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

The SFFaudio Podcast #231

September 23, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #231 – Jesse and Luke Burrage (from the Science Fiction Book Review Podcast) talk to audiobook narrator Simon Vance.

Talked about on today’s show:
Jonathan Davis, Pat Fraley, Scott Brick is the Brad Pitt of audiobooks and Simon Vance is the George Clooney of audiobooks, how Simon Vance got started, reel to reel tape recorder, Winnie The Pooh, BBC Radio 4, 1980s, Brighton, RNIB, Grover Gardner, George Guidall, The Book At Bedtime, Margaret Thatcher, California, San Francisco, Christian and devotional audiobooks, “we sound more intelligent (but we’re not)”, Stieg Larsson, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Audiofile Magazine, Earphone Awards, England, Sweden, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the apprenticeship, Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan, a classic dystopia, Thirteen (aka Black Man), The Steel Remains, The Cold Commands, artfulness and in-artfulness of narration, Doctor Who, overwhelming music -> overwhelming emotion, The Lord Of The Rings, the good narrators do the unexpected, “boo”, Dune by Frank Herbert (the full-cast audiobook), Goodreads.com, Simon Prebble, V For Vendetta by Steve Moore, the comic + the movie + Simon Vance = great audiboook, Natalie Portman was awesome, Stephen Rea, most novelizations are terrible, Hugo Weaving, James Bond, Ian Fleming, AudioGo, Blackstone Audio, the Green Knowe books, Listen And Live, Kate Fleming, The Prestige by Christopher Priest, a complicated book, a second chance, The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast review of The Prestige (episode #177), the movie of The Prestige, a final trick, one of the best Science Fiction movies of the last ten years, a thinking man’s book (and movie), The Illusionist, stage magic vs. CGI magic, The Magic Circle, Left for Dead: The Untold Story Of The Tragic 1979 Fastnet Race by Nick Ward and Sinead O’Brien, survival, Antarctica, fiction vs. non-fiction, a cabinet of heads, WWII, the Patrick O’Brian books (the Aubrey–Maturin series), Master And Commander, the incomplete book 21, Robert Hardy and Tim Piggot-Smith, what SFF Simon Vance book should we check out?, The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough, The Exodus Towers, The Plague Forge, zombie apocalypse, aliens, “good honest adventure”, Pan Books Of Horror, c, Rama, Rama II, The Man In The High Castle, Philip K. Dick, Mark Twain, Anthony Trollope, Charles Dickens, a PDF listing Simon Vance’s audiobooks, out of print audiobooks, Audible.com, Christopher Priest’s other audiobooks are done by other audiobook narrators, Peter Ganim, Robert J. Sawyer, The Player Of Games by Iain M. Banks, rights issues, keep your audiobooks.

V For Vendetta read by Simon Vance

Thirteen by Richard K. Morgan - read by Simon Vance

Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan - read by Simon Vance

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #225 – AUDIOBOOK: The Iron Heel by Jack London

August 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #225 – The Iron Heel by Jack London, read by Matt Soar.

This UNABRIDGED AUDIOBOOK (8 Hours 9 Minutes) comes to us courtesy of LibriVox.org. The Iron Heel was first published in 1907.

The Iron Heel by Jack London

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #224 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: Exhibit Piece by Philip K. Dick

August 5, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #224 – Exhibit Piece by Philip K. Dick; read by Mark Turetsky. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the story (40 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Jenny, Maissa Bessada, and Mark Turetsky.

Exhibit Piece was first published in the August 1954 issue of If: Worlds Of Science Fiction.

Talked about on today’s show:
“Hi, I’m the main character”, a pocket universe, a time portal, is the cold war a 22nd century office feud?, looking back at the 1950s, 1950s nostalgia in the 1950s, middle class white guy, cobalt bombs, the boogeyman, global warming?, Jesse needs to listen to the fear propaganda, a historical perspective, how to build a cobalt bomb, what was he doing in there?, was Miller herded into the 1950s world?, the authority figures, the TV, the newspaper, the dreamed are secure until the dreamer wakes?, Star Trek, Barbara Adams, talking to her hair?, Trekkies, is Miller delusional?, a crack in time, a nested world, living inside a museum exhibit with a confabulated wife and children, Berkeley, California, San Francisco, New York -> N’York, public transportation (the bus) -> pubtrans, the Wikipedia entry for Exhibit Piece, citation needed, does the entire story happen in the 1950s?, did Miller have a psychotic break after reading the newspaper?, TOTAL WORLD DESTRUCTION AHEAD, the missing newspaper, Philip K. Dick’s old house, dog food for dinner, the world of the neighborhood,a mistake the Oakland Daily, I didn’t get up until noon anyway, the newspaper as the binding point, is the psychiatrist right?, the names, Grunberg, Fleming, Carnap, the philosopher Rudolph Carnap, logical positivism, the slippage of words, natural deductive logic, death panels, a priori, philosophy, Newspeak in reverse, double plus good, “Dig me?”, the Eisenhower administration, Jazz cats, the 22nd century is pretty awful, the time when men were still men, Military–industrial complex, Eisenhower’s field rank, misplaced power, a golden age, the greying of the world, even the robot thinks he’s weird, how smokeable is two centuries old tobacco?, is the future the delusion?, was anti-hist a term at the time?, gorning!, transformed language, Russian River, incongruous authority figures, the highest ranking official in the world directorate doesn’t have anything better to do, delusions of grandeur, maybe history is just that important to them, Hampton Court Palace, who is the museum for?, what a weirdo, the business suit as a uniform, similar Philip K. Dick short stories, Upon The Dull Earth by Philip K. Dick, resurrection, The Commuter by Philip K. Dick, only the reader can see it, how are the worlds linked?, the version where Miller is crazy, Second Life, computer generate realities, World Of Warcraft grinding day and night, sorta-real gold, there’s no distinguishment between realities, Breakfast At Twilight by Philip K. Dick, time travel, the Cold War, idealized suburban lifestyle, a fleet of Russian robots (drones), fear of nuclear war 1950s – 1980s, Russian spy stories, fear of AIDS, AIDS education in Kindergarten!, blast radii, things are going to be great, Mark Turetsky has been narrating audiobooks since 2009, nerdy kids books, Pi In The Sky by Wendy Mass, a Recorded Books Book, Mark’s like a Kirby Heybourne type, the zombie books, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, Cloud Atlas, Gone Girl, Ace Galaksi is a Canadian comedic audio drama miniseries.

