The SFFaudio Podcast #256 – Jesse, Tamahome, Luke Burrage, Seth, and Mark Turetsky talk about the audiobook of Have Space Suit—Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein (as narrated by Mark Turetsky for Blackstone Audio)!
Talked about on today’s show:
On the book title’s proper spacing and hyphenation; Have Gun, Will Travel TV show; Heinlein’s last “juvenile” novel; Mark “over the moon” about the opportunity to record the book; novel nominated for Hugo in 1959; parts of the novel are hard SF; Philip K. Dick’s completely unrelated story The Father Thing; ways of manipulation in the novel; Mark’s favorite character voices; correlations between the Earth characters and space characters; debunking the possibility that the story was all a dream or imaged à la Wizard of Oz; cross-novel characters in Heinlein’s novels i.e. Space Family Stone; novel followed up by Starship Troopers; detailed description of the space suit possibly inspired by Heinlein’s work on bomber pilot pressure suits during World War II; The Martian by Andy Weir; casual drug use in the novel; Mark didn’t do the helium voice in space suit scenes; comparison to full cast audio version; Kip’s conversations with inanimate space suit bear resemblance to Gravity; on the novel’s setting in time and its world building flaws; slip sticks and slide rules; slide rule “the best invention since girls”; Kip’s dad should “get off his ass and get a job”; Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat and its inspiration on Connie Willis’s To Say Nothing of the Dog via its appearance in this novel’s opening lines; Heinlein’s infallibility; going Galt; the father is an asshole; the father is Heinlein; money in fiction; money baskets in Stranger in a Strange Land; old men hooking up with young women in Heinlein; Podkayne of Mars; Time for the Stars; Tunnel in the Sky is a mash-up of Lord of the Flies and The Hunger Games; the story’s narrative perspective; on learning outside of school, “I’m gonna learn this shit on my own”; novel encapsulates Luke’s life philosophy, “There’s no such thing as luck. There is only adequate or inadequate preparation to cope with a statistical universe.”; the novel’s accelerating plot; The Puppet Masters; on adapting the novel to the silver screen; PBS’s adaptation of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Lathe of Heaven; the relative weakness of the novel’s last section; Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure; time travel “breaks” fiction; Lisa Simpson would read this book; John Scalzi’s blog post An Anecdotal Observation, Relating to Robert Heinlein and the Youth of Today; people today don’t read books (or read the wrong kind of books); is science fiction the most enlightened of fiction genres?; phone books are useful for starting fires; Luke tells an inspiring story about the Magellanic Cloud; “the cure for boredom is curiosity”; where animals keep their brains.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Themes: / military sf / basic training / overpopulated earth / battle armor combat / aliens / marriage / mutiny / mathematics /
In the sequel to Terms of Enlistment, a desperate battle for interstellar supremacy pits man against man and humanity against aliens in an epic tale of vicious combat and political deception.
Vicious interstellar conflict with an indestructible alien species. Bloody civil war over the last habitable zones of the cosmos. Political unrest, militaristic police forces, dire threats to the solar system…
Humanity is on the ropes, and after years of fighting a two-front war with losing odds, so is Commonwealth Defense Corps officer Andrew Grayson. He dreams of dropping out of the service one day, alongside his pilot girlfriend, but as warfare consumes entire planets and conditions on Earth deteriorate, he wonders if there will be anywhere left for them to go.
After surviving a disastrous spaceborne assault, Grayson is reassigned to a ship bound for a distant colony—and packed with malcontents and troublemakers. His most dangerous battle has just begun.
In Lines of Departure, Marko Kloos picks up where Terms of Enlistment left off. Earth is overpopulated, various terrestrial governments are still warring with one another in space as people colonize the stars, and there’s a new nearly indestructible alien species that appears determined to exterminate mankind.
The combat scenes are crisp and the action flows at a nice clip. For the majority of the narrative, we tag along with Andrew Grayson as he along with his fellow NAC troopers battle the Lanky, the new aliens on the block. Again we are plunged into a universe where the Chinese, Russians, and North American Commonwealth manage to still fight one another in space as they simultaneously battle the eighty-foot tall Lanky.
Kloos writes a nice sequel, but unlike many others, I didn’t feel that Lines of Departure was as strong as Terms of Enlistment. Still, this is a good Military SF book and worth your time. I like the military hardware, interactions between troops and civilians, and the realistic paradoxical bureaucracy that apparently still plagues humanity’s future.
