Review of The Man In The High Castle by Philip K. Dick

May 29, 2003 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Man In The High Castle
By Philip K. Dick; Read by George Guidall
7 Cassettes – 9.75 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Date Published: 1997
Themes: Science Fiction / Alternate History / World War II / Holocaust / Japan / Nazi Germany

World War II is over and to the victors go the spoils; Germany and Japan divide the world and the United States into East and West occupied zones. Alternate reality? Alternate history? Those are sheer fantasy, what if the Allies had won the war? Who would have been able to stop Stalin? Idle daydreaming, and Frank Frink can’t afford that, as one of the few surving Jews in North America and the world he’s got to concentrate to stay alive…

Set in an alternate history (and taking place in 1962 when Dick wrote the book), The Man in the High Castle is multiple viewpoint. There is: Mr. Tagomi, a collector of all things antique and American. Juliana Frink, seperated from her husband. She’s in Colorado on the border between the Nazis in the East and the Japanese in the West. Her husband Frank Frink, a shop owner and dealer in antiques, lives apart from his wife in occupied San Francisco serving the ruling Japanese. And all three of them have their fate intertwined with an officially banned underground novel entitled “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy” which paints a picture of a world where the Allies won WWII.

The Man in the High Castle won the Science Fiction Hugo Award for best novel in 1962. It is one of the few great Philip K. Dick novels still unfilmed and so it will come as a great introduction to a new reader. Throughout the novel the I, Ching and its cryptic “wisdom” is used to push the plot along. This ingenious device is of further interest because Dick claimed that he himself used the I, Ching whenever it was used in the novel and let it take the novel wherever the results led it, in essence plotting the book as a result of the I, Ching’s advice. Superstar narrator George Guidall with his broad range and depth of voice is the perfect choice for this deeply complex novel. Oh and of course I can’t forget to mention the fantastic twist ending which will definitely… shall I say…change your persective? A profound SF experience that will blow your mind.

Review of Legends: Stories from the Masters of Fantasy: Volume 1

May 25, 2003 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Legends: Stories From The Masters of Fantasy: Volume 1 edited by Robert SilverbergLegends: Stories From The Masters of Fantasy: Volume 1
Edited by Robert Silverberg; Read by Frank Muller and Sam Tsoutsouvas
4 Cassettes – Approx. 6 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio
Published:
ISBN:
Themes: / Fantasy /

Robert Silverberg, himself a prolific fantasy author, has gathered with this series a collection of the longer novellas by the most popular living fantasy authors. Each of the authors was asked to write a new story based on one of his or her most famous series.

In Volume One there are two novellas. The first belongs to Stephen King and is set in his popular Gunslinger/Dark Tower universe. Silverberg’s contribution is set in his Majipoor universe. An intriguing premise but did it turn out to be any good?

The Dark Tower: The Little Sisters Of Eluria by Stephen King; Read by Frank Muller
Roland of Gilead, badly needs to find a horse doctor. His horse is ailing and won’t last long, but when he comes across a lonely desert town he quickly ends up needing a doctor for himself. Unfortunately, the only medical attention he’s getting comes from a vampire like sisterhood intent on both healing AND bloodletting.

I’ve never been overly fond of Stephen King, I find his writing like his ideas at best mildly interesting and at worst boring. But, being as I’d not tried anything of his work in some time, I was willing to give him another try. This piece seemed ideal. It was supposed to be fantasy, and not pure horror that he’s so well know for. It was also a prequel to a long series that I’d heard good things about (The Dark Tower series). But alas, I was not impressed in the least. While there are interesting elements, the setting is what appears to be a post-apocalyptic cross between the Zane Grey and The Road Warrior, which while not completely original is at least not a setting that has been done to death. Unfortunately the story is very long winded. I normally don’t care for overly long fantasy tales, The Lord of The Rings being a notable exception, but I am in the minority here. Stephen King fans don’t seem to mind a thicker than thick novel. This production of the Little Sisters of Eluria has the benefit of clarity, at all times I knew what was going on, and Frank Muller’s reading was okay, barring his usual difficulty with women’s voices. There are some writers who while not writing in the clearest manner manage to hold your attention by their very ideas. In the case of the Little Sisters Of Eluria, the clear writing and clear production just made the boredom more obvious for me. If you like the Dark Tower series you may enjoy this novella, but I found it a vulgar, mildly gross, hard to finish and ultimately pointless.

Majipoor: The Seventh Shrine by Robert Silverberg; Read by Sam Tsoutsouvas
Majipoor, a planet settled long ago by human colonists, is ruled by Valentine, once Lord Valentine now Pontifax of the whole planet. Valentine and his court entourage are on an expedition to an ancient city where they intend to investigate the murder of archeological team leader.

First let me say I like a lot of Silverberg’s work, some of his short stories are really good, but I’ve found his work very uneven. Being unfamiliar with the Majipoor stories I thought this novella would be a good introduction to Robert Silverberg’s fantasy series. This story though is a murder mystery, set on an alien world full of traditions and history. Silverberg does a fairly good job of bringing newbies like me up to speed, informing us of Pontifax Valentine’s personal history, and the strained species relations between the native Metamorphs (shapeshifting intelligent aliens) and the Human colonists of Majipoor. That being said, the story isn’t at all enthralling, it has a lot of “your majesty this” and “your majesty that” found in some of the more derivative fantasy fiction. The mystery element is unsolvable by the reader, something that I dislike as a general rule. But on the other hand Sam Tsoutsouvas does a good job, saving his different voices only for important plot characters. As with the other story in this audiobook, perhaps it will be more enjoyable for someone who likes the universe in which it is set. I can imagine never listening to another Majipoor story, and the idea doesn’t worry me in the least.

