The Wizard of OZ: A Steampunk Adventure (Steampunk OZ #1)
By S.D. Stuart; Narrated by Amanda C. Miller
Publisher: Ramblin’ Prose Publishing
Publication Date: November 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 7 hours, 17 minutes
Themes: / steampunk / prison / betrayal /
There is no yellow brick road here. No emerald city. No lollipop guild. This is the Australis Penal Colony, a continent sized prison referred to the world over as the Outcast Zone.
Built to contain the world’s most dangerous criminals, OZ ended up the dumping ground for everything polite society deemed undesirable.
From inside this place, a garbled message proves Dorothy’s father is still alive, trapped in a prison with only one way in and no way out. Into this place, 17-year-old Dorothy must go if she wants to find her father and keep the promise she made to her dying mother.
She thought she had spent the past seven years preparing to overcome anything that got in the way of fulfilling her promise, but the situation she finds herself is harder and more intense than anything she has experienced before as she drops right into the middle of a power struggle for control over all of OZ. If she has any hope of surviving long enough to find her father, she will need her mother’s guts, her father’s brains and the unexpected help from those discarded and forgotten.
Everyone she meets tells her the same thing. The only person who can help her is the one prisoner who deserves to be in a place like this and refers to himself by the name, Wizard.
The Wizard always asks for something in exchange for his help. Can Dorothy afford the terrible price he will demand?
The Wizard of OZ: A Steampunk Adventure is a well-rounded story that is interesting the whole way through. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a steampunk take on The Wizard of Oz but Stuart manages to make clever nods toward different aspects of the classic when turning OZ into a massive steampunk prison. The steampunk aspects of the story are incorporated well and not over the top.
A lot of steampunk seems to go so over the top that it’s hard to follow what’s going on but that isn’t the case here. This is clearly a steampunk adventure that is not trying to be some kind of big budget movie. There are guns, swords, airships, combat, automatons, and borderline magical science all at work in this story. There is also a healthy amount of dueling, betraying, and double crossing in here too. One minor thing that I didn’t like as much (and is fairly common to steampunk) is the amount of betrayal- it was a little difficult to follow some characters’ motivations and betrayals at times because of all the double crossing going on.
Turning OZ into a prison worked out great. Since I know the story of OZ already, I kept linking pieces from this story to the classic and found that it actually works out well, even the lessons learned by the characters in the end. The story was interesting without dragging too much. The only parts that dragged for me were when some of the characters kept getting locked up in prison (it’s like a prison of prisons at times) and they sit around and talk or figure stuff out.
Amanda C. Miller does a great job as narrator for this novel. She does all the different voices and adds some good snark and attitude to Dorothy when she needs it. I never had trouble understanding her and could usually tell which character was speaking based on the voices she gave them.
Posted by Tom Schreck
The SFFaudio Podcast #200 – Jesse, Mirko, and Gary Lovisi discuss the Science Fiction novel Mars Needs Books! by Gary Lovisi.
Talked about on today’s show:
the great description, Audible.com, it’s a prison novel, it’s a dystopian science fiction novel, it’s a book collector’s novel, Philip K. Dick, a reality dysfunction, The Man In The High Castle, 1984 by George Orwell, “retconning“, Stalin, airbrushing history, a new Science Fiction idea!, Amazon’s Kindle, Mark Twain, “The Department Of Control”, J. Edgar Hoover, Simon is the most evil character ever, oddball individualists, a straw man gulag, one way of keeping the population in control is to send troublemakers away, another is to give them someone to hate, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein, the Attica Prison riot (1971), Arabella Rashid, entertainment media, when you can’t tell what the truth is anymore it’s very easy to control people, maybe it’s an allegory for our times, Paperback Parade, SF writers were wrong about what our times are like, Mars, crime novels, Science Fiction as a metaphor, people are scared of reading, “I like good writing”, Richard Stark’s Parker novels, getting the word out about Mars Needs Books!, Gargoyle Nights, H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Jack Vance, horror, fantasy, nice and short, short books pack a punch (and don’t waste your time), Stephen King, Patrick O’Brian, ideas, paperback novels from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, customers want thick books, Winter In Maine by Gerard Donovan, were looking at a different readership today, James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, there’s nothing that doesn’t add to the story, “Lawrence Block is scary good”, Donald E. Westlake, Robert Bloch, Eight Million Ways To Die, A Pair Of Recycled Jeans by Lawrence Block, Evan Hunter (Ed McBain), Charles Ardai (was on SFFaudio Podcast #090), book-collectors, Murder Of A Bookman by Gary Lovisi (is also on Audible.com), collectable glassware, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, cool dialogue, Driving Hell’s Highway by Gary Lovisi (also on Audible.com), That Hell-bound Train by Robert Bloch, noir, Violence Is The Only Solution by Gary Lovisi (paperback), hard-boiled, revenge, betrayal, personality disorder, Sherlock Holmes, westerns, “if there’s one truth in the universe that I know it’s that Germans love westerns”, which frontier are you talking about?, The Wild Bunch, a western with tommyguns, Akira Kurosawa, Outland (is High Noon in space), Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan, hard-boiled, violence, the Martian national anthem, Prometheus Award, libertarian motifs, world-building, GryphonBooks.com, Hurricane Sandy, Wildside Press, POD Books, eBooks, fire and water, that paperback is still in readable condition in 150 years?, fanzines, Jack Vance, The Dying Earth, Robert Silverberg, Dell Mapbacks, paperbacks were disposable, used bookstores, sex books.
