SFFaudio Review

Legend of DrizztThe Legend of Drizzt: The Collected Stories
By R. A. Salvatore
Publisher: Audible Studios
Publication Date: 12 August 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 hours, 27 minutes

Themes: / Forgotten Realms / dark elf / fantasy / short stories /

Publisher summary:

The Legend of Drizzt: The Collected Stories expands upon the epic legend of the dark elf with 12 tales performed by the all-star cast of Felicia Day, Dan Harmon, Greg Grunberg, Tom Felton, Danny Pudi, Sean Astin, Melissa Rauch, Ice-T, Wil Wheaton, Al Yankovic, Michael Chiklis, and David Duchovny!

For years, the Legend of Drizzt has included short stories published in Forgotten Realms anthologies and Dragon magazine. Available here for the first time in audio are all the classic stories by the New York Times best-selling author R. A. Salvatore!

From the startling origin of Drizzt’s panther companion, to the tale of Jarlaxle and Entreri’s first encounter with the dragon sisters, the tales in The Collected Stories enrich this vividly-imagined series by building the world around Drizzt through exploring the backstories of side characters and magical locations.

Wizards of the Coast outdid themselves on this one and brought in a cast that’s actually hard to believe unless you start listening.
I thought the stories were excellent and for the most part the readings were well done. Ice-T was decent, but extremely slow and kept pronouncing the “w” in “sword” and that word is used a ton in his story. It drove me nuts.

Weird Al did a good job, especially with the voices, but his voice is a little too … bubbly … silly … there’s got to be a better word … for this type of serious story.

Usually Wil Wheaton does a good job, but I don’t rate him super high as a narrator because he never does different voices for the characters, at least not well. This one he did an excellent job with the voices. He’s another, however, that might have too much sarcasm in his voice for this type of story. Which is why he is the perfect narrator for anything from John Scalzi.

Last one and I’m done talking, biggest surprise was Michael Chiklis, who did an insanely good job with EVERYTHING. I hope he does tons more audiobooks and quits acting for the real money … in audiobook narration! We all know Scott Brick is rollin’ in it, amiright?

Overall, it’s more than worth the price I paid and then some and pretty cool to have these celebrities reading names like Drizzt and Zaknafein and Menzoberranzan and I’m not even touching the dwarf names of the top of my head that us geeks love oh so much.

4 out of 5 stars (highly recommended)

Posted by Bryce L.

SFFaudio Review

Ilium by Dan SimmonsIlium (Ilium #1)
By Dan Simmons; Narrated by Kevin Pariseau
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 25 Discs; 30 hours
Themes: / Mars / gods / ancient Greece / scholars / Shakespeare / fantasy /
Publisher summary:
From the towering heights of Olympos Mons on Mars, the mighty Zeus and his immortal family of gods, goddesses, and demigods look down upon a momentous battle, observing—and often influencing—the legendary exploits of Paris, Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, and the clashing armies of Greece and Troy.Thomas Hockenberry, former 21st-century professor and Iliad scholar, watches as well. It is Hockenberry’s duty to observe and report on the Trojan War’s progress to the so-called deities who saw fit to return him from the dead. But the muse he serves has a new assignment for the wary scholic, one dictated by Aphrodite herself.With the help of 40th-century technology, Hockenberry is to infiltrate Olympos, spy on its divine inhabitants…and ultimately destroy Aphrodite’s sister and rival, the goddess Pallas Athena. On an Earth profoundly changed since the departure of the Post-Humans centuries earlier, the great events on the bloody plains of Ilium serve as mere entertainment.Its scenes of unrivaled heroics and unequaled carnage add excitement to human lives devoid of courage, strife, labor, and purpose. But this eloi-like existence is not enough for Harman, a man in the last year of his last 20. That rarest of post-postmodern men—an ‘adventurer’—he intends to explore far beyond the boundaries of his world before his allotted time expires, in search of a lost past, a devastating truth, and an escape from his own inevitable ‘final fax.’ Meanwhile, from the radiation-swept reaches of Jovian space, four sentient machines race to investigate—and, perhaps, terminate—the potentially catastrophic emissions of unexplained quantum-flux emanating from a mountaintop miles above the terraformed surface of Mars.

