Review of Dust by Hugh Howey

June 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

DustDust (The Silo Saga #3)
By Hugh Howey; Narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds
Publisher: Broad Reach PublishingPublication Date: October 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 12 hours, 34 minutes

Themes: / destruction / apocalypse / survival / engineering / politics /

Publisher summary:

Wool introduced the silo and its inhabitants. Shift told the story of their making. Dust will chronicle their undoing. Welcome to the underground.

Final books in a series are always tough. Endings are difficult. Not everyone may be happy.

The ending to this series was good, but not great. I think it really comes down to what you’re expecting. Wool really sets the stage of a mystery series with a post-apocalyptic setting. By the end of it I had a ton of questions. Some of those questions were answered or at least explored by Shift, but a few more were posed as well. For me more than anything I wanted my questions answered to my satisfaction in this final book.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the case for me. I still have questions. A few of the things that were explained, weren’t done to my satisfaction. The clarification I was hoping might be in this book never really came. We do get some answers. Just not enough. When discussing it with others I found that some of my lingering questions hadn’t occurred to them at all. Your mileage may vary.

That said, it’s still an enjoyable book with a good, but not great ending. Mr. Howey does a good job in tying the two halves of the story set out in Wool and Shift together.

I found Juliette not as enjoyable in this book as in the first, but I still probably enjoyed it the most. Solo was probably a close second. After Shift I found myself mostly getting tired of Donald however. He’s not exactly the most likable of people. I found myself not really caring what he did except how it affected the others.

Tim Gerard Reynolds is once again a great reader. When deciding between reading or listening to a book, who the reader is often makes a big difference, and Mr. Reynolds makes this a must listen. He does voices and accents that add a little extra something to the story. If you’re deciding between listening and reading the book, I’d recommend listening.

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of A New Beginning by Craig Brummer

February 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

A New BeginningA New Beginning
By Craig Brummer; Narrated by Jack Nolan
Publisher: C&S Press
Publication Date: August 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 7 hours, 32 minutes

Themes: / slavery / space / bureaucracy / mega-corporations / politics /

Publisher summary:

A New Beginning is the story of a young woman who is ordered by the courts of Earth to serve as an indentured slave to the corporation that held her college debt. Life as a slave brings her to the brink of suicide and an attempt to kill her tormentor. She is sold to Spacers, who are themselves rebelling against the corrupt control of Earth’s mega-corporations. In space she finds a chance at a new life, a chance to maybe help her sister avoid the same fate, but only if Spacers succeed in gaining their freedom. The course of her life will be determined by the outcome of politics far outside of her control… but she has a chance, however slim, to save her sister and start a new life herself.

In some way, this was a really odd book for me to read. The main character is named Kristin. She works on a space ship as a systems engineer. I work on satellites as a systems engineer. And, honestly, her description is really similar to mine when I was in my early 20′s. So it was seriously trippy to read this at times.

A New Beginning is set in the near future, a future where space travel is common place, as is living in space aboard ships or other space stations. On Earth, it’s a rather bleaker picture of the world today. Corporations have taken over the world, bought out most of the politicians. It’s a society, world-wide, where the class gap is as wide is it can be and only those born into or who marry into privilege have assurance of a “normal” life. The rest are sold into indentured service to pay of their debts, whatever they are; for main character Kristin, this is the price of her college education. It’s also a future where faster-than-light travel has been made possible, but communication–visual and audio (in the form of communiques between spacecraft)–is limited to light speed. I’m not quite sure how that is possible, to be honest, but it sets up some interesting potential so I decided not to worry about it.

As the story starts, a newly formed “Federation,” comprised of those living and working on the ships and stations, those without ties to Earth, decide to break ties with Earth and form their own…well, federation. Think of it like Star Trek. Where once they were tied to Earth, they now consider themselves independent entities, willing and happy to trade with Earth, but not bound by any of their laws–or taxes. This has important ramifications for Kristin Hayes, whose indentured service was just sold from an Earth corporation to a ship in the Federation. She left behind a life of debt and slavery (including sexual slavery) on Earth and, upon joining the ship, was freed. The Federation, her ship The Valiant Lad, bought her indenture contract (along with that of others) and gave her the option to return to Earth as a free woman or to join the Federation, join the ship’s crew. Kristin decided to join the ship’s crew and for the first time in her life, have a real job, earn real wages, and be allowed to be a “normal” person.

