The SFFaudio Podcast #227 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Dreams In The Witch House by H.P. Lovecraft

August 26, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #227 – The Dreams In The Witch House by H.P. Lovecraft; read by Julie Hoverson. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the novelette (1 hour 42 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Julie Hoverson, Mirko Stauch, and John Feaster.

Talked about on today’s show:
1933, a pretty terrible Lovecraft story, which story?, science fiction vs. horror, crappy cheesy, Julie’s audio drama adaptation of The Dreams In The Witch House, bad ending vs. interesting journey, nobody wants August Derleth to be right, Mirko likes it, a magnificent failure?, an unusual narrative, standard witch story #4, The Size Of The Universe by Willem de Sitter, is the Dark Man made out of dark matter?, the first fanfic Mary Sue writer, Hypnos, witches, magic, what does a being from beyond space need with baby guts, why is Nyarlathotep crusing the streets with a dude in his pajamas?, Prohibition, a supervillain squad, a nerve specialist, Herbert West, Re-Animator, Douglas Adams, space is really really really big, the total perspective vortex, Lovecraft humour, Pickman’s Model, Walter Gilman is blind to the danger, the Masters Of Horror adaptation, The Whisperer In Darkness, The Colour Out Of Space, a homesteading concept, Darkest Of The Hillside Thickets, The Shadow Out of Tim, the science fiction aspect, a scary fascination, the sunburn, the blown out ear drums, Azathoth, the Pythagorean view, “everything is made of numbers”, mathematics, Galen, is Keziah Mason dead?, is Walter Gilman doomed from the start?, Brown Jenkin looks like Chuck E. Cheese, what is Brown Jenkin?, witches familiars, Blackadder, “bloody milk!”, bubbles -> Beelzebubbles, modern witches, “the witch stole my penis”, mob mentality, Caligula, proscription, Crassus, the Polish landlord and tenants, a drunken loom-mender?, the looming evil, the cross prayer, the cross giver, the cross as a weapon, Walpurgis Night, the skeleton is quantum physics, Halloween, the maypole, the Brocken, pagan rituals, prank gardening, tree stealing, mascot kidnapping, “excessively religious”, Elwood, The Thing On The Doorstep is internally logical, Tales From The Crypt, Lovecraft’s racism, The Haunter Of The Dark, presenting light, superstition, Mount Everest, icky areas, Lovecraft’s characters aren’t into self-preservation, 1960s, addiction, psychedelics, helmet refusers, “outspokenly Wiccan”, The Call Of Cthulhu RPG, 20 sided die, weird angles, 4 sided die, Julie’s die scar, sharp Doritos, caltrops, “grimoire”, sleeping on Elwood’s couch, a cohesive awesome, the endings, the star wanderings, Beyond The Wall Of Sleep, Polaris, an obsession with evil stars, astral projection, the movement of the stars, Lovecraft’s astronomic efforts, The Festival, a weird plot thread, Lovecraft as an untethered balloon, there’s a lot of puppy dog in H.P. Lovecraft, “the poky little Lovecraft”, Montreal, a historical-building-o-phile, Bingo The Birthday Clown, Star Crunch (a Lovecraftian sponsor), “a field of red jelly with bones floating in it”, hot dog water, ultimately everyone is consumed, Tunus the Unstoppable, a soap opera with only three people, an anthropomorphic supercomputer, Krusty the Klown, a fascinating unpleasant series, The Lovecraft Five, Facts Concerning The Late Arthur Jermyn And His Family, He, The Picture In The House, H. Rider Haggard’s She done as a comedy, Brown Monkey’s The Dreams In The Witch House, Uncle George’s House Party, 19 Nocturne Boulevard, The Hole Behind Midnight by Clinton Boomer, Broken Eye Books’s Kickstarter, a professional audio novel, a giant evil naked clown, the HPLHS movie adaptation of The Whisperer In Darkness, the changes, Mr. Jim Moon’s review of The Whisperer In Darkness, it’s fucking terrifying, Julie’s reading, Julie loves to play crazy old people, a love letter to H.P. Lovecraft, “fun, surprising, and terrifying”, The Creeping Unknown, more suspense and less action, Charles Fort (played by Andrew Leman), Septimius Felton by Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Doctor Portsoaken”, “Robert Hagburn”, Charles Dickens, Curse Of The Crimson Altar, Die, Monster, Die!, The Curse, Thriller, Pigeons From Hell, The Resurrected, Bleeders (aka Hemoglobin), a micro-budget with Rutger Hauer.