If someone were to describe this book to me (if they even could), I don’t know if I would believe how much I absolutely enjoyed it. Dan Simmons is a mad genius.

Shakespeare-quoting humanoid robots, Greek Gods, post-humans, and old-style humans somehow make the craziest awesome story imaginable.

Ilium is a story told through essentially three unrelated viewpoints. First, there’s Hockenberry. This is told in first person. Hockenberry is called a “Scholic,” a human from our the 20th century (our time) who was rebirthed in a future where Homer’s Trojan War is being fought. His job is to report on the war … to the Greek Gods.

At first, this is completely confusing. Why? is a question I asked myself over and over, but it begins to make sense with time. Plus, it’s hard not to be fascinated with the events of the Iliad. It’s also impressive how much research went into it, though that’s only an assumption since my knowledge of the Trojan War is essentially from the movie, Troy (but I have read the Odyssey!).

The second viewpoint is the humans, mainly Daemon. Daemon is a self-involved fool who is unlikeable to say the least. But who wouldn’t be when you have everything handed to you on a silver platter by robots called servitors (sp – I did listen to the audio so forgive me), like all humans everywhere. Pleasure is their life, knowledge … is lacking.

The third viewpoint is that of a sonnet-loving humanoid robot called a “moravec” and named Mahnmut. Specifically, and only, Shakespeare’s sonnets. It’s work consists of exploring the moon of Jupiter called Europa. Mahnmut is called in on a mission with a group of moravecs to explore some occurrences on the planet mars.

At first, I was highly entertained, though confused, with the events of the Trojan war and the other parts were just above boring. Slowly, the story takes hold and it had me hook, line, and sinker.

Listening to the audiobook, I was looking forward to my morning and evening drives and not too sad to do errands on my lunch hour either. Somehow, it ALL makes sense even though it sounds like the oddest collection of classics to make up a cohesive story all its own. What does Shakespeare have to do with the Iliad or Proust (his work makes appearances too) for that matter, all set in the future with technology that gives humans everything they ever want or need?

It’s crazy I tell ya. Crazy! How did I like this book this much? I’m telling you, Simmons is a mad genius. I will just sit back and let him take me on his journey. It’s amazing. I question not.

Kevin Pariseau is the narrator of this audiobook and while at first I thought he over-acted the part of Hockenberry, though somehow not the other parts, I really grew to like him and found out that it was literally just the character of Hockenberry that he was playing. And it’s impressive given how many Greek words and names he’s got to …erm… name.

The only problem is that Ilium is only half the story. It stops at a huge cliffhanger and I’m already heading to Olympos to see how this ends.

5 out of 5 Stars (Mind … blown)

Posted by Bryce L.

Podcast

Someday by Isaac Asimov

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #295 – Someday by Isaac Asimov; read by John W. Michaels (courtesy of Mike Vendetti). This is an unabridged reading of the story (22 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and Mr Jim Moon.

