Review of The Diamond of Jeru by Louis L’Amour

July 22, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama 

SFFaudio Review

Audio Drama - Louis L'Amour's The Diamond of JeruThe Diamond of Jeru
By Louis L’Amour; Performed by a Full Cast
3 hours – [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Themes: / Audio Drama / Adventure / Magic / Fantasy / Pulp /

There were times Mike Kardec thought he could feel the magic of this place, a vague sense that just beyond his perception vast but subtle forces were at work… there was power out there, a great organic engine of death and rebirth.

Louis L’Amour (1908 – 1988) is best known for his Western novels, but for a long time I knew him only for a couple of his non-westerns. Last of the Breed (1986) was about a Native American pilot downed in Russia during the Cold War, and The Walking Drum (1984), a historical novel set in the 12th century. Later I read The Lonesome Gods (1983), which, though there were gunfights and horses, I assumed was still one of L’Amour’s atypical works. I enjoyed all of the above, which is why I greeted The Diamond of Jeru with a smile. L’Amour is a fine storyteller.

The Diamond of Jeru is also not a Western. It’s set in Borneo in 1955, where our hero Mike Kardec (played by Joel Bryant) finds himself after the Korean War. He is hired by a Helen and John Lacklan (Traci Dinwiddlie and Time Winters) to guide them deep into the island to find a diamond. There’s a touch of magic in the story, so I’d call it a fantasy adventure.

It’s presented as a “Dramatized Audio”, which I would describe as a rich audio drama with heavy narration. Joe Morton is the narrator, which is terrific because I can’t hear enough of that guy. He was perfect in some of Simon and Schuster’s Star Trek audio titles, and is excellent again here. In fact, all of the actors in this are top notch. This cast is among the highest quality group of actors I’ve ever heard doing audio drama.

On the video page of The Diamond of Jeru Audio Project site, Writer/Director Beau L’Amour and Producer/Editor Paul O’Dell discuss the making of the sound effects. Their methods sound excellent in the final production. I haven’t heard any other titles by this skilled team, but I’d love to hear one in which they rely more on the superb sound than on narration to establish setting and action. The sound had a very deep quality. Nothing out of place here.

The story retained much of the pulp quality of the original story, which was welcome. The website has an audio sample as well as a history of the story, which was written sometime in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s by Louis L’Amour, then revised and expanded to novella length by Beau L’Amour. The original, unedited story can be found |HERE|.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

The SFFaudio Podcast #326 – READALONG: The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

