initially ruled by the Transport Union, it eventually just became Control. There wasn’t even a single leader, though a man named Essington becomes a figurehead of a sort. But Jane is quick to point out, laws are not issued by a person, nor a dictator, nor even a ruling council – they come unsigned and are merely “Control”. Jane shows Philip the rise, and fall, of Essington. Then she takes him to her home and her wife – the Utopia that Jane is desperate to preserve. This future world is the one that she wants Philip to create – because he will be in the right place at the right time. For Jane, all the pain, all the destruction, all the death of the past, is worth it to create her perfect world.

In the end, Philip is returned to his timeline, to his diplomatic meeting. He is met by Jane one final time, and given a case. And the story ends on a question – Will Philip open the case and use its contents on the world leaders gathered for his conference? It’s implied the case contains a deadly gas – it’s Philip’s job to kill the diplomats. Or won’t he? Will he think that the cost is too high? That maybe the world could reach a world like Jane’s Utopia without such drastic action and without the pain and death that would result before the new world could be born. By leaving it open-ended as to what Philip would do – the entire play becomes a moral exercise for the listener. As with much of Wells’ work, it asks, What would you do?

Also, as an adaptation, though it deals with alternative timelines and history – the play addresses the here and now in a very real way. And it addresses the long view of history. The character of Jane, as a historian and archivist, has a view of her history, based on what she’s been taught in her world’s schools. It’s based on the histories she’s read, even the documents of the path to her world. But history is written by the winners – when Philip questions her (such as about her world’s banishment of religion and the, albeit, she say non-lethal attack on the world’s last large religious gathering – and the establishment of the secular state) she dismisses his arguments of human rights to religious freedom with the “religion causes wars” argument and claims in her future no one fears religious persecution, prejudice or bigotry. When she shows him Essington’s Fall – it’s telling that the person accusing Essington, his wife, attacks him has a traitor, as an individualist. While too much individualism leads the the exploitation of the weak – too much emphasis on the opposite suppresses the spark of creativity, diversity, and the very notion of being different. One wonders what happens to the poets, writers, and artists of Jane’s perfect world? One wonders about people who are different? Does her world even have people of different races and cultures? She goes to great lengths to explain the World State is One – so there are no countries, but what does that really mean? Is everyone in the World State white and British? (no offense meant). Yet at the same time the story parallels real history, especially the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, because it is a story of the fall and rise of civilizations.

Again, this dramatic presentation of H.G. Wells’ novel, The Shape of Things to Come is excellent. Yes, disc 1 is overwhelmingly depressing at times, but disc 2 is much more hopeful. The entire play ends on a question, a moral quandary, something that is often left out of dramatic entertainment today, but that was an essential part of H.G. Wells work. The CD version includes a trailer for another title in this range, The Island of Dr Moreau, and a panel interview with Sam Troughton, Nicola Walker, and Guy Adams. The Shape of Things to Come was originally published in 1933, and Wells lived from 9/21/1866 to 8/13/1946. Big Finish’s audio play is highly recommended.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website:

Click this link to order H.G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!


Book Review – Arrow vol. 1

  • Title: Arrow vol. 1
  • Author: Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg
  • Artist: Mike Grell
  • Line: CW DC Verse
  • Characters: Oliver Queen (Green Arrow), Huntress, John Diggle
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 04/17/2017

Arrow is a collection of short stories set during the first season of the CW Network’s television show, Arrow. As the show is now in it’s fifth season, it’s a bit difficult to remember the details from Season 1 – especially who did and did not know Oliver’s secret.

This is my second time reading this book, and the individual stories are very, very short, which makes them a bit difficult to get in to. I liked the two stories about Huntress. The story about Diggle completely contradicts what we later learn about his brother, Andy, especially in Season 4. There’s also some great moments between Oliver and Tommy. However, there isn’t much depth to these stories or this book, mostly because the stories are distinct and separate – and they are very short.

Still, if you want to go back and read some untold stories set in Season 1, Arrow Vol. 1 is worth picking up.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Darkening Eye

  • Title: The Darkening Eye
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Author: Stewart Sheargold
  • Director: Ken Bentley
  • Characters: Nyssa, Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Adric
  • Cast: Sarah Sutton, Derek Carlyle
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/28/2016

**Spoiler Alert** The Darkening Eye is from the Big Finish Companion Chronicles line and features Sarah Sutton performing the story as the Fifth Doctor’s companion Nyssa. The story features as well, the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, and Adric. However, the wrap-around story features an older Nyssa who is speaking to a patient with a usually fatal disease. The patient is terrified because the only known treatment for his unnamed disease is so harsh it often kills the patient. Nyssa tells him she had his disease and survived, then she explains her tale.

The Fifth Doctor (as played on the BBC series Doctor Who by Peter Davison) lands the TARDIS on an empty freighter in space. But no sooner than they land than everyone, even the Doctor, wants to leave. The freighter was hit during a space battle and is open to space. There shouldn’t even be any atmosphere but there is – the first mystery. And the Doctor detects time distortion or an anomaly. Nyssa, Tegan, and Adric want to leave anyway, and the Doctor agrees, but they meet the species providing the atmosphere – Dar Traders there to claim salvage of the dead. Tegan is appalled. Adric immediately assumes their culture is their culture and not something they should judge. Nyssa is simply trying to understand when the ship is hit. The hulk is broken in half with the companions left with the Dar Traders and the Doctor on the other side with the TARDIS. The Doctor mimes heading back to the TARDIS – and Tegan, Nyssa, and Adric are left with the Dar Traders. Using a magical mirror – the Companions travel to the Dar Traders ship. As this story is told from Nyssa’s point of view, we don’t see the Doctor for awhile. On the Dar Traders ship, the traders want to determine if Nyssa is “alive” – they throw her into a cabinet and torture her. She survives this, and learns about the Dar Traders – they are obsessed with death, and will cure deadly diseases or injuries for a chance to see the “threshold” then coming back from death.

On the Dar Traders ship they also encounter an assassin who has a Dwarf Star Alloy cabinet that keeps him alive.

The group heads down to the nearby planet so Nyssa, Tegan, and Adric can find the Doctor and the TARDIS. First, Adric is stabbed by the assassin, but recovers. Nyssa is also attacked as they make their way through the war-torn planet to find the Doctor. The Dar Traders bring Nyssa back. The group finds the Doctor and the assassin tries to steal the Doctor’s life force to power his cabinet. Unfortunately, Dwarf Star Alloy and Time Lord physiology don’t mix. Nyssa tries to prevent the disaster and nearly pays with her life, again. But the Dar Traders gift helps her to come back from near death and recover. Everyone piles in to the TARDIS.

Nyssa, having explained to the patient she can help, offers – “Shall we trade?”

The Darkening Eye was a bit confusing, even on a second listen – though I must admit I did listen to this CD audiobook while driving in my car. And my commute is a short 22 minutes in good weather so it took a couple of trips to listen to the whole thing. Still, Sarah Sutton does an excellent job and it really is Nyssa’s story – the Doctor is barely there and the other companions are nearly minor characters. It’s just not as good a story as some of the Companion Chronicles.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website:

Click this link to order The Darkening Eye on CD or Download.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!