Review of Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi

August 28, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo BacigalupiPump Six and Other Stories
By Paolo Bacigalupi; Read by Jonathan Davis, James Chen, and Eileen Stevens
11 CDs – Approx. 13 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: December 1, 2010
ISBN: 9781441892201
Themes: / Science Fiction / Dystopia / Biopunk / Politics / Society/ Environmentalism / Technology / Food / Death / Thailand / Asia /

The eleven* stories in Pump Six chart the evolution of Paolo Bacigalupi’s work, including the Hugo nominated “Yellow Card Man,” and the Sturgeon Award-winning story “The Calorie Man,” both set in the world of his novel The Windup Girl. This collection also demonstrates the power and reach of the science fiction short story. Social criticism, political parable, and environmental advocacy lie at the center of Bacigalupi’s work. Each of the stories herein is at once a warning and a celebration of the tragic comedy of the human experience.

Let me get the praise out of the way first: Paolo Bacigalupi is an imaginative genius with a message. At times the writing is brilliant. “The Fluted Girl” is excellent, well-written, surely a classic. Every idea in every story is worthy of exploration and consideration and the three narrators are just fine, thanks. His views of dystopia are clever warnings; his ideas endlessly fresh and characters sympathetic. Slow pace is forgivable in his stories, like home-cooked food, worth the wait. James Chen’s reading of the Chinese accents is a great addition to the appropriate stories.

But there are problems. I don’t like having a book of short stories that doesn’t list the names – I shouldn’t have to look on-line for names of the stories and the order in which they appear. I also feel strongly that there is a missing editor. Some of the stories feel as though they are not in final draft version. If I had the print version, my teacher’s red pen would have been in hand marking suggestions for edits. Some information seemed more than unnecessary to the stories (these are short stories after all). It is disappointing that such genius is allowed “out” without polish. Is it possible that the world he created in Pump Six, where literacy has all but disappeared, is actually at its beginning, or did Paolo do it on purpose to see if we are paying attention?

Should you listen to this audiobook? Yes. Brilliant, not perfect, but should definitely not be missed.

*Only ten stories included in the audiobook:
Pocketful Of Dharma • (1999) • novelette • read by James Chen
The Fluted Girl • (2003) • novelette • read by Eileen Stevens
The People Of Sand and Slag • (2004) • novelette • read by James Chen
The Pasho • (2004) • novelette • read by Jonathan Davis
The Calorie Man • [The Windup Universe] • (2005) • novelette • read by Jonathan Davis
The Tamarisk Hunter • (2006) • short story • read by Jonathan Davis
Pop Squad • (2006) • novelette • read by Jonathan Davis
Yellow Card Man • [The Windup Universe] • (2006) • novelette • read by James Chen
Softer • (2007) • short story • read by James Chen
Pump Six • (2008) • novelette • read by Jonathan Davis

Posted by Elaine Willis

Review of The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne

June 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Girl in the RoadThe Girl in the Road
By Monica Byrne; Read by Dioni Collins and Nazneen Contractor
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 20 May 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 hours, 7 minutes

Themes: / fantasy / near-future / dystopia / road trip / Ethiopia / Djibouti / India / ocean / metallic hydrogen /

Publisher summary:

In a world where global power has shifted east and revolution is brewing, two women embark on vastly different journeys—each harrowing and urgent and wholly unexpected.When Meena finds snakebites on her chest, her worst fears are realized: someone is after her and she must flee India.  As she plots her exit, she learns of The Trail, an energy-harvesting bridge spanning the Arabian Sea that has become a refuge for itinerant vagabonds and loners on the run.  This is her salvation.  Slipping out in the cover of night, with a knapsack full of supplies including a pozit GPS system, a scroll reader, and a sealable waterproof pod, she sets off for Ethiopia, the place of her birth.

