The Adventures Of Apocalypse Al (comic + audio drama #1)

March 14, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

The Adventures Of Apocalypse Al

Nearly 10 years I began reporting that J. Michael Straczynski had been asked to write a radio drama for CBC Radio One. Later, we learned that Cynthia Dale had been cast in the title role. And still later that the show was in production. And it was indeed recorded. But it never aired. Over the years the campaign to get it aired plodded along – but without any success. Then a couple years ago word of a comics version came about. Now, after the comics version is actually out (the first issue was dated February 2014) I am stunned to report that there is indeed now a new audio drama available.

Apocalypse Al - Audio Track #1

As you can see above, a QR code (and the regular http:// address) are given in the latter pages of the first issue of the comic.

I should point out that this is an entirely NEW recording (not the one Canadian taxpayers paid for but never heard) and we don’t know yet if the remaining 3/4 of the story will be produced for audio.

Studio JMSThe Adventures of Apocalypse Al – Issue #1
By J. Michael Straczynski; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 19 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Uploaded: 2013
When a mysterious figure gets his hands on the Book of Keys, whose secrets can cause the destruction of the world, Allison Carter is the only one who can stop him. Her journey takes her through a world populated by zombie cops, machinegun toting imps, techno-wizards, closet trolls, demonic theme parks, other dimensions, Ultimate Darkness, and an undead ex-boyfriend.

Produced By: Patricia Tallman

Cast:
Patricia Tallman as Allison Carter
Robin Atkin Downes
Fred Tatasciore
Stephanie Walters

Sound Effects Editor/Designer: Robin Atkin Downes

[Thanks also to Q Buckley!]

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Rivers by Michael Farris Smith

January 14, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Rivers by Michael Farris SmithRivers
By Michael Farris Smith; Read by Michael Farris Smith
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: September 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 hours, 28 minutes

Themes: / global warming / post-apocalypse / apocalypse / survival / floods / eco-disaster /

Publisher summary:

It had been raining for weeks. Maybe months. He had forgotten the last day that it hadn’t rained, when the storms gave way to the pale blue of the Gulf sky, when the birds flew and the clouds were white and sunshine glistened across the drenched land.

Following years of catastrophic hurricanes, the Gulf Coast—stretching from the Florida panhandle to the western Louisiana border—has been brought to its knees. The region is so punished and depleted that the government has drawn a new boundary ninety miles north of the coastline. Life below the Line offers no services, no electricity, and no resources, and those who stay behind live by their own rules.

Cohen is one who stayed. Unable to overcome the crushing loss of his wife and unborn child who were killed during an evacuation, he returned home to Mississippi to bury them on family land. Until now he hasn’t had the strength to leave them behind, even to save himself.

But after his home is ransacked and all of his carefully accumulated supplies stolen, Cohen is finally forced from his shelter. On the road north, he encounters a colony of survivors led by a fanatical, snake-handling preacher named Aggie who has dangerous visions of repopulating the barren region.

Realizing what’s in store for the women Aggie is holding against their will, Cohen is faced with a decision: continue to the Line alone, or try to shepherd the madman’s captives across the unforgiving land with the biggest hurricane yet bearing down—and Cohen harboring a secret that may pose the greatest threat of all.

In a near-future apocalyptic Mississippi, hurricanes and flooding are so frequent (nearly constant) that the government has redrawn the southern border of the country above the disaster zone. Anyone living south of The Line has no government assistance, no security, and must fend for him or herself. This setting is one of the most realistic apocalyptic worlds I have read. I’m intentionally not using the word “post” because throughout the novel, destruction continues. People are trying to survive below The Line, but hail and winds and rains are still a bigger enemy than the sprinkling of humans trying to create lives for themselves.

Cohen is a man who holed up in grief until he goes against his instincts and gives a ride to a man and woman on the road. Various events force him to make the next moves in his life in order to survive. I was quite interested in the story in the first half and in the end, but the middle almost lost me as Cohen seems to wander more in his memories than in solving his problems.

