Review of Steel World by B. V. Larson

July 2, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Steel World steelworldSteel World (#1 in Undying Mercenaries)
By B. V. Larson; Performed by Mark Boyett
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 3 December 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 hours

Themes: / dinosaurs / regeneration / military sf / alien bean counters / science fiction /

Publisher summary:

In the twentieth century Earth sent probes, transmissions and welcoming messages to the stars. Unfortunately, someone noticed.The Galactics arrived with their battle fleet in 2052. Rather than being exterminated under a barrage of hell-burners, Earth joined their vast Empire. Swearing allegiance to our distant alien overlords wasn’t the only requirement for survival. We also had to have something of value to trade, something that neighboring planets would pay their hard-earned credits to buy. As most of the local worlds were too civilized to have a proper army, the only valuable service Earth could provide came in the form of soldiers…someone had to do their dirty work for them, their fighting and dying.

I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a soft and accessible military SF walk-through. If tropes don’t pose a nuisance, this might just graze your fancy.

B. V. Larson’s Steel World is passable military SF, but it’s not a genre standout. If you’re looking to scratch that itch, this will do the trick, but it may not satisfy. All the ingredients are here. We have humans from Earth fighting on a distant planet inhabited by aliens, futuristic weapons, and the technology to make death nearly nonexistent. All the trope-trappings are here of course too, a young recruit, training, deployment, battles, technology, spaceships, etc. But what we don’t have? Genre originality. But it should be said that one doesn’t need break the mold of military SF to have good military SF. In Larson’s case though, it may have helped to step outside the lines in order to make a memorable impression.

For the most part I enjoyed the ride, but I was ready for it to end. The writing affected a forced feel. I was disappointed with the glossed over battle scenes, stereotypical gruff commander, manor in which the recruits fraternized, and the abrupt ending reinforcing the soldier’s inability to “come home” again all felt too prepackaged to ring that bell of authenticity. I struggled with the at times awkward anachronisms. Similes sporting pigs at county fairs, and basic phrases referencing the Internet, the act of brown-nosing, shopping cart wheels, horseshit, and people being pricks kept pulling me out of the future and plunking me back in the contemporary.

Mark Boyett narrates the audiobook, and does a nice job. Boyett has a clean yet slightly senior sounding voice that is incongruous with the main character’s youthful inexperience. While this is feasible to overlook, it never fully leaves the listener’s consciousness. Boyett sounds more like an old man on a porch than a jacked up soldier full of bloodlust and vitality who never stops checking out the backsides of female officers.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

Dinosaurs by Colin Douglas Illustrations by B.H. Robinson narration by Mr Jim Moon

February 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: News 

SFFaudio News

Listen to Mr Jim Moon‘s epic narration of the science book Dinosaurs by Colin Douglas (the illustrations are by B.H. Robinson).

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #218 – READALONG: The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs

June 24, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #218 – Jesse, Luke Burrage, and David Stifel and John Feaster discuss the audiobook of The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs (narrated by David Stifel) – you can get the free podcast of the audiobook HERE.