The Dreams In The Witch House - Room For Rent

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Humans by Matt Haig

August 25, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Humans by Matt HaigThe Humans
By Matt Haig; Read by Mark Meadows
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: July 2013
ISBN: 9781442366497
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 hours, 11 minutes
Excerpt: |MP3|

Themes: / aliens / ethnography / humanity /

Publisher summary:

“I know that some of you reading this are convinced humans are a myth, but I am here to state that they do actually exist. For those that don’t know, a human is a real bipedal life form of mid-range intelligence, living a largely deluded existence on a small waterlogged planet in a very lonely corner of the universe.”

When an extraterrestrial visitor arrives on Earth, his first impressions of the human species are less than positive. Taking the form of Professor Andrew Martin, a prominent mathematician at Cambridge University, the visitor is eager to complete the gruesome task assigned him and hurry back home to the utopian world of his own planet, where everyone enjoys immortality and infinite knowledge.

He is disgusted by the way humans look, what they eat, their capacity for murder and war, and is equally baffled by the concepts of love and family. But as time goes on, he starts to realize there may be more to this weird species than he has been led to believe. Disguised as Martin, he drinks wine, reads poetry, develops an ear for rock music and a taste for peanut butter. Slowly, unexpectedly, he forges bonds with Martin’s family, and in picking up the pieces of the professor’s shattered personal life, he begins to see hope and beauty in the humans’ imperfections and begins to question the mission that brought him there.

This book couldn’t be anything other than fiction, since it is from the perspective of an alien who was sent to earth to hold back dangerous scientific progress, but it has a feeling of ethnography to it from the alien’s perspective. As he becomes an insider, he discovers that what is assumed or known about humans around the universe – their selfishness, their monetary motivation – isn’t accurate. His commentary is more about what it is to be human, and the story was really secondary, in the sense that the story in Among Others is a secondary framework. The stories aren’t the same, but they seem to serve the same purpose.

If you’re looking for a rousing story of alien invasion and infiltration, this isn’t for you. But if you are interested in reflecting on the human condition, this will be right up your alley.

I had the luxury of listening to this entire book in one day. The narrator, Mark Meadows, does a good job of reading and drew me right in, keeping my attention for the entire book. In fact, I hardly thought about him at all, a quality I prefer in my readers!

Posted by Jenny Colvin

Review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

August 25, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Cover for The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil GaimanThe Ocean at the End of the Lane
By Neil Gaiman; Read by Neil Gaiman
Audible Download – 5 Hours 48 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio
Published: 2013
Themes: / Supernatural / Metaphysics / Parallel Universe/ Young Adult

When I learned a year or so ago of Neil Gaiman’s first novel for adults since 2005’s Anansi Boys, I was thrilled. Sure, that last novel didn’t do much for me, nor did most of his subsequent writing for children, but I’m a lifetime Gaimanophile–I’ll read pretty much anything the British expatriate puts out. This is because he established such a solid early track record for me with NeverwhereStardust, and especially American Gods.

Enter The Ocean at the End of the Lane, a whimsically evocative title that itself encapsulates much of what I love about Gaiman. The tale is told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator, looking back on a defining period in his childhood. The young boy, whose name we never learn, witnesses a suicide that unleashes some strange, powerful cosmic forces in rural Sussex, where the novel takes place. The child is aided in the conflict by the enigmatic and archetypal Hempstock family. Bizarre events ensue.

As with any Neil Gaiman work, the writing is top-notch. Description, dialog, and action all shimmer off the page. When shit gets weird, pardon my French, the events are still grounded in vivid, expressive language that makes it feel as though we might encounter them in our own backyards. The characters, particularly the Hempstock trio, also deserve high praise. To me they evoke the best traits of Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. In the descrepancy of their age (at least their apparent age), they also allude to the Fates of Greek mythology or the Norns of the Old Norse cosmos.

If I had never read a Gaiman novel before, I may have written an unbridled encomium for The Ocean at the End of the Lane, as indeed most high-profile book critics and publishing reviews seem to have done. The problem is that I’ve read this Neil Gaiman book before. I’ve read parts of it in Stardust and found splinters of it in his short stories. And from plot to tone to motifs, many elements of the novel have appeared in Gaiman’s fiction for children and young adults.

This perhaps is my biggest qualm with the book. When the book was announced and I read the phrase “first novel for adults,” visions of the deep, nuanced character development of American Gods, or at least the slightly grimier, lived-in setting of Neverwhere, danced through my head. With the exception of a suicide early on, though, I challenge you to find much in Ocean that couldn’t be digested by high school readers. To be fair, marketing may be more at fault than Gaiman himself, but the result is the same. I came away from the book feeling as though I had been duped.

