The SFFaudio Podcast #236 – The Hills Of The Dead by Robert E. Howard, read by Paul Boehmer (courtesy of Tantor Media’s The Savage Tales Of Solomon Kane). This is a complete and unabridged reading of the story (60 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, Matthew Sanborn Smith, and Bryan Alexander
Talked about on today’s show:
Second-to-last Solomon Kane story chronologically, “Red Shadows” and “Wings of the Night” close contenders for Solomon Kane stories, the latter featuring harpies from Jason and the Argonauts, history of Solomon’s staff explained in other stories, fetishes (not THAT kind!), joojoo stick, magical weapons, Wandering Star edition illustrated by Gary Gianni, comic book adaptations, vampire-slaying, story uncharacteristically well-plotted including foreshadowing, “plains and hills full of lions” oh my!, lion sleeping habits, “Africa is full of never-explained mysteries” excuses plot holes, prefigures Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, Kate Beckinsale’s Underworld movies, one of few stories to depict ‘nation of vampires’, Kiss of the Vampire (film), Transylvania, homeopathic symbolism, sex sells, ‘Howardian damsel in distress’, voodoo, feminization of the jungle, homoerotic undertones, Howard biography Blood and Thunder by Mark Finn, post-Colonial critique, vampires in fiction oscillate between sexualized and homicidal, Stephen King slams Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight vampires, Nosferatu (relatively unknown at the time of this story’s writing) introduced the idea that sunlight kills vampires, the Devil as source of Kane’s lustful urges, “Howard doesn’t do metaphors very well”, vampire-zombie continuum, Howard as great visual writer, animal characteristics ascribed to Kull and Conan but not Kane, snake imagery (related to serpent in Garden of Eden?), Slave Coast, vultures, nature of the soul, “Rogues in the House” (written in one sitting while Howard had a headache), the dangers of over-interpreting Howard, Howard’s subconscious, early 20th-century magazines preoccupied with race, Cosmpolitan (it was once a literary magazine), race hierarchy, Solomon Kane less racist than Howard himself, racial hierarchy, Berbers, Solomon Kane’s conflicted personality, the New Model Army, Howard’s characters are solitary, Puritans, Kane has a death wish, Kane’s celibacy, significance of Solomon Kane’s name, Ben Jonson satirizes Puritan names (in Bartholomew Fayre), so does Terry Pratchett (in Lords and Ladies, Mormonism, concept of congregation of all believers, English Civil War and its sects, Grendel in Beowulf as descendant of Cain, Sandman comics, Kane is “always on the road”, Matthew Hopkins witchfinder general, wood imagery, we learn what a palaver is, The Dark Tower series, temptation, inquisition, H. P. Lovecraft, cohesion of Howard’s works, history of the English language, George Harrison’s coyright infringement, parallel evolution in fiction, Clark Ashton Smith, Charles Baudelaire, genocide, the importance of a shared reader-author premise, shared cultural values, Hitler, The King in Yellow, Woodrow Wilson was a racist, zombies vs. animals.
Posted by Seth Wilson
She Returns from War (Cora Oglesby #2)
By Lee Collins; Performed by Alison Larkin
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 hours
Themes: / western / fantasy / skin walkers / vampires /
Four years after the horrific events in Leadville, a young visitor from England, Victoria Dawes, sets into motion a series of events that will lead Cora and herself out into the New Mexico desert. They are in pursuit of Anaba, a Navajo witch bent on taking revenge for the atrocities committed against her people.
In this follow-up to The Dead of Winter, Lee Collins gives us a second installment of his “Cora Oglesby” saga. She Returns From War tells the story of Victoria Dawes, an English woman finding her grit in the American West. Lee Collins has improved his writing but not nearly enough to make this tale snap with electricity. Collins does a great job in the early portion of this novel. The wheels don’t completely fall off until midway through chapter three. The first three chapters are quite good. I hope that Collins continues improving and polishing his craft. If he does, I might be able to write a positive review of his work some day. But that day is not today.
