Review of Katabasis from the Mongoliad Cycle

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

SFFaudio Review

KatabasisKatabasis (Mongoliad Cycle #4)
By Mark Teppo, Joseph Brassey, Cooper Moo, and Angus Trim; Performed by Luke Daniels.
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 13 hours

Themes: / Mongoliad / martial arts / fantasy / monks / conquests / Mongols / Russia /

Publisher summary:

With the death of the fearsome Ögedei Khan, the Mongol invasion of the West has been brought to an abrupt halt. The defenders, a band of brave warrior monks known as the Shield-Brethren, limp homeward again across a frozen, bloodied wasteland. But where — and what — is “home” now that the threat of invasion no longer shapes their lives? Thirteenth-century Europe has been saved from annihilation at the hands of the Mongols, to be sure, but new and terrible threats are at hand: political and religious turmoil threaten to turn the warriors’ world upside down once more. Painted against a rich backdrop of medieval mysticism and Russian folklore, Katabasis weaves together the tales of victor and victim alike in a fearless exploration of what it means not just to survive, but to truly live again.

When I reviewed The Mongoliad: Book Three in the Foreworld Saga, I didn’t realize that there were to be a 4th and 5th entry into the series. The book ended with the end of a major story arc (if not the most satisfying of endings) and I thought it was okay to leave it there.

But the story didn’t end there. Where the story in the first three books in the series really covered the story of the Christians versus the Mongols, this book follows the Shield Brethren into Russia while the Mongols mostly start gathering to find their new Kahn of Kahns. There was a greater supernatural element in this book than in the previous ones, and it was interesting to see characters I thought we had left at the end of the first book (or thereabouts) make a reappearance. At the crux of this story seems to be old religion versus new religion. It is hinted that Cardinal Vieshi, a cardinal in Rome who we met in the 2nd and 3rd books, is behind an attempt by the Levonian Brotherhood to defeat the Shield Brethren and help “modern Catholics” take a hold in Russia. The old religion, though, the Shield Brethren, the Shield Maidens, and the native Russians, are on their own mission to keep the old religion not only still around, but still relevant. As part of this, the Spirit Banner, guarded so carefully by the Mongols in the first three books, is a central part to the plot with Ferronantus, Raphael, and the Shield Brethren. In a bit of an oddity, Leanne (former slave Chinese woman in Ogedai Kahn’s retinue) has managed to save the sliver of…well, it’s still not exactly clear what it is, but it’s important enough that GonSuk had her protect it and it was attempted to be stolen from Ogedai in the first book. This gives her a tie–if she’s not really clear on what the tie is–to the Spirit Banner and the Shield Brethren.

In some ways, this was a complete story. There was a central conflict, and the plot moved to bring that to a relatively satisfying ending. In some ways, the plot lines here were less confusing than in the previous books. There seemed to be fewer plots and fewer characters to keep track of, generally speaking. However, at the end, it got muddled. I suppose it might be just me–I often have felt like I’ve been “missing something” while listening to these books and this one was no different. Something happened at the end that I didn’t quite grok, and it’s obvious that it will play out for the 5th (and final, I think) book in the main Foreworld Saga. I hope that when I finish that one, it will make more sense.

Luke Daniels did the narration for this audiobook, as with the other Foreworld and Foreworld Prequel books that I have listened to. Sometimes, his narration is fantastic. He does different voices for the characters and makes it easy to get drawn into the world. However, between the odd names, multiple plot lines, and sometimes difficult/foreign words, it can be hard to understand what he’s saying or what’s going on. As with the other books, this is one that I think might be easier to read the print first, or at least have a copy handy so you can refer to the Cast of Characters and/or re-read confusing parts. Sometimes, Daniels would do lines in a characters voice and…well, in character. So if the character was to be whispering or muttering, Daniels would do that. This would make it hard to understand what he was saying, especially when he used the thick accents.

All in all, I think I liked this book better than I liked the end of the first three books. I look forward to seeing what happens in the 5th book–which I note is not narrated by Luke Daniels.

Posted by terpkristin.

Review of Off to Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer, read by Luke Daniels

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

SFFaudio Review

Off to Be the WizardOff to Be the Wizard (Magic 2.0 #1)
By Scott Meyer, read by Luke Daniels
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 9 discs; 11 hours

Themes: / reality / wizards / hackers / time travel / computer geeks / pop culture /

Publisher Summary:

Martin Banks is just a normal guy who has made an abnormal discovery: he can manipulate reality, thanks to reality being nothing more than a computer program. With every use of this ability, though, Martin finds his little “tweaks” have not escaped notice. Rather than face prosecution, he decides instead to travel back in time to the Middle Ages and pose as a wizard.What could possibly go wrong? An American hacker in King Arthur’s court, Martin must now train to become a full-fledged master of his powers, discover the truth behind the ancient wizard Merlin…and not, y’know, die or anything.

