Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders (Chronicles of the Pneumatic #1)
By Richard Ellis Preston; Narrated by Luke Daniels
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 2 July 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 hours, 38 minutes
Themes: / post-apocalypse / snow / zeppelin / steampunk / airship /
In a postapocalyptic world of endless snow, eighteen-year-old Captain Romulus Buckle and the stalwart crew of the Pneumatic Zeppelin must embark on a perilous mission to rescue their kidnapped leader, Balthazar Crankshaft, from the impenetrable City of the Founders. Steaming over a territory once known as Southern California—before it was devastated in the alien war—Buckle navigates his massive airship through skies infested with enemy war zeppelins and ravenous alien beasties in this swashbuckling and high-octane steampunk adventure. Life is desperate in the Snow World, and death is quick. Buckle and his ship’s company must brave poisoned wastelands of Noxious Mustard and do battle with forgewalkers, steampipers, and armored locomotives as they plunge from the skies into the underground prison warrens of the fortress city.Captain Romulus Buckle must lead the Pneumatic Zeppelin and its crew of ne’er-do-wells on a desperate mission where he must risk everything to save Balthazar and attempt to prevent a catastrophic war that could wipe out all that is left of civilization and the entire human race.
Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders is a wonderful example of why books should never be judged by their covers. Because while the cover looks polished and interesting with a mysterious but kick ass hero, the story is actually pretty boring. It reminded me of the movie The Expendables. It throws in everything that typically makes an exciting steam punk adventure, but doesn’t use any of the elements to their advantages which just leaves a lot of forgettable explosions.
From the start I felt lost, like maybe I had actually started listening on the second disk because the story starts in the middle of things. Not in the middle of a fight or a heist or a battle. In the middle of the plot. Captain Buckle and crew are flying to the City of the Founders (formally Los Angeles) to break his father out of prison where he is being kept by the nefarious and secretive Founders clan. After all, why have boring Act I world establishment and character building, when you can just start at the beginning of Act II action and fill your readers in on things only as needed? As a result, I never really understood the day to day of this post-war future. In fact, the only things we are told is that civilization has devolved into family clans, all of whom specialize in a trade but none of whom really get along. At some point aliens invaded earth and mingled with humans long enough to leave half-alien children behind, but they are gone now. And humans may or may not be limited to Southern California. The elusive Founders Clan, who has been kidnapping people from other clans, seems important and everyone seems wary of them but I was never really clear on their role in society. It is defiantly not a world in which you can lose yourself.
But I can forgive mediocre world building for some great swashbuckling characters. After all, our hero is named Romulus Buckle and captains a zeppelin. But don’t have your heart set on Errol Flynn, because Buckle, like the rest of the cast are all straight from a mold. Buckle is dashing, brave and heroic because we are told he is, not because we are shown it. His half-alien stepsister is aloof because she’s an alien. There are goofy, well-meaning sidekicks, wise, old mentors, and mustache twirling villains, but none of this paper doll cast has the panache to hold my attention much less carry a story that is ninety percent action scenes. I’m not sure Preston would have bothered with the dialogue necessary to string the action together if it wasn’t the only way to publish a book. It was not until the last chapter that sets things in motion for the sequel that things became more interesting.
Overall, this is a pretty mediocre book that will a appeal more to teenage boys and diehard steam punk fans. Luke Daniels, the narrator, has a nice, manly voice that does the tone of the book justice but I found it difficult to keep track of what was happening when listening to lengthy action scenes. This is Preston’s debut novel and it feels like it, so be prepared for some clumsy storytelling.
Posted by Rose D.
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 hours
Wardwick of Hurog wishes to live in peace. Destiny has other plans. He is about to be arrested and imprisoned in the Asylum for Nobel Embarrassments and Inconveniences. Worse still, Ward has learned that the same man bent on his imprisonment, Jakoven Tallven, High King of the Five Kingdoms, is seeking Hurog blood to activate the supernatural equivalent of a weapon of mass destruction.Once again Ward must play the fool to survive. Yet, that will not suffice. Ward’s closest companions all must risk their lives and fortunes to keep Jakoven and his malevolent mage Jade Eyes from destroying their world.
After finishing Dragon Bones I was left with some lingering questions and looking forward to this book. For some reason this story wasn’t as much fun. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why. My best guess is the pacing. For such a short book, it felt like the plot meandered too much on unimportant details. The beginning was strong. It pulled me right back in again, and I thought everything was good to go. But then it got slow in middle, and felt sort of rushed at the end. I was sort of underwhelmed by the final confrontation especially.
I guess since I wasn’t having as much fun with the story this go around and it made the quality of the writing more noticeable. I’m not one to spend much time commenting on the writing too much. I tend to leave that for English teachers/literary types. I care a lot more about story and character development than I do about how elegant the prose is. If you’re entertaining me, I’m not going to notice bad sentence structure/dialogue.
If I had to sum this book up with one sentence it would be “Hurog means Dragon.” Why you ask? Well because it’s said at least once per chapter. Often more than once. Or at least that’s how it felt. Eventually I groaned every time another character said it. I wonder if the writing was just as bad in the first book and I didn’t notice. “Hurog means dragon” was said a few times in that book as well, but it didn’t seem nearly so frequent. I didn’t really find the dialogue or prose that bad.