Talked about on today’s show:
This Burroughs Guy, The Caspak Series, Irwin Borges biography of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Blue Book magazine, The Lost U-Boat, the 1975 movie (The Land That Time Forgot), The People That Time Forgot, weird science ideas, evolution, this is how evolution works here (maybe?), tadpoles, the irony, Tarzan Of The Apes, dead baby ape, “And now this creature of my brain and hand had turned Frankenstein, bent upon pursuing me to my death.”, WWI Germans, The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Journey To The Center Of The Earth by Jules Verne, navigating an underground river with a u-boat, Yellowstone Park, lost continent, high tech, necessary irony, a classic story, Jurassic Park, a UNIX system, “Californians, as a rule are familiar with jiu-jitsu.”, casual racism, Japs vs. J.A.P.s, the Huns (the Bosch), the rape of Belgium, trouble with Germans in the 1920s, Tarzan The Untamed, “full German racism”, Greenland, “imaginative idiots”, the frame story, John Carter of Mars, the tides took a thermos from the Antarctic Indian Ocean to Greenland in the space of a year, very outlandish stories, sardonic humour, Luke on framing stories, werewolves, vampires, zombies, The Player, meta self-referential recursive, we never learn the protagonist’s name until the last chapter, Bowen, the Lafayette Escadrille, Earnest Hemingway, he’s no Tarzan, a techno-geek, a romantic flop, Crown Prince Nobbler aka Nobs (an Airedale), Tintin and Snowy, was Tintin gay?, strange lands, X-Men #10, The Savage Land (of Ka-Zar), fewer dinosaurs, Plesiosaur soup, Pterodactyls, Allosaurus attack, the farther north you go the farther you go in evolution, Ahm, Cro-Magnon man, Out Of Time’s Abyss, embryology, “we’ve all got gills at that point”, flowers, “it’s always below the surface”, “we are more developed from them <- is wrong", whaddya mean kinda racist??, "the black people are below the white people on this chart", H.P. Lovecraft, one could call it evil (but fun adventure), something else, action adventure story, refining your own oil, the hero must always find a dog and a girl and exactly what he needs, the damsel in distress is a bit wet, the movie commander is sympathetic, ape like monsters, Michael Moorcock, volcanic eruptions, Baron Friedrich von Schoenvorts, shelling the fort on the way, evil bastards, shelling the lifeboats is wholly malice, soooo propaganda, Prussian honor, who was the bad guy in WWI?, proposed German peace terms if they had won WWI, domino theory, communism, let's head for Caspak, The Temple by H.P. Lovecraft, an incident blown out of proportion?, terror attacks vs. gun accidents, war crimes?, water-boarding, Otto Skorzeny, bombing dykes and dams (not a war-crime because we did it too), conducting operations while in enemy uniforms, Harry Turtledove’s alternate history, Benito Mussolini, real-life James Bond (was Austrian), Skorzeny’s smite, more Burroughs, The Mucker by Edgar Rice Burroughs, “socially relevant fiction”, yellow peril looking dudes, quite adventurey but with interesting ideas, the pre-Socratics philosophers on spontaneous generation of life, spontaneous or parallel development, again with the weird women birthing practices, Marvel Comics, The Savage Land, Tarzana’s racial segregation, white supremacy, Glenn Beck’s planned community, racists believe in races, socially constructed, genetic racism?, the monkeysphere, H.G. Wells’ work, The War Of The Worlds, Burroughs’ heroic heroes vs. Wells’ horrible people, the sympathy is in us not the book, the artilleryman, a bit of a loon, the Zulu, the Martini rifle, one day one day!, Japan’s aspirations, we need some warships, we’ve got to control our own shit, navel vs. naval, it happened to Germany too, “too cold and full of penguin’s let’s take Poland instead”, The People That Time Forgot, Out Of Time’s Abyss, more Tarzan, how long does it take?, Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar, the Venus series, Jerry Schneider, Pirates Of Venus, invalid copyright renewals, more Mars please, Mastermind Of Mars, permission requires money, the bigger gorilla, Audible.com, Burroughsguy.com, re-writing for less racism, a blow by blow comparison, lynching, The Lost Continent by Edgar Rice Burroughs (aka Beyond Thirty), perfidy, the lost continent is Europe, a black super-state!, 30 Longitude West, prejudices, vilontely pro-capitalist in the Ayn Rand sense, Burroughs loathed the labour movement, the Industrial Workers of the World are the real bad-guy, “women don’t really want to be equal to men”?, deep down atheists really believe in God?, the mystery will be unveiled.

The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs - illustration from Amazing, January 1927

The Land That Time Forgot (ACE Books)

The Land That LEGO Forgot by Edgar Rice Blockkos

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #198 – READALONG: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

February 4, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #198 – Jesse, Tamahome, Jenny, and Professor Eric S. Rabkin discuss The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury.