Meanwhile, Mariama, a young girl in Africa, is forced to flee her home.  She joins up with a caravan of misfits heading across the Sahara. She is taken in by Yemaya, a beautiful and enigmatic woman who becomes her protector and confidante. They are trying to reach Addis Abba [sic], Ethiopia, a metropolis swirling with radical politics and rich culture.  But Mariama will find a city far different than she ever expected—romantic, turbulent, and dangerous.

As one heads east and the other west, Meena and Mariama’s fates are linked in ways that are mysterious and shocking to the core.

This book defied my expectations at every turn. It is near-future but in two different times and locations. Mariama is in a caravan heading to Ethiopia across land, and Meena is heading to Ethiopia from India, across the Arabian Sea, on a floating road made of metallic hydrogen. Interesting concepts for the near-future, and nice to have African and Indian characters and settings. The writing is my type – emotional, internal dialogue, pondering greater meanings.Everyone keeps calling it sci-fi, I imagine because of the brief technology mentions, but I think it fits more in fantasy – people who may or may not be human/gods/ghosts, the quest/journey, the lesson, the good vs. evil, the superhuman moments – feels like fantasy to me!  The cover also claims the book is like a hybrid of Neil Gaiman, Erin Morgenstern, and Margaret Atwood.   I don’t see Gaiman or Morgenstern except for fantasy, but that is a pretty broad paintbrush, one that seems to grasp at the most popular authors in a genre that has better examples to draw from.  Atwood maybe in the sense of timeline and natural disaster themes.  Otherwise, I see this more like the fantastical imaginings of J.G. Ballard (such as The Unlimited Dream Company) with the setting and world building of Nnedi Okorafor (Who Fears Death?).  So if we have to compare it to something, let it be those two instead.

I want everyone to read this book so we can discuss the ending. I listened to the last disc three times because I’m not entirely sure what happened. I’m still not.  I have questions that will make no sense until you’ve read it.  Questions like, “Where is Djibouti?” and “Is everyone insane?”  I keep telling friends about the book and thinking about it, and it has one of the few five-star ratings I’ve given out in GoodReads so far this year.  A week after finishing, I got into a conversation about metallic hydrogen and man-made floating islands in Facebook because a person had posted about Kiribati, a nation that is destined to disappear into the ocean.  Their leader is seriously considering building a place to keep his people together, because what else can you do if your country slips beneath the sea?  Monica Byrne touches on this same question.

The two readers, Dioni Collins and Nazneen Contractor, do a brilliant job in the performance of this book, particularly in the slipping between India and Africa the way any immigrant would, and that is crucial to the character of Meena.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

The SFFaudio Podcast #266 – READALONG: When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells

May 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #266 – Jesse, Luke, and Juliane Kunzendorf discuss When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells

Talked about on today’s show:
Julianne’s first SFFaudio Podcast, what do we call them?, readers and talkers, 1899/1910/1923, When The Sleeper Wakes, The Sleeper Wakes, The Sleeper Awakes, Blackstone Audio’s audiobook version, the serialization in The Graphic magazine, the 1910 preface, “an editorial elder brother”, going to the original sources, a forecast of technology, technological changes between the revisions, aeroplanes and aeropiles, the introduction to the 1923 edition, “fantasias of possibility”, “suppose these forces go on novel”, H.G. Wells thought the rich were evil geniuses (prior to meeting them), “rather foolish plungers”, “vulgar rather than wicked”, Ostrog, “a nightmare of capitalism triumphant”, capitalist/socialism (kind of like Japan), The Unincorporated Man is pretty much the same story, yay Marxism!?, when Graham wakes up, Chapter 7, there only audiobooks in the future, The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling, The Madonna Of The Future by Henry James, Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, phonetic spelling, an H.G. Wells way of writing, is it the nature of a serial, the reader transplanted into the year 2100, The War Of The Worlds, suicide, Isbister, Warming, Ostrog, Lincoln, “body fag is no cure for brain fag”, “while he was breaking his fast”, the language, lying in a crystal box, a passive character, establishing the genre, space elevators, Buck Rogers has the same premise, Idiocracy, Eine Billion Dollar by Andreas Eschbach, A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain, the importance of money, the gilded age, wealth disparity, the labour company, a dystopia along the lines of Brave New World, the Martian invasion, The Time Machine, is this the start of the Morlocks and the Eloi?, 1984 by George Orwell, the proles, the pleasure cities, distractions, the value of work beyond being paid, a class trap, what is Wells saying?, Wells’ ambivalence towards the proles, there are no more school examinations, is this a meritocracy?, technological dystopias (like 1984), social dystopias, Brave New World is a medical dystopia, genetic dystopias, knowing you live in a dystopia, North Korea, knowledge of other societies, the time before Big Brother, Julia, the Anti-Sex League, genetically dumbified, Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes, religious dystopia, advertizing Christianity, prosperity gospels, church revivals, advertising, the babel machines, movies and television, what will this culture do to the culture?, “people don’t read”, airplanes, heavier-than-air aircraft, smashing airplanes into other airplanes, aerial ramming, flying machine vs. aeroplane vs. airplane vs. aeropile, My First Aeorplane by H.G. Wells, rocketships, the pilot’s union, the look of the airplane, the clothing, Victorian age dresses, the church, hanging in the air, the Thames has run dry, megalopolis, the building material, the Eiffel Tower, steel, concrete, plastic, glass, carbon fiber, biotech, Pandora’s Star, a coral house, 3D printing, Ikea Hacks, print on demand houses, economics, factories and automation, The Roads Must Roll by Robert A. Heinlein, The City And The Stars by Arthur C. Clarke, slide-walk, edamite, Ostrog, Ostrogoths, Lincoln, foment a revolution, race and racism, Senagalese, ostrog as “fortress”, a Serbian Orthodox Church, Ostrog will boss the show, “in bounds”, are these are revolutionary names?, Che Guevara, Abraham Lincoln’s freeing the slaves, thug force, Berlin, June 17th, 1953, the Berlin Wall, outside forces, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, Gurkhas, “see we’re all friends”, smiling bright shiny teeth, “they are fine loyal brutes”, racism is in there but it is not the point of the book, The War Of The Worlds, a little hypocritical, we can’t see the issue, massive economic suppression, calculating boys, hypnotism, economic slavery, the wealth gap, the White Council, the blaring speakers, the media firehouse, talk radio, people wearing their headphones everywhere, podcasts, each one of those streams are newspapers, a newspaper for everybody, broadsheets vs. tabolids, your newspaper tells your class, daily free newspapers, Jack The Ripper, Melville Macnaghten, Michael Ostrog (thief and con-man), the symbolism of the aircraft, the three books, Helen is the Madonna of the future, it’s a joke, the novel’s end, ‘my Graham dies without certainty of victory or defeat’, ambiguous airplanes, “literally that’s his dream”, flying dreams, cliffs and high places, Isbister and Warming -> Lincoln and Ostrog, “its fun”, “in such a fall as this countless dreams have ended”, dream falling, the different endings, the future of that future, Olaf Stapledon’s The Last And First Men, many futures, Olaf Stapledon takes what Wells does a little farther, Graham as a Christ figure, risen from the dead… etc., in Graphic detail, full colour holographic Jesus, the empty tomb moment, allusions to other literature in the Bible, Arthur C. Clarke, the Son of Man, A Story Of The Days To Come, the emptying of the countryside, the enclosures, Scotland, Canada, Glasgow, Berlin, well more than 50% of the world’s population lives in cities now, Among Others by Jo Walton, Wales, the merits of country living, the economic theory behind everything, access to internet, staring at the internet, services, live entertainment, “my choice of Christian girls was three girls”, poor Luke.