My favorite scene? Andrew Grayson having breakfast with his mother in a small Vermont diner. I like Military SF combat, and Kloos writes good combat scenes. But the breakfast is something special. Character development happens seamlessly, dialogue feels effortless and natural, and there is some genuine emotional growth occurring. I could almost taste the food, smell the coffee, and feel the heft of the menu and napkins.
The ending is good, maybe not surprising, but it’s true to the story and well written. Nice Job, Mr. Kloos. Thank you for not overreaching. You gave me what the story needed, and you resisted the temptation of adding too many whirly-bangs.
Luke Daniels narrates the audiobook, and turns in another outstanding reading.
I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. If you’ve read Terms of Enlistment, you’ll want to give this a go.
Posted by Casey Hampton.
Themes: / military sf / basic training / overpopulated earth / battle armor combat / aliens /
The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements, where you’re restricted to 2,000 calories of badly flavored soy every day. You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world, or you can join the service. With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price . . . and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or the gangs that rule the slums.
The genre is Military SF. The year is 2108. Andrew Grayson, a welfare kid from the slums, enlists in the armed forces, and the journey begins.
In Terms of Enlistment, Marko Kloos fails to score any points for originality. But I’m okay with that, and you should be too. Yes, Kloos appears to reboot Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. So much so, that some of the similarities are awkward and eerie (see basic training and the coed showers). The big difference between Heinlein and Kloos is that Heinlein was deliberately hyperbolic, whereas Kloos is not. In Heinlein’s universe, humanity fights bugs. With Kloos, we see an overpopulated Earth, the Chinese and Russians still battle the West, and humans have begun to colonize other worlds; we are the bugs now.
Kloos writes in the present tense, and barring a few anachronistic banana peal phrases, the writing is solid and strikes a brisk pace. I liked discovering a narrative where future humans have shed Earth’s gravity but still cling to terrestrial grudges. Kloos doesn’t write a unified humanity gathered in a handholding sing-along, rather, government’s war over resources, and the only way out is bound to military service or the space colony lottery.
I listened to the audiobook, and Luke Daniels delivers another standout reading. Keep up the good work, Mr. Daniels. Each audio cd begins and ends with a musical track overlay, and while it doesn’t completely ruin the audiobook experience, the music is distracting.
If you’re a fan of Military SF, battle armor, and combat, then you’ll probably enjoy this book. Be aware that this story ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, which is picked up in Lines of Departure, the second book in this series by Marko Kloos. No spoilers here, but I absolutely love the aliens that Kloos creates.
Posted by Casey Hampton.
Themes: / fantasy / magic / crystals / visions / aliens /
Two hundred years after the Forbidding was broken, Santhenar is locked in war with the lyrinx – intelligent, winged predators who will do anything to gain their own world. Despite the development of battle clankers and mastery of the crystals that power them, humanity is losing. Tiaan, a lonely crystal worker in a clanker manufactory, is experimenting with an entirely new kind of crystal when she begins to have extraordinary visions.
The crystal has woken her latent talent for geomancy, the most powerful of all the Secret Arts – and the most perilous. Falsely accused of sabotage by her rival, Irisis, Tiaan flees for her life. Struggling to control her talent and hunted by the lyrinx, Tiaan follows her visions all the way to Tirthrax, greatest peak on all the Three Worlds, where a nightmare awaits her.
The start of this book was promising, but things went off the rails. Then, just as they seemed to be recovering, I found the end to be awful. I think my main problem this book is the characters and their dialogue. In part one of the book Mr. Irvine introduces us to several characters that I despised almost immediately. In part two he seems to be trying to elicit sympathy from the reader via self-pity from internal monologue and sympathetic back story. It might work for some readers, but not for me. At best instead of coming around to like the characters as complex and flawed, I find myself mostly indifferent about what might happen to them.
The main character is mostly likable, although some of her thoughts rubbed me the wrong way. I assume this is another attempt to give her depth through flaws instead of being a hero trope. Maybe my dislike of almost all the characters is just an inability for me to understand their society, but I doubt it. The most likable characters are minor ones who don’t seem to stick around very long. It’s really hard for me to enjoy a book when I don’t like the people I’m reading about.
The main story is interesting. The world is at war with much more powerful alien creatures. Humanity have built machines called clankers in order to be able to fight back, but they are still mostly outmatched. At first this seems more like sci-fi than fantasy, but the clankers are powered by crystals and there a mostly unexplained magical system based on them and their connection to power nodes around the world. So really it’s some sort of mix that has more of a fantasy feel than science fiction.