Kristin’s story comprises most of the book. There are two story lines (that are sort of broken into 3 in places), one of the Federation officers who are actually coordinating the secession from Earth, and Kristin’s story line, telling of her life, both on and off the ship. Kristin’s story is about 2/3 of this book, though I suspect that this is the first in a series and provides decent setup for the rest of the series. Kristin acclimates to life on the ship slowly, but without much adversity. If anything, it seems that everything is just too easy. She finds friends, support, a job she can do…which is interesting, given the description of how the space-ers grow up and are educated compared with how Earth-ers are raised. Growing up in space seems a lot more intense, it seems that anybody from Earth would be at a significant disadvantage. When the Federation makes new laws, allowing families to be on ships and for crew to “fraternize,” she enters into a relationship with a crew mate fairly easily, despite her emotional scars. Kristin decides that she should use this opportunity to earn money (and save it) so that she can get her sister and her father off Earth, to help them avoid the troubles she had. One way she earns money is by selling her journal as a book; the journal she wrote of what her life was like on Earth as a child and then as an indentured servant for one of the corporations. It became an overnight success (almost literally) and made her into a celebrity. As I said, the only “trouble” I really had with this part of the book is how easy everything was. Kristin had a few small stumbling blocks to overcome, but the narrative made it sound like they were easily triumphed over, so overall she didn’t face much adversity.

Similarly, the second story line–comprising a third or less of the book–seemed….easy. The main thrust is told from two viewpoints, one of the ship captain (Marshall?) who announced the secession, and one of another ship captain (Matthews? A woman, in either event, which was nice) who oversaw some of the battles between the Earth ships and the Federation ships. This is where I think the book truly had a miss. It was odd enough that it was all too easy–the battles were short, sweet, and rarely with any Federation losses–but there was an opportunity for Brummer to capitalize on some interesting tactics, an opportunity lost in this book. As I mentioned earlier in the review, technology has evolved to a point where faster-than-light travel is possible (and used) but faster-than-light communication is not. This means that when battling on a large scale, your information is only as good as your distance (in light years/hours) from the source. This was touched on briefly in Kristin’s narrative. One of her co-workers mentioned that for spare money, he makes games to teach kids about battle tactics and the math used in FTL travel and war. He mentioned that all kids who grow up in space have to learn this, and have to use it…but then, nobody did. In all of the battles, it seemed like the information at hand was “good enough” and that the Federation mostly won without issue. While the battle scenes were mercifully short (nothing drives me up a wall than too much detail on weaponry or super-detailed tactics), they were almost too dry. It seemed, once again, too easy.

Some of the issues with the battle scenes might have been owed to the narration. The narration, while mostly fine, was just that, fine. Nolan didn’t add much excitement or change in tone for any of the scenes. He didn’t use different voices for the characters (except maybe some of the characters on the primary Federation ship–the Freedom?–they sounded like they were lifted from the scenes in Star Trek). The recording itself occasionally echoed or sounded like it was recorded with an unfiltered microphone. It often sounded like there was a low-level hiss in the background, or air flowing. This was noticeable when I used earphones and in my car audio and was occasionally distracting.

All in all, the book wasn’t a bad entry novel for a first-time author, though the science fiction elements were more window dressing than actual story components. I suspect some of the audio issues were due to it not being one of the larger publication houses, and that’s okay. I would recommend this book to someone looking for some light science fiction that frankly isn’t much of a downer (because let’s be honest, a lot of it can be extremely depressing). It will be interesting to see where Brummer goes with this universe. If all the novels end up having this same tone/lack of adversity, it could get boring, but for a first-in-a-series by a new author, it was pretty alright.

Posted by terpkristin.

