Review of Silence Please by Arthur C. Clarke

March 31, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Finis! Happy Birthday to us!

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Earthlight and Other Stories by Arthur C. ClarkeSilence Please
Contained in Earthlight and Other Stories: The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke 1950-1951
By Arthur C. Clarke; Read by Various
Publisher: Phoenix Books
Published: 2010
Themes: / Science Fiction / Pubs / Sound / Opera / Physics /

What is it about a good pub that makes it such a good place to tell a story? Spider Robinson’s Callahan says “Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased.” That’s a good enough reason for me. Someone line me up with a pint, and one for my friend Spider. Let’s see who comes along.

“Silence Please” is Arthur C. Clarke’s first White Hart story of the fifteen that were later collected as The Tales of the White Hart. After the unnamed main character tells us of his surroundings (and how difficult this pub called The White Hart is to find), Harry Purvis sidles up to tell the tale of The Felton Silencer, a device that uses noise-canceling technology to deaden sound over a large area. The best use for such an engineering marvel? Revenge, of course!

The physics behind The Felton Silencer are explained fully. Never has an info dump been more entertaining! And the results make me eye those noise-canceling headphones suspiciously. Best use them only for emergencies.

The presentation is superior – Christopher Cazenove gives this one a dramatic read that comes off like a great British comedy.

A long while ago, Fantastic Audio published a series of audiobooks that contained all of the stories in The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke, a huge collection of Clarke’s short fiction that was published (appropriately enough) in 2001. Phoenix Books is now re-issuing these audiobooks on Audible, at excellent prices. The Earthlight and Other Stories (1950-1951) collection is a great one to start with because in addition to this White Hart story, “The Sentinel” (which later inspired 2001: A Space Odyssey), “Time’s Arrow”, and “Earthlight” are there, too.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of The Crossroads by L. Ron Hubbard

March 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

The penultimate review in the story-a-day 7th Anniversary Fun Run!

Science Fiction Audiobook - The Crossroads by L. Ron HubbardThe Crossroads
By L. Ron Hubbard; Read by a Full Cast
Approx 50 mins – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Galaxy Audio
Published: 2010
Themes: / Science Fiction / Farming / Economics / Politics / Time / Trading / Vegetables /

Eben Smith is frustrated with government, who has offered (ordered?) to pay him to plow under his crops. But, these crops are “tangibles”, as Eben says, and it don’t make no sense to him. So he piles up the vegetables in his wagon, and heads off to find a buyer, leaving his wife to worry about him causing trouble with the government.

A day or so later, he arrives at The Crossroads. Four roads meet there; one concrete, one full of boulders, not passable except on foot. Another was made of metal. That leaves his own, a dirt road with a double row of ruts made by wagon wheels. Eben, not sure where to go from there, stops and waits for “someone with information”.

Eben has visitors, of course, and is a shrewd trader. Each visitor has his own quirks, and his own things he finds valuable. Eben sees things no farmer from the 1940’s has ever seen.

The story has a good quality. It’s very enjoyable pulp fiction, originally published in Unknown Fantasy Fiction in February 1941. It reminds me a bit of Clifford D. Simak, who, 17 years later, wrote “The Big Front Yard”. Eben has the same sort of can-do attitude as the main character in that story. Just as interesting are Eben’s distrust and criticism of the US government. Not much has changed in the last 70 years.

This CD is one of many in a series of L. Ron Hubbard stories published by Galaxy Press. It was extremely well done. There’s a main narrator, behind which are sound effects. Other actors perform the dialogue. Birds chirping set the roadside scene at high noon, and none of the effect are overpowering. Most of Eben’s visitors speak English, but one of them doesn’t. The spoken language was very well done, too. I become convinced after listening to this, the excellent Warhammer titles from The Black Library, and the great stuff coming from Graphic Audio, that it is not this type of audiobook I dislike. If it’s done well, it’s good stuff. It’s just so easy to do terribly.

With a pair of headphones, this was a very enjoyable listen.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Breaking Point by James Gunn

March 29, 2010 by · 4 Comments
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SFFaudio Review

Welcome to Reviewopolis! Three stories to go…

Breaking Point
By James Gunn; Read by Julie Davis
Approx 2 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Forgotten Classics
Podcast: March 2009 (Episodes 111-113)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Aliens / Space Travel / Psychology /

The strength of the unit is the sum of the strengths of its members. The weakness of the unit can be a single small failing in a single man.

