Ender’s Game Alive
By Orson Scott Card; Performed by a full cast
Publisher: Skyboat Media
7 hours 24 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Themes: / science fiction / childhood / aliens
Sometimes you hear about something and can’t wait to get your hands on it because you want to experience it, to touch it, see it, whatever. You have expectations and hope like mad that in the end, you won’t be disappointed.
for me, the new audio drama adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game fits the above description perfectly. The fact that Card wrote the script himself only made the anticipation worse because the bar went higher. It was raised further when I found out who was producing it: the folks at Skyboat Media. To find out whether or not they succeeded, the end result, (enemy’s gate), is down.
An important note for Ender’s Game fans, I am going to be limiting my scope to the book when reviewing this audio play. For the purposes of this review, the film does not exist. I want to tackle that challenge under its own merits. Any references to it will be made in passing if at all. With that said, our gate is open; on with the review.
The setup: a young boy at the age of six is taken from his home to attend a school for brilliant minds; to turn the “little dorklings” into soldiers and commanders because there is a war going on. This is the third such conflict with this alien race and our protagonist (unknown to him at the onset), is being groomed to be the commander that leads the entire fleet, hopefully, with good results. If not, the human race is doomed.
Our story follows Andrew Wiggin (nicknamed “Ender” by his sister) from the very beginning of his journey; even before that when the decision is made by his parents to have him with the full knowledge that this goes against the population policy in place.
“No more thirds.”
Of course, because this is the international fleet (I.F.) making the request; the rules are bent. All they have to do is sign on the dotted line and fill out the forms. If they don’t, genetic material will be seized and used until the right child is born and sent to battle school; a space station that prepares its students for lives spent as part of the fleet.
Ender’s parents are a special case because their first two children , Peter and Valentine, are geniuses. Why the first wasn’t chosen for the school, (as explained by the commander in charge), is because the kid is plum psycho. Why the sister isn’t picked is because she’d break under actual battle pressure when real losses come her way. And thus the fleet wants the parents to give it another go or else. This is the world Ender is born in. He’s at a disadvantage from the start. The running theme is, “Let’s see how ender handles it.”
The audio play does a great job of setting the appropriate pieces on the chessboard and letting the game play out. The story to tell is Ender’s story. Where it deviates from the book is the fleshing out of the interactions between the staff observing his progress. This is a necessary change since the book mostly takes place from Ender’s mind and point of view. This may seem like The Cabin in the Woods kind of gimmick but it is an important evolution in the way the story is being told. The play has to present things from a different angle and come to the same conclusions; adjusting things as needed to fit the plot’s progression.
the second major deviation is the focus on the other Wiggin children subplot. There are hints to it but it is treated almost as an afterthought. The reasoning for this change is sound; political debates and research would only drag down the story and make the listening experience tedious in places.
All in all, the major plot points of the novel are hit home like a well-aimed shot. There are subtle clues to other works that have been written since Ender’s Game came out in 1985. There are adjustments to some scenes to give the audio play a different feel than just a retreading of the original story step for step. This gives us something a little unexpected and fresh as we take the 7 hour, 24 minute journey.
If you have listened to the audio book of Ender’s Game, several of the casting choices will be no surprise. You hear a particular person’s voice and feel a sense of familiarity that makes the experience that much more enjoyable. Each character is brought to life. You know them, understand them, will not always agree with them or the decisions they make, but can listen to these portrayals and feel like you are the proverbial fly on the wall throughout the story. And when you listen to a scene as heart-felt as when Ender breaks down before his next assignment to command school, you really connect with the emotions in the room. This is how good storytelling becomes great by simply allowing the actors to raise the bar by their performances. The scenes before build up to a moment that is devastating in its impact.
The sound design and score never distract from the dialogue. And for the most part, the editing of the words spoken is top notch. Occasionally, you will hear the hum of the studio where lines were being recorded. If this issue were a constant refrain, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the play as much. As it stands, I only noticed such things myself when listening to the play a second time. That just shows you how engaging the whole packages when listening to it. Even though I noticed these issues, I wasn’t distracted.
