The SFFaudio Podcast #324 – This Crowded Earth by Robert Bloch; read by Gregg Margarite. This is an unabridged reading of the novel (3 hours 30 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and John Feaster.
Talked about on today’s show:
the only public domain novel by Robert Bloch, a member of the Lovecraft circle, fans of Lovecraft vs. the public at large, The Shambler From The Stars, a sense of humour, Leffingwell = livingwell, a Nazi-esque character, Paul F. Thompkins, 1958, Make Room, Make Room, 1968, overpopulation, The Population Bomb, the baby boom, the Asiatics, a terrible book, a monster of a book, the yardsticks aren’t a metaphor for racism, “midgets”, The Lonely Crowd, the women in this story…, housewives and pretend nurses, not a pure SF novel, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, a sociological novel, Jesse isn’t a fan of Psycho, Yours Truly Jack The Ripper, mainstream hack solutions, Bloch is a fan of science fiction, he’s talking about Clifford [D.] Simak here, the solution to overpopulation is to make everybody smaller, you have to lean into that, a weird pacing, Game Of Thrones, an underground secret society, the meta stuff is pretty good, the opening chapter, 70s era Jack [L.] Chalker, caesarian section is the solution?!, an entertaining story, why the heck is little Harry Collins named Harry Collins?, “you’ve dropped your premise”, western wildernesses, why is the President of The United States so excited about 20 pounds of hamburger, really undercooked (hamburger), the 7 hour workday, the 5 hour workday, the 4 hour workday, a 15mph commute, population efficiency, just fix the trains in this world, Soylent Green, not enough room (physical space), telecommuting, personal transport laws, a mash-up of Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Project Mayhem portion of Fight Club and The Wizard Of Oz, Collins is constantly searching for the wizard, mistaking Beatniks for a religious order, a high-Daddio, The Planet Of The Apes premise, a dog and cat disease, accepting the premise, playing with science fiction tropes, an impressionistic idea of the world and the path it is on, the naturals or naturalists, its almost hippies, a generational metaphor, drug use, everybody takes yellow jackets, barbiturate, mixing with alcohol, a one child policy is IMPOSSIBLE?, emigration is IMPOSSIBLE, faster maturity faster death, living on Mars would make you barrel chested, island isolated animals change their size (Island gigantism or Insular dwarfism), pilots need to be short, small people and women endure g-forces better, little people on generation starships, food consumption, he follows through with his own joke, a buffet of ridiculous premises, a strange buffet, an entertaining buffet, politics and the super-rich go hand-in-hand, “the little plan”, “small government”, “it’s a small world after all”, Little John, silly, packed with a lot of weirdness, like a season of Star Trek, written over a weekend?, such a little apartment, “he’s living in a closet”, this would have to be a cartoon if it were a film, the world is a Flintstones background, if there had only been a female character who…, Stephen King loves westerns but can’t write them, lean into it, so why is this world not our problem?, LosSisco, William Gibson’s the Sprawl, Chicago and Milwaukee, well crafted characters (for talking heads), Pol Pot, no actual shitbags, the story of a 15 year old, sociologically and emotionally, the Goodreads reviews, Isaac Asimov’s the Hari Seldon plan, Marching Morons by C.M. Kornbluth, breeding a crazy man, West End Games, Paranoia, the crappy text adventure games (that were fun to play), walking off to the unmapped areas, what about this bugbear?, in a future where cows are caviar, “bring your wife, we’ll have a party”, I’ll bang off something for Planet Stories, Psycho, 1959 and 1960, John defends Psycho, Bloch’s Star Trek script “Wolf In The Fold“, Bloch’s obsession with Jack The Ripper, Richard Matheson’s Night Gallery episode, Time After Time, a future thrill kill story [sounds somewhat like The Roller Coaster by Alfred Bester], before The Silence Of The Lambs, Hannibal, charismatic serial killers is a trope now, Ed Gein, H.H. Holmes (not H.H. Munro), the Chicago murder castle, a writer re-writing and thinking about an idea over and over again, serial writers must do it again, to “recreate it”, seeing a writer writing outside of his main genre, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, it’s a little 15-year old, simply written to pay a bill, finally Scotty gets his own episode, I canna remember, Star Trek with a serial killer is weird, That Hellbound Train, The Gold Key The Twilight Zone comics, an EC Comics knockoff, I’m being published for crappy reasons, nobody’s going to read this in two weeks so read it now, this story is a bird-house made by a talented mechanic, a giant truck that is the internet, 60s and 70s era Robert Bloch are sealed up outside of the trunk that is the internet, accept it within its boundaries, a character from the 1950s in a crazy 1950s future, how does the story affect you?, a Rorschach test, it doesn’t care about you, this story is a friend of yours off in the corner playing with LEGOs and the only thing you can do is criticize what he’s building.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #290 – The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving; read by Chip (for LibriVox). This is an unabridged reading of the novelette (1 hour 23 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, and John Feaster.
