Review of The World Set Free by H.G. Wells

April 30, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

H.G. Wells Month

Science Fiction Audiobook - The World Set Free by H.G. WellsThe World Set Free
By H.G. Wells; Read by Shelly Frasier
1 MP3-CD or 6 CDs – Approx. 6.5 Hrs [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Published: 2002
ISBN: 1400150108 (MP3-CD); 1400100100(CDs)
/ Science Fiction / Atomic Power / Atomic Bombs / War / Utopia / Politics / Futurism / Prophecy / World State /

“Never before in the history of warfare had there been a continuing explosive; indeed, up to the middle of the twentieth century the only explosives known were combustibles whose explosiveness was due entirely to their instantaneousness; and these atomic bombs which science burst upon the world that night were strange even to the men who used them.”

The Father of Science Fiction first works are still among our classics. With excellent treatments of alien invasion (The War of the Worlds), space travel (First Men in the Moon), proto-genetic manipulation (The Island of Dr. Moreau), and of course time travel (The Time Machine). In his first decade of a writer he had written these classics as well as The Invisible Man, and The Food of the Gods, as many classic short stories.

Wells continued his writing career for another 40 years. Always remaining a popular author. So what happened to all these books he wrote? What happened to this iconoclast of SF? Why were his later works seldom reprinted and so hard to find? In his day, books like Tono-Bungay and Ann Veronica were huge critical and commercial successes. Thanks to Project Gutenberg and other public domain sites, his more obscure works are now obtainable. Much of his later work does not qualify as SF. But there are a number of his novels that deal with prophecies and future utopias and do qualify as SF.

The World Set Free was one of those future visions. Written and published upon the cusp of World War I, the novel proves that Wells had a gift for prophecy, although many of the details played out in a different way. In the novel the World War would not occur till 1956.

The main impetus of the novel is the advent of atomic power, both as a bomb and as a power source. The atomic bomb has many similarities to the actual bombs, including decaying radiation. Wells’ portrait of a World War would lead to numerous atomic bombs destroying civilization.

Wells had hoped from the ashes of a World War that nationalism would dissolve and a new world state would evolve. He portrays the World War in a horrific way. For one who saw the war as a way to a new world order, he does not handle the horrors of war with kid gloves.

Wells uses a narrative device that this book is written from a far utopian future. And from this far future perspective, it tells of the dark days of the war and then of the end of countries and the beginning of the world state. The tone is scholarly and leaves the listener/reader distanced from the characters.

I believe Wells started to see himself as an educator to the masses. That through his writing, both fiction and non-fiction, he could change the world. Sounds like a maniacal delusion, but he was an extremely popular writer. He was the equivalent to a rock star in terms of cultural popularity, but with the intellectual clout of an author. Unfortunately this didactic charge, he placed on himself, put storytelling subordinate to the message. Despite these flaws, the novel is filled with many thought provoking ideas.

Shelly Frasier narrates the novel. After an introduction, in which she speaks with an American accent, she switches to an English accent for the text of the novel. After getting use to this change, I found her accent and characterization quite good and she turns in a solid performance.

More from humourous SF from Mr. Ron’s podcast

April 30, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Online Audio

Podcast - Mister Ron's BasementMr. Ron of the Mister Ron’s Basement podcast, inspired by his love of SF and comedy has plenty more fantastic humor fiction in the works. Recently completed is his reading of an obscure 1904 tale that adapts what sounds like an early SETI project finding to fictional effect. Mr. Ron describes it like this: “While the SF aspect of it is a bit primitive, Viele’s story manages
to convey a balance of humor, social commentary, and even poetic
illustration at the end.”
Episodes #705, 706, 707, 708 form all four parts of this reading. Get them by subscribing to the podcast or individually, details follow…

The Girl From Mercury by HERMAN KNICKERBOCKER VIELÉThe Girl From Mercury
By Herman Knickerbocker Viele; Read by Ron Evry
4 MP3 – Approx. 57 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Mister Ron’s Basement
Podcast: April 2007
Being the Interpretation of Certain Phonic Vibragraphs Recorded by the Long’s Peak Wireless Installation, Now for the First Time Made Public Through the Courtesy of Professor Caducious, Ph.D., Sometime Secretary of the Boulder Branch of the Association for the Advancement of Interplanetary Communication.

|Part 1 MP3|Part 2 MP3|Part 3 MP3|Part 4 MP3|

You can subscribe to the podcast, and visit the basement daily, via this feed:

http://slapcast.com/rss/revry/index.xml

H. G. Wells Month – Gresham College

April 29, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

H.G. Wells Month

Online Audio - Gresham CollegeGresham College in central London, U.K., enrolls no students and grants no degrees – it provides lectures free to the public. Students who attend in person get outstanding lectures by prestigious professors. Students who can’t attend in person can watch or listen via Gresham College website! Former professors have included Sir Christopher Wren, the legendary Robert Hooke and more recently Ian Stewart (a mathematician and Science Fiction author). Among the many fascinating lectures archived on the website since 2002 is one by Professor Martin Campbell-Kelly on the subject of the origins of the World Wide Web. Prominent within the lecture is Campbell-Kelly’s thoughts on the role of H.G. Wells’ book The World Brain (1938). The lecture is available in the RealPlayer format and is entitled “From World Brain To World Wide Web.”