The plot also feels rather thin, “like butter scraped over too mcuh bread” as Bilbo famously said. The story begins with promise: cosmic powers in conflict with nothing less than reality at stake. But the stakes are never really raised, at least not for the world at large. Sure, the main characters undergo their own crises and transformations requisite in good literature, but the scope of the threat is never fully illustrated. Part of my objections to the novel’s plotting may come down to personal taste, but at least some of them, I think, are justified.

In a Tor.com article, Leah Schnelbach recounts that, at an event, Gaiman explained that the story was originall intended as a novella.

I told my publishers there was a novella on the way, but then I did a word count at the end, and realized I just wrote a novel by accident! […] It wasn’t plotted. Things kept taking me by surprise. It’s not making things up, it’s getting into what did actually happen.

Gaiman’s approach to the creative process is beautiful, but in the case of Ocean, it just doesn’t work. I might have enjoyed this story in a Gaiman collection, but by the end of a full-length novel edition I confess I was weary.

In the usual “crap sandwich” style of my reviews, I will conclude with more praise. I “read” this book in audio form, narrated by Gaiman himself. Most authors lack the voice acting chops to narrate their own work, though many still try, but Gaiman’s mellifluous rhythms and upturned sentence endings fit the charming, surreal tone of this novel particularly well. With the possible exception of Stardust, the audio edition of The Ocean at the End of the Lane is perhaps the finest specimen of the author’s narration you’ll find. Oh, except for his reading of his poem “Instructions”.

My dissatisfaction with The Ocean at the End of the Lane has not caused me to lose faith in Neil Gaiman’s work. I simply hope that, as he did in his early career, he finds ways to reinvent himself and push the boundaries of his nearly boundless imagination.

Posted by Seth Wilson

Silly Asses by Isaac Asimov

August 22, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

Silly Asses by Isaac Asimov

Maissa Bessada narrates for us Silly Asses a one page (400 word) satirical short story by Isaac Asimov.

|MP3|

Also available is a |PDF| made from a scan of the original publication in Future Science Fiction, February 1958.

And here is the complete text:

Silly Asses by Isaac Asimov

Naron of the long-lived Rigellian race was the fourth of his line to keep the galactic records.

He had a large book which contained the list of the numerous races throughout the galaxies that had developed intelligence, and the much smaller book that listed those races that had reached maturity and had qualified for the Galactic Federation. In the first book, a number of those listed were crossed out; those that, for one reason or another, had failed. Misfortune, biochemical or biophysical shortcomings, social maladjustment took their toll. In the smaller book, however, no member listed had yet blanked out.

And now Naron, large and incredibly ancient, looked up as a messenger approached.

“Naron,” said the messenger. “Great One!”

“Well, well, what is it? Less ceremony.”

“Another group of organisms has attained maturity.”

“Excellent. Excellent. They are coming up quickly now. Scarcely a year passes without a new one. And who are these?”

The messenger gave the code number of the galaxy and the coordinates of the world within it.

“Ah, yes,” said Naron. “I know the world.” And in flowing script he noted it in the first book and transferred its name into the second, using, as was customary, the name by which the planet was known to the largest fraction of its populace. He wrote: Earth.

He said, “These new creatures have set a record. No other group has passed from intelligence to maturity so quickly. No mistake, I hope.”

“None, sir,” said the messenger.

“They have attained to thermonuclear power, have they?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, thats the criterion.” Naron chuckled. “And soon their ships will probe out and contact the Federation.”

“Actually, Great One,” said the messenger, reluctantly, “the Observers tell us they have not yet penetrated space.”

Naron was astonished. “Not at all? Not even a space station?”

“Not yet, sir.”

“But if they have thermonuclear power, where do they conduct the tests and detonations?”

“On their own planet, sir.”

Naron rose to his full twenty feet of height and thundered, “On their own planet?”

“Yes, sir.”

Slowly Naron drew out his stylus and passed a line through the latest addition in the small book. It was an unprecedented act, but, then, Naron was very wise and could see the inevitable as well as anyone in the galaxy.

“Silly asses,” he muttered.

Asimov wrote Silly Asses on July 29, 1957. To put that in context, just ten days earlier (July 19, 1957), as a part of Operation Plumbbob the USAF filmed five Air Force officers standing directly under an atmospheric nuclear detonation. The idea was to demonstrate the safe usage of nuclear weapons over civilian populations.