First, a few notes about the Forgotten Classics podcast: I really enjoy this podcast for a few reasons. Julie is an avid podcast listener, and if you are looking for podcast recommendations, look no further. She opens most episodes with something interesting from the Podosphere. These Podcast Highlights come from all over the map! For example, at the beginning of one the episodes containing this story (Episode 113), she highlights “Bob Dylan’s Themetime Radio Hour”. Would you have predicted Bob Dylan and James Gunn in the same podcast?

Another thing I like about Forgotten Classics is Julie’s commentary. She comments on the material she’s reading at the end of each podcast, providing a denouement that makes me think she’s just closed the book and knows everything I know up to this point in the story and nothing more.

Perhaps most important is the fact that Julie is a very good narrator. She reads clearly and with emotion. Stories are well-paced and enhanced by her pleasant voice.

The story at hand is “Breaking Point”, by James Gunn, which was first published in Space Science Fiction in March of 1953. A starship crew lands on an alien planet, crew a fairly well-oiled machine. The Captain recalls Leinster’s “First Contact”, when he mentions to the crew the importance of keeping the location of Earth secret “at all costs, until we’re sure we’re not going to turn up a potentially dangerous, possibly superior alien culture.” They quickly realize that they have done exactly that, when some external force, through unknown technology, won’t allow the hatch to be opened.

At this point, one of the crew members snaps. How could the hatch not open? There are many safeguards – this should not be happening! Cue the hysterial laughter. The aliens then start closing the crew in with a mysterious black (nothingness!) wall. Crew members flip out, one by one, as they try to figure out what’s happening before the walls close in completely. Are the aliens moving to close them all in, or are the alien moves specifically designed to unnerve specific crew members one at a time?

Julie said exactly what I was thinking when she mentioned that this story would be a comfortable fit on The Twilight Zone. Very weird stuff. It also reminded me of Stephen King’s The Langoliers, with the real world being blacked out in sections while people flee. Here, though, there’s nowhere to flee.

At the heart of the story is a conversation between the Captain and the medical officer about teams and how they are put together. Paresi, the medical officer tells the Captain:

Look, this is supposed to be restricted information, but the Exploration Service doesn’t rely on individual aptitude tests alone to make up a crew. There’s another factor—call it an inaptitude factor. In its simplest terms, it comes to this: that a crew can’t work together only if each member is the most efficient at his job. He has to need the others, each one of the others. And the word need predicates lack. In other words, none of us is a balanced individual. And the imbalances are chosen to match and blend, so that we will react as a balanced unit.

This while their living space continues to shrink. Is the medical officer saying that there is no such thing as a balanced individual, or that unbalanced people were purposefully selected and fitted together to make “a crew”? Either way, interesting. Thanks, Julie, for the story!

This story was completed as part of The 4th Annual SFFaudio Challenge.
Podcast Feed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/forgottenclassics

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

The SFFaudio Podcast #052

March 29, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #052 – Jesse and Scott are joined by Science Fiction author and YELLOW PERIL scholar William F. Wu.

Talked about on today’s show:
Isaac Asimov, the “Robots In Time” series, the “Robot City” series, The Twilight Zone (1985), Wong’s Lost And Found Emporium by William F. Wu, Allan Brennert, Prisoners Of Gravity, Clarion Writers’ Workshop, Amazing Stories, Harlan Ellison, the best adaptation of Tom Godwin’s The Cold Equations, The Yellow Peril: Chinese Americans In American Fiction 1850-1940 by William F. Wu, University Of Michigan, Eric S. Rabkin, invasion stories, San Fransisco, The Battle Of Wabash by Lorelle, Dr. Fu Manchu, 19th century, Chinese immigration to the USA, immigration, Blazing Saddles (1974), The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu, Charlie Chan, Sax Rohmer, comics, Marvel, DC Comics, Charlton Comics, Asians characters in comics, anglicizing Chinese names, David Lo Pan, Sui Sin Far (aka Edith Eaton), the co-evolution of Sax Rohmer and Dr. Fu Manchu, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes, the best episode of Doctor Who episode ever: The Talons Of Weng Chiang, John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China, James Hong, Hong On The Range by William F. Wu, San Diego, ComiCon, Mister Ron, Peter Sellers, The Fiendish Plot Of Dr. Fu Manchu (1980), Christopher Lee, The Face Of Fu Manchu (1965), Master Of Kung-Fu, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Captain America, Bruce Lee, Enter The Dragon, Doug Moench, Starlog, the Marvel “no prize”, Julius Schwartz

