Review of Wild Cards edited by George R. R. Martin

July 31, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Wild Cards edited by George R. R. MartinWild Cards (Wild Cards #1)
Edited by George R. R. Martin; Read by Luke Daniels
19 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: November 2011
ISBN: 9781455833009
Themes: / alternate history / superpowers / alien virus / superhero / urban fantasy / science fiction / horror /

Publisher Summary:

In the aftermath of WWII, an alien virus struck the Earth, endowing a handful of survivors with extraordinary powers. Originally published in 1987, the newly expanded saga contains additional original stories by eminent writers.

The stories contained in the audiobook are:
“Prologue” by George R. R. Martin
“Thirty Minutes Over Broadway!” by Howard Waldrop
“The Sleeper” by Roger Zelazny
“Witness” by Walter Jon Williams
“Degradation Rites” by Melinda Snodgrass
“Captain Cathode and the Secret Ace” by Michael Cassutt
“Powers” by David D. Levine
“Shell Games” by George R. R. Martin
“The Long, Dark Night of Fortunato” by Lewis Shiner
“Transfigurations” by Victor Milán
“Down Deep” by Edward Bryant and Leanne C. Harper
“Strings” by Stephen Leigh
“Ghost Girl Takes Manhattan” by Carrie Vaughn
“Comes a Hunter” by John J. Miller

There are also a variety of “Interludes” in between the stories, which are short bits mostly written in the form of newspaper or magazine articles or first-hand witness accounts. These interludes are often used to bridge the narrative with real events from US history, to provide the reader with insight as to the feelings in this “alternate history” type world.

Generally, this is a story of the effects of an alien virus on humanity between the time shortly following World War II through the late 70’s/early 80’s. The virus was brought to earth by aliens from a planet called Takis. It was developed as a device to give Takisians superpowers to be used as a part of large-scale family wars on Takis. The aliens wanted to test it, so sought to release it on Earth, as humans are genetically very similar to Takisians. “Prologue” introduces us to an alien who is called (by the humans, as his name is not well-suited to human speech) Dr. Tachyon and the “Wild Cards” virus. Dr. Tachyon is also a Takisian, but tried to prevent the release of the virus on Earth. “Prologue” sets the scene and tone for the world of the book. It also provides an insight into Dr. Tachyon’s values: he doesn’t ask first for the President of the US, he instead asks for the top scientists and thinkers. This is an obvious nod by George R. R. Martin to those who have true powers in the US.

“Thirty Minutes Over Broadway!” tells the story of Jet Boy, an American superhero, and the release of the Wild Cards virus over Manhattan in September, 1946. Jet Boy is a true hero, an all-American kid who came back from fighting in World War II with a superhero story of his ace flying abilities. He is the only superhero in the book who wasn’t a superhero because of the virus, but because of his innate abilities and selflessness. In a theme that becomes common through the book, the reader is reminded that a hero is a hero because of what they do, not because of their skills. Jet Boy tries—and fails—to stop the virus from being released.

The virus is brutal. It only impacts humans, with no effects on other species. It kills most of its victims, but those who survive (only about a tenth of those exposed to the virus) are not left unscathed. Through the rest of the book, the reader is introduced to various people impacted by the virus. The first stories tell mainly of “Aces,” those who get super powers from the virus (usually in the form of telekinesis and/or greatly enhanced physical abilities. Later, the reader is introduced to the concept of “Jokers,” who become horribly deformed due to the virus. The first interlude presents the concept of “Deuces,” those who get an “ace-like” ability that is not particularly useful, like “Mr. Rainbow,” whose ability is to change the color of his skin.

The narrative takes the reader through time: each story is a snapshot of a period in US history and provides a sort of “alternate history” of how that time may have been different if there had been these Aces and Jokers were around. Some of the early stories, taking place during the era of HUAC and McCarthyism, show how the aces became subjects of witch hunts and were forced into service in the US military or intelligence agencies. Jokers are looked upon as second-class beings, a theme that plays a large role during the stories set in the 60’s and 70’s, mirroring the US Civil Rights Movement. Some of the stories are sad, such as “The Sleeper” and “Witness.” Some are a bit more uplifting and triumphant, such as “Shell Games.” A lot of the stories, especially the later ones, become a bit creepy, with people using their powers for selfish reasons, as in “Strings.”

All in all, Wild Cards serves as an interesting statement on humanity through the guise of a “what if” scenario. All of the stories are eminently believable—at no time did anything that happened seem overwhelmingly unlikely. To some extent, that’s a bit of a sad statement on humanity—as the book goes on, aces and jokers alike seem to be only interested in helping themselves, looking out for their own (often misguided) interests.