Silly asses.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Sentry by Fredric Brown

August 22, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

Sentry by Fredric Brown

Scott D. Danielson narrates this short short story (320 words) by Fredric Brown. I think it encapsulates much of what Science Fiction is about – teaching by thought experiment. It may be that stories of this kind work almost like an inoculative vaccination, preventing certain mental processes that lead to damaging behavior.

|MP3|

And here’s a |PDF| made from a scan of the original magazine publication in Galaxy Science Fiction, February 1954.

Sentry by Fredric Brown

He was wet and muddy and hungry and cold, and he was fifty thousand light-years from home.

A strange blue sun gave light and the gravity, twice what he was used to, made every movement difficult.

But in tens of thousands of years this part of war hadn’t changed. The flyboys were fine with their sleek spaceships and their fancy weapons. When the chips are down, though, it was still the foot soldier, the infantry, that had to take the ground and hold it, foot by bloody foot. Like this damned planet of a star he’d never heard of until they’d landed him there. And now it was sacred ground because the aliens were there too. The aliens, the only other intelligent race in the Galaxy … cruel, hideous and repulsive monsters.

Contact had been made with them near the center of the Galaxy, after the slow, difficult colonization of a dozen thousand planets; and it had been war at sight; they’d shot without even trying to negotiate, or to make peace.

Now, planet by bitter planet, it was being fought out.

He was wet and muddy and hungry and cold, and the day was raw with a high wind that hurt his eyes. But the aliens were trying to infiltrate and every sentry post was vital.

He stayed alert, gun ready. Fifty thousand light-years from home, fighting on a strange world and wondering if he’d ever live to see home again.

And then he saw one of them crawling toward him. He drew a bead and fired. The alien made that strange horrible sound they all make, then lay still.

He shuddered at the sound and sight of the alien lying there. One ought to be able to get used to them after a while, but he’d never been able to. Such repulsive creatures they were, with only two arms and two legs, ghastly white skins and no scales.

Sentry by Fredric Brown - illustration by David Stone

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Extinction Machine by Jonathan Maberry

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

SFFaudio Review

Horror Audiobook - Extinction Machine by Jonathan MaberryExtinction Machine: The Joe Ledger Novels, Book 5
By Jonathan Maberry; Narrated By Ray Porter
14 hrs and 58 mins – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Published: 2013
Themes: / Science Fiction / Horror / Aliens /

“So, basically if we keep trying to save the country and maybe the world from a bunch of murderous assholes with outer space weapons, then we’re the bad guys?”

“In a nutshell.”

“Then, hey … let’s be bad guys.”

Joe’s back.

Pulled off vacation, Joe Ledger and Echo Team are knocking on research lab doors, looking into cyber-attacks so clever they can’t be tracked back to anyone. But no one’s answering, even though all the lights are on. Until a couple of strangely inhuman Men In Black step onto the loading dock.

Mayhem ensues.

Of course, anyone who is this far into the Joe Ledger series knows that whenever Joe is called in mayhem is always going to ensue, all to help save the good ol’ U. S. of A. Jonathan Maberry has tackled zombies, vampires, the seven plagues of Egypt and more, but this is the first time he’s gone beyond so-called supernatural creatures. Crop circles, space ships, and aliens are the topic of investigation.

And I (mostly) loved it for all the reasons I have enjoyed the entire series. These are adrenaline rides with Joe getting into and out of increasingly impossible, perilous situations while the reader hangs on by their fingernails wondering just how he can possibly escape. Meanwhile, Maberry weaves intriguing mysteries which may not keep us guessing since he enjoys giving us both sides’ points of view, but they do keep us wondering if Joe can stop the bad guys.

What kept me from completely loving this book?

I am as ready for a good invading aliens story as the next person, but at one point the action came to a grinding halt as Maberry wove together two story lines in a gigantic “aliens among us” info-dump. Indeed, this went on for so long and contained enough duplicate information that I began to wonder if the author had fallen into “true believer” status and wanted to be sure we came away converted. Whether that was his motive or it was simply imperfect editing, I wearied of the information long before it ceased flowing.

On the other hand, Maberry is going to have to work hard to top Joe’s accomplishment in the light house. I won’t say more so I don’t spoil it but I was literally laughing with delight as I heard what was happening. Adrenaline rush achieved!

Speaking of listening, Ray Porter does his usual excellent narration and is the reason I wait for the audio books rather than pick up print copies. As I’ve said before Ray Porter IS Joe Ledger. So let me say it again — Porter’s direct, blunt delivery can go from sarcastic to heart-felt to outraged in 60 seconds. Believably. That’s good because sometimes that’s the way Joe’s day goes.

Complaints aside, this book is great fun. Definitely recommended.

Posted by Julie D.

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