Wong’s Lost And Found Emporium as adapted for an episode of The Twilight Zone (1985) Parts 1, 2 and 3:

Prisoners Of Gravity – Workshops/Clarion Parts 1, 2 and 3:

Posted by Jesse Willis

CBC: Writers And Company: Hodd by Adam Thorpe (a reimaginaing of Robin Hood)

March 27, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

CBC Radio One - Writers And CompanyHost Eleanor Wachtel, of CBC’s Writers And Company, interviewed novelist Adam Thorpe in a fascinating podcast from January 31, 2010. Here’s the show description:

“From the Middle Ages to the 21st century, the legend of Robin Hood has fascinated us. England’s Adam Thorpe subverts the myth in his new novel, Hodd.”

Wachtel elicits a brief history of Robin Hood from Thorpe. He talks about the 1950s black and white TV version The Adventures Of Robin Hood (and it’s McCarthy-era fleeing writers), Sir Walter Scott‘s portrayal of Hood as a kind of proto-socialist, the Roger Lancelyn Green version, as well as the scholarly historical possibilities as dug up by J.C. Holt. Thorpe seems to have also taken equal inspiration for Hodd from the monsters of 20th century politics. Wachtel is one of the finest interviewers on radio.

As is quite typical with my consumption of the CBC’s Writers And Company podcast, I was listening to an older (dropped from the feed) episode. This means if you, just now, have subscribed to the official CBC feed you wouldn’t be find it available at all. But, thanks to some skillful web-fu, I’ve sussed out the still available (though hidden) |MP3|. Enjoy!

Here’s the first episode of The Adventures of Robin Hood Ep. 01 (The Coming Of Robin Hood):And here’s the trailer for the upcoming Ridley Scott version of Robin Hood:

Posted by Jesse Willis

P.S. J. Michael Straczynski’s radio drama series The Adventures Of Apocalypse Al is still being suppressed by CBC Radio. What a pity!

Review of The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

March 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Here’s a review of The Veldt, story #20 in our 7th Anniversary Review Spree!

The Illustrated Man by Ray BradburyThe Veldt
Contained in The Illustrated Man
By Ray Bradbury; Read by Paul Michael Garcia
8 CDs – 9 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2009
ISBN: 9781433297199
Themes: / Science Fiction / Automated House / Computers / Children / Simulation /

In a house that cost them “thirty thousand dollars installed”, George and Lydia Hadley and their two children lived happily. Their shoes were tied with automatic shoe-tyers, their bacon was automatically fried, and, most importantly, their children were kept entertained. Life was good in their soundproof Happylife(tm) Home. Of course, things go terribly wrong. In the nursery, the kids seem to be spending a lot of time in Africa. With the lions.

The story was published in 1950, and though nobody’s tying my shoes, here in 2010 I can identify strongly with some of what Bradbury says here. At one point, George gets so upset that he decides to shut the house down:

“Lydia, it’s off, and it stays off. And the whole damn house dies as of here and now. The more I see of the mess we’ve put ourselves in, the more it sickens me. We’ve been contemplating our mechanical, electronic navels for too long. My God, how we need a breath of honest air!”

And he marched about the house turning off the voice clocks, the stoves, the heaters, the shoe shiners, the shoe lacers, the body scrubbers and swabbers and massagers, and every other machine he could put his hand to.

The house was full of dead bodies, it seemed. It felt like a mechanical cemetery. So silent. None of the humming hidden energy of machines waiting to function at the tap of a button.

Every so often I experience the same kind of angst and run around shutting things down. Things don’t end up so well for George, though. Maybe I better just leave it all on… and let the kids play with the lions. moohoowahahaha!

I’ve heard this story many many times, but I don’t know that I’ve actually heard an audiobook version before now. They’ve always been radio dramas, and this story has appeared several times: It was a Dimension X episode (1951), an X Minus One episode (1955), and Episode 11 of Bradbury 13. It was also televised as an episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater in the 1980’s.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

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