At the end of the original audio book, Orson Scott Card said that it was the definitive way to experience his novel. With Ender’s Game Alive, that statement may (and should) be revised. It is a masterful work of audio fiction. Of course, this is in part to the source material. But the transformation from novel to audio play is not an easy undertaking. Orson Scott Card’s background in theatre shines through in this presentation; letting the dialogue drive the story forward. The many actors take on the roles and bring them to life. You won’t mind when adults are playing children. You just want to hear where the story goes. Aside for the minor audio issues, (studio hum in a couple scenes which I won’t spoil here and the inconsistent panning of characters when talking to each other), the production is definitely a recommended listen if you are a fan of Ender’s Game. I give it five out of five toon leaders; that’s one victory ritual.
Posted by Allen Sale
The SFFaudio Podcast #245 – It’s our -The Best of 2013! episode. For it we invited SFFaudio fans, SFFaudio reviewers, and SFFaudio participants to share their listening highlights of 2013. We asked folks to tell us about their favourite audiobook or podcast episode.
If you don’t see your favourites listed below, feel free to add them as a comment. And remember, it needn’t be a podcast or audiobook from 2013, only one you heard in 2013.
And if you leave a comment in the first week (and a way to contact you) you’ll also be eligible for a a FREE PRIZE audiobook mailed to your home (anywhere in the whole universe*)!
- The Stand by Stephen King, Read by Grover Gardner (Random House Audio)
- The Magicians and The Magician King by Lev Grossman, Narrated by Mark Bramhall (Penguin Audio)
- Hard Magic by Larry Correira, read by Bronson Pinchot (Brilliance Audio)
- Boy and Going Solo by Roald Dahl; Read by Dan Stevens (Penguin Audio)
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, Read by Neil Gaiman (Harper Audio)
- The SFF Audio Podcast #222 - Jesse, Jenny, Paul Weimer and Bryan Alexander discuss Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.
- The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, Read by George Guidall (Harper Audio)
- Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal, Read by Mary Robinette Kowal (Macmillan)
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Read by Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne (Random House Audio)
- The SFFaudio Podcast #232 – Scott, Jesse, Jenny, and Tamahome talk about The Prestige by Christopher Priest
- The SFFaudio Podcast #233 – Scott, Luke Burrage, and Jenny talk about Oryx And Crake by Margaret Atwood
- Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, dramatized by Dirk Maggs, BBC Radio 4
- World War Z by Max Brooks, multiple readers (Random House Audio)
- The Prestige by Christopher Priest, Read by Simon Vance (Blackstone Audio)
Posted by Jenny Colvin
*Mirror universe inhabitants need not apply
The SFFaudio Podcast #237 – Jesse, Tamahome, Julie Davis, Seth, and Jimmy Rogers talk about podcasts.
Talked about on today’s show:
Jimmy’s Synthetic Voices, Jenny’s Forgotten Classics and A Good Story is Hard to Find, podcasts are a house of mirrors, we have reached the podcast singularity, Julie’s podcast highlight feature, Edgar Allan Poecast, Dickens and Hawthorn podcasts on Julie’s wishlist, Jimmy’s podcast group meetup, Washington Science Fiction Association, Jimmy’s segment on StarShipSofa, the value of curated podcasts about podcasts, Luke Burrage’s geek Venn diagram (see below), Julie on the intimate nature of podcast listening, Jesse on the rarity of finding people who speak like they write, podcasts invite listeners into the conversation, “Tam listens to all podcasts”, SFSignal, Sword & Laser, mainstream podcasts, Security Now, ABC News, Agony Column, Jesse wants to hit Margaret Atwood again, 99% Invisible funded by KickStarter, Julie scans the new releases section in iTunes, KCRW’s DnA and Martini Shot, Inside the New York Times Book Review Podcast, NPR’s Car Talk, Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me!, Nature podcast, Science Update, Encounters, 60 Minutes is tightly edited (and that’s how it is!), Vice podcast (HBO show tie-in) and Dennis Rodman, Freakonomics, Day 6, Dan Carlin’s Common Sense and Hardcore History, CBC embraces podcasters, Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac makes Seth sound smart, audio drama, the Lovecraftian Welcome to Night Vale, Nerdist podcasts, Twin