Review of Off to Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer, read by Luke Daniels

May 31, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Off to Be the WizardOff to Be the Wizard (Magic 2.0 #1)
By Scott Meyer, read by Luke Daniels
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 9 discs; 11 hours

Themes: / reality / wizards / hackers / time travel / computer geeks / pop culture /

Publisher Summary:

Martin Banks is just a normal guy who has made an abnormal discovery: he can manipulate reality, thanks to reality being nothing more than a computer program. With every use of this ability, though, Martin finds his little “tweaks” have not escaped notice. Rather than face prosecution, he decides instead to travel back in time to the Middle Ages and pose as a wizard.What could possibly go wrong? An American hacker in King Arthur’s court, Martin must now train to become a full-fledged master of his powers, discover the truth behind the ancient wizard Merlin…and not, y’know, die or anything.

This book started really slow, despite a cool concept. A computer geek discovers a file that somehow lets him manipulate not only the world and everything in it, but time itself. So of course he decides to go back to medieval times and become a wizard. As a computer geek who (not so) secretly would love to be a wizard I was intrigued.

Unfortunately, the main character Martin isn’t very likable at the start. Despite being good with computers, he doesn’t seem very smart. For me the story finally started to get good when he meets Phillip. I will say Martin did grow on me as the book went on. I don’t plan to say anything else about the plot because I don’t want to ruin the jokes.

I think your enjoyment of the book will largely depend on if you find the humor funny and your willingness to not only suspend your disbelief but throw it right out the window. Things get silly. Really silly.

There is a lot of computer geek humor as well as some pop culture humor from the 80s and 90s that reminded me a bit of Ready Player One, a book I absolutely love. I think fans of that book, may find similar things to like here. Scott Meyer does for fantasy geeks what Ernest Cline did for gaming geeks.

The only real complaint I have apart from the slow start is the general lack of women. That’s a pretty common complaint in fantasy. However as this is a fantasy book based in current time and involves using computers to manipulate the world to pretend to be a wizard this seems like a big flaw for me. Mr. Meyer has a plausible reason to explain away his lack of female characters, but he could have just as easily had a plausible reason for their inclusion instead.

 I‘ll admit that probably more than half of the reason I chose to review this book was because Luke Daniels was the reader. He did not disappoint. Another excellent performance.

Overall though, I really enjoyed listening to this book and I’ll be on the lookout for his next book as well as planning to check out his webcomic in the near future.

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of 1634: The Baltic War by Eric Flint and David Weber

May 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Cover art for 16341634: The Baltic War
By Eric Flint and David Weber; Read by George Guidall
Publisher: Recorded Books
Publication Date: 17 September 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 26 hours 20 minutes
Themes: / alternate history / time travel / military

1634: The Baltic War, although a weighty volume in its own right, is but one stitch in the giant tapestry that is Eric Flint’s sweeping Ring of Fire series. The series imagines the tumultuous Thirty Years War in seventeenth-century Europe disrupted by the arrival of a small West Virginia town sent back in time from the year 2000 by a freak cosmic accident. As masterfully told in the series opener 1632, the injection of modern technology and ideas into this bleak post-Reformation world has immediate and far-reaching consequences. The synopsis for 1634: The Baltic War illustrates just how much things have changed.

The Baltic War which began in the novel 1633 is still raging, and the time-lost Americans of Grantville – the West Virginia town hurled back into the seventeenth century by a mysterious cosmic accident – are caught in the middle of it.

Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden and Emperor of the United States of Europe, prepares a counter-attack on the combined forces of France, Spain, England, and Denmark – former enemies which have allied in the League of Ostend to destroy the threat to their power that the Americans represent – which are besieging the German city of Luebeck.

Elsewhere in war-torn Europe, several American plans are approaching fruition. Admiral Simpson of Grantville frantically races against time to finish the USE Navy’s ironclad ships – desperately needed to break the Ostender blockade of the Baltic ports. A commando unit sent by Mike Stearns to England prepares the rescue the Americans being held in the Tower of London.

