Vampires in the Lemon Grove
By Karen Russell; Read by Multiple (see list below)
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 12 February 2013
[UNABRIDGED] 9 hours, 15 minutes
Themes: / short stories / vampires / veterans / farmers / children / reincarnation / silkworms /
Sample of title story: | MP3 |
In the collection’s marvelous title story, two aging vampires in a sun-drenched Italian lemon grove find their hundred-year marriage tested when one of them develops a fear of flying. In “The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979,” a dejected teenager discovers that the universe is communicating with him through talismanic objects left in a seagull’s nest. “Proving Up” and “The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis”–stories of children left to fend for themselves in dire predicaments–find Russell veering into more sinister territory, and ultimately crossing the line into full-scale horror. In “The New Veterans,” a massage therapist working with a tattooed war veteran discovers she has the power to heal by manipulating the images on his body. In all, these wondrous new pieces display a young writer of superlative originality and invention coming into the full range and scale of her powers.
I had been looking forward to this book coming out, because I loved Karen Russell’s first book of short stories, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. She is also the author of the much-acclaimed Swamplandia! which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. These stories did not disappoint! I was curious to see if there would be more set in Florida, but these span from Italy to New Jersey, from the plains to Antarctica. And just as I would have expected, the stories are at times startling, amusing, and sad. I will just say a few words about each, but this is a must-read.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove – two ancient vampires try to satiate their desires by eating lemons
Reeling for the Empire – human silkworms, vivid and terrifying.
The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979 – maybe the seagulls are the only ones really paying attention
Proving Up – starts as a struggling farm family story, ends in a … i can’t even…. *shiver*
The Barn at the End of Our Term – dead presidents alive in horses’ bodies
(actual presidents, not the band)… this one made me laugh more than any of the others.
Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules of Antarctic Tailgating – Sometimes you’re the whale, but you’re probably usually the krill.
The New Veterans – PTSD, massage, tattoos, and what is healing, exactly?
The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis – I couldn’t decide what I thought of this one. It is either about bullying or children who can turn into other things. Maybe both. Maybe neither.
The audio version is great, because each story has its own reader, really allowing for the differences in voice and feeling.
List of readers:
Vampires in the Lemon Grove read by Arthur Morey
Reeling for the Empire read by Joy Osmanski
The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979 read by Kaleo Griffith
Proving Up read by Jesse Bernstein (his accent is perfect for this story!)
The Barn at the End of Our Term read by Mark Bramhall
Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules of Antarctic Tailgating read by Michael Bybee
The New Veterans read by Romy Rosemont
The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis read by Robbie Daymond
Posted by Jenny Colvin
This came in the day after recording our latest Recent Arrivals podcast, so I thought it deserved mention. Steampunk Specs releases February 28, 2013 from Infinivox.
Smoke City by Christopher Barzak
A woman comes to terms with the loss of her family to the child labor mills of the city.
Dr. Lash Remembers by Jeffrey Ford
A doctor tries to cope with a strange plague terrorizing the citizens of London.
Machine Maid by Margo Lanagan
A sexually repressed wife gets revenge on her husband through a robot maid.
Arbeitskraft by Nick Mamatas
Friedrich Engels strives to spread class revolution as a labor organizer for factory cyborg matchstick girls.
Ninety Thousand Horses by Sean McMullen
An acclaimed mathematician, with a murky past, is forced to spy for an industrial prior to becoming Britain’s foremost rocket expert during World War II.
Tanglefoot (A Clockwork Century Story) by Cherie Priest
An orphan boy builds an automaton, in an aging scientist’s laboratory, that becomes more than an idle companion.
Clockwork Fairies by Cat Rambo
An English aristocrat courts a woman who would rather spend her time in a laboratory than at a high society ball.
Edison’s Frankenstein by Chris Roberson
At Chicago’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, an Algerian bodyguard crosses paths with a disoriented naked man.
A Serpent in the Gears by Margaret Ronald
A dirigible journeys to an isolated land and discovers people and animals merged with machine parts.
Zeppelin City by Michael Swanwick & Eileen Gunn
Radio Jones finds a way to listen in on the Naked Brains, who rule the world, while Rudy the Red fights against the oppressors.
Unabridged readings by Tom Dheere, Vanessa Hart, and Nancy Linari, for a total of 8.5 hours.
Posted by Jenny Colvin
Themes: / horror / suspense / quitting smoking /
“Dick Morrison’s life has become a nightmare of addictions, filling his days with overeating, overworking, and smoking way too much. When an old friend tells him about a surefire way to quit, he’s more than willing to give it a shot. But what Dick doesn?t know is that Quitters, Inc. demands a high price from anyone who strays from their rigid rules?like a few volts of electricity for the nearest and dearest…or maybe a missing thumb? Forced to choose between his desperate need for cigarettes and the dire consequences of giving in to his addiction, Dick must decide just how important another drag really is.”
