SFFaudio Review

Firefight by Brandon SandersonFirefight (The Reckoners #2)
By Brandon Sanderson; Performed by MacLeod Andrews
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 17 February 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 12 hours

Themes: / YA / fantasy / magic / superpowers /
Publisher summary:

Brandon Sanderson, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Words of Radiance, coauthor of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, and creator of the internationally bestselling Mistborn Trilogy, presents the second book in the Reckoners series: Firefight, the sequel to the #1 bestseller Steelheart.Newcago is free. They told David it was impossible, that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet Steelheart—invincible, immortal, unconquerable—is dead. And he died by David’s hand. Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life simpler. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And no one in Newcago can give him answers. Babylon Restored, the city formerly known as the borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic Regalia, Babylon Restored is flooded and miserable, but David is sure it’s the path that will lead him to what he needs to find. Entering a city oppressed by a High Epic despot is risky, but David’s willing to take the gamble. Because killing Steelheart left a hole in David’s heart. A hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow, he filled that hole with another Epic—Firefight. And now he will go on a quest darker and even more dangerous than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers.

I really liked Steelheart and this book was a good continuation of the story even though I didn’t like it quite as much. A new location, different situations, new epics, and even worse similes come together for a new adventure for David and The Reckoners. If you enjoyed the first book you will almost certainly like this one too…unless you throw the book through a window due to one of David’s many terrible similes.

The story is kind of similar as Steelheart except that it takes place in the remnants of Manhattan where many strange things are happening. I had more trouble following the details of the world this time around because the descriptions of the world are a bit harder to imagine. The world as described is really interesting in concept but it’s hard to follow sometimes with how things actually play out.

Sanderson is known for magic systems and he is no slouch here. The new powers and weaknesses of epics coupled with the the heck is going on with Calamity (the light in the sky that coincided with people attaining super powers) makes for interesting developments in the overall plot. I do like how Sanderson always has a plan for developing the magic system with each book and we definitely learn more in this book. I still really love the concept of a world with super heroes that are all corrupted – it’s such an interesting spin on the normal super hero story.

On the audio side of things MacLeod Andrews does a fine job narrating the story. He does some good voices that fit the characters well and puts sufficient emotion in his delivery. I think the audio version of this book is a great way to experience it.

Posted by Tom Schreck

SFFaudio Review

Kaiju RisingKaiju Rising: Age of Monsters
By Peter Clines, Larry Correia, Timothy W. Long, Howard Andrew Jones, Peter Rawlik, James Swallow, James Maxey, James Lovegrove, J. C. Koch, Jonathan Wood, C. L. Werner, Joshua Reynolds, David Annendale, Jaym Gates, Shane Berryhill, Natania Barron, Paul Genesse, Patrick Tracy, Nathan Black, Mike MacLean, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Kane Gilmour, Peter Stenson, Erin Hoffman, Sean Sherman, Edward M. Erdelac
Performed by Jeff Woodman, Marc Vietor, Simon Vance, Gabra Zackman, Nicola Barber, Bronson Pinchot, Ray Porter, Jennifer Van Dyck, Sean Runnette
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 9 December 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 18 hours
Themes: / monsters / short stories / robots / Nazis / dirigibles / samurai /
Publisher summary:

Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters is a collection of 23 stories focused around the theme of strange creatures in the vein of Pacific Rim, Godzilla, Cloverfield, and more. The anthology opens with a foreword by Jeremy Robinson, author of Project Nemesis, the highest selling Kaiju novel in the United States since the old Godzilla books—and perhaps even more than those. Then, from New York Times best sellers to indie darlings, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters features authors that are perfectly suited for writing larger-than-life stories, including: Peter Clines, Larry Correia, James Lovegrove, Gini Koch (as J.C. Koch), James Maxey, Jonathan Wood, C. L. Werner, Joshua Reynolds, David Annandale, Jaym Gates, Peter Rawlik, Shane Berryhill, Natania Barron, Paul Genesse & Patrick Tracy, Nathan Black, Mike MacLean, Timothy W. Long, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Kane Gilmour, Peter Stenson, Erin Hoffman, Sean Sherman, Howard Andrew Jones (The Chronicles of Sword and Sand tie-in), Edward M. Erdelac (Dead West tie-in), and James Swallow (Colossal Kaiju Combat tie-in).

Most might read the title and glance at the cover, and dismiss it as schlock genre fiction, just more monster stories. But I know you aren’t one of these quick-to-judge readers, that’s why you’re reading this review. You want to know more. You’re a responsible reader. “Good on you,” I say.

