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George Orwell: Box Set    by George Orwell order for
George Orwell
by George Orwell
Order:  USA  Can
Blackstone, 2006 (2006)
Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

Some could aptly argue that the re-release of this George Orwell collection is more than timely. From beyond the grave, his words have evolved from prophecy to historical and political primer for certain aspects of contemporary politics. Both 1984 and Animal Farm contain themes that remain strikingly relevant today.

When animals throw off the shackles of their human oppressors and take control of the farm, they set out to create an egalitarian utopia where all animals are treated equally. Over the course of several years, the pigs (the leaders of the revolution) eventually usurp more and more power and resources until they have indeed become akin to their old human masters; abusing animals, redefining laws, and rewriting history. Orwell wrote this allegorical tale with the Russian Revolution - and its decay from its original conception - in mind. But aspects of this novel can also be understood in terms of contemporary politics, where governments push to give tax breaks to the wealthy while those who toil are still forced to pay money they can't afford, or where citizens are told they are losing certain freedoms in order to protect freedom.

The preface to this edition of Animal Farm provides interesting background and thoughts about the context in which Orwell chose to present this short piece. While this story takes a mere three compact discs (compared to 1984's eight compact discs), the preface helps to widen listeners' understanding of this remarkable tale. Ralph Cosham reads in a strong voice, with a British accent that adds a certain charm to the narration.

The well known 1984 follows Winston, a man who has lifted the veil of fear and ignorance from his eyes to see his government for what it really is; a totalitarian state where the government manipulates its population with fear and lies. As Winston comes closer to understanding the full scope of his government, his alliances and beliefs shift toward ideas of resistance and resentment, but Big Brother (the nickname for the government) is always waiting with visual and audio spying equipment everywhere, as well as human spies around every corner.

This is one of those novels whose potential is devalued if the narrator does not work to preserve its immensity. Richard Brown delivers this audiobook in a nasal tone that is distinguished, and embraces Winston's character perfectly. His choice of menace and energy poignantly emphasize such scenes as 'the hate' (a fetish-like orgy of disgust for the enemy).

Either of these audiobooks would be enlightening and thought-provoking to listen to on their own accord but joined together, they provide rich insight into Orwell's masterful storytelling and intriguing sense of political satire. Add to this narrators who understand the weight of the text and this collection is irresistible.

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