Review of The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

October 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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Slow Regard of Silent ThingsThe Slow Regard of Silent Things (Kingkiller Chronicle Book 2.5)
By Patrick Rothfuss; Narrated by Patrick Rothfuss
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Publication Date: 28 October 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 3 hours, 39 minutes

Themes: / Kingkiller / fantasy / university /

Publisher summary:

Deep below the University, there is a dark place. Few people know of it: a broken web of ancient passageways and abandoned rooms. A young woman lives there, tucked among the sprawling tunnels of the Underthing, snug in the heart of this forgotten place. Her name is Auri, and she is full of mysteries. The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a brief, bittersweet glimpse of Auri’s life, a small adventure all her own. At once joyous and haunting, this story offers a chance to see the world through Auri’s eyes. And it gives the reader a chance to learn things that only Auri knows…. In this book, Patrick Rothfuss brings us into the world of one of The Kingkiller Chronicle’s most enigmatic characters. Full of secrets and mysteries, The Slow Regard of Silent Things is the story of a broken girl trying to live in a broken world.

Executive Summary: I think this is a book that most of the hard core fans will gush over, but I thought it was just alright. 3.5 stars rounded down for reasons I get into (rant about?) below.

Audio book: I haven’t done any of the Kingkiller books in audio. I have friends who have gushed to me over both the Rupert Degas and the Nick Podehl versions.

I’m not sure if those people will bothered by this one being read by Mr. Rothfuss himself, but I thought for this book at least, he makes for a good narrator. As he was the one who wrote it, he was able to put emphasis on the words he wanted to and he has a good story telling voice.

Full Review
I’m going to try to write a review without getting too ranty, but I may fall short in that regard, so I apologize in advance.

First a little background as to where I’m coming from: I heard about The Name of the Wind and Patrick Rothfuss over four years ago from Penny-Arcade. Since that time I had several friends telling me I had to read it.

I was reluctant to do though, because the third book hasn’t been published and there is no real eta in sight. I was content to wait until at least their was an announced publish date. Until last year that is, when I finally caved and read both books with a few friends. I’m glad I finally did, though now I’m stuck waiting for the final book like everyone else.

I seem to be in a minority of the fans I’ve talked to who thought that The Name of the Wind was good, but The Wise Man’s Fear was much better. So maybe that will put me in the minority of fans once again who find myself a bit disappointed with this story.

Originally slated for Rogues, Mr. Rothfuss set this one aside and wrote The Lightning Tree instead. It has a similar feel to this. We follow Bast around for a day in the life. I really loved that story. I felt like we got some good insights to his character we didn’t in the main novels.

Auri is definitely one of my favorite characters in his books, so I was really excited to see he had a novella about her coming out. Until I saw the price. I like to support authors I read so they will hopefully continue to write more stories I enjoy, but $17 for a 150 page novella seems crazy to me. So maybe I was already in a negative mindset coming into this book.

I was planning to wait until I could get a copy from the library and if I enjoyed it, picking up a copy for my shelves if/when the price came down. However, I was fortunate enough to receive an early review copy of the audio book, making the price irrelevant to me personally.

So I’ve written all these words now (and apparently you’ve kept reading them) and still really haven’t talked about the book. That seems appropriate because there really isn’t a story here.

We follow Auri around for a week. We do get some insights into her thought process. Maybe someone smarter than me will argue we get a lot of insights. Maybe if I read it again, I’ll come away with more. I don’t know. What I really wanted was to know more about Auri’s background more so than her character. As far as I’m concerned, you get none of that here. Maybe I’m just not smart enough.

And that brings me to why I rounded down my rating of 3.5 to a 3. I was all set to round up to 4 because I really like Patrick Rothfuss, and I really like Auri. He seems like a generally nice guy who does a lot of great things for other people with his success and influence.

But Mr. Rothfuss felt the need to include this long author’s note at the end. He makes it out like an apology to his fans who may not “get” this book, or don’t like it. But to me it came off as insincere and really more like him turning up his nose at anyone who doesn’t love this story as much as Vi Hart.

