New Release: Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book (Full Cast Audio version)

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

SFFaudio News

Day folk and night folk, take note!

This is now available over on Downpour.com

Harper Audio - The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman FULL CAST

A brand-new full cast audio edition of Neil Gaiman’s Newbery Award-winning novel, The Graveyard Book (on-sale: 9/30/14 from HarperAudio). Special content in this edition includes the story behind The Graveyard Book, written and read by Neil Gaiman.

Cast:
Derek Jacobi: Narrator
Robert Madge: Nobody Owens
Clare Corbett: Scarlett Perkins
Miriam Margoles: Mrs. Owens and Miss Lupescu
Andrew Scott: That Man Jack and Jay Frost
Julian Rhind-Tutt: Silas
Emilia Fox: Liza Hempstock
Reece Shearsmith: Jack Dandy, the Sleer, and Mr. Kirby
Lenny Henry: Honorable Archibald Fitzhugh
Neil Gaiman: Reads an essay about the creation of
The Graveyard Book and performs the part of Nehemiah Trott

Ensemble:
Elizabeth Bennett, Allan Corduner, Sean Baker, Tim Dann,
Adjoa Andoh, Jenny Gannon, Dan Weyman, and Daniel Brocklebank

Featuring music by Béla Fleck

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews

September 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Clean Sweep by Ilona AndrewsClean Sweep
By Ilona Andrews; Narrated by Renee Raudman
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: March 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 hours

Themes: / urban fantasy / Texas / magic / bed and breakfast / werewolves / vampires /

Publisher summary:

On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast.

But Dina is…different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, “normal” is a bit of a stretch for Dina. And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night….

Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved. Before long, she has to juggle dealing with the annoyingly attractive, ex-military, new neighbor, Sean Evans—an alpha-strain werewolf—and the equally arresting cosmic vampire soldier, Arland, while trying to keep her inn and its guests safe. But the enemy she’s facing is unlike anything she’s ever encountered before. It’s smart, vicious, and lethal, and putting herself between this creature and her neighbors might just cost her everything.

Clean Sweep is an urban fantasy-type book with some interesting twists. Unfortunately, the narrator of the audiobook had a voice that didn’t fit the character and was so out of place that it made the book very difficult to listen to.

Dina is an innkeeper, a woman who runs a B&B in Texas. Her inn has magical properties and she has magical capabilities, her role being that of a neutral protector in a version of Earth/USA that includes normal humans but also has vampires, werewolves, and other magical beasts. The main thrust of the story is that Dina’s inn becomes the site for a showdown between two sides in a big family disagreement, though the book was more than halfway through before any of this became evident. The first half (or slightly more) of the book was world building and character introduction more than it was purely essential to the plot.

In Clean Sweep, Ilona Andrews has some interesting ideas about magic. I think I might be persuaded to read another book set in this world/series, assuming it was quicker to get to the point/didn’t do as much world-building, and assuming that I read it, not listened to it (or that the narrator was someone else). In Ms. Andrews’ world, the magical entities are by and large aliens from other worlds who find themselves on earth for a variety of reasons. What appears to be magic to “normal” people is actually uber nanotechnology or other futuristic technologies at work from alien worlds. There are many aggressive entities, such as the werewolves and vampires, but there are also places like the Inns, the Switzerland’s of the magical world. Innkeepers are to take no sides and to protect whoever signs the contract and pays to be a guest at the inn.

All of this goes awry when some creatures known as stalkers start killing dogs in the town where Dina’s inn is. At first, she believes that a local werewolf named Sean is to blame, but after killing two (with the help of Sean) and studying them, she comes to find out that these creatures may have been hired by vampires as part of a massive (and deadly) family feud. The world-building is mainly done by Dina explaining how the “magic” came to be to Sean, who knows nothing of the history of his species’ home planet or how his species came to earth. Through these explanations and through Dina’s preparations to help protect the vampires who are staying at the inn, the reader learns about other worlds, wormholes, and the true source of “magic.”

The book also has a side plot that was touched briefly upon, a story of Dina’s parents’ inn vanishing one day. Dina does a bit through the course of the narrative to try to find them, but it seems fairly obvious that it’s a side thread to be explored in later books/as a series arc. While most of the book is purely urban fantasy, there are also some hot and steamy scenes that are typically found in romance novels. Many urban fantasy books these days seem to have these scenes, whether they add to the story or not (in this case, not). There is also a possible threat, the local police officer thinking Dina is up to no good, but that thread is unceremoniously dropped just before the main thread of the story picks up, about halfway through. It’s not clear if this topic will be revisited in later books or if it was just an editing miss.

