Review of Dead Man’s Hand edited by John Joseph Adams

July 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Dead Man's HandDead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird WestEdited by John Joseph Adams, by various (see table of contents below)
Read by Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 13 May 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 15 hours, 59 minutes

Themes: / weird / western / short stories / dirigibles / dinosaurs / demons / clockworks /

Publisher summary:

The weird, wild west – an American frontier populated by gunslingers, rattlesnakes, outlaws, zombies, aliens, time travelers, and steampunk! Twenty-three of science fiction and fantasy’s hottest and most popular authors create all-new tales, written exclusively for this anthology. Aliens and monsters, magic and science are introduced to the old west, with explosive results.

Table of contents:

Introduction by John Joseph Adams
The Red-Headed Dead by Joe R Lansdale
The Old Slow Man and His Gold Gun From Space by Ben H Winters
Hellfire on the High Frontier by David Farland
The Hell-Bound Stagecoach by Mike Resnick
Stingers and Strangers by Seanan McGuire
Bookkeeper, Narrator, Gunslinger by CharlesYu
Holy Jingle by Alan Dean Foster
The Man With No Heart by Beth Revis
Wrecking Party by Alastair Reynolds
Hell from the East by Hugh Howey
Second Hand by Rajan Khanna
Alvin and the Apple Tree by Orson Scott Card
Madam Damnable’s Sewing Circle by Elizabeth Bear
Strong Medicine by Tad Williams
Red Dreams by Jonathan Maberry
Bamboozled by Kelley Armstrong
Sundown by Tobias S Buckell
La Madre Del Oro by Jeffrey Ford
What I Assume You Shall Assume by Ken Liu
The Devil’s Jack by Laura Anne Gilman
The Golden Age by Walter Jon Williams
Neversleeps by Fred Van Lente
Dead Man’s Hand by Christie Yant

I enjoyed this collection of odd tales from the weird west. It may not have knocked my boots off, but I felt them tugged from time to time. And really, what more can we ask from an anthology.

Stuffed with clockworks, vampires, dinosaurs, and aliens, John Joseph Adams (editor) has wrangled some fun stories. Each author strikes a unique set of harmonics on the scale of voice and tone, and yet the individuality of fellow contributors isn’t lost, but rather merged into a larger, primarily singular melody suiting this particular subgenre

My top five IOP (In Order of Printing):
* “The Hell-Bound Stagecoach” by Mike Resnick
* “Bookkeeper, Narrator, Gunslinger” by Charles Yu
* “Second Hand” by Rajan Khanna
* “Red Dreams” by Jonathan Maberry
* “Dead Man’s Hand” by Christie Yant
* And honorable mention goes to the introduction. John Joseph Adams sets the table for the reader, establishing a foothold on the subgenre through brief and accessible historical context.

The audiobook consists of dueling narrators. Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross take turns, with Gigante reading the majority. And while Ross has a rich and pleasing voice, she lathers on too much thick Southern-sweet for the ear to wholly appreciate.

All in all, a fun anthology.
I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys tales set in the Ole West with a twist of odd fringed with funny.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

Review of The End is Nigh

June 2, 2014 by · 1 Comment
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SFFaudio Review

The End is NighThe End is Nigh (Apocalypse Triptych #1)
Edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey (full author and performer list below)
Publisher: Broad Reach Publishing
Publication Date: 8 April 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 15 hours, 8 minutes

Themes: / apocalypse / destruction / short stories /

Publisher summary:

Famine. Death. War. Pestilence. These are the harbingers of the biblical apocalypse, of the End of the World. In science fiction, the end is triggered by less figurative means: nuclear holocaust, biological warfare/pandemic, ecological disaster, or cosmological cataclysm.

But before any catastrophe, there are people who see it coming. During, there are heroes who fight against it. And after, there are the survivors who persevere and try to rebuild.

Table of contents and audiobook narrator listings copied directly from John Joseph Adams’ website. If you want more detailed summaries of each story, I found the review at Tangent very good, particularly because it is so hard to keep track of short stories when you are listening instead of reading!

The audio was an incredible asset to this anthology, although I will probably also need to buy this for my shelf o’ anthologies. The best in audio are Removal Order, BRING HER TO ME, and The Fifth Day of Deer Camp.

