The SFFaudio Podcast #260 – AUDIOBOOK: The Hound Of The Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

April 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #260 – The Hound Of The Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, read by Bob Neufeld.

This UNABRIDGED AUDIOBOOK (6 hours 40 minutes) comes to us courtesy of LibriVox.org. The Hound Of The Baskervilles was first serialized in The Strand Magazine, August 1901 to April 1902.

The next SFFaudio Podcast will feature our discussion of it!

The Hound Of The Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic

April 10, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic by David J. SchwartzGooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic: The Thirteenth Rib
By David J. Schwartz; Narrated by Janina Edwards
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 21 October 2013[UNABRIDGED] – 12 hours, 11 minutes

Themes: / urban fantasy / mystery / community college / magic / secret agents /

Publisher summary:

Meet the newest professor at Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic, Joy Wilkins. She may suffer from face blindness, but Joy can still recognize people by reading their auras — a skill that comes in particularly handy for her real work as an undercover agent with the Federal Bureau of Magical Affairs. Her mission: to discover the source of weaponized demons being trafficked through the quaint school on the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin, and to locate her predecessor, the school’s missing History of Magic professor. But just as her investigation gets under way, the brutal murder of Joy’s handler — and mentor — sets her on the trail of a secret society known as the Thirteenth Rib. With the clock ticking down to the next attack, Joy will have to find new allies and uncover ancient secrets if she’s going to have any chance of defeating a conspiracy that threatens to destroy the entire world.

Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic: The Thirteenth Rib (hereafter referred to as Gooseberry Bluff ) is a book that had a lot of good ideas, but suffered a bit on execution. I was originally attracted to it because it seemed like a cross of modern urban fantasy with mystery–and in many respects, it was just that. The issues I had with it are more about how it wrapped up the various plot lines, and what was left to the imagination.

The premise is simple: Joy Wilkins is the new professor of history at Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic (GBCCoM), but she’s also an undercover agent for the Federal Bureau of Magical Affairs (FBMA). Joy’s job as an agent is made somewhat more difficult by the fact that she has face blindness; luckily, she is very good at reading auras, so her disability isn’t the end of the world. Very few people (relatively speaking) are good at reading auras. She is assigned to GBCCoM ostensibly to investigate the disappearance of the previous history professor, Prof. Drake, and to investigate the source of demon trafficking within the school. There are some other side stories in the book, and some character- and world-development that is done through the course of the narrative.

The characters are rather interesting and varied. Schwartz emphasized diversity in his characters, something relatively few authors seem to feel comfortable with, and that’s to his credit. The characters–whether they’re the narrator (Joy, the face-blind African American woman who’s also an agent in the FBMA), Andy (the transgender assistant who is biologically a male but self-identifies and dresses as a female and prefers to be referred to with feminine pronouns), the gay president of the college, the Indian FBMA case handler, or the (apparently stereotypical white male) FBMA case handler, to name a few–are all believable and deeply developed. On the one hand, it felt like Schwartz may have been trying “too hard” to be SO DIVERSE but on the other, the diversity and the character traits opened up by this diversity were well-handled; rarely did it seem like a character was diverse just to be diverse.

The world didn’t need much development in general, given that the book takes place in modern-day “Gooseberry Bluff, MN” (a city on the St. Croix river). The rules for the various types of magic weren’t particularly well-defined, but this book wasn’t as much about the magic as it was about the mystery, so that can be forgiven. When needed, such as when explaining the demon-summoning, the rules were at least internally consistent.

The biggest issue I had with the book is that it had a lot of plot lines, and they weren’t all wrapped up particularly well. In addition, perhaps because of all the parallel plot points, the wrap-up to the main story line felt rushed. Some of the plot lines were:
-The main plot line, Joy trying to solve the disappearance of her predecessor at the school and the demon-trafficking
-Related sub-plots of assassination attempts and trying to determine why Joy’s FBMA case manager is trying to keep her off the job
-The president of GBCCoM’s time away from the school
-A romantic relationship between two other professors at the school
-A student (Margaret) who is very strong, magically-speaking, but very novice
-Another professor at the GBCCoM trying to bring back her sister’s soul

In the end, the main plot line was wrapped up but the sub-plots weren’t particularly discussed. I was left thinking that the case manager is just a jerk (he was certainly painted that way), but a lot of time was devoted to him. The main plot line was wrapped up, though with a lot of things falling into place “at the right moment” or Joy “figuring it out” suddenly at the end. The other plot lines were not specifically wrapped up–in fact, one of them was left wide open (the last one I listed). It seems like Schwartz spent so much time doing the world-building, that by the time he needed to wrap up the story, it felt rushed. I wasn’t exactly sure how Joy connected the dots or what exactly happened.

