Rebecca's World: Journey to the Forbidden Planet
This is a book which cries out for a re-print! I was given a copy of Rebecca's World when I was eight, and I loved it so much that I never wanted it to come to an end. Sadly, I lost the book many years ago and only recently came across an affordable copy. As soon as I saw it I knew I had to buy it.
Rebecca is a wonderful character, one that is instantly recognisable to any child, or adult, who during a boring holiday wishes they were off having a fabulous adventure elsewhere. Rebecca finds that her wish is swiftly granted when she plays with a telescope in her father's study. Magically she is transported to a different world.
The friends that Rebecca makes during her adventures are delightful: a superhero in a threadbare costume and with a rather un-heroic physique, a man with an endless layer of coats and the most painful feet in the world, and finally, a spy who is inept with disguises and not terribly good at spying. They make a great team. As do the villains and the monsters that appear, thanks to Terry Nation's creativity with both. Some of them can be quite disturbing due to the excellent illustrations by Larry Learmonth that accompany the text. The tongue twister monster in particular is very creepy, perhaps more so to me as an adult than when I was a child.
While there are traditional aspects to the story they are expressed in an inventive way, an encounter with the Bad Habits, for example, they don't detract from the overall inventiveness and imagination. There are so many wonderful elements to this book, it will draw you into the world completely and it's a sad moment when Rebecca returns home, taking you with her.
Considering that Terry Nation is best known for his ground-breaking television writing (Dr.Who, Blakes 7, Survivors and others) it's not too surprising that his children's book has been sadly overlooked as a classic.
I wish he could have written another Rebecca adventure but as that is impossible now; a plea to whoever holds the rights, please do get this book published again!
Edit: As I've already written a review for an out-of-print paperback version I'm unable create a new one. The below is a review of the Rebecca's World CD audiobook by Big Finish Productions (2010).
It was by chance that I came across this version; I have to admit that initially I was a little dubious about buying it even with my respect and liking for the actor, Paul Darrow, who is narrator/voice actor for this. How would the story be handled? What kind of production would it have?
I overcame my doubts and bought it and I am very glad I did. To me, the production is good quality, with crisp sound for the narration, some good (and less good) sound effects and incidental music. I think that it was a nice touch that an illustration by Larry Learmonth, the book's original illustrator, was used for the CD cover. The adaptation from the original has been well done, in fact you'd barely notice any changes as mostly it's a few lines per chapter that have been taken out to tighten up the flow of the story.
It can take a little getting used to on first listen. Paul Darrow has an excellent voice for narration with a warm timbre and an ability to communicate nuance very well. The opening, with its introduction of Rebecca, can be a little stiff sounding though. When speaking Rebecca's dialogue and unvocalised thoughts he does it in his own voice rather than try and imitate a young girl's. I found that a wise decision.
When Rebecca arrives on the mysterious planet she has been transported to Mr. Darrow really starts getting into his stride. His voice work as the scientist Rebecca first meets is superb, especially as he captures delightfully the sneering tone and laugh. As Rebecca meets the characters who become her friends the narration work becomes a little more tricky. The characters of Grisby, Captain K and Kovak each have a distinct voice. Unfortunately, on a couple of occasions Mr. Darrow does slip up on which voice goes with which character. I think that's an understandable error though.
The most distinctive character voice has to go the main villain, Mister Glister. Mister Glister's voice starts out rather quiet, over time it becomes much more pronounced as being James Mason-esque. I thought this was the perfect voice acting choice to take; the English received pronunciation accent with its plummy and menacing tones suits the smarmy and ruthless character.
Despite the minor flaws it is obvious that Paul Darrow has a whale of a time narrating. He does capture the feel of the book wonderfully and keeps the pace of the story flowing well.
The music and sound effects used can be a little variable in places. The sound effects of the main monsters (the GHOSTS) are pretty good with a creepy collection of hisses, moans, cries and mutters. In comparison the scene with Rebecca and her friends encountering the Scarepeople is less convincing. Here the laughing and screaming is obviously taken from a loop of hyenas or primates (perhaps both) and is somewhat over-used. It can be intrusive on the dialogue. I found most of the incidental music really lovely and the pieces matched the atmosphere of the book.
The last track on the second CD features a short interview with Lisa Bowerman, the director, Paul Darrow and David Richardson, the producer. I found this a charming addition as they chat casually about the production, the book, Terry Nation and other details.
I think that this is well-worth buying. It captures the spirit of Rebecca's World and it is a great way to be introduced, or re-acquainted, with the story for a very reasonable price.