Talked about on today’s show:
Simon Vance, Blackstone Audio, The Prestige (2006), explicit, cursing vs. casting spells, I’m going to trick you, a nice complement to the book, Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, Momento, The Princess Bride, epistolary, Dracula, Pike’s Peak, Colorado Springs, under the influence of the man on top of the mountain, David Bowie, Nikola Tesla, Any sufficiently advanced technology…, what is the genre?, Gothic fiction, old fashioned horror, Science Fiction, Scott’s review, Fantasy, a nice twist of Lovecraft, the deaths, “the other detective” (Jenny’s Freudian slip), a mystery, Sherlock Holmes, the prestige materials, Borden vs. Angier, Penn & Teller, seance (fake) vs. prestidigitation (the pact), the pledge -> the turn -> the prestige, you ruined our act, “when Simon Vance says…”, “some days you love me, some days you don’t”, did she know?, the honest liar, Christian Bale, does it matter who sired a child matter if you’re identical twin may have inseminated your wife?, which twin is it (the father or the uncle), Fallon, doubling, everything is doubled, a double agent, Olivia or Julia?, Andrew Wesley Borden -> Nicolas Julius Borden, Lord Caldlow, a book with two authors, revenge via tribute, A,B,C,D,E,F, what happened when the great-grandson of Borden was three years old?, a repeated pattern, a red herring, invited to Dracula’s castle, Franklin was imprisoned in California but his cult has a duplicator in the basement in England, another Angier wraith or the same one?, why Lovecraftian?, wiggling bodies, The Outsider by H.P. Lovecraft, a return to a Gothic home, an explanation for the premise of The Outsider, did the wraith of Angier fail?, 100 times, noir, can the Tesla machine duplicate the soul?, AMAZING!, a side trip, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, wraiths, “waiting to wake up”, telepathy, addicted to transportation, pain and depression, is it a teleportation machine? a photocopier?, Star Trek‘s transporter, Think Like A Dinosaur by James Patrick Kelly, the metal rod, “that’s the thing about science”, “more like a real Tesla”, Tesla spoke English with an accent, Angier is American in the movie, Hugh Jackman, California, Jesus came out of the tomb, the cult denies the appearance of Franklin, a bi-locating religious fanatic, Angier’s first magic practice was at a pub called “The Land And Child”, The Church Of Christ Jesus, the history of the house, during WWII it was RAF Transport Command, Christopher Priest is really really smart, Angier -> Anger?, how the French get Angier and Angier and Angier!, his brother, because that’s what he’s looking for that’s what he sees, The Fly (1986), “explicit material”, The New Transported Man (PUN!) vs. In A Flash, a doubling and a denialing of the doubling, “he’s really stuck on the doubling”, The Lamb is The child, pointless and flat women, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, wooden women, Katherine, Borden’s wife’s journals, it’s a guy show really, everybody gets the short shrift except for these two and a half guys, where in literature are women magicians, Now You See Me, stage performance magicians, why doesn’t Luke Burrage go into magic?, Luke is the evil twin, would she wear the tophat?, Zatana (DC Comics), a female magician who acts as the assistant, a missed opportunity, Lady Katherine is very enigmatic and is playing some sort of game, a wink from The Invisible Man (by H.G. Wells), playing cards hidden under pint glasses, the James Patrick Kelly problem, killing yourself is ok if you have a copy?, Identity Theft by Robert J. Sawyer, John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War handwaves the problem away, they don’t rot?, was the soul transported too?, What’s with the echo?, Angier’s cancer goes into remission when the ghostly Angier gets closer, Good Kirk vs. Rapey Kirk, wimpy Kirk need the rapey Kirk, recombination, complete transfers work well for the transported Angiers, Borden’s injury, Angier’s injury, the Borden seaside history is all lies, the Bordens were cartwrights and coopers, IT’S ALL LIES, stop with the woodworking (the JESUS motif again), one of the mes, when did they start living as one man, you’re supposed to apply the lesson of the Chinese magician to the entire story, one of the few things unchanged between the book and the movie, a fake that’s also true (doubling again), the timeline is somewhat mysterious, one of the Borden’s is more of a writer and the other is more of an editor, “I’m staying with my girlfriend”, fantastic narrative, a relatively modern book that will become and remain a classic, it’s porous and open and hard, book vs. movie, Tam fell asleep and became confused, beautiful moments, Tesla is almost like a magician, he is like a wizard, brilliant genius weirdo, the nemesis, Thomas Alva Edison vs. Tesla (doubling), AC vs. DC, Edison’s DC vs. Tesla’s AC, and ultimately a synthesis, electrifying an elephant, “it’s like they were two magicians competing”, Nyarlathotep by H.P. Lovecraft is about a Tesla-like character doing essentially a Tesla-show, possibly an elder god, Dracula Edison Gothic Horror Science Fiction Horror Detective Noir Fantasy, The Inverted World, The Islanders, twins, fraternal twins vs. identical twins, the Christopher Priest Wikipedia entry, denouement, a tie-in edition of the paperbook, the movie’s editing, The Magic by Christopher Priest, David Langford’s review:
