Audiobook review: “The Call of the Wild”
By Jack London
Read by William Roberts
Published by Naxos Audiobooks
Approx 3.5 hours
Once again it was time to visit a classic. So, why not listen to a book that takes you on an adventure from the point of view of a dog. This is one of those books that is assigned in school and is a classic story. From high school to college, student’s through the years have analyzed the book into submission. I’m not here to analyze, I may bring up some aspects I found interesting to me, but I don’t expect this to be graded by any literature professor, so I’ll will mainly be talking about just the fun I had listening to the audiobook version of this classic.
So right off the bat, I’ll talk about the narrator, William Roberts. His voice was crisp and clear and he did a perfect job of reading this classic. Roberts was able to convey through his voice the entire story and keep my attention. Sometimes when I dive into a classic novel the reader has a dry matter of fact voice, much like some of my old literature professors. Roberts was able to vocally demonstrate the many emotions and surprises in the story. So from the beginning of the story all the to the last word William Roberts delivered this story with passion and authority with a little touch of a backwoods mountain man.
What makes this story most interesting is that, for the most part, it is told from the point of view of a dog. The main character in this story is Buck, a St. Bernard / Scotch Collie mix. His breed is important because of what his life becomes. The setting of the story is the time of the late 1800’s Alaska Gold Rush. Buck is stolen from the luxurious life in the Santa Clara Valley as the pet of a Judge and his family. He is soon shipped to Seattle where he learns the law of the club and becomes submissive enough to be trained as a sled dog in the Klondike.
The story follows Buck as he learns how to survive in the frozen north. Buck is then sold to a pair of French-Canadian dispatchers from the Canadian government, François and Perrault, who take him with them to the Klondike region of Canada. There they train him as a sled dog. Buck first learns by watching then becomes the leader of the pack in a fight to the death with Spitz the lead dog on the team. Buck then develops a reputation with man and dog as a force to be reckoned with. As Buck learns the new skills, he learns more and more on how to rely on the primitive skills required. The more skills he requires the more primitive Buck becomes constantly being called to let loose the domestication and become a wild dog.
After Buck’s fight with Spitz the team is sold to a “Scottish half breed” man working the mail service. The dogs must carry a heavy load to the mining areas, and the journey they make is tiresome and long. One of the team, a Husky named Dave, becomes sick and eventually has to be shot.
Buck’s next owners are a trio of inexperienced city folk (Hal, Charles, and a woman named Mercedes). Inexperienced at surviving in the Northern wilderness, they struggle to control the sled and ignore warnings that the spring melt poses dangers. They overfeed the dogs and starve them when the food runs out and argue constantly amongst themselves on various issues. On their journey they meet John Thornton, an experienced outdoorsman, who notices that the dogs have been poorly treated and are in a weakened condition. He warns the trio against crossing the river, but they refuse his advice and order Buck to move on. Exhausted, starving, and sensing the danger ahead, Buck refuses and stays down lying in the snow. After Buck is beaten by Hal, Thornton sees the power and uniquenesss in Buck. Thornton cuts Buck free from his straps and tells the trio he is keeping him. After some argument, the trio leaves and tries to cross the river, but as Thornton warned, the ice gives way and the three fall into the river and drown, along with the sled and neglected dogs.
Buck and Thornton become best of friends as Thornton nurses Buck back to the full capacity of the powerful dog he is. Buck returns the favor when Thornton falls into the river and Buck saves his life. Soon the two are making frequent trips to pan for gold. On one of those trips Thornton gets caught up in a boasting match during which he has stated that Buck could break loose a sled loaded down with a half ton of cargo and pull it 100 yards. This wins $1,600 in gold dust for Thornton but the opposing bettor wants to buy Buck from Thornton, but the bond between Buck and Thornton goes beyond any monetary value.
The call of the wild continues to beckon Buck as he makes regular solo trips into the forest while Thornton continues his hunt for gold. Returning from one trip Buck finds the camp raided and many dead. The Yeehat natives are celebrating the conquest when Buck arrives and Buck seeks revenge.
After the loss of the last true friend he had Buck finally answers the call and joins a pack of wolves to become a source of legend for many years to come. While his adventures may sound simple, the feeling of survival and return to mother Earth becomes the underlying theme and can be related to humans or animals. The idea that Buck is affected by having to kill one of his own to take power and then refusing to be violent until he seeks revenge for Thornton’s slaughter shows a lot about the character behind Buck.
Treat your self to a revisit to a classic through this very well presented audio version.