When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells
When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells - illustration by H. Lanos
When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells - illustration by H. Lanos
When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells - illustration by H. Lanos
When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells
When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells
When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells
When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells
When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells
When The Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells
H.G. Wells' 1921 Preface to The Sleeper Wakes

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Archetype by M.D. Waters

February 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

ArchetypeArchetype (Archetype #1)
By M.D. Waters; Read by Khristine Hvam
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 2 February 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 hours, 22 minutes

Themes: / dystopia / reproduction / romance / near future / suspense / thriller /

Publisher summary:
Emma wakes in a hospital, with no memory of what came before. Her husband, Declan, a powerful, seductive man, provides her with new memories, but her dreams contradict his stories, showing her a past life she can’t believe possible: memories of war, of a camp where girls are trained to be wives, of love for another man. Something inside her tells her not to speak of this, but she does not know why. She only knows she is at war with herself.

Suppressing those dreams during daylight hours, Emma lets Declan mold her into a happily married woman and begins to fall in love with him. But the day Noah stands before her, the line between her reality and dreams shatters.

In a future where women are a rare commodity, Emma fights for freedom but is held captive by the love of two men – one her husband, the other her worst enemy. If only she could remember which is which….

This audiobook kept me listening until I finished. I couldn’t stop! Comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood are unavoidable with this book, but in this world where women are valued and imprisoned in order to bear children, M.D. Waters has also added in an element of romance. This means descriptions of the men Emma is interested in, and sex. I don’t mind romance, but I think if I were a woman being controlled and manipulated by men, I would be less obsessed with marriage and sex. But Emma has very little memory, and at first no reason not to trust her husband. All she wants is to get past her accident and back to normal life.  She can’t fully recover because of her dreams.

I can’t say much more without giving it away, and the best part about the book is how all the details are revealed. Archetype is suspenseful and creepy up until the end, and the end leads nicely into the setup for the next novel (Prototype) while being its own self-contained story.

I enjoy Khristine Hvam as a narrator – I had listened to her performance of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and her voice is well suited to a near-future dystopian romance.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

The SFFaudio Podcast #251 – READALONG: Up Against It by M.J. Locke

February 10, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #251 – Jesse, Scott, and Tamahome discuss Up Against It by M.J. Locke.