Collins is clumsy with the female characters in his charge. Either the women are two-dimensional drunks, classic western prostitutes, or prissy high-society types. He also includes a stereotypical Native American woman character who is a “skin walker” trying to reap revenge on the white man. My issue isn’t with the choice of characters that Collins employs within his storytelling. My problem is that Collins fails to provide his characters with enough depth and substance that his characters deserve. As a result, we encounter a story jammed with cardboard cutouts lacking all sense of meaning.
Alison Larkin is the Narrator. She uses an English accent for the most part since the story is inferred as Victoria’s story. Larkin changes accents when doing American characters and I had a real issue here. While the English accent works quite nicely for the character of Victoria, Larkin butchers all other accents in an over-the-top cartoonish rendition of cowboy-drawl gone bad. If you can look beyond this, Larkin isn’t a half bad reader, though she would do well to back down the level of dramatic inflection. There is a musical score that plays at the beginning and end of each audio CD. Every time I heard this, I kept thinking it sounded like a second-rate retread of the Titanic soundtrack with a not so haunting female vocalist in the background lamenting some long lost love. If any of you ever find yourself in the position of choosing music to go in these spots in an audio production, please remember that less is truly more. All that is needed is a simple single instrument that reflects the tone of the story where it is broken by the physical limits of the CD.
Aside from skin walkers and vampires, there’s not much new in the way of dark things that need to be killed. We do encounter mysterious wolf-like things at the very beginning but these are only with us for a short while.
If you are contemplating giving Lee Collins a go, start here and see how you like his style. I think Collins is at his best in the first three chapters. If you like this story, then maybe take a gander at his first try The Dead of Winter… Though if’in it was up tuh me, I’d stop dead-in-my-tracks here. It’s all downhill beyond this point.
Posted by Casey Hampton.
Chicks Kick Butt
Edited by Rachel Caine and Kerrie L. Hughes
Performed by Joyce Bean, Jennifer VanDyck, Justine Eyre, Khristine Hvam, Lauren Fortgang, Nicola Barber, Dina Pearlman, Piper Goodeve, Aimee Castle, Elizabeth Livingston, Christina Delaine, and Kim Mai Guest
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
13 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Themes: / urban fantasy / vampires / werewolves / demons / exorcisms / short stories /
Today’s women don’t stand around waiting for a hero. These days, women are quite capable of solving their own problems and slaying their own dragons (or demons, as the case may be). In this all-new anthology, Kerrie L. Hughes and New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine have collected original stories from thirteen of today’s most exciting urban fantasy and paranormal authors. Each story features a strong heroine who kicks butt and takes names in a dangerous world and makes that world a better place for everyone in it — except the bad guys, of course. And if she finds a bit of romance along the way, well, a little heat warms the heart and sharpens the mind . . . just as long as the man can keep up.
Chicks Kick Butt is an anthology of stories with strong, driven female protagonists written by women. I am pretty sure that I’ve never read anything by the majority of the authors, and it was the concept that made me pick it. Most of the stories involved characters or worlds from other, full-length novels. Please note there are spoilers in the individual reviews for the stories, so let me just say if you’re looking for a light entertaining read, I may not recommend this anthology. It was uneven in terms of writing quality overall, although the stories by Rachel Vincent and Lilith Saintcrow were quite good. I will be honest, some of the writing was so bad I couldn’t finish listening, and so the review is only for the first part of the story. The audio narration was similarly off, with some of the narrators’s over-the-top characterization taking me out of the story. There was a neutral male voice actor who gave each story’s relevant info. While the audiobook came on disks, I transferred it to digital for ease of listening. So it is not a flaw, but on each end track the audio would fade into music, there would be the instruction to switch disks, and then the last few sentences would be repeated before moving on.
On to the individual stories:
Shiny by Rachel Caine – *** Not really my thing, but pretty good. I am unfamiliar with this author’s other work, but she wove the explanations in really well. The story was really character driven over the sunny backdrop of Florida, and was definitely entertaining, with diamond bikinis, fast cars, and handsome men. I wouldn’t seek out her work, but I’d listen if she was included in another anthology. The car-obsessed main character, Joanne, has a great voice.