Review of Virtual Light by William Gibson

May 21, 2003 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Virtual Light
By William Gibson
Read by Frank Muller
6 Cassettes – Approx. 9 hours UNABRIDGED
List Price: USD $34.95
RECORDED BOOKS LLC.
ISBN: 0788782533

William Gibson’s novel, Virtual Light (1995), is a bit of a letdown. But this is primarily because Neuromancer (1984), is one of the best novels of the 20th century – so its no wonder lightning hasn’t struck twice. Though comparisons between Neuromancer and Virtual Light are inevitable, and reasonable, we should try to forget that William Gibson wrote such an incredible first novel – Neuromancer won the three most important science fiction awards (The Hugo, Nebula and Philip K. Dick Award)… we should try to forget – it ain’t easy – but we should try because Virtual Light is a good SF.

That being said, Virtual Light is a whole different animal, more modest in scope, set closer to the present (in 2005) and more resembles a venture into Elmore Leonard territory than a cyberpunk adventure. It really is a crime novel with a science fiction McGuffin. The McGuffin being, a pair of sunglasses that not only make the wearer look cool, but also make him or her almost superhuman. Here’s the premise – Chevette Washington, a San Francisco bicycle courier has stole some high tech sunglasses. Berry Rydell, private security guard and ex-cop is sent to track her and the sunglasses down. As usual with Gibson novels, the atmosphere created by the prose is spectacular, we see, feel, touch, taste and smell the world Gibson describes and it’s visceral. The characters are compelling, motivated and have cool names like “Rydell” and “Warbaby”. The plot is almost labyrinthine despite the stated simplicity and there are many stops along the way, but we don’t mind too much, the journey is enjoyable, the people are cool and the ideas original.

And of course being an audiobook, the narrator plays an important role in determining the outcome. Thankfully, Virtual Light is read by Frank Muller, which is a good thing. Muller has a good range of voices and a huge vocabulary so there aren’t any pronunciation errors (something that can take a listener right out of the narrative). Virtual Light is an interesting listen, and the unabridged version is definitely superior. The Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio version read by Peter Weller, is well performed but hard to follow, being abridged to a mere 3 hours and two cassettes. But if you are going to listen to this audiobook and you haven’t heard Neuromancer (or read it yet) listen to this one first, it won’t be a let down that way, and it’ll likely whet you’re appetite for more William Gibson.

Hour 25 is back on-line with a new show – Remember…

May 19, 2003 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

Hour 25 is back on-line with a new show – Remembering Columbia.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Another from my list of all-time favorites….The …

May 13, 2003 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Commentary 

SFFaudio Commentary

Another from my list of all-time favorites….

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, starring Simon Jones, Peter Jones, and Geoffrey McGivern, BBC Radio, 1978

This BBC audio drama is the original version of the insanely popular science fiction comedy, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s been through many forms since then, including novels and a BBC television series. But this radio series is not only the original version, it’s the best version. The actors are crisp and hilarious, the scripts brilliant, the sound and music first-rate. If you don’t know what Vogon poetry is, this is the place to start.

The original run, called “Fit the First”, was six half-hour shows. Later, six more shows (“Fit the Second”) were done for a total of 12 shows. The Collector’s Edition (available from Amazon.com UK) includes all of those along with two CD’s filled with Douglas Adams interviews.

Another note – Douglas Adams recorded a live reading of some sections of the novels. The tape runs about 90 minutes, and is extremely funny. It’s called Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Live in Concert. It appears to be out of print, but is available on Audible.com.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer

May 9, 2003 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

To Your Scattered Bodies Go
by Philip Jose Farmer; Read by Richard Clarke
2 cassettes – 2 hours [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Waldentapes (1985)
Suggested Retail: $14.95 USD
ISBN: 0681327731
Status: Out of Print – RARE
Themes: / Science Fiction / Sci-Fi / Fantasy / Mystery / The Afterlife / History / Series

My biggest problem with this audiobook is that it is over much too quickly. Like most early science fiction audiobooks, this is an abridgement of a novel, in this case a great novel. Philip José Farmer’s To Your Scattered Bodies Go is a Hugo Award winner (for 1972), and this alone makes it worth a look. But the story is intiguing enough to make you wish for more, a lot more.

Set on the huge and mysterious Riverworld, a planet whose central river is the new home to every last soul who ever lived on Earth – from prehistoric apemen to moon-dwelling future civilizations (and even an alien visitor to Earth). Our protagonist is the reborn Sir Richard Francis Burton, famed translator of The Arabian Nights, explorer, brawler, scholar, womanizer and adventurer. His quest? To discover the end of the river, the meaning of this world’s strange existence, where death is a mere inconvenience and food is magically delivered. With such nasty foes like a youthful Hermann Göring and some super evolved aliens called “Ethicals” to deal with, you know its going to be fun. Burton himself is fascinating to follow and I’d like to see if there is a good audiobook biography of him out there. The story itself runs two hours, read by some fellow named Richard Clarke, with a familiar but hard to place English accent. Clarke is backed up by a nicely accenting musical score.

The package is unique to Waldentapes (a line I’m sure we’ll be looking at again) a clear soft plastic case that opens in a very convoluted manner designed for quick sales and low cost it nevertheless has an interesting cover depicting actual events of the novel. While it is long out of print it is not impossible to find, copies turn up on a semi-regular basis on eBay, selling for very reasonable amounts. Since I wished this book was longer, I was happy to find an unabridged version from Recorded Books. Hopefully we will be able to post a review of that version here soon. All in all this is a good find and a valuable addition to any science fiction audiobook collector.

Next Page »