First released back in September of 2007, Gareth Armstrong’s complete and unabridged audiobook reading of James Herbert’s second novel ‘The Fog’ (1975) is to date the only unabridged reading to be released.  This ISIS audiobook consists of nine CDs and has a running time of just over ten hours.

DLS Synopsis:
Whilst investigating possible infringements by the Ministry of Defence at their secret base near an otherwise peaceful Wilshire village, Environmental Agency Officer John Holman witnesses a sudden earthquake that rips open the nearby ground, swallowing up shops and hapless bystanders, one of which is as a young girl who was standing nearby.  Upon lowering himself into the gaping maw of the enormous split in the roadway, Holman pulls the girl free; in doing so he exposes himself to a noxious yellow gas that was expelled from the cavernous confines below the ground.

With the girl safe, a change starts to take place in the mind of Holman.  Madness takes a sudden and unexpected grip on Holman, forcing the Environmental Agency Officer to throw himself off the edge of the massive split in the earth, to plummet to death in the dark abyss below.  However, before he can lunge himself off the gaping edge before him, a group of baffled rescue workers realise his suicidal intentions and wrestle him to the ground.

Awaking in hospital, Holman recalls his exposure to the strange yellow gas that was unleashed from the ground when it was split open by the earthquake.  He begins to think that this mysterious gas may well have been what affected his mind.  After signing himself out of the hospital, Holman together with his girlfriend Casey, begin their drive back to London.  However, on their way they encounter a strange yellow fog that briefly submerges their car and that of a nearby coach full of school boys into its clinging yellow mist.

All seems fine until later the next day when Casey is suddenly taken over by an uncontrollable urge to attack and kill.  A violent struggle between Holman and his girlfriend ensues, ultimately ending with the arrival of the police.  Upon questioning Holman about the sudden bout of violence, he pleads with the officers to check out how well the young pupils from the coach that was also submerged in the yellow fog are getting on.  The enquiry leads to the discovery of the mutilated remains of the school’s gym teacher.  A horrific display of torture, mutilation and murder by the hands of the feral school boys that had previously become exposed to the yellow fog.

With the fog moving south towards London, there’s hardly time to prepare or evacuate the people of the great city before it is upon them.  Its size is expanding, submerging more and more people in its thick yellow cloud.  Mindless violence explodes everywhere, with those that become exposed to the gas slipping into maniacal displays of madness.  

However, Holman seems to have built up an immunity to the fog’s affects, after his initial exposure to its insanity inducing vapours.  This unfortunately places him as the ideal man to take on the fog, with sight of hopefully eradicating it from the landscape of Britain once and for all.  But to do so, he will need to travel to the very heart of the expanding cloud, where the victims of the fog maraud through the abandoned streets causing violence and mayhem.  The last place anyone would want to be is inside the insanity inducing cloud.  And that’s just where Holman is headed...

DLS Review:
Instead of reviewing the actual story, as this is a review is specifically on the Gareth Armstrong read ISIS audiobook, I feel that it would be far more appropriate to do the review on just audio presentation alone and not reviewing the story.  A full review of the ‘The Fog’ (1975) itself can be found by following the link to the book review.

The audiobook begins with Armstrong reading the forward that Herbert penned back in 1988 for the latter rereleases of the book.  With this short forward over, Armstrong commences with the story, delivering a well-paced reading that is neither hurried nor too drawn out in its delivery throughout the length of the unabridged recording.

Indeed, Armstrong instantly gets into the wing of things with a slightly animated air to many of the passages, particularly for those involving character dialogue.  For these Armstrong puts on an array of distinctly varied accents and differently-toned voices; clearly distinguishing the various characters from each other whilst adding an additional element of ‘drama’ to the reading as a whole.

Indeed, Armstrong exhibits a good degree of energy and enthusiasm in his reading, without ever going overboard (which can often become a slight distraction from the actual story).  Furthermore, it’s clear from early on that Armstrong knows how to add an additional degree of suspense via his reading – the pace and tone of his voice adjusting according to what is transpiring within the tale.

As a clear testament to Armstrong’s skills with such readings, I should note that the memorable splatterpunk scene involving the school boys from the coach trip is possibly as harrowing and impactful as it ever was from reading the book.  Here Armstrong noticeably quickens his pace, adding a definite element of urgency into his voice in order to deliver the scene with a tense energy that fits perfectly with the erupting violence.  However, somewhat frustratingly, this notorious and hard-hitting scene is split by a change in disc (from CD2 – CD3), literally just before the real mayhem of the splatterpunk carnage commences.

Similarly, in the scene where Casey fights with Holman whilst under the effects of the fog, Armstrong noticeably picks up the overall pace of the reading; creating an immediate sense of urgency and violent energy for this furious burst of action.  Such adaption to the pace and tone of the reading in direct response to the change in events from within the storyline can be seen through the entire length of the tale.

Likewise, the voices that Armstrong puts on for the different characters’ dialogue is of a very high and somewhat convincing standard.  For the female characters, Armstrong softens his voice without unduly overemphasising the change which would have ruined the overall effect.  For the likes of Corporal Wilcox, Evans and Buswell – Armstrong puts on some excellently defined accents to further differentiate the characters during their conversational scenes.  Furthermore, Armstrong’s voice for the character, Irma Bidmead, is quite frankly superb, with all of her gloriously exaggerated “Ello Me Dears” adding a jovial air to her appearances.

However, as an audio presentation, the sex scene between Casey and Hollman seems so much more seedy when spoken in someone else’s voice.  When read in the book, this scene reads as a pretty run-of-the-mill sex scene.  However, when read out in Armstrong’s (no doubt deliberately) velvety voice, the whole thing suddenly seems so much more grubby.

The only real flaw with the ISIS unabridged audio presentation is with the sloppy way in which the CDs have been broken up into tracks.  Over all nine CDs, the audio presentation has been split down into five-minute-long tracks, completely irrespective of how these segmentations of the story fall.  As such, whole chapters will end and a new chapter commence without a break in tracks occurring.  Similarly, tracks will end literally in the middle of paragraphs and even during a character’s dialogue.  For finding a particular place in the story, this really is not the most helpful approach, especially for a nine CD unabridged reading.

Nevertheless, this ISIS recording is still an excellent presentation of what is often regarded as one of Herbert’s very finest offerings.  If you enjoy audiobook presentations, then you’re unlikely to be disappointed with this unabridged version of Herbert’s classic splatterpunk story.

The audiobook runs for a total of 10 hours and 5 minutes over the course of nine CDs.

© DLS Reviews


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