Talked about on today’s show:
Rock Hudson, The Martian Chronicles (TV adaption), Eric’s Coursera course (Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World), The Million Year Picnic, I, Mars, The Moon Be Still As Bright, Usher II, the hot dog stand on Mars, fix-up, The Long Years (a robot family), Night Call Collect, There Will Come Soft Rains, a book of poems, novels of recurring characters, “composite novels”, “the culminating image of the whole book”, Cortez burning his ships, “were definitely going to need the daughters” (if the daughters are willing), Joanna Russ, Picnic On Paradise, The Million Year Picnic, “tamed nature”, the publisher’s motivation, Walter Bradbury, the market change (with Ballantine Books), “Mammon rules again”, the table of contents, Way In The Middle Of The Air, a more Edenic ending, 1984, North Korea, Earth Abides, the Golden Gate Bridge, getting a sense of the author, H.P. Lovecraft, colour, repetition, word choice, Spender, The Moon Be Still As Bright, Captain Wilder, the instinct to be cruel, the instinct to minimize the horror, the instinct to shoot the tomb robbers, feeling the emotion he’s trying to give us, the physics, nostalgic, seeing it from all sides, Farewell Summer, Bradbury’s gut reactions, The Martian Chronicles as a fairy tale, Isaac Asimov’s reaction, Fantasies set in space, Usher II and censorship, “the Poe machines”, the colour of Mars’ sky (blue and pink), the Martian canals, The Green Morning, Johnny Appleseed, the epigraph, “…space travel has again made children of us all.”, Christopher Columbus, the Chicken Pox plague, Another America, telepathy, the noble savage, a symbolic America, The Pedestrian, Bradbury was a strange guy, Fahrenheit 451, Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Martian high culture, the second expedition, “look up in space, we could go to the Moon!”, dinosaurs!, Mars Is Heaven, Science Fiction is supposed to have knowledge in it, imagery (sight, light, and fire), the brass band, Columbia, The Gem Of The Ocean, music, Humans are technological, Martians are emotional, the window, Beautiful Ohio, music dominates (not intellectual knowledge), Genevieve Sweet Genevieve, “fully lyrical”, the fire lay in the bed and stood in the window, the dog symbolizes the entire loss of the human race, the long monologues, getting it without filtering it, The Musicians, Rocket Summer, “it made climates”, the silences, the music as a symbol for American culture, the killing spree, The Off Season parallels with the second expedition, an inversion, Bradbury has it every way, Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus, Sam Parkhill, an epitome of perverted American ideals, Bradbury loves hot dogs, Dark Carnival, Something Wicked This Way Comes, mournful Mars, America by Ray Bradbury, the Wikipedia entry for The Martian Chronicles, The Taxpayer, the urge to improve, alas, the silhouettes on the house, Chernobyl vs Hiroshima, a grim meme, what gives this book it’s staying power?, Nightfall by Isaac Asimov, L’Anse aux Meadows and Roanoke, maybe it’s circular, “we’re the Martians now and we will be again”, Night Meeting, Stephen Hoye narrated Blackstone Audio, Bradbury’s reading, Bradbury’s first flight, Harlan Ellison, wasting time on the internet, Ylla, The Ray Bradbury Theater, Mardi by Herman Melville, making this book cohere, what part doesn’t fit?, reading it as short stories, “it’s an American book”, robots, decommissioning is murder, Ray Bradbury and Philip K. Dick had a shared contempt for litterers, crassness, The Electric Ant, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, I Sing The Body Electric, Walt Whitman, “it’s the music!”, there’s no switch, gingerbread and tea, Helen O’Loy by Lester Del Rey, are there stories not included in The Martian Chronicles that should have been?, Way In The Middle Of The Air, The Other Foot, different editions of The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, The Fire Balloons, Stranger In A Strange Land, Grouch Marx (Lydia the Tattooed Lady), The Penal Colony by Franz Kafka, The Veldt, The City, Rod Steiger, Dandelion Wine, The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.

The Martian Chronicles illustration by Michael Whelan
The Martian ChroniclesThe Off Season by Ray Bradbury - illustration by Vincent Napoli
Way In The Middle Of The Air by Ray Bradbury - illustrated by Robert Fuqua

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #167 – READALONG: At The Earth’s Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs

July 2, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #167 – Jesse, Tamahome and David Stifel talk about the audiobook and podcast of At The Earth’s Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Talked about on today’s show:
the Burroughs Guy podcast, Pellucidar, A Princess Of Mars, Burroughs was a dynamic writer, 1913, Barsoom series, the Tarzan series, the Pellucidar or Inner World series, The Land That Time Forgot, Tarzan is next, Tarzan goes to Pellucidar (Tarzan At The Earth’s Core), airships, Jules Verne, The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Journey To The Center Of The Earth, Blackstone Audio, the hollow earth, lizard people, dry humour, Dian the beautiful and her brother Dekor, Abner Perry, Robert A. Heinlein, Jubal Harshaw, the well thought through world, the iron mole, an inverted world, Burroughs well lampshades the improbabilities he presents, the moon in the center of the earth (the pendant world), how does the time work in Pellucidar, the relativity of time, the naming of characters and places in Burrough’s worlds, Thoria vs. Thuria, must get loincloths, the 1976 movie version of At The Earth’s Core, princesses, romance, pet hyenadons, saggoths to shoggoth, H.P. Lovecraft, telepathy, the Mahars’ secret, Ja the king, like Robin Hood and Friar Tuck, near instant language learning, Doug McLure, Peter Cushing, a Connecticut Yankee, the pious Perry, Perry’s theory of time, colonialism, the white man’s burden, noble savage, Kull of Atlantis and Brule The Spear Slayer (the Pict), Beyond The Black River, Hooja the Sly One (an ignoble savage), the size of Pellucidar, Ringworld by Larry Niven, the Sahara, manifest density, telegaph line through to the center of the earth, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, “my prehistoric bride”, stone age tech, dinosaurs, giant fire breathing frogs, the various animals of Pellucidar, Hell is Earth, the raw food diet, a dainty cave wife, the illustrated At The Earth’s Core, ERBZine website, the vivisection/lockpicking scene, John Carter, Prince Of Persia, Peter Jackson, Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan, Lord Of The Apes, David Stifel’s filmography, Sleeper Cell, Minority Report, Gods And Generals, Jeffrey Shaara, The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, Gettysburg, Heaven’s Gate, G Vs. E, Six Feet Under, selling Tom Cruise drugs, David’s IMDB page, Sam Peckinpah, The Wild Bunch, Tarzan Of The Apes is next, racism, that David Stifel guy, The Land That Time Forgot, David is in George Bernard Shaw’s Heartbreak House at Theatricum Botanicum in Los Angeles!

David B. Mattingly - At The Earth's Core

Ace Books - At The Earth's Core - cover painting by Roy Krenkel, Jr.

At The Earth's Core - Frank Frazetta cover illustration

At The Earth's Core - cover painting by J. Allen St. John

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Red Panda Adventures – Season 7

July 1, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

If you haven’t already started listening to The Red Panda Adventures you’re doing yourself a grave disservice. Go back to the beginning and start with Season 1 (that’s HERE).

Superhero Audio Drama - The Red Panda Adventures - Season SevenThe Red Panda Adventures – Season 7
By Gregg Taylor; Performed by a full cast
12 MP3 Files via podcast – Approx. 6 Hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcaster: Decoder Ring Theatre
Podcast: August 2011 – July 2012
Themes: / Fantasy / Superheroes / Mystery / Crime / Nazis / War / WWII / Adventure / Toronto / Androids / Espionage / Zombies / Magic / Aliens / Poetry / Astral Projection / Hypnosis / France / Germany / Berlin / Dinosaurs / Identity / Forgery / Romance /

The Red Panda Adventures is a comic book superhero series with a world, now in it’s seventh season, that is only comparable in scale to the entire Marvel or DC universes. But unlike either DC and Marvel, the Red Panda universe has all been written by one man, Greg Taylor. Because of that it has a consistency like the best seasons of Babylon 5.

The first episode of Season 7 follows right on the heels of last season’s final episode. In the season opener, From the Ashes, Kit Baxter gets a visit from the highest power in the land. And what with the Red Panda being presumed dead there’s only one thing to do – find a replacement for Canada’s greatest superhero. The government suggests that an unkillable machine, bent on vengeance, become the new Red Panda. And Kit, is fairly forced to accept the government’s choice. Now I won’t summarize any more of the plot. But, I will say this – Season 7 is a very different season than the previous six seasons.

What isn’t different is Taylor’s scripting. It’s still great, in fact its almost unbelievably great. Taylor has one of those highly distinctive writing styles, one that’s instantly recognizable – he’s like an Aaron Sorkin, a David Mamet, or an Ian Mackintosh. And with Taylor’s style comes a whole lot of substance too. He does incredible things with each half-hour script. Each standalone tale features a carefully measured combination of snappy repartee, genuine mystery, thrilling suspense, and clever action. And he does it all within a expanded universe so consistent so as to have become a kind of complete alternate history. His seven year series, and running, has created an image so vivid as to be completely realized. Taylor’s 1930s-1940s Toronto is far realer to me than any Gotham or Metropolis offered up in comics or movies. In fact to find anything comparable you’d have to go to the Springfield of The Simpsons!

Indeed, for the last seven years I’ve followed The Red Panda Adventures rather avidly and with each season I’ve become more engrossed in the show. The release of a new episode has become so inextricably linked to my listening habits so as to become like a good a visit from an old friend. It’s truly wonderful.