And the thing is, I didn’t dislike it for any of the reasons he mentioned. This book definitely FEELS like Auri. I liked all the randomness. Auri’s OCD makes me feel way better about my own. She really is a great character, and that shines through here. As I said my main disappointment was getting nothing about Auri’s back story.

But to talk about “There are plenty of stories out there for you, even if this one isn’t” came off condescending to me. I’m probably just reading it the wrong way, because Mr. Rothfuss never stuck me as that sort of person before now.

So if you want a story where nothing really of note happens and to just spend time with Auri, you’ll probably love this story. If you like me were hoping for some kind of back story, you may be disappointed like I was. There definitely were a few hints dropped, but nothing that made any real sense to me, just left me with more questions than before I read it.

Review by Rob Zak.

BBC Radio 4 Extra: Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu [RADIO DRAMA]

October 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

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This is a pretty terrific adaptation of J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s vampire classic, Carmilla. David Warner is wonderful as the father of the doomed Laura. And the music sounds, to my untrained ear, like that from Wojciech Kilar‘s in the 1992 movie Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

BBC Radio 4 ExtraCarmilla
By Don McCamphill; Adapted from the novella by J. Sheridan Le Fanu; performed by a full cast
Approx 44. Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Brodcaster: BBC Radio 4 Extra
Broadcast: Nov 1, 2011
A young woman finds her lonely existence in a remote Austrian castle enlivened by the arrival of a mysterious and beautiful visitor – Carmilla. What was the unworldly setting in which they last met? And why does Carmilla so violently reject the hawker’s amulet designed to ward off evil spirits?

Produced for BBC Northern Ireland Drama.

Cast:
Anne-Marie Duff
David Warner
Brana Bajic
Celia Imrie
Kenneth Cranham

Posted by Jesse Willis

Hardware review Sony DR-BT160AS (Bluetooth Stereo Headset)

October 22, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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SONY DR-BT160AS

Sony DR-BT160AS (Bluetooth Stereo Headset)
Model: DR-BT160AS
Manufacturer: Sony
Manufactured: 2008 [DISCONTINUED]
UPC: 027242734661

Product manual: |PDF|

I think of myself as a careful shopper. One who would rather research a product than let a salesperson explain its virtues to me. But one day, probably in Summer 2009, I made a relatively impulsive decision. I bought a pair of wireless headphones based on the maufactuer’s reputation, the specifications on the packaging, and the price. It is one of the best purchase decisions I’ve ever made.

Back in 2008 I had seen someone wearing a pair of Bluetooth enabled headphones at the gym, and was entranced by the idea. For decades I had used wired headphones, most often the low end models, like the Sony MDR-101. The earbuds that I’d tried over the years never properly fit my ears. And so I was always looking for a better listening device. For at least 5 years this turned out to be a then discontinued model of over-the-ear and behind-the-head earbuds that I picked up at NCIX on impulse. After wearing them for a day I went back and bought another pair (they were about $80) thinking these would be a backup for the day when the ones I’d bought the day before died. Sadly, that day has finally come. And though my backup pair have been sitting in their box since 2008, I’ve just now opened them up. Sadly, it was this very morning that was the day one my long-durable earbuds suddenly died. At this very moment I am charging up, for the very first time, my backup DR-BT160AS headset. And, looking at them charge, my only regret is that I didn’t buy more backup pairs – for I fear that, one day, the greatness that is the DR-BT160AS will no longer be available to me. And at the moment I have no expectation of a suitable replacement.

Trying to figure out why I’m so attached to the broken first pair of Sony DR-BT160AS earbuds sitting before me I think I can explain why I’m upset. This pair of bluetooth wireless earbuds have been more comfortable than any headphones I’ve ever owned. They are light and durable. The earbuds themselves can be pushed in and out easily due to thick metal pillar from which they project. The form fitting design of the behind the ear nacelles feel less ungainly that they look. Usable in the sun and rain, at the gym, while driving, walking, or working, the DR-BT160AS have dutifully delivered countless thousands of hours of podcasts and audiobooks, for several hours each day, seven days a week, to my ears without fail.

