LibriVox: A Knyght Ther Was by Robert F. Young

January 27, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
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LibriVoxRobert F. Young (1915-1986) was an American public school janitor. In addition to maintaining what I can only assume to have been immaculate hallways and washrooms in Bufallo, NY schools, he is also remembered for having written five novels, as well as a few dozen short Science Fiction stories, novellas and novelettes. His authorial production started in 1953 with a sale to Startling Stories. Later sales were made to Playboy, The Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s and Analog.

This story is inspired in part by Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and features a rogue time traveler named Tom Mallory who transits to 6th century Europe in search of an unparalleled treasure. Perhaps Terry Gilliam or Michael Palin filched this as a story seed for their 1981 classic Time Bandits?

LibriVox - A Knyght Ther Was by Robert F. YoungA Knyght Ther Was
By Robert F. Young; Read by Roger Melin
6 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 2 Hours 19 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: January 23, 2010
“But the Knyght was a little less than Perfect, and his horse did not have a metabolism, and his ‘castle’ was much more mobile—timewise!—than it had any business being!” In 2178, once time travel had become a simple task, it had also been outlawed. Those who chose to ingnore this law were known as time-thieves, and Tom Mallory was among the best of them. When he learns the precise whereabouts of the Holy Grail in 542, he sets out to obtain it with the intention of returning it to the 22nd century to make a handsome profit and to settle on Get-Rich-Quick Street. Off to the year 542 he travels to the castle of Carbonek where the great Knight Sir Launcelot is said to have possession of the Sangraal. First published in Analog Science Fact & Fiction July 1963.

Podcast feed: http://librivox.org/rss/3941

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

Trailer for Time Bandits (1981):

[Thanks also to Betty M. and Annise]

Posted by Jesse Willis

Spartan Youth Radio: Interview with Margaret Atwood

January 26, 2010 by · 10 Comments
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Spartan Youth RadioSpartan Youth Radio (a Northern Ontario high school radio station) has an interview with Margaret Atwood. Reporter Madeline Lemire talked to Atwood during her book tour for The Year Of The Flood. In the interview Atwood talks about her novel, moon landing conspiracy theories, biotechnology, religion, environmentalism, coffee, twitter and “the future of novels.”

I always thought Margaret Atwood’s position on ‘not being a Science Fiction writer’ had some merit. She’s never been all that interested in science. After listening to Atwood explain her position on the moon landings being fake (she thinks that they were) I have to agree she’s definitely not all that interested in science. I shake my head at your smug oleaginousness Margaret Atwood. You are a history denier. The moon landings were not fake. We did them, they were done.

Here’s the interview |MP3|

Our review of The Year Of The Flood |READ OUR REVIEW|!

Here’s a video featuring a multi-performer “dramatic reading” from The Year Of The Flood:

Aren’t you glad Atwood doesn’t narrate her own audiobooks?

[via the Digital Copyright Canada blog]

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel

January 26, 2010 by · 4 Comments
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SFFaudio Review

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon HaleSkybreakerSFFaudio Essential
By Kenneth Oppel; Read by a full cast
10 CDs – 11.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Full Cast Audio
Published: 2008
ISBN: 9781934180150
Themes: / Fantasy / Airships / Adventure / Parallel World / Romance / Alternate History / Zoology / Paris / Pirates / Parkour /

High in the sky, far above the normal lanes of travel, drifts a ghost ship carrying unbelievable treasure. Matt Cruise, hero of the wildly popular Airborn, is on the trail of that treasure, with the help of his charming society friend Kate de Vries and a mysterious gypsy girl named Nadira. With them flies Hal Slater, roguish captain of a boldly designed Skybreaker aircraft that can reach heights previously undreamed of. But between Matt and his destination stand ruthless pirates, and an even more ruthless businessman. And what Matt’s crew will find when they finally do reach the Hyperion is far more valuable, far more exciting, and far more dangerous than they ever imagined.