In Vino Veritas by Karen Chance – * So bad I had to stop listening. The narrator was pretty neutral, but the writing was just bad. Admittedly, I’m pretty picky with vampire stories, but I did try to give it a chance even after they came out with the ‘dhampire’ bit. I enjoy well-done daywalker stories. This just wasn’t one of them.
Hunt by Rachel Vincent – **** Powerful, slightly triggery with flashbacks to a sexual assault, threatened sexual assault, and violence. Werecat Abby goes on vacation with some friends only to have their camp invaded by several violent men. It is a story about finding the strength within oneself, and the narrator was a perfect match to the story. She relayed Abby’s emotional reaction to the events well without distracting from the story.
Monsters by Lilith Saintcrow – **** Characters, concept, narration, all of it was great. Perfect match between the tone of the narrator and the luridly poetic imagery. This story threw together a vampire and werewolf in a quest for revenge, but the depiction of both felt fresh, more visceral than most modern vampire stories. I would definitely read more by this author.
Vampires Prefer Blondes by P N Elrod -*** Surprised how much I liked it. Narrator really sold it, effortlessly falling into the main character and the verbal ticks of the noir novel. I had my doubts for the first track or two, but the story drew me in. It had a very solid universe that didn’t need much explanation, plus the realistic reactions of the characters was a refreshing change.
Ninth Tenths of the Law by Jenna Black – ** I was getting an Exorcist vibe from this (which is good, especially since it was about exorcism), but the ending was a bit weak. The build up was great, with a runaway rebellious teenage possibly possessed by a demon, an over-bearing religious fanatic, and a jaded protagonist, but then the world-building kicked in and overshadowed a really interesting story. I understand that Morgan having a demon inside her is from a series of novels, but here it felt like a cheap trick to resolve the plot. The narrator was great, completely hidden by the story.
Double Dead by Cheyenne McCray – ** I had to look this one up to see which one it was, and I still can’t really remember anything about it.
A Rose by Any Other Name Would Still be Red by Elizabeth A Vaughn – ** I really wanted to like this. It was probably the most violent of the stories, and the violence was described rather well. I couldn’t get a good handle on the main character or world. It felt like something that should be developed into a longer format.
Superman by Jeanne C Stein – * I couldn’t get into this at all. I listened to the whole thing, but found my mind wandering. Neither the narrator’s delivery nor the story were strong enough to hold my interest.
Monster Mash by Carole Nelson Douglas – **** Although I’m sure I missed a few references, I enjoyed this story quite a bit. There’s a lot to keep up with as Delilah tries to figure out who or what is haunting a supernatural casino, but it’s entertaining even if you’re unfamiliar with this universe. Narrator did an excellent job, with just enough characterization to make it fun.
Wanted Dead or Alive by L A Banks – *** Interesting (yes, I know, damning with faint praise). It was a little hard to follow, as the beginning was an infodump on the particulars of vampires in this universe, but I would give the author another shot with something longer. The characters were interesting, there was just a lot of explaining going on.
Mist by Susan Krinard – * I couldn’t finish this, and I LOVE Norse mythology. It may have been the combination of narrator and text. The voice actor droned a little while I was trying to parse which parts of the mythology they were using, and together it just lost my interest. I listened through to the fight scene in the park, but I figured I had enough when even a fight between a valkyrie and a giant couldn’t keep my attention.
Beyond the Pale by Nancy Holder – NR. At first the story was amazing, although the changeling bit made me snort out loud in surprise (Hitler and Manson as changelings instead of humans) but I let that part go. Then it got to the bit where faeries actually stole babies and the Nazis were blamed for it, and no. Just no. It kept nibbling at my mind while I was listening to what seemed to be a very well written story, so it would appear this isn’t the story for me.
