A Martian Odyssey is a classic of alien human interaction. Isaac Asimov said of it and of Weinbaum:
“With this single story [A Martian Odyssey], Weinbaum was instantly recognized as the world’s best living science fiction writer, and at once almost every writer in the field tried to imitate him.”
It is also argued that this is the first story to satisfy Astounding editor John W. Campbell’s famous challenge:
“Write me a creature who thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man.”
When it was republished, just 4 years later, in Startling Stories, A Martian Odyssey was added to the “Scientifiction Hall Of Fame”:
And with that that same printing was this extolling editorial explanation:
A Martian Odyssey
By Stanley G. Weinbaum; Read by Gregg Margarite
1 |MP3| – Approx. 58 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: January 13, 2009
Early in the twenty-first century, nearly twenty years after the invention of atomic power and ten years after the first lunar landing, the four-man crew of the Ares has landed on Mars in the Mare Cimmerium. A week after the landing, Dick Jarvis, the ship’s American chemist, sets out south in an auxiliary rocket to photograph the landscape. Eight hundred miles out, the engine on Jarvis’ rocket gives out, and he crash-lands into one of the Thyle regions. Rather than sit and wait for rescue, Jarvis decides to walk back north to the Ares. First published in Wonder Stories, July 1934.
Here’s an illustrated |PDF| made from the original publication in Wonder Stories.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The Sphinx (Area 51 #4)
By Bob Mayer; Performed by Eric G. Dove
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
11 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Themes: / military sci-fi / aliens / hybrids / nuclear /
Dr. Lisa Duncan and Special Forces officer Mike Turcotte know better than anyone that no secret is safe for long — especially one that offers untold power. Case in point: no sooner does Turcotte’s elite Area 51 team uncover a dormant alien ship in earth orbit than a group of alien-human hybrids seizes it and uses its technology to commandeer a satellite array bristling with nuclear missiles. Now they’re demanding that humankind hand over the key to an ancient stash of alien technology…or watch an entire continent be reduced to atomic rubble. Doom seems certain, as the required key is believed lost to the ages — until an unwitting anthropologist discovers the first of many clues to its hiding place. As Duncan and Turcotte race to reach the key — and the powerful treasure it can unlock — ahead of their alien foes, the quest leads them deep into a deadly maze within the Great Sphinx of Giza. The prize? Nothing less than the legendary Ark of the Covenant.
For fans of this series, Bob Mayer delivers a story that lightly scratches the military SF itch but never arrives at satisfaction. If you don’t mind foreshadowing and rather flat characters that encounter somewhat predictable puzzles, then I think you’ll like this installment of the Area 51 series. I’d say that Mayer has written the equivalent of a bacon cheeseburger. You know what you’re going to get before you order it, and if you are in the mood for a run of the mill bacon cheeseburger, then I say “Dig in and don’t be shy about using napkins.”
Eric G. Dove acts as narrator and I am on the fence with his delivery. So here’s the down and dirty with Dove. When he reads dialogue, Dove is on top of his game and carries this audio performance. When Dove is left to recite, I mean read exposition; he becomes the human equivalent of narrator elevator music. Seriously, Dove reads exposition like most people might read a road map but with less enthusiasm. But when Dove engages a character, everything changes and this somewhat average audiobook becomes almost enjoyable.
Final thoughts. If you’re even thinking about reading this book then it’s a fair assumption to think you’ve read the previous books in this series. If you have and are considering reading on, I encourage you to do so as I think you will be happy. If you have read the books in the series are aren’t sure if you want to continue, then I say “Turn back when you still can.”
Posted by Casey Hampton.
Please welcome another new reviewer, Tom Schreck. Tom heard about the call for reviews from another new reviewer that you will hear from shortly.
The Colors of Space
By Marion Zimmer Bradley; Read by Jim Roberts
Publisher: Speculative! via Brilliance Audio
5 discs – 5 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Themes: / space / aliens / science fiction / interstellar travel /
Young Bart Steele, Space Academy graduate, is waiting in a spaceport for a ship to take him home when something happens that suddenly thrusts him into the center of a quest for the secret of interstellar travel. The method of faster than light travel, called “warp drive” in later Sci-Fi stories, is a tightly kept secret of an alien race known as the “Lhari.” Some humans feel that they should not have to depend on the Lhari to get to far away planets and enlist Bart to help them wrest the secret from the Lhari by undertaking a perilous mission. Bart’s survival and the freedom of the human race suddenly depend on his courage and wits.