Peaks, Wormwood, Decoder Ring Theatre‘s shows, Julie Hoverson’s 19 Nocturne Boulevard, Leviathan Chronicles, podiobooks, Scott Sigler‘s BloodCast and Rookie series, J.C. Hutchins, Mur Lafferty‘s Heaven series, We’re Alive zombie podcast, Julie educates us on the Texas definition of “fine”, The Monster Hunters is zany UK comedy (not related to Larry Correia‘s Monster Hunters International), Plants vs. Zombies, HG World (not related to H.G. Wells), Ace Galaksi features Douglas Adams humour, meritocracy in podcast recommendations, “podcasting makes anyone a celebrity”, so does blogging (Julie’s Happy Catholic blog), Seth is the new intern (but can’t afford the Night Vale intern shirt), CromCast discusses Robert E. Howard whilst eating Chinese food, the nature of an author’s writing informs the nature of podcasts about them, H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, Philip K. Dick Philosophical Podcast (not just on Facebook anymore), the importance of a well-researched podcast, Mr Jim Moon’s Hypnogoria, Peter Kushing, Chop Bard Shakespeare podcast, Julie challenges Jesse to do a podcast on The Tempest, SFFAudio’s Odyssey podcast series, Julie’s Genesis podcast series (based on Robert Alter‘s translation and commentary), Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Born Yesterday history podcast featuring an objective history of the gay bar, History According to Bob, British History Podcast, History of Philosophy without any gaps, Mike Duncan‘s History of Rome and Revolutions podcasts, When Diplomacy Fails, alternative iOS podcast apps, Stitcher, Swell Radio is Pandora for podcasts, Downcast ($0.99) is chock full of functionality, Huffduffer creates custom podcast feeds, if you don’t have RSS it’s not a podcast!, Free MP3 Downloader, fiction podcasts, Escape Artists Network (Escape Pod for SF, PodCastle for fantasy, and PseudoPod for horror), StarShipSofa’s Tales to Terrify, Clarkesworld Magazine, John Joseph Adams’s Lightspeed Magazine, Nightmare Magazine, DrabbleCast, different approaches to horror narration, Night of the Living Dead, don’t listen to horror before bed, Journey Into podcast, Seeing Ear Theatre on archive.org, Jimmy and Tam like to support creators of new content (but, asks Jesse, is new necessarily better?), CraftLit is way more than just knitting, podcasts about writing (Jesse hates them), Mur Lafferty’s I Should be Writing, Writing Excuses (Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal), NaNoWriMo, Neil Gaiman on writer’s block, writing podcasts offer writers a sense of community, Adeventures in Science Fiction Publishing, Terry Pratchett “just makes things up”, the importance of writers reading classic works, Jimmy argues that ‘short stories offer writers more opportunity to extemporize and gives readers a sense of immediacy’, writing for deadline, Adventure magazine, Lord of the Rings, Tolkien Professor Podcast, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jane Austen, the Budweiser frogs, advertising as a source of drama, commercialization and ownership of brands, Jimmy on how podcasts build community, an intense debate about layering spoken word audio over music, This Week at NASA, DribbleCast is a fan spin-off of DrabbleCast, The NoSleep Podcast just won Parsec Award for Best New Podcast, Classic Tales Podcast (links are ephemeral), we all love podcasts–surprise!, Warrior Queen of Mars by Alexander Blade, if Doctor Who were a podcast the audience could request an episode with tribbles, Rappuccini’s Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens, podcast production has left overhead than traditional media offering greater flexibility and responsiveness.
Posted by Seth Wilson
AudioComics has launched its debut line of Full Cast Audio Movies, inspired by stories from comics, graphic novels, and genre fiction!
Titanium Rain: A near-future, sci-fi epic. Civil war in China spirals into global conflict. Nations are destroyed, millions killed. For Air Force pilot Alec Killian, survival will mean shedding some of his humanity in exchange for biotech and machine.
Honey West: Murder on Mars: Hollywood’s sexiest detective goes undercover on the set of a low-budget sci-fi film. Who killed the movie’s starlet – the sweet Ingénue, the aging teen idol, the agent boyfriend, or the killer robot?
The Domino Lady: All’s Fair in War: Thrill to the exploits of the Domino Lady and her alter ego, Ellen Patrick, in the Raymond Chandleresque Southern California of 1935. First in a series of Domino Lady releases.
