By Edward M. Lerner; Read by Grover Gardner
Length: 10.5 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Themes: / Science! / satellites / engineers / NASA / terrorists / oil / energy / space / thriller /
The SFFaudio crew pegged me to read this book because the description says that one of the main characters is a NASA engineer. I always think it’s funny when people specify “NASA” engineer. It’s like on TV shows when you see people working near the space shuttle, they’re all wearing NASA hats. Nobody does that. The description could just as easily said “aerospace engineer” and the meaning would be the same…but less sexy, somehow. I admit, I was weary of reading this one at first. My experience with people who write about “NASA engineers” is that they have no idea what they’re talking about excepting cursory research. I’m happy to report that Edward M. Lerner does know what he’s talking about with regards to the space and satellite stuff (looking at his bio, it’s no surprise). That said, I went into this thinking it was going to be a science fiction book. It’s much more a mystery/thriller with science fiction elements. It’s as much “science fiction” as Daemon is (which is to say, not much).
In the interest of full disclosure, it’s probably worth mentioning that I am currently employed by a company that (among other things) designs and builds satellites, both for the government and the commercial sector. I currently work on the commercial side of things and have never worked on a NASA contract. There are definite holes and inaccuracies with the science and engineering in this book. But most people won’t recognize them, and they don’t impact the overall enjoyment of the story.
That disclaimer done with, Energized was pretty entertaining. Set in the near-future United States, the world has gone through a “crude-tastrophe” and the price of oil has skyrocketed to the tune of $20+/gallon to fill up a car. There is a fixed market, controlled mostly by Russian interests, for oil, so naturally the US explores alternate energy sources. Unfortunately, Rome wasn’t built in a day and it’s virtually impossible to produce enough energy via alternate sources overnight. NASA has been working on a large-scale satellite that can beam solar energy to earth from space.
The first third of the book (maybe closer to the first half) deals with the public (and private sector) reactions to this kind of a satellite and introduces the reader (listener?) to the concept and its risks. Admittedly, this section could have been shorter without sacrificing much of the story; it did seem to drag on a bit.
The second section of the book introduces the “thriller” aspect. As anybody in the aerospace industry is aware, the stuff built “for the powers of good” in/for space can usually be used to do evil. Sure enough, terrorists find a way to take over the satellite and use its harnessed energy to destroy ground-based and air-based targets. As is typical for thrillers, there are some good guys in the area, capable of stopping the terrorists. In this case it’s Marcus Judson, NASA engineer, one of the lead consultants for the power satellite project, along with some of his colleagues. Yet again, this section seemed overly long and drawn out.
However, the length of the first two sections may only seem long in relation to the final section–the part where the final “battle” occurs and either good or evil triumphs. This part felt a bit rushed, comparatively. In retrospect, I think it was probably the right length and that the other two parts were just a bit too long. I won’t spoil it for you, but the final “battle” involves maneuvering (literally and metaphorically) on the ground and on the 2 mile-on-a-side power satellite. It stretches the belief but still left me interested and wanting to listen to see what happened next.
As I stated previously, the book was enjoyable. It was a bit far-fetched but not so far-fetched as to be completely unbelievable. The science fiction elements are there and create an atypical setting for most mystery/thriller type books, and I’d recommend this to anybody that enjoys the mystery/thriller genre.
Grover Gardner is one of my favorite narrators and he shines in this type of book. He also narrates the Andy Carpenter books, another mystery/thriller series, so it feels natural for him to read Energized. The only “weirdness” I had is that the Andy Carpenter books have a character named Marcus as well, so hearing of two very different “Marcus” characters read by the same narrator was a bit jarring at times.
All in all, this is a popcorn-type book, easily consumed and digested. It does have its flaws (with the technical side of things as well as story length), but they’re not so big as to ruin the fun. If you’re in the market for a hard science fiction book with far-reaching themes, this isn’t the book for you. But if you’re in the mood for a thriller with science fiction elements, you’ll probably enjoy Energized well enough.
Review by terpkristin.
I was talking with a friend of mine about Nevil Shute. Shute has been blipping onto my radar since about ten years ago when my Science Fiction uncle gave me a copy of Slide Rule: The Autobiography Of An Engineer. Over the years I’ve gotten into Shute’s fiction, notably On The Beach and A Town Like Alice. Most recently I just finished watching, and listening to No Highway In The Sky, a pair of adaptations of Shute’s novel No Highway. Here’s the premise:
The Rutland Reindeer, a recently developed trans-Atlantic passenger aircraft, is approved for flying. But one Anglo-American scientist thinks the Reindeer’s tail may just up and fall off when it hits the golden number of flight hours. He’s got the numbers to prove a catastrophic failure is inevitable, but that won’t be enough to ground the already flying Reindeer. So, he’s dispatched to Labrador to inspect the wreckage of a recently crashed Reindeer. It was reported to have been downed by “pilot error” but our scientist thinks it may have been metal fatigue. Then comes the twist we can see coming from miles away, our hero finds himself flying aboard just such another doomed aircraft. Can the logic of his calculations be enough to persuade the captain to turn the Reindeer back to England? Or will they crash into the North Atlantic?
Jimmy Stewart and Marlene Dietrich reprise their roles on Lux Radio Theatre’s adaptation of the film – the main difference between this version, and the movie (besides the lack of video), is the in-studio audience laughing at the character based comedy in this story of suspense. It’s well worth a listen!