My favorite stories were BRING HER TO ME and Goodnight Moon.

I’m most interested in the next installment (so please let there be a next installment) of Removal Order, Pretty Soon the Four Horsemen are Going to Come Riding Through, and Spores.

What do I mean by next installment? The End is Nigh is the first volume of a triptych. It will be followed by The End is Now and The End Has Come, with some authors contributing linked stories. Very exciting concept, and as the Queen of Apocalypse there is no way I couldn’t read this.

Here are my more detailed impressions, story by story!

Read more

Review of Fantastic Mr. Fox and Other Stories by Roald Dahl

February 10, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Fantastic Mr FoxFantastic Mr. Fox and Other Stories
By Roald Dahl; Read by Quentin Blake, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, and Chris O’DowdPublisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: September 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 2 hours, 59 minutes

Themes: / children’s fantasy / short stories / animals /

Publisher Summary:

Fantastic Mr. Fox: Nobody outfoxes Fantastic Mr. Fox! Someone’s been stealing from the three meanest farmers around, and they know the identity of the thief – it’s Fantastic Mr. Fox! Working alone they could never catch him; but now fat Boggis, squat Bunce, and skinny Bean have joined forces, and they have Mr. Fox and his family surrounded. What they don’t know is that they’re not dealing with just any fox – Mr. Fox would rather die than surrender. Only the most fantastic plan can save him now.

Esio Trot: An ancient spell, 140 tortoises, and a little bit of magic…Mr. Hoppy is in love with his neighbor, Mrs. Silver; but she is in love with someone else – Alfie, her pet tortoise. With all her attention focused on Alfie, Mrs. Silver doesn’t even know Mr. Hoppy is alive. And Mr. Hoppy is too shy to even ask Mrs. Silver over for tea. Then one day Mr. Hoppy comes up with a brilliant idea to get Mrs. Silver’s attention. If Mr. Hoppy’s plan works, Mrs. Silver will certainly fall in love with him. After all, everyone knows the way to a woman’s heart is through her tortoise.

The Enormous Crocodile: The Enormous Crocodile is a horrid greedy grumptious brute who loves to guzzle up little boys and girls. But the other animals have had enough of his cunning tricks, so they scheme to get the better of this foul fiend, once and for all!

The Giraffe and The Pelly and Me: Who needs a ladder when you’ve got a giraffe with an extended neck? The Ladderless Window-Cleaning Company certainly doesn’t. They don’t need a pail, either, because they have a pelican with a bucket-sized beak. With a monkey to do the washing and Billy as their manager, this business is destined for success. Now they have their big break – a chance to clean all 677 windows of the Hampshire House, owned by the richest man in all of England! That’s exciting enough, but along the way there are surprises and adventures beyond their wildest window-washing dreams.

This collection of stories written by Roald Dahl contains Fantastic Mr. Fox, Esio Trot, The Enormous Crocodile, and The Giraffe And The Pelly And Me with each story narrated by a different reader. The stories are all highly imaginative and definitely targeted to young children. The stories and their readings are very British, so if that turns you away this may not be the collection for you. Don’t expect deep life lessons in these stories but just some silly fun.

Fantastic Mr. Fox read by Chris O’Dowd – The headline story and my favorite of the bunch. Mr. Fox gets into trouble with 3 mean farmers and has to find some way to save his family! The reading by Chris O’Dowd has great voices and sound effects. I found one or two of the voices mildly irritating but I’m sure kids would love it. Lesson: It’s ok to steal if you’re stealing from mean people to help your family?

Esio Trot read by Geoffrey Palmer – Also an interesting story about a guy who teaches his female neighbor how to speak tortoise and make her tortoise grow. Geoffrey Palmer’s reading was great and he did a great job with the “tortoise language”. If doing audio don’t worry – I’m sure reading this story makes it easier to see what’s going on with the tortoise language but they explain what’s going on shortly after it’s introduced. Lesson: It’s OK to lie to people and mess with their stuff as long as you are trying to pick up a gullible lady.

The Enormous Crocodile read by Stephen Fry – Stephen Fry does a great job with the voices in this story about an enormous crocodile who wants nothing more than to eat children. I thought the story was fun albeit a little disturbing. Lesson: Don’t go around boasting about bad things you plan to do and be surprised when they do something about it. Oh and elephants are strong.