Talked about on today’s show:
1820 (1819), the idea behind the story, Celtic folklore, Sir Gawain And The Green Knight, the Wild Hunt, Geoffrey Crayon, Popular Tales Of The Germans, Volksmärchen der Deutschenby Karl Musäus, racing to a bridged, a shattered gourd, Sir Walter Scott, “the wizard of the north”, Tam O’ Shanter by Robert Burns, headless ghosts, Anne Boleyn, headless horses!, jack-o’-lantern, is this a Halloween story or a Thanksgiving story?, 1834, the word “coconut” (head and soul), the South Pacific, breadfruit, The Red One by Jack London, the shattered pumpkin becomes carved into a Jack-O-Lantern, Brom Bones, meta-textual inference, Washington Irving is buried in Sleepy Hollow, NY, a Hessian artilleryman, a sleepy forgotten area, Rip Van Winkle, the Dutch of New York are like the Irish of the British empire, a Connecticut Yankee teacher, sleep, bustling New York City, Tarrytown, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Irving’s loving description of the landscape is like Lovecraft’s loving description of architecture, the jokey Washington Irving, Guests From Gibbet Island by Washington Irving, pirates, Pluto, “nod, wink, and giggle”, a comedy with a great sense of mood, the many birds, Crane, pudding in their bellies, the Van Tassel larder, a low yield version of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne, an excellent ragù, an exquisitely painted portrait, Jeff Goldblum playing Ichabod Crane, the dilating abilities of an anaconda, the full orchards, the rooster with his wives, The House Of The Seven Gables, “the world’s first Scooby Doo ending”, Brom Bones is a colossal prick, anti-intellectual, having read several books all the way through, Cotton Mather, the labour of headwork, headlessness, a practical joke, the post-script, the moral (if it has one or if it needs one), The Cask Of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe, a deathbed confession, family portraits or a mirror, “in pace requiescat”, alternate endings, the 1999 movie adaptation with Johnny Depp, “Rip van Kolchak”, beheading an embryo, the imagery, Christopher Lee, Marvel Comics adaptations, Ghost Rider, a goblin, J.R.R. Tolkien, distinguishing between goblins and orcs, interchangeable terms, Scrooge, FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY – Headless Horsemen, a whip made of a human spine, the Comics Code Authority, Morbius: The LIVING Vampire, the gaffers at von Tassel’s quilting frolic, an old brower, the Wild Hunt (again), rivers marking town boundaries, “liminal areas”, “a marvelously gruesome book”, Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality by Paul Barber, vampires can’t cross running water, a Dukes of Hazzard crossover, the Disney/Bing Crosby cartoon, The Wind in the Willows, The Partially Examined Life (talking the American philosophers), walking while reading a book vs. walking while reading a phone, van Ripper, Gunpowder (the horse), anti-intellectual vs. hyper-competence, Sleepy Hollow as a vision of America (as opposed to Europe), William James, Henry James, young and different, Henry David Thoreau, Walden, the American Revolutionary War, NYC vs. NY State, Irving regretting the American revolution, Lovecraft’s nostalgia, a very American story, “the world’s turned upside down!”, Ivanhoe, enbosomed in the mountains, a debunking, Frank L. Baum’s new creations for an American fantasy, Kansas, the tin woodsman’s chopping, a cyborg version of the Ship of Theseus, written for little children, the heart is more important than the brains, Brom Bones as the hero, Ichabod mucks-in, haunted tulip tree, Major Andre, an unselfconscious hero, corporal punishment, Wackford Squeers from Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens, a wise-schoolmaster, spare the rod and spoil the child, “six of the best when they were ten”, dancing around the issue, squishing, Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein, “if this were the middle ages and he were a viking…”, Sons Of Anarchy vs. Vikings, bearded vengeance, ichthyology, von Ripper, von Brunt, von Tassel, von Brunt Colonel Ichabod Crane, The Castle Of Indolence by James Thomson, Gothic credentials, autumn, the sleepy hollow boys, Twin Peaks and the Bookhouse boys, the good old boys, more references to NASCAR, Brom Bones as an archetype, the Sleepy Hollow TV show, we can’t CGI our way out of bad writing, “Alan