Wired headphones always always always get in the way, always get tangled, always get caught on things, and their foamy coverings always soak up sweat and become ripped. When I switched iPhones, from the 3GS to my first 5, the DR-BT160AS kept working, no problem. When my first iPhone 5 died, I walked out of the Apple Store with a new iPhone 5 and my trusty old DR-BT160AS headset. When I got my first iPad they worked with that. When sold that iPad I kept the Sony earbuds, and bought an iPad Mini and they worked with that. Suffice it to say my DR-BT160AS headphones are with me more than any other personal electronic device I’ve ever owned. Since 2009 I’ve probably owned about four or five pairs of sunglasses. None of them have lasted half as long as the DR-BT160AS. And the DR-BT160AS earbuds allow room enough for simultaneous use of sunglasses, something no previous pair of headphones I’ve owned ever could. There’s a little joystick control at the back of the right nacelle. I generally don’t use it. Pressing on it makes the track stop or play. Left and right move tracks back or ahead. Up and down increase and decrease volume. There’s also an answer phone button on the bottom of the right nacelle. I don’t think I’ve used it more than twice. The power on bottom is intuitive, and take a moment to engage so you don’t accidentally turn it on or off. The indicator lights, on the right nacelle’s top tell you its status, connected (flashing blue), charging (solid red). When it boots up, it makes a little “on” sound and when it runs out of power (typically only if I’ve forgotten to charge it overnight) it makes a little “off” sound.

Sony DR-BT160AS Right Nacelle

That isn’t to say the DR-BT160AS is perfect. It isn’t. The built in microphone picks up a lot of ambient noise, I know this because callers continually complain, but on the other hand the fact that they have a built in microphone is a step up from every pair of headphones I’d previously owned. In winter, the connecting neck band, an arc of plastic that gives the headset its semi-rigid shape, will push against a high collared jacket. This can sometimes make wearing them uncomfortable. But on the other hand, it is really only a problem in the coldest part of winter. Similarly having been too long without a haircut can make the headset more likely to not fit. But, again, I think it speaks volumes about my satisfaction with the earbuds that getting a haircut is a better solution than looking for another pair of headphones.

As with many older manufacturing companies Sony has a terribly obtuse naming system for their many products. I’m not wholly sure but I figure the DR-BT160AS means something like this: “DR” seems to be associated with other Bluetooth (or at least wireless) Sony headphones. “BT” likely stands for “Bluetooth” and “AS” for “Active Series” – the name for the sports line.

I’ve looked again and again over the years, Sony doesn’t seem to have any similar products still available. But if they do make something similar, I’ll be sure to check it out, as I’m probably more satisfied with the build quality, comfort, and durability of the Sony DR-BT160AS than I am with with any other electronic device I’ve ever purchased.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Sears Radio Theater: Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu [RADIO DRAMA]

October 21, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

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Carmilla - illustration by Dean Kotz

Vincent Price hosts this adaptation of J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic vampire story. The setting is changed, moving the events up to 1922, and placing the action in Vienna. Price begins the program quoting these lines from Lord Byron’s 1813 poem, The Giaour:

Bur first, on earth as Vampire sent,
Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent:
Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
And suck the blood of all thy race;

Sears Radio TheaterSears Radio Theater – Carmilla
Adapted from the novella by Sheridan Le Fanu; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 47 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: CBS
Broadcast: March 7, 1979
Source: Archive.org

Cast:
Antoinette Bower
Ann Givin

[image by Dean Kotz]

Posted by Jesse Willis

CBSRMT: Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu [RADIO DRAMA]

October 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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Carmilla adapted for Creepy Magazine #19 (1967)

Told as if from 70 years after the events, this adaptation of the classic of Gothic Fiction, is very very good. For more opinions check out the comments over on the CBSRMT.com page for this episode.

CBS Radio Mystery TheaterCBSRMT #0318 – Carmilla
Adapted by Ian Martin from the novellette by J. Sheridan Le Fanu; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 44 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: CBS
Broadcast: July 31, 1975
Source: CBSRMT.com
In 20th century Austria, a young woman and her widower father are charged with the welfare of a female ward. The two girls grow up like sisters but a terrible secret in the orphan’s past threatens to tear their lives asunder.

