Length: 7 hr, 35 min
Reader: Mark F. Smith
The book: Although Jules Verne is considered one of the fathers of science fiction, Around the World in Eighty Days is not one of that genre. There are no amazing machines like in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea nor improbable landscapes like Journey to the Center of the Earth. Instead, Verne offers a thrilling fictional travelogue that follows English gentleman Philias Fogg and his French manservant Passpartout as they try to satisfy a bet to travel around the world in 80 days.
Not only do they have to contend with catching trains and boarding steamships, but they are also pursued by an English detective, Fix, who believes that Fogg's trip is merely a cover to allow him to escape an enormous bank heist. Along the way, the travelers face dangers in the form of storms, cultists and savages.
Of course, 19th century books that feature cultists and savages are unlikely to be politically correct by 21st century standards. Yet, seeing the many cultures and lands, even through a perhaps distorted view, is a fascinating and funny adventure. The difficulties that Fogg and Passpartout have to face just to travel by ordinary means reflect a time when the world wasn't so small, when not all parts of the world were viewable with the click of a button and travel required bravery rather than simply a matter of having the money and time.
The reader: Mark F. Smith is one of Librivox's best readers. He has a pleasant American accent with the confident tone of an insurance commercial voice-over. Yet, in this reading, he lets a playful note spice up the humorous situations that Passpartout gets himself into. The character voices are not heavily accented, but Smith subtly changes his sound for each of the main characters. This recording did have a high pitched whine in the background, but I was able to avoid this by changing the treble setting on my listening device. Some people might not even notice the whine. If you listen to a few chapters and find the noise distracting, you may want to use a free mp3 editor like Audacity to filter it out.