“It seems entirely logical that Christopher Priest’s latest novel should centre on stage magic and magicians. The particular brand of misdirection that lies at the heart of theatrical conjuring is also a favourite Priest literary ploy – the art of not so much fooling the audience as encouraging them to fool themselves… The final section is strange indeed, more Gothic than sf in flavour, heavy with metaphorical power. There are revelations, and more is implied about the peculiar nature of the Angier/Tesla effect’s payoff or “prestige” – a term used in this sense by both magicians. The trick is done; before and after, Priest has rolled up both sleeves; his hands are empty and he fixes you with an honest look. And yet … you realise that it is necessary to read The Prestige again. It’s an extraordinary performance, his best book in years, perhaps his best ever. Highly recommended.”
a prestigious career in newspapers, he wants to be a dead body (or many), the great reveal was surprising, Frankenstein, very much in the Gothic tradition.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Themes: / hard-boiled / noir / crime / mystery /
Tal Howard, a disillusioned Korean War vet, breaks away from his old life, looking for answers and convinced he’s going to find them in the small town of Hillston. What’s in Hillston? Sixty grand in embezzled funds that Howard learned about from a dying friend in a POW camp. He just needs to find out where the money is hidden and contend with another former POW who has come looking for it, Earl Fitzmartin–a psychopath they were all terrified of in the camp. Howard soon learns that the secret to the money’s location lies in the dead man’s past, which must be discovered through the women he knew, such as the respectable Ruth Stamm and the sultry and dangerous Toni Rassele.
A reissue of John D. MacDonald’s 1955 standalone novel On The Make was among the first books to be released from independent publisher Gutter Books after evolving from a 7 issue run of the amazing Out of the Gutter short fiction journal which debuted in 2008. Gutter books released to date have included other classic crime reprints, new original crime novels from authors such as Joe McKinney, the anthology Atomic Noir edited by Duane Swierczynski with Lou Boxer, and even a reprint of Gold Medal’s 1950 UFO inquiry The Flying Saucers are Real by former Marine Corps naval aviator Donald Keyhoe. Now On The Make has launched as the first of what hopes to be many titles to be brought to the audiobook format by Gutter Books.
The reissue includes an introductory essay “The Two Sides of John D.” by Martin L. Kohler and a concluding essay by Gutter Book’s own Matthew Louis, both which I appreciate being included in the both the new print edition as well as the audiobook. I do have one slight issue with the introductory essay in that although On the Make was in fact the author’s intended title for the novel, the publishers went with a different title, one that in my opinion serves as a major plot spoiler consider a specific main character in the novel. Therefore my own recommendation would be to save both essays for enjoyment later after listening to the story first. That being said, my understanding is that the mention in the prologue was left intact so as not to mislead any readers who may have already be familiar with the book from the former title.
The hard-boiled 1st person narrative of On the Make is handled well by narrator Robert Armin, whose other audiobook credits include non-fiction, self-help, children’s, and crime titles as well as his own writing. The main character, Tal Howard, is a veteran of the Korean War brought to a small town seeking buried riches hinted to him from the last wishes of a fellow prisoner of war. Tal quickly finds many others snooping around and that other strangers have already outstayed their welcome in the town of Hillston. I’ve personally only read other standalone novels from the John D MacDonald bibliography and based on what I’ve read I feel this novel serves as a great introduction to this period. The essays give a good comparison and contrast from this era with his later and better known Travis McGee series of novels. Also of interest and mentioned in high regard is the science fiction works of the author which have included short stories and a handful of novels. I recalled enjoying On the Make first time around when I read the Gutter Books paperback, and enjoyed revisiting the story with the audiobook. I may have to check out some of the John D. MacDonald series or sci-fi novels.