Cast:
Court Benson
Staats Cotsworth
Martha Greenhouse
Mercedes McCambridge
Marian Seldes

And here the |PDF| of the original story.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of A New Dawn

October 21, 2014 by · 2 Comments
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Star Wars New DawnA New Dawn (Star Wars)
By John Jackson Miller; Narrated by Marc Thompson
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 2 September 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 12 hours, 43 minutes

Themes: / Star Wars / Dark Times / rebels / Jedi / Empire /

Publisher summary:

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….

“The war is over. The Separatists have been defeated, and the Jedi rebellion has been foiled. We stand on the threshold of a new beginning.” (Emperor Palpatine)

For a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights brought peace and order to the Galactic Republic, aided by their connection to the mystical energy field known as the Force. But they were betrayed – and the entire galaxy has paid the price. It is the Age of the Empire.

Now Emperor Palpatine, once Chancellor of the Republic and secretly a Sith follower of the dark side of the Force, has brought his own peace and order to the galaxy. Peace through brutal repression, and order through increasing control of his subjects’ lives.

But even as the Emperor tightens his iron grip, others have begun to question his means and motives. And still others, whose lives were destroyed by Palpatine’s machinations, lay scattered about the galaxy like unexploded bombs, waiting to go off….

The first Star Wars novel created in collaboration with the Lucasfilm Story Group, Star Wars: A New Dawn is set during the legendary “Dark Times” between Episodes III and IV and tells the story of how two of the lead characters from the animated series Star Wars Rebels first came to cross paths. Featuring a foreword by Dave Filoni.

This is it: The beginning of the new Star Wars content after the entire expanded universe became “legends” and it is….decent. Not awesome but also not bad. It’s hard to be objective because John Jackson Miller is charged with kicking off all new characters with all new adventures, and that feels much different from previous stories with established characters. I was kind of disappointed with the characters because this was an opportunity to be unique and they chose to make recycled versions of previous Star Wars characters. That said, the book was the normal action packed Star Wars adventure you’d expect and didn’t actually end the way I assumed it would – which I liked. I’d recommend this book to Star Wars fans or those interested in the new Rebels show (since this precedes it in the timeline) but would still point to Timothy Zahn’s work as a real gateway drug into Star Wars books.

Miller does a great job getting the feel of Star Wars in this book but the story also feels a bit like the characters from Star Wars have been recycled a bit:

Kanan Jarrus: A bit of a rogue with budding jedi powers kept hidden. He comes of like 30% Luke and 70% Han. Marc Thompson didn’t use either his Luke or Han voice for this character but I noticed him slipping somewhat into a Han voice on some of the more roguish moments.
Hera: Leia meets Mara Jade. She’s all about investigating wrong doing by the Empire, runs around with a hood up, and does some spy-type stuff.
Count Vidian: Evil cyborg guy that works for the Empire. I guess you always need an evil guy that is mostly machine (Vader/Grievous) to show how much they’re lost their humanity.
Skelly: This guy’s hi-jinks just make me think of Jar Jar Binks. No weird accent at least.

The main plot of the story revolves around the Empire wanting to increase efficiency of their mining of a mineral they need for expanding the fleet. The Empire shows up with the ruthless efficiency expert Count Vidian to make the miners be more efficient or else. Action and drama ensue from there and I always find it amazing how many times an author can get all the good and bad guys together only to have people escape / not get hurt and continue on with their plans. I thought the story was pretty well thought out and there were interesting revelations about characters and their motivations throughout the story so it wasn’t just straightforward action.

One thing that kind of annoyed me was a fairly major thread that seems to serve as an allegory to all the leaks in the media lately. There are contractors that monitor citizens (a la 1984) via hidden cameras and microphones but that monitoring has gotten out of hand since the emperor came to power. There is even a “military contractor” that is a whistle blower….. All of this may not have been intentional but it sure felt like it.

As for the audio side of things, Marc Thompson did a great job as usual. If you’ve listened to a Star Wars book narrated by him before, you’ve heard his different voices and know what to expect. All the great Star Wars sound effects, atmospheric sounds, and music are there too. I may be less critical now, but I thought all of that was better done, less distracting, and contributed a bit better to this story than in some others I’ve listened to in the past.

And just a fun treat, this isn’t from this particular Star Wars novel but the same narrator:

 

Posted by Tom Schreck

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