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

CBC: The Vanishing Point: The Dispossessed (adapted from the novel by Ursula K. Le Guin)

October 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

A six part radio dramatization of The Dispossessed was broadcast on CBC Radio in weekly 1/2 hour installments from June 12 to July 17, 1987 for The Vanishing Point (a long running SF radio drama series). Airing at 7:30pm on Friday nights this serial was based on the 1974 novel of the same name, by Ursula K. Le Guin. Subtitled “An Ambiguous Utopia” it tells the story of the occupants of twin planets, Urras and Annares. A sprawling epic of its era it features tree-planting, dinner parties, copulation, physics, homosexuality, anarchism, social justice, copulation, spankings, propaganda, culture, copulation, pregnancy, babies, famine, revolution, class consciousnesses, politics, and copulation.

Here’s the official plot:

“Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life. Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Urras, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.”

CBC - The Vanishing PointThe Vanishing Point – The Dispossessed
Adapted from the novel by Ursula K. Le Guin; Dramatized by David Lewis Stein; Performed by a full cast
6 Episodes – Approx. 3 Hours [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: CBC Radio
Broadcast: 1987

Part 1 |MP3| Jun. 12, 1987

Part 2 |MP3| Jun. 19, 1987

Part 3 |MP3| Jun. 26, 1987

Part 4 |MP3| Jul. 03, 1987

Part 5 |MP3| Jul. 10, 1987

Part 6 |MP3| Jul. 17, 1987

Podcast feed: http://huffduffer.com/tags/vpdispossessed/rss

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

Cast:
Gary Reineke as Shevek
Barbara Gordon
Gaysa Kovacs
John Swindells
Gillie Fenick
Greg Elwand
Hrant Alianak
Terry Waterhouse
Francine Volkhurt
Mary Durkin
Marsha Moreau
Michael Hogan
Phil Aiken
Beth Robinson

Music by Marsha Coffee

SF Masterworks - The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Anarres and Urras

Part 1 of 6:

Part 2 of 6:

Part 3 of 6:

Part 4 of 6:

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Part 6 of 6:

Posted by Jesse Willis

Expediter by Mack Reynolds

October 30, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

Expediter by Mack Reynolds

Mack Reynolds is an SF author who needs more attention. Unfortunately his non-public domain works, the majority of his work, are languishing, orphaned. Escape Pod has paired this less than stellar novelette with an excellent narrator, Corson Bremer, but even so it’s a less than stellar representative example of Reynold’s most thoughtful societal thinking. Expediter merely hints at the kinds of things Mack Reynolds could do. Come to think of it, what we really need is an expediter to make the still copyrighted works of Mack Reynolds available as ebooks (and audiobooks).

Podcast - Escape PodExpediter
By Mack Reynolds; Read by Corson Bremer
1 |MP3| – Approx. 1 Hour 22 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Escape Pod
Podcast: October 28, 2013
His assignment was to get things done; he definitely did so, Not quite the things intended, perhaps, but definitely done. First published in Analog, May 1963.

Podcast feed: http://escapepod.org/podcast.xml

Here is the |ETEXT|.

And I’ve assembled a |PDF|.

Expediter by Mack ReynoldsIllustrated by George Schelling

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Scarlet Plague by Jack London

October 15, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

DREAMSCAPE AUDIOBOOKS - The Scarlet Plague by Jack LondonThe Scarlet Plague
By Jack London; Read by Drew Ariana
Approx. 2 Hours 13 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Dreamscape Audio
Published: August 20, 2013
Themes: / Science Fiction / San Francisco / Plague / Post-Apocalypse / Disease / Philosophy / Politics / Class Conflict /

The year is 2013 and plague has struck. Not a wannabe killer like SARS or the Spanish flu, but a tsunami type devastation that swallows every living thing, check that, every person, in its path. Its nickname is the red death because at its arrival the first thing that happens to the infected person is they start sporting a red face – like a beacon for everyone else around them to – RUN. The next thing that happens is they die. Well a little more goes on in between, numb feet, numb hands, a heart so numb it stops. All within an hour, or a few hours if the person is lucky/unlucky enough to have it drag out that long. Then for fun what’s left of the numbed, red faced, ex-person, immediately starts decomposing, falling apart before the eyes of anyone still around to witness it, practically shooting decomposing germs into the air like a plant shooting its spores. There are two classes of people, the ultra rich and everyone else. As the ultra rich jump into their airships to get as far away as possible, they just carry death with them – first class. Everyone else simply falls down and dies where they are. The devastation’s full name is Scarlet Plague. Sixty years into the future when the very few last contenders of what was once the mighty human race hear tell about it, they can’t even decipher what scarlet means because language (like life) has degraded to the point of only holding on to what’s necessary. Scarlet is red. Counting only needs to go as high a ten. The squiggles on money and books are meaningless, but that’s of no consequence because neither books nor money are in use anyway. Apologies, I’m getting ahead of myself. About 160 years ahead.