One of my favourite writers, Donald E. Westlake, mostly left the SFF field for the greener pastures of crime fiction after the 1960s. He was very successful there.
The Risk Profession, first published in 1961, is a fun SF novelette and one well worthy of our continued attention.
Another guy who appreciated Westlake was my friend, Gregg Margarite, who narrated it for LibriVox back in 2010.
The plot, a murder mystery, concerns an insurance investigator who makes a trip to the asteroid belt to investigate the death of an asteroid miner.
The Risk Profession
By Donald E. Westlake; Read by Gregg Margarite
1 |MP3| – Approx. 1 Hour 4 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: January 17, 2010
“The men who did dangerous work had a special kind of insurance policy. But when somebody wanted to collect on that policy the claims investigator suddenly became a member of… The Risk Profession.” First published in Amazing Stories, March 1961.
Here’s a |PDF| made from the publication in Amazing.
[Thanks also to Wendel Topper and Lucy Burgoyne]
Posted by Jesse Willis
Episode 1 – The Box
By Stephen Gallagher; Performed by a full cast
Released: June 7, 2013
The culmination of the Wainfleet Maritime College sea rescue and safety course is a session in The Box, an underwater helicopter escape simulator. The candidates are ex-navy or air force, and The Box should be an easy exercise for such experienced men. So why are the drop-outs gradually increasing in number? Men are seeing things when they’re submerged, and won’t talk about them when they come out… What is the secret of The Box?
Episode 2 – The Fixation
By Mark Morris; Performed by a full cast
Released: June 14, 2013
When Ian Hibbert witnesses a hoodie dumping a bin of rubbish outside his house, he decides enough is enough. He convenes a group of Darwell residents and sets out to clean up the estate, which has been falling to rack and ruin the past few years. But the Clean Up Darwell group are abused; his daughter is attacked; and finally, one of the committee members disappears. Ian discovers to his cost that someone – or something – doesn’t want him to clean up Darwell. But why?
Episode 3 – Spanish Ladies
By Paul Magrs; Performed by a full cast
Released: June 21, 2013
Phil doesn’t need a girlfriend, his overbearing Mummy tells him. His Mummy will look after him forever. She steams open his post, reads his diary and checks under his bed for mucky magazines. Suspecting that her shy, middle-aged son is seeing a lady, she employs her friend Renee from Friday night bingo to spy on him. But when Mummy discovers that it’s Renee herself who is carrying on with her darling boy, she exacts a terrible revenge…
In the annals of cinema, Hammer Film Productions are a legend, most famous for producing a string of classic horror movies from the mid ’50s until the late ’70s. They brought iconic characters like Professor Quatermass, Dracula, Baron Frankenstein and the Mummy to the screen and made Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee stars.
Hammer ceased film production in 1976 and after a couple of well remembered anthology TV series in the early ’80s – Hammer House of Horror (1980) and Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense (1984), the studio closed its doors. But much like their famous horror creations, they didn’t stay dead. Hammer came back from the grave in the 21st century with a string of new movies – Let Me In (2010), The Resident (2011), Wakewood (2011) and the box office smash The Woman In Black (2012).
However the reborn Hammer hasn’t confined itself to making fine movies – in 2011 they launched a publishing arm, releasing new books by big names such as Jeanette Winterson and Tim Lebbon, and a series of novels that re-imagine their classic movies. Furthermore in January this year Hammer took to the stage with a new play adapting Henry James’ classic ghost story The Turn Of The Screw opening in the famous Almeida Theatre in London.
And now the legendary house of horrors is moving into the world of audio drama with the launch of Hammer Chillers, a series of 30 minute plays which are to be released as weekly downloads from the 7th June, with a complete series CD coming on July 26th. Much like their book imprint, Hammer have gathered together a fine roster for this foray into sonic terror, with established genre writers penning the scripts and plenty of familiar names from British TV and film in the casts.
First out of the gate is The Box (released 7th June) starring Con O’Neill, Alex Lowe and Zoe Lister. The titular device resides at the Wainfleet Maritime College and is used in training courses to simulate an underwater helicopter escape. However this routine exercise is regularly being failed by experienced personnel, leading course instructor Sean (Con O’Neil) to suspect that all is not right within the Box.
Scripted by accomplished novelist and screen writer Stephen Gallagher, The Box presents us with an eerie little mystery that pays off with a rather neat twist-in-the-tail. With a strong cast, excellent production values, and a simple but strong storyline, this is a wonderfully chilling opener for the series. It sets the bar high from the outset and rightly so to build audience loyalty with the rest of the series.