In Amsterdam, Rebecca Stearns continues three-way negotiations with the Prince of Orange and the Spanish Cardinal-Infante who has conquered most of the Netherlands. And, in Copenhagen, the captured young USE naval officer Eddie Cantrell tries to persuade the King of Denmark to break with the Ostender alliance, all while pursuing a dangerous romantic involvement with one of the Danish princesses.

This overview gives a sense of the novel’s sweeping scope, both geographically and in terms of content. In some ways, this book and the series as a whole brings to mind Neal Stephenson’s ambitious Baroque Cycle, but while Stephenson’s work focuses on scientific and cultural developments Flint and Weber, at least in this volume, are telling a story of war. This isn’t to say that culture is absent from the chapters of 1634. Indeed, the novel draws both insight and humor from the juxtaposition of modern popular culture and European values. In one early scene, for example, a concert features classic Baroque harpsichord followed by a modernist piano concerto featuring music by Chopin and closing with twentieth-century Christmas songs. It’s also amusing to hear Europeans try and puzzle out exactly who this Elvis Presley character was.

While, as I said, 1634: The Baltic War is a military novel, and does feature occasional scenes of violence and hardship, overall its tone is light and even casual despite the depth and complexity of the book’s subject matter. While this renders the book almost instantly accessible, I can’t help but feel that at times the lack of gravitas fails to do justice to the enormity (in its original sense) of the Thirty Years War. To return to the previous comparison, Stephenson’s writing in the Baroque Cycle is much more opaque and, well, baroque, but the style seems to suit the subject matter. On the plus side, the story benefits from Eric Flint’s considerable experience in writing alternate history along with David Weber’s military background. Despite the world’s massive scope, every corner of it feels lived in and fleshed out.

George Guidall takes on the arduous task of bringing together seventeenth- and twentieth-century characters and cultures in this melting pot of a novel, and as usual Guidall is up to the challenge. From the brusk military clip of Admiral Simpson to the slight lilt of the larger-than-life Gustavus Adolphus, Guidall makes every element of the story from both past and present come alive.

Listeners who love military fiction, alternate history, or time travel can’t go wrong with 1634: The Baltic War, though to fully appreciate the novel they would do well to begin with the first installment in the Ring of Fire series, 1632. As perhaps is inevitable with a series of this magnitude, there are flaws and aspects that fail to please. But this book is only one chapter in what might just be Eric Flint’s magnum opus.

Posted by Seth Wilson

The SFFaudio Podcast #254 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Anticipator by Morley Roberts

March 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

TheSFFaudioPodcast600The SFFaudio Podcast #254 – The Anticipator by Morley Roberts; read by Mr Jim Moon. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (17 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and Mr Jim Moon!

Talked about in this episode: Story “found through a route obscure and lonely” via Arthur C. Clarke’s A Recursion in Metastories; H.G. Wells; story anthologized in time travel collection; Morley Roberts popular in The Strand magazine right alongside H.G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle; a story about the writer’s life; serialized fiction in the Victorian era; Victorian writers crossed genres more frequently; ornate, flowery writing style; invoking the ancestors and collective race memory; names in the story; ESP; main character is a drug addict “of the Holmesian school”; metafiction; William Williamson; semiautomatic writing; writing, sleep, and the subconscious; fiction as an escape; recursion in the story; The Food of the Gods (both the novel by H.F. Wells and the short story by Arthur C. Clarke); variations in writerly productivity; The New Accelerator by H.G. Wells; Philip K. Dick’s frenetic drug-fueled writing schedule; modern books are less thought-provoking and don’t age well; The Land of the Ironclads by H.G. Wells; the metaphor of gemstones as writing and the importance of metaphor in general; Mr. Jim Moon debunks the “cult of personality”; Stephen King’s Danse Macabre: “talent is like a knife”; Jesse thinks NaNoWriMo is a bad idea; Ted Chiang; Harlan Ellison’s as-yet-unpublished third volume of Dangerous Visions.

And check out the wonderful two-page doodle of the story by the amazing Samantha Wikan, it’s below!

