Review of In Enemy Hands by David Weber

December 30, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

In Enemy HandsIn Enemy Hands (Honor Harrington #7)
By David Weber; Narrated By Allyson Johnson
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 20 hours

Themes: / military sci-fi / prisoners of war / tree cats / torture /

Publisher summary:

Honor Harrington has survived ship-to-ship combat, assassins, political vendettas, and duels. But this time, Honor and her crew, ambushed and captured, are aboard an enemy ship, bound for a prison planet aptly named ‘Hell’ – and her scheduled execution. Yet the one lesson Honor has never learned is how to give up. She and her people are going home – even if it means conquering hell to get there!

Weighing in at nearly twenty hours, In Enemy Hands is the seventh volume in the Honor Harrington series by David Weber. If you’re new to this series, I highly urge you to start at the beginning with On Basilisk Station. This is solid military SF and if you can overlook the unnecessary info-dumping that Weber appears to frolic in at length, this is outstanding stuff.

The action scenes are crisp and well presented. And while there are a few ship-to-ship battles, most of the action occurs hand-to-hand. Weber does a pretty nice job at teasing tension out of the story but when he shifts into exposition, and this happens far too frequently, the earlier tension is lost and the reader is left to flail about in the sudden slackness of superfluous narrative. You know that person who talks and talks for no other reason than they like the sound of their own voice? Yeah, this is how it feels when you hit one of these info-dumping spots of Weber. But if you can tough it out and just grit your teeth, you’ll be rewarded with a fun and exhilarating military SF story with believable characters that you can root for.

Allyson Johnson narrates this audiobook, and all I can really say about her reading is that it is tolerable, but just barely. I feel a good reader should become the story rather than assuming the role of performer. If I listen to a book and am consciously aware of the narrator, the reader has failed. Not once was I able to focus on Weber’s story without being painfully aware of Johnson’s jarring and awkward rhythm. It felt as if she, Johnson, wanted to convince anyone who was listening that she “could” do the job of reading. Too many narrators try too hard to do their job when all they really need to do is read, just read, nothing more. It’s like climbing up a really tall ladder. Everything will be fine so long as you just climb. You only get into trouble when you start thinking about climbing.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

The SFFaudio Podcast #245 – The Best of 2013

December 30, 2013 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

TheSFFaudioPodcast600The SFFaudio Podcast #245 – It’s our -The Best of 2013! episode. For it we invited SFFaudio fans, SFFaudio reviewers, and SFFaudio participants to share their listening highlights of 2013. We asked folks to tell us about their favourite audiobook or podcast episode.

If you don’t see your favourites listed below, feel free to add them as a comment. And remember, it needn’t be a podcast or audiobook from 2013, only one you heard in 2013.

And if you leave a comment in the first week (and a way to contact you) you’ll also be eligible for a a FREE PRIZE audiobook mailed to your home (anywhere in the whole universe*)!

Participants:

Bryce L.

Casey Hampton.

Maissa Bessada

Seth Wilson

Paul Weimer

Jenny Colvin

Scott D.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

*Mirror universe inhabitants need not apply

Review of George’s Marvelous Medicine by Roald Dahl

December 29, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

George's Marvelous Medicine by Roald DahlGeorge’s Marvelous Medicine
By Roald Dahl, Read by Derek Jacobi
Penguin Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 1.5 hours

Themes: / magic medicine / oversized farm animals / crusty granny / avaricious father / children / short stories /

Publisher summary:

A taste of her own medicine. George is alone in the house with Grandma. The most horrid, grizzly old grunion of a grandma ever. She needs something stronger than her usual medicine to cure her grouchiness. A special grandma medicine, a remedy for everything. And George knows just what to put into it. Grandma’s in for the surprise of her life – and so is George, when he sees the results of his mixture!

