Review of The Legend of Drizzt

December 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Legend of DrizztThe Legend of Drizzt: The Collected Stories
By R. A. Salvatore
Publisher: Audible Studios
Publication Date: 12 August 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 hours, 27 minutes

Themes: / Forgotten Realms / dark elf / fantasy / short stories /

Publisher summary:

The Legend of Drizzt: The Collected Stories expands upon the epic legend of the dark elf with 12 tales performed by the all-star cast of Felicia Day, Dan Harmon, Greg Grunberg, Tom Felton, Danny Pudi, Sean Astin, Melissa Rauch, Ice-T, Wil Wheaton, Al Yankovic, Michael Chiklis, and David Duchovny!

For years, the Legend of Drizzt has included short stories published in Forgotten Realms anthologies and Dragon magazine. Available here for the first time in audio are all the classic stories by the New York Times best-selling author R. A. Salvatore!

From the startling origin of Drizzt’s panther companion, to the tale of Jarlaxle and Entreri’s first encounter with the dragon sisters, the tales in The Collected Stories enrich this vividly-imagined series by building the world around Drizzt through exploring the backstories of side characters and magical locations.

Wizards of the Coast outdid themselves on this one and brought in a cast that’s actually hard to believe unless you start listening.
I thought the stories were excellent and for the most part the readings were well done. Ice-T was decent, but extremely slow and kept pronouncing the “w” in “sword” and that word is used a ton in his story. It drove me nuts.

Weird Al did a good job, especially with the voices, but his voice is a little too … bubbly … silly … there’s got to be a better word … for this type of serious story.

Usually Wil Wheaton does a good job, but I don’t rate him super high as a narrator because he never does different voices for the characters, at least not well. This one he did an excellent job with the voices. He’s another, however, that might have too much sarcasm in his voice for this type of story. Which is why he is the perfect narrator for anything from John Scalzi.

Last one and I’m done talking, biggest surprise was Michael Chiklis, who did an insanely good job with EVERYTHING. I hope he does tons more audiobooks and quits acting for the real money … in audiobook narration! We all know Scott Brick is rollin’ in it, amiright?

Overall, it’s more than worth the price I paid and then some and pretty cool to have these celebrities reading names like Drizzt and Zaknafein and Menzoberranzan and I’m not even touching the dwarf names of the top of my head that us geeks love oh so much.

4 out of 5 stars (highly recommended)

Posted by Bryce L.

Review of Tales of Terror

November 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Tales of TerrorTales of Terror Collection
A Night in Whitechapel, Was It a Dream?, Caterpillars, John Mortonson’s Funeral
By: Ambrose Bierce, Guy de Maupassant, E.F. Benson; Performed by Victor Garber
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 1 disc, 1 hour!
Themes: / short stories / horror / classic / supernatural /
Publisher summary:

‘Night in Whitechapel’ French short-story master Guy de Maupassant offers this chilling look into one of the world’s best known cities. When two young men make a trek to London on a cold December evening, they expect to take in the city and maybe a pub or two along the way. But a chance encounter with a mysterious woman soon has them questioning not only the proceedings of their evening but their sanity as well. ‘Was It a Dream?’ Guy de Maupassant once again delivers a spine-tingling narrative. A young man recounts the tragic death of his love, claimed by an unknown illness. In his grief, he wanders the cemetery where she is buried to find a dark secret that she, and many other corpses, share. ‘Caterpillars’ Stories of the supernatural from E.F. Benson have been terrifying audiences for decades—even making the transition to television adaptation. In “Caterpillars,” a man recalls his terrifying stay at a haunted Italian villa. You will never look at caterpillars in the same way. ‘John Mortonson’s Funeral’ Perhaps best known for The Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce is a mainstay of nineteenth-century American literature. In “John Mortonson’s Funeral,” Bierce adds horror to his satirical lens. The mourners at this funeral will be forever changed.

“Night in Whitechapel” – Guy de Maupassant
When two young men make a trek to London on a cold December evening, they expect to take in the city and maybe a pub or two along the way. But a chance encounter with a mysterious woman soon has them questioning not only the proceedings of their evening but their sanity as well.

“Was It a Dream?” – Guy de Maupassant
A young man recounts the tragic death of his love, claimed by an unknown illness. In his grief, he wanders the cemetery where she is buried to find a dark secret that she, and many other corpses, share.