Exhibit Piece by Philip K. Dick

Exhibit Piece illustrated by Paul Orban

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #215 – Xe Sands and Spoken Freely (Going Public In Shorts)

June 3, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastSpoken Freely Presents: Going Public ... In ShortsThe SFFaudio Podcast #215 – Jesse talks to narrator Xe Sands about Spoken Freely: Going Public In Shorts.

Talked about on today’s show:
Xe is a family name, xenon, a rare poisonous gas, a noble gas, the Going Public project, poems, stories, D.H. Lawrence, Banned Books Weeks, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Peter Davies, Little Fictions, Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper, first person narration, changing sides, Herland, The Pit And The Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe, suspense, Paul Michael Garcia, 36 stories, 1 essay, Simon Vance, 1 speech, Dion Graham, Abraham Lincoln, blog hopping throughout the month of June, Downpour.com, verklempt, Xe Sands narrates literary fiction, general fiction, and romance, beefcake, a melodramatic emotional journey, Magnificence, The Vanishers, The Bostonians by Henry James, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, Three Days To Dead, Hexes and Hemlines, cozy mysteries, Washington, Juliet Blackwell, a familiar pig, literary fiction vs. general fiction, W.W. Norton, Anton Chekhov, Digital Divide: Writings for and Against Facebook, YouTube, Texting, and the Age of Social Networking by Mark Bauerlein, the culture of SoundCloud, bulletin board systems, here’s what happens when a spider lands on you when you’re recording a love theme, Xe Sands on Twitter is @xesands, coffee, how to start on Twitter, pre-reading, pronunciation, questions, post-apocalyptic Seattle, Tarnished And Torn, The Cursed (League of the Black Swan, #1) by Alyssa Day, Reachout And Read, Cassandra Campbell, Dick Hill, Mark Twain, Luke Daniels, Philip K. Dick, Kevin Hearne, Patrick Lawlor, The Lottery Ticket by Anton Chekov, next year?, LittleFiction.com, Amanda Leduc.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #185 – ESCAPE-SUSPENSE

November 5, 2012 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Audio Drama, Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastEscapeSuspenseThe SFFaudio Podcast #185 – Jesse, Tamahome, and Christine A. Miller (of Escape-Suspense.com) talk about the two CBS radio drama anthology series, Escape and Suspense. But first we play two shows: From the series EscapeTreasure, Inc., and from SuspenseAlways Room At The Top.

Talked about on today’s show:
Escape-Suspense.com, adapted scripts vs. original scripts, Escape vs. Suspense, John and Gwen Bagney, layer upon layer of double-cross, the hopeless ending, what is Clive’s motivation?, a femme fatale, exotic locales, these shows still work 50+ years on, Christine is an episode historian (not a radio historian), Pursuit, Romance, are you looking for Three Skeleton Key?, the use of radio drama in middle schools, The Most Dangerous Game, Archive.org, Edgar Allan Poe, The Hitchhiker, Lucille Fletcher, the Mercury Theatre, Sorry, Wrong Number, running out of shows, San Francisco, the Field Trip app, a lonely workplace is great for radio drama, “don’t think about it at all, just do it”, bad episodes, the movie star connection, Vincent Price, Lux Radio Theater, anthology series, an anthology mystery vs. Law & Order, the format, killing characters, ripped from the headlines, Earth Abides (was done as a two part adaptation), George R. Stewart, The Scarlet Plague, Jack London, San Fransisco as a setting, Man Alive, the Ferry Building, is Always Room At The Top set in New York?, La Mirada, “it could only happen in the world of Suspense?”, Jack Webb, Wally Maher, Anne Baxter, pacing like The Front Page, “business workplace episodes”, mistreated employee episodes, reaching for the 47%, An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge (Ambrose Bierce), remakes remakes remakes, appointment radio, The Country Of The Blind (H.G. Wells), Favorite Story, Plunder Of The Sun (David F. Dodge), Hard Case Crime, Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, The Rim Of Terror, The Killer Mine (Hammond Innes), “Nancy Drew with adults”, those impossible to get books, The Quick And The Dead by Vincent Starrett (Arkham House), Cornell Woolrich.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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