Moore-esque”, “nice, self-contained, and pretty much done”, Katrina as a master manipulator, singing lessons, it’s been haunted forever (maybe 30 years), belief in hauntings vs. belief in ghosts, a haunted green shag carpet, the stain, something was dragging itself on the ground, “The Stone Tape” hypothesis, “creeped by some creepy creepness”, a bad place, Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, poltergeist activity, Brom Bonesey, the 1790 setting, a haunted beach?, Center Lake, a hat sodden with blood, a headless borrower, a local Jimmy Hoffa, folklore becomes enmeshed, why does she settle for Brom Bones?, “a man of great parts”, Shakespeare: “Ale promoteth the desire but taketh away all performance”, Diogenes: “If only I could alleviate my hunger by rubbing my belly”
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
1981, to a professor of Slavic languages, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, the “First Age”, Hyperborea, At The Mountains Of Madness, The Mound, high fantasy, monstrous survivals, “two-fisted mighty thewed”, meeting the monster, this is not Lovecraft anymore, “big speeches very evil”, the movie, HBO, the sword is a laser beam?, that thing from Krull?, like Skeletor but less impressive, D’Spayre (Marvel Comics), “I expected you to come in evening-wear”, “He’s not Hitler”, WWII, can you use evil to fight evil, Cuza, shades of grey, chancellorship, “are you with the forces of good?”, a pretty amazing book, the Adversary Cycle, The Tomb, the “Repairman Jack” cycle, Equalizer-style, ancient Hindu mythology, deeply interested in its subject, re-reads, “written with the energy and verve and economy of a pulp novel all the themes, and character and depth of a literary novel”, Protecting Project Pulp, yellow peril, “I’ve heard Lovecraft was good for sales”, Conan The Barbarian (1982), Thulsa Doom, red hair and olive skin, a mystery novel, making assumptions, is Glen a Templar?, “What’s in the box?”, Portugal, Spain, Wales, a little map, not a castle, not a keep, built backwards, go kill Hitler, The Salem’s Lot route, a mute Nosferatu, the seduction of Cuza, Glen is a morally ambiguous character, Magda is the main character, the resonance of the title, Rasalom, Hitler, Molosar, the SS dude (Kaempffer), Woermann, moving the date 1941 to 1942, in 1941 there really is no hope (as opposed to 1942), Twitter, which evil is worse?, Gabriel Byrne, Sir Ian McKellen, WWI, the Spanish Civil War, the Condor Legion, the German anti-fascist legion, “you collaborate with anti Wallachians?”, punch-ups, Germany back on its feet, dissension in the ranks, The Psychology Of Power, George W. Bush, Obama was reading Team Of Rivals, torturing folks but not prosecuting folks, John’s second book, The Beast Within by Edward Levy, The Shining by Stephen King, Dungeons & Dragons, Pnakotic Manuscripts, Cuza uses the manuscripts as a red herring, you can’t destroy knowledge, when Jesse was less sophisticated, somebody’s got to be the publisher that published Mein Kampff, Dianetics, maybe you’re not as committed to the cause?, letting the adults slide, the Hitler Youth was mandatory, excuses might have been deadly, The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall, school children were terrifying, Nineteen-Eighty Four, informing on mommy and daddy, The Cultural Revolution, Die Brucke (aka The Bridge), Volkssturm, MG-42, April 27th, 1945, Doctor Who, Beau Geste, Magneto (Marvel Comics), J. Michael Straczynski, J.R.R. Tolkien, the Vorlons and the Shadows, Chaos and Order, put these old gods to bed, maybe I can finally die, appeasement, Glaeken returns, The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan is a retelling of Dracula and Salem’s Lot, more gloopy gloppy blood, John Carpenter’s The Thing, this book has zombies, traditional zombies, the rats, the muddy boots, the fingers, the reversal, Molosar sounds like a mid-dark age wizard or Romanian lord, Rasalom sounds like a Doctor Who character or Absalom, Mordred, Woermann -> War Man, Kempffer -> fighter, Magda -> Mary Magdalene, Cuza -> count, Glen -> valley, Glaeken -> Glaaki (Ramsey Campbell), the Fungi From Yuggoth sonnet cycle, The Courtyard, Neonomicon by Allan Moore and Jacen Burrows, Aklo,
It was the city I had known before;
The ancient, leprous town where mongrel throngs
Chant to strange gods, and beat unhallowed gongs
In crypts beneath foul alleys near the shore.