The Giraffe And The Pelly And Me read by Hugh Laurie – This was an odd story about a very unique group of window washers. I only say odd because I didn’t really know where this story was going aside from trying to be quirky; but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Hugh Laurie did some nice voices and even some singing on this one! Lesson: Be awesome at the things you like to do and helping people can lead to good things.

Posted by Tom Schreck

Review of George’s Marvelous Medicine by Roald Dahl

December 29, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

George's Marvelous Medicine by Roald DahlGeorge’s Marvelous Medicine
By Roald Dahl, Read by Derek Jacobi
Penguin Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 1.5 hours

Themes: / magic medicine / oversized farm animals / crusty granny / avaricious father / children / short stories /

Publisher summary:

A taste of her own medicine. George is alone in the house with Grandma. The most horrid, grizzly old grunion of a grandma ever. She needs something stronger than her usual medicine to cure her grouchiness. A special grandma medicine, a remedy for everything. And George knows just what to put into it. Grandma’s in for the surprise of her life – and so is George, when he sees the results of his mixture!

This is a short humorous story that doesn’t ever seem to fully get off the ground. But still, it’s fun and lighthearted. And while there aren’t any deep secretive insights to the human condition, it made me smile through pretty much the whole thing, and that has to be worth something, right? I loved Dahl’s warning to potential medicine makers. Equally so, I appreciated the ending. It was touching in its uncomplicated way. The image of a child knowing his fingers had brushed the magic edge of another world leaves the reader/listener in a wistful rumination.

Derek Jacobi is narrator, and he really nails the reading. I might go so far as to say that Jacobi’s delivery shines slightly brighter than Dahl’s words. Regarding the production end of things, I didn’t care at all for the numerous musical scores that seemed jammed in at odd places within the story. They were distracting and unnecessary. I felt they detracted from the overall presentation.

I recommend this to any and all Dahl enthusiasts. For those peripheral fans, you can skip it, and not feel as if you’re getting left out in the cold darkness.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

Review of The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane

December 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

The Savage Tales of Solomon KaneThe Savage Tales of Solomon Kane
By Robert E. Howard; Narrated by Paul Boehmer
Publisher: Tantor Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 12 hours, 30 minutesThemes: / pulp / fantasy / hero / short stories / Publisher summary:

With Conan the Cimmerian, Robert E. Howard created more than the greatest action hero of the twentieth century—he also launched a genre that came to be known as sword and sorcery. But Conan was not the first archetypal adventurer to spring from Howard’s fertile imagination.

He was…a strange blending of Puritan and Cavalier, with a touch of the ancient philosopher, and more than a touch of the pagan…. A hunger in his soul drove him on and on, an urge to right all wrongs, protect all weaker things…. Wayward and restless as the wind, he was consistent in only one respect—he was true to his ideals of justice and right. Such was Solomon Kane.

Collected in this volume are all of the stories that make up the thrilling saga of the dour and deadly Puritan: “Skulls in the Stars,” “The Right Hand of Doom,” “Red Shadows,” “Rattle of Bones,” “The Castle of the Devil,” “Death’s Black Riders,” “The Moon of Skulls,” “The One Black Stain,” “The Blue Flame of Vengeance,” “The Hills of the Dead,” “Hawk of Basti,” “The Return of Sir Richard Grenville,” “Wings in the Night,” “The Footfalls Within,” “The Children of Asshur,” and “Solomon Kane’s Homecoming.”

I don’t normally seem to enjoy older works of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and unfortunately, things were no different here. I was never a Conan fan growing, so I’d never read any of Mr. Howard before. The audiobook collection stars with an obituary or memorium written by H.P. Lovecraft with whom Mr. Howard apparently corresponded.

Mr. Howard is probably best known for his character Conan, but Solomon Kane is often credited as the first “Sword & Sorcery” character.

In this collection of stories Solomon Kane fights Pirates, Ghosts, Vampires, Sorcerors, Harpies and more. Solomon Kane wields daggers, pistols a sword, and in later stories, a magical staff. Sounds like it would be great! Unfortunately I was mostly bored. The best story of the bunch for me was The Children of Asshur, which was only a fragment and therefore ends somewhat abruptly. I would have liked to see where Mr. Howard intended to go with that story.

