Review of The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher

March 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Empire Striketh BackWilliam Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back
By Ian Doescher; Performed by a full cast (Daniel Davis, Jonathan Davis, Ian Doescher, Jeff Gurner, January LaVoy, Marc Thompson)
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 18 March 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 3 hours, 25 minutes

Themes: / Star Wars / Shakespeare / iambic pentameter / haiku /

Publisher summary:

Hot on the heels of the New York Times bestseller William Shakespeare’s Star Wars comes the next two installments of the original trilogy: William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back and William Shakespeare’s The Jed Doth Return. Return to the star-crossed galaxy far, far away as the brooding young hero, a power-mad emperor, and their jesting droids match wits, struggle for power, and soliloquize in elegant and impeccable iambic pentameter. These two plays offer essential listening for all ages. Something Wookiee this way comes!

Ian Doescher is back with more Shakespearian Star Wars as he progresses through the original trilogy. The Empire Striketh Back is very similar to Shakespeare’s Star Wars with some minor differences. As before, if you like Star Wars and Shakespeare you will probably enjoy this book…especially if you liked the first one. I think this book comes across a bit more silly than the first which is unfortunate because The Empire Strikes Back is the darkest part of the trilogy and some of that emotion is lost due to the silliness. That said, Doescher once again does a fantastic job putting everything into iambic pentameter and even mixes things up with some prose and even haiku with different characters.

The Shakespeare/literary side of this book is really well done, almost to the point that I would say this book would be a great device for teaching disinterested kids about Shakespeare without them reading Shakespeare. Doescher is more varied in his use of literary tools and explains a few of the differences in this book from the first in an afterward. I really wish that was at the beginning so I could be on the lookout for Boba Fett’s use of prose (I noticed that), Yoda speaking in haiku (I didn’t notice that), and his relying less on the chorus to explain scenes (I noticed this a bit since the characters explained more of what’s happening). The fact that he was able to do the whole book in iambic pentameter (complete with rhyming couplets) and also integrated some haiku is an impressive feat of work. Doescher also makes really good use of soliloquy and aside to explain character motivation for things like the budding relationship between Han and Leia, Lando’s motives, and what R2D2 is thinking at times. This allows him to flesh out things left to physical acting in the movies or description/narration in the novels.

While the book is technically impressive, the writing is approached like Renaissance faire Shakespeare and has a bit of a silliness aspect to it. This works great normally but definitely takes away from the emotion of things happening, especially later in the story (in Cloud City). The main silly aspect that got me was the singing. Shakespeare did have songs in many of his plays but singing ugnaughts and a song from Leia and Chewbacca come across as silly (at least they definitely did in the audiobook). The ugnaughts (picture the pig faced short guys working the incinerator room and carbon freezing chamber of Cloud City) came across like Oompa Loompa’s from the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie. The Leia and Chewbacca song also comes at a time of great loss and just feels out of place. There is other silliness that works well (a discussion of why places like the Death Star and Cloud City need to have large open spaces adjacent to walkways is one) so just consider me overly sensitive with my Empire Strikes Back. ;-)

I really enjoyed this as an audiobook and think it’s the preferred way to experience this telling of the story. The cast does a great job with all impressions and the music and sound effects are some of the best you’ll find in a Star Wars book. I mainly say that because all the sound effects and especially the music have a place that goes along with what’s happening in the story (I’m big into soundtracks and this was a huge factor for me). I have to admit that I was a little sad that it was over so soon because the performance was very enjoyable. I’m definitely looking forward to the conclusion of this Shakespearian trilogy.

Posted by Tom Schreck

The SFFaudio Podcast #256 – READALONG: Have Space Suit—Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein

March 17, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

TheSFFaudioPodcast600The SFFaudio Podcast #256 – Jesse, Tamahome, Luke Burrage, Seth, and Mark Turetsky talk about the audiobook of Have Space Suit—Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein (as narrated by Mark Turetsky for Blackstone Audio)!

