Review of The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov

January 31, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

asimovThe Gods Themselves
By Isaac Asimov, read by Scott Brick
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: January 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 hours, 26 minutes

Listen to an excerpt: | MP3 |

Themes: / aliens / electron pump / cosmic egg / multiple universe theory / sex in space /

Publisher summary:

Only a few know the terrifying truth – an outcast Earth scientist, a rebellious alien inhabitant of a dying planet, a lunar-born human intuitionist who senses the imminent annihilation of the Sun… They know the truth – but who will listen? They have foreseen the cost of abundant energy – but who will believe?These few beings, human and alien, hold the key to the Earth’s survival.

– Disclaimer –
I’m no physicist. This book, in parts, kind of torqued my noggin.

Isaac Asimov’s The Gods Themselves won the 1972 Nebula then the 1973 Hugo. The premise? Pretty straight forward. Will we destroy the universe?

I like this book. The first 2/3 kept me running. The last 1/3, I slowed to a stroll and enjoyed the pace change. The time spent with the aliens was intriguing, both in the differences and similarities to humanity. Asimov packs a punch, tackling the question of energy versus environmental cost. In some ways it’s comforting imagining that even in the future, we humans still salivate over a dangled free lunch. The characters in the other universe are stunning. I could have read twice the content volume on that environment alone. When I reached the lunar colony, it took some time to cultivate an interest in the people and their situation. By the time I was interested, it was ending. This left me feeling off-kilter and only slightly irritated. Don’t ask me to explain, but I found the chocolate bar with almonds scene very touching.

Scott Brick narrates this release. Early on, I didn’t know if I could handle listing to Brick’s performance. He has a nice voice, but he has a habit of injecting unneeded drama into almost anything he reads. Fortunately, within the first twenty minutes, I found Brick’s style quite suited to the content. After finishing and reflecting, I think Brick was the right choice for narrator.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

The SFFaudio Podcast #249 – AUDIOBOOK: Scanners Live In Vain by Cordwainer Smith

January 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #249 – Scanners Live In Vain by Cordwainer Smith, read by J.J. Campanella.

First published in Fantasy Book, #6 in 1950. Scanners Live In Vain has been anthologized in such collections as The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume I, Science Fiction 101 (aka Robert Silverberg’s Worlds Of Wonder), and The Great SF Stories 12 (1950).

This UNABRIDGED AUDIOBOOK runs (1 Hour 35 Minutes). We will discuss it in SFFaudio Podcast #250.

Scanners Live In Vain by Cordwainer Smith

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Jack London: An American Life by Earle Labor

January 25, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Cover for Jack London: An American Life by Earle LaborJack London: An American Life
By Earle Labor; Read by Michael Prichard
16 hours 50 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Published: 2013
Themes: / biography / writing / politics / literature

As Earle Labor notes in his preface to this comprehensive biography, Jack London is a man who, nearly a century after his death, still looms large in the American imagination. Labor seeks to illuminate, or in some cases even dispel, some of the myths surrounding this literary genius (e.g. London was an alcoholic, London was a badass, London committed suicide). Labor also sets himself the task of reconciling London the rugged individualist with London the ardent socialist. With these lofty aims set forth, Jack London: An American Life might have become a programmatic attack, or defense, of London’s life and work. But this book is biography at its best: rich in its description and reliant on primary sources whenever possible not only to dole out facts but to lend an air of local color. The subtitle An American Life is thus appropriate, since the reader is treated to a glimpse into not just the life of Jack London, but into the America (parts of it, at any rate) of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Unlike some modern biographies that attempt literary flourishes by beginning in medias res and then backtracking, or otherwise play with chronology or other tropes to heighten the narrative power, Labor’s work doesn’t pull any punches. It is a biography from start to finish, and only delves beyond London’s birth in an effort to shed some light on his less-than-Rockwellian parentage and upbringing. The biography then marches chronologically right up until the days of London’s final illness and death–which at only age 40 came much too soon. While at points this made for tedious reading–I felt I was stuck in the South Sea doldrums right along with London and crew–it left me with a sense of completion lacking in shorter or less thorough biographies. I really feel like I know London’s story from cradle to grave. Though not written for a scholarly audience by any means, the tight focus on London’s immediate life and surrounding does mean the reader should have some knowledge of turn-of-the-century world events. Labor does not deviate from the story, for example, to explain the origins of the Russo-Japanese War or the Mexican Revolution, which both figure into London’s life as a reporter.

