Audiobook - The Disintegration Machine

The Disintegration Machine

It's more sci-fi than Sherlock for Susan Omand as she listens to this audio short from Spokenworld...

Read By: Barnaby Edwards
Written By: Arthur Conan Doyle
Produced By: Neil Gardner


When people think of author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, most automatically think only of Sherlock Holmes but there is so much more to his writing than this one character. The Disintegration Machine is one such short story, from the Professor Challenger series.

The story is told by young journalist and friend of Professor Challenger, Malone, who visits the professor and ask for his company in visiting an inventor who has made an incredible claim. Latvian Theodore Nemor appears to have invented a "disintegration machine" which will disintegrate anything put inside the machine down to its component molecules then, with a flick of the switch, make the item re-materialise exactly as before. It seems that Nemor is also willing to sell knowledge of how to make the machine to the highest bidder. Indeed, visitors just leaving Nemor's address as Challenger and Malone arrive, are wealthy Russians.

When the two arrive, Nemor offers to demonstrate the machine and, after being convinced to let Malone go first, Challenger watches as Malone is indeed disintegrated and reassembled. Challenger takes his turn next and Nemor shows the power of the machine. After a discussion on the vulnerability of the currently disintegrated Professor, Nemor makes him reappear completely and deliberately hairless.

Challenger lunges in anger at Nemor and threatens to kill him if things are not put right. Nemor does as bidden and Challenger calms down, asking questions about the machine, examining it in detail and letting Nemor boast about the possible powers of the machine and the fact that he has just sold the machine to a foreign government. Challenger then takes matters into his own hands....

Professor Challenger, like Sherlock Holmes, is based on a real person - in this case the eminent Scottish physician, Doctor Rutherford that Conan Doyle met while studying medicine in Edinburgh. The physical description of the man in the story matches the portraits of Rutherford very well. The brusqueness of his manner is also very reminiscent of a lot of Edinburgh academics that I have met and works well against the personable and enquiring character of the journalist. I enjoyed the description of the machine and the science of its workings and found them very convincing. You can really see the precursor to the teleporters used in shows like Star Trek and the likes.

The success of the story for me is in the ending, which leads one to question which of the academics is the less ethical, the one feeding his own financial greed or the one in pursuit of the greater good.

The vocal talents of actor Barnaby Edwards, well known for his work in the Dr Who franchises, were evident in the reading, with a good range of accents, and held my interest over the 40 minutes of the story, even though the Latvian inventor sounded more like the Count off Sesame Street than an intellectual academic at times. But, apart from that, it was a very enjoyable tale and an easy listen that has reignited my interest in Conan Doyle's work.

Image - Spokenworld

The Disintegration Machine is available as from Spokenworld Audio.