The SFFaudio Podcast #310 – READALONG: Eye In The Sky by Philip K. Dick

March 30, 2015 by · 1 Comment
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Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #310 – Jesse, Paul, and Marissa talk about Eye In The Sky by Philip K. Dick

Talked about on today’s show:
1957, more Dick than non-Dick, Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, Valis, Dick off the rails, The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, a Bevatron is a thing, if you die in an unreal world does it have gravitas?, the gravitas comes with escape, puzzle solving vs. mortal peril, simulated lives, anime, Ergo Proxy, the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Inner Light, the days of episodic TV, The Star by Arthur C. Clarke, eight worlds?, religious, Victorian world, horror world, communist world, mental beliefs, Mysterium by Robert Charles Wilson, gnostic Christianity, Bábism, Bahá’í religion, Harry Turtledove, Yazidis, the connection to languages, Hamilton’s religiosity, Ohm’s Law, a car manual as a prayer book, the whole place gets damned, angels, a cartoon of the Victorians, a horse wearing trousers, a cow did something very natural, abolishing, censorship world, the narrator, deleting things from the universe, metals!, they’ll kill the universe, the Star Trek: The Next GenerationRemember Me“, Delirious (1991), a house that eats people, the carpet licked them back, a consensual hallucination, role-playing game style, Chapter 14, the walls sweated saliva, The Twilight Zone: The Movie, It’s a Good Life by Jerome Bixby, banished to cartoon world, excrete some buttons on the back porch, a man-hater, middle-aged man dandruff, seeing miracles everywhere, seeing everyone as a predator, the cat!, Ninny Numbcat, a kind of peristaltic wave, “praying that it could be killed”, the most horrific thing ever, the Damon Knight story Four In One, gestalt, projecting on to the world, poor people, very odd, the Freudian psychology of it, a perverse pleasure, one of Dick’s themes, sexless creatures, playing records as a euphemism, wives are pretty rare, Dick’s perfect woman, being a communist, so McCarthyistic, the Red Scare, the super-patriots are the most easily manipulated, Total Recall, an errant earwig, oh heavens!, just a co-incidence, are they still trapped in the Bevatron?, how they make anime show titles, random, why do they keep looking at their food?, confusing and mysterious, René Descartes, cogito ergo sum, ergo = therefore, Django Wexler, boring and illogical, stilted conventions?, visual grammar, Yes Minister, the economy in The Fellowship Of The Ring, no anime Jesse has seen has an economy, gold pressed latinum, making the viewer at ease with thigh length boots, trapped in a universe that makes no sense, Skiffy and Fanty, Ghost In The Shell, Akira, Akira Kurosawa, Summer Wars, The Wings of Honnêamise, a weird logic, the Electronics Development Agency, phone lines to God, the visit to God, a Fall, the mundanity of Earth, the Book of Acts, inflating and deflating worlds, The Father-Thing, Invaders From Mars, The Hanging Stranger, feeling sexy, enjoying the prudish world, storks!, Santa Claus style lies, sublimating the urge for sex, the bowerbird, animal art, Shakespearean sonnets are about seduction, a playful book, a day off of work to take a cat to the pet show, a spinning-up of a world, rejecting the premises, Stranger Than Fiction (2006), Emma Thompson.

Ace - Eye In The Sky by Philip K. Dick
Ace - Eye In The Sky by Philip K. Dick

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

March 13, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Martian Chronicles by Ray BradburyThe Martian Chronicles
By Ray Bradury; Performed by Mark Boyett
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 hours