The rotting, fish-eyed houses leered at me
From where they leaned, drunk and half-animate,
As edging through the filth I passed the gate
To the black courtyard where the man would be.
The dark walls closed me in, and loud I cursed
That ever I had come to such a den,
When suddenly a score of windows burst
Into wild light, and swarmed with dancing men:
Mad, soundless revels of the dragging dead –
And not a corpse had either hands or head!
the headless corpse, “leave my house”, shaping Cuza, we get tricked, there’s something you’ve both overlooked, “Draculian harmonics”, old Slavonic, he can’t be both ignorant and knowledgeable, psychological warfare, Molasar is so much smarter, Cuza is super-manipulative, double bluff, the Dracula mystique, Molasar has to be telepathic, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Woermann mentions having seen a pirated version of Nosferatu, Molasar was aware of Cuza’s previous visits, he’s had a lot of time to think, bad dreams, he’s not interested in crumbs, the Popes forgot about it, the battery for the enchantment of the keep, the evil events begin on April 30th (Walpurgisnacht), the birds as a barometer of evil, no sequel possible, a blue winged bid with a beak full of straw, Moroi, Highlander, Highlander II (the worst movie ever made), “that’s the quickening McLeod”, a Spanish Egyptian with a Scottish accent, where did Highlander come from?, magic swords drinking power, a katana for cutting wasabi, 1980s movies came out of nowhere (seemingly), Elric (Michael Moorcock), Highlander: The Series, The Red One by Jack London, collecting heads, headless soldiers are unthinking soldiers, puppets of dark sorcery, vampires have the power to heal?, True Blood, did Cuza get the illness as a part of Molasar’s long game?
Posted by Jesse Willis
Themes: / horror / numismatists / hidey-holes / secrets /
What happens when, on a perfectly ordinary evening, all the things you believed in and took for granted are turned upside down?
When her husband of more than 20 years is away on one of his business trips, Darcy Anderson looks for batteries in the garage. Her toe knocks up against a box under a worktable and she discovers the stranger inside her husband. It’s a horrifying discovery, rendered with bristling intensity, and it definitively ends a good marriage.
The audio version of this longish short story clocks in at three hours and thirty-three minutes. It harbors no SF, fantasy, or supernatural components, which frequently inhabit King’s works. This is a straightforward horror/suspense piece. But for a few slack portions of the narrative, the pacing is pleasing, the exposition is handled briskly and cleanly, and the characters feel genuine rather than clunky marionettes.
The murder details are gruesome and chilling, and at least one crime involves a child. What would we do if suddenly the person we thought we knew the most turned out to be a psychotic stranger? Well, some of us might fight for justice. Others may simply, and quietly, acquiesce, and hope that the bad things will blow away on a summer wind.
King’s knack for building tension through honest character behavior delivers a deep sense of atmosphere. The writing is typical King, and the absence of flowery adjectives combined with sturdy nouns and verbs only bolsters the work, cracking that bell of authenticity harder.
Jessica Hecht is the narrator. Initially I found her delivery over the top and forced. But as the reading progressed, and I felt my way into her rhythm and style of narration, I realized her interpretation really did feel true to the characters.
I think fans of King will find this appealing, and most likely will have already read this in the collection Full Dark, No Stars . But I doubt that newcomers to King will want to start with this piece.
Posted by Casey Hampton.