Glancing over other reviews it seems like I may be in the minority. It’s quite possible that if you liked the first book, you may enjoy this as well, but I mostly found it to a disappointing sequel.
As far as the audio goes, Joe Manganiello once again does a fine job without really adding or subtracting from the story.
Review by Rob Zak.
Talked about on today’s show:
2012, Amazon Vine, Android Karenina, Sense And Sensibility And Sea-Monsters, Quirk Books, nurturing writers, rage, apocalyptic stories, mysteries, The End Is Nigh, BRING HER TO ME, not-technically the end of the world, wretched stragglers, going bucket-list, Tam questions, “witty questions”, would you do a podcast if you knew the world was ending next year?, more classics, cozies, get your mind on someone else’s destruction, depressing things make Jesse feel good, “a jar for urine”, Jenny would forget reading, Tam would do “something involving women”, an existential novel, the mystery is secondary to the world building, planting potatoes, four or five months, brutish and horrible and short, the belt, the hoarding, money or love or jealousy or power, real random or artificial random, red herrings, Agatha Christie, the sister, hope, she networks well, the spotty cellphone service, the literary allusions, the romantic plot arc, a lot of ore to be mined, Detective Culverson, the mother and the father, the secondary characters, the coffee shop guy, the existential stuff, On The Beach by Nevil Shute, at the dentist, it’s all going to end, Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World, Peter Berkrot is a great narrator, “Hen” is brooding, Palace like Pallas, upon the bust of Pallas, The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe, nevermore, the reverential use of “freeze motherfucker”, it’s about existence, Salvador Dalí, finding reasons for existence, suicide, doing the thing that must be done, a little case of doubling, “I finally get to do what I wanted”, a noble element, the shooting, and then there’s the dog (a bichon frise), a very well put together book, doing the romance, Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Distant Pale Glimmers, a Marvel vs. DC movie, Firefly, A Good Story Is Hard To Find, Reading Envy, Batman, emancipation or execution, the guns anomaly (AK-47), the trilogy, the second book, Concord, New Hampshire, “Live Free or Die”, Texas, “live free, then die”, first person present tense, “that noir style”, treasuring the moments, The Star by Arthur C. Clarke, Christmas, the message, where’s the seed bank on the Moon?, “think of your life as a story”, the key “Truth”, the most important thing ever, TV news is telling shitty stories, 2011 Norway Attacks, “psycho” vs. “psychotic“, “you’re not the main character”, the villain of the piece, “it would be noble, except…”, an intensification of everyday life, the rebuilding, societal change, a “novel” idea, World War Z by Max Brooks, The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell, the Edgar Award, the snow, the animals, “maybe the science is off”, denying reality, seeing it with a telescope, denial doesn’t help you, The Jilting of Granny Weatherall by Katherine Anne Porter, coming to grips with mortality, assisted living movie group, alternative medicine and false hope, “a natural reaction”, quit your job and go crazy, spend time with your friends, who cares about podcasting?, “the secret to podcasting is that it’s an excuse to spend time with your friends”, podcast is a great medium, unlike The Geeks Guide To The Galaxy, “that’s not what the podcast is”, religious books, A Good Story Is Hard To Find, Reading Envy, The Inklings, the formatting is facilitating, proper flow, “super-consumable”, re-readers, “this makes you think about what’s important in your life”, “a thought provoking book”, The Source, Hank’s purpose, ‘locked town mystery’, the process, empathy, a grubby little murder, caring, the insurance office, Hank Palace cares about all these stories, a Star Trek reference, The Inner Light, Picard learns to play the flute,
Posted by Jesse Willis
Recorded in 1967 and 1968, at Harvard, these Jorge Luis Borges lectures on poetry are a wondrous treasure.
A part of the long running “Charles Eliot Norton Lectures” the collection is entitled This Craft Of Verse.
The Riddle Of Poetry |MP3|
Metaphor (part 1) |MP3|
Metaphor (part 2) |MP3|
The Telling Of The Tale |MP3|
Word-Music, And Translation |MP3|
Thought And Poetry (part 1) |MP3|
Thought And Poetry (part 2) |MP3|
A Poet’s Creed |MP3|
And here’s a podcast feed:
[via Open Culture]
Posted by Jesse Willis
Steel World (#1 in Undying Mercenaries)
By B. V. Larson; Performed by Mark Boyett
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 3 December 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 hours
Themes: / dinosaurs / regeneration / military sf / alien bean counters / science fiction /
In the twentieth century Earth sent probes, transmissions and welcoming messages to the stars. Unfortunately, someone noticed.The Galactics arrived with their battle fleet in 2052. Rather than being exterminated under a barrage of hell-burners, Earth joined their vast Empire. Swearing allegiance to our distant alien overlords wasn’t the only requirement for survival. We also had to have something of value to trade, something that neighboring planets would pay their hard-earned credits to buy. As most of the local worlds were too civilized to have a proper army, the only valuable service Earth could provide came in the form of soldiers…someone had to do their dirty work for them, their fighting and dying.