In my re-listening to the first eleven episodes of this Season 7 I picked up dozens and dozens of minor details in dialogue and plot that I’d missed the first time around. Take one point, early in the season, as an example – a character quotes the tagline of the CBS Radio series Suspense as a part of her dialogue.

How wonderful to find that!

And of course there are all the usual line echoes that we know from all past seasons (if you’re curious there’s a whole thread of Taylorisms over on AudioDramaTalk).

As for Season 7 as a whole, it has a sense of deep loss, very much in keeping with the times in which the story is set and the fallout from Season 6. Earlier I mentioned that Season 7 was unlike previous seasons, that’s because it features two overarching, and eventually intersecting, plots. The first, set in Toronto, deals with Kit Baxter, her new sidekick, her new job as associate editor of the Chronicle, and her developing pregnancy. The other plotline, set in Europe introduces us to a new character, a Lieutenant Flynn, a man in a deep denial, and his attempts to fight the Nazis behind their lines. It’s a radical change, and unforeseen change of pace, but not an unpleasant one.

The smaller scale stories from this season, like The Milk Run, work terrifically well too. As even the characters themselves will admit a plot about the forgery of rationing books doesn’t sound very dramatic next to the events unfolding in war torn France. But it’s a job that has to be done, and should be done, and done well it is. And that’s because the relatively harmless domestic crime of forgery is an important part of the story of WWII Toronto. The The Milk Run script tackles it in a way that makes it seem as if such a story could not not be told. In fact, this whole home-front end of the season’s story holds up very well next to the very dramatic later episodes.

One other such, The Case Of The Missing Muse, works very similairly. It’s a story in which we meet a super-villain, with a super-vocabulary, in a mystery that could have been set in any of the previous episodes. But what with the war time setting it of Season 7, and a new Red Panda running the show, it has a resolution that has its own unique wartime fit.

That replacement Red Panda, who in fact is a character from a previous season is still voiced by the wonderful Christopher Mott. The new Panda has a very different personality and temperament than our good friend August Fenwick. His goals as Red Panda are different, his methods are different, and it’s basically everything you like about when a hero regular superhero, from the comics gets, a replacement. It’s a new origins story – a fresh start – with all the promise that brings.

Some have argued that The Red Panda Adventures is really Kit Baxter’s story – and that certainly could be argued especially within the first arc of Season 7. Indeed, Kit Baxter, aka Flying Squirrel, does not get short shrift there. Besides her regular superhero duties, Kit’s also required to train the new Panda, fill in for the shattered Home Team (from last season) and somehow deal with the fact that her butler now knows she’s the Flying Squirrel! But that’s not all over at The Chronicle, the fictional Toronto newspaper that Kit works for, she, and we, get to visit with one of the best editor voices I’ve ever heard. Editor Pearly is your typical fatherly J. Jonah Jameson type caricature of an editor, but with a voice so crazily stressed out, a voice with lines so quickly delivered, you’ll barely understand a word he’s saying. It’s both fun and funny.

Then, just short of the midway point, a kind of focal transition takes place in between episodes 78 and 79, The Darkness Beyond and Flying Blind. The second arc begins slowly but soon ramps up. The aforementioned “Lieutenant Flynn”, and a team of commandos lead by one Captain Parker must escape from a Nazi stalag prison. Once achieved they spend much of the rest of the season either on the run or doing Special Operations Executive style missions in Nazi occupied France or in Berlin itself! And long time fans of the series will recognize the return of a certain Australian accented commando in one episode.

This new military aspect of the show is actually rather remarkable, being like a kind of Canadian version of WWII Captain America. It features a large male cast, allied soldiers, that act like something like a hybrid of the comics like Sgt. Rock, Sgt. Fury And His Howling Commandos, and The Unknown Soldier. Indeed, in the final episode of Season 7, The Black Heart, the show even gives a nice tip of the hat towards the later Nick Fury (the one who’s an agent for S.H.I.E.L.D.). That final season episode, incidentally, is set to be podcast later this month and features several other reveals, and dare I say reunions, which fans will be sure to love – I know I sure did. Suffice it to say, the Season 7 season-ender is definitely not a cliffhanger.

Here’s the podcast feed:

http://decoderring.libsyn.com/rss

Happy Canada Day everybody, go celebrate with some RED PANDA!

Posted by Jesse Willis

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