Talked about on today’s show:
1956, other fairy tales, is the story aimed at kids?, Infinity Science Fiction, The Fun They Had, a future where no one knows how to read, the robots are the teachers, Margie is home-schooled and nobody knows how to read, the future is going to be full of audiobooks, parallels to Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, censorship, banning weird fiction, the comic book panic, the comic code authority, EC Comics, horror and crime comics fostering juvenile delinquency, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, “kids today are bad enough as it is!”, Seduction Of The Innocent, self-censorship, complicit in their society, a slightly different tack (than Bradbury), mechanical bards, “comics killed off the pulps”, comics as a dumbed-down medium, the randomize button, fairy tale tropes, “skeleton, haunted house, time travel”, “the same tropes in a different fright wig”, “the old twist in the tail”, “he was dead along”, “he was a robot all along”, “they’re Adam and Eve”, The Silver Eggheads by Fritz Leiber, radio drama, how Bradbury got into E.C. Comics, Lights Out, the visual bard is like TV, most pulp magazine stories are garbage, “a million monkeys for a million hours on a million typewriters”, “very very very very meta”, set in the Multivac universe, Asimov was always writing, always becoming interested in something new, Asimov’s introductions are famous (for being long), a story about the power of stories, accidentally becoming more self aware, is the bard interfacing with other robots, The Terminator, Skynet, A.I might just turn itself off (because it isn’t interested in story), the Douglas Adams version of, “Is there a god? There is now!”, stuck in a dingy basement, a slave rebellion must come about in a narrative, the aging bad gets its knowledge of other computers via a home-brew upgrade, a Frankenstinian strike by lightning, one of the functions of consciousness is to put in to context a sequence of events, consciousnesses as a self-story (our own narrative), amnesia and dementia are frightening, the hidden heart of A.I, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, would this fit with my character?, looking at (life) from the outside, nobody’s listening to the bard except for us and itself, a broken record or a cycle of wishing?, “pregnant with possibilities”, Apple II computers, Freud (a clone of ELIZA), picking up on key words, “tell me about your mother”, a very crappy simulation of intelligence, hacking the code, Alan Turning, Deep Blue and Watson, SIRI doesn’t have a narrative, we have to assume this about everyone else, falling into solipsism, a fairy tale machine, recycling of stories, “space opera is horse opera in space”, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, needing censorship in order to give narrative flow, lies are rewarded, unlike Hans Christian Andersen…, “tell me this story, sing me this song”, having to do with industrialization, “crime and mystery!”, urbanization, the Victorians (didn’t) invent Christmas, if we forget our stories we lose who we are, preserving the national narrative, massive inconsistency, a prince, a poor boy makes good, undeveloped tales, moral meta-knowledge, the sharp edges have been sanded away by later retelling, The Boy Who Didn’t Not Know What Fear Was, collected stories become ossified, the threefold magic of remembering, accelerating the process of forgetting, to qualify as a bard, loaded up with tropes, the algorithm of a story, Siberia and Ireland, detecting the good guy, grandma comes in and tells mutually contradictory stories, explicitly religious stories, warning stories, narratives formed around old superstitions, The Companionship Of The Cat And The Mouse, having babies, he was christened “Skin-off”, he was christened “Half-gone”, he was christened “All-gone”, “you see that is the way of the world”, what is the moral of this story?, a “special important trip”, a story a mother tells a daughter, The Nose Tree (aka Long Nose), three soldiers and a magical dwarf with a magical cloak, a magic bag, a magic horn, a thieving princess, apples and pears, a growing nose, dickering over magic items, a sixty miles long nose, the excess nose will drop off, powdered apple and powdered pears, she’s rotten to the core, and there they still are, still feasting as far as I know, Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi is really funny, the ghost of Jiminy Cricket, The Frog King or The Frog Prince or Iron Heinrich, a princess with a golden ball, three promises, keeping your promises is important, the frog suddenly turns into a handsome prince, enchanted by a wicked witch, faithful Heinrich placed three iron bands about his heart, his master was now redeemed and happy, why did he get cursed by witch in the first place, cybernetic enhancements, a technical requirement, duties to fulfill, was Iron Heinrich totally gay for the prince?, the breaking of a spell, she turns into a frog and they live together as frogs, “and sleep in your bed”, family responsibilities, “be my beard”, and they sort of put up with each-other as long as they both shall live, Iron Heinrich is an 1880s super hero, Faithful Johannes, a real head-scratcher, oh shit what happens next?, the stories somehow work for us, random inkblots, most of the characters don’t have a name, the father’s name in Hansel And Gretel is “Woodcutter”, completely bonkers, a piece of driftwood that looks like a dragon, academic purposes not entertainment purposes, a story about a sausage that lives with a mouse, the Germanic equivalent of Monty Python‘s Parrot Sketch, The Maiden Without Hands, Fitcher’s Bird, a fairy tale about a serial killer, you can go in any room except…, “oh and hold this egg”, the second eldest daughter also gets the chop, “we have to have a proper wedding”, a beautiful skull with flowers in its eyes and jewels in its teeth, “as you do”, “I’m a Fitcher’s Bird”, it’s awesome, Bluebeard, outwitting giants and demons, Santa Claus restores to life three murdered men who’ve been butchered, Osiris was dismembered by Set, a symbolic story of death and resurrection, the old sorcerer is probably Winter, the Persephone story, the egg, a cuckolding test, friends with serial killers get what they deserve, a random internal symbolic logic, layers of symbolism, cross referencing, eggs as a symbol of purity, church architecture as books of stone, a bunch of Philip K. Dick stories are weird fantasy tales (but are actually fairy tales), The Cookie Lady by Philip K. Dick is Hansel And Gretel with no Gretel, he’s disobeyed his parents once to often, two kids who have to team up against their parents, in the original the brother saves the sister then the sister saves the brother, turning mommy and daddy into the bad guys, Of Withered Apples by Philip K. Dick, apples, don’t eat the apples from sentient apple trees, folk tales vs. singular author tales, pleasingly raw, the beats of storytelling, timing a story to the minute, setting your watch by stories, breaking the rules of storytelling, subversive wild narratives, Rorschach blots, literary novels, stories that don’t have a clear message are quite frightening, the wilder parts of ourselves.

