The SFFaudio Podcast #191 – Jesse, Tamahome, and Jenny talk about the Brilliance Audio audiobook, The World Jones Made by Philip K. Dick.
Talked about on today’s podcast:
Racy?, 1950s, hermaphrodites, relativism is mandated by the government, reverse Nazism, the Wikipedia entry for relativism, relativism as a tool against disbelief, L. Ron Hubbard, The Way To Happiness, communism, “good explorations”, Doug Cussick, political correctness, the opposite of communism?, China, Chinese communism, WWII, “Hitler was a precog”, escape your fate by embracing your fate, seeing into the future after your death, the devolution of a mind in a dead brain, a molluscular and mineral afterlife, grab bag of ideas, giant alien jellyfish, Brilliance Audio, pollen?, spores?, polyps?, planula!, Floyd Jones (is he the hero?), the Venus babies, the people in the Womb, seven mutants in a warehouse in San Fransisco, artificial animals, Venusian wallpaper?, hot and moist, The Truman Show, people have to get off of Earth, the Moon as the 51st state, King Newt running the Moon, pantropy, tropism, genetic modification, Nexus by Ramez Naam, More Than Human by Ramez Naam, Kim Stanley Robinson, More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon, the ending, Jones as the new Jesus, contempt for the audience, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, kids getting off on power, suicide, Hitler’s death, “how could a precog be wrong?”, future knowledge of your own knowledge, its very confusing, is Cussick the main character?, rebellion by shoplifting, sexism, WWIII, “asparagus sucks!”, women as litmus paper, she always held the majority opinion, visiting a racist elderly relative, “No grandma! That’s wrong!”, irony, the nameless character has a fascinating story, why don’t we get a sense of the masses, paralleling the rise of Hitler, lebensraum, interesting scenes interspersed with less interesting scenes, domestic scenes vs. organizational scenes, Tyler’s story, the Venus children, paranoia, Shell Game by Philip K. Dick, redundant exists, The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch, Counter Clock World, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, The Zap Gun, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, Blade Runner, Robert Downey Jr., A Scanner Darkly, The Man In The High Castle, alternate history, most people who live in SF universes don’t read SF, a BBC adaptation of The Man In The High Castle, an epic story about a guy who makes jewelry, Terry Gilliam, Anthony Boucher, “a hasty and disappointing effort”, perk up vs. zone out, civil war or aliens?, a golden land of opportunity and adventure (and slime).
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #189 – Jesse, Tamahome, Jenny, and Tim Prasil talk about the six episode anthology series Marvellous Boxes, recorded and podcast by Decoder Ring Theatre. But first we play an episode, Facing Cydonia.
Talked about on today’s show:
The Magic Of The Movies, The Crasher, horror, stage play (post Meridian Radio Players), Thinking In Trinary, Decoder Ring Theatre, Gregg Taylor, the Cobol Club, OTR, radio commercials, flash fiction, CBC, The Age Of Persuasion, “Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!”, Plotting For Perfection (the short story), stage play, the Vera Van Slyke stories, occult detectives, Fitz-James O’Brien, audio dramatizations of the Vera Van Slyke stories, Black Jack Justice, The Red Panda Adventures, why be locked into the 1/2 hour audio drama format?, A Demon Once Removed, a one set one act play, Nicole (the peripheral character with a personality), Chekhov’s Gun, an alternate history, “Gregg Taylor need not be played by Gregg Taylor”, Orson Welles, history, Frozen Words Thawed, Remembering The Martians, an all black cast of MacBeth, The War Of The Worlds, H.G. Wells, The Tempest (as an alien contact story), William Shakespeare, a controversy over the character names in Facing Cydonia, Jenny will sing us a song, the boxes, “are there more boxes in you?”, ghosts, the button, the wax cylinder recorder, the Piltdown Man hoax, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, an authentic hoax, Conan Doyle is the most gullible, the Cottingley Fairies, FairyTale: A True Story, Harry Houdini, Terry Jones, Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book, the EULA on wax cylinders, Thomas Edison, the most science-fictiony story, Plotting For Perfection, a femme fatale story without the femme fatale, “talk about your retro-causality”, “a box with a hole in it”, Andrea Lyons?, Scene Of The Crime, Remembering The Martians, racism, difference, tolerance, Doctor Who – The Power Of Three, fish people, are the Martians really dead?, binary fission, fruitful names, Jacob, Jason, Easter eggs, Finbar, The Silver Tongued Devil, The Sonic Society, Roger Gregg, it’s a pseudo-documentary, a joke/haiku, “conclusions should be drawn with a pencil not a pen”, Aliens Are Like Mirages, “it’s an indictment I’m just not sure what it’s an indictment of”, “if we had this power would we use it?”, the curiousness of the chaplaincy, prequels are for readers not writers, the miracle, the yup, human history in a nutshell, To Serve Man, narrative structure, why is X-Minus One a good name?, Marvellous Boxes as a name doesn’t have a super-punch, steampunky, “steamy contraptions”, Murdoch Mysteries (CBC TV), “a little less steam and a little more electricity”, Netflix in Canada sucks, Weeds, Walk Off The Earth.