Talked about on today’s show:
On the book title’s proper spacing and hyphenation; Have Gun, Will Travel TV show; Heinlein’s last “juvenile” novel; Mark “over the moon” about the opportunity to record the book; novel nominated for Hugo in 1959; parts of the novel are hard SF; Philip K. Dick’s completely unrelated story The Father Thing; ways of manipulation in the novel; Mark’s favorite character voices; correlations between the Earth characters and space characters; debunking the possibility that the story was all a dream or imaged à la Wizard of Oz; cross-novel characters in Heinlein’s novels i.e. Space Family Stone; novel followed up by Starship Troopers; detailed description of the space suit possibly inspired by Heinlein’s work on bomber pilot pressure suits during World War II; The Martian by Andy Weir; casual drug use in the novel; Mark didn’t do the helium voice in space suit scenes; comparison to full cast audio version; Kip’s conversations with inanimate space suit bear resemblance to Gravity; on the novel’s setting in time and its world building flaws; slip sticks and slide rules; slide rule “the best invention since girls”; Kip’s dad should “get off his ass and get a job”; Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat and its inspiration on Connie Willis’s To Say Nothing of the Dog via its appearance in this novel’s opening lines; Heinlein’s infallibility; going Galt; the father is an asshole; the father is Heinlein; money in fiction; money baskets in Stranger in a Strange Land; old men hooking up with young women in Heinlein; Podkayne of MarsTime for the StarsTunnel in the Sky is a mash-up of Lord of the Flies and The Hunger Games; the story’s narrative perspective; on learning outside of school, “I’m gonna learn this shit on my own”; novel encapsulates Luke’s life philosophy, “There’s no such thing as luck. There is only adequate or inadequate preparation to cope with a statistical universe.”; the novel’s accelerating plot; The Puppet Masters; on adapting the novel to the silver screen; PBS’s adaptation of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Lathe of Heaven; the relative weakness of the novel’s last section; Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure; time travel “breaks” fiction; Lisa Simpson would read this book; John Scalzi’s blog post An Anecdotal Observation, Relating to Robert Heinlein and the Youth of Today; people today don’t read books (or read the wrong kind of books); is science fiction the most enlightened of fiction genres?; phone books are useful for starting fires; Luke tells an inspiring story about the Magellanic Cloud; “the cure for boredom is curiosity”; where animals keep their brains.

Have Space Suit - Will Travel

Have Spacesuit - Will Travel - illustration by Ed Emshwiller

Emsh interior illustration for HAVE SPACE SUIT - WILL TRAVEL

Posted by Jesse Willis

The Adventures Of Apocalypse Al (comic + audio drama #1)

March 14, 2014 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

The Adventures Of Apocalypse Al

Nearly 10 years I began reporting that J. Michael Straczynski had been asked to write a radio drama for CBC Radio One. Later, we learned that Cynthia Dale had been cast in the title role. And still later that the show was in production. And it was indeed recorded. But it never aired. Over the years the campaign to get it aired plodded along – but without any success. Then a couple years ago word of a comics version came about. Now, after the comics version is actually out (the first issue was dated February 2014) I am stunned to report that there is indeed now a new audio drama available.

Apocalypse Al - Audio Track #1

As you can see above, a QR code (and the regular http:// address) are given in the latter pages of the first issue of the comic.

I should point out that this is an entirely NEW recording (not the one Canadian taxpayers paid for but never heard) and we don’t know yet if the remaining 3/4 of the story will be produced for audio.

Studio JMSThe Adventures of Apocalypse Al – Issue #1
By J. Michael Straczynski; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 19 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Uploaded: 2013
When a mysterious figure gets his hands on the Book of Keys, whose secrets can cause the destruction of the world, Allison Carter is the only one who can stop him. Her journey takes her through a world populated by zombie cops, machinegun toting imps, techno-wizards, closet trolls, demonic theme parks, other dimensions, Ultimate Darkness, and an undead ex-boyfriend.

Produced By: Patricia Tallman

Cast:
Patricia Tallman as Allison Carter
Robin Atkin Downes
Fred Tatasciore
Stephanie Walters

Sound Effects Editor/Designer: Robin Atkin Downes

[Thanks also to Q Buckley!]

