Review of The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

June 24, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Other TypistThe Other Typist
By Suzanne Rindell; Performed by Gretchen Mol
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 7 May 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 hours; 8 discs

Themes: / 1920s / thriller / crime / speakeasies / stenographers / obsession /

Publisher summary:

It is 1923. Rose Baker is a typist in the New York City Police Department on the lower east side. Confessions are her job. The criminals admit to their crimes, and like a high priestess, Rose records their every word. Often she is the only woman present. And while she may hear about shootings, knifings, and crimes of passion, as soon as she leaves that room she is once again the weaker sex, best suited for making coffee.
 
It is a new era for women, and New York City is a confusing time for Rose. Gone are the Victorian standards of what is acceptable. Now women bob their hair short like men, they smoke, they go to speakeasies. But prudish Rose is stuck in the fading light of yesteryear, searching for the nurturing companionship that eluded her childhood and clinging to the Victorian ideal of sisterhood.
 
But when glamorous Odalie, a new girl, joins the typing pool, despite her best intentions Rose falls under Odalie’s spell. As the two women navigate between the sparkling underworld of speakeasies by night, and their work at the station by day, Rose is drawn fully into Odalie’s high stakes world and her fascination with Odalie turns into an obsession from which she may never recover.
I’m not huge on suspense or psychological thriller, but I make an exception for well-crafted books such as The Talented Mr. Ripley, Strangers on a Train, and even Gone Girl. I don’t mind characters who might be evil and I have to keep reading to find out their secrets.That’s pretty much the reading/listening experience for this book, but it was magnified since listening to CDs takes longer than it would take for me to read the print. I knew something had happened, but had to keep listening to untangle everything and figure out what. Unfortunately I felt like too much time was spent on the details and the setting and the mundane part of life, and the payoff wasn’t enough for me. I would have preferred more insight into the obsession, if that’s what it was, or the many lies, if that’s what it was. You see, I still don’t really know. I’ve listened to the last epilogue three times and I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to think now. In some cases, that’s good, but in this case, I feel a bit robbed of the payoff I was expecting.Gretchen Mol was a good reader, particularly because she never lets you read anything into her voice, adding to the veiling of the mystery. She had a very even tone and I liked her voice for Odalie.

I can see why this book is on the “must-read” list for book clubs, because there would be a lot to discuss.  Who is the “other typist” and what exactly happened in the end?

Posted by Jenny Colvin

The Destiny Of Special Agent Ace Galaksi

June 24, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

The Destiny Of Special Agent Ace GalaksiMaissa Bessada’s The Destiny Of Special Agent Ace Galaksi is very hard to tell you about. It’d be easy to say the show is just bonkers, but that’d give you the idea that it doesn’t work on a certain level that it really does. The plot is nonsensical, in the way that some of Philip K. Dick’s are. But If I said it was like a Philip K. Dick plot that’d give you absolutely the wrong idea. The Destiny Of Special Agent Ace Galaksi is far more like the Goon Show than PKD.

The Destiny Of Special Agent Ace Galaksi is naive, sharp, amateurish, polished, bizarre, insightful, childish, wise, ridiculous, and hilarious. I’ve been listening to the six half hour episodes over and over for the last three weeks and I still honestly don’t know exactly what to make of it or how even to really describe it – other than to say I like it a whole lot and I want Maissa Bessada to be my friend.

We may have to look at The Destiny Of Special Agent Ace Galaksi as a kind of work of genius, something to marvel at, something to experience. There’s a kind of damn the torpedoes specificity to the details of this show that make it an impossible project to imagine got made. And yet here it is, like a very weird dream come alive, The Destiny Of Special Agent Ace Galaksi seems to have come from an alternative universe.

But I don’t want to scare you off, it a weird experimental audio drama, in fact it’s pretty conventional, and first and foremost it’s a comedy. So let me invite you in.

Think of the great comedic audio dramas: The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, The Scarifyers, Steve, The First or Dick Dynamo: The Fifth Dimensional Man.

You’d say yeah, it’s a comedy like those. But then I’d say to you that, unlike Hitchhiker’s, this one’s really zany! Zany on multiple levels. And that, unlike Scarifyers, this one’s a Science Fiction comedy, that it’s really not very much interested in how things are, as much as how they could be! There’s no periodicity to it. And that, unlike Steve, this one, though totally and utterly Canadian, is full of international flavouring! And unlike Dynamo, the titular character is the straight-man to the off-the-rails flowing crazy funny world.