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From The Living Dead
By Max Brooks; Read by Marc Cashman
Approx. 8 Hours 38 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: September 12, 2006
Themes: / Zombies / Humor / Horror / Apocalypse /
The next time a Class 2 zombie outbreak occurs in my neighborhood, I’ll be well-prepared to deal with the shambling corpses of hungry undead now that I’ve read Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From The Living Dead.
The Zombie Survival Guide dispels exaggerated myths and legends of the undead and instead presents the reader with unvarnished “truths” about zombies. You’ll find information on zombies’ physical strength, sight, hearing, and rate of decay, and the pros and cons of various weaponry for battling the undead (everything from medieval maces and claymores, to M-16s and flamethrowers). It describes various scenarios for identifying early signs of localized (Class 1) outbreaks, to full-blown widespread undead infestation (Class 3). You’ll find best practices for battling zombies in urban settings, in harsh desert and swamp environments, even under the sea. The Zombie Survival Guide tells you how to defend your home by stocking up with key food and supplies and moving to your second floor and destroying all staircases (recommend for Class 2), or how to survive on the run as you move to the most remote and therefore safest parts of the planet in a world-wide zombie apocalypse in which mankind is overrun (Class 4). The best vehicle should an outbreak occur? You might not guess it, but it’s a bicycle. On a bike you can easily outrun the slow, slouching pace of zombies, it will never run out of gas, you can carry a bicycle over rough terrain, and you can maneuver a bike through the inevitable traffic jams that accompany a full-on panic. Motorcycles are very good too, though their noise attracts the undead. Boats are also a secure means of travel, says Brooks, but watch your anchor line—zombies walking on the ocean floor can use it to climb up to your boat. “Hundreds” of hapless victims have died this way, Brooks tells us.
The Zombie Survival Guide serves as a perfect gateway to Brooks’ highly recommended World War Z |READ OUR REVIEW|. If for nothing else, and you find Brooks’ post-apocalyptic strategems and survival tactics tedious, I’d recommend this book simply for the highly entertaining “Recorded Outbreaks” section. Here Brooks describes various zombie outbreaks throughout history, from ancient tales recorded in chilling primitive artwork, all the way up through living eyewitness accounts from the early 21st century. These are written in the economical journalism style that Brooks’ employs so effectively in World War Z, lending these “outbreaks” a documentary-style feel, which makes them seem more realistic and terrifying. According to Brooks there have been many zombie outbreaks throughout history—perhaps even in my neighborhood, hence my need to be ready—but these have been largely laughed off by skeptical media, ascribed to outbreaks of disease, localized madness, or industrial pollution, or covered up by governments or the CDC, fearful that public knowledge would result in full-scale panic.
For all its earnestness you have to take The Zombie Survival Guide with a heavy dose of salt. While it’s written in a deadpan style and never descends into farce, and purports to be a “real” guide for complete protection against the walking dead, when you read passages like “If you want to know the true danger of an airborne (parachute) attack against zombies, try dropping a square centimeter of meat on a swarming anthill. Chances are, that meat will never touch the ground. In short, air support is just that—support. People who believe it to be a war-winner have no business planning, orchestrating, or participating in any conflict with the living dead,” you can’t help but laugh (I did laugh out loud, several times). While not as well-written or as compelling as World War Z, for zombie aficionados The Zombie Survival Guide is nevertheless a must-read.