July 20, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #326 – Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, and Bryan Alexander talk about The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Talked about on today’s show:
The Lost World is a great read, Tom Barling illustrations of The Lost World, the Ladybird editions, King Kong, The Valley Of Gwangi, full of jokes, slapstick, witty banter, an awesome character, a role model for us all, Professor Challenger is Brian Blessed, every audio drama, every movie, Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Land That Time Forgot, a sideways angle Gilles deLEuze’s A Thousand Plateaus, Professor Challenger made the earth scream, “his simian disposition”, When The World Screamed, The Poison Belt, The Land Of Mist, The Disintegration Machine, an end of the world story, you could do it as a stage play with a single set, the humiliation chair, Challenger and his wife embracing, The Strand Magazine (U.K. vs. American editions), they knew what gold they’d found, competing with Argosy and the colourful pulps, Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, it’s the same story, Lost Horizon, the 1998 quickie movie of The Lost World, other adaptations, Summerlee as a woman, the 2011 2-part BBC Radio drama adaptation, Diana Summerlee, a male book, Dracula, assembling a team of adventurers, the sacrificial American, a mad Texan, Maple White Land, From The Earth To The Moon by Jules Verne, both books have a major role played by a noble, Lord John Roxton, he rocks, the 3 part BBC Radio drama (available as a 3 CD set), the wise sage, comic relief, a double act, a towering bastard, a modern day Munchhausen, the frame story, an evolutionary biology exemplar, the central lake, a vaginal symbol, a 1912 book, becoming soft, the Boy Scouts, a moral equivalent to war, a testosterone shot, it’s a cartoon, Roxton’s test, Boys adventure, a genocide, slavery, the 1960 adaptation, the 2001 adaptation, a romance, ahistorical women, the 1960 adaptation, the prince is turned into a princess, every Edgar Rice Burroughs book makes this change, otherwise we couldn’t go back to our women, ape city from Planet Of The Apes, the Rod Serling scripted movie, one of the great scenes of history, The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature, it’s not about gender roles, it’s about racism, these Indians are so degraded their barely above the average Londoner, stupid and wise, every magazine story in the 19teens is about race and going soft and miscegenation, their good negro, the description of rage, the red mist, getting savage, Heart Of Darkness, the white feather, spiritualism, anticipation WWI, Roxton has a ton of rocks (diamonds), evolutionary psychology, Hungerford, proving the ability to care for a large number of children, a classic case (undermined at the end), Gladis Potts, an amazing amount of stuff happens in this book, good scientific analysis, poor Malone, there’s reason to fear reporters of this era, a sophisticated view of the press, that’s always been the case, news was a big business in 1912, wire services, 15 years earlier (in Dracula), The New York Times, TV journalism, pointing at pictures and saying “oh dear!”, Charlie Brooker, Newswipe or Screenwipe, a high information culture, 5 posts a day, 3 editions a day, The War Of The Worlds, Now It Can Be Told by Philip Gibbs, the hoax aspect of the book, Doyle’s problem with science, quasi-hoax in the original illustrations, the way Sherlock Holmes stories are told, the Maple White illustrations, playing with the nature of the evidence, preserving an information and financial monopoly, meticulous description, the British tradition of the novel, a very realistic novel, protestant novel, is Robinson Crusoe real?, The Castle Of Otranto by Horace Walpole, Edgar Allan Poe, The Balloon Hoax, meta-textual questions, assorted deranged individuals, the imitators of H.P. Lovecraft, Dracula is a found footage novel, future proofing the story, At The Mountains Of Madness, Ruritanian romance, Mount Roraima, a partial pterodactyl wing, the trump card, pterodactyl wing, founding a private museum, the Evolution Museum in Kentucky, a fairy museum, The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions, science studies, the Royal Society, “we’ve discovered everything”, “we’re all done inventing”, the aether of the vacuum, “extraordinary claims requires extraordinary evidence”, an antecedent for Professor Quatermass, Bryan’s beard is intimidating, Bryan with beard and axe, The Horror Of The Heights, star jelly, Eadweard Muybridge, Sherlock Holmes as a the great Asperger’s hero, Neal Stephenson’s new novel is offensively hard SF, Larry Niven, you don’t have to understand science to do it, Jurassic Park, the movie, Steven Spielberg, the betraying geek, what saves them, kids and dinosaurs, American conservative standard American movie, Schindler’s List, A.I., the Americans are very repressed,

“I have wrought my simple plan
If I give one hour of joy
To the boy who’s half a man,
Or the man who’s half a boy.”

C.S. Lewis, Gomez the traitor, Lord John Roxton’s private war, the flail of the lord, half-breed slavers, hewers of word and drawers of water, this is totally colonialism, Rhodesia, Mungo Park, Water Music by T. Coraghessan Boyle, the 1925 silent film version, Willis O’Brien, the Brontosaurus, the 1960 version, the sound effects, the dinosaurs sound like tie fighters, The 39 Steps, show me the lizards, Jules Verne’s Journey To The Center Of The Earth, 1860s paleontology, Ray Bradbury: ‘dinosaurs are awesome’, Ray Harryhausen, creationism, the poor iguanodon, dinosaurs are inherently partly mythical, the dinosaurs are all female, parthenogenesis, Eaters Of The Dead by Michael Crichton, The Andromeda Strain, The First Great Train Robbery, Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland, Beowulf vs. neanderthals, Ahmad ibn Fadlan, Congo, intelligent apes, Gorilla Grodd, DC Comics, Planetary, Lord Greystoke, loving riffs on SF classics, Doc Savage, The Shadow, too much incident (for a modern book), value for money, Speed, the whole bus gimmick, Interstellar, shallow water planet, weird ice planet, the O’Neil colony, ideas are of primacy, a humorous bombastic semi-psychotic reading, Bob Neufeld’s narration for LibriVox, John Rhys Davies, the 2001 TV adaptation with Matthew Rhys as Malone, The Americans, the science, The Andromeda Strain‘s scientific density, Andy Weir’s The Martian: “we’re going to science the shit out of this”, five-dimensional beings, the Nolan brothers, Elysium, in the geography of the public mind, Conan Doyle’s passions, “I’m obsessed with fairies now!”, FairyTale: A True Story, science runs the risk of P.T. Barnum, we need a Conan Doyle and a Houdini.