The Destiny Of Special Agent Ace Galaksi is crazier than a patchwork quilt of all of those shows gliding through puffs of time and space.

And although they are really completely and wholly different in every possible way The Destiny Of Special Agent Ace Galaksi reminded me most of was The Adventures of Sexton Blake. It’s not the word play, nor the lunatic pacing, it’s more the characters. And yet, the comparison still falls completely apart.

Indeed, the ears you need to appreciate The Destiny Of Special Agent Ace Galaksi require you to throw out your basic assumptions. They require a paradigmatic shift within you, an unencumbered embrace of the unfamiliar and hilarious, a removal of expectations, an open mind.

The Destiny Of Special Agent Ace Galaksi is an audio drama that cares most about the weird story that it is weirdly telling. It’s really, really fun.

Here’s the official premise:

After a comet of unknown origin crashes through one of God’s recycling piles, a new planet, Traa Laa Laa, forms in the aftermath. Created from a little bit of this and a little bit of that, the beings on that planet have the ability to change shape. It is CSIS special agent Ace Galaksi’s destiny to discover that those shape-changing extraterrestrials have been visiting Earth since time immemorial – and that some of those visitors left artifacts behind. One of those artifacts is as small as a seventy million year old tennis ball, another as big as the great pyramid of Giza. Certain peculiarities about the artifacts lead Ace to some startling discoveries about the very nature of existence. Unfortunately Ace Galaksi’s destiny is unclear as to whether or not he’ll be able to stay ahead of world government plots to ensure he keeps his findings to himself – permanently.

Sez scripter Maissa Bessada:

“After completing the novel version of Ace Galaksi, I realized the work had great potential as an audio play. I re-wrote it as a series of scripts, hired several talented, highly versatile actors and a Juno award winning, retired CBC producer. The show was complete. Fantastic! For about a split – or as those of us with a sci-fi bent would have it – nano-second. Then I realized that having an entertaining, thought-provoking show online wasn’t the end of my work, it was only the beginning. The next challenge was finding an audience for it.

A few weeks ago I was introduced to your podcast. In one episode Scott said in passing, ‘The best audio drama is better than a movie.’ I stopped in my tracks. (I was listening while walking the dog) and told the dog and whatever squirrels and trees that would pay attention, ‘The best audio drama is better than a movie – I couldn’t agree more!’

I’d love for you guys to listen to my show. People that choose to enjoy sci-fi in an audio format – I feel like a stranger in a strange land who has finally found home.”

Teaser |MP3|

Part 1 |MP3| Part 2 |MP3| Part 3 |MP3| Part 4 |MP3| Part 5 |MP3| Part 6 |MP3|

Podcast feed:

http://acegalaksi.libsyn.com/rss

Leave a comment, tell me what you think of this show.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #218 – READALONG: The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs

June 24, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #218 – Jesse, Luke Burrage, and David Stifel and John Feaster discuss the audiobook of The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs (narrated by David Stifel) – you can get the free podcast of the audiobook HERE.