Themes: / Mars / science fiction / short stories /

Ray Bradbury is a storyteller without peer, a poet of the possible, and, indisputably, one of America’s most beloved authors. In a much-celebrated literary career that has spanned seven decades, he has produced an astonishing body of work: unforgettable novels, essays, theatrical works, screenplays and teleplays, and numerous superb short-story collections, including The Martian Chronicles: masterfully rendered stories of Earth’s settlement of the fourth world from the sun. Bradbury’s Mars is a place of hope, dreams, and metaphor—of crystal pillars and fossil seas—where a fine dust settles on the great empty cities of a silently destroyed civilization. It is here the invaders have come to despoil and commercialize, to grow and to learn—first a trickle, then a torrent rushing from a world with no future toward a promise of tomorrow. The Earthman conquers Mars…and then is conquered by it, lulled by dangerous lies of comfort and familiarity, and enchanted by the lingering glamour of an ancient, mysterious native race.Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles is a classic work of twentieth-century literature whose extraordinary power and imagination remain undimmed by time’s passage. In connected, chronological stories, the grandmaster of science fiction enthralls, challenges, and delights us, exposing in stark and stunning spacelight our strengths, our weaknesses, our follies, and our poignant humanity, on a strange and breathtaking world where humanity does not belong.

I’ve never read anything by Mr. Bradbury before. I’m not really well read in the “classics”. There is too much modern stuff I want to read, and in general I prefer fantasy to Sci-Fi. But when Brilliance Audio was releasing some of his better known works on Audio CD (although the production itself was done by Audible) last year, I jumped at the chance to finally give him a try.

I’ve been in a bit of a reading funk this year, and was trying to figure out what to read AFTER this book to get me out of it. Since it was short, I wanted to listen to it sooner rather than later, write up my review then move onto something else.

Apparently I just needed to listen to this. Apart from one story (Way in the Middle of the Air) which made me really uncomfortable and showed it’s age. It appears to have been eliminated from several of the more recent editions of this book, and I wish I had skipped it as it really adds very little to this collection.

Everything else was enjoyable. A bit depressing, but enjoyable. Mr. Bradbury paints a bleak picture of a future that thankfully never came. This isn’t hard sci-fi by any means, but more like dystopian space opera.

I would have never thought something bleak would lighten my mood, but the stories were that good, and the prose are excellent. They reminded me a lot of the Twilight Zone, although I know these stories predate that show. I think The Silent Towns could easily have been an episode of the show, as could several others.

I think my favorite of the collection is Usher II. I can’t pretend to get all the references apart from Poe and Lovecraft, but his tale of revenge for censorship is quite good. I’ll have to check out the Poe story The Fall of the House of Usher that seems to have influenced it.

Mark Boyett’s voice reminds me a bit of Rod Serling, which as I get into a bit below seemed a perfect fit. I know there are multiple versions of the audiobook. I’m not sure how easy they are to get a hold of, but this one seems like a good option.

Overall this is an excellent collection of stories, and if like me you haven’t read it/anything by Mr. Bradbury, this seems like as good a place as any to start.

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of Willful Child by Steven Erikson

March 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Willful Child by Steven EriksonWillful Child
By Steven Erikson; Read by MacLeod Andrews
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 9 hours

Themes: / science fiction / space / spoof / homage /

Publisher summary:

These are the voyages of the starship A.S.F. Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to seek out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life-forms, to boldly blow the.…And so we join the not-terribly-bright but exceedingly cock-sure Captain Hadrian Sawback and his motley crew on board the Starship Willful Child for a series of devil-may-care, near-calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through ‘the infinite vastness of interstellar space.’The New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Malazan Book of the Fallen sequence has taken his lifelong passion for Star Trek and transformed it into a smart, inventive, and hugely entertaining spoof on the whole mankind-exploring-space-for-the-good-of-all-species-but-trashing-stuff-with-a-lot-of-high-tech-gadgets-along-the-way, overblown adventure. The result is an SF novel that deftly parodies the genre while also paying fond homage to it.

Willful Child by Steven Erikson tells the rambling adventures of Captain Hadrian Sawback and his crew after his appointment to the A.S.F. Willful Child. It’s a broad comedy Star Trek spoof that feels as episodic as the TV show with no bigger story arc to tie everything together. What begins as an often interrupted quest to bring an AI to her home system (a quest that turns out to be pointless as the AI neither learns nothing of her origins nor cares) becomes a haphazard rescue mission requested by the seemingly unrelated, quickly forgotten characters from the prologue. But in a book like this, the plot is obviously a vehicle for the antics of our heroic captain.

