Review of The Moon Moth [AUDIO DRAMA] adapted from the novella by Jack Vance

November 24, 2003 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

The Moon MothSFFaudio EssentialThe Moon Moth
By Jack Vance; adapted by George Zarr
Performed by a Full Cast
Duration: 73 minutes 22 seconds
Available at: http://www.scifi.com/set/playhouse/moth/
Producer: Seeing Ear Theater
Themes: Science Fiction / Mystery / Aliens / Identity / Sociology /

A tone-deaf detective pursues a singing assassin through an opera of blood in this classic satirical thriller by Jack Vance. On the planet Sirene everyone wears a mask according to his status — or strahk — in society. Communication is accomplished through singing accompanied by a plethora of instruments, each of which signifies a different emotional mood or is used to talk to a different social caste. The problem is, the assassin Angmark is a master of Sirenese customs and — like everyone else on Sirene — his face is hidden behind a mask. Our doddering ambassador-detective’s only hope: to learn to use his own mask — the lowly Moon Moth — before Angmark relieves him of a head to put it on.

“The Moon Moth” is one of the best short science fiction stories tackling ideas of alternative social systems. Most stories of this type are found in full length novels like Robert Silverberg‘s A Time Of Changes or Ursula K. Le Guin‘s The Left Hand Of Darkness, but what is so delightful about this story is how densely packed with excellence it truly is. “The Moon Moth” is whimsical story with a truly original alien culture, the tale is part social commentary, part social satire and an absolutely terrific variation on the locked room mystery all packed successfully into 73 minutes of goodness! David Garrison and the rest of the Seeing Ear Theater cast are hilarious and effective but the real kudos has to go to George Zarr who so skillfully adapted Jack Vance‘s 1961 short story to the audio drama form. And unbeleivably, this play is still available for free on the internet! Very highly recommended!

Review of Star Trek: New Frontier: Stone and Anvil by Peter David

November 20, 2003 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

Star Trek Audiobook - Stone and Anvil by Peter DavidStar Trek New Frontier: Stone and Anvil
By Peter David; Read by Joe Morton
4 CD’s; 4 hours [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Published: 2003
ISBN: 0743533283 (CD), 0743533275 (Cassette)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Star Trek / New Frontier / Federation / Murder / Genetic engineering /

Peter David’s Star Trek: New Frontier series has been consistently excellent. Stone and Anvil is the 14th book in the series, six of which have been produced as audiobooks.

This book has Ensign Janos of the USS Excalibur under suspicion of murder. Captain Mackenzie Calhoun doesn’t believe Janos is guilty, and investigates. Through flashbacks into Calhoun’s past, the mystery is unraveled, culminating in a confrontation between Calhoun’s Excalibur and Picard’s Enterprise, and an exploration of the ethics and practice of genetic engineering.

Personally, I’ve had a lot of fun with Peter David’s novels. I think it’s safe to say that he’s my favorite of the Trek novelists – among my favorites are his Imzadi and Q Squared. In the New Frontier novels, he has the sandbox all to himself, and he seems to be enjoying himself. Along with the character of Calhoun, he brings in several secondary characters from TNG – for example, his wife is Captain Elizabeth Shelby of the USS Trident, who first appeared in the TNG episode The Best of Both Worlds. Ambassador Spock plays a role, and the Enterprise and crew show up as well. David’s playful style is infectious, and the result is very entertaining.

Joe Morton narrates, which is wonderful. He plays the moments perfectly. One thing that sticks in my mind about this one is the confrontation between Captains Calhoun and Picard. Morton successfully paints the picture with his voice, convincingly acting each character. Another: Calhoun’s handling of the infamous Kobayashi Maru exam. Morton’s timing, whether adding tension or humor, is impeccable.

Stone and Anvil, like all of the New Frontier novels I’ve read, is a cut above the average Star Trek novel. There is no need to go to the beginning and listen to the others before listening to this, but after you hear this one, you’ll want to.

Listen to an excerpt.

Big news for Hitchhiker fans! (Yes, I am one…) …

November 17, 2003 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, News 

SFFaudio News

Big news for Hitchhiker fans! (Yes, I am one…) In February, 2004, on BBC 4 Radio, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series will continue! From the Crazy Dog Audio Theatre website (go there for the full story):

BBC RADIO 4 presents an ABOVE THE TITLE PRODUCTION

THE HITCH HIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY

by DOUGLAS ADAMS

THE TERTIARY, QUADRENARY & QUINTESSENTIAL PHASES:

“LIFE THE UNIVERSE AND EVERYTHING”,

“SO LONG & THANKS FOR ALL THE FISH”

& “MOSTLY HARMLESS”

Twenty-five years after the original radio series of DOUGLAS ADAMS’ HITCH HIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY exploded into the public consciousness, the further exploits of its bewildered hero ARTHUR DENT are being brought to life in their original medium.

Drawn from Douglas Adams’ later Hitch Hiker novels, the adventures continue in LIFE, THE UNIVERSE AND EVERYTHING, which will be dramatised in six half hour episodes, SO LONG AND THANKS FOR ALL THE FISH and MOSTLY HARMLESS, which will comprise four episodes each.

As the original two series were dubbed the PRIMARY and SECONDARY phases by Douglas Adams, these new series form the TERTIARY, QUADRENARY and QUINTESSENTIAL phases, and will at last finish the ‘trilogy in five parts’.

The original Hitch Hikers radio cast is returning; SIMON JONES as Arthur Dent, GEOFFREY McGIVERN as Ford Prefect, SUSAN SHERIDAN as Trillian, MARK WING-DAVEY as Zaphod Beeblebrox and STEPHEN MOORE as the much loved Marvin The Paranoid Android.