I listened to the audiobook read by the author. I didn’t realize he was the reader until the end, and thought he must just be a voice actor I hadn’t heard before. His accent is subtle but places the listener within the region, and he sounds slightly worn, slightly tired, which fits the character completely.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

Review of The Poison Belt by Arthur Conan Doyle

December 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Poison BeltThe Poison Belt
By Arthur Conan Doyle; Read by Gildart Jackson
Publisher: Dreamscape Audiobooks
[UNABRIDGED] – 3 hours, 24 minutes

Themes: / apocalypse / poison / science fiction /

Publisher summary:

What would you do if you had discovered that the planet was about to be engulfed in a belt of poisonous “ether” from outer space? Professor Challenger invites a hand-picked crew of adventurers and scientists to his home outside London, which has been fortified with several hours’ worth of oxygen. Challenger & Co. assemble in front of a picture window to witness the end of all life on the planet. As birds plummet from the sky, trains crash, and men and women topple over before their horrified gaze, they debate everything from the possibilities of the universe to the “abysses that lie upon either side of our material existence.”

I like Sherlock Holmes but I am much fonder of Arthur Conan Doyle’s other fiction. He was a skilled teller of “weird tales” and I have heard he was proudest of his historical fiction which I really enjoy. The Poison Belt is the second in a series of fantasy and science fiction novels featuring the brilliant and overpowering Professor Challenger.  It functions very well as a stand alone novel.

Having assembled a newsman, big game huntsman, and another scientist to explore South America in their first adventure, The Lost World, it is only logical that Challenger would call upon the same group for this scientific emergency. Professor Challenger puzzles them when he asks each to bring along a cylinder of oxygen. They are well acquainted with Challenger’s eccentricities but little do they suspect that he anticipates an apocalyptic event.

I’d say more but I think reading the whole description would have ruined my astonishment and interest in the story as it unfolded in this superb audiobook. In fact, having grabbed this review book solely based on my enjoyment of The Lost World, I hadn’t read the description at all. I was stunned to find this was such an apocalyptic novel. It is really well written and thought through. I was frequently surprised as various events occurred because I simply hadn’t thought through the consequences of an apocalypse in 1913 England.

Part of the enjoyment of The Poison Belt comes from the adventurers’ interactions. Doyle is very good at inserting humor, often through the two scientists’ bickering over conclusions, and at other times in hunter Lord John’s casual comments as in this instance when Challenger has asked the group to look at an amoeba through a microscope.

Lord John was prepared to take him on trust.

“I’m not troublin’ my head whether he’s alive or dead,” said he. “We don’t so much as know each other by sight, so why should I take it to heart? I don’t suppose he’s worryin’ himself over the state of OUR health.”

I laughed at this, and Challenger looked in my direction with his coldest and most supercilious stare. It was a most petrifying experience.

“The flippancy of the half-educated is more obstructive to science than the obtuseness of the ignorant,” said he. “If Lord John Roxton would condescend—-”

“My dear George, don’t be so peppery,” said his wife, with her hand on the black mane that drooped over the microscope. “What can it matter whether the amoeba is alive or not?”

“It matters a great deal,” said Challenger gruffly.

“Well, let’s hear about it,” said Lord John with a good-humoured smile. “We may as well talk about that as anything else. If you think I’ve been too off-hand with the thing, or hurt its feelin’s in any way, I’ll apologize.”

Part of the humor comes across thanks to the excellent narration by actor Gildart Jackson. As is often the case with actors, his reading is rife with expressive accents, subtle nuances, and changes of pace. This isn’t a very long book and goes along at a rattling pace. I was hooked from the beginning.

I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed an audiobook more and I hope that Dreamscape is considering more of Arthur Conan Doyle’s fiction for the future.

Posted by Julie D.