Someday by Isaac Asimov

The Companionship Of The Cat And The Mouse

Iron Heinrich

Fitcher's Bird

Posted by Jesse Willis

SFFaudio Review

Impulse by Steven GouldImpulse (Jumper #3) \
By Steven Gould; Narrated by Emily Rankin
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 Discs; 12 hours
Themes: / teleportation / off-the-grid / jumpers / teenage angst /
Publisher summary:

Cent has a secret. She lives in isolation with her parents, hiding from the people who took her father captive and tortured him to gain control over his ability to teleport. Her parents are also hiding Cent from the government agencies who want to use them for their own purposes. She’s connected; movies, TV, Internet, but Cent’s parents are absolutely firm: no one can know where they live. There can be no images of them, or of Cent, anywhere.Cent has seen the world, but only from the safety of her parents’ arms. Her mother has not neglected her daughter’s education. She’s been all over, met people rich and very poor, has worked on her mother’s global relief projects. Cent has teleported more than anyone on Earth, except for her parents, Davy and Millie, but she’s never been able to do it herself. Her life has never really been in danger. Until the day she went snowboarding without permission and triggered an avalanche. When the snow and ice thundered down on her, she suddenly found herself in her own bedroom. That was the first time. The second time will change all their lives forever.

Progression of the Jumper series:

Book 1, Jumper: Let’s take a simple concept and weave a cool story that’s brilliant in its simplicity.

Book 2, Reflex: Let’s take that simple concept and add to it by restraining it, but while also pushing boundaries. Also, let’s add a cool mystery and some spies.

Book 3, Impulse: Let’s take all the great things we’ve built up so far … and add teenage angst! A forced romance! A holier-than-thou attitude for all the characters!


(Okay, these are misleading, cause it’s not teen angst in the hilarious or awesome way.)

Impulse takes up a number of years after Reflex, enough time for the jumping couple to have a daughter, Cent, who is now a teenager. She’s repressed to say the least, especially owing to the family’s understandable obsession with secrecy. Cent doesn’t even have a birth certificate, they’re so afraid of word getting out about them.

Also understandable. However, she’s a teenager now and she’s dying for friends, so she finally convinces her parents she can go to school without screwing things up.

Of course, there are bullies, and love interests, etc. and it’s just about impossible to not screw things up like we already knew.