This is a short humorous story that doesn’t ever seem to fully get off the ground. But still, it’s fun and lighthearted. And while there aren’t any deep secretive insights to the human condition, it made me smile through pretty much the whole thing, and that has to be worth something, right? I loved Dahl’s warning to potential medicine makers. Equally so, I appreciated the ending. It was touching in its uncomplicated way. The image of a child knowing his fingers had brushed the magic edge of another world leaves the reader/listener in a wistful rumination.

Derek Jacobi is narrator, and he really nails the reading. I might go so far as to say that Jacobi’s delivery shines slightly brighter than Dahl’s words. Regarding the production end of things, I didn’t care at all for the numerous musical scores that seemed jammed in at odd places within the story. They were distracting and unnecessary. I felt they detracted from the overall presentation.

I recommend this to any and all Dahl enthusiasts. For those peripheral fans, you can skip it, and not feel as if you’re getting left out in the cold darkness.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

Review of The Garden of Stones by Mark T. Barnes

December 28, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Gardens of StoneThe Garden of Stones (The Echoes of Empire #1)
by Mark T. Barnes, read by Nick Podehl
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 14 CDs; 16 hrs, 53 min.

Themes: / epic fantasy / dynasties / civil war / warrior-mage /

Publisher summary:

An uneasy peace has existed since the fall of the Awakened Empire centuries ago. Now the hybrid Avān share the land with the people they once conquered: the star-born humans; the spectral, undead Nomads; and what remains of the Elemental Masters.

With the Empress-in-Shadows an estranged ghost, it is the ancient dynasties of the Great Houses and the Hundred Families that rule. But now civil war threatens to draw all of Shrīan into a vicious struggle sparked by one man’s lust for power, and his drive to cheat death.

Visions have foretold that Corajidin, dying ruler of House Erebus, will not only survive, but rise to rule his people. The wily nobleman seeks to make his destiny certain—by plundering the ruins of his civilization’s past for the arcane science needed to ensure his survival, and by mercilessly eliminating his rivals. But mercenary warrior-mage Indris, scion of the rival House Näsarat, stands most powerfully in the usurper’s bloody path. For it is Indris who reluctantly accepts the task of finding a missing man, the only one able to steer the teetering nation towards peace.

I was a little hesitant approaching The Garden of Stones by Mark T. Barnes in audiobook form as I’d heard it was a bit akin to Steven Erikson (more than Garden in the titles) where the reader is simply thrown into the action without much, if any explanation. It turns out my fears were not unfounded and yet I would still highly recommend this book.

I’ve noticed in reading books or listening to audiobooks, there are some books I have a harder time with given the medium through which I am experiencing them. I had the hardest time getting into Dune by Frank Herbert when I tried it in paperback because I kept feeling like I had to look up every single word I didn’t understand and I quickly grew tired of it and gave up.

Later, I picked up the audiobook thinking I needed to at least finish this classic of the genre and not only did I do so, I loved the crap out of it. It’s still one of my favorite books and I’ve been meaning to go back and read it in paperback again.

I know, this isn’t a Dune review, but it illustrates the point that some books are more accessible if you just let go, trust that the author will lead you where you need to go, and leave your worries behind. You’ll get it, even if it’s tough. And audiobooks allow you to do so because you don’t have that handy dandy glossary to look through. That’s also not to say that all books and stories work this way.

With The Garden of Stones, I wonder if I would have stalled in my reading. I’m no stranger to being thrown into the action having survived (and thoroughly enjoyed!) Erikson’s masterpiece, The Malazan Book of the Fallen, so that probably wouldn’t have been a problem. I did, however, have a difficult time keeping a lot of the characters, names, and races straight through listening only. Had I had my eyes on this one, I probably would have enjoyed it even more than I already did.

I’m sure I missed a lot of the connections that were being made early on, but I did get my bearings by the end and quite enjoyed this world that Barnes has created. It’s full of wonder and imagination, tons of creatures, and races that were well-crafted and constantly interesting. I enjoyed exploring each new thing in this world and many kudos to Barnes for that. The characters are also highly interesting, Barnes even plays with an Erikson-like main character who is supremely powerful and someone you really don’t want to mess with. I love a good character like that and feel many shy away because it’s easier to write about characters with many weaknesses.