The Colors of Space is one of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s earliest books and is a solid enjoyable book. It’s short, the pace keeps moving, and overall comes to a satisfying conclusion.
Mankind has expanded throughout the solar system and nearby star systems but it takes years to travel those distances with their current technology. Sometime in their exploration they met an alien race called the Llari who have the capability of faster-than-light travel. The Llari are happy to supply such transport to humans but won’t share the secrets of their technology with humans. The humans and Llari entered into a mutually beneficial relationship for interstellar travel, but some parts of humanity have become disgruntled of the monopoly the Llari hold. Our protagonist Bart Steele gets involved in a human plot to discover this secret in this story.
The book is fairly simple so don’t expect any deep/intricate character development, but it explores interesting social issues like relating to people different from yourself, friendship, and loyalty.
Jim Roberts has a great voice but his performance comes off kind of stiff and dry. As I got further into the book, I either got more used to his reading style or he relaxed a bit in his reading. If trying to decide between the print or audio version, the audio book version is pretty good but I don’t think it adds anything to the enjoyment of the book.
Posted by Tom Schreck
By Robert Heinlein; Read by MacLeod Andrews
6 CDs – 7 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: July 2012
Themes: / space / genetic engineering / genetic modification / aging / death / interstellar travel / aliens /
After the fall of the American Ayatollahs as foretold in Stranger in a Strange Land and chronicled in Revolt in 2100, the United States of America at last fulfills the promise inherent in its first Revolution: for the first time in human history there is a nation with Liberty and Justice for All.
No one may seize or harm the person or property of another, or invade his privacy, or force him to do his bidding. Americans are fiercely proud of their re-won liberties and the blood it cost them; nothing could make them forswear those truths they hold self-evident. Nothing except the promise of immortality….
This 1941 novel by Robert Heinlein is a short but epic space adventure about the Howard Families, a population of people who can live very long lives thanks to a history of selective breeding. Over the centuries, they took on different identities to hide their long-life nature from “short-lifers,” but eventually some of them decided to share their scientific achievement with the public.
However, instead of celebrating the Howard Families’ scientific achievement, the short-lifers suspect them of concealing the true secret to long life. This is where the story starts: when the government and the public begin to persecute the Howard Families, Lazarus Long (the kilt-wearing leader of the group who is more than 200 years old and who always has a knife strapped to his thigh) hijacks a city-sized starship so the families can flee Earth and go in search of a new home.
Despite its short size, this book covers a long length of time, is packed with ideas, and manages to explore deep themes such as aging, death, human genetic modification, and individualism, among others. There’s bound to be something in here for everyone, although personally I struggled with the first half because of the lengthy democratic meetings and the seemingly endless strategizing about what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. I also thought the discussions about the technicalities of interstellar travel or alien biology were a little tedious, but I’m sure hard-SF fans will love every moment.
I really got into the story later, when the families started arriving on other planets and things got weird. The alien cultures, worlds and philosophies were brilliant and often eerie. How can you not love aliens who say things like, “My people will like to see you and smell your skin.”
The human characters, on the other hand, were less lovable for me. They lacked depth and tended to speak literally and directly, without subtext. The narration on the audiobook didn’t help warm the dialog up either, because in the reading the characters sometimes sounded like they were barking lines at each other, and at other times odd words in the dialog were emphasized that I don’t think should have been.
The narrator McLeod Andrews did give a very clear reading though, and once I got used to his style the odd emphases were less noticeable. He did an awesome job of embodying the voice of grumpy but optimistic Lazarus Long, who was the most developed and interesting character.
Ultimately, even though not everything might be to your taste, there are just so many great ideas and themes squished into this book that you’re bound to find a ton to enjoy, despite its short length.
Review by Marissa VU
Recently, Brilliance Audio sent us a stack of science fiction standards, some released on CD for the first time after being previously available on Audible, and some that are the first-time to CD. See below for descriptions, and links to previous SFF Audio readalong discussions when appropriate.
Mona Lisa Overdrive (Sprawl #3)
By William Gibson; Performed by Jonathan Davis
Brilliance Audio, originally available on Audible in 2009
9 discs; 10 hours, 57 minutes
Enter Gibson’s unique world – lyric and mechanical, erotic and violent, sobering and exciting – where multinational corporations and high-tech outlaws vie for power, traveling into the computer-generated universe known as cyberspace. Into this world comes Mona, a young girl with a murky past and an uncertain future whose life is on a collision course with internationally famous Sense/Net star Angie Mitchell. Since childhood, Angie has been able to tap into cyberspace without a computer. Now from inside cyberspace, a kidnapping plot is masterminded by a phantom entity who has plans for Mona, Angie, and all humanity, plans that cannot be controlled…or even known. And behind the intrigue lurks the shadowy Yakuza, the powerful Japanese underworld, whose leaders ruthlessly manipulate people and events to suit their own purposes…or so they think.
