Review of Brad Lansky and the Alien at Planet X

May 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audio Drama - Brad Lansky and the Alien at Planet XBrad Lansky and the Alien at Planet X
(Brad Lansky, Episode 1)
1 hour 16 minutes – [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Protophonic
Published: 2014
Themes: / Audio Drama / Science Fiction / artificial intelligence / Space Travel / cybernetics / aliens /

It’s difficult to believe that Protophonic is ten years old. I know it is because there’s a notice on their website that says so, and, in celebration, they are giving away this remake of the first installment of the Brad Lansky series for free – for a short time. I urge you to go check it out.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. At Protophonic, the sound is the thing. Each track Protophonic produces is a rich soundscape that needs to be enjoyed using a pair of good headphones. I also recommend that you give it your full attention – turn everything off, and let this audio work magic.

As each track starts, the sound sets the scene. More than once, I was surprised by the images in my mind. How easily they appeared in reaction to the sound, and how vivid the scenes were in my imagination. Much to the credit of Protophonic, no time at all is spent in dialogue establishing the setting. Actors never say things like, “My, just look at this blue spaceport!” The rich audio in cooperation with my imagination provided the setting. Indeed, Protophonic has trusted the listener with more than a typical audio drama would, and I found it an exhilarating experience. I enjoy the feeling of collaboration, and I like knowing that my mental picture of this story is sure to be different from another listener’s. It’s also wonderful that the story both depends on and works with whatever the listener brings to the table.

This first Brad Lansky production opens with a Ship AI (called Echolocator) telling co-pilot Dieter Rothman news of a distress call. Dieter and Captain Sandy Larkin meet at the main control console to discuss the situation, and things get tense quickly. Soon after, at Shanghai Spaceport, Brad Lansky and co-pilot Alex John meet with Zara, a life-form scientist, who tells them that Sandy Larkin is missing. Lansky and John immediately start searching. What follows includes alien life, artificial intelligences, cybernetic persons, and space travel.

In short: Brad Lansky and the Alien at Planet X is a very enjoyable work of science fiction, highly recommended for superior audio presentation. This is a remake of the first installment, and there are currently four other episodes to enjoy. The last two (episodes 4 and 5) are winners of the Mark Time Award for Best Science Fiction Audio Production of the Year.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

The SFFaudio Podcast #264 – READALONG: The Martian by Andy Weir

May 12, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #264 – Jesse, Jenny, Tam, Julie, Bryan, and Mike discuss The Martian by Andy Weir.

Talked about in this episode:
Dust on Mars is too thin to allow for sandstorms; terpkristin says NASA would never build a faulty antenna; and we finally introduce the book; is The Martian science fiction?; the one-way Mars mission Mars One; reminiscent of Heinlein’s Farmer in the Sky; Mike tracks Watney’s journey through Google Mars; why NASA picks boring locations to land their first missions; Andy Weir on Science Friday; the most far-fetched element of the book is its lack of budgetary concerns; Bradley Cooper in the film adaptation?; The Martian and Gravity have depressing implications; the novel’s (Heinleinian?) lack of character development; Mark Watney is in “full on Macgeyver mode”; most pilots are boring; many LOLs in the book; Andy Weir’s webcomic Casey and Andy; strong language in the novel; stoichiometry; feasibility of plot points; engineer-as-hero motif pitted against bureaucracy; Martian Odyssey by Stanley G. Weinbaum; Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe; Robinson Crusoe on Mars starring Adam West; The Makeshift Rocket by Poul Anderson, a spaceship powered by beer; From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne and First Man on the Moon by H.G. Wells; Robinsoniad; Thunder and Lightning series by John Varley; Rocket Ship Galileo by Heinlein, featuring Nazis on the Moon!; the United States falling behind in the Space Race; Stephen Hawking on the dangers of artificial intelligence; Mars Attacks!; the novel’s lack of Earth focus makes it literally escapist; Heinlein’s prophetic Destination Moon; send more potatoes to space; pop culture references; “I’m a space pirate.”; The Case for Mars by Bob Zubrin, a non-fiction proposal for reaching the Red Planet; Red Mars and other Kim Stanley Robinson novels; Marooned starring Gregory Peck; GravityApollo 18, a found-footage horror film; Falling Skies; Bruce Campbell and Martin Koenig in MoontrapPrincess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs; A Walk in the Sun by Geoffrey Landis; Transit of Earth by Arthur C. Clarke bears a strong resemblance to The Martian; new party game: “You an astronaut on Mars. What’s the last music you listen to before you die?”; We Who Are About To by Joanna Russ; hope in fantasy and science fiction; Jesse hopes they don’t make a sequel; locked-room scenarios; Portal; would Earth really expend so many resources to save a single human being?; Ascent by Jed Mercurio; T-Minus: The Race to the MoonLimit by Frank Schätzing; PlanetesThe Souther Reach by Jeff VanderMeer for more botanist action; The Apollo Quartet by Ian Sales; Voyage by Stephen Baxter, dramatized by BBC Radio.

