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Audio book Review


The Sarah Jane Adventures
The Ghost House


Author: Stephen Cole
Read by: Elisabeth Sladen
BBC Audio
RRP: £5.99 (CD), £3.60 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 4084 0059 3 (CD), 978 1 4084 0186 6 (download)
Available 13 November 2008

A crack in time and a lost child mean trouble for Sarah Jane when, up early one morning, she is astonished to see that the house opposite hers has changed overnight. What used to be a nondescript 1970s family home has been replaced by a smart Victorian residence. How did a house from 1884 suddenly materialise in Bannerman Road? Where has the old O’Brien place gone? And, more importantly, who - or what - has caused this temporal anomaly? Sarah Jane and her friends must find out before time itself explodes and destroys the world...

If you’re pining for The Sarah Jane Adventures (which, at the time of writing, has just completed its second series of television episodes), then take some comfort from the fact that BBC Audio has released a couple more stories in talking book form.

Like the two released last year, they are read by Sarah Jane herself, Elisabeth Sladen, and are exclusive to audio. The roster of characters has been adjusted to reflect the cast of Series 2, with Rani Chandra in place of Maria Jackson. The stories are told from Sarah Jane’s point of view and each one opens with the same sort of speech as we heard at the beginning of Invasion of the Bane, with the heroine reminding us of the adventures she used to have out in space with her “friend”, and how life on Earth can often be full of mystery and excitement too...

Author Stephen Cole also reminds us of this spin-off series’ parent show by throwing in references to primitive and/or dangerous forms of time travel used in Victorian times, involving mirrors (The Evil of the Daleks) and Zigma technology (The Talons of Weng-Chiang).

The Ghost House begins with a strong and simple central premise: an anachronistic house that has somehow replaced a more modern dwelling overnight. However, as in The Art of Destruction, the author soon resorts to throwing in some daft aliens. One is a three-eyed creature called “Deathy” (who is depicted on the cover), for whom Sladen adopts a South African accent for some reason. Another has a name that sounds like ethanol, so for a while I thought the characters were actually referring to ethyl alcohol. Presumably these eccentric beings are intended to appeal to the target audience of young listeners, but I can’t help feeling that Cole’s technobabble-heavy plot will cause them some confusion.

Still, you can’t really grumble at the price tag on this one-hour CD or download, can you? This House is very affordable indeed.


Richard McGinlay

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