Themes: / Fantasy / Christmas / Elves / Santa / Noir / Murder / Reindeer / It’s a Wonderful Life /
If you’re looking for a holiday story that’s not yet another retelling of The Christmas Carol, then pick up Ken Harmon’s The Fat Man. Gumdrop Coal is framed for murder after being ousted from the Coal Patrol and he’s out to clear his name.
Fired from his longtime job as captain of the Coal Patrol, two-foot-three inch 1,300-year-old elf Gumdrop Coal is angry. He’s one of Santa’s original elves, inspired by the fat man’s vision to bring joy to children on that one special day each year. But somewhere along the way things went sour for Gumdrop. Maybe it was delivering one too many lumps of coal for the Naughty List. Maybe it’s the conspiracy against Christmas that he’s starting to sense down every chimney.
Take all the Christmas references your sweet tooth can stand and keep going, add in an embittered and betrayed Elf from the Coal Patrol, Reindeer with the panache of top gun fighter pilots, and a spunky girl reporter, Buttercup Snitch, who either only has eyes for Gumdrop or is in on the frame job.
The story is told by Gumdrop Coal, leader and founder of the Coal Patrol, in a wonderful hard bitten noir style. Gumdrop is used to dealing with some nasty customers (children). The Coal Patrol are the guys who work from the Naughty List. After it’s been checked, twice.
Set in Kringle Town with Santa and the Elves. Filled with characters you will have heard from assorted Christmas Fairy. But they aren’t all as you might expect.
It isn’t all candy and Christmas trees; there is also a dark side to Kringle Town. The other side of the tracks: Potterville. If you’ve ever watched It’s a Wonderful Life you should recognise that name.
Gumdrop doesn’t believe Naughty Boys and Girls should be treated the same as their well behaved siblings. That smothering all children in gifts regardless of merit lessens both the gift and the child.
Johnny Heller tells it in a wonderful straight-up noir-style, even when doing the high pitched elves.
Posted by Paul [W] Campbell
Written by: Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto
Cast: Stephen Mangan, Alistair McGowan, Sophie Winkleman, Darren Boyd, Kevin Eldon, Dave Lamb. Also featuring Chris Pavlo, Carrie Quinlan, Lizzy Watts, and Clare Willie.
Broadcaster: BBC Radio 4
Released: 3 August 2009
Synopsis: Sam is a fantasy novelist who is whisked off to a Tolkien-style parallel universe by a noble elf, a sexy warrior princess, and a feisty dwarf called Dean. Why? Because Sam’s dog is the Chosen One who is destined to save “Lower Earth” from the evil Lord Darkness.
Three words: Fun. Fun. Fun.
A smartly written script and a great cast make for a wonderfully hilarious send-up of the fantasy quest story and of fantasy novels in general.
Writers Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto hit all the right notes: the Chosen One, a prophecy, elves, dwarves, warrior maidens, demons, goblins, trolls, unicorns, deadly traps and puzzles, and colonic irrigations, to name a few. Imagine Lord of the Rings as written by Douglas Adams, Mel Brooks, and the Monty Python troupe and you get the picture.
Most importantly–the cast. The cast, I think, really nails the script with excellent performances and crackerjack comic timing.
Stephen Mangan as Sam Porter seems to be, at times, channeling Simon Jones as Arthur Dent and it works. Sam, like Arthur, is out of his depth in Lower Earth and is simply trying to fit in.
Alistair McGowan plays Lord Darkness like a mixture of Alan Rickman’s Sheriff from Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves and Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Blackadder. He’s even got a Blackadder-like delivery and intonation.
Vidar the Elf Lord isn’t the brightest crayon in the box but makes up for it by being gung-ho and bombastic and Darren Boyd captures that beautifully. He sounds like he’s having too much fun declaiming and waxing rhapsodic.
Dave Lamb, as Amis the Dog/the Chosen One, is canine exuberance personified. Sophie Winkleman is superb as Penthiselea the Warrior Princess, lending the right touch of kick-ass chick with a sword, as well as being the voice of grounded reason for the others and, in many cases, the straight man–er, woman.
As Dean the Dwarf and Kreech the evil sidekick, Kevin Eldon manages to portray seemingly polar opposite characters who happen to share a “love” for violence. Dean wants to dash into battle at every opportunity while Kreech wants to unleash the goblin hordes on the questers.
The one thing that irked me while listening was the laugh track. I didn’t think it needed to be there and, at first, was distracting. But I got used to it enough that it “faded” into the background.
According to this site, the show was recorded in front of a live audience. Explains the track.
But I still think it’s unnecessary.
Other than that, this is a top-of-the-line production and I highly recommend it. Especially if you love comedy and fantasy. And comedic fantasy.
Posted by Abner Senires
Just crossed the border, literally (it came in the back of a Subaru), here’s a Brilliance Audio audiobook collection that does almost everything right! First, check out the awesome cover art for Welcome To Bordertown:
So that’s a look at the outside, inside the discs themselves don’t detail their contents, which is bad, but not fatal (considering you’ve got the back of the audiobook to go by). As to the audio content itself, well I’m looking forward to picking up stories here and there as I research the authors more – that’s usually how I listen to collections these days.
This is the official description:
Bordertown: a city on the Border between the human world and the elfin realm. A place where neither magic nor technology can be counted on, where elf and human kids run away to find themselves. The Way from our world to the Border has been blocked for thirteen long years. . . . Now the Way is open once again — and Bordertown welcomes a new set of seekers and dreamers, misfits and makers, to taste life on the Border.