Talked about on this episode:

A Recursion Of Metastories by Arthur C. Clarke

The Anticipator by Morley Roberts- illustrated by Samantha Wikan

The Anticipator by Morley Roberts- illustrated by Samantha Wikan

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #244 – NEW RELEASES / RECENT ARRIVALS

Podcast

TheSFFaudioPodcast600The SFFaudio Podcast #244 – Jesse, Jenny, and Seth talk about NEW RELEASES and RECENT ARRIVALS.

Talked about on today’s show: Christmas-edition New Releases podcast; festivus; Seinfeld; Romulus Buckle and the Engines of War; pneumatic zeppelins (related to Led Zeppelin?) vs. non-pneumatic airships; Cherie Priest‘s Clockwork Century steampunk series; Gail Carriger‘s “tea-punk” Parasol Protectorate novels; Wizard of Oz: A Steampunk Adventure; HBO’s completely unrelated Oz television series; Seal Team 13, military vs. supernatural?; Lovecraftian horror vs. traditional horror; Call of Cthulhu role-playing game; World War Z; Overdraft: The Orion Exclusive; Jesse laments that neither Jenny nor Seth has seen Aliens; Sigourney Weaver; Gamadin: Word of Honor; Jesse loves audio drama; Night Vale; Blake’s 7; “audio drama is television or movies without pictures”; Visions of the Future now unabridged; limitations of the Star Wars spinoffs; R.A. Salvatore killed a beloved Star Wars character; Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey; a Star Wars Oedipus story?; When the World Shook by H. Rider Haggard; Haggard’s She; casual racism in turn-of-the-century fiction; Haggard is the English Edgar Rice Burroughs; Rumpole series (the actor narrates the audiobooks); Inspector Morse; Agatha Christie; Touch Me Eternally; X-Men; Silvered by Tanya Huff; are shape shifters the new vampires?; Charlaine Harris and True Blood; etymology of werewolf; were bat?; every Batman story has been done; Dangerous Women anthology; Lawrence Block; Legends anthologies; George R. R. Martin’s Dunk and Egg stories; Well of Echoes series; geomancy = crystal magic; ABC (the Australian one) book club; CSPAN’s Book TV; Reading Rainbow and the LaVar Burton revival; Herland; Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail and As Easy as ABC; Gungadin and “to carry the water”; Clark Gable; more on racism; White Man’s Burden; DreamScape Audio; The Poison Belt by Arthur Conan Doyle; sequel to The Lost World; similar to The Purple Cloud by M. P. Sheil; Jurassic Park; 1634 by David Weber and Eric Flint; time travel; George Guidall; Jonny Ive (and Seth’s bad Ive impression) read by Simon Vance; Chronicles of Light and Shadow by Liesel Schwartz; Waterlogged Holiday Collection; Kevin J. Anderson’s War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches; Robert A. Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters; Star Trek pancakes attack; Connie Willis especially To Say Nothing of the Dog; Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome; Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit Will Travel; The Great Gatsby audio edition including Fitzgerald’s letters; Audible translating George R. R. Martin; Latin translations of Harry Potter; Call Down the Stars; metafiction; the prehistorical sub-genre;  Clan of the Cave Bear; Ian Rutherford; James A. Michener; Harry Harrison; The Wonder Stick (spoiler: it’s a bow!); Jack London; A Quarter to Fear narrated by Mr. Jim Moon at Hypnogoria (Jesse actually bought it!); H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast; Audible Editor’s Picks; Audie Awards; Doctor Sleep by Stephen King won Audible Pick of the Year; The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker; American Gods by Neil Gaiman; Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia; The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Coraline by Neil Gaiman; Ender’s Game Alive; The Silo Saga; The Human Division by John Scalzi; The Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell; Zombie Fallout series by Mark Tufo; Peter Clines 14 and Ex-Heroes series; Roald Dahl’s Matilda narrated by Kate Winslet; tweeting coffee;

Posted by Jesse Willis

Protecting Project Pulp: Prominent Author by Philip K. Dick

November 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

Prominent Author is a great example on the joke theory of short stories. Look to the meaning of character names, listen for the clever turns of phrase (‘he wasn’t just a cog in the machine anymore’) then add in the fun bit of stuff happening with the wife and wife’s girlfriend back at home – Philip K. Dick knew his stuff.

