Young People Read Old SFF

The Most Dangerous Game

Richard Connell

Escape, source of this month's entry, ran from 1947 to 1954, surviving despite the host network’s habit of arbitrarily changing Escape's broadcast time. Although most of Escape's episodes were straight-forward adventures, some of them touched on SF or fantasy themes. As it happens, this particular episode, an adaptation of Richard Connell's 1924 "The Most Dangerous Game" is mundane but it’s a story that has been adapted over and over. Odds are you’ve either seen an adaptation or something influenced by it.

This one wasn't really my favorite. The dudes talking over port wine and hunting just isn't my bag. The conversation and narration was believable, at least, if not the premise, necessarily. I did like how the tension built once Rainsford was being hunted, and I suppose I also liked how the story flipped the expectation of what was actually being hunted. For me, this story was neither science fiction nor fantasy. I suppose it could be pigeon-holed into the latter, but overall it just seemed like a bit of a cheap Joseph Conrad ripoff. But then, I don't like Heart of Darkness, either, so as I said this genre just isn't something I'm into.

—Claire

I really enjoyed this one because it had a satisfying ending, whereas the protagonists from the first two were lost in body or mind. There is quite enough pessimism (and dystopian elements) in real life without seeking it out in fiction. Also, it makes its philosophical/political points without hitting you over the head with them, unlike the trend in modern fiction.

This one focuses on a hunting expert by the name of Rainsford, who leads safaris and hunts animals for museum collections (a virtuous purpose for this era, one assumes, at least for the privileged class) and has written books on the field. He recalls an incident that he never included in his books. When the story starts, he's on a yacht with a friend on a moonless night, somewhere in the Caribbean, enjoying some after dinner conversation about hunting. There was some excellent foreshadowing, when Rainsford states that hunting is mere sport, and that the animals he hunts have no understanding and therefore no fear. The world is made up of the hunter and the hunted, and that's just the way it is. Of course, he later has cause to regret this statement.

Rainsford manages to fall off the yacht while smoking his pipe, and washes up on an isolated island. He sees light in the distance and finds himself in a well-provisioned lodge. His host is the General Tsarov, a seemingly civilised Russian man who offers him shelter, and even lends him a London-tailored dinner suit so that he can dress for dinner. His one passion in life is the hunt. But he wants prey that can offer him a true challenge.

The story thus questions the colonial and aristocratic concept of hunting, as Rainsford plunges into the most terrible hunt of his life. Even though we know Rainsford survives, since he's recounting the story, the tight first person draws you deeply into the story and you feel the suspense and the terror of the protagonist. The music contributed a lot to this story, clearly setting the atmosphere at the scene changes. I'm starting to appreciate the artistry of the performers and sound effects while listening to these stories, even though I don't enjoy audiobooks generally. The constraint of the half hour slot also seems to encourage much tighter plotting.

—Melissa

I had heard of this story before, so I already knew what it was essentially about. It was okay, thought kind of ho-hum compared to all the post-apocalyptic, dystopian novels so popular among the young adult genre and in my schooling experience. (Maze Runner, Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies, Divergent, etc.)

The general experience of the story was a little anti-climactic, since by the verb tense we know the narrator survives. It was also old-fashioned in language as well as in content, such as the threatening USSR-type villain with a pack of aggressively fatal guard dogs It was like an old James Bond movie that perhaps doesn’t age well.

The story didn’t take too much brain power to listen to, which was good since I was listening to it while working out. I think I would have been bored just sitting and listening to it. There weren’t many surprises, and I was disappointed that the narrator didn’t explore more of the island and that there wasn’t more description of the rest of the island. It would have been interesting for the narrator to have visited that camp where the shipwrecked sailors lived.

Overall, a ho-hum story. I hope this is on the more boring end of radio episodes.

—Mel

Comments