“Caterpillars” – E.F. Benson
A man recalls his terrifying stay at a haunted Italian villa. You will never look at caterpillars in the same way.

“John Mortonson’s Funeral” – Ambrose Bierce
The mourners at this funeral will be forever changed.This collection is well named. All of these tales have a certain creepiness factor that will leave your skin crawling if you think about them too much. They also have the virtue of not being the usual “classic” horror tales included in most anthologies, although they are by authors acknowledged as master storytellers.

What enhances the subtlety and creeping horror is Victor Garber’s soft spoken narration. As any good actor would, he reads each tale differently to reflect its own character, but never with obvious technique that draws the listener away from the story itself. My favorite was “Was It a Dream?” in which the protagonist’s lovelorn state gradually gives way to shuddering fear in the graveyard. The transition was so seamless that I couldn’t tell you when it happened and by the end of the tale I myself was horror stricken.

The collection is short, clocking in at slightly more than an hour, but it is choice. Definitely recommended.

Posted by Julie D.

Review of Dangerous Women

October 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Dangerous Women Dangerous Women: Stories
Edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
Narrated by Scott Brick, Jonathan Frakes, Janis Ian, Stana Katic, Lee Meriwether, Emily Rankin, Harriet Walter, Jake Weber
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 3 December 2013[UNABRIDGED] – 32 hours, 49 minutes
Listen to an excerpt: | MP3 |

Themes: / short stories / fantasy / women /

Publisher summary:

All new and original to this volume, the 21 stories in Dangerous Women include work by twelve New York Times bestsellers, and seven stories set in the authors’ bestselling continuities—including a new “Outlander” story by Diana Gabaldon, a  tale of Harry Dresden’s world by Jim Butcher, a story from Lev Grossman set in the world of The Magicians, and a 35,000-word novella by George R. R. Martin about the Dance of the Dragons, the vast civil war that tore Westeros apart nearly two centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones.

Also included are original stories of dangerous women–heroines and villains alike–by Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, Sherilynn Kenyon, Lawrence Block, Carrie Vaughn,  S. M. Stirling, Sharon Kay Penman, and many others.
 
Writes Gardner Dozois in his Introduction, “Here you’ll find no hapless victims who stand by whimpering in dread while the male hero fights the monster or clashes swords with the villain, and if you want to tie these women to the railroad tracks, you’ll find you have a real fight on your hands.  Instead, you will find sword-wielding women warriors, intrepid women fighter pilots and far-ranging spacewomen, deadly female serial killers, formidable female superheroes, sly and seductive femmes fatale, female wizards, hard-living Bad Girls, female bandits and rebels, embattled survivors in Post-Apocalyptic futures, female Private Investigators, stern female hanging judges, haughty queens who rule nations and whose jealousies and ambitions send thousands to grisly deaths, daring dragonriders, and many more.”

Stories and Narrators (in order of appearance):
“Some Desperado” by Joe Abercrombie; Read by Stana Katic
“My Heart Is Either Broken” by Megan Abbott; Read by Jake Weber
“Nora’s Song” by Cecelia Holland; Read by Harriet Walter
“The Hands That Are Not There” by Melinda Snodgrass; Read by Jonathan Frakes
“Bombshells” by Jim Butcher; Read by Emily Rankin
“Raisa Stepanova” by Carrie Vaughn; Read by Inna Korobkina
“Wrestling Jesus” by Joe R. Lansdale; Read by Scott Brick
“Neighbors” by Megan Lindholm; Read by Lee Meriwether
“I Know How to Pick ’Em” by Lawrence Block; Read by Jake Weber
“Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell” by Brandon Sanderson; Read by Claudia Black
“A Queen in Exile” by Sharon Kay Penman; Read by Harriet Walter
“The Girl in the Mirror” by Lev Grossman; Read by Sophie Turner
“Second Arabesque, Very Slowly” by Nancy Kress; Read by Janis Ian
“City Lazarus” by Diana Rowland; Read by Scott Brick
“Virgins” by Diana Gabaldon; Read by Allan Scott-Douglas
“Pronouncing Doom” by S.M. Stirling; Read by Stana Katic
“Name the Beast” by Sam Sykes; Read by Claudia Black
“Caregivers” by Pat Cadigan; Read by Janis Ian
“Lies My Mother Told Me” by Caroline Spector; Read by Maggi-Meg Reed
“Hell Hath No Fury” by Sherilynn Kenyon; Read by Jenna Lamia
“The Princess and the Queen” by George R. R. Martin; Read by Iain Glen