Talked about on today’s show:
1987, Amazon and Goodreads reviews, what the fuck’s going on, super-clear = refreshing, mainstream, science fiction elements, a mainstream thriller with sufficently science fiction trappings, the bad guy, action and science fiction, supermarket fiction, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton, flirting with the fantastic, Koontz could go deep if he wanted to, excitement and involvement, an intelligent dog, a human serial killer and the good guy is always super good, a lonely lady who needs fixing, no need for a job, Garrison, the vet, money ex machina, wish fulfillment, sniffing the books, writing instinctual, “I like books”, readers are readers, is Koontz wealth (?) an accident, the same book over and over again with different sentences, dogs, odd without a dog, back to dogs, the fictional golden retriever, service dogs, Trixie Koontz, dog POV, Travis and Nora, if I could only communicate…, five stars with more than 1,000 reviews, cat lovers, sappy wish fulfillment, clunky dialogue, Seth’s retired guide dog, emotional scenes, Einstein, emotional beats hitting home, the Outsider, slow pitch Science Fiction, the NSA, research as depth of feeling, why the eyes, the Mickey Mouse telephone, a direct philosophical descendant of Frankenstein, we must treat our creations with justice and mercy, the disfigured (?) monster, extreme violence is a turn-off, dogs as wild animals that we tamed, a glacial Frankensteinian process, dogs as infantilized wolves, a dog’s nature is to be cowardly, breeding for violence (?), no savagery gene, baboons, bonobos, the creepy cable-guy stalker, delusions of immortality (?), money, surreality, The Call Of The Wild reference, survivalists, true love with a threat, preppers, Home Alone, what do Europeans think of gun culture?, fully automatic uzi kits, the baking of the cookies, the Dean Koontz genre, Phantoms, the town of Snowfield is deserted, a sink-full of jewels, creepy with wish fulfillment, and fun, multiple bad guys (monster and otherwise), The Mysteries Of Udolpho, let’s look at the parallel structure…, snake killing, some (more) cookies, pity, the underlying strength of the book, did the Outsider think that it killed Einstein?, Dean Koontz likes: cookies, mercy, and guns, Koontz’s hair transplant, political things, the soliloquy on technology, computer hacking (prior to the web), a preoccupation with Central/South America, Lebanon, Delta Force, quasi-domestic operations, The Outsider by H.P. Lovecraft, the crappy 1988 movie of Watchers, the horror/1980s-gore aspect, Koontz and King adaptations, completely forgettable single word titles, Koontz’ preferred title would have been “Guardian”, Philip K. Dick’s first story Roog, offering urn, the education of Einstein (paralleling the education of Frankenstein’s monster), Agatha Christie, it makes you happy, 2 Jesses, “a book you will never forget!”, a candy book, The Giver, Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, taking experiences from their own life, Ray Bradbury never had an experience that he didn’t turn into a fix-up novel, turn your brain off, smooth flowing fun, the complainers, the style of dialogue, a straw man of the dialogue, why is the Outsider after Einstein?, a “thing that should not be”, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, page turning machines, stewing in resentment, the Outsider has no bride and hasn’t read Paradise Lost, a shared love of Mickey Mouse, the yin and yang of humanity, the NSA agent’s role is like that of Detective Fix in Around The World In Eighty Days, the level of characterization, Dean Koontz is by himself on his own little island.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Themes: / suspense / thriller / horror /
In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands.
In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.
In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.
Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.
Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.
I think last year’s Joyland was one of my favorite Stephen King novels in awhile, meaning this book had a lot to live up to. I don’t this one is nearly as good, but I think most fans of Mr. King will find this enjoyable. Most of the novels by Mr. King I read have some sense of the fantastical to them. This one doesn’t. It’s straight up horror/thriller. No supernatural beings or unexplained phenomena here. That might be why I didn’t like it as much.
The premise is pretty straightforward. A decorated retired cop whose depression is suddenly shelved after being taunted by the perpetrator of one his most high profile unsolved cases. The killer murdered a crowd of people, including a baby using a big stolen gray Mercedes. They are a lot of psychological elements as both cop and criminal attempt to out think one another. While the majority of the story is told from Retired Detective Bill Hodges point of view, we are also given numerous chapters told from the killer’s perspective as well.
The story itself is nothing that special. Where this book shines (as usual) is in the characters. Mr. King always seems to write the most realistic and interesting characters. They aren’t necessarily someone you’d want to hang out with or even know, but they are the type that make it hard to look away (or in this case stop listening to the book).
Holly and Jerome are both memorable characters to add depth to the duel between our retired detective and the killer who got away. I especially enjoyed Holly’s character.
Overall, this was an enjoyable read, but far from a must read.
Will Patton seems to be an excellent fit for this story. His natural reading voice just seems to suit the tone of the book. He doesn’t really do voices, but you can tell his characters apart. I’m not sure how I’d like him as a narrator in general, but for this book, he’s an excellent choice.
Review by Rob Zak.