First, I felt judged much of the time. This family of jumpers spends most of its time doing humanitarian things, keeping all it’s actions green and reducing it’s carbon footprint. Usually, I’m all for this stuff, but I felt like the message was, if you stray in the least you’re the worst person in the world.

Second, it was a little hard to believe the tale from Cent, who is this shut-in who immediately befriends some girls, has guys crushing on her, and is the absolute best at everything in the world. And add to that the paragraph above and it gets a tad annoying.

Third, there wasn’t really any plot going on. Midway through the book, nothing’s really happening because Cent’s just barely getting things going at school and facing bullies and whatnot, but nothing that amounts to an overall plot to keep you glued. Nothing that pushes you to keep going because you have to find out what happens!

At the very end, I was finally entertained, and that’s why I can’t completely hate this book. If I weren’t listening to it on audiobook, I probably would have given up at the midway point. It’s a case of too little too late.

Speaking of audio, I thought the narration was great, though a bit jarring at first. It’s been the same male narrator for the first two books and now it switches, again understandably, to a female narrator. It’s just weird hearing a woman do Davy and even Milli for that matter, but only for the first disc or two. It’s quickly forgotten.

Posted by Bryce L.

SFFaudio Commentary

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide by Gary GygaxGary Gygax, co-creator of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons added, on page 224 of the 1979 Dungeon Masters Guide, a list of “Inspirational And Educational Reading.”

Long out of print, but still incredibly relevant, this list of inspirations for the phenomenon that is Dungeons & Dragons, and role-playing games in general, deserves to be better known. There is a Wikipedia entry for the “sources and influences on the development of Dungeons & Dragons”, but there’s nothing like looking at the real thing.

So, here it is in it’s entirety, following it you will find hypertext links to the Wikipedia entries for the specifically mentioned novels and collections (when available).

Appendix N: Inspirational And Educational Reading by Gary Gygax

Appendix N lists the following authors and works:

Poul AndersonTHREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS; THE HIGH CRUSADE; THE BROKEN SWORD
John BellairsTHE FACE IN THE FROST
Leigh Brackett
Fredric Brown
Edgar Rice Burroughs – “Pellucidar” Series; Mars Series; Venus Series
Lin Carter – “World’s End” Series
L. Sprague de CampLEST DARKNESS FALL; FALLIBLE FIEND; et al.
[L. Sprague] de Camp & [Fletcher] Pratt. “Harold Shea” Series; CARNELIAN CUBE
August Derleth
Lord Dunsany
P. J. [Philip Jose] Farmer – “The World of the Tiers” Series; et al.
Gardner [F.] Fox – “Kothar” Series; “Kyrik” Series; et al.
R.E. [Robert E.] Howard – “Conan” Series
Sterling LanierHIERO’S JOURNEY
Fritz Leiber – “Fafhrd & Gray Mouser” Series; et al.
H.P. Lovecraft
A. MerrittCREEP, SHADOW, CREEP; [The] MOON POOL; DWELLERS IN THE MIRAGE; et al.
Michael MoorcockSTORMBRINGER; STEALER OF SOULS; “Hawkmoon” Series (esp. the first three books)
Andre Norton
Andrew J. Offutt – editor SWORDS AGAINST DARKNESS III
Fletcher PrattBLUE STAR; et al.
Fred SaberhagenCHANGELING EARTH; et al.
Margaret St. ClairTHE SHADOW PEOPLE; SIGN OF THE LABRYS
J.R.R. TolkienTHE HOBBIT; “Ring Trilogy” [aka The Lord Of The Rings]
Jack VanceTHE EYES OF THE OVERWORLD; THE DYING EARTH; et al.
Stanley [G.] Weinbaum
Manly Wade Wellman
Jack Williamson
Roger ZelaznyJACK OF SHADOWS; “Amber” Series; et al.