Marc Cashman narrates with a dry, clipped voice that perfectly suits the how-to nature of The Zombie Survival Guide. There’s a touch of William Shatner in his delivery, with dramatic pauses in odd places, but that only adds to the fun.
Posted by Brian Murphy
Wild Cards (Wild Cards #1)
Edited by George R. R. Martin; Read by Luke Daniels
19 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: November 2011
Themes: / alternate history / superpowers / alien virus / superhero / urban fantasy / science fiction / horror /
In the aftermath of WWII, an alien virus struck the Earth, endowing a handful of survivors with extraordinary powers. Originally published in 1987, the newly expanded saga contains additional original stories by eminent writers.
The stories contained in the audiobook are:
“Prologue” by George R. R. Martin
“Thirty Minutes Over Broadway!” by Howard Waldrop
“The Sleeper” by Roger Zelazny
“Witness” by Walter Jon Williams
“Degradation Rites” by Melinda Snodgrass
“Captain Cathode and the Secret Ace” by Michael Cassutt
“Powers” by David D. Levine
“Shell Games” by George R. R. Martin
“The Long, Dark Night of Fortunato” by Lewis Shiner
“Transfigurations” by Victor Milán
“Down Deep” by Edward Bryant and Leanne C. Harper
“Strings” by Stephen Leigh
“Ghost Girl Takes Manhattan” by Carrie Vaughn
“Comes a Hunter” by John J. Miller
There are also a variety of “Interludes” in between the stories, which are short bits mostly written in the form of newspaper or magazine articles or first-hand witness accounts. These interludes are often used to bridge the narrative with real events from US history, to provide the reader with insight as to the feelings in this “alternate history” type world.
Generally, this is a story of the effects of an alien virus on humanity between the time shortly following World War II through the late 70’s/early 80’s. The virus was brought to earth by aliens from a planet called Takis. It was developed as a device to give Takisians superpowers to be used as a part of large-scale family wars on Takis. The aliens wanted to test it, so sought to release it on Earth, as humans are genetically very similar to Takisians. “Prologue” introduces us to an alien who is called (by the humans, as his name is not well-suited to human speech) Dr. Tachyon and the “Wild Cards” virus. Dr. Tachyon is also a Takisian, but tried to prevent the release of the virus on Earth. “Prologue” sets the scene and tone for the world of the book. It also provides an insight into Dr. Tachyon’s values: he doesn’t ask first for the President of the US, he instead asks for the top scientists and thinkers. This is an obvious nod by George R. R. Martin to those who have true powers in the US.
“Thirty Minutes Over Broadway!” tells the story of Jet Boy, an American superhero, and the release of the Wild Cards virus over Manhattan in September, 1946. Jet Boy is a true hero, an all-American kid who came back from fighting in World War II with a superhero story of his ace flying abilities. He is the only superhero in the book who wasn’t a superhero because of the virus, but because of his innate abilities and selflessness. In a theme that becomes common through the book, the reader is reminded that a hero is a hero because of what they do, not because of their skills. Jet Boy tries—and fails—to stop the virus from being released.
The virus is brutal. It only impacts humans, with no effects on other species. It kills most of its victims, but those who survive (only about a tenth of those exposed to the virus) are not left unscathed. Through the rest of the book, the reader is introduced to various people impacted by the virus. The first stories tell mainly of “Aces,” those who get super powers from the virus (usually in the form of telekinesis and/or greatly enhanced physical abilities. Later, the reader is introduced to the concept of “Jokers,” who become horribly deformed due to the virus. The first interlude presents the concept of “Deuces,” those who get an “ace-like” ability that is not particularly useful, like “Mr. Rainbow,” whose ability is to change the color of his skin.
The narrative takes the reader through time: each story is a snapshot of a period in US history and provides a sort of “alternate history” of how that time may have been different if there had been these Aces and Jokers were around. Some of the early stories, taking place during the era of HUAC and McCarthyism, show how the aces became subjects of witch hunts and were forced into service in the US military or intelligence agencies. Jokers are looked upon as second-class beings, a theme that plays a large role during the stories set in the 60’s and 70’s, mirroring the US Civil Rights Movement. Some of the stories are sad, such as “The Sleeper” and “Witness.” Some are a bit more uplifting and triumphant, such as “Shell Games.” A lot of the stories, especially the later ones, become a bit creepy, with people using their powers for selfish reasons, as in “Strings.”