The first ¾ of this anthology is well-written monster stories that deliver fresh and new takes on an old idea. And really, there’s something here for everyone. Whether you like huge robots, or want to be inside the head of a Kaiju, you’re going to be happy with what this collection delivers. There are stories set in the past, the future, and the present-day. There are even Nazis, and dirigibles.

The diversity surprises the reader. I mean how many different ways can we explore giant monsters? More than I might have first imagined, and it’s exciting to find fresh angles on old tales. As stated above, there is some terrific writing on display, and while I personally feel the last handful of stories lacked in writerly craft, the overall experience of this anthology is a resounding thumbs-up!

Audiobook:
This was an enjoyable audiobook experience. There’s a large cast of readers, most do a fantastic job, and the less polished narrators are quickly forgotten in the mix of solid reading performances. I understand that the print version is illustrated, but this is in itself an outstanding audio production.

Lastly, understand that you don’t need to be a Kaiju enthusiast to appreciate this work. Unless you just absolutely hate hate hate giant monsters, I’d encourage you to give this a try. You don’t have to read it from beginning to end, most all of the stories are self-contained and few, if any, take themselves too serious. This is what I’d call a fun nightstand book. It’s something to pick up and peruse when the mood strikes.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

SFFaudio Review
Magician's LieThe Magician’s Lie
By Greer Macallister; Performed by Nick Podehl and Julia Whelan
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication date: 13 January 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 hours

Themes: / magician / illusion / crime / unreliable narrator /

Publisher summary:

Water for Elephants meets The Night Circus in The Magician’s Lie, a debut novel in which the country’s most notorious female illusionist stands accused of her husband’s murder—and she has only one night to convince a small-town policeman of her innocence. The Amazing Arden is the most famous female illusionist of her day, renowned for her notorious trick of sawing a man in half on stage. One night in Waterloo, Iowa, with young policeman Virgil Holt watching from the audience, she swaps her trademark saw for a fire ax. Is it a new version of the illusion, or an all-too-real murder? When Arden’s husband is found lifeless beneath the stage later that night, the answer seems clear. But when Virgil happens upon the fleeing magician and takes her into custody, she has a very different story to tell. Even handcuffed and alone, Arden is far from powerless—and what she reveals is as unbelievable as it is spellbinding. Over the course of one eerie night, Virgil must decide whether to turn Arden in or set her free…and it will take all he has to see through the smoke and mirrors.

The description for this book says it’s a blending of Water for Elephants and The Night Circus but I really get much Night Circus from this. It really was more The Prestige (movie version) in a Water For Elephants setting because it’s all about a traveling illusionist. The description had me expecting more in the realm of fantasy but I still enjoyed it over all. While not a big part of the book, this isn’t for the squeamish as there were a few moments that I almost turned it off because of some sadistic/masochistic moments and female assault in the book.

Why is this book more like The Prestige than The Night Circus? The Night Circus had fantastical, unexplained magic happening while The Prestige is all about illusionists who are competing for audiences. There are several illusions described in this book that got me thinking about The Prestige. Another big element in here was the unreliable narrator. Much of the book is a frame story told from the perspective of the main character in the first person so you are often wondering if what they’re telling is true…just like in the movie version of The Prestige (the book was a bit different).

As for the audio side of things, the narrator performance was passable but nothing fancy. Julia Whelan has a neutral, flat tone that I didn’t like so much at first but I acclimated to as the book went on. Nick Podehl did a good job but wasn’t what I hoped for from him compared to others I’ve heard him narrate. I could go either way on recommending this for audio or paper, but the usage of two narrators for a frame story is pretty nice; especially since each part is from a different persons perspective so that the voice of the narrator is essentially their voice.

Posted by Tom Schreck

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #317 – The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan, read by Adrian Praetzellis.

This UNABRIDGED AUDIOBOOK (4 hours 2 minutes) comes to us courtesy of LibriVox.

The Thirty-Nine Steps was first published in 1915.

The next SFFaudio Podcast will feature our discussion of it!

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan - All-Story Weekly,  June 5th, 1915

The 39 Steps by John Buchan

Posted by Jesse Willis

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #316 – The Golden Man by Philip K. Dick; read by Mike Vendetti. This is an unabridged reading of the story (1 hour 15 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Tamahome, Paul, and Mike.