The Strand Magazine, April 1912
The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Professor Challenger and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Lost World - Chapter 8 from The Sunday Star June 23, 1912
The Lost World - Chapter 8 from The Sunday Star June 23, 1912
The Lost World (1925) film poster

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #325 – AUDIOBOOK: The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

July 13, 2015 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #325 – The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, read by Bob Neufeld.

This UNABRIDGED AUDIOBOOK (8 hours 20 minutes) comes to us courtesy of LibriVox.

The Lost World was first published as a serial in The Strand Magazine from April to November 1912.

The next SFFaudio Podcast will feature our discussion of it!

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The Strand Magazine - 1912 - The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle illustrated by Harry Rountree

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Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #323 – READALONG: The Monster Men by Edgar Rice Burroughs

June 29, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #323 – Jesse, John Feaster, and David Stifel discuss the audiobook of The Monster Men by Edgar Rice Burroughs (narrated by David Stifel)

Talked about today’s show:
Project Gutenberg, Ace Book, The Girl From Hollywood, The Mucker, dope rings, The Efficiency Expert, ERB’s wife meets Earnest Hemingway, Frankenstein, The Island Of Doctor Moreau, nitric acid, what Frankenstein studies at university, alchemy, growing people, mandrake root, Luigi Galvani, the chemical tradition, girl with a machine gun, a feisty heroine, an axe, Virginia, constant clinging Deja Thoris, how old is Virginia?, there’s nobody good enough to marry my daughter, eugenics, racism of the period, Sing is the hero of the story, stalking, I bet you a car, some of the most improbable stuff, Number 13’s identity, “The Man Without A Soul”, a Scooby Doo theme, a nice rich stalking man (if he’s rich), test tube men, playing to the audience, nothing is more horrible than miscegenation, noble savages, Burroughs hated Germans, more of the creation, Burroughs is good at action, the bullwhip, the orangutan females (beautiful ladies), Von Horn, pirates, headhunters, evolution, brutish, stone age, The Synthetic Men Of Mars, the Caspak series, slow evolution, the progression of man, Charles Darwin, “oh, by the way you’re all apes”, Gods And Generals, why not a European castle?, nameless creatures, a series of unfortunate events, the aborted second creation (the bride of Frankenstein’s monster), a woman’s right not to marry, Penny Dreadful‘s Frankenstein Caliban and Proteus, Professor Maxon’s madness, why Borneo?, an exotic location, silly laws, Breaking Bad, the edge of the world, Jack London, black-birding, Dayak, Sarawak, James Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak, go west young man, poor demonized orangutans, Edgar Allan Poe, Fritz whipping the monster, playing god, one of the most fun writers ever, the spice of this guy, a satisfying writer, the Hollywood recipe, a forced love connection, Burroughs seems genuinely interested in man-woman romance, a Heinleinian father figure, Edgar Rice Burrough’s Twilight, a heroine with gumption, Christan waitresses worshiping Twilight (save yourself before marriage), no vampires, severed head creatures in Chessmen Of Mars, mind-flayers, Erol Otus, no supernatural elements, Mastermind Of Mars, Turus Tur, the power of will, a man of action (from money and breeding), if Tarzan’s parents had been plumbers, the most undercooked part of the book, had the man actually not had a soul…, Burroughs bully Teddy Roosevelt athletic men, conventional morality, a clean cut white man, the alternate love interest turns out to be the villain, is Townsend Harper a late addition?, y’ever seen a newborn baby?, just out of the cooker, that dull yellow eye, Young Frankenstein, lookism, in Edgar Rice Burroughs world it seems reasonable, was there cannibalism in that boat?, it is strongly inferable, drawing straws, tiger woman, cheetah lady, a light romp, wondering about H.G. Wells as a person, The Island Of Lost Souls, vivisection, unpleasantness, no Negroes in Tarzana, California, with not a single European, loyal Sing, yellow perily, Burmese, its the U.S. Navy!, this book really has everything, every kind of possible conflict, he wasn’t interested in doing dangerous quirky stuff, there’s a reason this isn’t an Earnest Hemingway podcast, a grand connected universe, Tarzan in Africa, John Carter on Mars, John Feaster should be pitching this as a show to the ERB estate, public domain tropes, Tarzan At The Earth’s Core, the Gridley Wave, more mash-up, the John Carter movie should have been more popular, picking a couple of nits with the film, limiting the focus of their world, Woola, the missing dog!, just another superior white man, number zero, Cornell, Ithaca, NY, Beyond Thirty (aka The Lost Continent) by Edgar Rice Burroughs, how will WWI wind up?, a submarine/airship, all the Mars are finished, Caspak is finished, Tarzan is finished, social realism, The Efficiency Expert, The Outlaw Of Torn, The Mad King, a Ruritanian romance, Winston Churchill’s ruritanian romance, helping to restore the monarchy (except it’s a republic), other authors?, meeting with the ERB estate, James Sullos, Edgar Rice Burroughs audiobooks need to be read by a California, Singapore, “Celestials” as a term for Chinese, Deadwood, the politically correct term at the time, negro, the “c” epithet?, on the side of the heroes, ERB was liberated for his time, Robert E. Howard didn’t have the wealthy heroes, Jack London, conservative free enterprise, the power of will, big muscles, when Roosevelt was obsessed with breaking up the trusts.