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir (Mars Itinerary)

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #256 – READALONG: Have Space Suit—Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein

March 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

TheSFFaudioPodcast600The SFFaudio Podcast #256 – Jesse, Tamahome, Luke Burrage, Seth, and Mark Turetsky talk about the audiobook of Have Space Suit—Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein (as narrated by Mark Turetsky for Blackstone Audio)!

Talked about on today’s show:
On the book title’s proper spacing and hyphenation; Have Gun, Will Travel TV show; Heinlein’s last “juvenile” novel; Mark “over the moon” about the opportunity to record the book; novel nominated for Hugo in 1959; parts of the novel are hard SF; Philip K. Dick’s completely unrelated story The Father Thing; ways of manipulation in the novel; Mark’s favorite character voices; correlations between the Earth characters and space characters; debunking the possibility that the story was all a dream or imaged à la Wizard of Oz; cross-novel characters in Heinlein’s novels i.e. Space Family Stone; novel followed up by Starship Troopers; detailed description of the space suit possibly inspired by Heinlein’s work on bomber pilot pressure suits during World War II; The Martian by Andy Weir; casual drug use in the novel; Mark didn’t do the helium voice in space suit scenes; comparison to full cast audio version; Kip’s conversations with inanimate space suit bear resemblance to Gravity; on the novel’s setting in time and its world building flaws; slip sticks and slide rules; slide rule “the best invention since girls”; Kip’s dad should “get off his ass and get a job”; Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat and its inspiration on Connie Willis’s To Say Nothing of the Dog via its appearance in this novel’s opening lines; Heinlein’s infallibility; going Galt; the father is an asshole; the father is Heinlein; money in fiction; money baskets in Stranger in a Strange Land; old men hooking up with young women in Heinlein; Podkayne of MarsTime for the StarsTunnel in the Sky is a mash-up of Lord of the Flies and The Hunger Games; the story’s narrative perspective; on learning outside of school, “I’m gonna learn this shit on my own”; novel encapsulates Luke’s life philosophy, “There’s no such thing as luck. There is only adequate or inadequate preparation to cope with a statistical universe.”; the novel’s accelerating plot; The Puppet Masters; on adapting the novel to the silver screen; PBS’s adaptation of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Lathe of Heaven; the relative weakness of the novel’s last section; Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure; time travel “breaks” fiction; Lisa Simpson would read this book; John Scalzi’s blog post An Anecdotal Observation, Relating to Robert Heinlein and the Youth of Today; people today don’t read books (or read the wrong kind of books); is science fiction the most enlightened of fiction genres?; phone books are useful for starting fires; Luke tells an inspiring story about the Magellanic Cloud; “the cure for boredom is curiosity”; where animals keep their brains.

Have Space Suit - Will Travel

Have Spacesuit - Will Travel - illustration by Ed Emshwiller

Emsh interior illustration for HAVE SPACE SUIT - WILL TRAVEL

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #249 – AUDIOBOOK: Scanners Live In Vain by Cordwainer Smith

January 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #249 – Scanners Live In Vain by Cordwainer Smith, read by J.J. Campanella.

First published in Fantasy Book, #6 in 1950. Scanners Live In Vain has been anthologized in such collections as The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume I, Science Fiction 101 (aka Robert Silverberg’s Worlds Of Wonder), and The Great SF Stories 12 (1950).

