The SFFaudio Podcast #383 – READALONG: The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

August 22, 2016 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #383 – Jesse, Bryan Alexander, and Steen Hansen talk about The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton.

Talked about on today’s show:
1969, before the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, contemporary critics, SF critics vs. mainstream critics, the defense of the ghetto against interlopers, Ray Bradbury, Doris Lessing, a deep feeling, spoiling the book, showing what was wrong with it, getting the facts wrong, interpretation, Luke Burrage reviewing, Robert J. Sawyer, bad writing, had they done nothing … nothing would have happened, the mutation, the Wildfire facility, Star Trek, scientists out for the good of humanity, self-destruct sequences, MAD: Mutually Assured Destruction, every nuclear sub movie, film-like, The Ipcress File by Len Deighton, airport fiction tropes, hyper competent high level government high tech mcguffins, brain-washing, novel -> film, written for film?, ER, picky fiddly science and bureaucratic operation, killed or useless, trusted scientists to save the world, ruthlessly hard science, Hollywood couldn’t make this movie now, restrained, chilly, the gender swap, Robert Wise, Shirley Jackson, The Haunting Of Hill House, Alfred Bester, a document dump, classified material, overloading the reader with verisimilitude, Eaters Of The Dead by Michael Crichton, The Thirteenth Warrior, Vikings, Russians and Byzantium, completely bullshit, Mr. Bullshit, regular SF vs. techno-thriller, a yummy INFODUMP, nobody had a definition for life, black cloth, a watch, a piece of granite, pure Science Fiction, Bryan’s mind destroyed at age 8, binary numbers, lasers vs. darts, Larry Niven, 24, Colossus: The Forbin Project, Steen welcomes our robot overlord, high-scale AI, Iain M. Banks, humans as pets, humans as cogs, I Have No Mouth And I must Scream, Prof. Eric S. Rabkin, Dante Alighieri, lost race, the descent into Hell, from red to blue, the harrowing of Hell, a cold war story where the Russians aren’t the bad guys, The Bedford Incident, James Follett’s The Light Of A Thousand Suns, set in the recent past, the shotgun approach, Margaret Atwood, picking and choosing at the buffet table, dedicated to A.C.D., M.D. -> Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle -> Dr. Michael Crichton, “not a new story”, the glowing review in Life magazine, a retelling of The Blob, the Technovelgy, auto-doc, the suppressed cancer drug, Jensen Pharmaceuticals, gut flora, nudity and ass-grabbing, rectal suppository, astro-Tang, coffee, all that cleaning, they’re too holy, the five levels is a gimmick, the leveling, it’s bullshit!, we all know we have to wash our hands, the Wikipedia entry for the Airport Genre

Airport novel(s) represent a literary genre that is not so much defined by its plot or cast of stock characters, as much as it is by the social function it serves. An airport novel is typically a fairly long but fast-paced novel of intrigue or adventure that is stereotypically found in the reading fare offered by airport newsstands for travelers to read in the rounds of sitting and waiting that constitute air travel.

Rudyard Kipling’s fiction was published as a railway magazine, the origin of pulp fiction, The Lion’s Game by Nelson DeMille, the opening to The Strain, having the reins of political power at your fingertips, in the 2008 miniseries remake, back stories/love stories, a muddy anti-science mess, pre-Apollo -> Watergate -> conspiracy theories, the technical glitch (paper between the bell and the striker), germ warfare?!, the remake of The Manchurian Cantidate, the films and adaptations reflect the times, the 2008 version is super-militarized, X-18, F-4 phantoms, Dracula, the long gothic tradition of found documents, Plan 9 From Outer Space, a cold war document, The Parallax View, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Crichton like Spielberg loves power, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark, medical people as superheroes, uber-expert scientists, power fantasy fiction, scepticism of power, image Michael Crichton at a Science Fiction convention, the immune reaction, You are not of the body!, techno-thrillers, why Ian Fleming’s James Bond books became so popular, JFK, Ronald Reagan was a big fan of Tom Clancy, The Hunt For Red October, Reagan based foreign policy of Red Storm Rising, Jack Ryan was a wonk Navy -> CIA agent -> CIA Director -> President, Firefox, political fiction written for a jet-set audience, conservative Heinleinian, Andromeda Strain cosplay?, Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, SF writers save the world from alien invasion, science matters vs. science fiction, the first biology crisis, outflanking the ghetto, the 2006 Worldcon, Greg Benford, Greg Bear, David Brin, thinking up scenarios, if I was a terrorist how would I destroy the the United States, Wildfire, Cold War contingency planning, the Rand Corporation, the odd-man out element, his name was Hall but should have been Corridor, does this make sense?, the odd man is gay?, The Odd Couple, gay coding?, gay men are most likely to turn off nukes?, The Great Train Robbery, timing pacing planning tricking, that roller-coaster spark, opening observation, we are always observing, fun fiction for Henry Kissinger and the jet set, bureaucrats of a class, this function material is reflective, Science Fiction writers are poor, Robert Silverberg, Lawrence Block and Donald Westlake, Isaac Asimov, a biology book, Paul Di Filippo, bio-punk, Ribo-funk, The Bay (2012), The Hot Zone, the wet science, cloning, the neglected science, Coma, Protector by Larry Niven, how electron-microscopes work, crystallography, “it mutated”?!?!?, that was odd, it’s communicating with itself, block-chain virus, deep hurting, The Door Into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski, medicine without silicon, the Patriarchy, The Highest Frontier, Blood Music by Greg Bear, a Halo novel, The Wind From A Burning Woman, a “wild” writing style, bio is hard to do, Pontypool, prions, the worst part of The Walking Dead, we’re all infected, a symbol for regular death, Titan by John Varley, a 100ft tall Marilyn Monroe monster, The Satan Bug by Alistair Maclean (1962), where does the techno-thriller begin, a precursor to techno-thriller, The Stolen Bacillus by H.G. Wells, a really obvious anarchist, Wells defused the whole genre for sixty years, The Food Of The Gods, a convincing linguistic maneuver, fawning of technology bureaucracy power and the function of government, a stack of Jane’s Fighting Ships, the Sputnik shock, British invasion novels, Tom Clancy as a zombie brand, special helicopter trip, massive government expenditure for the competent man, an empty jetliner, vicarious thrill, power fantasy, “he’s the most important person right now”, this is our bailiwick!, nice and short, Dean Koontz, Phantoms, A Game Of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, Ghost Fleet by August Cole and P.W. Singer, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child books, no CRISPR, China is no Soviet Union, futurism, education moves so slowly, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, an X-Box with Paranoid Linux, Reamde by Neal Stephenson, a Kurt Vonnegut vibe, a Welsh Muslim terrorist, like pornography you know a techno-thriller when you see it.

The dedication for The Andromeda Strain

title page for The Andromeda Strain

Algis Budrys review of The Andromeda Strain

Life Magazine review of The Andromeda Strain

The Andromeda Strain - illustration by Dusty Abell

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton - Random House Audio read by Chris Noth

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Good Morning, Midnight

August 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Good Morning, MidnightGood Morning, Midnight
By Lily Brooks-Dalton; Narrated by John H. Mayer and Hillary Huber
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 9 August 2016
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 hours, 39 minutes

Themes: / post-apocalypse / apocalypse / arctic / astronaut / science / literary /

Publisher summary:

Augustine, a brilliant, aging astronomer, is consumed by the stars. For years he has lived in remote outposts, studying the sky for evidence of how the universe began. At his latest posting, in a research center in the Arctic, news of a catastrophic event arrives. The scientists are forced to evacuate, but Augustine stubbornly refuses to abandon his work. Shortly after the others have gone, Augustine discovers a mysterious child, Iris, and realizes that the airwaves have gone silent. They are alone.

At the same time, Mission Specialist Sullivan is aboard the Aether on its return flight from Jupiter. The astronauts are the first human beings to delve this deep into space, and Sully has made peace with the sacrifices required of her: a daughter left behind, a marriage ended. So far the journey has been a success. But when Mission Control falls inexplicably silent, Sully and her crewmates are forced to wonder if they will ever get home.

As Augustine and Sully each face an uncertain future against forbidding yet beautiful landscapes, their stories gradually intertwine in a profound and unexpected conclusion. In crystalline prose, Good Morning, Midnight poses the most important questions: What endures at the end of the world? How do we make sense of our lives? Lily Brooks-Dalton’s captivating debut is a meditation on the power of love and the bravery of the human heart.

Review:
Isolation, loneliness, facing down death. This book contains two interwoven narrative threads. One belongs to an aging astronomer named Augustine. The other thread belongs to an astronaut named Sullivan. Something bad appears to have happened, and Augustine chooses to remain at a remote Arctic base as everyone evacuates. Sullivan is on her way back to Earth from Jupiter when Mission Control goes dark.

The premise is appealing. I have a fondness for cold and hard distant landscapes. The arctic and space is ripe and powerful for story. Lily Brooks-Dalton writes a strong opening and a heck of an ending. It is a successful ending as it turns me inward. I am still thinking about… well, no spoilers.

I felt Sullivan’s narrative thread was stronger and better written. As character, she is more round and engaging than Augustine, at least for me. Most of my complaints are founded in my own study of writing and story, and may not be fair or interesting to the general reader. As characters go, Augustine was a disappointment, but Sullivan and her crewmates more than compensated. As noted, I felt the beginning and ending was especially well crafted, but the middle seemed to lag, and the writing here didn’t feel as refined. This leads me to my biggest bug, and this is pacing. I felt that too much of this story was back on its heels, and while this certainly can be metaphor to mirror an inward introspective sense of self and life and universe, at times this slowness pulled me from story. I also would have appreciated a deeper excavation of setting.

Audiobook:
This has two narrators, one for each story thread. John H. Mayer handles Augustine’s portion, and Hillary Huber takes care of Sullivan’s. I usually dislike more than one narrator, as I feel it runs the risk of getting in the way of what is being read, but this was handled quite nice, and I have no real complaints about the decision to use two readers. Both Mayer and Huber were pleasing and I found each voice suited the character. My only issue came with Huber’s accents. There is a South African, Russian, and an American Midwest accent that are rendered a tad dramatic. I think we can agree that this is a small thing, but it still kind of bugged me, and pulled me out of the moment.

This is a solid 3.5 out of 5, and I think if I weren’t so hyperaware of craft and story as story for story’s sake, I’d probably nail a 4 out of 5 on this book. In short, this is a fine book, and if you are at all interested by what this seems to be about, I think you’ll genuinely like it, a lot.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

 

Reading, Short And Deep #028 – The Storyteller by Saki

August 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

Reading, Short And DeepReading, Short And Deep #028

Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss The Storyteller by Saki (aka H.H. Munro)

Here’s a link to a PDF of the story.

The Storyteller was first published in Beasts And Super-Beasts (1914).

Podcast feed https://sffaudio.herokuapp.com/rsd/rss

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

The SFFaudio Podcast #382 – READALONG: Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini

August 15, 2016 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #382 – Jesse, Paul, Julie Davis, and Maissa talk about Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini.

