PUBLISHER: AUDIBLE | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
At approaching 40 years old, Ghostbusters is quite rightly considered a classic (its sequel, equally justifiably, not so much), and if you ever wondered what they would be like as audio fiction, the answer is… very, very average.
Audiobooks are often augmented in quality by how well the narrator brings the characters to life, both in terms of acting as them and affording them a distinctive voice. While you can’t expect every performer to do as spectacular a job in each aspect as, say, James Marsters does with The Dresden Files or Rupert Degas for Skulduggery Pleasant, at the very least the intonation should have some distinction between individuals. However, Johnny Heller’s often generic reading has the nebbish neuroses of Rick Moranis’ Louis as the only character whose speech doesn’t need a dialogue tag to let you know who’s talking, with most of the others blending into a generic muddle. A further problem with Heller’s narration is that while his newsreader-serious voice is perfect for the litany of drama and nonfiction to which he has lent his vocal tones, this interpretation of the material really isn’t all that funny despite the movies very much skewing to the humorous side of their comedy-horror genre-blending. Most significantly, Peter being absent of Bill Murray’s charm and deadpan delivery causes him to seem more like a selfish pervert than a rakish rogue.
Much of the action is presented too matter-of-factly, failing to adequately relate the spectacle of the visuals. Okay, you’ll probably have countless rewatches of the films to fill in the blanks, but a written narrative shouldn’t need to rely on prior experience to function as a decent one itself. On a more positive note, the books take the opportunity to expand on the films’ brisk pace through the likes of incorporating some past experiences in the friendships of Peter, Ray, and Egon, restoring the original backstory for Winston that the movie excised, or relating what Janine thought about the surreal job she found herself dropped in. They also deftly flesh out several peripheral characters afforded mere minutes of screen time, and while they play no greater part in proceedings, they are more recognisable as genuine people rather merely being there to serve a function. Also included is a discarded idea of a couple of hobos acting as the story’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, periodically cropping up to be perpetually bemused by what’s going on.
Overall, while this audio omnibus of the Ghostbusters novelisations is mildly entertaining, you’re probably better off just sticking with the movies.