Clean Sweep is a fairly typical, action-packed urban fantasy story. There aren’t any deeper themes or morals to be had from it, though the idea of magic as uber technology is kind of fun. The book, once the actual plot started, was pretty quick to go through and fairly simple/straight-forward. This isn’t a book that’s going to make you think, or require lots of focused reading time to enjoy.

The only major negative is with the audiobook specifically. Dina is supposed to be a 23 year old woman living in Texas. Unfortunately, she sounds like an old grandmother from the deep south. The voice and the description of the character just don’t align. The narrator’s voices for the men were surprisingly good, but her overall voice just sounded old and tired. In parts where there was a lot of action, she actually sounded even worse, over dramatizing her voice acting. I actually thought she was going to die a few times. It was downright uncomfortable and annoying to listen to, and I cannot recommend the audiobook. If another book in this series is released, I may give it a go in print/Kindle, but won’t be listening again unless the narrator changes.

Posted by terpkristin.

The SFFaudio Podcast #284 – NEW RELEASES/RECENT ARRIVALS

September 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #284 – Jesse, Jenny, Tamahome, and Seth talk about NEW RELEASES and RECENT ARRIVALS.

Talked about on today’s show:
accent on the new releases, The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton, Liviu’s Goodreads review, four dark Jack Cady novels, Jenny‘s Star Wars tweetfest, less chattering and battles, Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds, Westerfeld’s Uglies inspired by Ted Chiang, Hardboiled Wonderland And The End Of The World by Haruki Murakami, A New Dawn: Star Wars by John Jackson Miller, “Is this Firefly?”, the new canon, Marvel can make a movie about anything, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, Luke’s unstarred review of Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book, Jenny liked Blackout/All ClearA Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Nonfiction by Terry Pratchett, Future for Curious People by Gregory Sherl, mainstream or sf?, Puttering About in a Small Land by Philip K. Dick, it’s mainstream, Fairy Tales From The Brothers Grimm: A New English Version by Philip Pullman, Tex Avery’s Red Hot Riding HoodBaba YagaMage’s Blood by David Hair, What is a starred review?, Goodhouse by Peyton Marshall, Tales Of Terror Collection, The Best Ghost StoriesThe Scarifyers 09: THE KING OF WINTER (audio drama), “winter is coming”, Devoured by Jason Brant, A Walk Among the Tombstones: A Matt Scudder Mystery and Defender of the Innocent: The Casebook of Martin Ehrengraf by Lawrence Block, put out his own audiobooks, Man of Two Worlds by Frank Herbert and Brian Herbert, Echopraxia by Peter Watts, same world as Blindsight, it’s got a lot of references, books with “day” in the titleThis Perfect Day by Ira Levin (author of Rosemary’s Baby), Far Futures edited by Gregory Benford, they list the stories and describe them!, The Sound of His Horn by Sarban, Wild HuntThe Rolling Stones by Robert A. Heinlein, Edge of Tomorrow (All You Need Is Kill) by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, where is the Full Metal Bitch?, Groundhog Day, Steven Gould’s new Jumper book Exo is inspired by Heinlein, Geek’s Guide interviewthe cool first page, Darin Bradley’s Chimpanzee audio drama?

The Scarifyers 9 The King Of Winter

Posted by Tamahome

Review of The Rift Walker by Clay and Susan Griffith

September 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Rift WalkerThe Rift Walker (Vampire Empire #2)
By Clay and Susan Griffith; Read by James Marsters
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 14 hours

Themes: / vampires / steampunk / fantasy / post-apocalpyse / humanism /

Publisher summary:

The Rift Walker is the second installment in the Vampire Empire book trilogy. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, this tale of courage, sacrifice, and heroism takes place against the backdrop of an age of steam and rational humanism, where the social elite have rejected religion and spiritualism as nothing more than quaint superstition.

Brutal Vampire Clans rule half the world keeping human herds for food, and Princess Adele, heir to the throne of Equatoria, is faced with grim choices. War is imminent and her marriage to the odious Senator Clark of America will cement an alliance uniting the Equatorian Empire and the American Republic. This integration of war machines is to be the opening volley in the campaign to reclaim the Northern Hemispheres. Unfortunately, Adele’s betrothed has a bloodthirsty war strategy, one the Princess finds as repulsive as the actions of the vampires they fight.

Moments in advance of the Princess’s marriage to the Senator, the Geryfriar, legendary champion of the human resistance, rescues Adele before vampire assassins can murder her. While on the run from the agents of Prince Cesare, the acting Clan Lord of the Northern Vampires, Adele seeks to discover a way to protect her beloved Equatoria and prevent the genocide Clark intends to implement, all while trying to free herself from an unwanted marriage. Meanwhile, Cesare’s agents have struck deep at the heart of Equatoria and will stop at nothing to keep Adele from ascending to the throne.