This UNABRIDGED AUDIOBOOK runs (1 Hour 35 Minutes). We will discuss it in SFFaudio Podcast #250.

Scanners Live In Vain by Cordwainer Smith

Posted by Jesse Willis

Clarkesworld: Guest Of Honor by Robert Reed

April 24, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

I first heard Robert Reed’s outstanding novelette, Guest Of Honor, as an audiobook in the mid-1990s. It was narrated by Amy Bruce for Infinivox (get that version HERE).

It blew me away.

Guest Of Honor is undeniably GREAT SCIENCE FICTION, the kind of which only seems to show up once or twice a decade. If you haven’t already heard it, prepare yourself for some pure idea fiction.

There’s no official description for this astounding story so here’s mine:

When immortality is on the table accidents are naturally the uppermost fear on your mind. As an immortal you wouldn’t do anything nearly so dangerous as space travel, but all the same as an immortal you’d necessarily crave such new sensations so as to offset the boredom of an infinite future. And that’s where Pico comes in, she’s an adventurer gathering experiences for the immortals who sponsored her back on Earth. Her story, or stories, even if they are only vicarious, will be cherished by the many and she will be the guest of honor when she returns.

Clarkesworld MagazineClarkesworld Magazine #79 – Guest Of Honor
By Robert Reed; Read by Kate Baker
1 |MP3| – Approx. 1 Hour 21 Minuites [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Clarkesworld
Podcast: April 22, 2013
First published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1993.

Podcast feed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/clarkesworldmagazine/podcast

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Venus by Ben Bova

July 16, 2011 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Science fiction Audiobook - Venus by Ben BovaVenus (The Grand Tour Series)
By Ben Bova; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
10 CDs – Approx. 11.7 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: February 2011
ISBN: 9781441775726
Themes: / Science Fiction / Hard SF / Near future / Space travel / Planets /

The surface of Venus is the most hellish place in the solar system, its ground hot enough to melt aluminum, its air pressure high enough to crush spacecraft landers like tin cans, its atmosphere a choking mix of poisonous gases. This is where the frail young Van Humphries must go—or die trying. Years before, Van’s older brother perished in the first attempt to land a man on Venus. Van’s father has always hated him for being the one to survive. Now, his father is offering a ten-billion-dollar prize to the first person who lands on Venus and returns his oldest son’s remains. To everyone’s surprise, Van takes up the offer. But what Van Humphries will find on Venus will change everything—our understanding of Venus, of global warming on Earth, and his knowledge of who he is.

Venus by Ben Bova was first released on audio in abridged format in 2002. I reviewed in it 2004, and from what I wrote there I liked it just fine. This unabridged version (no surprise) was a different and better experience.

I am a fan of Ben Bova’s didactic Grand Tour novels. I like how I come away from each of these novels with a better understanding of how space travel works at our current level of knowledge. I also like how Bova uses what we know about the planets before he starts speculating.

In Venus, eccentric billionaire Martin Humphries summons his son, Van Humpries, to the moon. Prior to the story, Martin’s oldest son Alex had crashed on Venus and was presumed dead. Martin tells Van that he’s offering $10 billion to the person who can retrieve Alex’s remains and that he’s paying for it by cutting Van off financially. Van surprises his father by taking up the challenge himself. There is one other taker, so two teams vie for the prize. Two ships, separately designed and built to withstand the extreme conditions on Venus, race to snag human remains off the surface.

The plot is interesting and satisfying (though with a bit of clunky foreshadowing), but the star of the story is Venus. Bova’s characters reach Venus quickly, so the bulk of the novel is spent floating in their ships. It’s incredibly hot, and the atmosphere thick and roiling. Both ships were designed as dirigibles. Once the crafts reached the atmosphere, they floated like airships through the currents, sinking slowly toward the surface. Of course, it’s not that easy. There are plenty of surprises.

Stefan Rudnicki narrates, and yet again I enjoyed him. He’s one of the best narrators we have. I’m always pleased to hear him perform a good piece of science fiction.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

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