All in all, Wild Cards serves as an interesting statement on humanity through the guise of a “what if” scenario. All of the stories are eminently believable—at no time did anything that happened seem overwhelmingly unlikely. To some extent, that’s a bit of a sad statement on humanity—as the book goes on, aces and jokers alike seem to be only interested in helping themselves, looking out for their own (often misguided) interests.
The narration, done by Luke Daniels, was pretty good in the audiobook. He had a good speed and good intonation for most of the characters, and it was easy to tell each character apart. As often happens with male narrators trying to do female voices, some of the females sounded whiny, but it wasn’t so over the top so as to be unlistenable. After listening to this narration, I’ll be keeping Luke Daniels on my radar when looking at audiobooks.
Personally, I preferred the stories in the first half of the book to those in the second half. In the second half, the stories got quite a bit darker, more creepy and violent. After the strong lead-in with the Prologue and “Thirty Minutes Over Broadway,” I quite enjoyed the origin stories and the weaving-in of events in US history. As the book progressed, the stories didn’t seem quite as engaging—for one, I actually repeatedly fell asleep while listening, and ended up having rewind and re-listen to some of the others. There was also one story that was too graphic both in terms of sex and violence for me, “The Long, Dark Night of Fortunato” by Lewis Shiner. By the end, I wasn’t interested in more stories of people serving their own interests. There are other books in the series, which I have heard are more like the stories at the end of the book—I’m not sure that they’ll be for me. But I enjoyed this anthology well enough and would recommend it to others interested in a cross of science fiction, general fiction, and horror genres.
Review by terpkristin
The Summer Isles
By Ian R. MacLeod; Read by Steve Hodson
Audible Download – Approx. 13 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible Frontiers
Themes: / Alternative History / Dystopia / History / Fascism / Homosexuality /
I have always been intrigued by alternative histories. Unfortunately my knowledge of history sometimes limits my enjoyment, being more of an overview of the subject. I often can’t tell if an event has been changed, and if so, whether it is significant or not. In some of the better alternate histories you can get away with not knowing too much about the period and still enjoy the story. Thankfully, in this case, I had recently been reading a history of Europe covering the same period from the early 1910′s to 1940.
MacLeod’s The Summer Isles is set primarily in a 1940 where Great Britain lost The Great War in 1918. America doesn’t enter the war and France makes an appeasement with Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Germany. The result is that Britain, not Germany, is left in a state of shock, feeling betrayed by their supposed allies. A young soldier, John Arthur, rises to power in the bleak years that follow, suggesting a parallel to Hitler, who gets only a single reference, never having the opportunities to gain power that losing the war afforded. The great Empire that was Britain is stripped away in the reparations following the war. That sense of betrayal is used to fuel Arthur’s rise to power as he brings in his political movement “Modernism”. John Arthur’s portrait hangs everywhere, even in the men’s public toilets.
Modernism is a very British take on fascism and drove several of the same horrors that Naziism did in our own history. Jews, homosexuals, intellectuals, the Irish and any and all other ‘deviants’ are persecuted and ultimately removed from the new Modernist society. The Jews in particular are sent to be “resettled” on the eponymous Summer Isles.
The story is told by Geoffrey Brook, a secretly homosexual Oxford history Don, who had some prestige for having been a favourite teacher of John Arthur as a child. Brook is in his 60′s in 1940 when he receives the news that he has at terminal lung cancer.
Brook, in trying to reconcile himself with his past, recounts in flashbacks the one true love of his life that he lost in the Great War. More flashbacks fill in the years before and after that war; several of the scenes flowing together with the present day as Brook’s mind drifts in and out of his reminiscences. Particularly when he visits some of the same locations.