Treachery abounds; friendship, loyalties, and allegiances are tested. Will Princess Adele be able, with the help of her beloved Greyfriar, her devoted guard and faithful officer Anhalt, and her mentor Mamarou, to turn the tide before human civilization is forever shattered?

This review is going to read a lot like that of the first book in the series, The Greyfriar. If you read that book and enjoyed it, you’ll like this one too. Where the first book was kind of (Zorro + Beauty and the Beast + Vampires), this one kind of leans more toward Romeo and Juliet. The protagonists love each other but everyone from their respective houses pretty much hates on the other. Wrap all that up with another fantastic narration by James Marsters and this book is over before you know it.

I still like the way these books are written. The vocabulary and use of idioms gives the story an older feel that matches the semi-steam punk world where the story takes place. More of the less important characters even show a bit more depth in this story which was pretty nice. I like that there was clearly a bit of a plan in writing the trilogy and that some things were revealed in this book that I was wondering about since the first one.

I had some minor plot issues with the story but overall the whole thing went by very fast. This is in the description of the book so whatever: I don’t understand why the Greyfriar swoops in to the save the princess when he uncovers a plot to kill her and her betrothed….instead of trying to save them both or ration out the situation without making frenemies. I’m sure it’s something like “all he could think about was saving her” or “he didn’t know who to trust” but the way it was carried out didn’t really work well for me. There were a few other moments like this but they’re minor gripes at best.

As for the audio side of things, James Marsters did a fantastic job. You’ll once again hear many voices you recognize from Dresden but I didn’t have any problem keeping things straight in my head. I started this series because it’s read by him and I’m definitely not sad at the decision.

Book 3 here I come!

Posted by Tom Schreck

The SFFaudio Podcast #283 – READALONG: Watchers by Dean Koontz

September 22, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #283 – Jesse, Seth, and Steen discuss Watchers by Dean Koontz

Talked about on today’s show:
1987, Amazon and Goodreads reviews, what the fuck’s going on, super-clear = refreshing, mainstream, science fiction elements, a mainstream thriller with sufficently science fiction trappings, the bad guy, action and science fiction, supermarket fiction, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton, flirting with the fantastic, Koontz could go deep if he wanted to, excitement and involvement, an intelligent dog, a human serial killer and the good guy is always super good, a lonely lady who needs fixing, no need for a job, Garrison, the vet, money ex machina, wish fulfillment, sniffing the books, writing instinctual, “I like books”, readers are readers, is Koontz wealth (?) an accident, the same book over and over again with different sentences, dogs, odd without a dog, back to dogs, the fictional golden retriever, service dogs, Trixie Koontz, dog POV, Travis and Nora, if I could only communicate…, five stars with more than 1,000 reviews, cat lovers, sappy wish fulfillment, clunky dialogue, Seth’s retired guide dog, emotional scenes, Einstein, emotional beats hitting home, the Outsider, slow pitch Science Fiction, the NSA, research as depth of feeling, why the eyes, the Mickey Mouse telephone, a direct philosophical descendant of Frankenstein, we must treat our creations with justice and mercy, the disfigured (?) monster, extreme violence is a turn-off, dogs as wild animals that we tamed, a glacial Frankensteinian process, dogs as infantilized wolves, a dog’s nature is to be cowardly, breeding for violence (?), no savagery gene, baboons, bonobos, the creepy cable-guy stalker, delusions of immortality (?), money, surreality, The Call Of The Wild reference, survivalists, true love with a threat, preppers, Home Alone, what do Europeans think of gun culture?, fully automatic uzi kits, the baking of the cookies, the Dean Koontz genre, Phantoms, the town of Snowfield is deserted, a sink-full of jewels, creepy with wish fulfillment, and fun, multiple bad guys (monster and otherwise), The Mysteries Of Udolpho, let’s look at the parallel structure…, snake killing, some (more) cookies, pity, the underlying strength of the book, did the Outsider think that it killed Einstein?, Dean Koontz likes: cookies, mercy, and guns, Koontz’s hair transplant, political things, the soliloquy on technology, computer hacking (prior to the web), a preoccupation with Central/South America, Lebanon, Delta Force, quasi-domestic operations, The Outsider by H.P. Lovecraft, the crappy 1988 movie of Watchers, the horror/1980s-gore aspect, Koontz and King adaptations, completely forgettable single word titles, Koontz’ preferred title would have been “Guardian”, Philip K. Dick’s first story Roog, offering urn, the education of Einstein (paralleling the education of Frankenstein’s monster), Agatha Christie, it makes you happy, 2 Jesses, “a book you will never forget!”, a candy book, The Giver, Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, taking experiences from their own life, Ray Bradbury never had an experience that he didn’t turn into a fix-up novel, turn your brain off, smooth flowing fun, the complainers, the style of dialogue, a straw man of the dialogue, why is the Outsider after Einstein?, a “thing that should not be”, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, page turning machines, stewing in resentment, the Outsider has no bride and hasn’t read Paradise Lost, a shared love of Mickey Mouse, the yin and yang of humanity, the NSA agent’s role is like that of Detective Fix in Around The World In Eighty Days, the level of characterization, Dean Koontz is by himself on his own little island.