Do you love airships? I know I do. If I had my way I’d double the number of all science fiction and fantasy novels being written with airships. This one, set shortly after the events of Airborn |READ OUR REVIEW|, stars our returning hero Matt Cruse. At the opening of Skybreaker Matt has been attending the world’s premier airship academy in Paris. This last semester his practicum began as assistant navigator on an old cargo airship called the Flotsam. And it’s there, whilst high over the Indian Ocean, that Matt, and the crew of the Flotsam, spot a famous ghost airship called the Hyperion. Supposedly the Hyperion is loaded with the treasures of it’s notorious billionaire inventor (kind of a cross between Howard Hughes and Thomas Edison). Upon his return to Paris, Matt discovers there are several interested parties desirous of the Hyperion’s last known coordinates. Fatefully, this is information that now only Matt knows! Determined to cash in on the knowledge and hunt down the Hyperion’s treasure Matt teams up with a rougish sky-captain named Hal Slater. Slater is the owner of a recently commissioned “skybreaker” called the Sagarmāthā. (which is the nepalese name for Mount Everest). Skybreakers are high performance, high altitude airships. Matt will need one just like it to reach the high drifting Hyperion. But Matt won’t be alone as Paris is full of both dangers and would-be competitors in the hunt for Hyperion. And what kind of a novel set in Paris would be complete without some Parkour? Kenneth Oppel doesn’t disappoint there. When Matt meets Nadira, a girl wjho quite literally holds the key to the Hyperion’s treasure, the first thing do together is jump around, off buildings, running away from some bad dudes.

One thing to bear in mind while reading this fast paced adventure, Kenneth Oppel is far less interested in the rigors of telling a scientifically plausible story than in getting on with the storytelling itself. Despite this Skybreaker does have some rudimentary science in it, notably in the areas of fluid physics (displacement), biology (human adaptability to high altitude) and even some of the zoological sciences. And though the story contains no magic it is probably still best classified as a Fantasy novel due to some very unscientific realities. The lifting gas employed in the Skybreaker universe, for example, is non-flammable (like helium gas), naturally scented of mango (like no high lifting gas on our periodic table), naturally occurring (from deep within the earth and in some animals biologically) and absolutely non-existent in our universe. Some inventions that are featured in the story are not only implausible, but also long discredited in our reality (notably Phrenology). On the plus side it contains a fun Parkour sequence fairly early in the novel. Parkouring-up a scene like that is really cool. Thanks Mr. Oppel!

As with every Full Cast Audio production that I’ve hear I come away from the novel forgetting that it is an audiobook. Skybreaker feels like a full blown audio drama. This is a rather odd realization. There are no sound effects that would normally be created for an audio drama production – they are merely described by the narrator using the actual words written by Kenneth Oppel. One technical difference in the production, as compared with Airborn is what sounds like a bit more bed music. The actors who performed in the first book in this series all return, reprising their roles as appropriate but there are some new actors too. The addition of Hal Slater, for example, is a fine one, voiced by Mark Holt, he comes off very Han Solo-ish. The actress playing Nadira, Ailsa McCaughrean, would be a fine additon to future FCA productions, she portrays a young, brash and impulsive young woman. The actors playing the Sherpas, the crew of the Sagarmatha, present what sounds to my ears as a distinct and possibly even authentic accent. Malcolm Ingram, who plays a villonous sky-pirate turned sky-mercenary sounds a bit like Sean Connery. David Kelly (Matt) and Mark Holt (Hal) even have a chance to sing a sea-shanty turned sky-shanty. This is an aurally rich production that’s a must listen for any fan of airshippery and piratical daring do.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

January 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
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Science Fiction Audiobook - The Invisible Man by H.G. WellsThe Invisible Man
By H.G. Wells; Read by James Adams
5 CDs – Approx. 5.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2009
ISBN: 9781433277528
Themes: / Science Fiction / Invisibility / Chemistry / Biology / Crime / 19th Century / Sussex / Morality / Personal Responsibility /

On a freezing February day, a stranger emerges from out of the gray to request a room at a local provincial inn. Who is this out-of-season traveler? More confounding is the thick mask of bandages obscuring his face. Why does he disguise himself in this manner and keep himself hidden away in his room? Aroused by trepidation and curiosity, the local villagers bring it upon themselves to find the answers. What they discover is a man trapped in a terror of his own creation, and a chilling reflection of the unsolvable mysteries of their own souls.

