Nineteen Eighty-Four (Audiobook) review

Nineteen Eighty-Four Audiobook Review
Nineteen Eighty-Four Review

Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of those timeless novels and a testament to the power of language.

Such is its influence, adaptations have spanned film, television, radio, the theatre, and even ballet! Not to mention the numerous pop culture nods to the novel.

Penguin’s latest edition is an audiobook, narrated by the incredibly charismatic Peter Capaldi – the second ‘doctor’ of Dr Who fame to be involved in a production, following Christopher Ecclestone’s 2013 dramatisation.

Capaldi’s a perfect fit for the role. His austere narration captures the solemnity of Orwell’s dystopian classic. It’s bleak, atmospheric, and terrifying – mirroring the novel itself.

What is Nineteen Eighty-Four all about?

Nineteen Eighty-Four is a novel about life under a totalitarian dictatorship. 

Set in dystopian London, Oceania – one of three global blocs – all citizens live under 24hr surveillance.

Nineteen Eighty-Four Audiobook Big Brother George Galloway
Not that Big Brother

The Party is headed by the emblematic image of Big Brother; a mustachioed, brutish man whom all of Oceania worships.

Indoctrinated children report their parents to the thought police, the sex instinct is virtually abolished, and any reverence must be reserved exclusively for Big Brother.

Anyone deviating from the Party’s narrative is vaporised for committing thought crime.

Winston Smith, our main character, works in the corrections department of the Party, ensuring that all information is retrospectively amended to preserve the party’s image of infallibility.

Nineteen Eighty-Four chronicles Winston’s awakening from the brainwashing of ‘double-think’, and his subsequent rebellion against the Party.

How is the Nineteen Eighty-Four audiobook experience?

The Nineteen Eighty-Four audiobook is a phenomenal way to experience the story. 

At 12hrs and 22mins, it’s fully unabridged and the sound quality is excellent. It’s a genuine alternative to the book.

As audiobook listeners know too well, the choice of narrator is key. A poor narration can quickly derail an audiobook, whereas a stronger voice can elevate the audiobook experience to another level.

Fortunately, Capaldi is one of the latter. His performance is fantastic!

He’s an expressive actor, from the hilariously foul-mouthed Malcolm Tucker of The Thick of It to his well-respected role as Dr Who’s Twelfth Doctor.

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Capaldi steers clear of his loud, eccentric performances, instead adopting a more sombre (but equally charismatic) tone.

Oceania is a nihilistic, hopeless world and the narration captures this perfectly.

How does the audiobook compare to the paperback?

The only thing you miss out on from an audiobook, no matter the quality of the production, is attention to language.

Orwell is very deliberate with the language he uses in all of his writing. This is important because one of the key themes of the novel concerns how the destruction of language narrows the range of human thought.

Simply by virtue of it being an audiobook, you miss out on seeing the language on the page. If this is your first time experiencing Orwell, it would be a shame to not experience the ‘Newspeak’ of Nineteen Eighty-Four in print.

However, this does not detract from an impeccable production that’s well worth your time.

Final Verdict

Over 70 years since Nineteen Eighty-Four’s publication (1948), it remains essential reading. 

This is partly down to Orwell’s evocative depiction of a late-stage totalitarian state in practice – something those of us privileged enough to be born into democracies struggle to comprehend. He makes real the unfathomable, unsettling his readers. 

On the other hand, encroachment on civil liberties and free speech dominate contemporary public discourse. This is why Nineteen Eighty-Four continues to resonate, generation after generation.

The novel translates to audiobook almost flawlessly, thanks to the high quality audio you expect from Penguin Random House UK Audio, not to mention Peter Capaldi’s impeccable performance.

If you enjoy dystopian fiction, this is the novel for you.

And yet, this is to be somewhat reductive – Nineteen Eighty-Four audiobook (or paperback) is essential reading for anyone who values democracy and free expression.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is available now on Audible, or you can order a CD audio edition at WH Smith (published 4th March, 2021).

The Simple Guide to Netgalley

The Simple Guide to Netgalley
The Simple Guide to Netgalley

Netgalley is a great way for bloggers to get ARCs (advance reading copies) of new books.

However, in order to be approved for the more high-profile ARCs, you need to be seen as a reliable contributor. And that means proving your worth as a reviewer.

But first, what you really need is a Simple Guide to Netgalley.

The (very) simple guide to Netgalley

Simply sign up at

It’s worth keeping in mind when searching the catalogue that many Netgalley books are proof copies and may contain errors. They aren’t always the final version.

What is Netgalley?

Netgalley is a book marketing platform through which authors and publishers pay to share proof copies of their latest books, prior to publication.

This is often to create anticipation, raise awareness of an upcoming book, and to get initial impressions from dedicated readers.

For readers and bloggers, Netgalley is an excellent way to get hold of books that are months away from publication.

Pretty exciting, right?

However, publishers are usually quite strict about who they approve. Otherwise anybody could sign up and grab a free book.

Why should I use Netgalley?

If you’re a book blogger, Netgalley (or its equivalent Edelweiss) is essential.

Even if you don’t plan on using the service straightaway, it’s good to get signed up to the mailing list and become familiar with the platform.

The reality of blogging is that it’s simply not affordable to buy books every other week, especially if, like Tales from Absurdia, your blog isn’t monetised.

Netgalley is an almost bottomless pit of reading goodness, plus it’s free-to-use. 

Put simply, it’s a great way to acquire free content, which you can then review and discuss, driving traffic to your blog.