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #255 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Repairer Of Reputations by Robert W. Chambers

March 10, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

TheSFFaudioPodcast600The SFFaudio Podcast #255 – The Repairer Of Reputations by Robert W. Chambers; read by Mark Turetsky. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (1 hour 25 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, and Mark Turetsky!

Talked about on today’s show:
The King Of Yellow, 1895, novelette, the connections between the stories, Cynthia, the coda, The Mask, Paris, the lethal chamber (a suicide booth), the Fates, revision of judgement, questioning the reader’s sanity, The Yellow Sign, Hildred Castaigne, the future setting (or lack thereof), the statue of Garibaldi (at Washington Square Park), the Carcosa Mythos, weird tales, weird romances, New York City, Mr. Wilde, Hawberk, Dr. Archer, the geography of Washington Square, the elevated train, a subway entrance (as a death chamber), the Wikipedia entry, Futurama (and New New York), a bohemian place, NYU, why is everything militarized?, what’s with the jingle of metal?, the expansion of the American Empire, “citation needed”, dragoons, hussars, lancers, the Prussian style, New Jersey, the texture of the fantasy future, a courtly atmosphere, colouring psychosis, a Napoleonic fascist sate, the meta-fictional nature of The King In Yellow, the Cthulhu Mythos vs. the Yellow Mythos, a surrealist existential nightmare, a fall from a horse, “he’s in the biscuit box”, it’s not horror, weird fiction, Ambrose Bierce, Science Fiction, science, the pinnacle of technology is a dreadnaught, The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn, Copernicus, Ptolemy, Galileo, the Moons of Jupiter, we’re living in a paradigm, a time of scientific flux, modern atomic theory (and The Mask), H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmicism, Steve Job and the “reality distortion field“, a social reality, Mr. Wilde’s career is the ability to distort social reality, “Napoleon, Napoleon, Napoleon”, Charlemagne, George Bernard Shaw: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.“, Emperor Norton, California, Ambrose Bierce, “A sure sign of a genius is that all of the dunces are in a confederacy against him.”, the Hawberk (aka the Duke of Avonshire), the Metropolitan Museum, why does Louis visit Hildred?, the lethal chamber is central to the action, under the thrall of the Yellow Sign, Who Knows? by Guy de Maupassant, insanity and isolation, how is Hildred employed?, how Schizophrenia works, going along with the delusion, what is the significance of the cat?, the crisis comes when the cousin has to move, the crush on Constance, the anti-story nature of the work, the unreliable narrator (not Mark!), “suspension of disbelief”, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (and the old romantic poets), a reaction against science, are the ships real?, aren’t the ships and cavalry set up as a Chekov’s Gun that will go off?, internal inconsistencies, how old are the characters?, Hildred vs. Louis, the statue of General Sheridan, Académie Julian, artists and prostitutes and models, The Mask by Robert W. Chambers, what photography did to painting, impressionism, disruptive ideas, the homunculus, the missing fingers, the damaged ears, Mr. Wilde’s manuscript is the story we’re reading!, is the Chamber is a reference to Chambers himself?, The Street Of The First Shell by Robert W. Chambers, the siege of Paris (during the Franco-Prussian War), Two Fishers by Guy de Maupassant, the Benedict (80 Washington Square East), HBO’s True Detective and the connections to The King In Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, detecting reality (and identity), the purple ears vs. pink ears, how does repairing reputations work?, Hildred’s reputation, a Strangers On A Train-esque clearing house for murder, Scandal (we haven’t seen it), Osgood Oswald Vance, crouching, who killed Mr. Wilde?, the cat did it!, the cat must be symbolic, Oscar Wilde and The Yellow Book, a web of fantasies, “folie à deux”, ‘don’t make fun of crazy people because their folly lasts longer than our own’, we don’t have perfect access to reality, WWI, a social reality vs. a harsh physical reality of artillery, madman vs. a fool, craziness vs. folly, Omar Khayyám, Act 1, Act 2 will make you insane, densely packed with world and incidence, revolutionary science, speculation, no Shyamalan twists please, Cohle and Hart, precedents for a twelve year gap, Battlestar Galactica, Vikings, Rome, Lost, it won’t be a happy ending, suicide is hugely important in both stories, ‘death is not the end’, back to the cat, The Street Of The Four Winds by Robert W. Chambers, cats, dark magic, evil omens, The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe, No mask?, Stefan Rudnicki talking about The King In Yellow, the “pallid mask”, is it a skull?, Boris, the face in the fates, the bird on the statue, a jigsaw puzzle, “the long arm of The King In Yellow reaches forward and backward in time and space”, David Lynch’s Lost Highway, is Mr. Wilde real at all?, a very readable book, stylistically it’s surprising modern, the artisty milieu, a freshness, “beware of The King In Yellow“.