Frank Frazetta - The Monster Men by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Monster Men by Edgar Rice Burroughs - dust jacket

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #257 – AUDIOBOOK: The Star Rover by Jack London

March 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #257 – The Star Rover (aka The Jacket) by Jack London, read by Barry Eads.

This UNABRIDGED AUDIOBOOK (10 hours 1 minute) comes to us courtesy of LibriVox.org. The Star Rover was first published in 1915.

The next SFFaudio Podcast will feature our discussion of it!

The Star Rover by Jack London - Frontispiece

The Star Rover by Jack London - illustrations by Leonard Everett Fisher

The Star Rover by Jack London - Word Cloud

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of A Discourse in Steel by Paul S. Kemp

February 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

A Discourse in Steel Cover ArtA Discourse in Steel
By Paul S. Kemp; Read by Nick Podehl
10 hours 11 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio
Published: 2013
Themes: / sword and sorcery / magic / adventure / fantasy city

My first encounter with the sword-and-sorcery genre came when I discovered Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories, neatly packaged into audiobooks at Audible with introductions from no less a figure than Neil Gaiman. How could I refuse? While Leiber’s world-building was top-notch, though, I found fault with his lack of any real character development. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Seth, characters in a sword-and-sorcery novel aren’t supposed to be developed!  While I agree in principle that the genre is supposed to thrive on antiheroes like Michael Moorcock’s Elric, there’s a vast difference between making an intentional authorial decision not to develop characters, or to develop them in an unconventional way, and simply neglecting the care and feeding of a protagonist. Of this I found Leiber guilty. So I set the genre aside in hopes of finding a specimen more suited to my predilections.

