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The Conception of Terror: Tales Inspired by M. R. James - Volume 1

An Audible Original Drama
Length: 4 hrs and 13 mins

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Publisher's Summary

A collection of four ghostly tales inspired by M. R. James.

Casting the Runes - adapted by Stephen Gallagher

When academic Jo Harrington (Anna Maxwell Martin) is sent a paper - The Truth of Alchemy, by Anton Karswell - for peer review, she pulls no punches. It has no place in a serious academic publication, and Karswell is a half-bright fool. However, when the editor writes a rejection note to Karswell, he inadvertently includes her entire email. Occultist Karswell (Reece Shearsmith) doesn’t take kindly to criticism.   

On the tube home with her partner Edward Dunning (Tom Burke), Jo spots a poster with her name on it. It reads: 'In memory of Joanne Harrington, M.Litt, PhD, died September eighteenth, three days were allowed.' Is there anything that Edward can do to save Jo from this curse? 

Lost Hearts - adapted by A. K. Benedict

Teenager Stephanie Elliot (Rosa Coduri) is taken to Aswarby House to be fostered by Mrs Bunch (Susan Jameson). Stephanie strikes up a friendship with Ben (Bill Milner), the adopted son of charismatic community leader Mr Abney (Jeff Rawle). He tells her that Mr Abney is a good man: he even took in a child refugee last year, but she ran away and stole from him. Stephanie is troubled by voices and visions of a dead girl clutching at her chest, and when Ben disappears she begins to suspect that all is not right in Aswarby House.

The Treasure of Abbot-Thomas - adapted by Jonathan Barnes

When former Somerton school pupil Greg Parsbury (Robert Bathurst) meets history teacher Mika Chantry (Pearl Mackie) at a memorial service for schoolmaster Sam Abbot-Thomas, he begs for her help. He has been sent a postcard by the estate of the mysterious and charismatic Abbot-Thomas. On it is a strange inscription in Latin, which he believes to be an inaugural clue in a treasure hunt: much like the elaborate treasure hunts Abbot-Thomas used to set back in the 1970s. There were rumours that Abbot-Thomas possessed a hidden fortune, and Parsbury and Chantry set out to find it.

A View from a Hill - adapted by Mark Morris

Comedian and podcaster Paul Fanshawe (Andy Nyman) and his wife, Sarah (Alice Lowe), visit the Cotswolds on holiday, trying to rebuild their lives after the death of their young son, Archie. Whilst out walking they spot a beautiful abbey across the valley on Gallows Hill, but when they reach it, they find the building is little more than rubble. While Sarah explores, Paul records commentary for his podcast. Sarah thinks she hears children’s laughter, but there’s no-one there. Later that night she listens back to the recording and hears a child’s voice whisper, 'Mummy.' Sarah is convinced that Archie is trying to reach them and wants to return to the ruins. But something far worse is waiting for them on Gallows Hill.

Public Domain (P)2019 Audible, Ltd

What members say

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-08-19

Background noise definitely irritating

Enjoyed the stories overall. The background noise, heavy breathing/sex sounds and long pointless pauses were the biggest downside.

42 of 46 people found this review helpful

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  • Kaitlin Hatman
  • 02-08-19

Unfortunately Awkward

These stories are unfortunately mediocre. At best, they're interesting enough to grab my attention for a few moments, and at worst they're cringingly uncomfortable - and not in a scary way. There are long, awkward pauses wherein nothing is happening and the listener is left to imagine what the characters might be experiencing. The only issue with this is that these silences are often filled with uncomfortable heavy breathing and panting (and in one notably unsettling instance, squelching), which I imagine is meant to convey the terror of the situation, but is ultimately just.... awkward. It's also widespread enough throughout the stories that I feel confident it was a directional choice more-so than the acting (which was pretty decent).

For me, the most enjoyable story was the first - but not until the second half. The antagonist and main male character have a bizarre antagonistic chemistry which - while entertaining - didn't feel very emotionally appropriate within the context of the story. Even so, it was engaging and at times even funny.

Ultimately, skirting the edge of heavy topics without actually delving into the depths of them, coupled with some awkward voice acting direction, and easily predictable stories with non-memorable characters, made this a somewhat disappointing listen. I do think that it's worth listening to if you're a fan of the genre, or if you're just bored at work and need something to listen to. Just don't expect highly engaging horror stories out of it.

103 of 115 people found this review helpful

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  • Judy
  • 27-08-19

Good Thing This One Was Free

Good dramatization. Poor stories. Where do I go to recover the time I lost here?

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Mindy fangedmom Janicke
  • 07-08-19

I am glad I did not pay for it

I never leave a bad review, but I cannot lie. This was not suspenseful, nor terrifying. It was cheesy, and each story ended abruptly with nothing to think about or wonder.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Amy Johnson
  • 03-08-19

Unexpected

Frankly I have learned to not expect very much from the Audible original selection. Every once in a while a selection is offered that shatters all of my expectations by being...good.
The Conception of Terror offers readers (well I guess in our case it would be listeners) four tales that are both original and genuinely creepy.