Hadrian Sawback, the recently assigned starship captain, is much like if Captain Kirk was played by Stan Smith from American Dad. While possessing all of lewdness of Captain Brannigan, he lacks his naivety and instead acts with reckless abandon and no thought as to the consequences of his actions. His crew, chosen from head shots, is either incompetent or disapproving. Like most of the secondary characters, they are underdeveloped and reactionary. One of the exceptions is the rather disgusting, mucus-y aliens who are the main villains of the story. While their body fluid-based comedy is not to my taste, they do have their own goals and help provide a sense of continuity. However, they do not provide much of a challenge to Sawback, who, to be fair, experiences little difficulty with anything.

The whole story relies heavily on science fiction tropes and gets more and more slapstick as it goes. Erikson is a good writer but your enjoyment of the book will be dependent on your sense of humor. If you enjoy excessive alien mating, awkward cross-dressing and frequent Star Trek parodies, this you’ll love this book. MacLeod Andrews does a wonderful job with the narration and manages to bring life to even the most minor characters. It’s a perfect light summer read.

Posted by Rose D.

Review of The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov

March 3, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Gods ThemselvesThe Gods Themselves
By Isaac Asimov; Narrated by Scott Brick
Publisher: Random House Audio
Release Date: January 2014
[UNABRIDGED] –  11 hrs, 26 mins

Themes: / science fiction / aliens / annihilation / survival /

Publisher summary:

Only a few know the terrifying truth – an outcast Earth scientist, a rebellious alien inhabitant of a dying planet, a lunar-born human intuitionist who senses the imminent annihilation of the Sun… They know the truth – but who will listen? They have foreseen the cost of abundant energy – but who will believe? These few beings, human and alien, hold the key to the Earth’s survival.

Though a science fiction novel, The Gods Themselves is also primarily about magic.

Throughout the courses I took for my my undergraduate degree in Economics, we talked a lot about the driving forces behind the choices people make. One of the greatest is magic. We all want to find that magical thing that makes us not have to work as hard; magic makes life easier.

This quest for magic has helped us innovate on a grand scale and use the resources around us for our own benefit. Whether it’s been good in the long run, I’ll not get into just this second.

In The Gods Themselves, a magic is found which makes life easier and it’s the Electron Pump. Somehow, some beings have reached across the universe, time, or something, to impress themselves upon our world and made possible an endless energy source, which benefits all of humanity.

The only problem is whether it is really for our benefit and what happens when the worst is found out? Would humanity easily give up such a gift?

It’s interesting to read this book, published in 1972, in light of today’s problems with humanity’s stewardship of the world. I’m sure, actually, that Mr. Asimov thought his day was bad.

This book is told in three separate parts, each of which was published independently in Galaxy Magazine and Worlds of If. They focus on three quite different groups of people and their interaction with the Electron Pump.

The first focuses on the physicists who discover and deal with the Electron Pump. The second focuses on those others and it’s absolutely otherworldly, so much so, that it was quite difficult to read at first until you understood what was going on a bit more. It reminded me a little of Orson Scott Card’s Mithermages series.

The final part focuses on a human colony on the moon. One of the parts I can talk about without spoiling things is the description of gravity on the moon. Those who’ve lived there all their lives are essentially trapped there because their bones couldn’t survive Earth’s gravity and those who travel there have to take frequent, excruciating, trips home to Earth to keep their bodies in shape. After listening to a Star Wars book, it’s interesting to note how little they care about the different gravities of worlds. Must be some hyper-technology that accounts for it right?

Because Asimov is himself a scientist, the physics are competently explained, at least to a lay person like myself, and the dire consequences of humanity’s actions are understood … through science. Amazing!

And a note on the audiobook reader, Scott Brick. Brick has been around the block, I don’t know how many times I’ve come across his recordings. You can always trust him to bring the gravitas to any recording and you’ll find nothing less here.

This cleverly named book won both the Nebula Award in 1972 and the Hugo in 1973. And as the origin of the name of the book says, quoted from Friedriech Schiller, “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.” (for the German speakers: “Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.”)

As apt today as it was … when it was written.

4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)

Posted by Bryce L.

The SFFaudio Podcast #305 – AUDIOBOOK: The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson

February 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
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Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastLibriVoxThe SFFaudio Podcast #305 – The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson, read by Mark Nelson.