By Philip K. Dick; Performed by Mel Foster
5 discs; 5 hours, 48 minutes
After the twentieth century’s devastating series of wars, the world’s governments banded together into one globe-spanning entity, committed to peace at all costs. Ensuring that peace is the Vulcan supercomputer, responsible for all major decisions. But some people don’t like being taken out of the equation. And others resent the idea that the Vulcan is taking the place of God. As the world grows ever closer to all-out war, one functionary frantically tries to prevent it. But the Vulcan computer has its own plans, plans that might not include humanity at all.
The Game-Players of Titan
By Philip K. Dick; Performed by Christopher Lane
7 discs; 7 hours, 48 minutes
Years ago, Earth and Titan fought a war and Earth lost. The planet was irradiated and most of the surviving population is sterile. The few survivors play an intricate and unending game called Bluff at the behest of the sluglike aliens who rule the planet. At stake in the game are two very important commodities: land and spouses. Pete Garden just lost his wife and Berkeley, California, but he has a plan to win them back. That is, if he isn’t derailed by aliens, psychic traitors, or his new wife. The Game-Players of Titan is both satire and adventure, examining the ties that bind people together and the maddening peccadilloes of bureaucracy, whether the bureaucrats are humans or aliens.
Time Out of Joint
By Philip K. Dick; Performed by Jeff Cummings
7 discs; 8 hours
Ragle Gumm has a unique job: every day he wins a newspaper contest. And when he isn’t consulting his charts and tables, he enjoys his life in a small town in 1959. At least, that’s what he thinks. But then strange things start happening. He finds a phone book where all the numbers have been disconnected, and a magazine article about a famous starlet named Marilyn Monroe, whom he’s never heard of. Plus, everyday objects are beginning to disappear and are replaced by strips of paper with words written on them, like “bowl of flowers” and “soft-drink stand.” When Ragle skips town to try to find the cause of these bizarre occurrences, his discovery could make him question everything he has ever known.
The Mote in God’s Eye
By Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle; Performed by L.J. Ganser|
Brilliance Audio, originally available on Audible in 2009
17 discs; 20 hours, 40 minutes
An epic novel in mankind’s first encounter with alien life that transcends the genre.
Don’t forget our readalong discussion!
Beyond This Horizon
By Robert A. Heinlein; Performed by Peter Ganim
Brilliance Audio, originally available on Audible in 2009
7 discs; 7 hours, 47 minutes
Utopia has been achieved. Disease, hunger, poverty and war are found only in the history tapes, and applied genetics has brought a lifespan of over a century. But Hamilton Felix is bored. And he is the culmination of a star line; each of his last thirty ancestors chosen for superior genes. He is, as far as genetics can produce one, the ultimate man, yet sees no meaning in life.
However, his life is about to become less boring. A secret cabal of revolutionaries plan to revolt and seize control. Knowing of Hamilton’s disenchantment with the modern world, they want him to join their Glorious Revolution. Big mistake! The revolutionaries are about to find out that recruiting a superman was definitely not a good idea. . .
Don’t forget our readalong discussion!
Hybrids: Volume Three of The Neanderthal Parallax
By Robert J. Sawyer; Performed by Jonathan Davis
Brilliance Audio, originally available on Audible in 2008
10 discs; 11 hours, 50 minutes
Ponter Boddit and his Homo sapiens lover, geneticist Mary Vaughan, are torn between two worlds, struggling to find a way to make their star-crossed relationship work. Aided by banned Neanderthal technology, they plan to conceive the first hybrid child, a symbol of hope for the joining of their two versions of reality.
Meanwhile, as Mary’s Earth is dealing with a collapse of its planetary magnetic field, her boss, the enigmatic Jock Krieger, has turned envious eyes on the unspoiled Eden that is the Neanderthal world . . .
Filled to bursting with his signature speculations about alternative ways of being human, exploding our preconceptions of morality and gender, of faith and love, Sawyer’s Neanderthal Parallax trilogy is a classic in the making, and here he brings it to a stunning, thought-provoking conclusion.
The conclusion to the Neanderthal Parallax trilogy.
