Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

A Neil Gaiman Audio Miscellaney

SignalSignal to Noise and Two Plays for Voices by Neil Gaiman

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My roadtrip was round trip, of course, so a three-hour audiobook is only going to last me one direction. Since I was already on a Gaiman kick, I figured it would be a good time to revisit a couple of audio plays that I’ve had for a while now: Signal to Noise, a radio play adapted from Neil’s and Dave McKean’s graphic novel of the same name; and Two Plays for Voices, a collection of two adapted stories for Seeing Ear Theater, “Snow, Glass, Apples” and “Murder Mysteries.” All three stories are among my favorites of Neil’s (have you figured out yet that most of his stories are among my favorites?), so they were good company for the trip back home.

Of all the standalone graphic novels that Neil and Dave have created, Signal to Noise is probably my favorite. I ought to re-read both Violent Cases and Mr. Punch, just to refresh myself with the stories, but Signal to Noise always resonated with me. The story-within-a-story aspect of it appealed to me, as did the idea of a story compelling its author beyond his normal limits. Watching an author come to terms with his own mortality while writing about a group of people coming to terms with their own, at the end of the first millennium, was brilliant to me. When I learned that this production was available, I jumped on it.

The production is a full one, with ambient sounds, a soundtrack, and proper actors. I’ve never sat down with the graphic novel while listening to the play, so I don’t know how much adaptation the audio required to maintain the full story, but I recall distinct images during crucial parts of the story. That it comes to mind so easily is just further indication that the BBC didn’t shirk when it came to making this radio play.

VoicesTwo Plays for Voices has all these same things, but for some reason, Signal to Noise has a more professional sound to it. There’s something extra within the production that gives it more depth, I think, but I couldn’t tell you what that is. It’s like listening to the production from a CD that was originally recorded 20 years ago, versus one that was recorded last year. It’s not a bad criticism for the 20 year-old recording, but it’s that sort of difference that I hear between the productions.

“Snow, Glass, Apples” is a nifty retelling of a classic story, told in such a way that you might not catch how clever Neil’s being with this story until about halfway through. Bebe Neuwirth (Lilith from Cheers) plays the prominent role in this story, and Brian Dennehy plays the one in “Murder Mysteries,” which is about the very first murder on record. No, not Abel. Trust me. You’ll like this clever adaptation of our origin story, I think.

The adaptations here are more straightforward, I think, because the original stories were written in the first person. I don’t think anything was removed or changed from the stories to the adaptations, save for extra noises in the background, for crowds, and other sounds that were appropriate to the stories. They’re great stories in their own right, but hearing them performed this way steps it up to another level, and shows you how versatile Neil is with his fiction.

If you enjoy audio fiction, and want something a little more than just someone reading to you, check out these productions. They’re very enjoyable, thoughtful stories that will keep you engaged on those long drives, leisurely walks, or hardcore exercise regiments. And hey, they’re Neil Gaiman stories, so what else can I tell you?

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August 27, 2007 - Posted by | Adult Fiction, Reviews

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