Plus, most Netgalley books are yet to be released, so the chances are that you’ll be one of the first people in the world to review certain book! For example, I was one of the first people to get eyes on Richard Osman’s debut novel, The Thursday Murder Club (it’s just a pity that I really disliked it).

Just make sure that you keep up your end of the bargain and leave feedback for the publisher. Otherwise it will significantly affect your feedback ratio (more on this later). 

Do I need to be approved for books on Netgalley?

Yes and no. 

You will require approval for most books you wish to read on Netgalley. Especially books published by high-profile publishers. This approval is decided by the publisher rather than the service.

Publishers of all sizes (including self-published authors) put their work on Netgalley. 

As a new user, you’re far more likely to get approval for smaller publishing houses.

This is largely because their aim is to build the biggest readership possible ahead of their book’s launch. Whereas, the ‘Big 5’ publishers can be a lot more selective with who they approve, simply because they’re usually guaranteed a bigger audience anyway.

Simple Guide to Netgalley Homepage

That being said, if you’ve built a strong Netgalley profile and you’re already an established blogger, you’re far more likely to be accepted for some of the more high-profile proofs.

Don’t be afraid to take a chance on some lesser known titles, however.

There are some fantastic works on Netgalley that you’ll have otherwise never heard of. I had a lot of fun with The Playmaker Project – a novel where the two seemingly disparate worlds of soccer and neuroscience clash!

After reviewing The Playmaker Project, I reached out to the author for some comment, which turned into an interview, which you can read here.

With books that are less well known, you’re creating more original content that helps readers find new material, with the added bonus giving a platform to authors with a smaller profile.

The good news is that there is also a very generous amount of books on the platform that are available to all readers, without approval required. It’s good to review a handful of these in order to build up your profile.

5 tips to help you get approved on Netgalley

Netgalley approval can be somewhat of a lottery. 

You’ll be approved for some books you didn’t expect to be approved for – other times you’ll be left scratching your head as to why you weren’t approved.

It’s nothing personal. Sometimes it’s a case of demand. Other times, publishers may decide that your book blog niche doesn’t match their genre, therefore there’s less for them to gain from any coverage. They’re paying to use Netgalley, so they want quality, relevant feedback.

However, there are a few things you can do to make your profile stand out. 

In fact, if you follow these tips from the Simple Guide to Netgalley, you’re far more likely to be approved:

1) Complete your profile

Your profile is your shop window. It’s the first thing that publishers see when you request approval for an ARC.

Take a look at my profile page as an example.

Simple Guide to Netgalley Profile

I’ve uploaded a photo for a start. It shows publishers that I’m a real person and establishes trust.

They’ll then look at the ‘feedback ratio’. Currently, mine is 75% – lower than the recommended 80%, which means my ability to request ARCs could be affected. 

I’m currently reading the two outstanding books, so once they’re read and I’ve provided feedback, I’ll be back at 100%.

Now look at my bio. In the first sentence I’ve outlined my credentials, using persuasive language. This demonstrates a level of commitment to the publisher, making them more likely to approve my request.

I also give readers an idea of what they can expect from me personally, as a reviewer. From my profile, they’ll see that I’m organised, diligent, and honest with my feedback.

2) Include links to your blog & social handles

Simple Guide to Netgalley Social

Crucially, I’ve included a link to my blog to prove that I’m an authentic reviewer. If you aren’t a blogger, your Goodreads profile may suffice.

There are also options to link your social handles (currently Twitter, LinkedIn, and Goodreads).

It gives publishers and authors a chance to see what you’re all about. If you’re active on social media, steer clear from drama, and create engaging content – these are all good signs.

3) View your profile through the eyes of a publisher

Do you have a blog niche? Say you’re a sci-fi book blogger and want to target publishers of Sci-Fi books, you’re going to want to lean into that experience in your profile.

Think – if you were an author looking to market your book, who would you want to review it? You want someone who’s experienced in the genre and isn’t simply requesting approval for the sake of it. Remember – Netgalley is an extension of an author and publisher’s marketing strategy.

Furthermore, and most importantly, what is your feedback ratio? The general rule of thumb is that you should aim to keep your feedback ratio above 80%

Some publishers may be more strict, however, and prefer it to exceed 90%, so make sure that you’re giving good quality feedback every single time – even if it isn’t positive.

4) Don’t request too many books at once

It’s easy to get excited about being approved to use Netgalley, and there are books littered all over the platform.

In order to provide feedback (and therefore boost your feedback ratio), you need to finish the book. So make sure you don’t request approval for every book you see. It’ll bite you if you don’t see it through. 

Never give feedback without having read the book.
It’s obvious, plus it’s very unfair to publishers and authors.

Be selective with your books. Read the blurbs, perhaps even read some existing reviews to find out if it’s of interest. If you enjoy your books, you’ll read them more quickly, therefore allowing you to request even more! 

The more you read, the more you review, the better impression you’ll have on influential publishers. You never know, they may even list you as an ‘auto-approved reviewer’ – the holy grail of Netgalley goals.

5) Beware the archive!

Finally, beware the archive.

As soon as you’re approved for a book, download it to your device immediately. You never know when the publisher will archive it. This usually occurs post-publication, but not always. 

Once a book is archived, you’ll have no access to it but your feedback ratio will count against you if you haven’t been able to read the book. This can be incredibly damaging to your Netgalley profile.

The good news is that you can still leave feedback once a book has been archived. Just make sure you get into the habit of downloading your copy once approved!

Enjoy the Simple Guide to Netgalley? Got some tips of your own? Let me know in the comments below!