There are a lot of political and social issues that play into things. With so many young men dying in a seemingly endless war, everyone is expected to produce children to essentially provide the next generation of fodder. Anyone accused of a crime is sent to one of two places depending on their gender. Males are sent to the front lines where they will likely die in short order. Women are sent to “breeding factories” which are exactly what they sound like. Entirely too much time was spent on the breeding factories, and the notion of a society so desperate to survive they force women to sleep numerous partners in the hopes of producing the most helpful offspring as frequently as possible is downright horrifying to me.
This is apparently the second series of Mr. Irvine’s Three Worlds sequence. Having never read the first (The Mirror Quartet), I’m sure I’m missing some references to things from that series. My understanding is this is set hundreds of years later, and possibly on a different world. I never felt lost but it’s possible I would understand more about the crystals and their powers if I had read that series first.
Overall it wasn’t a very good book and it was not as well executed as I would have liked. I found myself cringing at some of the writing in places, especially the dialogue. The ending of the book really was really off-putting – it felt like a bad soap opera on television.
Grant Cartwright, the narrator, is the only bright spot of the book, and a large part of me being able to get through the worst parts. I’m not sure if he exclusively reads books targeted at an Australian audience, but if so that’s a shame. He does a good amount of voices for the various characters and his normal reading voice is clear and easy to understand. Some of his voices are grating, but I think that’s fitting for the characters he is portraying. Maybe this partnership between Bolinda and Random House will bring more of his work to North America. I’d like to see what he does with a better book.
Review by Rob Zak.
Themes: / military sci-fi / stock market / aliens /
In the twenty-second century, humanity has journeyed to the stars, and found them open for business. And when it comes to protecting that business, Chief Bridget Yang and Surge Team Sigma—her squad of heavily armed space marines—are up to the task. Unfortunately, Jamie Sturm is one problem they can’t just vaporize. When Jamie’s financial schemes bankrupt their expedition, Bridget and her crew refuse to let the rogue stock trader walk away. To save their jobs, the soldiers drag him out from behind his desk—and onto a seemingly hopeless mission to the frontier, seeking to open the most dangerous parts of the Orion Arm to trade. But in turning over every alien rock looking for profit, the hapless trader and his reluctant protectors uncover something that endangers humanity itself.
You should read this book. You should read this book if you like adventuring soft SF. You should read this book if you like funny adventuring soft SF. You should read this book if you like funny adventuring soft SF that doesn’t take itself too seriously. So, should you read this? Only you know. Choose, but choose wisely.
The premise of Overdraft is rather underwhelming. A greedy twenty-second century stockbroker is caught before his insider trading pays dividends. In a strange twist, the stockbroker is forced into trying to earn one hundred billion dollars in one hundred days by selling wares to aliens. In the twenty-second century, Earth has joined a galactic syndicate based on the buying and selling of goods. Imagine a door-to-door salesman in space. Throw in power-armor wearing bodyguards who dislike the stockbroker, and you get a plot that seems like it should just fizzle and blow away. But it doesn’t!
Of course, anytime you try and slap funny onto SF, you know what happens. Inevitably, it always draws comparisons to that author with the alphabetical-friendly last name. We all know the writer I’m talking about. If you don’t, don’t panic! All I’m saying is that it’s not fair to forever compare humorous SF to the work of Douglas Adams. Adams is in his own galaxy. So can we please, please, oh please stop trying to measure all prospectively humorous SF to Douglas Adams?
John Jackson Miller delivers a fun space adventure that follows a fairly tight point-to-point storytelling. It never tries to be bigger/more than it is, and for this I am grateful. I thought the beginning drug on a little. I also didn’t feel the double agent was necessary to the plot, if anything it detracted from the story by injecting unneeded complication, but perhaps this is merely character maneuvering for future works in this series.
Luke Daniels narrates the audiobook. It was my first time hearing Daniels read and I admit to feeling some early trepidation. I soon stopped doubting Daniels. He brings each character to life with such subtle grace that his voice becomes the story’s voice. When this happens, when a reader just “becomes” what they are reading, it’s special.
If you can watch the original Get Smart television program without griping that it’s not James Bond, I think you’ll like this book.
Posted by Casey Hampton.
This collection of “excerpts” from Childhood’s End (TC164) was published on LP in 1979. It was recorded in Sri Lanka by Arthur C. Clarke himself.
Posted by Jesse Willis