Nick Camm’s accent doesn’t quite fit the story, but his narrative abilities sure do. In fact, now that I think about it, it’s pretty clear to me that Protecting Project Pulp hits more home runs than any other podcast in the District Of Wonders network!

Paul Orban illustration from Prominent Author by Philip K. Dick

Protecting Project PulpProtecting Project Pulp No. 67 – Prominent Author
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Nick Camm
1 |MP3| – Approx. 47 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Protecting Project Pulp
Podcast: November 4, 2013
“It was the dawn of a golden age of transportation. Terran Development was ready to market a fourth dimension ‘vehicle’ which afforded almost instantaneous travel. For instance Henry Ellis commuted 160 miles to work in five steps and a few seconds. Then, one morning, he met some people on the way…” First published in If: Worlds Of Science Fiction, May 1954.

And, here is a |PDF| made from this story’s first publication.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #228 – READALONG: Last And First Men by Olaf Stapledon

September 2, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #228 – Jesse and Jenny talk about the Last And First Men by Olaf Stapledon.

Talked about on today’s show:
the near and far future, not a novel, an imagined planetary history, the scope, Penguin Books, philosophy, the introduction, The Iron Heel by Jack London, a future history, human civilizations, two thousand million years (two billion years), universes => galaxy, man is a small part of the universe, Starmaker by Olaf Stapledon, Doctor Who, 2001: A Space Odyssey, what the plot would look like if there was one, the eighteen periods of man, evolution and construction, it’s set in 1930, is there ever an end to humanity?, Last Men In London by Olaf Stapledon, Last And First Men was popular in its day, Stapledon served in the ambulance service in WWI, plotlessness, period themes, the flying theme, the depletion of fossil fuels, The Mote In God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Venus, Mars, Neptune, the Martians, the Venusians, the genocide on Venus, Luke Burrage (the Science Fiction Book Review Podcast), racism, a Science Fiction mythology, the poetic musical ending, deep time, to the end of the Earth and beyond, Stapledon as an historian, civilizations always fall, there’s no one thing that ends civilizations, humanity as a symphony, the returns to savagery, establishing the pattern, Arthur C. Clarke, The House On The Borderlands by William Hope Hodgson, The Night Lands, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, H.P. Lovecraft and cosmicism, the Wikipedia entry for Last And First Men, Fritz Leiber, Forrest Ackerman, scientificion, matchless poignancy, S. Fowler Wright, Lovecraft’s love of the stars (astronomy), one of the species of man is a monkey, another a rabbit, no jokes but perhaps humour, a cosmic joke, monkeys have made human their slaves, Planet Of The Apes, an ability to hear at the subatomic level, intelligence, a fourteen foot brain supported by ferroconcrete, obsession with gold, obsession with diamonds, pulping people, it’s written like a history textbook or essays, the Patagonia explosion, the upstart volcanoes, Earth Abides by George R. Stewart, The Scarlet Plague by Jack London, chiseling knowledge into granite, Olaf loved coming up with different sexual relationships, the 20 year pregnancy, suicide, euthanasia, an unparalleled imagination, groupthink, telepathy, oversimplification, we must press on, the baboon-like submen, the seal-like Submen, the divergence of man into other ecological niches, the number of ants in New York, ecosystems, nuclear weapons, robots are missing, where is the robot man?, the over-emphasis on fossil fuels as the only source of energy, if you could see us now, post-humans, ultimately a love letter to humanity, not aww but awwww!, Starmaker as a masterpiece, Sirius, uplifting a dog, a fantasy of love and discord, dog existentialism, who am I and where is my bone?, Olaf Stapledon in the PUBLIC DOMAIN, influential vs. famous, a very different read.

Last And First Men by Olaf Stapledon

Olaf Stapledon illustration by Neil Austin

Posted by Jesse Willis

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