Sunday 21 January 2018

Radio: Sci-fi bonanza is my Vision of radio heaven

Kazuo Ishiguro
Kazuo Ishiguro
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

If, like me, you're fond of science and/or speculative fiction, then hop aboard the nearest hover-pod and beam yourself up (yes, I know those metaphors are confused) to BBC Radio 4, where they've just begun Dangerous Visions.

I'm insanely excited about this suite of programmes, spread over three weeks. Dangerous Visions is a collection of dramas "that explore contemporary takes on future dystopias… the present reflected in the glass of an uneasy future". Doesn't that sound fantastic? I'm not being sarcastic. It's like some kind of futuristic mother-lode.

We have a mixture of classic works, adapted for radio, and newly commissioned dramas. So, for the last two weekends, I've been tuning into Brave New World (Sat 9pm), an adaptation of Aldous Huxley's famous novel. This really is one of the big dogs of the dystopian sci-fi sub-genre, up there with 1984, Yevgeny Zamyatin's We, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, et cetera.

Brave New World has been incredibly influential, both on literature and the broader culture - the title is thrown out to describe something new all the time - and this was a fine dramatisation.

I won't précis the storyline because you should already know it, and if you don't, you should feel mortally ashamed. What I will say is that, in a funny way, radio is a better fit for novel adaptations than movies or TV.

The magic of books and radio both is that you, the audience, create so much of it in your mind. All of it, essentially. You envision what the city looks like, how the hover-pod/moon rockets move, what the robot's metallic and vaguely camp voice (robots are always vaguely camp) sounds like.

But when they adapt it for screen, there's a disjuncture between your mental images, and the shapes and forms you're now watching. You can't help thinking they've done it wrong, it shouldn't look like that, or what-have-you.

Anyway, the rest of Dangerous Visions' line-up is mouth-watering: John Wyndham's The Kraken Wakes, JG Ballard's Concrete Island and The Drowned World, four new works in the Dark Vignettes series, and more… including Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, which runs this week (Mon-Fri, 10.45pm) and next.

In a minor irony, I actually hate this book - absolute drivel, the most inexplicably overrated thing I've ever read. But millions of readers, and every "greatest novel ever" list-maker, love it, so you be the judge (Dredd).

The Ray D'Arcy Show (Radio 1, Mon 3pm), on foot of TV3's Teen Killers documentary, interviewed former Mountjoy governor John Lonergan on criminality, the justice system, mental health, social breakdown and more.

John is more New Testament than Old. He's always willing to seek explanations for bad behaviour - truly sickening behaviour, in some cases - rather than lock 'em up and throw away the key. Which is fair enough, and admirable in a way, though I do tend to feel he's a bit too much carrot and not quite enough stick. And judging by the texts read out, most listeners would agree.

The Marty Squad (Radio 1, Sun 6pm) has returned with the GAA championship. And this week's interview with Josh McClorey, lead guitarist with The Strypes, encapsulated what makes the GAA great.

This is a kid of huge talent, in a kick-ass rock band, with legends like Elton John and Noel Gallagher among his fans… but the fortunes of Cavan footballers still matter to him, and always will. As someone once joked, the GAA is like the Freemasons: once you're in the club, you're in for life, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

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