The Star by H.G. Wells

November 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

The Star by H.G. Wells

The Star by H.G. Wells - illustration by L. Marold from The Graphic, December 1897

Here’s a portion of the Wikipedia entry for The Star:

“[The Star] can be credited with having created a Science Fiction sub-genre depicting a planet or star colliding, or near-colliding with Earth – such as the 1933 novel When Worlds Collide by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer, (made into a film in 1951), Fritz Leiber’s The Wanderer (1965), and Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (1977).”

Here is the editorial introduction (presumably by Hugo Gernsback himself) to the story as found in the Amazing Stories, June 1926 printing:

“Here is an impressive story based on the inter-action of planetary bodies and of the sun ipon them. A great star is seen approaching the earth. At first it is only an object of interest to the general public, but there is an astronomer on the earth who is watching each phase and making mathematical calculations, for he knows the intimate relation of gravitation between bodies and the effect on rotating bodies of the same force from an outside source. He fears all sorts of wreckage on our earth. He arns the people, but they as usual, discount all he says and label him mad. But he was not mad. H.G. Wells, in his own way, gives us a picturesque description of the approach of the new body through long days adn nights – he tells how the earth and natural phenomena of the earth will re-act. Though this star never touches our sphere, the devastation and destruction wrought bu it are complete and horrible. The story is correct in its astronomical aspects.”

Without a significant viewpoint character H.G. Wells’ The Star relates, with elegiac cosmicism, of the destruction of Earth and its inhabitants. There is in this story a dispassionate reverence for both the blind omnipotence of nature and mortal humanity’s perception of its place within it.

365 Days Of AstronomyThe Star
By H.G. Wells; Read by Pamela Quevillon
1 |MP3| – Approx. 35 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: 365 Days Of Astronomy
Podcast: October 20, 2013
Astronomers discover a bright new star in the heavens rushing headlong towards the Earth on a collision course. First published in The Graphic, December 1897.

LibriVoxThe Star
By H.G. Wells; Read by Heather Phillips
1 |MP3| – Approx. 30 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: 2010
Astronomers discover a bright new star in the heavens rushing headlong towards the Earth on a collision course. First published in The Graphic, December 1897.

LibriVoxThe Star
By H.G. Wells; Read by Linda Dodge
1 |MP3| – Approx. 32 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: 2009
Astronomers discover a bright new star in the heavens rushing headlong towards the Earth on a collision course. First published in The Graphic, December 1897.

PeopletalkThe Star
By H.G. Wells; Read by Jenny Rowe
1 |MP3| or |MP3| – Approx. 30 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Peopletalk
Podcast: September 18, 2006
Astronomers discover a bright new star in the heavens rushing headlong towards the Earth on a collision course. First published in The Graphic, December 1897.

Here is a |PDF| made from the publication in Amazing Stories, June 1926.

Here’s an easy reading version, suitable for printing |PDF|.

And, here’s a Spanish language translation |PDF| that’s beautifully illustrated.

The Star by H.G. Wells - illustration from Amazing Stories, June 1926

The Star by H.G. Wells - illustrated by Oscar Palacios

The Star by H.G. Wells - illustrated by Oscar Palacios

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Black Feathers by Joseph D’Lacey

July 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Black Feathers by Joseph D'LaceyBlack Feathers (The Black Dawn #1)
By Joseph D’Lacey; Performed by Simon Vance
Publisher: Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 discs; 13 hours

Themes: / fantasy / apocalypse / post-apocalypse / eco-horror / mysterious figures /

Publisher summary:

It is the Black Dawn, a time of environmental apocalypse, the earth wracked and dying. It is the Bright Day, a time long generations hence, when a peace has descended across the world. In each era, a child shall be chosen. Their task is to find a dark messiah known only as the Crowman. But is he our saviour – or the final incarnation of evil?

Black Feathers is the first in the Black Dawn series by eco-horror writer Joseph d’Lacey. It follows two timelines, one about a present day boy Gordon Black whose birth marks the end of the world and one about Megan Maurice who lives in a post-apocolyptic future. They are connected in their search for the Crowman, a mysterious figure who will either save the world or destroy it. And if you were hoping to find that out, or anything else for that matter, you’ll have to wait for the next book.