It took me a really long time to make it through this book, even with skipping stories, and that was a big sign that it wasn’t working for me. I love and read a lot of anthologies, and Dangerous Women was odd in that it only paid lip service to the theme. Most of these stories had nothing to do with women, dangerous or otherwise, instead focusing on men talking about women. Overall, while I was disappointed in this anthology, and would not recommend it, here are my spoiler thoughts on some of the best and worst individual stories (scroll to the end for a link to more!):

“The Hands That Are Not There” by Melinda Snodgrass
Jonathan Frakes from Star Trek: the Next Generation is the narrator!!! Fortune 500? Strip club? OK, I’m missing the dangerous women portion of this story at the beginning, and am a little confused overall. The main character doesn’t seem to have a great opinion of women in general. Suppose that’s not surprising considering this takes place during a bachelor party. “Sassy little buttocks”? I giggled when he shouted “blackout’. Genetic manipulation? What am I listening to?

Holy. Hell.

Aside from the novelty of the narrator, this was just bad. The characterization of women left a bad taste in my mouth. The prose was an unfortunate shade of purple. The plot twist was silly. So. Bad.

“Bombshells” by Jim Butcher – A Harry Dresden story
I’ve never read any of the Dresden books, although I’m vaguely familiar with the story, and this was a sorely needed palette cleanser after the last story. Except for the leg-shaving bit. Wut? That came across as trying a bit too hard. Bit more telling than showing than is to my taste. And hearing the phrase ‘soul gaze’ spoken out loud just pointed out how silly it is. Holy infodump on how magic works, but overall both the narrator and writing was A+.

“Raisa Stepanova” by Carrie Vaughn
Eeeeeee! Night witches! I love female pilots!

The writing is concise and easy to follow, but full of effective details that really conveyed the feeling of a fire fight. The plot was just heartbreaking. And a lovely relationship between siblings is the focus, rather than a romantic one. Such a nice change! This was an excellent portrayal of female non-competitive friendship. So good. One of the highlights of the anthology.

Narrator had a distinctive, lovely voice.

“I Know How to Pick ’Em” by Lawrence Block
Noir up the wazoo! This was a man’s man kind of a story, I guess. Wow. I had to skip this after he started fantasizing about beating the woman he was with. He had so much hate for women. I felt a little sick just listening.

Narrator has great, gritty voice.

“Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell” by Brandon Sanderson
This was a great story. Silence was amazing, and the world had just enough detail for you to believe and fill in the rest of the blanks. Her background as a bounty hunter was inventive, and I loved seeing the people people who crossed her get their eventual comeuppance.

Narrator had just enough weariness in her voice to be pleasing and appropriate to the story.

“The Girl in the Mirror” by Lev Grossman – A Magicians story
Fabulous characterization of mischievous girls at a magical school. Their talk is real, and the details are well delineated. Think Harry Potter but darker and meaner. Adorable short story. Just lovely.

As an added bonus, Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark on Games of Thrones, was the narrator. She hit the perfect tone, and I would definitely listen to her narration again.

“Second Arabesque, Very Slowly” by Nancy Kress
This was a very quiet, intense, and bleak story. The women are essentially kept for breeding in a post-apocalyptic setting, but during a young girl’s ‘budding’ ceremony, one woman voices her desire to be more. The narrator is the nurse, in charge of the health of the other women. There’s an undertone of packs and the urban forest in this story, like I was waiting for them to turn into werewolves. Women have dressed codes to avoid tempting men, but are somewhat in charge of deciding who they have sex with. The group finds a TV and get it to work. They watch a ballet. Now one of the beta males wants to learn how to dance to entertain the pack. They find a moment of beauty, but lose it just as quickly.

The narrator has an understated style that worked really well for this.

“Pronouncing Doom” by S.M. Stirling – An Emberverse story
This was the most unpleasant part of this whole experience.