Talked about on today’s show:
This Burroughs Guy, The Caspak Series, Irwin Borges biography of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Blue Book magazine, The Lost U-Boat, the 1975 movie (The Land That Time Forgot), The People That Time Forgot, weird science ideas, evolution, this is how evolution works here (maybe?), tadpoles, the irony, Tarzan Of The Apes, dead baby ape, “And now this creature of my brain and hand had turned Frankenstein, bent upon pursuing me to my death.”, WWI Germans, The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Journey To The Center Of The Earth by Jules Verne, navigating an underground river with a u-boat, Yellowstone Park, lost continent, high tech, necessary irony, a classic story, Jurassic Park, a UNIX system, “Californians, as a rule are familiar with jiu-jitsu.”, casual racism, Japs vs. J.A.P.s, the Huns (the Bosch), the rape of Belgium, trouble with Germans in the 1920s, Tarzan The Untamed, “full German racism”, Greenland, “imaginative idiots”, the frame story, John Carter of Mars, the tides took a thermos from the Antarctic Indian Ocean to Greenland in the space of a year, very outlandish stories, sardonic humour, Luke on framing stories, werewolves, vampires, zombies, The Player, meta self-referential recursive, we never learn the protagonist’s name until the last chapter, Bowen, the Lafayette Escadrille, Earnest Hemingway, he’s no Tarzan, a techno-geek, a romantic flop, Crown Prince Nobbler aka Nobs (an Airedale), Tintin and Snowy, was Tintin gay?, strange lands, X-Men #10, The Savage Land (of Ka-Zar), fewer dinosaurs, Plesiosaur soup, Pterodactyls, Allosaurus attack, the farther north you go the farther you go in evolution, Ahm, Cro-Magnon man, Out Of Time’s Abyss, embryology, “we’ve all got gills at that point”, flowers, “it’s always below the surface”, “we are more developed from them <- is wrong", whaddya mean kinda racist??, "the black people are below the white people on this chart", H.P. Lovecraft, one could call it evil (but fun adventure), something else, action adventure story, refining your own oil, the hero must always find a dog and a girl and exactly what he needs, the damsel in distress is a bit wet, the movie commander is sympathetic, ape like monsters, Michael Moorcock, volcanic eruptions, Baron Friedrich von Schoenvorts, shelling the fort on the way, evil bastards, shelling the lifeboats is wholly malice, soooo propaganda, Prussian honor, who was the bad guy in WWI?, proposed German peace terms if they had won WWI, domino theory, communism, let's head for Caspak, The Temple by H.P. Lovecraft, an incident blown out of proportion?, terror attacks vs. gun accidents, war crimes?, water-boarding, Otto Skorzeny, bombing dykes and dams (not a war-crime because we did it too), conducting operations while in enemy uniforms, Harry Turtledove’s alternate history, Benito Mussolini, real-life James Bond (was Austrian), Skorzeny’s smite, more Burroughs, The Mucker by Edgar Rice Burroughs, “socially relevant fiction”, yellow peril looking dudes, quite adventurey but with interesting ideas, the pre-Socratics philosophers on spontaneous generation of life, spontaneous or parallel development, again with the weird women birthing practices, Marvel Comics, The Savage Land, Tarzana’s racial segregation, white supremacy, Glenn Beck’s planned community, racists believe in races, socially constructed, genetic racism?, the monkeysphere, H.G. Wells’ work, The War Of The Worlds, Burroughs’ heroic heroes vs. Wells’ horrible people, the sympathy is in us not the book, the artilleryman, a bit of a loon, the Zulu, the Martini rifle, one day one day!, Japan’s aspirations, we need some warships, we’ve got to control our own shit, navel vs. naval, it happened to Germany too, “too cold and full of penguin’s let’s take Poland instead”, The People That Time Forgot, Out Of Time’s Abyss, more Tarzan, how long does it take?, Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar, the Venus series, Jerry Schneider, Pirates Of Venus, invalid copyright renewals, more Mars please, Mastermind Of Mars, permission requires money, the bigger gorilla, Audible.com, Burroughsguy.com, re-writing for less racism, a blow by blow comparison, lynching, The Lost Continent by Edgar Rice Burroughs (aka Beyond Thirty), perfidy, the lost continent is Europe, a black super-state!, 30 Longitude West, prejudices, vilontely pro-capitalist in the Ayn Rand sense, Burroughs loathed the labour movement, the Industrial Workers of the World are the real bad-guy, “women don’t really want to be equal to men”?, deep down atheists really believe in God?, the mystery will be unveiled.

The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs - illustration from Amazing, January 1927

The Land That Time Forgot (ACE Books)

The Land That LEGO Forgot by Edgar Rice Blockkos

The Land That Time Forgot - illustration by K.L. Jones

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Fast Times at Fairmont High by Vernor Vinge

June 23, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fast Times at Fairmont HighFast Times at Fairmont High
By Vernor Vinge; Performed by Eric Michael Summerer
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 2 April 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 3 hours

Themes: / near future / virtual reality / young adult / techie /

Publisher Summary:

In a near future where wireless mind links and wearable computers blur the line between artificial reality and ‘real’ reality, it’s final exam time at San Diego’s Fairmont Junior High. Juan Orozco and his friends have a killer idea for their off-line project. But can a bunch of 13-year-olds really figure out the secret of what’s going on at Torrey Pines Park?

As this is a novella, it’s quite short. I just couldn’t get into it. The technology in it was interesting, but that was about the only part I found enjoyable. It’s about a bunch of middle school kids at a high-tech school.

The main character Juan has been convinced by his friend to partner up with Miriam, a girl he doesn’t know for their “offline” project, where they aren’t allowed to make use of net that is even more prevalent in their lives as it today with today’s smart phones.