Stephen King’s short story “Quitter’s Inc.” was originally featured in the author’s 1978 anthology Night Shift, which also included the story “Children of the Corn.” The audiobook version of “Quitter’s Inc.” features Academy Awards nominated Eric Roberts (actress Julia Roberts’ brother) and was originally released by Phoenix Audio as part of Otto Penzler’s “Greatest Mysteries of All Time” series.
Soft jazz accompanies the initial narrative complementing a bar scene conversation between the main character Dick Morrison and an old buddy. Dick’s let himself go, smoking, overeating, etc. His friend Jim leaves him a card for Quitters, Inc; a low-profile firm that helped him quit smoking using secret techniques. Eventually, Dick’s curiosity gets the better of him and the story details the firm’s unorthodox techniques. The soft jazz picks up again later in the story during a segment that quickly highlights later scenes from Dick’s life and again at the conclusion.
The story is approximately 45 minutes and can be easily enjoyed in one listening session from a single CD.
Review by Dan VK
We recently received four collections from Speculative! via Brilliance.
Murray Leinster Collection
Includes: The Pirates of Ersatz, The Aliens, Operation Terror
By Murray Leinster; Read by Jim Roberts and Ran Alan Ricard
In The Pirates of Ersatz, Murray Leinster presents a fast-paced, light-hearted adventure story with a touch of Monty Python and much derring-do. The hero, Bron Hodon, comes from a planet where there is only one vocation – space piracy. His dream is to become an electrical engineer so he makes his way to a planet with a “perfect society” and invents a power source that should benefit all. The perfect society does not appreciate it, accuses him of creating “death rays” and forces him to flee to Darth, a much more primitive planet. There, and in space, he undergoes a number of rollicking adventures that make him wonder if space piracy – with a twist – might not be so bad after all. This tongue-in-cheek space adventure has often been compared to The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison.
The Aliens: Among other things, Murray Leinster is credited with the invention of “parallel universe” stories and in 1956 he won the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Novelette. Leinster wrote over 1,500 short stories in his career and two of the best, “First Contact” and “The Aliens”, deal with humanity’s first encounter with an alien race. In this story, the human race is expanding through the galaxy and so are the Aliens. When two expanding empires meet, war is inevitable. Or is it?
Operation Terror: Murray Leinster’s science fiction stories typically dealt with themes of frustration with human frailty and its limitations, cynicism vs. idealistic ethics, and romance. When a mysterious alien spacecraft lands in a lake in Colorado and the invaders begin using a paralyzing ray that no one can understand or stop, it takes an ingenious man like Lockley to save the girl and solve the mystery of the aliens.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Collection
Includes: The Big Trip Up Yonder, 2BRO2B
By Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.; Performed by Emmett Casey and Kevin Killavey
The Big Trip Up Yonder: Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was known for blending satire, black comedy, and science fiction, and that is exactly what he does in this story. It was written in 1954 and first appeared in Galaxy Science Fiction. In the chronology of his works, it came between Player Piano and The Sirens of Titan. The story takes place in a future in which the population has grown so huge, due to an anti-aging product, that generations are forced to live together in crowded apartments. The family in this story is ruled by a dictatorial grandfather, the owner of the apartment and oldest of the clan.
2BR02B: Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was known for blending satire, black comedy, and science fiction, and that is exactly what he does in this little gem of of a story from 1962. In the chronology of his works, it came between Mother Night and Cat’s Cradle. The title is pronounced “2 B R naught 2 B” and references the famous phrase, “To be or not to be” in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The story takes place in a future when diseases and aging have been eliminated and, as a result, the government has taken measures to insure population control
Edmond Hamilton Collection
Includes: City at World’s End; The Stars, My Brothers
By Edmond Hamilton; Performed by Jim Roberts
City at World’s End: The midwestern town of Middletown is the “first strike” of a new super bomb. However, instead of destroying the town, the attack rips a hole in the space-time continuum, sending the town and it’s inhabitants to a distant Earth, cold and foreboding. The story of their struggle, survival, and ultimate success in rekindling the planet and dealing with the people and aliens of the future is the stuff of great science fiction. As you listen, see if you agree with the many who think this story was the origin of the Star Wars characters Chewbacca and Leia.
The Stars, My Brothers: Edmond Moore Hamilton was a popular science-fiction author during the “Golden Age” of American science fiction. “The Stars, My Brothers” is considered one of his best, and certainly most imaginative, stories. A spaceman is killed in space and frozen. He is left orbiting the space station where he was killed in the hope that a method will be found to bring him back to life. That day finally comes a hundred years later, when he awakens to a very different world and comes to realize he has become both a symbol and a pawn in a human/alien conflict.
Alan Edward Nourse Collection
Includes: The Coffin Cure, Image of the Gods
By Aland Edward Nourse; Performed by Ben Hurst
The Coffin Cure: No one likes a cold. It has plagued mankind for generations. When Dr. Coffin and his colleagues finally devise a cure for this ailment, the discovery is met with excitement worldwide. A month later though, noses everywhere start to rebel. Can they find a cure for the cure and do it in time to save their own necks?
