Review of Brotherhood of the Wolf by David Farland

December 11, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audiobook - Brotherhood of the Wolf by David FarlandBrotherhood of the Wolf (Runelords, Book 2)
By David Farland; Read by Ray Porter
18 CDs – 22.5 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2009

Themes: / Fantasy / Epic Fantasy / Attributes / Magic / War /

In Hollywood there’s an old saying: The sequel is never as good as the original. Sadly, the same can be said for book 2 in “The Runelords” series.

It’s a dark book about war and destruction. Characters make choices, for good or ill, that change them. In my opinion, the changes are not always for the better.

I frequently found myself putting the iPod down because I didn’t like where the story was going, only to pick it up again later, hoping the ending would be satisfactory. It wasn’t. It left me feeling dissatisfied, depressed and in need of something that would get rid of the distasteful feeling.

The book reminded me a lot of “The Empire Strikes Back” where the movie ends with Han in Carbonite, Luke with an artificial hand and Vader on the loose. It’s a dark ending with some hope, but a lot of trouble for all the main characters. Or the second Back to the Future movie where I didn’t like the story went and I didn’t like what the characters did.

That’s how I feel about Brotherhood of the Wolf.

However, because I loved book 1 so much, and I know what a brilliant writer David Farland is, I’m going to give Book 3 a chance. And hope that, like many a third movie, it will be much better than the second.

This book is not without its virtues. It’s well written. The plot draws the listener from point to point as the story progresses. It is entertaining, in a dark, brooding sort of way. I just don’t happen to like dark stories. I also don’t like books and movies that make me cry. At many points I was afraid this was going to be one of those books. I was grateful it was not.

Posted by Charlene Harmon

Night on Mispec Moor by Larry Niven

November 8, 2012 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

It’s hard to imagine what SFFaudio was reporting on before podcasting started in earnest, around 2005, but we somehow managed pretty well. One such show, which I’ve posted about several times over the years, is Hour25. We don’t report on it much anymore. But to say that Hour25 has podfaded is to get things very wrong – Hour25 had never been podcast and it is still, only just barely, available in MP3 format.

But, Hour25 has had great content, and among the best of it is this recording done for Halloween 2001. I wrote about Night On Mispec Moor by Larry Niven |READ OUR REVIEW| back in 2004. I still like it. It has everything, it’s Military SF, plays out like sword-and-sorcery, technically it’s Science Fiction, but it feels more like fantasy and horror – and it has zombies that don’t suck!

Hour 25Night On Mispec Moor
By Larry Niven; Read by Warren James
Intro |MP3| Part 1 |MP3|, Part 2 |MP3| – [UNABRIDGED]
Provider: Hour25Online.com
Created: October 31, 2001
Tomás Vatch is an “outworld mercenary” who finds himself a lone survivor of his routed army. After fleeing into a moor, his pursuers suddenly stop, they dare not follow him into “Mispec” at night.

And to spice it up all the more, check out these beautiful George Barr illustrations from the first publication in Vertex: The Magazine of Science Fiction, August 1974:

Night On Mispek Moor - illustration by George Barr
Night On Mispek Moor - illustration by George Barr
Night On Mispek Moor - illustration by George Barr

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Sum of All Men by David Farland

October 22, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audiobook - The Sum of All Men by David FarlandThe Sum of All Men: Runelords, Book 1
By David Farland; Read by Ray Porter
17 CDs – 20.4 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2008
Themes: / Fantasy / Epic Fantasy / Attributes / Magic / War /

I’ve read other works by this author, written under a different name, and I knew coming into this one that he was an excellent writer and storyteller. Indeed, I’ve heard him speak at conventions and workshops and have nothing but praise for him as a person and a writer.

That being said, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. Reading the dust cover is not always enough to know if you’ll end up satisfied at the end of the book or if you want to throw it across the room. (Okay, I’ve only thrown ONE book across the room. It was a paperback. I was so displeased with the denouement that I threw it away. I didn’t want to inflict that book upon anyone else.)

So, with a little trepidation I began to listen to the book. Could it live up to my high expectations? Would I be satisfied with the resolution? Would I want to read the next book? The answer was a resounding yes!

