Category Archives: Classic

Fiction from long established or historically relevant novelists. Includes classical literature (Greek and Roman, Elizabethian, American, European). Novels written 50+ years ago.

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

After the death of his parents, young man David Balfour determines to spend time travelling before settling down to a family and home. As he is leaving the town of his birth, his good friend and minister Mr. Campbell gives him a sealed letter from his father and told that he should take the letter to the Lord of Shaws, Ebenezer Balfour, his uncle. Young David is elated to find that he may have an inheritance and family and sets off at once.

by Robert Louis Stevenson
published in 1886
read by Mark F. Smith

When he comes to Ebenezer Balfour, though, his enthusiasm is quickly dashed by the reality that the current Lord of Shaws is a paranoid, anti-social outcast in his own land living in a never finished estate in complete darkness. David is greeted and treated as an enemy to Ebenezer, who send him on an errand that would have ended in certain death if not for a lucky lightning strike uncovering the design. Once confronted, Ebenezer promises to take David to his lawyer the following day and set things right by giving him his rightful inheritance.

In town, Ebenezer meets with Captain Hoseason, a merchant ship captain that Ebenezer has a partnership with and entices David to visit the ship. David, having never seen anything like the ship or the sea complies. Once on the ship, though, Ebenezer quickly rows back to town leaving David with the seamen. Realization sets in too late. David is knocked out after trying to call for help and wakes to find himself on the way to America to be sold as a slave on a plantation.

Stevenson takes his time describing each episode of this adventure (for there were several sections, the kidnapping on the ship being just the first,) in great detail so much so that each could have been a novella in itself. After the kidnapping there is the voyage at sea, the muder of a Scotish Lord during the sensitive time just after the Jacobite Uprising, a wild flight through wild lands, and finally a memorable conclusion.

There is something special about classic novels of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Authors didn’t concern themselves with moving through stories quickly to get to the action. There are no Tom Clancy stories where inevitably someone gets blown up or assassinated in the first chapter thus setting up the novel as “action packed.” Be that as it may, Stevenson’s Kidnapped is every bit as full of adventure and more so than some current story tellers who play to the impatience of modern audiences.

Mark Smith is excellent as always as the reader. His calming voice sooths and relaxes the listener. While there were a lot of words and accents that were beyond him (which he admits to in a disclaimer at the start of the book) it is likely that very few readers today – professional or otherwise – would have known the correct pronunciation of the names and words from 19th century Scotland. As such, I certainly could not tell when a mistake was made or not and for my part enjoyed the story immensely.

This is a great example of classic literature that was well read and enjoyable. Visit  to download this audio book for free and enjoy it yourself. You wont regret it.

Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of and has generously provided this review. He reviews for the commercial site and previously on Bookboro. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

Master of the World by Jules Verne

I’m going through a phase where I’m reading quite a few classics and – as in this case – books by authors of classics. There is something special about the way that English in literature was used a hundred years ago. I love the tempo and naive hope and civility of the stories. And thanks to, many of the classics are available by excellent readers for free. Verne’s book was read by Mark F. Smith, one of the best readers – at least as good as any professional I’ve listened to. So when I decided to listen to this book I was excited by the prospect of another great classic. Verne’s greater known books are adventure and excitement, dashed with science fiction. I expected the same here, but was sorely disappointed.

The Master of the World is about a man who creates a machine that can change forms between automobile, submarine, boat and airplane. At the time of the writing, submarines and airplanes were anticipated but not realized. To readers of this time, an automobile that could travel 120-200 mph would indeed seem near impossible. As a result of the invention, the Master of the World decides to flaunt his superiority, ignoring offers by governments to purchase the invention. Investigator Strock is charged with discovering and capturing the madman before his invention can cause harm to citizens of the United States.

One would think, as I did, that the premise would serve up an adventure worthy of reading. However, the book is a complete failure. The hero is merely a bystander, affecting the plot and the story in almost no way. The chase is wholly unsatisfactory. The resolution is so ridiculous and abrupt that when it was over I cried out loud, “Really? That’s it?!” Nothing happens in the book. And the book is not worth reading. By far the worst book I’ve read in years. There is a reason this is not a well known story by Verne.

Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of and has generously provided this review. He reviews for the commercial site and previously on Bookboro. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.