Posted by Jenny Colvin
We recently received four collections from Speculative! via Brilliance.
Murray Leinster Collection
Includes: The Pirates of Ersatz, The Aliens, Operation Terror
By Murray Leinster; Read by Jim Roberts and Ran Alan Ricard
In The Pirates of Ersatz, Murray Leinster presents a fast-paced, light-hearted adventure story with a touch of Monty Python and much derring-do. The hero, Bron Hodon, comes from a planet where there is only one vocation – space piracy. His dream is to become an electrical engineer so he makes his way to a planet with a “perfect society” and invents a power source that should benefit all. The perfect society does not appreciate it, accuses him of creating “death rays” and forces him to flee to Darth, a much more primitive planet. There, and in space, he undergoes a number of rollicking adventures that make him wonder if space piracy – with a twist – might not be so bad after all. This tongue-in-cheek space adventure has often been compared to The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison.
The Aliens: Among other things, Murray Leinster is credited with the invention of “parallel universe” stories and in 1956 he won the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Novelette. Leinster wrote over 1,500 short stories in his career and two of the best, “First Contact” and “The Aliens”, deal with humanity’s first encounter with an alien race. In this story, the human race is expanding through the galaxy and so are the Aliens. When two expanding empires meet, war is inevitable. Or is it?
Operation Terror: Murray Leinster’s science fiction stories typically dealt with themes of frustration with human frailty and its limitations, cynicism vs. idealistic ethics, and romance. When a mysterious alien spacecraft lands in a lake in Colorado and the invaders begin using a paralyzing ray that no one can understand or stop, it takes an ingenious man like Lockley to save the girl and solve the mystery of the aliens.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Collection
Includes: The Big Trip Up Yonder, 2BRO2B
By Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.; Performed by Emmett Casey and Kevin Killavey
The Big Trip Up Yonder: Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was known for blending satire, black comedy, and science fiction, and that is exactly what he does in this story. It was written in 1954 and first appeared in Galaxy Science Fiction. In the chronology of his works, it came between Player Piano and The Sirens of Titan. The story takes place in a future in which the population has grown so huge, due to an anti-aging product, that generations are forced to live together in crowded apartments. The family in this story is ruled by a dictatorial grandfather, the owner of the apartment and oldest of the clan.
2BR02B: Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was known for blending satire, black comedy, and science fiction, and that is exactly what he does in this little gem of of a story from 1962. In the chronology of his works, it came between Mother Night and Cat’s Cradle. The title is pronounced “2 B R naught 2 B” and references the famous phrase, “To be or not to be” in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The story takes place in a future when diseases and aging have been eliminated and, as a result, the government has taken measures to insure population control
Edmond Hamilton Collection
Includes: City at World’s End; The Stars, My Brothers
By Edmond Hamilton; Performed by Jim Roberts
City at World’s End: The midwestern town of Middletown is the “first strike” of a new super bomb. However, instead of destroying the town, the attack rips a hole in the space-time continuum, sending the town and it’s inhabitants to a distant Earth, cold and foreboding. The story of their struggle, survival, and ultimate success in rekindling the planet and dealing with the people and aliens of the future is the stuff of great science fiction. As you listen, see if you agree with the many who think this story was the origin of the Star Wars characters Chewbacca and Leia.
The Stars, My Brothers: Edmond Moore Hamilton was a popular science-fiction author during the “Golden Age” of American science fiction. “The Stars, My Brothers” is considered one of his best, and certainly most imaginative, stories. A spaceman is killed in space and frozen. He is left orbiting the space station where he was killed in the hope that a method will be found to bring him back to life. That day finally comes a hundred years later, when he awakens to a very different world and comes to realize he has become both a symbol and a pawn in a human/alien conflict.
Alan Edward Nourse Collection
Includes: The Coffin Cure, Image of the Gods
By Aland Edward Nourse; Performed by Ben Hurst
The Coffin Cure: No one likes a cold. It has plagued mankind for generations. When Dr. Coffin and his colleagues finally devise a cure for this ailment, the discovery is met with excitement worldwide. A month later though, noses everywhere start to rebel. Can they find a cure for the cure and do it in time to save their own necks?
Image of the Gods: In this story, an earth colony discovers that their relationship with the mother planet has suddenly changed due to an overthrow of the Earth’s government. They decide not to go along with the new totalitarian regime and to declare their independence. They expect a fight for liberty and get it. However, their relationship with the natives of the planet, the “dusties”, changes the whole situation in a very dramatic way.