The book centers on Prince Gaborn Val Orden, son of Mendellas Draken Orden, king of Mystarria. He travels to Herredon to ask King Jas Laren Sylvarresta of Herredon for the hand of his daughter, Iome Sylvarresta. While en route he learns that Raj Ahten, king of Indhopal, who is also referred to as “The Wolf Lord” plans an attack on Castle Sylvarresta. Raj Ahten has taken over a number of minor kingdoms and is intent of conquering all of Rofehaven, taking endowments from as many people as he can so that he may become “The Sum of All Men,” a man who is invincible and immortal. As such, he wants to live forever and rule the world.

It is up to Gaborn, with the help and support of Iome, the Earth Warden Binnesman, Gaborn’s bodyguard Borenson and as many soldiers as he can gather, to stop Raj Ahten from achieving his goal.

Is the book good? Definitely. The characters are well developed. They have depth and personality. They are flawed. The world is rich in legends, heroes and chronicles of past events.

From time to time there will be an insert of a story from this history. It is a teaching moment, so the reader understands who the person is and why they are mentioned, or why an event is important, but it does so in a way that adds to the richness of the story. It builds on it, making the world live and breathe as much as the characters do.

The magic system is also impressive. Those who have the ability and training for magic can use the power of the elements to create magic. Runes are used to give endowments. A king or lord can take endowments from his subjects. Strength, stamina, wit, brawn, metabolism. In so doing they themselves have greater abilities, but the subject that gives an endowment must be cared for the rest of their life, or the life of their king. Such rulers are called “Runelords.” But the cost of such power is great and the reader gets a very real idea of what it costs the people who give such endowments.

There are few books that take the time to create a world that feels as real as this one does. Farland is so good at it that it feels effortless. He doesn’t beat you over the head with his world. Instead, it simply IS. You learn only what is necessary for the story, but you are left with the belief that there is so much more to the world if you had the time to explore it. He also uses herbs and herb lore to great effect. This is a world of magic, but it is also a world unique to itself.

I highly recommend this book. It’s a rich experience that will leave you both contented and wanting more. Which is a very good way to end the book. The book is not quite perfect, but on a scale of one to ten, I definitely give it a near-ten. Although I honestly don’t know if it could be improved upon.

Get the audiobook, get the book, and experience the magic of David Farland for yourself.

Posted by Charlene Harmon

Review of River Secrets by Shannon Hale

October 18, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audiobook - River Secrets by Shannon HaleRiver Secrets
By Shannon Hale; Read by Mark Allen Holt and the Full Cast Family
10 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Full Cast Audio
Published: 2009
Themes: / Fantasy / War / Kingdoms /

This is the third book in the Bayern series by Shannon Hale. I fell in love with the series when the first book, “The Goose Girl” came out. Each book stands alone, but each also continues the story of the characters in the other books.

This book features Isi and Enna’s friend, Razo. He is selected to join Enna, Finn and a company of Bayern’s Own to travel with the Bayern Ambassador to ensure that the Tiran Assembly votes for peace and not to start another war.

Razo has no idea why he was included, but when he finds a burned body, he knows it is up to him to find out what is going on while keeping the deaths a secret from Tira.

The story is engrossing, entertaining and enchanting. The ending leaves you satisfied and ready to look for the next book. I love Hale’s writing style, her way with words, and I love Full Cast Audio, where every book is unabridged, family-friendly and, as the name states, full cast.

Although this book can be read without the others, I highly recommend starting with “The Goose Girl.” Then read “Enna Burning.” After you finish “River Secrets,” get “Forest born.” All are well worth your time and money. On a scale of one to ten, I give this a nine.

Posted by Charlene Harmon

Tony And The Beetles by Philip K. Dick

October 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

Tony And The Beetles by Philip K. Dick

This 4,712 word story may not be among Philip K. Dick’s best, but it is certainly worth looking at, and hearing!

Tony And The Beetles is a bit unusual too, having an almost juvenile or YA feel to it. Maybe that’s because it’s not nearly as horrific as many of Dick’s fantasy tales – there are some frightening elements, but the general tone is that of an ungroundedness. I see Tony And The Beetles as a kind of historical allegory and I’m not the only one. Phil Chevernet, the narrator who recorded it for LibriVox, wrote “I think [Dick] was commenting on imperialism in the 40s and 50s.” I think he’s right, but I think the comment is somewhat ambiguous, rather depressing, and almost wholly unhopeful. Dick grew up during World War II and little PKD was a very sensitive fellow, kind of like Tony.