The narration, done by Luke Daniels, was pretty good in the audiobook. He had a good speed and good intonation for most of the characters, and it was easy to tell each character apart. As often happens with male narrators trying to do female voices, some of the females sounded whiny, but it wasn’t so over the top so as to be unlistenable. After listening to this narration, I’ll be keeping Luke Daniels on my radar when looking at audiobooks.

Personally, I preferred the stories in the first half of the book to those in the second half. In the second half, the stories got quite a bit darker, more creepy and violent. After the strong lead-in with the Prologue and “Thirty Minutes Over Broadway,” I quite enjoyed the origin stories and the weaving-in of events in US history. As the book progressed, the stories didn’t seem quite as engaging—for one, I actually repeatedly fell asleep while listening, and ended up having rewind and re-listen to some of the others. There was also one story that was too graphic both in terms of sex and violence for me, “The Long, Dark Night of Fortunato” by Lewis Shiner. By the end, I wasn’t interested in more stories of people serving their own interests. There are other books in the series, which I have heard are more like the stories at the end of the book—I’m not sure that they’ll be for me. But I enjoyed this anthology well enough and would recommend it to others interested in a cross of science fiction, general fiction, and horror genres.

Review by terpkristin

Thank You: AdSense $$ for May and June 2012

July 31, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: News 

SFFaudio News

Google Adsense cheque for May and June 2012

Thank YouFor our labours, in the months of May and June of this year, we have received a moderately sized contribution:

$131.95 in Google AdSense revenue.

I’d have you know that hosting for the site is actually pretty cheap. But we have plenty of other minor expenses. Like equipment, I like to buy computers – without them I wouldn’t be able to see the website, or write the posts, or do the podcast.

And of course we need $$ for the peripherals like hard drives and scanners.

But more importantly this money is used to make thank you payments to programmers for software like Levelator, and torrent sites like RadioArchive.cc, and for paying for podcast audiobooks.

If we were a business we’d lose money every month. Thankfully we’re not a business. We’re a website and so breaking even is the whole idea.

Thanks for helping to break us even. And please continue to break us. We’re not broken nearly enough. We’d like to be ten times broker.

Your eyes and mouse clicks and finger taps are all much appreciated.

Posted by Jesse Willis

We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick

July 30, 2012 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

Philip K. Dick’s novelette, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, is a tale full of false memories, soulful wishes, and the planet Mars – all classic Dick themes. It’s hero, Douglas Quail, is a man who longs to visit Mars yet is shrewish wife denies him even the day-dream. But when he discovers that he’s actually already been there, as an agent for a sinister government agency, things start getting a bit confused. Is he really a deep cover Black-Ops assassin with suppressed memories and a false identity? Or is he just a sad shmendrik with delusions of grandeur?

World's Best Science Fiction 1967 - We Can Remember It For You Wholesale - illustration by Jack Gaughan

Here’s the editorial introduction, from the publication in Fantasy & Science Fiction, for We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. The article mentioned as being on “page 62” is by Theodore L. Thomas, a noted SF writer and prolific columnist for F&SF in the 1960s. Thoma’s article is based on another entitled “THE FOOD THEY NE’ER HAD EAT” which is available as a |PDF|.

We Can Remember It For You Wholesale - Editorial introduction from F & SF

One audiobook version was recorded for BBC Radio 7, now called BBC Radio 4 Extra, and broadcast back in 2003. It’s available via torrent at RadioArchive.cc.

RadioArchives.ccWe Can Remember It For You Wholesale
By Philip K. Dick; Read by William Hootkins
2 MP3s via TORRENT – Approx. 64 Minutes [UNABRIDGED?]
Broadcaster: BBC Radio 7 (now called BBC Radio 4 Extra)
Broadcast: September 2003
Doug Quail lives in a future world of memory implants and false vacations. Doug wants to visit the planet Mars but after a mishap at a virtual travel agency, he discovers that he’s already been there. First published in Fantasy & Science Fiction, April 1966.

And, here’s the trailer for the remake of the movie of the story that Philip K. Dick wrote:

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #171 – NEW RELEASES/RECENT ARRIVALS

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #171 – Jesse, Tamahome, Jenny, Julie Hoverson, and Matthew Sanborn Smith talk about the latest NEW RELEASES and RECENT ARRIVALS in audiobooks and paperbooks.