The Batsons: Do you think your family’s strange? Meet The Batsons, a spooky-kooky family of misfit monsters who reside in Flemme Falls, where “awful is lawful and everyone’s mean.” First two episodes: The Trouble with Fang and Carmilla’s Crush.
Posted by Scott D. Danielson
Brad Lansky and the 4D-Verse
By J.D. Venne; Performed by a full cast
1.5 Hours – [AUDIO DRAMA]
Themes: / Science Fiction / Hard SF / Audio Drama / Dimensional space / Quantum entanglement / Artificial Intelligence /
Taking up where the previous Brad Lansky title ended, this drama has Brad and Alex exploring the 4D-Verse. They get split up while searching for MAMAI (an artificial intelligence), with Alex moving to a higher dimension while Brad figures how to get him back.
In a previous review I compared a Brad Lansky audio to Meatball Fulton’s Ruby series. This one comes from the same mold. It’s a aural feast from start to finish; among the richest audio you’ll hear. Another comparison leapt to mind this time: the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Not only is the subject matter similar (hard SF involving alien beings), but the tone is similar. Just like Kubrick lingered on shots to allow the viewer time to experience awe, Dieter Zimmerman and crew linger with sound that creates images in the listener’s mind. This is very much a cooperative experience. Break out your best headphones and be prepared to provide imagination.
Lansky: I can’t wait to check out these places!
Alex: What? Are you crazy?
Lansky: No, just an explorer who doesn’t run away when he finds something interesting!
Dieter Zimmerman, one of the creative people behind the Brad Lansky series, was recently interviewed on Fred Greenhalgh’s Radio Drama Revival podcast. Find that episode |HERE|.
All of the Brad Lansky titles can be purchased at Protophonic.net!
Posted by Scott D. Danielson
The SFFaudio Podcast #131 – Jesse, Scott, and Tamahome talk to Julie Hoverson of 19 Nocturne Boulevard
Talked about on today’s show:
how do you say “hiatus”?, “one woman butt kicking army”, third year anniversary, 74 episodes, The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft audio drama, Bill Hollweg is in The Deadeye Kid, Maine accents, The Leech by Robert Sheckley (secretly), comedy, A Date With Dana was funny, classic storylines, The Rookie won the Mark Time Award, “line up to get killed by their favorites”, “I love creepy old ladies”, Crumping The Devil, The Imp Of The Perverse, Lovecraft’s The Thing On The Doorstep, Within The Walls Of Eryx is “straightforward sci-fi”, Dis Belief is from a Jorge Luis Borges story, puns, finding the copyright owner, finding quality audio drama, Julie’s audio blog about oversight, we need curation, Voice Hollywood does their own ratings, Julie will be at the next Balticon, Balticon Podcast, there’s never enough people to help, Geek Girl Con, editing the parts together, simultaneous recording?, Julie is in The Radio Drama Handbook by Richard J. Hand and Mary Traynor, The Grand Guignol is violent theater, The Thrice Tolled Bell is like a Hammer film, “cuz I’m crazy”, what dramas does Julie like?, We’re Alive (The Zombie Podcast, also from Blackstone Audio), why do it?, Julie tried to develop a “dead serial killer buddy movie”, Wormwood, comics, Five Fingers Of Doom, short stories, timing your podcast releases, “the mentality of slackness”, for the nasty creepiness: One Eighteen: Migration, Julie’s The Gift Of The Zombi an Xmas show, zombies in love, “zombies are the new cowboys”, a half-hour is a good length, fan dogs on Facebook, “what’s the best science fiction audio drama around?”, Kim’s Warp’d Space involves milk runs, Children Of The Gods, The Leviathan Chronicles, Julie is in Edict Zero (created by Jack Kincaid who did The Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy intro), a cop show on a future colony, how complicated can a show be?, “there’s always engaging things”, Big Finish are pros, “fanfic”, Darker Projects Star Trek tie-ins (Tamahome listened to Lost Frontier), Jesse wants A Princess Of Mars drama, who’s got the rights?, adapting a novel, William Shakespeare, Cymbeline Revisited, Edwardian Entertainments, The Yellow Wallpaper
Posted by Tamahome