While nobody could really deny H.G. Wells was an amazing and talented Science Fiction author I think we can all agree that some of his fictions are superior to others. Among those that are not superior is The Invisible Man. This is not from any serious defect in the novel’s writing. Indeed, I cannot see anything that H.G. Wells has really done badly or that he could have done better. So, if it couldn’t have been done better then why isn’t it better? I think the problem stems from two interrelated factors: One is a serious technical gripe, something in the book and unavoidable, and the other being the smallness of that idea. Taken together they make it difficult to fully engage with. What holds back The Invisible Man from an utter perfection is at the weak premise at the very core of the novel, invisibility. Invisibility is both impossible and small. I’ve expanded on its impossibility in another essay. Its smallness is a problem I will tackle here.

Invisibility is a long standing meme in human culture: Plato describes invisibility in the legend of The Ring Of Gyges, Tolkien used a similarly endowed ring in The Lord Of The Rings, and even modern scientific versions of invisibility (the invisible-like camouflage in Predator) are still with us. The problem is invisibility isn’t a story, its barely a half of an idea in terms of ideas – its a place to take a story, but it isn’t a very fruitful one. I felt the same way when I read Richard Matheson’s The Incredible Shrinking Man |READ OUR REVIEW|READ OUR REVIEW|. I though: “A man shrinking, that’s new!” It was new and completely unfruitful. See the fallout from the idea of a man shirking inexorably towards nothingness is a feeling of emptiness. The man shrinks, the world gets bigger. A man shrinks, everyday objects become like mountains and house pets like dragons. Its interesting, to be sure, but it isn’t a story. Like invisibility, no amount of hand-waving can make the explanation scientifically plausible. Unlike, the The Incredible Shrinking Man however I can still recommend The Invisible Man – Wells is the master of Science Fiction. In The Invisible Man he takes a fatally flawed concept, invisibility, and writes the shit out of it. When Griffin, the scientist and anti-hero of the title goes about explaining his methodological reasoning in a Socratic dialogue, he is fully persuasive. Check this passage out:

“Phew!” said Kemp. “That’s odd! But still I don’t see quite … I can understand that thereby you could spoil a valuable stone, but personal invisibility is a far cry.”

“Precisely,” said Griffin. “But consider, visibility depends on the action of the visible bodies on light. Either a body absorbs light, or it reflects or refracts it, or does all these things. If it neither reflects nor refracts nor absorbs light, it cannot of itself be visible. You see an opaque red box, for instance, because the colour absorbs some of the light and reflects the rest, all the red part of the light, to you. If it did not absorb any particular part of the light, but reflected it all, then it would be a shining white box. Silver! A diamond box would neither absorb much of the light nor reflect much from the general surface, but just here and there where the surfaces were favourable the light would be reflected and refracted, so that you would get a brilliant appearance of flashing reflections and translucencies—a sort of skeleton of light. A glass box would not be so brilliant, not so clearly visible, as a diamond box, because there would be less refraction and reflection. See that? From certain points of view you would see quite clearly through it. Some kinds of glass would be more visible than others, a box of flint glass would be brighter than a box of ordinary window glass. A box of very thin common glass would be hard to see in a bad light, because it would absorb hardly any light and refract and reflect very little. And if you put a sheet of common white glass in water, still more if you put it in some denser liquid than water, it would vanish almost altogether, because light passing from water to glass is only slightly refracted or reflected or indeed affected in any way. It is almost as invisible as a jet of coal gas or hydrogen is in air. And for precisely the same reason!”