MacLeod’s writing is excellent, at times didactic, as the historian narrator recounts past political and social events, yet by turns touching, confused, detailed and frightened as more personal or recent events are recounted. Slow at times, this fits will with the drifting recollections of the narrator as the hidden story is gradually revealed. The final act of the novel moves at a much faster pace, while still holding convincingly onto the character of the narrator. The Summer Isles was nominated for the John C Campbell Memorial Award, the Sidewise Award for Alternate History and the World Fantasy Award.
The audio narration by Steve Hodson fits the character perfectly. The weariness with life, the broken rapture at prized but lost moments of love and of lust are all perfectly portrayed. He even nails virtually all of the Scottish pronunciations; a pet peeve sf mind, being Scottish myself, with several other narrators.
Posted by Paul [W] Campbell
Episode #152 of The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast is a discussion of Isaac Asimov’s The End Of Eternity. It’s also a follow-up to the previous time travel episode (#151). Luke and I discuss the book and related time travel tales.
Podcast feed: http://www.sfbrp.com/?feed=podcast
Discussed on the show:
A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain, a flexible chronology, Luke’s first Isaac Asimov review for SFBRP, Robert A. Heinlein, Nightfall by Isaac Asimov (and Robert Silverberg) is bad, Isaac Asimov has ideas to spare, the Wikipedia entry for The End Of Eternity, “what clever idea can I use, in time travel, that hasn’t been used before”, time loops, time barriers, “are you your own grandpa?”, Poul Anderson’s time corps, bureaucracy, how does time travel work?, time travel is discovered, eternity is a place outside of time, powering a time travel technology is easy if you can time travel, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, the “kettle”, Ray Bradbury’s A Sound Of Thunder, A Gun For Dinosaur by L. Sprague de Camp, time lords?, Adjustment Team by Philip K. Dick, Back To The Future, remembering the works of culture and developments in realities that no longer exist, 13 different versions of the complete works of William Shakespeare, the academic background of professorial jockeying, are there two different endings for The End Of Eternity?, being outside of time, “the outside of the inside of eternity”, the malleability of reality through time travel, a limited butterfly effect, the inertia of history, killing Hitler, William The Conqueror vs. King Harold Godwinson, Genghis Kahn’s descendants, computers (the vocation) vs. computers (the devices), technicians don’t get any respect, “They feel an unspoken collective guilt which causes them to scapegoat the ‘Technicians’, the experts who actually execute Reality Changes by doing something that will alter the flow of events.”, a caste system, Minding Tomorrow by Luke Burrage, making changes by setting your mind to it, Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Harlan is a bit of a dim bulb, Demolition Man, time travel as a secret (paralleling magic as a secret), The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman, mutable realities, the grandfather paradox, unmanipulated reality, alternate history, Sidewise In Time by Murray Leinster, later Heinlein novels, unrestricted freedom in multiple realities can be extremely disheartening, Groundhog Day, infinite universes are boring, By His Bootstraps by Robert A. Heinlein, All You Zombies by Robert A. Heinlein, making a knot out of your own timeline, giving a young William Shakespeare a copy of The Complete Works Of Shakespeare, motherless objects and motherless ideas, giving your younger self an object (or advice), multiple timelines, “if that’s possible then that’s not possible”, time traveller’s convention, BoingBoing’s time travelers (I and II), European Juggling Convention 2003, Time Travel #2 Advanced Time Travel Techniques, Paradoxes For Beginners, Harlan Ellison, Murder At The ABA by Isaac Asimov, Darius Dust (dry as dust), Tales Of The Black Widowers, sexism, women are not suitable time travelers, an apocryphal tale of the Obamas, energy bodies, sending a message from the past to the future, you have an energy body but paper magazines?, a future vs. the future, The Door Into Summer, Escape Pod’s recording of All You Zombies, Asimovian characters, The End Of Eternity is about Earth, House Of Suns by Alastair Reynolds, something so big and so mind bogglingly complex, SFFaudio Podcast #073 George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides, “Gregg Margarite and that other guy (Jesse) are losers”, batshit theories, Eric S. Rabkin, Adam and Eve, fairy tales, sex, “the unconscious does exist”, Luke’s original fiction, “we do these podcasts for ourselves”, interesting bullshit, Luke’s Creative Podcast (with Gregg Margarite), “make your own podcast if you don’t like one.”
Posted by Jesse Willis