This book started really slow, despite a cool concept. A computer geek discovers a file that somehow lets him manipulate not only the world and everything in it, but time itself. So of course he decides to go back to medieval times and become a wizard. As a computer geek who (not so) secretly would love to be a wizard I was intrigued.

Unfortunately, the main character Martin isn’t very likable at the start. Despite being good with computers, he doesn’t seem very smart. For me the story finally started to get good when he meets Phillip. I will say Martin did grow on me as the book went on. I don’t plan to say anything else about the plot because I don’t want to ruin the jokes.

I think your enjoyment of the book will largely depend on if you find the humor funny and your willingness to not only suspend your disbelief but throw it right out the window. Things get silly. Really silly.

There is a lot of computer geek humor as well as some pop culture humor from the 80s and 90s that reminded me a bit of Ready Player One, a book I absolutely love. I think fans of that book, may find similar things to like here. Scott Meyer does for fantasy geeks what Ernest Cline did for gaming geeks.

The only real complaint I have apart from the slow start is the general lack of women. That’s a pretty common complaint in fantasy. However as this is a fantasy book based in current time and involves using computers to manipulate the world to pretend to be a wizard this seems like a big flaw for me. Mr. Meyer has a plausible reason to explain away his lack of female characters, but he could have just as easily had a plausible reason for their inclusion instead.

 I‘ll admit that probably more than half of the reason I chose to review this book was because Luke Daniels was the reader. He did not disappoint. Another excellent performance.

Overall though, I really enjoyed listening to this book and I’ll be on the lookout for his next book as well as planning to check out his webcomic in the near future.

Review by Rob Zak.

Eric S. Rabkin talking about Mars

May 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: News 

SFFaudio News

Professor Eric S. Rabkin talking about Mars.

Saturday Morning Physics – March 25, 2006.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #266 – READALONG: When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells

May 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #266 – Jesse, Luke, and Juliane Kunzendorf discuss When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells

Talked about on today’s show:
Julianne’s first SFFaudio Podcast, what do we call them?, readers and talkers, 1899/1910/1923, When The Sleeper Wakes, The Sleeper Wakes, The Sleeper Awakes, Blackstone Audio’s audiobook version, the serialization in The Graphic magazine, the 1910 preface, “an editorial elder brother”, going to the original sources, a forecast of technology, technological changes between the revisions, aeroplanes and aeropiles, the introduction to the 1923 edition, “fantasias of possibility”, “suppose these forces go on novel”, H.G. Wells thought the rich were evil geniuses (prior to meeting them), “rather foolish plungers”, “vulgar rather than wicked”, Ostrog, “a nightmare of capitalism triumphant”, capitalist/socialism (kind of like Japan), The Unincorporated Man is pretty much the same story, yay Marxism!?, when Graham wakes up, Chapter 7, there only audiobooks in the future, The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling, The Madonna Of The Future by Henry James, Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, phonetic spelling, an H.G. Wells way of writing, is it the nature of a serial, the reader transplanted into the year 2100, The War Of The Worlds, suicide, Isbister, Warming, Ostrog, Lincoln, “body fag is no cure for brain fag”, “while he was breaking his fast”, the language, lying in a crystal box, a passive character, establishing the genre, space elevators, Buck Rogers has the same premise, Idiocracy, Eine Billion Dollar by Andreas Eschbach, A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain, the importance of money, the gilded age, wealth disparity, the labour company, a dystopia along the lines of Brave New World, the Martian invasion, The Time Machine, is this the start of the Morlocks and the Eloi?, 1984 by George Orwell, the proles, the pleasure cities, distractions, the value of work beyond being paid, a class trap, what is Wells saying?, Wells’ ambivalence towards the proles, there are no more school examinations, is this a meritocracy?, technological dystopias (like 1984), social dystopias, Brave New World is a medical dystopia, genetic dystopias, knowing you live in a dystopia, North Korea, knowledge of other societies, the time before Big Brother, Julia, the Anti-Sex League, genetically dumbified, Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes, religious dystopia, advertizing Christianity, prosperity gospels, church revivals, advertising, the babel machines, movies and television, what will this culture do to the culture?, “people don’t read”, airplanes, heavier-than-air aircraft, smashing airplanes into other airplanes, aerial ramming, flying machine vs. aeroplane vs. airplane vs. aeropile, My First Aeorplane by H.G. Wells, rocketships, the pilot’s union, the look of the airplane, the clothing, Victorian age dresses, the church, hanging in the air, the Thames has run dry, megalopolis, the building material, the Eiffel Tower, steel, concrete, plastic, glass, carbon fiber, biotech, Pandora’s Star, a coral house, 3D printing, Ikea Hacks, print on demand houses, economics, factories and automation, The Roads Must Roll by Robert A. Heinlein, The City And The Stars by Arthur C. Clarke, slide-walk, edamite, Ostrog, Ostrogoths, Lincoln, foment a revolution, race and racism, Senagalese, ostrog as “fortress”, a Serbian Orthodox Church, Ostrog will boss the show, “in bounds”, are these are revolutionary names?, Che Guevara, Abraham Lincoln’s freeing the slaves, thug force, Berlin, June 17th, 1953, the Berlin Wall, outside forces, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, Gurkhas, “see we’re all friends”, smiling bright shiny teeth, “they are fine loyal brutes”, racism is in there but it is not the point of the book, The War Of The Worlds, a little hypocritical, we can’t see the issue, massive economic suppression, calculating boys, hypnotism, economic slavery, the wealth gap, the White Council, the blaring speakers, the media firehouse, talk radio, people wearing their headphones everywhere, podcasts, each one of those streams are newspapers, a newspaper for everybody, broadsheets vs. tabolids, your newspaper tells your class, daily free newspapers, Jack The Ripper, Melville Macnaghten, Michael Ostrog (thief and con-man), the symbolism of the aircraft, the three books, Helen is the Madonna of the future, it’s a joke, the novel’s end, ‘my Graham dies without certainty of victory or defeat’, ambiguous airplanes, “literally that’s his dream”, flying dreams, cliffs and high places, Isbister and Warming -> Lincoln and Ostrog, “its fun”, “in such a fall as this countless dreams have ended”, dream falling, the different endings, the future of that future, Olaf Stapledon’s The Last And First Men, many futures, Olaf Stapledon takes what Wells does a little farther, Graham as a Christ figure, risen from the dead… etc., in Graphic detail, full colour holographic Jesus, the empty tomb moment, allusions to other literature in the Bible, Arthur C. Clarke, the Son of Man, A Story Of The Days To Come, the emptying of the countryside, the enclosures, Scotland, Canada, Glasgow, Berlin, well more than 50% of the world’s population lives in cities now, Among Others by Jo Walton, Wales, the merits of country living, the economic theory behind everything, access to internet, staring at the internet, services, live entertainment, “my choice of Christian girls was three girls”, poor Luke.