“Yes,” said Kemp, “that is pretty plain sailing.”

So, I’m of two minds on The Invisible Man. It derives its heart from a weak concept – and like the phlogiston theory of combustion it is discredited, and undeserving of serious consideration. Despite all this I still find myself willing to recommend you read the novella. The psychological rigor that Wells brings to the novel makes The Invisible Man quite possibly the first and last straight Science Fiction story worthy of our attentions.

Narrator James Adams is a capable reader, he reads the third person perspective text with what sounds like an authentic English accent. The clam-shell style case, for the library CD edition that I received, features a bit of fading text on the cover, a design inspired by the invisibility of the title. Unfortunately this makes the details hard to make out in anything other than a bright light environment. Blackstone Audio has four other formats available too: Cassette, MP3-CD, digital download (via Audible.com) and playaway (a kind of disposable MP3 player that can only play one book). Given the widespread availability of The Invisible Man by other audiobook publishers I’d like to have seen some value added materials, perhaps a specially commisioned introduction by Professor Eric Rabkin and or an afterward by Professor Michael D.C. Drout.

One thing I like about paperbooks that rarely (if ever) gets included in an audiobook is a map. Maps are fun and informative. One of the funnest paperback series ever was the old Dell Mapbacks. Here’s the Map from the back of Dell’s edition of The Invisible Man:

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells - A Dell Book (MAPBACK)

And while we’re at it here’s the cover…

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells - A Dell Book - FRONT COVER of the MAPBACK

Posted by Jesse Willis

The Guardian Books Podcast: Looking ahead in Science Fiction

January 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
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The Guardian Books PodcastSays The Guardian…

“Science fiction is the marmite of literature – people tend to love it or hate it. Yet no one could deny that it has produced many of the great myths of our age, from Frankenstein’s monster to William Gibson’s cyber-reality.

SF blogger Damien Walter joins our panellists to discuss where it is now, and why we should all tune in to a genre that can be satirical, prophetic, political and plain good fun, often all at the same time. He also outlines some of the titles to look out for in 2010.

We also look at John Wyndham’s previously unpublished novel, Plan For Chaos, and interview China Miéville, rising star of the ‘new weird’.”

Sez Damien G. Walter:

“I have the pleasure of being a guest on this week’s Guardian Books Podcast. This was my second time on the show, but this time around the whole episode is dedicated to speculative fiction. Hurrah! We discuss the new John Wyndham novel (yes, you heard that right) and the reasons why there are so many sub-genres in SF. Michelle Pauli interviews China Mieville, and I give my SF picks for 2010.”

That old/new John Wyndham novel, Plan For Chaos, sounds very interesting, apparently its a kind of hybrid Science Fiction/Hard Boiled Crime novel. The rest of the podcast is also well worth listening to.

Have a listen |MP3|

Or get it via The Guardian’s podcast feed:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/series/books/podcast.xml

[via Clampants on HuffDuffer]

Posted by Jesse Willis

Recent Arrivals: The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

January 21, 2010 by · 1 Comment
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SFFaudio Recent Arrivals

Tantor MediaDid you read our post about how to get FREE SWAG from Tantor Media? If you did you know Tantor Media is actually delivering on its promise of a FREE AUDIOBOOK for feedback about their new website!

And now I’ve got the physical proof in hand!

After I checked out out their improved website I left some feedback (I actually suggested they start a podcast) and waited two weeks for my audiobook’s delivery. I picked it up at the PO Box yesterday. Two weeks isn’t too shabby for a delivery to Canada.

If you haven’t already go on over to Tantor Media, check out their new website, and get your own FREE audiobook by mail!

TANTOR MEDIA - The Time Machine by H.G. WellsThe Time Machine
By H.G. Wells; Read by Scott Brick
4 CDs – Approx. 3 Hours 58 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Published: 2002
ISBN: 1400100771

They’ve also got their February 2010 catalogue available in a downloadable |PDF|!

Posted by Jesse Willis

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