Talked about on today’s show:
1954, The God Who Runs, bad titles, Next, Homo Aureus, The Man In The high Castle (TV series), hashtag marketing, an episode of The Twilight Zone, the film adaptation, Knowing, a working train-wreck, the main character has no sapience, autism, the diner scene, not just an exposition scene, the fake salesman, a lady with 8 boobs, shades of Total Recall, he’s looking for Jews, the secret police, the DCA are the secret police, the locals protect the mutant, Philip K. Dick:

“Here I am saying that mutants are dangerous to us ordinaries, a view which John W. Campbell, Jr. deplored. We were supposed to view them as our leaders. But I always felt uneasy as to how they would view us. I mean, maybe they wouldn’t want to lead us. Maybe from their super-evolved lofty level we wouldn’t seem worth leading. Anyhow, even if they agreed to lead us, I felt uneasy as where we would wind up going. It might have something to do with buildings marked SHOWERS but which really weren’t.”

what we did to the neanderthals, this is super X-Men, the John W. Campbell mutants vs. the Philip K. Dick mutants, House Of M, for those who are not Tamahome…, Spider-Man trying to “pass” as a mutant, the Scarlet Witch can re-write reality, to the beginnings of the superhuman genre, the origins of Superman, powerful superheroes are going to save us, Astounding -> Analog, John W. Campbell was obsesses with psychic powers being a science, mutation as evolution up, Slan by A.E. van Vogt, “fans are slans”, a lot of stuff going on, looking into the future, this so isn’t a movie, they just put a golden tint on the film-stock for Next, single word titles, Audible ratings, a story that is repulsive to everybody, we are the monsters, Audible’s return policy, Mike grew up in the Cold War era, Mutual Assured Destruction, no real external threat anymore, the Soviets have their own DCA, all the “deves” are getting “euthed”, Cris Johnson is the character’s name in the book and the movie, Dick was really interested in what happened in Nazi Germany, the atomic war caused all these mutations, the diner scene again, they’re everywhere!, the Johnson family seem to love Cris, he’s got the James Bond gene, women can’t resist, the unfaithful wives (and husbands), the crappy Wikipedia summary, can they sterilize everybody, they know this is the end, Cris can never be outmaneuvered, the whole last 40 minutes of Next didn’t happen, the movie does a good job of illustrating how Cris’ super-power would work, Groundhog Day, computer save gaming, because Cris can’t talk…, how we interact with NPCs in computer games is how Cris is interacting with everyone around him, we’re all sort of trapped like that, marketing it as a X-Men or superhero type story, imaging a dollhouse and all the different possibilities he could do, Philip K. Dick is Mr. Innovative, a chilling world that’s pretty much like ours, a very ’50s feel in terms of the country and random energy shields, the X-Men explanation for mutation (atomic bomb testing), The Crawlers by Philip K. Dick, the golden man is beautiful and the crawlers are ugly, the crawlers have their own agenda, they are not seen as human, Harlan Ellison, a mutant psionic, The Skull by Philip K. Dick, “we met the enemy and he is us”, the mutant theme has dried up in SF, Deus Irae, an armless and legless hero, Tibor McMasters, a huge sense of pathos, “how come people are such assholes”, The Turning Wheel by Philip K. Dick, White Man’s Burden, what if we would have lost the war (WWII)?, Cañon City, Colorado, Mike is the man in The Man In The high Castle again, Nazis vs. Imperial Japan, the American occupation of Japan, Two Dooms by C.M. Kornbluth, occultist, even more surreal than Dick, we’re number 1 and their number 10, the werewolves (post-war German resistance against occupation), going to the movies, after the atom bomb, you never saw the Hollywood movie where the Americans invade Russia (the reverse of Red Dawn), the ridiculous premise behind the remake of Red Dawn, North Korea, auto-immune disease, the acronym-itis that sinks the ship, government conspiracies, aliens, Mexicans are aliens?, what?, what would happen if the Americans left California, don’t spread that rumor, Pacific Edge, the California drought, Washington and Oregon, archetypical Dick, A Canticle For Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, to quote Solaris, Dick is wise, if humans go on as Cris Johnson, this is why people are upset that their kids are autistic, he is in a sense “superior”, ok you say you want a superior being… how do you like that John W. Campbell, he’s a golden god, the Steve McQueen of mutants, a swelling torrent of sheer force!, are they having sex?, cigarettes as symbols, explicit sex, a seduction, is she going to be the mother of dragons?, Genghis Khan style, Cris is unique (for now), dumb feral cubs, dominant or recessive, there is no hope, it won’t be us, grinning wryly, In The Mouth Of Madness, every species can smell its distinction, man will be a myth, one perfectly adapted animal, more of a threat to the men than it is to the women, Species, a female golden man, that’s why you have the mutants with the eight breasts, what do you think of that? what do ya make of this?, a litter of kids needs eight arms, turning people into animals, rats, subhumans, what do ya make of that?, he’s covered in fur, how does he put on pants?, he’s like a peacock, Hyperpilosity by L. Sprague de Camp, why peahens choose peacocks with the longest tails, peahens want their male offspring to be attractive to peahens, they’re going to breed us out of business, The Turning Wheel (again), racism, H.P. Lovecraft, it’s an act!, there are mutants all around them, he’s one thing in the restaurant he’s another to the cop, a super-secret agency that everybody knows about and talks about, every family is hiding a mutant, FBI agents infiltrating anarchists groups, ATF Operation Fearless, Kafka by way of Dick, the NRA, welcome to America, Anita, sexism, nobody is clean in this fight, Cris ruins the horseshoe game (by way of saying goodbye?), a repulsive attractive powerful story, Cris’ mom, Cris’ dad, how could this story have been adapted otherwise, a stupid plot, why do the French want to blow up Los Angeles?, the movie is a train-wreck and yet…, Juliane Moore’s character is a monster, she’s driven, strapped to the Clockwork Orange chair watching CNN, that’s burying the lead, the two minute rule, he’s got no past, you have to have a past to decide what you’re going to do in the future, his present is our future, the movie has lots of problems, what was the “next” card, domestic rendition, there are people, don’t ask this question, Cris doesn’t need to speak because speaking is for planning, he’s just an animal, you have to have a past to plan.