This work might just as easily have been subtitled “American Lives”, since Jack London was not only a journalist but also an oyster pirate, a gold miner, a hobo, a convict, a captain, and a rancher, not to mention world-class writer. And Jack London is a prime specimen of the adage “write what you know.” After his time as a gold miner in the Great White North, he cranked out Klondike stories; after his stint reporting boxing matches, he tried his hand at writing a story about a prize match; and during his cruise in the Pacific, he wrote moving pieces about Hawaii and the South Sea, most notably Ko’olau the Leper. As a reader fascinated with wordcraft and the writing process, I found Labor’s observations on London’s writing life particularly insightful. Sadly (for me, at any rate), any sort of deeper criticism (in the scholarly sense of the word) of London’s writings or their far-reaching influence is beyond the scope of this biography. We do not learn whether Ernest Hemingway read London’s anti-bullfighting story The Madness of John Harned, for instance, nor do we discover whether his socialist writings had any impact during the Red Scare not long after his death. The lack of these literary insights isn’t so much a problem with the book as it is a casualty of its tight biographical focus. Most casual readers who don’t go in for literary trivia will probably actually be grateful for its absence.

What makes Jack London: An American Life such a joy to read is its frequent inclusion of source material, much of it written either by London himself or by his precocious and stalwart second wife Charmian. Labor weaves these glittering strands into the narrative’s tapestry so seamlessly that, at least to the audiobook listener, it’s occasionally difficult to ascertain where London’s words leave off and Labor’s prose picks up again. This is partly due to Labor’s own skill as a writer in his own right, and perhaps some of the literary prowess of his subject rubbed off on him as well. The strength of the biography’s prose easily buoys the text along through the book’s occasional slow spot. Michael Prichard’s narration complements the text well, and his accentuation and intonation of quoted text helps mitigate the aforementioned problem of distinguishing quoted material from Labor’s own pen. The few “mistakes” I noticed in the narration are more a matter of usage or stylistic debate than actual shortcomings. Overall, the audio presentation never detracted from, and in some ways added to, the power of the written work.

As I hinted earlier, the only real problem with Jack London: An American Life is that there isn’t enough of it. Earle Labor, curator of the Jack London Museum in Shreveport, Louisiana, clearly has a lot to say about London, and in fact has written other works about the literary giant. As with any great biography, this book is a springboard inviting readers to further exploration, which in this case means, above all, reading Jack London’s own work. Through his own powerful words, and through the able stewardship of scholars like Labor, Jack London continues to blaze a literary trail almost a hundred years after his passing.

An NPR piece on this new biography features not only snippets of an interview with Earle Labor, but also a wax cylinder recording of Jack London himself.

Posted by Seth Wilson

Protecting Project Pulp: In Destiny’s Clutch by Rafael Sabatini

January 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

In Destiny's Clutch by Rafael Sabatini

Protecting Project PulpProtecting Project Pulp No. 76 – In Destiny’s Clutch
By Rafael Sabatini; Read by Samuel Campbell
1 |MP3| – Approx. 44 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Protecting Project Pulp
Podcast: January 20, 2014
“Ordinarily Dragut-Reis—who was dubbed by the Faithful ‘The Drawn Sword of Islam’—loved Christians as the fox loves geese.” First published in Top-Notch Magazine, May 21, 1915.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Wizard of OZ: A Steampunk Adventure

January 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Wizard of OZ A Steampunk AdventureThe Wizard of OZ: A Steampunk Adventure (Steampunk OZ #1)
By S.D. Stuart; Narrated by Amanda C. Miller
Publisher: Ramblin’ Prose Publishing
Publication Date: November 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 7 hours, 17 minutes

Themes: / steampunk / prison / betrayal /

Publisher summary:

There is no yellow brick road here. No emerald city. No lollipop guild. This is the Australis Penal Colony, a continent sized prison referred to the world over as the Outcast Zone.