However as good as The Box is, it is comparative gentle compared to the following episodes. The second episode is The Fixation, written by Mark Morris, an author who has been turning out good solid horror novels that are highly entertaining for a good few years now. And The Fixation is quintessential terror Morris-style, taking us to a small English town where something isn’t quite right. Ian Hibbert is a somewhat fussy fellow who becomes increasingly irritated by the litter and trash that is cluttering his community, and vows to clean up his local area. However there is a more sinister reason for the ever growing piles of rubbish accumulating in Darnell than the general decline of society that Hibbert is so worried about.
Like much of Morris’s work, The Fixation reworks classic horror tropes into a contemporary English setting, creating intriguing and imaginative tales that reflect current society. This episode features some wonderful character work, with comic actor Miles Jupp delivering a great performance as the often petty Hibbert. However while Hibbert is in many ways a satire of an irritatingly over-zealous do-gooder, the strength of Morris’ script and Jupp’s performance, is that he and his family will have your sympathy as the horrors unfold. The Fixation is an excellent small town horror tale, chiming nicely with social issues we can relate to, but also using the medium of sound to fine creepy effect.
The third episode comes from Paul Magrs – another very well established author who’s written a very diverse range of books ranging from literary novels to mysteries to Doctor Who fiction. And Mr Magrs is no stranger to audio drama either having scripted several radio plays for the BBC and numerous Doctor Who audio adventures for Big Finish. And his past experience serves him well here in Spanish Ladies. It’s the twisted tale of an overbearing Mummy and her grown-up son Phil who isn’t so much still tied to her apron strings as positively ensnared in them.
For the most part, it plays out like an Alan Bennett piece, all sharply observed but slightly comic dialogue, but when the truly horrible Mummy, played to perfection by Jacqueline King, discovered that not so young Phil has found some romance, you know things are going to take a turn for the worse. Now the magic of good audio drama is painting pictures with words and sounds, and the medium is used to brilliantly hideous effect in Spanish Ladies. It’s pure horror dripping out the speakers!
Overall, it’s fair to say that Hammer Chillers certainly hit the mark and the production company Bafflegab have excelled themselves. They’ve delivered some top notch radio horror here. And aside from the quality scripts and performances, where this series really excels is the fact that they use the medium of sound so well in the stories, truly and fully embracing the audio medium to deliver the chills. Speaking as some one whose listened to a lot of horror radio past and present, with these first three episodes Hammer Chillers are well on the way to establishing themselves as a modern classic of audio horror.
Posted by Mr. Jim Moon
I’ve never been that interested in this book or anything by Wilkie Collins for that matter. Collins had that stigma (for me) of having written “classics” and “the first detective novel.” Which just killed any interest I’d ever have had because classics and “first ever” books are musty, boring, and stale, right?
I know that isn’t true, but I still have a hard time shaking that idea.
However, when B.J. Harrison, narrator extraordinaire of The Classic Tales Podcast offered the first five hours of this book as a free sample I couldn’t resist. I soon gave in and ordered the entire book. I was hooked in just a few chapters.
I really didn’t expect Gabriel Betteredge, the first narrator, to be so funny. He spends his spare time reading and rereading Robinson Crusoe which is his ultimate guide to any tricky decision he must make.
The second narrator is equally hilarious, a maiden aunt whose dedication to the Christian cause is such that she spends a considerable amount of time hiding religious tracts in people’s homes to trick them into reading them. I actually laughed out loud at some of the tract names. Now that I think of it, I knew that Collins and Charles Dickens were good friends and I suppose I should have expected a good sense of the ridiculous.
Not every narrator is humorous but the characterization is strong for everyone. Rachel Verinder’s outburst to Franklin Blake toward the end of the book made me applaud her strong common sense while I sympathized with her situation. I was moved to pity by Ezra Jennings’ plight and delighted in Sergeant Cuff’s penchant for roses.
Harrison’s reading emphasized humor without being over the top and pointed out the pathos without being maudlin. His reading was the key to my thorough enjoyment of this Victorian tale complete with a family feud, a cursed diamond, three untrustworthy Indian jugglers, and a small boy nicknamed Gooseberry.
The ending was of its time and incredible by today’s standards, but I was on tenterhooks as each revelation was made. In fact, I put off listening to a brand new book in a series I love so that I could get to the end of this mystery.