The narration by Janina Edwards was pretty good. There were a few times when I had to back up my recording and re-listen to a few sentences, but I think that was more attributed to awkward phrasing or unusual words than the actual narration. When I closed my eyes, I could see a confident African American woman as Joy–I actually had the picture of my 7th grade reading teacher in my head (thank you, Mrs. Barrett!). If you’re one who likes to listen at greater than normal speed (1.25x, 1.5x, 2x), you might have a hard time–I did. But the book was short enough that I didn’t mind listening at 1 or 1.25x speed.

It will be interesting to see what (if anything) else Schwartz does with this world. I would like to know how some of the other plot lines wrap up, and why Margaret seemed so “important” in this book. I would hope, though, that in future books, less time is spent on world-building and more time is spent telling the story evenly, so that it doesn’t need to end up rushed as this one did at the end.

Posted by terpkristin.

Review of Veronica Mars: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line

March 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Veronica MarsVeronica Mars: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line (Veronica Mars #1)
By Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham; Read by Kristen Bell
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 25 March 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 hours, 42 minutes

Themes: / crime / mystery / kidnapping / girl detective / spring break /

Publisher summary:

From Rob Thomas, the creator of the television series and movie phenomenon Veronica Mars, comes the first book in a thrilling mystery series that picks up where the feature film left off. 

Ten years after graduating from high school in Neptune, California, Veronica Mars is back in the land of sun, sand, crime, and corruption. She’s traded in her law degree for her old private investigating license, struggling to keep Mars Investigations afloat on the scant cash earned by catching cheating spouses until she can score her first big case. Now it’s spring break, and college students descend on Neptune, transforming the beaches and boardwalks into a frenzied, week-long rave. When a girl disappears from a party, Veronica is called in to investigate. But this is no simple missing person’s case; the house the girl vanished from belongs to a man with serious criminal ties, and soon Veronica is plunged into a dangerous underworld of drugs and organized crime. And when a major break in the investigation has a shocking connection to Veronica’s past, the case hits closer to home than she ever imagined.

This is a book for Veronica Mars fans, to listen to after seeing the crowd-funded movie (I watched it last weekend and was not disappointed! While I’ve been watching Kristen Bell’s new show, House of Lies, I miss Veronica and her many mishaps). The story picks up a few months after the movie ends, and Veronica is still in Neptune when a college student disappears during the Spring Break season.

Logan is missing for the entire story (for reasons the movie details) but another person from Veronica’s past shows up that I wasn’t expecting to see again. I hope in the future we see more new characters because I personally am getting a little weary of some of the same old people, but maybe I do not fully appreciate the importance of repetition in a girl detective narrative.

The audio is great fun because it is read by Veronica herself, Kristen Bell.  Her voice carried us through the narration of the tv show and movie, and having anyone else read the book would have been a real tragedy.  She does different voices for the characters, as well as distinguishing the narrative voice from the character of Veronica Mars. I hope they continue to have her read the future Veronica Mars audiobooks (and I hope there will be future Veronica Mars books).

Posted by Jenny Colvin

The Seismograph Adventure by Arthur B. Reeve

December 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aural Noir, Online Audio 

Aural Noir: Online Audio

The Seismograph Adventure - illustrated by Winter

Professor Craig Kennedy, a scientific detective similar to Sherlock Holmes, uses his knowledge of chemistry, psychoanalysis, and the scientific method to solve mysteries. In this adventure he foresees “potentialities and possibilities unrecognized by ordinary minds, and with his profound knowledge of applied sciences, is able to approach the enormous tasks confronting him from a new and scientific angle.”

And according to Hugo Gernsback The Seismograph Adventure is “one of the finest, as well as scientific, of Arthur B. Reeve’s stories.”

LibriVoxThe Seismograph Adventure
By Arthur B. Reeve; Read by Elliott Miller
1 |MP3| – Approx. 50 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: 2010
“Can ghosts walk? And if they do, can their footsteps be recorded on a machine? And are the spirits of the phantom world subject to the same physical phenomena as our human bodies? These are tantalizing questions which arise during the thrilling and complex mystery into which Craig Kennedy and Jameson are plunged without warning.” First published in Cosmopolitan, April 1911.

And here’s a 10 page |PDF| made from its republication in Scientific Detective Monthly, March 1930.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #232 – READALONG: The Prestige by Christopher Priest

September 30, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #232 – Scott, Jesse, Jenny, and Tamahome talk about The Prestige by Christopher Priest.

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.

The Prestige by Christopher Priest - read by Simon Vance

The Prestige - LEGOized

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of On the Make by John MacDonald

July 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

On the Make by John D. MacDonaldOn the Make
By John D. MacDonald; Performed by Robert Armin
Publisher: Gutter Books on Audible.com
Published: 31 May 2013
[UNABRIDGED]  – 5 hours, 18 minute

Themes: / hard-boiled / noir / crime / mystery /

Publisher summary:

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.

Posted by Dan VK

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