Watchers (1988)

An Astronomers Theory illustration by Virgil Finlay

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb

September 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fool's AssassinFool’s Assassin (Fitz and the Fool #1)
By Robin Hobb; Narrated by Elliot Hill
27 hours, 18 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 12 August 2014
Themes: / fantasy / assassin / fool /

Publisher summary:

FitzChivalry – royal bastard and former king’s assassin – has left his life of intrigue behind. As far as the rest of the world knows, FitzChivalry Farseer is dead and buried. Masquerading as Tom Badgerlock, Fitz is now married to his childhood sweetheart, Molly, and leading the quiet life of a country squire.

Though Fitz is haunted by the disappearance of the Fool, who did so much to shape Fitz into the man he has become, such private hurts are put aside in the business of daily life, at least until the appearance of menacing, pale-skinned strangers casts a sinister shadow over Fitz’s past…and his future.

Now, to protect his new life, the former assassin must once again take up his old one.

When I first heard confirmation that the rumors of a new Fitz and Fool series were true, I was full of mixed emotions. I loved Fool’s Fate. I’ve enjoyed all of Ms. Hobb’s books but that is the only one I’ve given 5 stars too. I was just so satisfied with how it ended. There were questions, but all the big things were resolved in the end.

So would this book ruin my favorite book? Well not yet, but it certainly hasn’t alleviated my fears that the events of this trilogy might tarnish things for me.

Like many books by Ms. Hobb, things start out slow. I don’t mean that in a negative way, however. Somehow she is able to write in such a way that I don’t mind the day to day life of her books. Despite my trepidation, it just felt nice to be back with characters I love. If you’re looking for a lot of action or a flashy start, you’ll be disappointed. I imagine that anyone picking up this book is already going to be a Robin Hobb fan and used to her style.

More than anything, Ms. Hobb’s writing is able to evoke strong emotions in me as I read. Love, anger, happiness, frustration. Few other authors can make me despise a new character so quickly or completely. Similarly Fitz continues to frustrate me with the way he does things in a way that is just all too human. Often times the protagonist in a fantasy book faces external adversity and rises to the occasion. Meanwhile Fitz is frequently his own worst enemy. Poor Ms. Hobb loves putting him through the ringer too, and this book is no different.

I had three issues with this book. First, the series is called Fitz & Fool. The book is called Fool’s Assassin. So why did it take so long for us to see the Fool? He’s mentioned often enough, but I want to spend time with him just as I am spending time with Fitz. So far this series seems a lot more like Farseer than Tawny Man in that regard.

The second thing was the addition of a POV besides Fitz. I guess I’m a very jealous reader. I originally hoped it was a one off thing early in the book, but when it turned out to be a regular thing it bothered me. I felt robbed of time I could be spending with Fitz. By the end of the book it grew on me and I came to look forward to those chapters nearly as much as I did the Fitz ones.

The final issue I had was the ending. I know this is the first book of a trilogy, but I hate cliffhanger type endings, and this one seemed pretty bad to me. If you’re the type of person who hates waiting for the next book, you may be better off waiting until the final book is either published or has a release date. It’s going to a be a LONG wait for me until book 2.

Overall I really liked, but didn’t love this book. I’m still pretty nervous about what may happen next. I think that above all shows how great a writer Ms. Hobb is to fill me with both a sense of anticipation and dread for the next book in the series.

As a narrator, I really didn’t like Elliot Hill much at first. He grew on me by the end though. I don’t normally hear characters speaking in my head as I read and haven’t had any issue listening to books I had previously read and finding the voices wrong.

I did here for some reason. Fitz just didn’t sound right to me. Same thing with Molly. Bee seemed fine, but really she sounded almost like Molly. I liked his voice for Chade though.

Mr. Hill does a few voices and accents and does a fine job of it. It just took me a very long time to get used to. By the end though I seemed to get over it. I likely won’t do the audio again unless I get another review copy, but I’d guess many people won’t have the same issues I did with it.

Review by Rob Zak.

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