Image of the Gods: In this story, an earth colony discovers that their relationship with the mother planet has suddenly changed due to an overthrow of the Earth’s government. They decide not to go along with the new totalitarian regime and to declare their independence. They expect a fight for liberty and get it. However, their relationship with the natives of the planet, the “dusties”, changes the whole situation in a very dramatic way.
Birds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories
By Megan Mayhew Bergman; Read by Cassandra Campbell
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 7 hours, 28 minutes
Publication Date: November 2012
Themes: / birds / animals / relationships / parents / cancer / literary /
An “astonishing debut collection, by a writer reminiscent of such greats as Alice Munro, Elizabeth Strout, and even Chekhov” (Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants), focusing on women navigating relationships with humans, animals, and the natural world. Exploring the way our choices and relationships are shaped by the menace and beauty of the natural world, Megan Mayhew Bergman’s powerful and heartwarming collection captures the surprising moments when the pull of our biology becomes evident, when love or fear collides with good sense, or when our attachment to an animal or wild place can’t be denied.
This book came out in print in March 2012, and the audiobook was new in November.
The title is apropos – while the stories aren’t about birds exactly, most of them do seem to include animals in some way – many birds, but also ferrets, dogs, sheep, cats, even a chinchilla.
The author is at her strongest when she writes about relationships, particularly when they have failed because of issues the people can’t control – death, disease, savior complex, you name it. The most powerful story to me was the first one – Housewifely Arts – that tells the story of a woman and her young son, driving to visit her deceased mother’s bird, just to hear her voice one more time. Wow. I will remember it for a long time. It also takes place in a city that I know well on the coast of South Carolina, which also brought it to life.
Yesterday’s Whales demonstrates what happens when your life deters from your Values, while Every Vein a Tooth demonstrates what can happen when you stick to them. Both are heartbreaking and memorable. The Right Company, with the weird salve of the obese food writer, is one story with unique, super southern characters.
The Artificial Heart was probably my least favorite story, because the vision it attempts of a post-fish dystopic Florida was not quite as successful as the painful realities of the other stories.
Most of the stories are set in the south, which is where Bergman grew up, with one set in Vermont where she lives now. The stories are read by Cassandra Campbell, who does a great job with subtle changes in accents, vocal tone, and pacing. (I’ve heard her before, as one of the readers for the Cloud Atlas audiobook.)
Posted by Jenny Colvin
This is How You Lose Her
By Junot Díaz; Read by Junot Díaz
5 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Themes: / short stories / relationships / childhood / immigrant experience /
On a beach in the
Dominican Republic, a doomed relationship flounders. In the heat of a
hospital laundry room in New Jersey, a woman does her lover’s washing
and thinks about his wife. In Boston, a man buys his love child, his
only son, a first baseball bat and glove. At the heart of these stories
is the irrepressible, irresistible Yunior, a young hardhead whose
longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness–and by the
extraordinary women he loves and loses: artistic Alma; the aging Miss
Lora; Magdalena, who thinks all Dominican men are cheaters; and the love
of his life, whose heartbreak ultimately becomes his own. In prose that
is endlessly energetic, inventive, tender, and funny, the stories in
This Is How You Lose Her lay bare the infinite longing and inevitable
weakness of the human heart. They remind us that passion always triumphs
over experience, and that “the half-life of love is forever.”
Junot Díaz’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, is one of my favorite books, featuring the best geeky character I have ever come across in fiction. Since Díaz is most often talked about in literary circles and not science fiction and fantasy, you may be unfamiliar with his work, but this is your warning that he is coming into our arena! He was included in the recent (and only) science fiction issue of the New Yorker, and is currently working on a post-apocalyptic novel.
What I loved about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is present in these stories, which all jump off of Yunior, one of the characters in the novel. They are all read by the author, which really brings them to life. At five discs, this is a quick but enjoyable listen. I went back and listened to a few more than once.
More than anything, it is the writing that draws me in. The way Díaz captures how people think about relationships, about sex, and interact with and treat each other rings true; the characters that morph between the Dominican Republic and the USA, struggling to fit in (and deal with snow, haha) are flawed in honest ways. There is not any explicit reference to geekdom like there was in Oscar Wao, but readers who know the character of Yunior from the novel will know more about his background.
A few quotations from the stories:
“The newest girl’s called Samantha and she’s a problem. She’s dark and heavy-browed and has a mouth like unswept glass – when you least expect it, she cuts you.”
“‘It wasn’t supposed to get serious between us. I can’t see us getting married or nothing.’|
And you nodded your head and said you understood. And then, we fucked, so we could pretend that nothing hurtful had just happened.”
“Do you remember? When the fights seemed to go on and on, and always ended with us in bed, tearing at each other like maybe that could change everything.”
Posted by Jenny Colvin