58 of 67 people found this review helpful

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  • Steffen Gehrs
  • 28-08-19

Just boring

Listened to the first two stories and couldn't bare to continue. No suspense whatsoever. Just a waste of time.
Trust the bad ratings

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Jennifer Boxley Olson
  • 25-08-19

Prefer to listen to the story rather than a performance

When the book is performEd you miss out on the story told by the author. I was unsure of what was happening exactly during some parts of the stories bc their was only sound. I guess I’m the kind of reader who prefers to listen to the story the author wrote.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Wicked
  • 19-08-19

Meh

It was ok. It gave me something to listen too while I worked but I definitely didn't look forward to turning it on or anything.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Jen
  • 08-08-19

I wanted to like it

I really wanted to like this. I was excited to start listening. I forced myself through 2 full stories and couldn't do it anymore. It was just terrible! So disappointed! The acting was ok..the stories were ok..nothing really worth spending the time on.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Robert
  • 21-03-19

Excellent Modern Retellings of M.R.James Classics

I heard about this audiobook online and thought I'd give it a go. The fact that it was retellings of M.R.James tales with a modern setting AND an audio drama intrigued me. The production is top-notch - all of the sound effects really add to the telling of the stories, and the narration is fantastic! The way the stories were transposed to the modern era was done well, just keep in mind that these are stories inspired by the originals so there will be differences between the two. They chose some of the best M.R. James tales to redo, with Casting the Runes and The Treasure of Abbot Thomas standing out as the most well done. I'm looking forward to the next volume in the series!

48 of 60 people found this review helpful

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  • Chris Halliday
  • 10-02-19

Brilliant modern ghost stories

Being an M.R. James fan, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy these reimagined classic tales. When I saw they were a Bafflegab production, any concerns evaporated. These are masterful modern ghost stories, told as full-cast audio dramas. Everything from the performances to the sound design is spot on. I’m very glad I didn’t listen to these in the dark.

Roll on Volume 2!

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Declan Grundy
  • 13-02-19

Must buy.

I was driving through the the night into the early hours of the morning when I pressed play for the first time on this audio book. The music, the voice acting, the story - turned my world upside down, the lone car on the motorway steadily creeping up behind me didn't look or feel so innocent. Genuine fear took me and yet, left me wanting more. 10/10 recommend.

I hope and really want them to make a volume 2.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Matthew Brown
  • 15-02-19

Good chilling ghost stories with a fresh coat of paint.

I bagged this collection of dramas on something of a whim, not realising that it was largely adapted from the original stories rather than inspired by them.

When I realised my error, being a bit of a traditionalist and very fond of the originals I confess I sucked in my breath and expected the worst. What a treat it was to discover that each adaptation was a faithful but smartly updated version of each story. Great acting, faithful but fresh versions of the originals in all cases but the last even if Lost Hearts was perhaps a trifle over ripe at the end and ‘A view from a hill’ was radically altered’.

Highly recommended for fans of the classic ghost story.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Devon reader
  • 11-04-19

A fine tribute to the great man

I’ve loved the M.R.James ghost stories for many years, and have collected all I can in various formats. I think the master would thoroughly approve of these tales and performances. They are genuinely scary , in his understated style. I was a little disappointed by the ending of “Lost Hearts”, but otherwise I enjoyed these a lot, and will definitely buy any future volumes when they appear.
Wonderful.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • s
  • 11-04-19

Get a wiggle on - I want to hear more

Really enjoyed these stories with their revised take on the classics. Some were better than others and most of the actors were fantastic. None were dissapointing. I keep searching the new releases for the next collection. Come on Audible, get a wiggle on, you're on to something good here.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • petecknight
  • 19-02-19

Too short

This book was so fantastic the only problem with it was it didn’t go on long enough. More please!

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • stephenkingfan
  • 14-03-19

Dubious about reimagining MR James but it worked

As an MR James fan I wondered whether I would like these "inspired by" tales but I really did. Well cast actors made a difference and some of the narrative changes were cleverly conceived and executed. However, enough of MR James' wonderfully creepy touch remains at the heart of these dramatisations to ensure moments of real, chilling terror. Especially if you listen to them on your own in bed and in the dark like I did!

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Kevin Boone
  • 12-03-19

Surprisingly good

Attempts to adapt MR James' writings for radio have not always been a success. So I had only modest expectations for this recording. As it turns out, it was way better than I expected. The last story -- A View from a Hill -- is decidedly creepy, and very well performed; but all four stories are pretty good.

As ever, the excellent production and engineering of the studio has been brutally mangled by Audible's ghastly compressed audio format. So nothing from Audible can ever rate full marks in my opinion. This one would get full marks, except that I care about sound quality.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Babs
  • 24-02-19

A brilliant new take on the old classics

A delight for any M.R. James fan. The stories are twisted in new forms, but the atmosphere of the originals remains as unsettling. Well done! I cannot wait for Volume 2.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 21-02-19

Modern day MR James

an excellent MR James adaptation, BUY IT!! You will not be disappointed. Brings these excellent works into modern lives.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful