I’m a recent convert to audiobooks, and while I’m not sure it’s the way I would want to experience a novel for the first time, I’ve found the 007 Reloaded series to be a really fun way to revisit the original James Bond stories. Produced by Ian Fleming’s niece Lucy, the series presents 14 familiar Brit actors reading unabridged versions of the classic adventures. Originally released in the UK last year, the audiobooks are finally available in the States via iTunes (or compact disc sets). I’ve listened to five so far; they’re great for passing the time on the treadmill, or during a lengthy morning commute. Here’s the entire listing of audiobooks and their readers (with linked samples):
* Casino Royale (read by Dan Stevens)
* Live and Let Die (read by Rory Kinnear)
* Moonraker (read by Bill Nighy)
* Diamonds Are Forever (read by Damian Lewis)
* From Russia With Love (read by Toby Stephens)
* Doctor No (read by Hugh Quarshie)
* Goldfinger (read by Hugh Bonneville)
* For Your Eyes Only (read by Samuel West)
* Thunderball (read by Jason Isaacs)
* The Spy Who Loved Me (read by Rosamund Pike)
* On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (read by David Tennant)
* You Only Live Twice (read by Martin Jarvis)
* The Man With The Golden Gun (read by Kenneth Branagh)
* Octopussy and The Living Daylights (read by Tom Hiddleston and Lucy Fleming)
I won’t lie: the dated bits of sexism and racism can be a bit rough for unsuspecting newcomers. Poor Martin Jarvis is stuck for a full half of You Only Live Twice’s seven-hour runtime approximating a variety of thick-to-offensive Japanese accents. (I’m almost afraid to hear Rory Kinnear get to chapter 5 of Live And Let Die.) And there are a few moments where I was pulled out, wondering how the actor felt about reading certain passages (if you’re psyched to hear Dan Stevens talk about “the sweet tang of rape,” this series has you covered). But overall it’s a treat listening to talented actors bring the stories and characters to life. I was initially iffy on the idea of David Tennant’s soft voice reading On Her Majesty’s Secret Service; turns out he’s quite skilled at not only an array of character voices, but also at narrating the book’s lengthy action sequences.
In fact, of the five I’ve purchased, nearly all have been really solid listens, expertly directed by British radio producer Enyd Williams. (You Only Live Twice remains a frustrating piece of content, a smattering of intrigue buried inside a tedious, xenophobic travelogue). For the Stateside Bond fan, it’s that rare thing we’re always chasing, and the best kind of nerd gift: a new way to experience the thing we love.
Each audiobook is on iTunes, though be advised there are various versions of each book available. You're looking for the unabridged editions with the horrible new Penguin cover art. Start here.