Harrison is offering the entire book for $5 which is an amazing bargain. I’m sure how long that offer will stand so if you’re interested check out the link above.
Posted by Julie D.
Technomancer (Unspeakable Things, Book One)
By B.V. Larson; Read by Christopher Lane
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 9 discs – 11 hours
Themes: / mystery / thriller / magic /
When Quentin Draith wakes up in a private sanatorium, he has no memory of who he is or how he received the injuries riddling his body. All he knows is that he has to get out, away from the drugs being pumped into him and back to the real world to search for answers. His first question: How did his friend Tony’s internal organs fill with sand, killing him in a Las Vegas car crash? After a narrow escape, he tracks down the basic facts: he is an investigator and blogger specializing in the supernatural — which is a good thing, because Quentin’s life is getting stranger by the minute. It seems he is one of a special breed, a person with unusual powers. He’s also the prime suspect in a string of murders linked by a series of seemingly mundane objects. The deeper he digs and the harder he works to clear his name, the more Quentin realizes that some truths are better off staying buried….
This one had a lot of potential, but in the end didn’t live up to it. Technomancer starts off strong with the main character, Quentin Draith, waking up in a hospital, not remembering any details about his life…not even his name. From there, the reader (listener, in my case) is taken on a bit of a “mystery-thriller” type book with science fiction/supernatural elements thrown in. The reader learns about Quentin as he learns about himself. That part of the story is actually kind of fun, the act of discovery. Unfortunately, the book breaks one of my cardinal rules for books in a series: it doesn’t stand very well on its own and didn’t wrap up the story line in any satisfying way. At the end of the book, I was left bored and annoyed that I’d read the entire thing, let down by what it was compared with what it could have been.
Quentin discovers that there have been a variety of bizarre deaths in Las Vegas, odd happenings. Through one of the people he meets, he finds that he’s a blogger who writes about these strange things. As the story goes on, he meets a somewhat shady police officer who is the lead investigator for these events and comes to piece more of the story together. There are some people in the community who have special objects. These objects give them powers, or can be used against others. For example, one of the objects Quentin learns about early-on is a ring that makes the person wearing it lucky in games of chance (such as blackjack). Another power is used for a sort of mind control. Some of these powers have a limited range over which they can work; others can work anywhere. Some objects even allow the owner to create “rips” to other worlds or other places in this world, portals that can be used to travel around the Vegas area. These “rips” can lead to worlds, though, where other beings live, beings who can come through similar rips to our world. Quentin suspects that these beings (called “grey men”) are responsible for all the odd events in Vegas. Through his travels, he also learns that there are two groups of users of these special objects: the “community,” and the “rogues” or the “cultists.” The “community” are people who, to some extent, have banded together to collect objects. The “cultists” have objects of their own, but seem generally more interested in using them for new study. They compare the objects to witchcraft in the 1600′s: if you don’t understand the science behind something, then it is seen as magical, no? Eventually, Quentin forms a plan to destroy the grey men, and the story ends more or less after his attempt to do so…
All of that sounds like it has the potential to be an interesting story. Sadly, the book, taken on its own, didn’t form much of a complete story. Over 9 CD’s (10.5 hours), the book spent the first 8 with Quentin wandering around, finding objects and meeting people. Only three of the people he met (out of many) ended up being truly relevant by the end of the book. The final “battle” as it were didn’t start until the end of the 8th CD and was wrapped up 2/3 through the final CD; that is, the climax was only about 30 minutes long in total, and came right at the end. Instead of describing more of the how’s and why’s, Larson spent most of this book world- and character-building. Even the “battle” was rushed. It wasn’t clear, at the end of the story, if the battle made any difference. Or why Quentin survived. Or what happened to the others who went to battle with him. Or why some of them mattered. A quick look on Amazon indicates that this is the first in the “Unspeakable Things” series. This book was unsatisfying enough to me that I won’t go on to read the others. I kept holding out hope that the climax would come and the story would be resolved, but in the end, it wasn’t. It just felt like a very long introduction to a short book.
As this was an audiobook, I should probably mention something about the narration. In short, it was a pretty average narration, nothing to write home about, but nothing particularly bad or unpleasant, either. Lane did a fine job with the voices; there was never a question of which character was speaking, and his female voices weren’t as over-the-top as some male narrators do. In the end, when a narrator doesn’t distract from the book, they’re doing an alright job in my book, and that was the case here. I think it was probably better to listen to this book instead of reading the print version, so that I could do other things while reading.
Review by terpkristin.