At first I was interested, as there was a main character traveling with a baby and some practical discussion of how life with children after the apocalypse works. There were disabled characters, and the women seemed to have some autonomy in the society.

However, the story then turned into a rape trial. The victim recounts escalating abuse from one man, and how the other women blamed her for his actions. Then she describes his violent sexual assault of her, and I turned it off. I had no motivation to finish this story.

The narrator was very pleasant, and her deadpan accounting of the assault was chilling.

“Caretakers” by Pat Cadigan
It starts out with an innocent question about female serial killers. These two sisters live together and while one is obsessed with Red Dawn (Go Wolverines!) the other loves to watch shows about serial killers. There was a lot of realistic characterization driving the story, and rising tension as you begin to wonder exactly how much the sister likes serial killers.

Narrator did a fantastic job, fading back to let the story stand on its strengths.

“Lies My Mother Told Me” by Caroline Spector – A Wild Cards story
I felt a little behind by the abrupt entrance of the first scene, but loved the discussion of prettiness in relation to society. Parades and zombies and consumerism. Mothers and daughters and self-esteem. Fat and bubbles as defense. The villain was such a dick, and such a stereotype of gamer dudes. Overall amazing!

Fantastic narrator.

“The Princess and the Queen” by George R.R. Martin – A Song of Ice and Fire story
Finally. this is the whole reason I was interested in the first place. I’ve read a couple of the ASOIAF books, so I was interested in what Martin would do with two super-powerful women. Not much, it turns out.

Sooooo – everyone in Westeros has always been terrible and power-hungry? OK then. First Night rites? Really? Ahhhh I am so bored. Never has anything with dragons in it bored me as much as this has. It’s about queens, yes, but it’s still the men who do almost everything.

Good narrator, though.

Sarah reviewed each and every story, which you can see on her GoodReads review.

Posted by Sarah R.

Review of Edgar Allen Poe Collected Stories and Poems

October 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Poe Stories and PoemsEdgar Allan Poe – Collected Stories and Poems
By Edgar Allen Poe; Performed by Ralph Cosham
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 4 hours
Themes: / short stories / poems / horror / classics/ locked door mystery / suspended animation / mesmerism /
Publisher summary:

Hundreds of books and articles have been written about Edgar Allan Poe. Even so, no one is really sure who Poe was. Many people say that he was as crazy as the characters he wrote about. Others say that Poe was a driven man with a simple wish. He wanted to write and to make a living by his writing. Even though Poe lived a miserable life, he wrote some of the most interesting and original literature ever created. This collection of his stories and poems includes:“The Raven”“The Cask of Amontillado”“The Fall of the House of Usher”“The Pit and the Pendulum”And more!

Table of Contents:
* The Raven
* The Cask of Amontillado
* The Tell-Tale Heart
* The Black Cat
* The Bells
* The Fall of the House of Usher
* Manuscript Found in a Bottle
* The sleeper
* The Man of the Crowd
* The Pit and the Pendulum
* Annabel Lee
* The Man that was Used Up: A Tale of the Late Bugaboo and Kickapoo Campaign
* The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether
* The Oval Portrait
* Eleonora
* The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar
* Berenice
* The Murders in the Rue Morgue

This Edgar Allan Poe collection is accessible, and leans heavy to the short story with a smattering of poetry. Readers will recognize many of the titles, but some may discover new Poe within this volume.

One of my favorite Poe works to contemplate, “The Cask of Amontillado,” still resonates. Two new pieces that struck a pleasing chord were the poem “The Bells” and the short story “Manuscript Found in a Bottle,” which made me grin in readerly delight. I enjoyed most of the selections, and only a few felt soured with age or redundant verbosity.

The audiobook is both wonderful and slightly choppy. Ralph Cosham is the narrator, and his pacing, his timbre, his ability to capture and project Poe’s atmosphere of the strange and macabre renders an intimate listening experience. But it sounds as if the various pieces were lifted from separate audio productions and then spliced together. I distinctly heard discrepancies between selections in recording clarity, recording volume, and the sense that Cosham’s voice reflected the reader at different ages. In one piece, Cosham sounds like a vigorous young man barely out of his thirty’s; in another his voice sounds as if two decades vanished. You should definitely give this a listen, and come to your own conclusions.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

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
Filed under: Reviews 

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

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