Here’s the setup:

Young Tony Rossi has grown up on an alien world. As a child he’s known little else than bubble helmets, pressure suits, and robot pets. His playmates and schoolmates have all been the non-human children of the planet, but around him swirl the forces of history and when news of the ongoing war breaks Tony’s parents don’t seem to hold the same opinions of what it all means.

Tony And The Beetles by Philip K. DickTony And The Beetles
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Phil Chevernet
1 |MP3| – Approx. 34 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: October 16, 2012
A ten-year-old boy grows up fast when history catches up with the human race. First published in Orbit, volume 1 number 2, 1953.

And here’s a |PDF| made from it’s original publication in Orbit.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From The Living Dead by Max Brooks

September 28, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

RANDOM HOUSE AUDIO - The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From The Living Dead by Max BrooksThe Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From The Living Dead
By Max Brooks; Read by Marc Cashman
Approx. 8 Hours 38 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: September 12, 2006
ISBN: 9780739342725
Themes: / Zombies / Humor / Horror / Apocalypse /

The next time a Class 2 zombie outbreak occurs in my neighborhood, I’ll be well-prepared to deal with the shambling corpses of hungry undead now that I’ve read Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From The Living Dead.

The Zombie Survival Guide dispels exaggerated myths and legends of the undead and instead presents the reader with unvarnished “truths” about zombies. You’ll find information on zombies’ physical strength, sight, hearing, and rate of decay, and the pros and cons of various weaponry for battling the undead (everything from medieval maces and claymores, to M-16s and flamethrowers). It describes various scenarios for identifying early signs of localized (Class 1) outbreaks, to full-blown widespread undead infestation (Class 3). You’ll find best practices for battling zombies in urban settings, in harsh desert and swamp environments, even under the sea. The Zombie Survival Guide tells you how to defend your home by stocking up with key food and supplies and moving to your second floor and destroying all staircases (recommend for Class 2), or how to survive on the run as you move to the most remote and therefore safest parts of the planet in a world-wide zombie apocalypse in which mankind is overrun (Class 4). The best vehicle should an outbreak occur? You might not guess it, but it’s a bicycle. On a bike you can easily outrun the slow, slouching pace of zombies, it will never run out of gas, you can carry a bicycle over rough terrain, and you can maneuver a bike through the inevitable traffic jams that accompany a full-on panic. Motorcycles are very good too, though their noise attracts the undead. Boats are also a secure means of travel, says Brooks, but watch your anchor line—zombies walking on the ocean floor can use it to climb up to your boat. “Hundreds” of hapless victims have died this way, Brooks tells us.

The Zombie Survival Guide serves as a perfect gateway to Brooks’ highly recommended World War Z |READ OUR REVIEW|. If for nothing else, and you find Brooks’ post-apocalyptic strategems and survival tactics tedious, I’d recommend this book simply for the highly entertaining “Recorded Outbreaks” section. Here Brooks describes various zombie outbreaks throughout history, from ancient tales recorded in chilling primitive artwork, all the way up through living eyewitness accounts from the early 21st century. These are written in the economical journalism style that Brooks’ employs so effectively in World War Z, lending these “outbreaks” a documentary-style feel, which makes them seem more realistic and terrifying. According to Brooks there have been many zombie outbreaks throughout history—perhaps even in my neighborhood, hence my need to be ready—but these have been largely laughed off by skeptical media, ascribed to outbreaks of disease, localized madness, or industrial pollution, or covered up by governments or the CDC, fearful that public knowledge would result in full-scale panic.

For all its earnestness you have to take The Zombie Survival Guide with a heavy dose of salt. While it’s written in a deadpan style and never descends into farce, and purports to be a “real” guide for complete protection against the walking dead, when you read passages like “If you want to know the true danger of an airborne (parachute) attack against zombies, try dropping a square centimeter of meat on a swarming anthill. Chances are, that meat will never touch the ground. In short, air support is just that—support. People who believe it to be a war-winner have no business planning, orchestrating, or participating in any conflict with the living dead,” you can’t help but laugh (I did laugh out loud, several times). While not as well-written or as compelling as World War Z, for zombie aficionados The Zombie Survival Guide is nevertheless a must-read.

Marc Cashman narrates with a dry, clipped voice that perfectly suits the how-to nature of The Zombie Survival Guide. There’s a touch of William Shatner in his delivery, with dramatic pauses in odd places, but that only adds to the fun.

Posted by Brian Murphy

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