In the competition between paper and audio, I really do think The Garden of Stones would probably work better in paper, though it’s definitely enjoyable in audio.

Another hesitation I had when starting this audiobook is that it’s read by Nick Podehl. The only experience I had with Podehl prior to this was his reading of Kemp’s A Discourse in Steel. In Discourse, there’s quite a bit of banter and it’s overall a light-hearted piece with lots of jokes and humor even in the most deadly situations.

Hearing that same voice again brought back those memories of slapstick from Discourse, when Garden is actually a serious piece lightly sprinkled with humor if at all. It was about midway through the book when I realized that I no longer thought of Podehl that way, as the joke-telling, razzing narrator, but instead I heard him as the serious purveyor of piety. Okay, not that far, but suddenly I was sucked into Podehl’s storytelling and the story itself. I think that says a lot about both Podehl’s strengths as a narrator and the book’s story as well.

4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)

Posted by Bryce L.

Contribute to our End of Year Podcast!

December 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commentary 

SFFaudio Commentary

We are trying something new this year, assuming people participate – a best of 2013 compiled podcast.

To participate:

1. Record yourself talking briefly (under 5 minutes) about your favorite audiobook of the year, or your favorite SFF Audio podcast, or both.
Include your name. Last name, web presence, and location are optional but might make it more interesting.

2. Send file to Jenny (e-mail address on our contact page) by Saturday, December 28, either in an email or link to something like dropbox. If you keep it under a minute a lot of easy recording apps will work, even built in voice memos for iOs.

We will edit them together and it will be our last podcast of the year!

Posted by Jenny Colvin

Review of Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara

December 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Cast in ShadowCast in Shadow (The Chronicles of Elantra #1)
By Michelle Sagara; Performed by Khristine Hvam
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: November 2011 (Audible)
[UNABRIDGED] – 14.5 hours

Themes: / urban fantasy / orphans / crime /

Seven years ago Kaylin was an orphan living in the fief of Nightshade but live was very unsafe because something was killing children and after their death the children were found with marks tattooed on their skin – at the same time these odd marks began to appear on Kaylin’s arms. Eventually Kaylin flees to the Hawk fief and begins life anew. For the most part she is successful but the murder of children has begun again in Nightshade and this time Kaylin is an officer and Hawklord has called her into investigate. Kaylin is a natural choice as she survived the killings the first time and knows the street of Nightshade well. But the Hawklord will not send her in alone instead he will send her with a Dragon and her childhood friend/enemy Severn and now Kaylin must confront her past.

I started this book on audio and at first I thought I was not paying enough attention because I had no idea who these races of people are and I did not understand the history of the Barrani nor the Leontines. After starting over a few times I decided to borrow the book from the library to catch up and you know turns out the information was never there. Listening to this book was a challenge, the narrator does a nice job keeping the voices somewhat distinct but the vagueness of the writing made it difficult to follow along. For example there is a lot about Kaylin trying to kill Severn but I was more than halfway in before I found out why then when we get the why behind why she wants to kill him and even then it does not fully make sense why she would run and not get understanding or ask questions. Then there are other descriptions that I did not understand for example there is a lot of commentary about the Leontines paws being moist or dry but I know nothing about cats is this supposed to be good or bad?? The author tells this story from Kaylin’s POV and unfortunately she is rather ignorant in everything. I guess the intent would be for us to learn along with her and while that has the potential to work in many series it only adds to the confusion in this one.

The story was not all bad, I found myself interested in the world and the side characters – like the Fifelord of Nightshade and Severn. I also enjoyed the narrator once I gave up trying to understand and just went with the flow. I will also say the author tried the trick of leaving out details so your imagination can take over and while I appreciate this we need a bit more detail to have something to fill in. By the time I got to the last few hours of the tape I just wanted it over and while I am curious to see what happens with the Fifelord and Severn next time I will read the book and it will be a while before I get around to it.

Posted by Dawn V.

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