I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a soft and accessible military SF walk-through. If tropes don’t pose a nuisance, this might just graze your fancy.
B. V. Larson’s Steel World is passable military SF, but it’s not a genre standout. If you’re looking to scratch that itch, this will do the trick, but it may not satisfy. All the ingredients are here. We have humans from Earth fighting on a distant planet inhabited by aliens, futuristic weapons, and the technology to make death nearly nonexistent. All the trope-trappings are here of course too, a young recruit, training, deployment, battles, technology, spaceships, etc. But what we don’t have? Genre originality. But it should be said that one doesn’t need break the mold of military SF to have good military SF. In Larson’s case though, it may have helped to step outside the lines in order to make a memorable impression.
For the most part I enjoyed the ride, but I was ready for it to end. The writing affected a forced feel. I was disappointed with the glossed over battle scenes, stereotypical gruff commander, manor in which the recruits fraternized, and the abrupt ending reinforcing the soldier’s inability to “come home” again all felt too prepackaged to ring that bell of authenticity. I struggled with the at times awkward anachronisms. Similes sporting pigs at county fairs, and basic phrases referencing the Internet, the act of brown-nosing, shopping cart wheels, horseshit, and people being pricks kept pulling me out of the future and plunking me back in the contemporary.
Mark Boyett narrates the audiobook, and does a nice job. Boyett has a clean yet slightly senior sounding voice that is incongruous with the main character’s youthful inexperience. While this is feasible to overlook, it never fully leaves the listener’s consciousness. Boyett sounds more like an old man on a porch than a jacked up soldier full of bloodlust and vitality who never stops checking out the backsides of female officers.
Posted by Casey Hampton.
The SFFaudio Podcast #271 – The Prisoner Of Zenda by Anthony Hope; read by Andy Minter. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the novel (5 hours 30 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Tam, Seth, and Paul Weimer.
Talked about on today’s show:
1894, the movies, Moon Over Parador, ripoff vs. homage, Dave, the Ruritanian influence, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sherwood Smith, a feminist Ruritanian romance, book trends, Seth kind of enjoyed it, put British taboos in a make believe country, accent on the romance, an eastern German state, the bathroom key in Spanish, to avoid research, a fake name for a real place, Bavaria, A Scandal In Bohemia by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the sister-in-law, Rudolph Rassandale as a pseudonym for Anthony Hope, autobiographical wish fulfillment, an author avatar, not exactly modern storytelling, a male romance, “getting close to something happening”, a chaste-ness, innuendos, what’s lacking in the non-comic book adaptations, red-headedness, the black and the red, Rose, the Red rose of Ruritania, “if it’s red it’s right”, Black Michael, the real king is a prat, the better man, Eric S. Rabkin is all about “food and sex”, Jesse is all about “it’s all a dream”, mirroring and inverting, The Prestige, Madame Maubin, the dream, Total Recall, doubling echoing, the attack plan, Rupert! Rupert!, a happy version of the drunk king, the drugged wine, half the kingdom, that’s really good writing, The Princess Bride, a Fantasy edgecase, is it Fantasy?, “wading in the waters outside the island of Fantasy”, adopted into Fantasy, Coronets And Steel by Sherwood Smith, Doctor Who, The Androids Of Tara, electro-swords in a feudal future, Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein, a professional actor, Mars as Ruritania, A Princess Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Latveria (in the Marvel universe), Doctor Doom, just a time passer, a finite number of monarchs, Utopia by Sir Thomas More, the noble house of Elphberg (elf berg), Austria, the beautiful streets of Streslau, the tell-tale hair colour, the problem of cheating, the sequel Rupert Of Hentzau, Queen Victoria, The Red And The Black by Stendhal, George R.R. Martin, the ostensible antagonist is Black Michael but actually the baddie is Rupert, “he leaves bloody but laughing”, Rupert as a twisted version of Rudolph, Antoinette du Maubin, a female version of Rudolph, the two Rudolphs, about six months, a romantic trope, no consummation, everybody is cousins here, morganatic marriage, Randy not Randolph, Crusader Kings, Lord Burlsdon, this second son thing is what EMPIRE is all about, smoked in their smoking rooms, India, Afghanistan, North America, South Africa, who this book is for, the problems of aristocratic families, The Man Who Would Be King, the Wikipedia entry, Winston Churchill wrote a Ruritanian Romance, the restoration of a parliamentary system instead of a monarchy, so Churchill, Churchill turned down a Lordship, the suspension of disbelief issue, Colonel Sapt and Fritz, the country is run by like seven people, a kidnapper and a kingslayer, somebody is going to have to swim that moat, the missing cellphone, the moving mole, Robin Hood: Men In Tights, “is this gonna be a thing?”, Saddam Hussein’s doubles, Star Wars, Princess Amidala and whoever…, first person narration, the eggspoon, a new use for a tea table, An Improvement On Jacob’s Ladder, he likes that ladder a bit too much, Jacob (in The Bible) dreams the ladder, GOOD!
Posted by Jesse Willis