The Repairer Of Reputations by Robert W. Chambers - illustration by Tucker Sherry

In The Académie Julien In Paris by Marie Bashkirtseff

The Repairer Of Reputations by Robert W. Chambers - WORD CLOUD

Washington Square, New York - The King In Yellow

A review of The King In Yellow from Godey's Magazine, June 1895

The Lethal Chamber from PROVIDENCE by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows

ACE - The King In Yellow by Robert W. Chambers

The King In Yellow by Robert W. Chambers - Signed by Kurtz

Posted by Jesse Willis

New Release: Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein (narrated by Mark Turetsky)

March 9, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: New Releases 

New Releases

Just out, and already scheduled for our next SFFaudio Podcast, is arguably Robert A. Heinlein’s greatest novel, Have Space Suit, Will Travel!

Have Space Suit - Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein

This great audiobook features an all new narration by the magnificent Mark Turetsky!

Available from Downpour.com, Audible.com, and Blackstone Audio (for libraries)

Posted by Jesse Willis

New Release: Eldritch Tales – A Miscellany Of The Macabre by H.P. Lovecraft

March 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: New Releases 

New Releases

Available via Downpour.com (and Audible.com) this massive collection of H.P. Lovecraft stories, poems and essays is absolutely MUST GET listening.

Eldritch Tales by H.P. Lovecraft

Eldritch Tales – A Miscellany Of The Macabre
By H.P. Lovecraft; Read by Tom Weiner, Simon Vance, Simon Prebble, Bronson Pinchot, Elijah Alexander, Malcolm Hillgartner, Sean Runnette, Stefan Rudnicki, Gildart Jackson, Robertson Dean, Pamela Garelick, and Armando Durán
Download – Approx. 20.1 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio / Downpour.com
Published: 2014

Table of contents:
History of the NECRONOMICON
The Alchemist
A Reminiscence of Dr Samuel Johnson
The Beast in the Cave
Memory
Despair
The Picture in the House
Beyond the Wall of Sleep
Psychopompous: A Tale in Rhyme
The White Ship
The House
The Nightmare Lake
Poetry and the Gods (with Anna Helen Crofts)
Nyarlathotep
Polaris
The Street
Ex Oblivione
Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family
The Crawling Chaos (with Winifred Virginia Jackson)
The Terrible Old Man
The Tree
The Tomb
Celephais
Hypnos
What the Moon Brings
The Horror at Martin’s Beach (with Sonia H. Greene)
The Festival
The Temple
Hallowe’en in a Suburb
The Moon-Bog
He
Festival
The Green Meadow (with Winifred Virginia Jackson)
Nathicana
Two Black Bottles (with Wilfred Blanch Talman)
The Last Test (with Adolphe de Castro)
The Wood
The Ancient Track
The Electric Executioner (with Adolphe de Castro)
Fungi From Yuggoth
The Trap (with Henry S. Whitehead)
The Other Gods
The Quest of Iranon
The Challenge from Beyond
In a Sequester’d Providence Churchyard Where Once Poe Walked
Ibid
Azathoth
The Descendant
The Book
The Messenger
The Evil Clergyman
The Very Old Folk
The Thing in the Moonlight
The Transition of Juan Romero
Supernatural Horror in Literature [unabridged essay]
Afterword: Lovecraft in Britain by Stephen Jones

Posted by Jesse Willis

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