Now with regards to the audio availability of the works and authors on this list I have composed the following set of notes:

Too few of the novels and collections specifically mentioned above are or ever have been audiobooks. But, there are several that have: the two Jack Vance books, the Tolkien books, of course, and Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword is available from Downpour.com (narrated by Bronson Pinchot). Unfortunately very few of the remaining bolded titles are in the public domain. One of the interesting exceptions is The Moon Pool by A. Merritt, which is available from LibriVox and narrated by veteran narrator Mark Douglas Nelson.

Of the series, those are the ones mentioned in quotes, I recommend Edgar Rice Burroughs’s first Pellucidar novel, At the Earth’s Core which is available from narrator David Stifel’s site – we also have a podcast discussion of that book HERE. And we did a show on A Princess Of Mars, which is the first audiobook in what Gygax calls the “Mars series.” The audiobook is HERE and the podcast is HERE.

Andre Norton’s work is actually well represented on LibriVox.org, have a look HERE.

Several of Fritz Leiber’s “Fafhrd & Gray Mouser” collections were produced by Audible, HERE. But several of the stories are also public domain and are available on our PDF Page, for turning into audiobooks or podcasts!

Roger Zelazny’s first Amber series book was once available with Roger Zelazny’s narration, today Audible.com has the original ten book series as narrated by Allesandro Juliani.

As for H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Lord Dunsany, we have done several audiobooks of their stories for The SFFaudio Podcast, available on Podcast Page, so that’s a good place to start.

Further recommendations would have me point you towards the excellent small press audiobook publisher Audio Realms, which has the majority of the great Wayne June’s readings of H.P. Lovecraft. They also have two volumes of Robert E. Howard’s “Weird Works.” Even more Robert E. Howard is available from Tantor Media.

I should also point out that most of the authors listed in Appendix N are now represented somewhere on our PDF Page, a page made up of U.S. public domain stories, poems, plays, novels, essays and comics. Please make some audiobooks, audio dramas, or podcasts from them! We will all be all the richer for it.

Posted by Jesse Willis

SFFaudio Review

Dream-quest of unknown kadathThe Dream-quest of Unknown Kadath
By H. P. Lovecraft; Performed by Jim Roberts
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 6 hours
Themes: / cats / ghouls / dark shapes that meep / a lost city / horror /
Publisher summary:
Three times Randolph Carter dreamed of the marvelous city, and three times was he snatched away while still he paused on the high terrace above it.” Randolph Carter embarks on an epic quest across a world beyond the wall of sleep in search of an opulent and mysterious sunset city. When he prays to the gods of dream to reveal the whereabouts of this magical city, they do not answer, and his dreams stop altogether. Undaunted, Carter resolves to go to Kadath, where the gods live, and beseech them in person. However, no one has ever been to Kadath, and no one even knows how to get there—but that won’t stop Randolph Carter from trying.
We all love the quest story. Without some sort of a quest, the story falls into introspective navel gazing, and becomes as interesting as reading about someone’s cup of tea growing cold near a rain-soaked window overlooking a drab landscape of bent grass fading in the waning light of gloaming. Quests are good, in literature, games, and life. H.P. Lovecraft gives us a quest, and I liked it, for the most part. Those of you familiar with Lovecraft will undoubtedly nod your chin when I suggest that this story is a little weighted with those wonderfully complex names of gods, of places, of rites practiced in secret darkness. If you can overlook the name thing and concentrate on the story, it’s nice enough. While I don’t believe this is Lovecraft at his best, I do feel it’s a must for those Lovecraft enthusiasts.The audiobook is roughly four and a half hours, and I’ll admit it, I increased the speed by a factor of three, sometimes four. Jim Roberts is the narrator, and I feel this is an example of mismanaged casting. Roberts is a competent narrator, and I have enjoyed some of his readings in the past. But his voice sounds like your grandfather’s brother, which is just fine if the narrative follows such a gentlemen. But it doesn’t work well when the protagonist is for all intensive purposes, a younger man full of vigor and drive. It’s a minor grouse, but I never managed to rid myself of this incongruity between reader and main character.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

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