Talked about on today’s show:
Hardcover, paperback, audiobook, who to blame?, it’s Jo Walton’s doing we chose this book (at the bottom), still a lot of juice in the genre, the ultimate cause, drawing in vs. pushing in, Corner Gas, a new wine bracket, the Radium Age of Science Fiction, Scott’s Goodreads review, Tam’s Goodreads review24, the characters, less torture, its more fun if you count the tropes, every trope is in there, including immortality, mimetic fiction (literary realism), Henry James, mimetic fiction in a science fiction universe, tiny infodumps, not one brand new idea, waveface virtual reality, Tonal_Z AI language (Chris Crawford’s Solvesol-interface concept?), in dialogue, Cory Doctorow (Whuffies), Bruce Sterling, Chris Crawford, Bruce Sterling’s Veridians (wow, it’s a whole big thing, design philosophy? manifesto), asteroid miner stories, Heinlein and later, The Island Worlds by John Maddox Roberts and Eric Kotani, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, there’s no newcomer, a generally agreed upon direction our future will be, John Scalzi’s brainpal, more than one kind of SF, rocket ships, the Charles Stross direction, Iain M. Banks, Souvenir by Philip K. Dick, Amish tech, their tech is subservient to their culture, it seems inevitable in our world, the received future, Earth in Up Against It in bad shape, Vancouver shantytowns, Edmonton, this isn’t a utopian book, dystopia, dystopic Earth, why are they in the Asteroid Belt, good world-building, good but not new, nothing new but the idea, incredibly self-aware people is weird (and cool), gene tampering, Oblivion is a good introduction to SF tropes (for people born in the year 2000), the level of SF tropes in movies is very low compared to those in SF books, Darwin Elevator, bad physics vs. excellent physics, sugar rocks, there’s no intro character (other than the A.I. pov), Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, collaborative teens, a visual adaptation, Ender’s Game, Planetes, Gravity, Babylon 5 had nothing new, I don’t go to TV SF for new ideas, books are where great ideas, what great ideas haven’t been explored, the news coming out of Eve Online, Steen Hansen, political machinations, gold farming, a simulated universe, a libertarian alliance was trojaned or something, happening to real people, World Of Warcraft, our real future is in leisure, Tam liked it more, nose-piercings, tattooing, the gender neutral pronouns, why would you want a purple nose?, Jesse doesn’t understand trans-humanism, normal readalongs, why didn’t I like this more, Tam liked it fine, hands for feet, chromes and mutes, Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold, not too bright in the brain area, The Integral Trees by Larry Niven, a planetless solar system, a mashup of Doctorow and Heinlein, smile -> erection, Chekhov’s Gun, Heinleinian sex vs. Doctorowian sex, there’s too much going on, an immature writer, Elmore Leonard, “she pillowed her cheek”, nobody pillows their cheeks in Jack London stories, Jane as an older Ripley, an artificial spiritual awakening, too many compromises too much bullshit, an authentically political book according to Staffer’s Book Review, double dealings, the thriller plot, exploring space, what does Scott prefer?, does Scott have a right to review Up Against It?, is it maturity?, 2312, Tobias Buckell’s blog essay about mature reviewers, caveats, “and get off my lawn”, idea fiction, competent but unstimulating, why is The Lord Of The Rings more interesting than Up Against It?, the themes, the next episode of A Good Story Is Hard To Find, Luke Burrage re-reviews A Canticle For Liebowitz, what we do when we do READALONGS (we unpack books), The Odyssey, Community, currently airing TV series have podcasts?, books with allegories, Scott wants it to mean something to him, The Zimmerman Telegram by Barbara Tuchman, WWI, the German ambassador in Mexico, Woodrow Wilson, Tom Clancy, mimetic fiction from the future, a history from the future, history, in some ways Eve Online is much more real than any fiction book, Scott finds value in general fiction, Mario Puzo, Tom Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, meaning vs. ideas, horror, Snowblind by Christopher Golden for some alternative horror, The House Of The Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James, gothic fiction, witchcraft, Supernatural Horror In Literature by H.P. Lovecraft, there’s still potential for Science Fiction, a sequel?, an unneeded sequel, every subsequent milk of a book undercuts it, Dune has been worsened by every Dune that’s come since, Dune Messiah (Scott liked it), the fall of a charismatic leader, a backward casting shadow, Brian Herbert has done what his father wanted by ruining Dune?, why was Up Against It so long?, YA/adult book, George R.R. Martin doesn’t think Scott’s a fan of Hard SF, The Martian by Andy Weir, Phoecea, why are they mining?, there’s no economic reason to do so, was there an economic reason to go to the moon, we need to build a space fleet, no martian resources are unavailable on Earth, the Moon has Helium-3, Tam read Frank Schatzing’s Limit and his eyes are tired, what the frack, (was it ‘Simon pure science fiction like A Darkling Sea‘?  we didn’t talk about it but I thought I’d note it)

Up Against It by M.J. Locke

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #241 – READALONG: Goslings by J.D. Beresford

December 2, 2013 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #241 – Jesse and Jenny discuss the 1913 novel Goslings: A World Of Women by J.D. Beresford and the 2013 audiobook from Dreamscape Audiobooks.

