Review of Dangerous Women

October 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Dangerous Women Dangerous Women: Stories
Edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
Narrated by Scott Brick, Jonathan Frakes, Janis Ian, Stana Katic, Lee Meriwether, Emily Rankin, Harriet Walter, Jake Weber
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 3 December 2013[UNABRIDGED] – 32 hours, 49 minutes
Listen to an excerpt: | MP3 |

Themes: / short stories / fantasy / women /

Publisher summary:

All new and original to this volume, the 21 stories in Dangerous Women include work by twelve New York Times bestsellers, and seven stories set in the authors’ bestselling continuities—including a new “Outlander” story by Diana Gabaldon, a  tale of Harry Dresden’s world by Jim Butcher, a story from Lev Grossman set in the world of The Magicians, and a 35,000-word novella by George R. R. Martin about the Dance of the Dragons, the vast civil war that tore Westeros apart nearly two centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones.

Also included are original stories of dangerous women–heroines and villains alike–by Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, Sherilynn Kenyon, Lawrence Block, Carrie Vaughn,  S. M. Stirling, Sharon Kay Penman, and many others.
 
Writes Gardner Dozois in his Introduction, “Here you’ll find no hapless victims who stand by whimpering in dread while the male hero fights the monster or clashes swords with the villain, and if you want to tie these women to the railroad tracks, you’ll find you have a real fight on your hands.  Instead, you will find sword-wielding women warriors, intrepid women fighter pilots and far-ranging spacewomen, deadly female serial killers, formidable female superheroes, sly and seductive femmes fatale, female wizards, hard-living Bad Girls, female bandits and rebels, embattled survivors in Post-Apocalyptic futures, female Private Investigators, stern female hanging judges, haughty queens who rule nations and whose jealousies and ambitions send thousands to grisly deaths, daring dragonriders, and many more.”

Stories and Narrators (in order of appearance):
“Some Desperado” by Joe Abercrombie; Read by Stana Katic
“My Heart Is Either Broken” by Megan Abbott; Read by Jake Weber
“Nora’s Song” by Cecelia Holland; Read by Harriet Walter
“The Hands That Are Not There” by Melinda Snodgrass; Read by Jonathan Frakes
“Bombshells” by Jim Butcher; Read by Emily Rankin
“Raisa Stepanova” by Carrie Vaughn; Read by Inna Korobkina
“Wrestling Jesus” by Joe R. Lansdale; Read by Scott Brick
“Neighbors” by Megan Lindholm; Read by Lee Meriwether
“I Know How to Pick ’Em” by Lawrence Block; Read by Jake Weber
“Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell” by Brandon Sanderson; Read by Claudia Black
“A Queen in Exile” by Sharon Kay Penman; Read by Harriet Walter
“The Girl in the Mirror” by Lev Grossman; Read by Sophie Turner
“Second Arabesque, Very Slowly” by Nancy Kress; Read by Janis Ian
“City Lazarus” by Diana Rowland; Read by Scott Brick
“Virgins” by Diana Gabaldon; Read by Allan Scott-Douglas
“Pronouncing Doom” by S.M. Stirling; Read by Stana Katic
“Name the Beast” by Sam Sykes; Read by Claudia Black
“Caregivers” by Pat Cadigan; Read by Janis Ian
“Lies My Mother Told Me” by Caroline Spector; Read by Maggi-Meg Reed
“Hell Hath No Fury” by Sherilynn Kenyon; Read by Jenna Lamia
“The Princess and the Queen” by George R. R. Martin; Read by Iain Glen

It took me a really long time to make it through this book, even with skipping stories, and that was a big sign that it wasn’t working for me. I love and read a lot of anthologies, and Dangerous Women was odd in that it only paid lip service to the theme. Most of these stories had nothing to do with women, dangerous or otherwise, instead focusing on men talking about women. Overall, while I was disappointed in this anthology, and would not recommend it, here are my spoiler thoughts on some of the best and worst individual stories (scroll to the end for a link to more!):

“The Hands That Are Not There” by Melinda Snodgrass
Jonathan Frakes from Star Trek: the Next Generation is the narrator!!! Fortune 500? Strip club? OK, I’m missing the dangerous women portion of this story at the beginning, and am a little confused overall. The main character doesn’t seem to have a great opinion of women in general. Suppose that’s not surprising considering this takes place during a bachelor party. “Sassy little buttocks”? I giggled when he shouted “blackout’. Genetic manipulation? What am I listening to?

Holy. Hell.

Aside from the novelty of the narrator, this was just bad. The characterization of women left a bad taste in my mouth. The prose was an unfortunate shade of purple. The plot twist was silly. So. Bad.

“Bombshells” by Jim Butcher – A Harry Dresden story
I’ve never read any of the Dresden books, although I’m vaguely familiar with the story, and this was a sorely needed palette cleanser after the last story. Except for the leg-shaving bit. Wut? That came across as trying a bit too hard. Bit more telling than showing than is to my taste. And hearing the phrase ‘soul gaze’ spoken out loud just pointed out how silly it is. Holy infodump on how magic works, but overall both the narrator and writing was A+.

“Raisa Stepanova” by Carrie Vaughn
Eeeeeee! Night witches! I love female pilots!

The writing is concise and easy to follow, but full of effective details that really conveyed the feeling of a fire fight. The plot was just heartbreaking. And a lovely relationship between siblings is the focus, rather than a romantic one. Such a nice change! This was an excellent portrayal of female non-competitive friendship. So good. One of the highlights of the anthology.

Narrator had a distinctive, lovely voice.

“I Know How to Pick ’Em” by Lawrence Block
Noir up the wazoo! This was a man’s man kind of a story, I guess. Wow. I had to skip this after he started fantasizing about beating the woman he was with. He had so much hate for women. I felt a little sick just listening.