This book sets up tone really well. It’s moody and dark and a little bit creepy without being cheap. And as great as the idea of the Crowman and the parallel timelines are it all falls apart in the lack of plot. After all, just because I will watch a movie with a shirtless Jude Law doesn’t mean I want to be forced to spend a day with him. And that was kind of how this was. After a while I was just waiting to see if anything would happen that would be more than a “previously on” could sum up. The answer is no. Not even in the last chapter. This is probably also because I had trouble connecting with Gordon and Megan. We are told that they are special and important without being shown. Why does Gordon’s coming mark the end of the world? Why do crows follow him around wherever he goes? Why was Megan chosen by the Crowman to receive visions when no girl has been chosen before her? It’s a mystery! But we know that all this has been foretold so that makes them special. Unfortunately, they are not special enough for me to want to stick around through Gordon wondering what to do when his family is taken away and meeting some random strangers in the woods. Or to see Megan wandering around a forest while her teacher whispers enigmatic things at her.

Along those same lines, this book also commits the cardinal sin of being worthless on its on. Without a sequel, this book does not have a complete story. There is not a single resolved plot element or character arc which makes the whole thing an overly long set up for the next book.

As a side note, d’Lacey takes the eco part of his chosen genre seriously. There are times when it gets a bit preachy about how we have destroyed the earth and we are horrible, irresponsible creatures. This actually gives it a bit of a Happening feel. Anyway, if you enjoy composting on your days off, this is the book for you.

The audiobook is narrated by Simon Vance who was amazing and perfect for this book. He loans it an almost storybook quality that enhanced the overall tone and emphasized the youthfulness of the protagonists. Even if the book is mediocre, I could listen to him for hours. Which is, in fact, exactly what I did.

Posted by Rose D.

Review of The Wrong Goodbye by Chris F. Holm

November 25, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Please welcome new reviewer Dan VK!

The Wrong Goodbye (The Collector Book Two)
By Chris F. Holm; Read by Brian Vander Ark
Publisher: Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio
Published: 2012
Length: 10 hours [UNABRIDGED]
ISBN: 978-1-4692-0892-3

Themes: / fantasy / reaper / souls / apocalypse /

Publisher Summary: Meet Sam Thornton, collecter of souls. The souls of the damned, to be precise. Because of his efforts to avert the Apocalypse, Sam Thornton has been given a second chance: provided he can stick to the straight-and-narrow.

Which sounds all well and good, but when the soul that Sam is sent to collect goes missing, he finds himself on a path leading straight to Hell.

What a wild ride Chris F. Holm’s The Collector series has been so far. The initial installment Dead Harvest introduced Collector Sam Thornton cursed in the afterlife to roam the earth via hopping from one body to the next collecting the souls of the damned. The Wrong Goodbye continues the story at a fast pace with minimal emphasis on backstory. Once again Sam finds himself walking a very thin line in the war between good and evil with characters new, old, and in some cases very ancient.

The body hopping aspect in this series often leads to some very intriguing plot twists as the story speeds ahead and will suddenly veer off in a surprising new direction. You literally do not know where Sam Thornton is going to end up next. Added to the mix in the latest installment is the development of other collector characters that share a history with Sam, an apparent no-no in the world of collectors creating for a complex web of interaction.

Chris F Holm expands on the rich universe of demon mythology of the first book, incorporating Biblical era stories and characters into his fiction in a very entertaining way. Each story presents a scenario with Sam Thornton thrust reluctantly into the role of averting an apocalypse due to a soul collection gone very wrong. The narration of Brian Vander Ark of the band Verve Pipe perfectly matches the first-person hardboiled tone of these stories. I especially like what he brings to each of the different characters giving each demon, angel, etc. their own distinctive voices. I am hoping Brian will stay on to wrap up the series with the next installment The Big Reap.

Review by Dan VK

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