The Scarlet Plague by Jack London, published in 1912 is about the plague that will strike 100 years from his time, told from a perspective 60 years hence by the last man alive who’s ever seen an airship or read a book. 2013, a hundred years into the future for Jack London, is today and yesterday, this week. Hearing this story now, is like what it was to read (or re-read) 1984 in 1984. Sort of surreal. Interestingly 1984 is a year that was mentioned in the story of the plague. Did George Orwell choose that year with a tip of his hat? Probably. I’ve heard George was a fan.

Back to Jack. What did he get right? What did he miss? Commercial airships? Instant wireless communication? Check, check. About 8 billion people planet wide? Check. The ultra rich and everyone else, hmmm, not that far off the mark, probably pretty close considering he was most likely exaggerating a little to make a point. The work didn’t actually feel like science fiction, it felt contemporary, the section that describes this part of the century anyway. Like his projection to 2073 started from here, not from a century ago. Because the today part of the story is so right, it makes the rest of the story worse.

Not worse as in it’s a bad story. It’s an excellent, superbly imagined, tangible story. Worse in regards to how Mr. London judged the human condition. 60 years from now, 160 years from when the book was written, James Howard Smith or Grandsir, is telling his three grandsons the story of the plague. A story that was in great demand 20 or 30 years before, is quickly becoming lost – now of passing interest to two of the boys, and of real interest to only one. For one thing Grandsir’s sentences are way too complicated, especially when he goes off into his memories and starts speaking as he used to do when he was professor of English literature at Stanford. Speech has become staccato and minimalist, the niceties of language having died off with everyone that had time for that sort of thing. The other problem is the things Grandsir talks about make no sense to the boys. Cities, cars travelling by air, exchanging things with money, wasting time with written markings, all of it is so outside of what the boys know it might as well be make believe. The ramblings of a deranged, lost, old mind. With an estimated world population of less than 500, life has become a question of survival. If you want to eat then you have to go out and kill yourself some dinner. Grandsir calls his grandsons savages. When he was a boy (one of his constant refrains) there were those who gathered food and those who ordered its gathering. His progeny has been reduced to food gatherers. Interestingly Grandsir’s still got them gathering food for him. Old habits die hard I guess.

So why was this professor of classical literature spared to help re-forge humanity? No reason. One in every few million just didn’t get red faced. Maybe death momentarily blinked as it passed them by or got distracted by the particularly amusing scene of the mountains of bodies piling up at its feet. A couple of feeble minded, the very richest most splendid woman in America, a violent, vile, wife beating chauffer who made himself her husband, our friend the professor – just a few random cards in the deck. Life’s like that. You build your magnificent cities, you spend your time creating art and pondering the great questions, and life responds by carelessly wiping itself out. Careless in that it doesn’t quite finish the job. But no matter, because life will make its way forward again.

And now we come to the worst part of the story. It’s not the plague and what happens in the aftermath. The author makes it clear that ultimately, in the long run, humanity will rally back. They’ll rebuild and create again. The worst part is what Mr. Jack London sees after that.

Drew Ariana who read the story in this recording did a good job. My only issue was the character voice he assumed for Grandsir. I didn’t have a problem with the voice, the problem was, so much of the story was told using this voice it became a little distracting. Otherwise, an easy, pleasant listen.

By the end of the book, awash in dystopia, I was seeing a little red. Too delightful not to share, here’s a little red (or Scarlet) for you. “All man’s toil upon the planet was just so much foam. He domesticated the serviceable animals, destroyed the hostile ones, and cleared the land of its hostile vegetation and then he passed and the primordial flood of hostile life rolled back again, sweeping his handy work away.”

Posted by Maissa Bessada

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