PUBLIC DOMAIN |ETEXT|

Talked about on today’s show:
Dreamscape Audiobooks, narrator Matthew Brenher, English dialects (and accents), a casual apocalypse, running out of water, “he’s going to beat his family”, “and we’re very English and we’re moving on”, a world of women,

A global plague has decimated England’s male population and the once-predictable Gosling family is now free to fulfill its long-frustrated desires. When Mr. Gosling leaves his family to peruse his sexual vices, the Gosling daughters, who lack experience and self-independence, find shelter in a matriarchal commune. However their new life is threatened by the community elders’ views on free love.

that’s not what it feels like, what do the women want?, Thrail and his perspective, the Gosling’s perspective, Thrail’s journal, an implicit trust in the British authorities, fathoming an empty world, what is Mother Gosling’s ultimate fate?, a very gentle book, the cruelest moment in this book is the confrontation at the tobacconist’s, “you stupid slut”, a gentle apocalypse, 70% of the population dies, The Stand by Stephen King, exploding heads, Earth Abides, the war of all against all, almost all the men die, the harem, Thrail is asexual, a dalliance with a coquette, Jenny blames Father Gosling, the proximal cause, “we’re wasting the potential of women”, Eileen (aka Lady Eileen), marriage never really protected women, a world of slaves, men can be feminists too, why does it take a man to write a book about a world of women?, J.D. Beresford modeled Thrail on H.G. Wells, Jack London, the 1910s, the Bolshevik revolution, Mastering The Art Of Soviet Cooking, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing by Anya Von Bremzen, an anti-disestablishment bill, the Anglican Church, church and state, the fundamentalist religious people in this book, so many critiques, a very thoughtful book, intellectualism, “you don’t want books, keep your eyes open and think”, Thrail worked on every continent, Thrail is needed for his manly skills (not just his sperm), “the Jewess”, is this casual racism?, this is a weird book because its about fashion, a Science Fiction novel about FASHION!, the clothing, pants, work clothing, Thrail is the Beresford mouthpiece, Thrail’s Dr. Watson, “you’re so mighty!”, women want to attract mates but their worried about what other women think, and men are into fashion too, a vigorous bike ride, “get out of the city”, the suppressed lech, “I saw the god in the father”, a transition back to nature, Sterling, the ending, what’s going on in America, this story would never work now, Goslings is completely of its time, a really well written book, Beresford wrote a book about H.G. Wells, Neil Gaiman, the neat ending undercuts the book, a new way to be, why do we like these downer books, Jenny likes to see what happens when things get torn apart, a farm commune, the thieving, the religious group, class distinctions, fashion and class, Louis Vuitton, a signifier of class, men are not the oppressors, people are oppressing themselves, we weren’t even slaves to intelligence and efficiency, a strong educated woman, a funny utopian book, utopia/dystopia, compared to the end of Earth Abides, the war bride phenomena, think of the children, Virus (1980) aka Day of Resurrection (PUBLIC DOMAIN), an inversion of the situation in Goslings, rape is not okay, how do we rebuild the world with only eight women and eight hundred men?, The Best Of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord, On The Beach by Nevil Shute, Gooses?, Ganders?, goslings grow up, growing up, Blanche is the elder daughter, Millie becomes a harem girl, beautiful hair, “if you stop I’m gone”, Thrail doesn’t want to suffer the fools, sex in that bush, the women are jealous, “history is a series of stories about the worst fucking people in the world”, bastard after bastard, asshole after asshole, “slut” is the insult word for women, etymology of swear words, bitch, bastard, a term of unworthiness, men worry about bastard children, women are worried about having sluts near their husbands, the terms don’t apply anymore, religious sects that don’t sexually reproduce, the Shakers, the rapture, J.D. Beresford was agnostic and then a theosophist, Paris intellectuals, Madame Blavatsky, the universal over-soul, séances, the cause, the 19th century, “newspapers newspapers newspapers”, disposable income, social negotiations, the girls could push their dad’s buttons, when the hard truth comes…, Jean Claude Van Damme, Jenny plows her own fields, “more beets, less kale”, the prepper phenomenon, a seed bank, all the planting zones are shifting, growing beets and kale in Antarctica, there are only two flowering plants in Antarctica.

Dreamscape Audiobooks Goslings by J.D. Beresford

Posted by Jesse Willis

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