This UNABRIDGED AUDIOBOOK (18 hours 40 minutes) comes to us courtesy of LibriVox.

The Night Land was first published in 1912.

For our discussion of The Night Lands check out episode #288

The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of River of Blue Fire by Tad Williams

February 18, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

River of Blue FireRiver of Blue Fire (Otherland #2)
By Tad Williams; Narrated by George Newbern
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 30 October 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 24 hours, 24 minutes

Themes:  / cyberpunk / virtual reality / science fiction /

Publisher summary:

Otherland. In many ways it is humankind’s most stunning achievement: a private, multidimensional universe built over two generations by the greatest minds of the 21st century. But this most exclusive of places is also one of the world’s best kept secrets, created and controlled by an organization made up of the world’s most powerful and ruthless individuals, a private cartel known – to those who know of their existence at all – as The Grail Brotherhood. Though their purpose in creating Otherland is still a mystery, it may not remain so for long. For they have exacted a terrible price from humanity in the process, and even their highly organized global conspiracy cannot hide the nature of their crimes forever. And now a small band of adventurers has penetrated the veil of secrecy that prevents the uninitiated from entering Otherland.

But having broken into the amazing worlds within worlds that make up this universe, they are trapped, unable to escape back to their own flesh-and-blood bodies in the real world. And as dangers and circumstances split their party into small, widely scattered groups, their only hope of reuniting lies in returning again and again to the River that flows – in one form or another – through all the worlds. But the odds seem to be completely against them as they – and the one outsider with whom they might join forces – become hopelessly lost in realms where an Ice Age tribe’s fears can only be quenched in blood – where insects are as large and deadly as dinosaurs – where they are caught in the war between a man made of straw and one made of tin – where cartoon ads take on a life of their own – where humans strive to survive in the aftermath of an alien invasion – and where one among their party is actually The Grail Brotherhood’s most terrifying weapon – a sociopathic killer who has never failed and whose current mission is to make certain that not even one member of this little invasion force lives long enough to reveal the truth about Otherland to the people of Earth.

Review:

The sequel to City of Golden Shadow and the 2nd book (of 4) in the Otherland series, River of Blue Fire is a solid “middle book” in the series.

Picking up where City of Golden Shadow left off, this book moved the pieces of all the players in the story without seeming to progress the plot too much. This is a common feature of “middle books” so was expected, though made the reading (listening) slow sometimes. At the point that City of Golden Shadow left off, the “hero” group was somewhat divided, with Renie and Xabbu in one simulation, Orlando and Fredericks in another, and the rest of the “hero” group in yet another sim. Paul Jonas’ sim, too, went through a few worlds, separated from the rest of the crew. Much of this book was spent with them still spilt, each learning more about the rules of the simulation world through their experiences in the world. Martine’s character, and her disability, were explored in detail in this book, bringing her to the forefront of the third hero group as a main character (to go along with Renie and Orlando). The bad guys also moved, and some of their motives were identified…and the mysterious Sellers, while staying in one (hidden) location, seemed to be doing more to try to help bring down the Otherland.

All in all, there isn’t much to say about this book that I didn’t say about City of Golden Shadow. I enjoyed this book, though didn’t think it was as strong as the first book in the series. In this book, author Tad Williams had some fun with the simulation worlds, making alternate worlds of popular stories such as The War of the Worlds and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It was fun to go through the book and try to see what book was referenced (if any) for each sim world. The book was fun and the cyberpunk ideas were interesting, but there was nothing new introduced in this book. The rules were better defined through the course of the plot, but there wasn’t a lot of actual progression towards the heroes saving the day (or not).

The audiobook was great to listen to, if the narration was slightly slow. I listened to it slightly sped up (using the 1.5x feature for spoken word playback on my iPhone) and it seemed perfect. The only downside to listening to these books in audio is that now I want the 3rd book in the series, Mountain of Black Glass to come out in audio…I’m not sure when or if it will be done, but I hope that it does come soon so that I can continue listening instead of having to switch to some printed media. Audiobooks are a great way to experience this series (so far).

Posted by terpkristin.

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