The Time Traveler Show #17 participates in our H.G. Wells Month

April 29, 2007 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

H.G. Wells Month

Podcast - The Time Traveler ShowThe Time Traveler Show podcast #17 is all about our author of the month, H.G. Wells! Upfront is the announcement of a new guest-host contest that The Time Traveler is holding. Prizes included, besides the chance to host one of the best podcasts in the podosphere, are SIGNED copies of awesome Charles Stross audiobooks, and an advanced reading copy of Tobias Buckell‘s newest novel! The meat in this chronological sandwich is a reading of H.G. Well’s 1901 short story, The New Accelerator, is read by Bromley native Tim Rowe. Wells too was born and raised in Bromley, a suburb of London, and so that’s why I think this reading is likely to be the most faithfully accented Wells story ever attempted. Even better, Rowe has a melodic professional delivery. Check it out…

The Time Traveler Show #17 The New Accelerator by H.G. WellsThe New Accelerator
By H.G. Wells; Read by Tim Rowe
1 MP3 File – [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Time Traveler Show.com
Podcast: April 2007

Subscribe to the podcast to listen for free:

http://www.timetravelershow.com/shows/feed.xml

More New Arrivals- Infinivox and Tantor Media

April 28, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recent Arrivals 

Science Fiction Audiobook Recent Arrivals

We’ve got some more new arrivals. The Tantor titles took the circuitous route to our door, except for Ascent, which came in today. But, by golly, we’re glad to have them!

Science Fiction Audiobook - Second Skin by   Paul J. McAuleySecond Skin
By Paul J. McAuley; Read by Jared Doreck
1 CD; 64 minutes – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Infinivox
Published: 2007
ISBN: 1884612555

From the cover:
The spy fell toward Proteus in a thin transparent bubble of carbon, wearing a paper suit and trussed up in a cradle of smart cabling like an early Christian martyr. Somewhere down there was Ben Lo’s wife. But he musn’t think of that. If he did…No, he couldn’t remember. Something bad, though. This space opera is part of the author’s Quiet War series.

Science Fiction Audiobook - Ascent by Jed MercurioAscent
By Jed Mercurio; Read by Todd McLaren
1 MP3 CD or 6 CDs; Approx. 7.5 hrs – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 1400153689(MP3 disc); 9781400103683(CDs)

From the back cover:
Fascinated with the secrets still surrounding the Soviet Union’s race against the Americans to put a man on the moon, Jed Mercurio proposes a compelling scenario: What if the Americans weren’t the first? And with its inscrutable but intriguing hero, Yefgeni Yeremin, a brilliant Soviet cosmonaut, Ascent allows us to imagine what that terrifying journey might have been like.

Yeremin, a Soviet MiG pilot, rises from the privation of a Stalingrad orphanage to the heights of the cosmonaut corps. During the Korean War, as a member of an elite squadron, he shoots down the most American fighter jets—a feat that should make him a national hero, but because the Soviets’ involvement in the war is secret, Yeremin’s victories go unreported. When he is recalled from obscurity to join the race to the moon, he realizes it is his chance for immortality. In hypnotic, deceptively spare prose, Mercurio tells a haunting tale that questions the power of ideology and the nature of fate.

Science Fiction Audiobook - The Sky People by   S.M. StirlingThe Sky People
By S.M. Stirling; Read by Todd McLaren
1 MP3 CD or 9 CDs; Approx. 10.5 hrs – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Published: 2006
ISBN: 140015345X(MP3 disc); 9781400103454(CDs)

Dinosaurs and rockets — Cool!

From the back cover:
Marc Vitrac was born in Louisiana in the early 1960’s, about the time the first interplanetary probes delivered the news that Mars and Venus were teeming with life—even human life. At that point, the “Space Race” became the central preoccupation of the great powers of the world.

Now, in 1988, Marc has been assigned to Jamestown, the US-Commonwealth base on Venus, near the great Venusian city of Kartahown. Set in a countryside swarming with sabertooths and dinosaurs, Jamestown is home to a small band of American and allied scientist-adventurers.