Talked about on today’s show:
Matt is sorry, audiobooks and paperbooks, The Mongoliad (Book 1) by Greg Bear, Neal Stephenson, Mark Teppo, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey, Cooper Moo, E.D. deBirmingham, Luke Daniels, Brilliance Audio, “speculative history”, shared worlds, Jenny appreciates the effort, Mongolian food yum!, Genghis Kahn And The Making Of The Modern World by Jack Weatherford, swordplay, Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig, Angry Robot Books, “our hirsute friend”, “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose“, Peter Boyle, The X-Files, “I’m on team more please”, Counter Clock World by Philip K. Dick |READ OUR REVIEW|, Your Appointment Will Be Yesterday, “The librarians have all the power and they use it for evil.”, Red Dwarf, Backwards, WWII in reverse, time’s arrow, South Park, Dreadnaught: The Lost Fleet: Beyond The Frontier by Jack Campbell, military SF, Steve Gibson (of Security Now), “Gratuitous Space Battles”, Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, Battleship, Shadow Blizzard by Alexey Pehov’s website, D&D style action, George R.R. Martin, Shadow Prowler, is there a Russian Goodreads?, Luke Burrage, The Scar, The Hot Gate by John Ringo, Baen Books, Sword & Laser, Omega Point (A Richards And Klein Investigation) by Guy Haley, an angry AI, The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan, “don’t poke the nerds”, Farmer In The Sky by Robert A. Heinlein, collective tractor problems, Tunnel In The Sky by Robert A. Heinlein, Silent Running, bringing earth from Earth, Nick Podehl, “solar operas”, The Number Of The Beast by Robert A. Heinlein, a bloaty book, Sliders, lawyer world is our world, bickering about who is in charge, “sensual”, The Number Of The Beast Wikipedia entry, Amidala is Ozma?, Space: 1889, The Year’s Top Ten Tales Of Science Fiction: Volume 4 edited by Allan Kaster, After The Apocalypse by Maureen F. McHugh, Charles Stross, Robert Reed, Kiss The Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton, noir, Anne Rice, PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT (email Jenny if you’re an audiobook reviewer in search of audiobooks to review), Thursday Next, Jasper Fforde, Hamlet, The Unwritten, Recorded Books, One Of Our Thursdays Is Missing by Jasper Fforde, Shadow Of Night by Deborah Harkness, a Martian day, Moon War by Ben Bova, the “Grand Tour” series, Kim Stanley Robinson, mowing the lawn while audiobooking, The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty, Downton Abbey, Cranford, The Orphanmaster by Jean Zimmerman, The Secret Pilgrim by John le Carré, A Perfect Spy by John le Carré, Michael Jayston, AuralNoir.com (SFFaudio’s long forgotten clone), “it’s about ideas”, John le Carré as a narrator, Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Penguin Audio, Potboiler by Jesse Kellerman, Breaking Bad, a surreal chain of events, Kirby Heyborne, Homeland by Cory Doctorow, Eric S. Rabkin’s Coursera Course: Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World, Night Watch by Linda Fairstein, A Game Of Thrones food, when is Winter coming?, Barbara Rosenblat, It’s The Middle Class Stupid by James Carville and Stan Greenberg, is that a speech impediment or an accent?, I Hate Everyone … Starting With Me by Joan Rivers, “You’re not the gay son I wanted.”, Suck It, Wonder Woman: The Misadventures Of A Hollywood Geek by Olivia Munn and Mac Montandon |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Newsroom, Attack Of The Show, Michael Caine, audio biographies, My Life by Bill Clinton, Bossypants by Tina Fey, 30 Rock, SecondWorld by Jeremy Robinson, On The Beach by Nevil Shute, Phil Gigante, The Stainless Steel Rat, Fatherland, Kop Killer by Warren Hammond, wife wife wife, Spider Play by Lee Killough, Beware the Hairy Mango, 19 Nocturne Boulevard, Fatal Girl (anime audio drama), internal consistency, is anime a genre?, Hayao Miyazaki, Tony C. Smith’s District Of Wonders network, StarShipSofa, Tales To Terrify, Crime City Central, Protecting Project Pulp, Lawrence Block, Lawrence Santoro is awesome, should we care about networks?, Mucho Mango Mayo (a new story every day), web-series writing month, Saki, H.P. Lovecraft, Jorge Luis Borges, Dis-Belief, cosmic horror, parallel universes.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Earthseed by Pamela Sargent

July 29, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Earthseed by Pamela Sargent Earthseed (The Seed Trilogy, #1)
Written by Pamela Sargent; Read by Amy Rubinate
8 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: December 2011
ISBN: 9781455118335
Themes: / space colonies / adventure / science fiction / space /
Awards: AudioFile Earphones Award; ALA Best Books for Young Adults Selection, 1983

Publisher Summary:

Ship hurtles through space. Deep within its core it carries the seed of humankind. Launched by the people of a dying Earth over a century ago, its mission is to find a habitable world for the children—fifteen-year-old Zoheret and her shipmates—whom it has created from its genetic banks.