The Golden Man by Philip K. Dick - Illustrated by Frank Kelly Freas

Posted by Jesse Willis

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #315 – Jesse, Seth, and Paul talk about Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison.

Talked about on today’s show:
Harry Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room! = 1973 Soylent Green; Seth misattributes A. Lee Martinez’s The Automatic Detective to Harry Harrison; Harry Harrison doesn’t know anything about science, but he’s big on comedy; Robert Sheckley; the novel’s dark tone; J.G. Ballard’s Billenium also focuses on overpopulation; Seth has never seen Soylent Green; Charlton Heston is the science fiction Will Smith of the 1960s and 1970s; Soylent Green is more a sequel to Make Room! Make Room! than an adaptation; horrible people with money living in nice buildings; crapsack; China’s one-child policy; large families in the South; tilapia is the aquatic chicken, freshwater fish from the Nile; the movie has a greater emphasis on global warming; overpopulation as a trending topic in the late 1960s and early 1970s according to Internet Speculative Fiction Database; environmental issues, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, DDT; slightly alternate history in the novel involving Thailand’s invasion of China; refugees comparable to Vietnam boat people; very little science fiction in the novel; resource depletion as a theme in both book and movie; comparison to Nevil Shute’s On the Beach; comparisons to Logan’s Run, which features a “crapsaccharine” future; the bad guy is us; weed crackers; tilapia symbolic of the devolving food chain; modern China is the wild west of capitalism–you can get eggs without egg; wild fish populations like salmon, cod, and walleye dwindling in our own world; the wastefulness of shark fin soup; Garrett Hardin’s tragedy of the commons; on crowded apartments; the positive impact of contraception and birth control; economic prosperity’s ameliorative effect on population growth; hunter-gatherer societies don’t have pharmacies; “abstinence goes against human nature”; RU486; is religion the bad guy in the novel; Peter, the novel’s religious fanatic; you don’t see old people in Hollywood movies anymore; the endless chase for youth; we now live in Logan’s Run; actors and athletes die at 30; Achille’s Choice by Larry Niven; sexism in Soylent Green, women are furniture; difference in tone between the novel and the movie; in the movie, corruption is systemic; on bribing officials in third-world countries; over interpretation; the book as-is isn’t fixable; secrets in movies like The Sixth Sense and Signs; “you can’t get kids to watch old things”; Charlton Heston has bad politics; 1976 Hugo Awards; the shipyards are a throwback to World War II, resemble floating Roman ruins, made of ferroconcrete; there’s not enough war in this novel; stabilizing influence of war in George Orwell’s 1984; Kim Stanley Robinson’s Pacific Edge; worldwide water shortages; Paolo Bacigalupi’s forthcoming The Water Knife; Robert Bloch’s 1958 This Crowded Earth; Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke on the moon landing; youth culture doesn’t love intelligence; elderly U.S. presidents; Netflix’s Daredevil; Saul is the novel’s most likable character; Andy and Saul, don’t call it a bromance; the movie lacks the book’s humanity; the movie is the cynical Chinatown version of reality; Hollywood used to tackle real-life issues in movies, now all we get is The Day after Tomorrow and 2012; we like John Cusack; Airport 1975 with more Charlton Heston action; the tragedy is that most people don’t recognize parodies; the novel’s resonance with the current unrest in Baltimore; the book and the movie are both good medicine; embrace the silent green–or yellow!

Make Room Make Room by Harry Harrison

Soylent Green - Riot Control

Soylent Green LEGOized

Posted by Jesse Willis

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