Posted by Sarah R.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove
By Karen Russell; Read by Multiple (see list below)
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 12 February 2013
[UNABRIDGED] 9 hours, 15 minutes
Themes: / short stories / vampires / veterans / farmers / children / reincarnation / silkworms /
Sample of title story: | MP3 |
In the collection’s marvelous title story, two aging vampires in a sun-drenched Italian lemon grove find their hundred-year marriage tested when one of them develops a fear of flying. In “The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979,” a dejected teenager discovers that the universe is communicating with him through talismanic objects left in a seagull’s nest. “Proving Up” and “The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis”–stories of children left to fend for themselves in dire predicaments–find Russell veering into more sinister territory, and ultimately crossing the line into full-scale horror. In “The New Veterans,” a massage therapist working with a tattooed war veteran discovers she has the power to heal by manipulating the images on his body. In all, these wondrous new pieces display a young writer of superlative originality and invention coming into the full range and scale of her powers.
I had been looking forward to this book coming out, because I loved Karen Russell’s first book of short stories, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. She is also the author of the much-acclaimed Swamplandia! which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. These stories did not disappoint! I was curious to see if there would be more set in Florida, but these span from Italy to New Jersey, from the plains to Antarctica. And just as I would have expected, the stories are at times startling, amusing, and sad. I will just say a few words about each, but this is a must-read.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove – two ancient vampires try to satiate their desires by eating lemons
Reeling for the Empire – human silkworms, vivid and terrifying.
The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979 – maybe the seagulls are the only ones really paying attention
Proving Up – starts as a struggling farm family story, ends in a … i can’t even…. *shiver*
The Barn at the End of Our Term – dead presidents alive in horses’ bodies
(actual presidents, not the band)… this one made me laugh more than any of the others.
Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules of Antarctic Tailgating – Sometimes you’re the whale, but you’re probably usually the krill.
The New Veterans – PTSD, massage, tattoos, and what is healing, exactly?
The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis – I couldn’t decide what I thought of this one. It is either about bullying or children who can turn into other things. Maybe both. Maybe neither.
The audio version is great, because each story has its own reader, really allowing for the differences in voice and feeling.
List of readers:
Vampires in the Lemon Grove read by Arthur Morey
Reeling for the Empire read by Joy Osmanski
The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979 read by Kaleo Griffith
Proving Up read by Jesse Bernstein (his accent is perfect for this story!)
The Barn at the End of Our Term read by Mark Bramhall
Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules of Antarctic Tailgating read by Michael Bybee
The New Veterans read by Romy Rosemont
The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis read by Robbie Daymond
Posted by Jenny Colvin
Starring Vincent Price!
[via Movies For The Blind]
Posted by Jesse Willis
Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1)
By Melissa F. Olson; Performed by Amy McFadden
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Release Date: 2012
Publisher summary: A woman with the ability to counteract magic is in a race against time–and the supernatural underworld–to catch a killer before another body drops.
Scarlett Bernard knows about personal space: step within ten feet of her, and any supernatural spells or demonic forces are instantly defused–vampires and werewolves become human again, and witches can’t get out so much as a “hocus pocus.” This special skill makes her a null and very valuable to Los Angeles’s three most powerful magical communities, who utilize her ability to scrub crime scenes clean of all traces of the paranormal to keep humanity, and the LAPD, in the dark.
But one night Scarlett’s late arrival to a grisly murder scene reveals her agenda and ends with LAPD’s Jesse Cruz tracking her down to strike a deal: he’ll keep quiet about the undead underworld if she helps solve the case. Their pact doesn’t sit well with Dash, the city’s chief bloodsucker, who fears his whole vampire empire is at stake. And when clues start to point to Scarlett, it’ll take more than her unique powers to catch the real killer and clear her name.
I snagged this audiobook to post about from the stack of urban fantasy because it was an author I had not heard of, the first of a series, and not previously published on Audible! Reviews I’ve seen so far are complimentary on the main character, and the complexity of the story.
Coincidentally, we are on the hunt for 1-2 paranormal romance or urban fantasy audiobook reviewers. If this kind of book is your kind of thing, please contact Jenny on the about page!
Posted by Jenny Colvin