Again, more of the story on the Crazy Dog Audio Theatre website.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

November 12, 2003 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Doomsday Book by Connie WillisDoomsday Book
By Connie Willis; Read by Jenny Sterlin
18 cassettes – 26.5 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Published: 2000
ISBN: 0788744151
Themes: / Science Fiction / Time-travel / England / Middle Ages / 14th Century / Near Future / Religion /

For Oxford student Kivrin, traveling back to the 14th century is more than the culmination of her studies—it’s the chance for a wonderful adventure. For Dunworthy, her mentor, it is cause for intense worry about the thousands of things that could go wrong. When an accident leaves Kivrin trapped in one of the deadliest eras in human history, the two find themselves in equally gripping—and oddly connected—struggles to survive.

Connie Willis’ The Doomsday Book is a believable time-travel story, which is ridiculous. Time-travel isn’t possible except as fiction, but the time travel in this story immerses the listener enough so that you don’t mind how you got there. Though soft science fiction, this novel relies on solid storytelling without inconsistencies, it also avoids violence and gadgets in favor of verisimilitude and thorough research. The novel follows two threads, one extremely compelling the other far less so. The first and more interesting thread follows our heroine, Kivrin, a historian sent back into the 14th century to get a first hand account of life in a village close to “Oxenford”. What she discovers there is extremely interesting. Willis dispels the ‘back in the good old days’ mentality with a gritty look at a deeply religious society and thoroughly stratified society with freezing peasants. The characterization here is superb; I actually cared what happened to these fictional medieval characters!

The shorter, secondary thread follows the characters in our near future. Unfortunately this part of the story, like the Harry Potter novels, describes a world where most adults are ignorant and need a youngster to save the day. Also here, apparently, time-travel is no big deal. It generally goes on unsupervised in the universities and without government supervision. It seems any time travel that would cause a paradox cannot occur, thus carefully avoiding the bread and butter of typical time-travel adventures. This is not a story so much about the process, the physics or paradoxes inherent in time-travel as much as it is about something else entirely: Disease and the devastating effects it has when it’s rampant and 90% lethal. Sterile modern hospitals are contrasted with the complete ignorance of infections to good effect, demonstrating just how lucky we are! It’s striking to hear how death was an everyday commonplace occurrence, unlike today when a single death is considered a tragedy. Here’s to tragedy.

The narration, by Jenny Sterlin, was very effective; she made the thoughts and words of Kivrin just like being there. Jenny effectively makes good use of the numerous British expressions in the dialogue. The title is a play on the historical ‘Domesday Book,’ which was an attempt to survey England’s land, people and wealth in the Middle Ages. Without spoiling the plot, I’ll tell you this much, it is an apt title.

Without time-travel this would not be a Science Fiction story, but rather a historical piece. Even though there are no spaceships, robots or groundbreaking or new scientific ideas I would recommend this audiobook for its suspense, mystery, and realism. That said, I still wouldn’t classify this Hugo and Nebula award winner in the same class Neuromancer or Dune, but then that’s a hell of a lot to live up to.

The cover art captures the subject matter perfectly, the compact cassette box is of high quality, but the tapes themselves had a continuous hiss. The introduction should have been an afterword since it didn’t have any impact until I re-listened to it after the novel finished. In the introduction Brother John Clinn, an actual historical figure, invites someone to continue his chronicles before his death in his manuscript. The fictional historian Kivrin, in a sense, fulfills his wishes.

Posted by Jesse Willis

A few updates to give you here… First, please…

November 7, 2003 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: New Releases, News 

SFFaudio News

A few updates to give you here…

First, please check out our Featured Selections pages. These replaced our “New Releases” page, which was getting difficult to maintain. We’ll keep you updated here whenever we find an interesting new release. One upcoming audiobook that I’m excited about is Random House’s unabridged A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. Amazon shows a release date in January. Stay tuned…

Second, Jesse and I have just started a discussion group over on Yahoogroups – find it here. Join and discuss! We’d love to see you there.

Third, there is no third thing!

An old Python joke… I’m listening to a Monty Python album right now on Rhapsody. I see they’ve got some Firesign Theatre there too! Cool – clicking now. I would love your comments on internet music services, of which Rhapsody is just one. $9.95/month lets me play anything I want as much as I want, 79 cents/track to write to a CD. Anyone having a better experience? Mail me!

Other things we’re looking at:

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis and The Wanderer by Fritz Leiber, both from Recorded Books.

The latest Star Trek audiobook from Simon and Schuster, Stone and Anvil by Peter David.

Anne Manx and the Trouble on Chromius, an award-winning audio drama starring Claudia Christian from The Radio Repertory Company of America.

From Audible.com, The Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, Sep-Nov 2003.

Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers!

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

SFFaudio salutes this year’s World Fantasy Award W…

November 5, 2003 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: News 

SFFaudio News

SFFAudio salutes this year’s World Fantasy Award Winners. Congratulations!

Life Achievement

Lloyd Alexander

Donald M. Grant

Novel

The Facts of Life by Graham Joyce

Ombria in Shadow by Patricia A. McKillip

Novella

“The Library” by Zoran Zivkovic

Short Story

“Creation” by Jeffrey Ford (F&SF 5/02)

Anthology

The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest, Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, Editors

Leviathan 3, Jeff VanderMeer & Forrest Aguirre, Editors

Collection

The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant and Other Stories by Jeffrey Ford

Artist

Tom Kidd

Special Award: Professional

Gordon Van Gelder for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction

The World Fantasy Awards were presented Sunday afternoon, November 2, at the conclusion of the World Fantasy Convention at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill. They are given each year.

On audio, Jeffrey Ford’s “Creation” can be found in The Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine 2002 which can be found over on Audible.com.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson