Themes: / horror / numismatists / hidey-holes / secrets /
What happens when, on a perfectly ordinary evening, all the things you believed in and took for granted are turned upside down?
When her husband of more than 20 years is away on one of his business trips, Darcy Anderson looks for batteries in the garage. Her toe knocks up against a box under a worktable and she discovers the stranger inside her husband. It’s a horrifying discovery, rendered with bristling intensity, and it definitively ends a good marriage.
The audio version of this longish short story clocks in at three hours and thirty-three minutes. It harbors no SF, fantasy, or supernatural components, which frequently inhabit King’s works. This is a straightforward horror/suspense piece. But for a few slack portions of the narrative, the pacing is pleasing, the exposition is handled briskly and cleanly, and the characters feel genuine rather than clunky marionettes.
The murder details are gruesome and chilling, and at least one crime involves a child. What would we do if suddenly the person we thought we knew the most turned out to be a psychotic stranger? Well, some of us might fight for justice. Others may simply, and quietly, acquiesce, and hope that the bad things will blow away on a summer wind.
King’s knack for building tension through honest character behavior delivers a deep sense of atmosphere. The writing is typical King, and the absence of flowery adjectives combined with sturdy nouns and verbs only bolsters the work, cracking that bell of authenticity harder.
Jessica Hecht is the narrator. Initially I found her delivery over the top and forced. But as the reading progressed, and I felt my way into her rhythm and style of narration, I realized her interpretation really did feel true to the characters.
I think fans of King will find this appealing, and most likely will have already read this in the collection Full Dark, No Stars . But I doubt that newcomers to King will want to start with this piece.
Posted by Casey Hampton.
Themes: / zombies / detectives / urban fantasy / humor / wizards / thieving lawn gnomes /
There’s something fishy going on in the Unnatural Quarter. Bodies are floating face-down, the plumbing is backing up, and something smells rotten – even to a zombie detective like Dan Shamble. Diving into the slimy underbelly of a diabolical plot, Dan comes face-to-tentacles with an amphibious villain named Ah’Chulhu (to which the usual response is “Gesundheit!”). With his snap-happy gang of gator-guys – former pets flushed down the toilet – Ah’Chulhu wreaks havoc beneath the streets. While feuding weather wizards kick up storms and a gang of thieving lawn gnomes continues their reign of terror, Dan Shamble is running out of time – before the whole stinking city goes down the drain.
The cases don’t solve themselves so Dan ‘Shamble’ is back with a whole new set of cases to solve in the unnatural quarter. Many familiar faces make appearances as in previous novels but this can be read on it’s own with no prior knowledge of the series. If you can’t tell from the cover and premise, this is a supernatural humor novel with a diverse cast of supernatural creatures, chock full of puns that could even make your crazy uncle groan. If that sounds like something fun to you or you’ve enjoyed previous novels in this series – you will like this novel. If that doesn’t sound great to you or you’re on the fence….you’ll probably hate this book because it doesn’t take itself seriously at all.
You can tell Kevin J. Anderson probably had fun writing this novel. He puts a lot of tongue-in-cheek commentary about book writing, publishing, and the nature of best sellers in here (more than previous novels). He goes to great lengths to set up a scene for things happening just to slip a one liner in there.
As for the audio side of things, Phil Gigante continues to shine in this series. The cartoony nature of the characters lets him use a wide range of voices. He really handles the comedic nature of the novel well and puts a good amount of inflection in his tone.
Posted by Tom Schreck
The Future for Curious People
By Gregory Sherl; Narrated by Heather Corrigan and Justin Torres
Publisher: HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
Publication Date: 2 September 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 9 hours, 30 minutes
Themes: / near future / technology / relationships / librarians /
Meet Evelyn and Godfrey. Evelyn is breaking up with her boyfriend, who’s passing out advertisements for his band on a snowy street corner in Baltimore. She’s seen their dismal future together at Dr. Chin’s office: she and her boyfriend, both many years older, singing “Happy Birthday” to a Chihuahua and arguing about cheese. She hopes for more. Meanwhile, Godfrey is proposing to his girlfriend, Madge, who’s not quite willing to take that leap; she wants to see their future together first—just to be sure they’re meant for each other. The Future for Curious People follows Evelyn and Godfrey’s soon-to-be-entwined lives, set in motion by the fabulist premise of a world with envisionists like Dr. Chin. In struggling with their pasts and possible futures, the characters encounter the mysteries of sorrow, love, death, and fate. It’s a story that will capture you with its brightness, its hopefulness, its anxious twists and turns. It is a love story that is ultimately a statement about happiness and how to accept our fleeting existence.
This was a highly enjoyable book about people who can’t help but look into their relationship futures, with great consequences to their current entanglements. The two narrators on the audiobook portray Godfrey Burkes and Evelyn the Librarian very well, alongside distinguishable minor characters with different voices. The varieties of futures don’t get old, in fact they relate to one another and connect to the futures of other characters, as they should.
The book made me laugh quite a few times – it’s the kind of humor that’s just cute, like a romantic comedy. I’m a sucker for light, cute stories when the characters are bookish or quirky or otherwise unusual. This fits the bill!
Posted by Jenny Colvin
The SFFaudio Podcast #286 – The Red One by Jack London; read by Oliver Wyman. This is an unabridged reading of the novelette (1 hour 3 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Bryan Alexander, and Oliver Wyman.
Talked about on today’s show:
Bryan and Ollie, 1918, WWI, Jack London in Hawaii, a super science fiction story, H.G. Wells, existential concerns, the misogyny and racism, “unbeautiful”, London was racist and anti-racist, Lovecraft, cosmic science fiction, a beautiful sad ending, a transcendent ending, the motifs (motives), head and finger injuries, head blown off, his guide loses his head, the final head chopping, the devil devil house, twisting in the smoke, breadfruit, banyan, God’s Grace by Bernard Malamud, the Solomon Islands, Guadalcanal, the mosquitoes, headhunting, blackbirding is essentially slavery, giant butterflies, the Atlas Moth, it’s not an alien spaceship is it?, Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, Philip K. Dick, unresolved endings, a potential stage production of Flow My Tears The Policeman Said, a giant alien head, the striker has helmeted figures, ancient astronauts is the next year, 1919, Charles Fort, Erich von Däniken, Jack London’s 10 Sex Tips, Cosmopolitan -> cosmos -> cosmetology, Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke, The Sentinel by Arthur C. Clarke, a tripwire, a Lovecraftian sense of the universe, explorer narratives, Mungo Park, Bassett,
“And beneath that roof was an aerial ooze of vegetation, a monstrous, parasitic dripping of decadent life- forms that rooted in death and lived on death.”
Robert E. Howard, Solomon Kane, Mexico, London stole from others and his own life, journal writing, Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, “the abrupt liberation of sound”, the walls of Jericho…, two score feet in length, an alien ark, the libraries of supermen from other stars?, the Jungian analysis, a giant egg with Bassett as a sperm, Earle Labor, the ending resonates, the red one as a mandala, from a distance it appears lacquered, fever dreams, childhood hallucinations and visions, what’s the logic behind head-hunting, mortification, the other white man’s head, helmeted figures sitting inside the mouths of crocodiles, a labour of thousands of years, the twelve tribes, breadfruit is called “nimbalo” in the Solomon Islands -> “nimbus”, ringmanu -> Manu -> the progenitor of all humanity, the twelve apostles, the red one is a voice, twelve deaf apostles, gospel = good news, cure it well, immortality, London was a super-atheist, Lovecraft was an atheist, the harsh horrifying reality of death, “the serene face of the Medusa. Truth.”, Lovecraft’s poems, Alethia Phrikodes, “Omnia risus et omnia pulvis et omnia nihil”, Thomas Ligotti, True Detective, “I think human consciousness, is a tragic misstep in evolution. … species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction”, Edgar Allan Poe, Songs Of A Dead Dreamer, The Conspiracy Against The Human Race, Pseudopod The Bungalow House, being a narrator doesn’t give you time to read, comics maybe, The Manhattan Projects, dealing with the problem of physical, Rainbow’s End, Geoffrey Household, Limbo by Bernard Wolfe, not enough physical volume in the universe, books with maps, books with art, Eadweard Muybridge, Jeff Bezos, ebooks are notorious for not having good art in them, the art of Alex Ross as a PDF, London as a tangible writer, “a mighty cry of some titan of the elder world”, Olaf Stapledon, Starmaker, the separation of the soul and the body, you are your head, the martians in The War Of The Worlds, who is telling this story?, feelings and questions, The Call Of The Wild, he’s a basset hound chasing after a big red ball, London was a dog man, the two dog books, The Sea Wolf is an intense book, To Build Fire, “the cold of space”, a hypnagogic state, the physical and the philosophical, The Iron Heel, so many writers never leave the room where they write the book, the premise for The Red One was suggested by George Sterling, A Wine Of Wizardry, what if aliens sent a message to the earth and it was not understood, if it had been shot, the gun that doesn’t go off, King Kong and Skull Island, a cynical take on religion, the Cosmopolitan illustrations, definitely an artifice, the core of a star that fell to Earth, aliens came out and they killed them, ships or jet fighters, organic ships, the spore of the organic ships, Prometheus, worth looking at and listening to, the most expensive work of fan fiction ever made, the autodoc scene, this is the thing that didn’t need to be made, Alien, Ron Cobb and Geiger, 1966, the year of Star Trek and Batman, Alan Dean Foster, Alien: The Illustrated Story by Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson, recent alien invasion fiction, Footfall, Protector by Larry Niven, infantilized aliens, the fruit of the tree of life, Forge Of God by Greg Bear, “I have bad news”, Orson Scott Card, reared by robots, astrogation, Anvil Of Stars by Greg Bear, Sundiver by David Brin, Forbidden Planet, Glen Cook‘s Starfisher series, Captain Harlock, Anathem by Neal Stephenson, William Dufris, the glossary, Gateway by Frederik Pohl, mushrooms, characters in therapy, one of the greatest works of Science Fiction period, the serialization of Gateway in Galaxy, Dagon by H.P. Lovecraft, 1920, The Temple, black muck, they’ve got cults going.
Posted by Jesse Willis
By David Cronenberg; Narrated by William Hurt
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: 30 September 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 12 hours, 50 minutes
Themes: / body horror / technofear / medical / sex / conspiracy /
The exhilarating debut novel by iconic filmmaker David Cronenberg: the story of two journalists whose entanglement in a French philosopher’s death becomes a surreal journey into global conspiracy.
Stylish and camera-obsessed, Naomi and Nathan thrive on the yellow journalism of the social-media age. They are lovers and competitors – nomadic freelancers in pursuit of sensation and depravity, encountering each other only in airport hotels and browser windows.
Naomi finds herself drawn to the headlines surrounding Célestine and Aristide Arosteguy, Marxist philosophers and sexual libertines. Célestine has been found dead and mutilated in her Paris apartment. Aristide has disappeared. Police suspect him of killing her and consuming parts of her body. With the help of an eccentric graduate student named Hervé Blomqvist, Naomi sets off in pursuit of Aristide. As she delves deeper into Célestine and Aristide’s lives, disturbing details emerge about their sex life – which included trysts with Hervé and others. Can Naomi trust Hervé to help her?
Nathan, meanwhile, is in Budapest photographing the controversial work of an unlicensed surgeon named Zoltán Molnár, once sought by Interpol for organ trafficking. After sleeping with one of Molnár’s patients, Nathan contracts a rare STD called Roiphe’s. Nathan then travels to Toronto, determined to meet the man who discovered the syndrome. Dr. Barry Roiphe, Nathan learns, now studies his own adult daughter, whose bizarre behavior masks a devastating secret. These parallel narratives become entwined in a gripping, dreamlike plot that involves geopolitics, 3-D printing, North Korea, the Cannes Film Festival, cancer, and, in an incredible number of varieties, sex. Consumed is an exuberant, provocative debut novel from one of the world’s leading film directors.
“Let me unbox you…”
This is a novel best suited to two audiences: those looking for innovative horror, and people interested in visionary possibilities of new media. It would also be good for fans of first-time novelist David Cronenberg’s work in film, but I suspect they’d fall into the first two categories.
(I fall into all three, being a lifelong Cronenberg fan since I first saw the mad genius of Videodrome.)
Consumed is, as one might expect from the author, a challenging and strange book. I can describe the plot like this: two journalists investigate a Parisian crime, wherein a husband killed and ate part of his wife. The (former) couple were influential philosophers, Célestine and Aristide Arosteguy, and a cute parody of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. They made waves with a theory of consumer society (hence one meaning of the title). Naomi and Nathan are lovers and colleagues, fellow gadget hounds, but they usually live apart, and follow their joint inquiry along separate, parallel lines.
What follows is a picaresque or road trip, as the two N’s travel the world: Paris, Japan, Canada, Hungary, Cannes, Holland. Cronenberg teasingly refuses to give us much local color, offering instead the thin, usually tech-mediated views of our protagonists, or sketches of the people they meet.
So much for the plot’s initial action. But I’d also need to tell you more about the book’s style. Consumed adores its surfaces and fetishes. It lovingly describes clothing, technologies, record covers (oh yes), body parts, and interior decorating exactly as far as major characters obsess over them. Technology looms large; this is very much a novel about modern digital devices and how we intimately use them.
Consumed is also about pushing against discussing awkward or awful topics, mostly in a horrific way. Without spoilering too much, I can mention offhandedly cannibalism, murder, autocannibalism, apotemnophilia, acrotomophilia, deformed body parts, sexually transmitted diseases, cancerous body parts, and medical fetishism. Which brings us back to Cronenberg’s tone. He doesn’t revel in these topics, but comes to them thoughtfully, from a character’s mind, almost (and sometimes literally) clinically.
In a sense Consumed is an update of Videodrome, a deep dive into our current media obsessions and how they warp (and delight) ourselves. “Naomi was in the screen” is how it begins. In a sense this is about limitation, especially by the end. Yet Cronenberg isn’t simply a techno-skeptic, at least not in the text; he’s too fond of devices and their powers. He sees their depths, and shares them with us through his well-informed, perverse vision.
It’s also a horror novel by any stretch of the term. There’s body horror, dread, suspense, and even a touch of something deeper by the end.
It is also funny, although not everyone laughs with me. There are running gags, like many characters’ obsession with landing a New Yorker story, or in Naomi and Nathan’s banter, or nearly everything the bad Hungarian surgeon says.
I’d recommend this to the audiences mentioned above.
William Hurt does a terrific job with the audiobook overall, handling a wide range of accents. He seems especially at home with Aristide Arosteguy’s voice. Early on Hurt inserts odd, non-Shatnerian pauses into sentences that disconcert, but this ceases by the middle of the book. It’s a pleasure to listen to.
Posted by Bryan A.
The SFFaudio Podcast #285 – Jesse, Scott, Luke, and Jenny talk about The Girl Who Was Plugged In by James Triptree, Jr.
Talked about on today’s show:
Alice Sheldon, why no audiobook?, how James Triptree, Jr. died, the award, the Virginia Kidd agency, the PDF version, who owns it?, James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips, Her Smoke Rode Up Forever, she was a spy, Racoona Sheldon, a murder/suicide or a suicide pact?, nearly blind, what would Seth think of that?, Huntington D. Sheldon, OSS -> CIA, Cordwainer Smith, Jesse is glad “new wave” is dead, re-reading, you must pay close attention, grammar, a potential audio version, caps and italics, Scott’s proto-cyberpunk, story summary, holographic TV, a “waldo” system, product placement advertizing, the 1998 TV adaptation for Welcome To Paradox (was very faithful), emotional, internal, the weird framing style device, is it NEW WAVE?, J.G. Ballard, an ancient version of the singularity, the reader needs to do a lot more work, Day Million by Frederik Pohl, who is the narrator talking to?, “Listen zombie, believe me…”, the truth is in question, Scott is falling down the Jesse Well, Evel Knievel, media and money, someone goes time traveling, the sharp faced lad, Luke goes biblical, why do we need firm ground?, P. Burke, a media controlled dystopia, post-modern stream of consciousness, its set in the 1970s, “Nixon Unveils Phase 2″, a loopy temporal anomalyizer project, bringing the horrible future into being, investment opportunities, what do people do in this future?, the Wikipedia entry on product placement, “gods”, media consumers, Kyle Marquis @Moochava tweet: “Yearly reminder: unless you’re over 60, you weren’t promised flying cars. You were promised an oppressive cyberpunk dystopia. Here you go.”, dystopic is this?, reserving the word dystopia, “a bad place”, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, a world community, “the world is a dystopia for poor people”, buying into it, required consumption, a softer opt-in dystopia, Wool by Hugh Howey, the lack of truth, the six people in the GTX tower, Rupert Murdoch, government control vs. corporate control, biography of Anonymous, Wikileaks, Amazon.com, PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, Russia, Jony Ive, Jeff Bezos, Google, this one person, this relationship, the emotional part of the story, a suicide attempt, “her eyes leak a little”, the godlings, media stars, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, the family and the fourth wall, a tax-dodge marriage, the narrator is full of contempt for everything, a soap opera and the show around that, Jean Harlow‘s story, the actress in that movie vs. the person in that life, her Prada bag, her Jimmy Choo, her iPhone 6, the meta-story, the movies remind us why they’re famous, South America, they’re just shows that happen to love soap (not soap operas), another allusion, Green Mansions by William Henry Hudson, Rima the Bird Girl, Audrey Hepburn, tragic end, “your brain is a dystopia for you”, tragedy, what of the empty body?, the best expression of the system, a plastic brain, a red herring?, was she trying to kill her biological body?, plugged in emotionally, I Will Fear No Evil by Robert A. Heinlein, old man becomes young woman, grandfatherly lust, P. Burke thinks she is Delphi, The Matrix, if this is the start of the technology, The Beautiful People by Charles Beaumont, Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series, vat-grown avatars, Wii miis, World Of Warcraft, Team Fortress 2, unique trumps beauty, the second smartest man in the world, scars are cool, trans-humanism, did anyone enjoy this book (story)?, Jenny loves this story, Scott liked it, the value of short fiction, James Triptree, Jr. writing is not like other people’s, it feels like an artifact, hey you daddy-o, Luke is the dissenting voice, Luke doesn’t like short fiction very much, Rudy Rucker’s Software and Wetware, Cory Doctorow, the futuristic patois, Luke doesn’t like the punk in cyberpunk, “it kind of just flops there”, KCRW’s Bookworm, Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose, using people, “the real hairy thing…love?”, the narrator’s cynicism, Isaac Asimov’s thoughts on New Wave, New Wave as the literary version of SF, style over content, what Rudy Rucker was doing, what is the first cyberpunk book?, Anne McCaffrey’s short story The Ship Who Sang, what it’s not, who wants straightforward?, addressing the reader directly, Peter Watts, infodumping, “As you know Jim…”,
On this day I want to tell you about, which will be about a thousand years from now, there were a boy, a girl and a love story. Now although I haven’t said much so far, none of it is true. The boy was not what you and I would normally think of as a boy, because he was a hundred and eighty-seven years old. Nor was the girl a girl, for other reasons; and the love story did not entail that sublimation of the urge to rape and concurrent postponement of the instinct to submit which we at present understand in such matters. You won’t care much for this story if you don’t grasp these facts at once. If, however, you will make the effort, you’ll likely enough find it jam-packed, chockfull and tiptop-crammed with laughter, tears and poignant sentiment which may, or may not, be worth while. The reason the girl was not a girl was that she was a boy.
“There’s a great future there”, All You Zombies by Robert A. Heinlein, it’s not a time travel story?, newspapers, typewriters, telegrams, has writing gotten worse or is it just evolving?, brid -> bird, Luke thinks it’s all cyclical, this is just another princess, this is Princess Diana’s story, we are complicit, the message, everyone should have to read the news in a second language, being two steps removed from current events, the value of the short story (it’s short), speed dating books, good luck.
Posted by Jesse Willis