No Highway In The Sky
Based on a novel by Nevil Shute; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 56 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: CBS / Lux Radio Theatre
Broadcast: April 21, 1952
Theodore Honey (James Stewart) is a highly eccentric “boffin” with the Royal Aircraft Establishment. A widower with a precocious young daughter, Honey is sent from Farnborough to investigate the crash of a “Reindeer” airliner in Labrador, which he theorizes occurred because of a structural failure in the tail caused by sudden metal fatigue. To test his theory in his laboratory, an airframe is continuously shaken in eight-hour daily cycles. It isn’t until Honey is aboard a Reindeer that he realizes he himself is flying on one such aircraft and that it may be close to the number of hours his theory projects for the fatal failure. Despite the fact that his theory is not yet proven, Honey decides to warn the passengers and crew, including actress Monica Teasdale (Marlene Dietrich).
Here’s a section of the Dell Mapback edition of No Highway showing the locations mentioned in the story:
Posted by Jesse Willis
There’s a new FREE audiobook version of Philip K. Dick’s 1953 novella The Variable Man available from LibriVox and superstar narrator Gregg Margarite!
Here’s the teaser:
“He fixed things—clocks, refrigerators, vidsenders and destinies. But he had no business in the future, where the calculators could not handle him. He was Earth’s only hope—and its sure failure!”
Here are four different covers from various paperbook incarnations of this time travel tale…
And here’s the audiobook…
The Variable Man
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Gregg Margarite
3 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 2 Hours 49 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: May 3, 2010
Predictability has come a long way. The computers of the future can tell you if you’re going to win a war before you fire a shot. Unfortunately they’re predicting perpetual standoff between the Terran and Centaurian Empires. What they need is something unpredictable, what they get is Thomas Cole, a man from the past accidentally dragged forward in time. Will he fit their calculations, or is he the random variable that can break the stalemate? From Space Science Fiction September 1953.
iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|
[Thanks also to Betty M. and Diana Majlinger]
Posted by Jesse Willis
Elliot Miller, one of the participants in last year’s SFFaudio Challenge has completed his audiobook project! Elliot recorded one of the funnest, and funniest SF novels of the 1950s:
The Pirates Of Ersatz by Murray Leinster!
I’m loving this novel’s playful storytelling, I find it very reminiscent of The Space Merchants.
First published in three successive 1959 issues of Astounding Science Fiction magazine. It was later republished as half of an Ace double novel under the title The Pirates Of Zan.
The Pirates Of Ersatz
By Murray Leinster; Read by Elliott Miller
12 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 6 Hours 16 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: November 19, 2009
Bron is the offspring of infamous space pirates but instead of following in the family footsteps he decides to become an electronic engineer. Unfortunately, every time he tries to get out, something pulls him back in. This is a tongue-in-cheek space adventure along the lines of the Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison. It was originally published in the FEB-APR issues of Astounding Science Fiction in 1959.
iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|
[In addition to the reader, this audio book was produced by the good works of dusty, Betty M. and David Lawrence - Thanks so much folks!]
Posted by Jesse Willis
Acclaimed roboticist and fiction writer Karl Iagnemma was interviewed on NOVA for their piece entitled “Engineering Fiction.”
Have a listen |MP3|.
Karl, from MIT, talks to NOVA scienceNOW‘s Susan Lewis about his dual life as a robot engineer and award-winning fiction author. He speaks of his preference for fiction over science and the reasons for these choices in this short interview. It was enough to whet my appetite… Apparently there is an upcoming movie starring Brad Pitt from one of his short stories, On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction.
Posted by Elaine Willis
Here’s what I’m fairly certain is a LibriVox FIRST! A full cast unabridged narration of a story. That is, multiple narrators, reading one work, in concert. Something similar has already been done for plays (check out Macbeth), but this is the first prose fiction I’ve heard done for LibriVox this way.
The first chapter is somewhat reminiscent of the Louis Wu recruitment scene as depicted in the opening chapters of Ringworld – which is cool, because that’s a great scene. First published in Amazing Stories magazine’s February 1939 issue, and later reprinted in the April 1956 issue, this tale was written under a pseudonym of Astounding SF editor F. Orlin Tremaine.
The narrators, Andrew Coleman, Cori Samuel, David Barnes, Lizzie Driver and Philippa, are actually performing this audiobook, not just reading it. Very cool. The recording environment for these readers is dead silent, their volumes are all excellent and uniform. If you’re planning on doing a multiple narrator production, make this audiobook your model!
Wanted 7 Fearless Engineers
By Warner Van Lorne (aka F. Orlin Tremaine); Read by Andrew Coleman, Cori Samuel, David Barnes, Lizzie Driver & Philippa
8 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 2 Hours 3 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: October 23, 2008
A great civilization’s fate lay in Dick Barrow’s hands as he led his courageous fellow engineers into a strange and unknown land. None of them knew what lay ahead–what dangers awaited them–or what rewards. But they did not hesitate because the first question asked them had been: “Are you a brave man?”
Chapter 1 |MP3| Chapter 2 |MP3| Chapter 3 |MP3| Chapter 4 |MP3|
Chapter 5 |MP3| Chapter 6 |MP3| Chapter 7 |MP3| Chapter 8 |MP3|
Posted by Jesse Willis