I’ve been told this is set in the same world as Rainbows End, which I haven’t read (link goes to SFF Audio readalong). Mr. Vinge does set up an interesting world, even if this particular story isn’t very interesting, so if that’s true, maybe I would enjoy that novel better.

The reader, Eric Michael Summerer, was alright, but nothing special. His accent for William kept reminding me of George Takei.

Review by Rob Zak.

The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty

June 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

TITLEThe Shambling Guide to New York City
By Mur Lafferty; Read by Mur Lafferty

We’re on chapter 8 as the audiobook comes out week by week on |iTunes as a podcast|. If you want to hear this audiobook don’t wait to download it. Mur Lafferty’s agreement with the publisher is that she can only leave the audio files up for a week after she finishes all the chapters on the podcast. So get it while the getting is good.

So far I am enjoying this a lot. It is not another of those “the world is covered with zombies and we’re all just trying to survive” books. The supernatural world is existing camouflaged alongside ours, as we can anticipate from watching our heroine try to get a job writing travel guides.

I enjoyed Lafferty’s Playing for Keeps as a light take on superhero adventures, which were all the craze at the time. Shambling Guide seems like a similar take on the current zombie craze in literature so I look forward to seeing what sort of adventure tale is spun.

So far, this seems like a light, fun read that I would give to my mother or sister (who do not delve as deeply as I do into urban fantasy). And, depending on where the story goes, I might even pick up the print copy for my own shelves.

The book is available on on Audible, too.

Posted by Julie D.

Review of Black Heart by Holly Black

June 21, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audiobook - Black Heart by Holly BlackBlack Heart: The Curse Workers, Book 3
By Holly Black; Narrated By Jesse Eisenberg
6 hrs and 33 mins – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Listening Library
Published: 2012
Themes: / Fantasy / Urban Fantasy / FBI / Crime / Curses / Magic /

Girls like her, my grandfather once warned me, girls like her turn into women with eyes like bullet holes and mouths made of knives. They are always restless. They are always hungry. They are bad news. They will drink you down like a shot of whisky. Falling in love with them is like falling down a flight of stairs. What no one told me, with all those warnings, is that even after you’ve fallen, even after you know how painful it is, you’d still get in line to do it again.

That’s Cassel Sharpe for you. He’s stuck on Lila Zacharov and stuck good. It’s a real shame that he’s under duress to work undercover for the FBI and she’s enthusiastically training to take a place in her father’s crime family. If only that were his only problem.

As in the previous two books of the Curse Workers trilogy, where certain individuals are born with the ability to curse others with the touch of a finger, we’re working up to a big con job that will save the day. Meanwhile Cassel is continually attempting to become a better person, a good person, while navigating a gritty maze of gray moral choices.

He’s given plenty of opportunities because his special curse working skill means that everyone wants to use him. Sorting through lures, threats, and blackmail from family, the mob, and the government becomes a way of life and gives author Holly Black plenty of room to weave plots.

Cassel’s mother is held hostage, a long-ago diamond heist must be solved, a fellow student needs help against a blackmailer, the government needs him for a special mission that could end bigotry against curse workers, and his roommate has girl friend problems. And let’s not forget the main attraction, Cassel’s tumultuous relationship with Lila, who now hates him. Yep. It’s all in a day’s work for Cassel Sharpe.

As always, it comes down to an elaborate con which pulls everything together and wraps things up, while managing to stay plausible. Black has the courage to bring her trilogy to a definite end and I applaud her for doing so. The ending is not tidy, but I liked it that way. It managed to be satisfying while simultaneously reflecting the uncertainty of Cassel’s life. And that is quite a feat.

Interestingly, this last book of the trilogy contained a spot where author Holly Black suddenly took a misstep in writing from a male perspective. In a love scene a guy would not be talking about his flat stomach and corded muscles … that’s a girl’s turn on. He’d be talking about her … ahem … various attributes. Black did such a good job the rest to of the time that this rang particularly false and it isn’t a big deal. Just … interesting.

Audio Notes: As with the preceding Curse Worker books, Jesse Eisenberg’s narration is perfect for conveying Cassel’s awkwardness. I particularly enjoy the moments when he portrays other characters through slight alterations which manage to communicate a surprising amount about the people he is voicing. His narration is a big part of my enjoyment of the series. Would I read other Curse Worker books instead of listening to the audio? Probably not. Eisenberg is Cassel and I like it that way.

Posted by Julie D.

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