When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells
When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells - illustration by H. Lanos
When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells - illustration by H. Lanos
When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells - illustration by H. Lanos
When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells
When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells
When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells
When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells
When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells
When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells
H.G. Wells' 1921 Preface to The Sleeper Wakes
Amazing Stories Quarterly, Winter 1928 - illustration by Frank R. Paul

Posted by Jesse Willis

Eric S. Rabkin on Kelly & Company – TV’s Beauty and the Beast Special 1989

May 22, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: News 

SFFaudio News

Eric S. Rabkin, 1989

“Modern television is going to respond to the needs of the audience.”

Eric S. Rabkin was a guest on this 1989 TV special about the Beauty And The Beast TV show. The two Eric segments begin at 9 minutes and 26 minutes respectively.

WARNING, watching this program may freak you out. The 1980s were very weird.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Brad Lansky and the Alien at Planet X

May 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audio Drama - Brad Lansky and the Alien at Planet XBrad Lansky and the Alien at Planet X
(Brad Lansky, Episode 1)
1 hour 16 minutes – [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Protophonic
Published: 2014
Themes: / Audio Drama / Science Fiction / artificial intelligence / Space Travel / cybernetics / aliens /

It’s difficult to believe that Protophonic is ten years old. I know it is because there’s a notice on their website that says so, and, in celebration, they are giving away this remake of the first installment of the Brad Lansky series for free – for a short time. I urge you to go check it out.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. At Protophonic, the sound is the thing. Each track Protophonic produces is a rich soundscape that needs to be enjoyed using a pair of good headphones. I also recommend that you give it your full attention – turn everything off, and let this audio work magic.

As each track starts, the sound sets the scene. More than once, I was surprised by the images in my mind. How easily they appeared in reaction to the sound, and how vivid the scenes were in my imagination. Much to the credit of Protophonic, no time at all is spent in dialogue establishing the setting. Actors never say things like, “My, just look at this blue spaceport!” The rich audio in cooperation with my imagination provided the setting. Indeed, Protophonic has trusted the listener with more than a typical audio drama would, and I found it an exhilarating experience. I enjoy the feeling of collaboration, and I like knowing that my mental picture of this story is sure to be different from another listener’s. It’s also wonderful that the story both depends on and works with whatever the listener brings to the table.

This first Brad Lansky production opens with a Ship AI (called Echolocator) telling co-pilot Dieter Rothman news of a distress call. Dieter and Captain Sandy Larkin meet at the main control console to discuss the situation, and things get tense quickly. Soon after, at Shanghai Spaceport, Brad Lansky and co-pilot Alex John meet with Zara, a life-form scientist, who tells them that Sandy Larkin is missing. Lansky and John immediately start searching. What follows includes alien life, artificial intelligences, cybernetic persons, and space travel.

In short: Brad Lansky and the Alien at Planet X is a very enjoyable work of science fiction, highly recommended for superior audio presentation. This is a remake of the first installment, and there are currently four other episodes to enjoy. The last two (episodes 4 and 5) are winners of the Mark Time Award for Best Science Fiction Audio Production of the Year.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Next Page »