To Zoheret and her shipmates, Ship has been mother, father, and loving teacher, preparing them for their biggest challenge: to survive on their own, on an uninhabited planet, without Ship’s protection. Now that day is almost upon them, but are they ready? Ship devises a test, and suddenly instincts that have been latent for over a hundred years take over. Zoheret watches as friends become strangers—and enemies. Can Zoheret and her companions overcome the biggest obstacle to the survival of the human race—themselves?

It is understandable why this book is getting attention again, almost 30 years since it was written: it’s another YA book that is similar to The Hunger Games.

In Earthseed, the reader is introduced to Zoheret, one of many teenagers aboard a ship traveling through space. Zoheret, and her ship mates, were all “born” on the ship, created by the ship (known as “Ship”) from DNA samples of Ship’s creator. Ship was sent from Earth with samples (and programming) from “the last of humanity on Earth,” set with a mission to find another world where no intelligent life exists and “seed” the world with humans. Ship raised these kids (about 50ish in total) from birth, teaching them, fulfilling a parental role. We enter the story as the kids, now teens, are getting ready to spend time in the “holo” (I presume it’s “holo” and not “hollow,” either way, it’s a wilderness environment on-board the ship) to train for what it will be like on the surface of the planet.

At this point, I’m sure you’re thinking that some Lord of the Flies type story is going to happen (I know that’s what I thought), and in fact there are some parallels between Lord of the Flies and Earthseed. However, Sargent does a wonderful job of making the story engaging with some surprising twists and turns along the way. While listening, I felt myself making excuses to listen to more of the story, not wanting to stop. I won’t spoil the story, but I will say that at the end, Ship’s residents find themselves making a life on the surface of the new planet and Ship goes off to seed another world.

I thought Amy Rubinate’s narration was superb. I normally don’t care for female narrators; usually they sound too dramatic for my taste. But Rubinate did a great job. I could always distinguish the voices of the characters, whether it was two females, two males, or a male and a female talking, and at no point did I feel like it was overdramatized. Also, the voice she used for Ship was a perfect matronly but somewhat robotic voice.

All three books in The Seed Trilogy are available in audio from Blackstone – Farseed (Book #2) and Seed Seeker (Book #3).

Review by terpkristin.

BBC R4: Operation Black Buck RADIO DRAMA

July 29, 2012 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

Vulcan bomber

Operation Black Buck visualization

I first heard about Operation Black Buck after watching a Channel 4 broadcast in anticipation of the 30th anniversary (April, May, and June of 1982) of the Falkland War. Falklands’ Most Daring Raid was the “humorous, heroic story of how a Cold War-era Vulcan flew the then-longest-range bombing mission in history with a Second World War bomb that changed the outcome of the Falklands War.” It’s a great watch (and is available via torrent HERE).

Falklands' Most Daring Raid

And now, thanks to BBC Radio 4 (and RadioArchive.cc) there is as a companion to that doc. And it is a very satisfactory BBC Radio 4 dramatization too!

Like the Dam Busters and Doolittle raids, the story of Operation Black Buck strikes me as an inspirational engineering problem. A kind of wartime terrestrial Apollo mission, but done with 1950s technology.

Operation Black Buck was conducted from Ascension Island in the mid-Atlantic to the Falkland Islands as a part of the initial British response to the invasion of the Falkland Islands by Argentina. That 7,500 km distance required an stunning amount of mid-air refueling check out this diagram:

Black Buck: Refueling Plan

Black Buck refueling plan: eleven Victors for one Vulcan

BBC Radio 4RadioArchives.ccAfternoon Drama: Operation Black Buck
By Robin Glendinning; Performed by a full cast
1 MP3 – Approx. 44 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: BBC R4
Broadcast: June 5, 2012
During the Falklands War 30 years ago, the RAF staged the world’s longest bombing run, in an attempt to damage the runway at Port Stanley. Using ageing Vulcan bombers, crews flew a round trip of 8000 miles from Ascension Island to the South Atlantic. Such a journey required not just in-flight refuelling, but re-fuelling of the refuelling planes – a hazardous undertaking that had never before been attempted on such a scale.

In this drama, Robin Glendinning recreates the nail-biting adventure. Not only were the raids themselves difficult to pull off, but even getting the aircraft ready for the flights was a major task. Aviation museums across the world were raided for spares, and key parts retrieved from junkyards.

But there are those who question whether or not the operation was militarily useful – or whether or not the same job could have been done more effectively using planes attached to the naval task force. Was this really about war, or was it about the RAF trying to carve out a role for itself in a conflict that threatened to be entirely dominated by the Army and Royal Navy? And how successful were the raids anyway?

Producer: Jolyon Jenkins

I got this show via torrent from our friends at RadioArchive.cc.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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