Here are thirteen interconnected stories, one graphic story, and eight poems — all new work by some of today’s best urban fantasy, fantasy, and slipstream writers
Now I’ve already checked out Neil Gaiman’s entry, which is a poem entitled The Song Of The Song. And I listened to Holly Black reading her own introductory essay. In it she credits the original Bordertown books as ‘creating the urban fantasy subgenre’. Ellen Kushner, Black’s co-editor, reads Terri Windling’s introductory essay, which details the background for the Bordertown series itself. It’s is described as a “Thieves’ World for teens.” Windling also talks about the phenomenon of shared worlds. Also, and this is pretty cool, there’s an additional editorial introduction written, and read, by Ellen Kushner (one that’s not found in the paperbook edition at all).
The only thing missing from this great audiobook edition is the story named Fair Trade by Sara Ryan and Dylan Meconis. But that’s probably because it’s actually a comic and so it would have been very hard to translate into audio (there are two panels of it HERE). And finally, here’s a promo video for the book:
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
Kage Baker, Subterranean Press, Blackstone Audio, In The Garden Of Iden by Kage Baker, Captive Market by Philip K. Dick, Janan Raouf, Time For The Stars by Robert A. Heinlein, Barret Whitener, telepathy, Starman’s Quest by Robert Silverberg, For Us The Living: A Comedy Of Customs by Robert A. Heinlein, Malcolm Hillgartner, Heinlein’s first and last novel, Spider Robinson, Variable Star by Robert A. Heinlein and Spider Robinson, Job: A Comedy Of Justice, Macmillan Audio, Death Cloud: Sherlock Holmes The Legend Begins by Andrew Lane, Dan Wyman, “endorsed by the Conan Doyle estate” = who cares, Poul Anderson on Sherlock Holmes, Laird of Muck, disabled protagonists, The Lighthouse Land by Adrian McKinty, The Lighthouse War, MG (middle grade) vs. YA, Gerard Doyle, Christopher Paolini, The Gods Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, William Dufris, viscous plant men, does Deja Thoris lay eggs?, Dynamite Entertainment‘s Warlord Of Mars, Valentine Pontifex by Robert Silverberg, Majipoor Chronicles, Lord Valentine’s Castle, Stonefather by Orson Scott Card |READ OUR REVIEW|, Emily Janice Card, The Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy, The Lost Gate, The Last Airbender, R.L. Stine, Timescape by, Darkside by Tom Becker |READ OUR REVIEW|, Bolinda Audio, London, Neil Gaiman-esque, The Graveyard Book, Venus by Ben Bova |READ OUR REVIEW|, Fantastic Audio, Jupiter, Nova Science Now, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Europa, Ganymede, A Stainless Steel Rat Is Born, Brilliance Audio, The Elvenbane by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey, dragons, elves, Odalisque by Neal Stephenson, Alan Moore loves allusions, The League Of Extraordinary Gentleman, Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Honor Harrington, Honor Among Enemies by David Weber, manticore, pirates!, what’s up with all the mix-and-match creatures in the Middle East?, On Blazing Wings by L. Ron Hubbard, mercenaries, SFsite.com often reviews the L. Ron Hubbard Stories From The Golden Age, the paperbooks problem, The Unremembered by Peter Orullian, Anne Perry, The Desert Of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones, 8th century, Baghdad, The Desert Of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones, the Fantasy Book Critic blog review, unpronounceable character names, J.R.R. Tolkien, Philip K. Dick was inspired by the Odyssey, Beyond Lies The Wub, Strange Eden, Scott didn’t like Y: The Last Man, Brian K. Vaughan, Gulliver’s Travels, the problem of transitory pop-culture references, The Tyrrany Of Talented Readers, Scalped, Bertrand Russell, Pride Of Baghdad, anthropomorphic fiction, James Tiptree Jr., Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, Masters Of Horror: The Screwfly Solution, Dove Audio, Isaac Asimov, author estates, Escape Pod #100, Nightfall, Tantor Media, Robots Of Dawn, Audible.com has plenty of Arthur C. Clarke, Dream Park by Larry Niven and Steve Barnes, mystery, Science Fiction, On Stranger Tides, Brain Wave, PaperbackSwap, Del Rey art in the ’70s and ’80s was awesome, Scott’s Picasa gallery of book covers, Tom Weiner, Jesse has a terrible memory, our Oath Of Fealty readalong, the Pirates Of The Caribbean films.
Posted by Jesse Willis
CBC Radio One’s excellent Tapestry (a program about spirituality, faith and religion) talks to Anne Rice about her books and her religion. Anne Rice promises not to write about Vampires now that she’s rediscovered her faith. Host Mary Hynes knows how to do an interview, and this is a good one. Also on this particular show Wanita Bates travels to Iceland “where belief in elves is something of a national pastime.”
Have a listen |MP3| or subscribe to the podcast:
Posted by Jesse Willis
P.S. CBC free Al!
Though no longer well known, his works (particularly his fairy tales and fantasy novels) have inspired admiration in such notables as W. H. Auden, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Madeleine L’Engle. The Shadows is one such fairy tale. The strange Shadows spend their existence casting themselves upon the walls and forming pictures of various sorts: mimicking evil actions of those who have done wrong in the hopes of causing their repentance, playing a comic dumb-show to inspire a playwright and dancing to inspire a musician, nudging a little girl to comfort her grandfather, and playing with a sick little boy as he waits for his mother to return home. For all that their forms are black, their hearts are of the whitest.
This fantasy for younger readers/listeners has a couple of things in its favor for adults other than just the historical interest in its author. The reader here, Catherine Eastman, does an outstanding job and the story is quite imaginative. Highly recommended for younger listeners and not too bad for adults either.
And here’s the podcast feed:
Posted by Dave Tackett