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Thursday, December 1, 2016

#Audiobook #Review: 2 out of 5 stars for A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess @HarperAudio @TomHcllander

AUTHOR: Anthony Burgess
NARRATOR: Tom Hollander
PUBLISHER: HarperAudio
PUBLICATION DATE: June 12, 2007 (first published 1962)
FORMAT: Unabridged audiobook
LENGTH: 7 hrs and 42 mins
GENRE: Classics, Science Fiction/Dystopia
A vicious fifteen-year-old droog is the central character of this 1963 classic. In Anthony Burgess's nightmare vision of the future, where the criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends' social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. And when the state undertakes to reform Alex to "redeem" him, the novel asks, "At what cost?"

This edition includes the controversial last chapter not published in the first edition and Burgess's introduction "A Clockwork Orange Resucked."


This classic wasn’t at all what I expected, and I almost gave up on it! I hung in there, and I am glad that I did.

The audiobook starts off with Burgess’ introduction to the book. He reveals that he would have preferred that this story be forgotten about because he values his other books more. However, due to the popularity of Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 movie by the same name, A Clockwork Orange increased in popularity. Interestingly, the United States version of the book is not the same one that was published elsewhere in the world. The original book was divided into three parts, with seven chapters making up each part. The American publisher cut the book’s 21st chapter, which is a pivotal chapter in the main character’s development. This audiobook includes the final chapter.

Well, after the author’s introduction, I actually was quite intrigued and couldn’t wait to start the book! However, I was immediately put off by the book’s nonsensical gibberish. The main characters speak in a slang of their own invention, which had me wondering what the heck that I was reading! Here is an example:

They had no licence for selling liquor, but there was no law yet against prodding some of the new veshches which they used to put into the old moloko, so you could peet it with vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom or one or two other veshches which would give you a nice quiet horrorshow fifteen minutes admiring Bog And All His Holy Angels and Saints in your left shoe with lights bursting all over your mozg. Or you could peet milk with knives in it, as we used to say, and this would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of dirty twenty-to-one, and that was what we were peeting this evening I'm starting off the story with.

With my eyes glazed over, I listened to the first seven chapters that made up the first part of the audiobook. It was very difficult to understand what was going on. The main character was a 15-year-old troublemaker named Alex. He hung out with his three buds: Pete, Georgie, and Dim. They took pleasure in beating people on the street. On the premise of wanting to use a stranger’s telephone to make a phone call and get a glass of water for his sick friend, Alex gains access to a couple’s home and then the rest of the crew barges in and restrains the husband while they gang-rape his wife. By the end of Part One, Alex is arrested and taken to jail. It is in Part Two of the story where I started to enjoy the book a bit better. After Alex was involved in a prison beating that caused the other inmate’s death, the prison officials decided to use him as a guinea pig for a Reclamation Treatment which they claimed would kill his criminal reflex and that he was at no risk to re-offend and could be released from prison after just two weeks of treatment. That last little bit there, the guarantee of Alex’s release, is what cemented his decision to agree to the treatment. I found this part of the story interesting, as well as Alex’s eventual release and the aftermath.

I like the story better with the addition of the original final 21st chapter. It would have been a completely different story to end the book without it. The last chapter deals with Alex’s new outlook, and it ends the story on a positive note instead of a negative one.

I had my doubts that I would be able to finish this one! I was going to give this book two stars, but it really is more like 2.5 stars for me.

Narrator Tom Hollander is new-to-me, and he was exceptional! He is the reason why I continued to listen to the story, and I do not think that I would have continued reading this one if it wasn't an audiobook. I think that being able to carry off that Nadsat slang the way he did as though it was proper English is a testament to his ability. Here is a sound clip:

I haven't watched the movie yet, but I requested the DVD from the library and will come back to add in my thoughts on it after I watch it.



  1. I've been the same way with some of the classics. I haven't read this one but my hubby did because he's a big fan of the movie and he said much of the same things as you did about the book. Good on you with sticking it though until the end though!

    1. Thanks, Kimberly. Good to know that your husband felt the same way about the book! It's too bad though, because I think the Nadsat slang took away from the story! I was very frustrated listening to it. If I had been reading it, I would have given up.

  2. That's a shame because I really loved this book, when I read it in college. Have you ever seen the movie? I can't imagine trying to decipher Droogs and Moloko without it. Perhaps that's a better place to start, or even read it in paperback. (In fact, maybe pb is better. The copy I have has a glossary in the back, to help the reader along) Either way, like Kimberly said, good for you for trying it! :)


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