Posted by Jesse Willis
One of the finest Science Fiction audiobooks on LibriVox, the novel that was the subject of SFFaudio Podcast #056, here it is …. The Status Civilization by Robert Sheckley on YouTube.
A man awakes with amnesia. He is aboard a spaceship. He is a prisoner. He is gnorant of his crime and his name. His destination is the planet Omega. It is a prison planet from which there is no escape.
If you give it a five minutes, it’ll take you into the full five hours and you’ll know the truth of The Status Civilization!
The regular audiobook is available HERE.
Posted by Jesse Willis
WARNING: This review is a bit of an aberration, it’s a bit more gonzo. It was written this way out of necessity and it is thus perhaps only suitable for those who… ‘heard he was dead.’
Escape From New York
Based on the screenplay by John Carpenter and Nick Castle; Adapted by Bill Hollweg; Performed by a full cast
5 MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 2 Hours 15 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcaster: BrokenSea Audio Productions
Podcast: April 2009 – March 2010
Themes: / Crime / Dystopia / Science Fiction / Alternate History / WWIII / Prison / Horror / New York /
In the year 1988 the crime rate in the United States rises 400%. The once great city of New York becomes the one maximum security prison for the entire country. A fifty foot containment wall is erected along the New Jersey shoreline, across the Harlem river, and down along the Brooklyn shoreline. It completely surrounds Manhattan Island. All bridges and waterways are mined. The United States Police Force, like an army, is encamped around the island. The prison’s name: New York Maximum Security Penitentiary, Manhattan Island. There are no guards inside the prison, only prisoners, and the worlds they have made. The year now… 1997.
In the opening crawl (detailed above) we are given a world rife with Science Fiction glory. Escape From New York has a premise full of promise. It is a story pregnant with possibilities – nearly all of which are fulfilled. Escape From New York, my friends, is both a powerful satire of our times and a powerful cinematic experience movie. Now, thanks to the creative love and attention by fans at BrokenSea Audio Productions it is a wondrous audio drama made by fans for fans.
Now hang with me on this. I hope I don’t end up seeming like a crazed french film critic, arguing for the superiority of the second Star Wars trilogy (The Phantom Menace et. al) over the original Star Wars and Empire. Take that first statistic: “the crime rate in the United States rises 400%” – how would that be possible? It certainly wouldn’t match any conventional trend or shift in population growth. Might it then be categorized under some sort of Freakonomics-style explanation? Maybe. But, I think we could argue, quite convincingly, that the only way to increase the crime rate 400% overnight would be to make a whole lot more human behaviors crimes. Disrespecting authority, sharing files with friends, or as the trailer for Escape From L.A. puts it “No talking, no smoking, no littering, no red meat, no freedom of religion. And remember all marriages must be approved by the Department of Health.” So, the world of Escape From New York is really fun. But a world is not enough. You need a plot and a set of characters. As to the latter…
The anti-hero takes many forms but I have a special fondness for Snake Plisken. As in an IMDB grendelkhan says:
“Snake Plissken is the classic anti-hero, ala Clint Eastwood’s Man-with-no-name. Plissken is an ex-soldier turned criminal, recruited/blackmailed into rescuing a hostage president from the prison of New York City. Plissken is a walking ball of anger and a survival machine.”
Indeed, a survival machine who’s been betrayed, lied to shat on by his own government – and he’s got a cool eye-patch, a reverse tramp stamp of a cobra, and a gravelly voice. He is a great character.
“But what of his motivation?” You ask.
Plisken, call him Snake, lives in a parallel universe – a USA run like a fun-house-lensed double craptoberfest of moral hypocrisy. If you’ve seen the movie Escape From New York, you’re seeing the 1980 zeitgeist of Manhattan as the epitome of ghettoic urban decay. This fear, that your neighbors are out to get you, the horror that politicians so often rely upon, works great in movies (and in the opening credits to The Equalizer). But this isn’t only a horror story. The prison genre is one of my favorites (check out Animal Factory). Like westerns, these genre stories have a certain set of conventions or constraints that make a story told within those constraints far more satisfying. But neither is Escape From New York just a prison story. For it
is also a quest story, a revenge story, an all out action adventure. There are MacGuffins galore for Plisken to chase after: First up is a world peace conference that is about to end in disaster lest a certain audio cassette is retrieved, then there’s a kidnapped President Of The United States to be rescued, and of course there’s a jet glider (don’t think too hard about that one) as their only escape, but to top it all off there’s a pair of ticking time-bombs in Snake’s body! That’s not just motivation, that’s entertainment folks!
Snake, now motivated, has enough-knock-down-drag-out adventures in the course of just less than 24 hours, so as to numb any thoughy you had about suspending any disbelief. Or as Samuel Taylor Coleridge argued: “[if a writer could infuse a] human interest and a semblance of truth [into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgment concerning the implausibility of the narrative].” If you look at it another way this is the original 24, but with a hard-assed biker veteran saving the USA instead of a Kiefer Sutherland. In the course of just over 2 hours Bill Hollweg and the folks at BSAP have created a faithful and loving tribute to one of 1981′s best movies.
Speaking of 1981, I look forward to hearing BSAP adapt Clash Of The Titans (1981), Excalibur (1981) and Body Heat (1981). They’re already working on a Mad Max II (1981)-inspired series.
Posted by Jesse Willis