There are certainly things to like here. The writing isn’t bad and the adventures are certainly varied enough, but it just seemed like not much really happens most of the time. And then there is the racism. You can pull out the usual excuses, when the book what written, or the fact that the racism portrayed is probably accurate to the characters themselves. That doesn’t change the fact for me that it kept pulling me out of the stories.  It’s not in every story, but is present in most, especially those where Solomon Kane travels to Africa. Many times it seemed like an unnecessary aside, rather than an important plot point for or character motivation.

All in all, as I believe these stories are in public domain you might be better off picking one or two to check out rather than the whole collection. I think the best complete story was The Hills of the Dead, where Kane first gets his magic staff and fights a horde of vampires.

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of The Twits, The Minpins, and The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl

November 26, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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 twitsThe Twits, The Minpins, & The Magic Finger
By Roald Dahl; Read by Richard Ayoade, Bill Bailey, and Kate WinsletPublisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 26 September 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 2 hours

Themes: / children’s fantasy / short stories / creatures /

Publisher summary:

THE TWITS
How do you outwit a Twit? Mr. and Mrs. Twit are the smelliest, nastiest, ugliest people in the world. They hate everything—except playing mean jokes on each other, catching innocent birds to put in their Bird Pies, and making their caged monkeys, the Muggle-Wumps, stand on their heads all day. But the Muggle-Wumps have had enough. They don’t just want out, they want revenge.

THE MINPINS
Little Billy strays into the forest, where he meets the Minpins?tiny people who live within the trees. The Minpins tell Billy about The Gruncher, who preys on them. So Billy embarks on a mission to rid the Minpins of their foe once and for all, and sets off?on the back of a swan?to confront The Gruncher.

THE MAGIC FINGER
What happens when the hunter becomes the hunted? To the Gregg family, hunting is just plain fun. To the girl who lives next door, it’s just plain horrible. She tries to be polite. She tries to talk them out of it, but the Greggs only laugh at her. Then one day the Greggs go too far, and the little girl turns her Magic Finger on them. When she’s very, very angry, the little girl’s Magic Finger takes over. She really can’t control it, and now it’s turned the Greggs into birds! Before they know it, the Greggs are living in a nest, and that’s just the beginning of their problems.

Although I have enjoyed many of the movies made from Roald Dahl’s books (most notably James and the Giant Peach) I cannot recall reading any of his books except Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which was … fine but not world changing for me. That’s kind of odd too, when I think about it, because I was the right age to be the prime audience when a lot of his books were coming out but I was largely oblivious to them. (Yep. Dated myself. Don’t care.)

However, as I have learned in the past, audio often breaks open a book or author who I didn’t find congenial in print. It was that way with Coraline by Neil Gaiman. It was that way with the last half of The Lord of the Rings (yes, I am ashamed but I will not lie). And, now, it is that way with Roald Dahl.

The Twits are the most horrible couple in the world and quite hateful to each other, until they are under attack from a common enemy. Even then they are horrible which makes it quite gratifying to see them get their comeuppance from the Muggle-Wump monkey family and the Roly Poly bird. This story had the most disgusting description of a beard I have ever encountered. Even while I was grimacing, I was also laughing because Dahl had such a clever way with words. Narrator Richard Ayoade had a lovely, calm British narration style that didn’t preclude hilarious, low-class voices for the Twits. First class stuff.

The Minpins has the most perfect monster name I’ve ever heard — The Gruncher, a fire-breathing, boy eating creature in Sin Forest. It sends Billy right up a tree where he meets the Minpins and they form an ingenious alliance to deal with their common foe. Bill Bailey narrated this with a great deal of gusto which didn’t detract in the least from the story.

The Magic Finger was my favorite story, partially because Kate Winslet’s narration won me over from the very beginning. I also just couldn’t resist the little girl who “puts my Magic Finger” on those who displease her. The Greggs are worthy of a magic finger punishment because they are such keen hunters. What the Magic Finger does is typical Dahl ingenuity at its best.

All three of these are little stories but each is a gem which children would love. Heck, I liked them quite a bit myself and, as I have revealed, I am far past the age of tender youth. I am now going to look for more Roald Dahl in audio, possibly even revisiting Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Posted by Julie D.

 

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