Built to contain the world’s most dangerous criminals, OZ ended up the dumping ground for everything polite society deemed undesirable.

From inside this place, a garbled message proves Dorothy’s father is still alive, trapped in a prison with only one way in and no way out. Into this place, 17-year-old Dorothy must go if she wants to find her father and keep the promise she made to her dying mother.

She thought she had spent the past seven years preparing to overcome anything that got in the way of fulfilling her promise, but the situation she finds herself is harder and more intense than anything she has experienced before as she drops right into the middle of a power struggle for control over all of OZ. If she has any hope of surviving long enough to find her father, she will need her mother’s guts, her father’s brains and the unexpected help from those discarded and forgotten.

Everyone she meets tells her the same thing. The only person who can help her is the one prisoner who deserves to be in a place like this and refers to himself by the name, Wizard.

The Wizard always asks for something in exchange for his help. Can Dorothy afford the terrible price he will demand?

The Wizard of OZ: A Steampunk Adventure is a well-rounded story that is interesting the whole way through. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a steampunk take on The Wizard of Oz but Stuart manages to make clever nods toward different aspects of the classic when turning OZ into a massive steampunk prison. The steampunk aspects of the story are incorporated well and not over the top.

A lot of steampunk seems to go so over the top that it’s hard to follow what’s going on but that isn’t the case here. This is clearly a steampunk adventure that is not trying to be some kind of big budget movie. There are guns, swords, airships, combat, automatons, and borderline magical science all at work in this story. There is also a healthy amount of dueling, betraying, and double crossing in here too. One minor thing that I didn’t like as much (and is fairly common to steampunk) is the amount of betrayal- it was a little difficult to follow some characters’ motivations and betrayals at times because of all the double crossing going on.

Turning OZ into a prison worked out great. Since I know the story of OZ already, I kept linking pieces from this story to the classic and found that it actually works out well, even the lessons learned by the characters in the end. The story was interesting without dragging too much. The only parts that dragged for me were when some of the characters kept getting locked up in prison (it’s like a prison of prisons at times) and they sit around and talk or figure stuff out.

Amanda C. Miller does a great job as narrator for this novel. She does all the different voices and adds some good snark and attitude to Dorothy when she needs it. I never had trouble understanding her and could usually tell which character was speaking based on the voices she gave them.

Posted by Tom Schreck

The Turning Wheel by Philip K. Dick is PUBLIC DOMAIN

January 20, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: News 

SFFaudio News

The Turning Wheel by Philip K. Dick is PUBLIC DOMAIN.

This novelette was published in 1954, in the 2nd issue of Science Fiction Stories.

The story’s copyright was not properly renewed. In fact, a falsified renewal was attempted in 1983. The Dick estate claimed that the story was published in Science Fiction Stories, May 1955. This is false (as can be seen in a listing of the table of contents for that issue HERE).

Indeed, here is the falsified claimed renewal for The Turning Wheel:
RE190631 Page 3 (front) Souvenir, The Last Of The Masters, Upon The Dull Earth, Strange Eden, Jon's World, The Turning Wheel, Human Is

Here is the table of contents showing where The Turning Wheel was first published, Science Fiction Stories No.2:
Table Of Contents for Science Fiction Stories No.2, 1954

By 1983, the time of the renewal attempt, the agent for the Philip K. Dick Testamentary Trust, could not legally renew stories published in 1954. By 1983 any stories from 1954 would have already become PUBLIC DOMAIN. So when the renewal form was submitted the publication dates and magazine issues for many Philip K. Dick stories (including The Turning Wheel) were changed to make them look as if they were eligible for renewal.

The renewal attempt was fraudulent.

The Turning Wheel is PUBLIC DOMAIN.

Here is a |PDF| of The Turning Wheel by Philip K. Dick

Posted by Jesse Willis

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