But there are flies in this ointment—and not only the Venusian dragonflies, with their yard-wide wings. The biologists studying Venus’s life are puzzled by the way it not only resembles that on Earth, but is virtually identical to it. The EastBloc has its own base at Cosmograd, in the highlands to the south, and relations are frosty. And attractive young geologist Cynthia Whitlock seems impervious to Marc’s Cajun charm.

Extravagant and effervescent, The Sky People is alternate-history SF adventure at its best.

Science Fiction Audiobook - Fangland by John   MarksFangland
By John Marks; Read by Ellen Archer and others
2 MP3 CDs or 10 CDs; Approx. 12.5 hrs – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 140015359X(MP3 discs); 1400103592(CDs)

From the back cover:
In the annals of business trips gone horribly wrong, Evangeline Harker’s journey to Romania on behalf of her employer, the popular television newsmagazine The Hour, deserves pride of place. Sent to Transylvania to scout out a possible story on a notorious Eastern European crime boss named Ion Torgu, she has found the true nature of Torgu’s activities to be far more monstrous than anything her young journalist’s mind could have imagined. The fact that her employer clearly won’t get the segment it was hoping for is soon the very least of her concerns.

Science Fiction Audiobook - The Shadow   Killer by Matthew Scott HansenThe Shadow Killer
By Matthew Scott Hansen; Read by William Dufris
2 MP3 CDs or 12 CDs; Approx. 15 hrs – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 1400153255(MP3 discs); 9781400103256(CDs)

From the website:
Bigfoot wants revenge! Just as Jaws terrified people right out of the water, The Shadowkiller will keep readers out of the woods…for good.

The legend continues: The Story of Bigfoot is among the most enduring legends of all time. Sightings are reported every day, and scientists such as Jan Goodall have proclaimed their belief that it exists. The Shadowkiller is reminiscent of early Stephen King—a good, old-fashioned ghost story. This scary, funny, gory tale will make even the most hardcore skeptics think twice before going camping.

Review of The Chief Designer by Andy Duncan

April 27, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Audiobook Review

Audiobook - The Chief Designer by Andy DuncanThe Chief Designer
By Andy Duncan; Read by Jared Doreck
2 CDs – 132 minutes – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Infinivox
Published: 2006
ISBN: 1884612547
Themes: / Science Fiction / Alternate History / Space Flight / History / Ghosts / Heroic Journey /

“Tsiolkovsky,” he said. “Your memory is excellent, Comrade Korolev.” The man who had held the open book before Korolev’s face reversed it and examined it himself. He wore a full-dress officer’s uniform, and two soldiers flanked him. “Exploration of Cosmic Space with Reactive Devices, by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. Published 1903.

Though you’d be hard-pressed to spot the fantastic elements this tale is a inspirational and deeply moving for any true Science Fiction fan. I’m not a spiritual person, I think that spirit is bunk and people who believe in spirit are all marks. But in a very deeply emotional sense I can almost understand the need for something like the spiritual when I look up into the deep night. There is nothing more powerful than seeing the immensity of existence and then comparing our thus far pitiful explorations to them. Those persons with the will to embrace the larger goals of space travel, by passing by the little miasma of our insignificant apish little goals, to get a shiny new car, a cell phone or an expensive suit are those worthy of worship. One such man was Sergei Korolev, the “Chief designer” of the secret Soviet space program. This story follows his management of the men who would create the universe’s only known spacefaring species from 1957’s Sputnik forward into what we can only hope would be a bright future. The story spans from World War II, when Korolev was released from a prison camp to design rockets, to 1997 and the Mir space station.

Andy Duncan is not someone I’d read anything of prior, but his work here is remarkable. If this wasn’t supposed to be Alternate History, and it is very subtle if it is even that, I’d have said the story of Koralev’s life history was massaged to provide a more ballistic plot. Though Koralev was sent to the Gulag, as depicted in the opening sentences of this novella, the reason for his departure from it didn’t happen, in real life, for the reasons stated in the story.

Michael Swanwick called The Chief Designer, “A portrayal … of the single most positive enterprise of the twentieth century”, and he is right, but too limiting, Koralev’s genius, along with men like Wernher von Braun was to expand the meaning of humanity from mere animal to demi-god. Before these men, their vision and action, we were just animals with tools and language, afterwards we became creatures capable of refining the metal of the crust of the planet upon which we were born, shaping it into cylinders filled with explosives and sending our representatives to other worlds. The Chief Designer is a portrayal of the single most important enterprise in human history! Koralev is in a very real sense our real life Titan, our very real and historical Prometheus, stealing fire from the gods and giving it to humanity.

The Chief Designer is winner of the 2002 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the Southeastern Science Fiction Achievement Award, a 2003 Nebula Award finalist and a 2002 Hugo Award finalist. Today we can add SFFaudio Essential to its many achievements.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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