Talked about on today’s show:
1921, Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk, The Count Of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, the morality of this character, on his high horse, betraying the Revolution, completely detached, everybody in this novel is morally gray, maddeningly indistinct, not a hero, historical explanation, that is why the book is named “Scaramouche”, he is the goad, acting as Scaramouche, Aline holds up the virtue, the epitaph on Sabatini’s gravestone, a Prisoner Of Zenda situation, based on somebody real, “A Romance Of The French Revolution”, incendiary speeches, the “Paladin of the Third”, critiquing the excesses of the French Revolution, pro-Jacobean, the character has knowledge of the future, excusing a lot of the morality, we don’t know what he’s thinking until he opens his mouth, good writing, “the tiger is the great lord of the jungle…”, hunting the tiger, solidifying what the revolution meant, dual (duel) motivation, playing the actor, foreshadowing, acting, taking on the role of actor (orator and paladin), a Heinleinian hyper-competent character, the author forces the other Scaramouche off-stage, the comedy and drama, a great sequence, becoming the mask, the inner portion of his life is reflected out on to the stage, he is himself as his purest expression, he is best as Scaramouche, he’s happiest and most content as himself as Scaramouche, you did WHAT with WHO?, we are all the sport of destiny, why look at adaptations, the 1952 movie, dad vs. brother, liberty, equality fraternity, the Robe, Omnus Omnibus, the Buskin, the Sword, enraging the audience, the privileged estates, it becomes very meta, William Shakespeare, a horrible sequel (Scaramouche: The Kingmaker), the puppetry, the author is puppetting the characters, traditional swashbuckler, The Princess Pride without the comedy, other ways of telling the story, a revenge tale, A Tale Of Two Cities, Nicholas Nickleby, reading old books, writers who were ravenous readers first, Donald Westlake (Richard Stark), the Parker series, roll and repeat adventures, Scaramouche is just living, accessory criminals, Alan Grofield is an actor/criminal who gets his own spin-off series, The Score by Richard Stark, The Damsel, The Dame, The Blackbird, Benet, there is the other way…, Sabatini’s weakness is his third act, in the center of Islam, Simon Vance’s narration of Scaramouche, Gord Mackenzie’s narration (for LibriVox), expletive deleted, name of name!, in keeping with the 19th century literary tradition, a lost tale of the French Revolution, Lord Valentine’s Castle by Robert Silverberg, wandering Scaramouche-style, juggling, waking-up with amnesia, quasi-global government, The Old Curiosity Shop, commedia dell’arte, pantomime, improv, Who’s Line Is It Anyway?, pantaloon, harlequin, the little skirmisher, Shakespeare’s types, a learned-fool, a brooding older man, the maiden -> the nurse -> the matron, you’re playing pantaloon, more meta, reading books to become a fencing master, the opening is rather boring, but soon after we’re in a sword-fight, the man-on-the-run genre, as a lawyer, taking sides, raising and destroying a company, the trainee becomes the master, friendship, friendships that betray him, caring enough, carrying on a legacy, sucking up to power, at heart a good guy despite the threats, in bed or on board, the 1952 adaptation’s ending is better than the novel’s, a young Corsican officer, played for comedy, the seven-minute fight in the theater, I will meet you behind the cathedral, killing members of the titled classes, weird morality, shooting a good guy and forgiving the man you’re after revenge for, Mel Ferrer, “he had a string of wives and I understand why”, The Taming Of The Shrew, Stewart Granger, he’s not handsome, aha!, an unhandsome Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power, star-quality, The Prisoner Of Zenda, deep into French Revolution politics, the Revolutions Podcast, aristocrats vs. the Third Estate, deep into the weeds, we’re on a powder keg politically (brexit), biting off your own to spite your face, the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the titled (and entitled) classes, the estates: Nobility 1st, Church 2nd, 3rd People, 24% of the population of with 90% of the power, justice for the rich vs. justice for the poor, production efficiency since the French Revolution, the food industry, 1% of the 1%, everybody is fed, far away to the left, the sucking up to power is still around, class betrayal, bastard children, I was betrayed!, everybody is secretly noble, never mind all that revenge, that’s the reality we live in, the book is very realistic, people are people are people, there’s something noble about liberty, equality, fraternity, the resistors to change were pulling dirty tricks, sabotage and betrayal, “noble” and “honorable”, a calculated attack, a professional boxer challenging me to a fist-fight in the street, why dueling is banned, UFC, we should use our words (lawyers), Jesse went off, same sex relationships in 1796, can we not get passed this?, they freed every slave, a very honorable action, high morality, Alexandre Dumas’ father, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss, Napoleon is a sketchy character, the Haitian Revolution, the Church’s stranglehold on France is gone, Quebec, the Quiet Revolution, Napoleon literally sold Louisiana out, Captain Blood, slavery in Barbados, many many pirates, given our success with Scaramouche … could a LibriVox narrator record Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk?

Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini - Famous Authors Illustrated
Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini - Famous Authors Illustrated

Posted by Jesse Willis

Reading, Short And Deep #027 – Gertie The Dinosaur

August 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

Reading, Short And DeepReading, Short And Deep #027

Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss Gertie The Dinosaur

Gertie The Dinosaur is an 1914 animated short film by Winsor McCay.

Here’s an MP4 download of the movie.

Podcast feed https://sffaudio.herokuapp.com/rsd/rss

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

The SFFaudio Podcast #381 – AUDIOBOOK: Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini

August 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #381 – Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini, read by Gordon Mackenzie.

This UNABRIDGED AUDIOBOOK (16 hours 50 minutes) comes to us courtesy of LibriVox.

Scaramouche was first published in 1921.

The next SFFaudio Podcast will feature our discussion of it!

Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini

Posted by Jesse Willis

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