Enter Paul S. Kemp’s Nix and Egil series. The eponymous heroes (it’s almost impossible to call them antiheroes) are, respectively, a sprightly little man of craft and cunning from the slums of Dur Follin, and a hulking, hammer-wielding priest of Ebenor, the momentary God. At first glance, you would be forgiven for mistaking this pair for Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser, or, perhaps if you squint, Terry Pratchett’s Bravd and the Weasel. But where Leiber’s adventurers are often gray as the Mouser’s name, Kemp’s likable rogues flash and sparkle like a colored prism, reflecting and refracting their personae as the wheel of the story turns. And speaking of the city of Dur Follin, its twisting alleys, Low Bazaar, taverns, and guild houses are every bit as well-realized as Leiber’s Lankhmar.

I rediscovered fantasy in my teens through reading David and Leigh Eddings’s mammoth epics. While I now recognize that much of their work was middling at best, I still admire their capacity to write charming, amusing, and at times poignant dialogue. Kemp has honed this particular skill to a keen edge. The playful, good-natured banter between the two unlikely companions will have you laughing out loud one moment and pondering the mysteries of life itself the next. Their friendship is deep and genuine in the way that so many fictitious friendships simply aren’t. Nix and Egil each have their own past, present, and (it is to be hoped) future. Their hopes, fears, and regrets are writ large in the story’s pages, and this emotional element propels A Discourse in Steel beyond the mark of mere adventure into territory that far too fantasy novels explore.

You’ll notice I’ve said nothing of the plot. This is partly because I cordially dislike plot regurgitations in reviews, but also because the plot is, in a sense, unimportant. I don’t mean to suggest the plot is bad. In fact, it’s well-paced, intricate for a novel of this length, and not without its little surprises. But one comes away from reading this book with a sense that the plot served mostly as a backdrop for exploring these two remarkable characters, like set decorations in a theater performance. Of course, if all this emotional and philosophical discussion makes your eyes glaze over, and you just want to read fun stories of swashbuckling adventure, fear not, A Discourse in Steel has them in spades, or hammers. As you can probably tell by now, I am more captivated by the character development, and sometimes felt the plot barged in on a real moment of heart, but I confess that most readers will find the novel’s plot and pacing perfectly measured.

The novel isn’t without its faults. Nix and Egil are masterfully developed, but the book’s other dramatic personae, with a couple no notable exceptions, lack that same fit and finish. The villains, in particular, come across as fairly one-dimensional, even though they get a lot of stage time. Rusilla and Merelda, the tale’s damsels in distress, fare slightly better, especially towards the end, but as the series title suggests, this is the Nix and Egil show. The novel also flags a bit once the plot maneuvers the characters out of the stress of Dur Follin, which as a city is complex enough to be a character in its own right. To paraphrase one of the characters, Nix and Egil seem to belong in Dur Follin, and watching them out of their element, like fish out of water, takes a moment’s adjustment. The book’s last fault, if you could call it that, is that it ends too soon, leaving several key questions unanswered, questions about Egil and Nix, questions about the city of Dur Follin, and questions about the wider world beyond.

The audiobook is narrated by Nick Podehl, who, to me at least, has become synonymous with epic fantasy in audio, thanks in no small part to his narration of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. His bag of vocal tricks just seem to be a natural fit for the genre. He is able to glide smoothly between Egil’s rumbling curses and Nix’s falchion-sharp witticisms, and during the action sequences his sense of timing is impeccable. Podehl is the narrator equivalent of what’s called in Hollywood a character actor. He lacks the star power and name recognition of a Simon Vance or a William Dufris, but if you’ve listened to many audiobooks recently, you’ve probably heard his voice. He certainly does justice to Kemp’s work.

A Discourse in Steel is the second Nix and Egil adventure, but it can be read on its own, though its predecessor, The Hammer and the Blade, is nearly as good. I’m grateful to the efforts of Paul S. Kemp and his creations Nix and Egil for showing me that the sword and sorcery genre can embody both style and substance. Maybe it’s time I revisit Leiber and the other S&S greats; maybe I’ll find they’re not as soulless as I thought.

Reviewed by Seth Wilson.

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