Narrator has great, gritty voice.

“Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell” by Brandon Sanderson
This was a great story. Silence was amazing, and the world had just enough detail for you to believe and fill in the rest of the blanks. Her background as a bounty hunter was inventive, and I loved seeing the people people who crossed her get their eventual comeuppance.

Narrator had just enough weariness in her voice to be pleasing and appropriate to the story.

“The Girl in the Mirror” by Lev Grossman – A Magicians story
Fabulous characterization of mischievous girls at a magical school. Their talk is real, and the details are well delineated. Think Harry Potter but darker and meaner. Adorable short story. Just lovely.

As an added bonus, Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark on Games of Thrones, was the narrator. She hit the perfect tone, and I would definitely listen to her narration again.

“Second Arabesque, Very Slowly” by Nancy Kress
This was a very quiet, intense, and bleak story. The women are essentially kept for breeding in a post-apocalyptic setting, but during a young girl’s ‘budding’ ceremony, one woman voices her desire to be more. The narrator is the nurse, in charge of the health of the other women. There’s an undertone of packs and the urban forest in this story, like I was waiting for them to turn into werewolves. Women have dressed codes to avoid tempting men, but are somewhat in charge of deciding who they have sex with. The group finds a TV and get it to work. They watch a ballet. Now one of the beta males wants to learn how to dance to entertain the pack. They find a moment of beauty, but lose it just as quickly.

The narrator has an understated style that worked really well for this.

“Pronouncing Doom” by S.M. Stirling – An Emberverse story
This was the most unpleasant part of this whole experience.

At first I was interested, as there was a main character traveling with a baby and some practical discussion of how life with children after the apocalypse works. There were disabled characters, and the women seemed to have some autonomy in the society.

However, the story then turned into a rape trial. The victim recounts escalating abuse from one man, and how the other women blamed her for his actions. Then she describes his violent sexual assault of her, and I turned it off. I had no motivation to finish this story.

The narrator was very pleasant, and her deadpan accounting of the assault was chilling.

“Caretakers” by Pat Cadigan
It starts out with an innocent question about female serial killers. These two sisters live together and while one is obsessed with Red Dawn (Go Wolverines!) the other loves to watch shows about serial killers. There was a lot of realistic characterization driving the story, and rising tension as you begin to wonder exactly how much the sister likes serial killers.

Narrator did a fantastic job, fading back to let the story stand on its strengths.

“Lies My Mother Told Me” by Caroline Spector – A Wild Cards story
I felt a little behind by the abrupt entrance of the first scene, but loved the discussion of prettiness in relation to society. Parades and zombies and consumerism. Mothers and daughters and self-esteem. Fat and bubbles as defense. The villain was such a dick, and such a stereotype of gamer dudes. Overall amazing!

Fantastic narrator.

“The Princess and the Queen” by George R.R. Martin – A Song of Ice and Fire story
Finally. this is the whole reason I was interested in the first place. I’ve read a couple of the ASOIAF books, so I was interested in what Martin would do with two super-powerful women. Not much, it turns out.

Sooooo – everyone in Westeros has always been terrible and power-hungry? OK then. First Night rites? Really? Ahhhh I am so bored. Never has anything with dragons in it bored me as much as this has. It’s about queens, yes, but it’s still the men who do almost everything.

Good narrator, though.

Sarah reviewed each and every story, which you can see on her GoodReads review.

Posted by Sarah R.

Review of Dead Man’s Hand edited by John Joseph Adams

July 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Dead Man's HandDead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird WestEdited by John Joseph Adams, by various (see table of contents below)
Read by Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 13 May 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 15 hours, 59 minutes

Themes: / weird / western / short stories / dirigibles / dinosaurs / demons / clockworks /

Publisher summary:

The weird, wild west – an American frontier populated by gunslingers, rattlesnakes, outlaws, zombies, aliens, time travelers, and steampunk! Twenty-three of science fiction and fantasy’s hottest and most popular authors create all-new tales, written exclusively for this anthology. Aliens and monsters, magic and science are introduced to the old west, with explosive results.

Table of contents:

Introduction by John Joseph Adams
The Red-Headed Dead by Joe R Lansdale
The Old Slow Man and His Gold Gun From Space by Ben H Winters
Hellfire on the High Frontier by David Farland
The Hell-Bound Stagecoach by Mike Resnick
Stingers and Strangers by Seanan McGuire
Bookkeeper, Narrator, Gunslinger by CharlesYu
Holy Jingle by Alan Dean Foster
The Man With No Heart by Beth Revis
Wrecking Party by Alastair Reynolds
Hell from the East by Hugh Howey
Second Hand by Rajan Khanna
Alvin and the Apple Tree by Orson Scott Card
Madam Damnable’s Sewing Circle by Elizabeth Bear
Strong Medicine by Tad Williams
Red Dreams by Jonathan Maberry
Bamboozled by Kelley Armstrong
Sundown by Tobias S Buckell
La Madre Del Oro by Jeffrey Ford
What I Assume You Shall Assume by Ken Liu
The Devil’s Jack by Laura Anne Gilman
The Golden Age by Walter Jon Williams
Neversleeps by Fred Van Lente
Dead Man’s Hand by Christie Yant

I enjoyed this collection of odd tales from the weird west. It may not have knocked my boots off, but I felt them tugged from time to time. And really, what more can we ask from an anthology.

Stuffed with clockworks, vampires, dinosaurs, and aliens, John Joseph Adams (editor) has wrangled some fun stories. Each author strikes a unique set of harmonics on the scale of voice and tone, and yet the individuality of fellow contributors isn’t lost, but rather merged into a larger, primarily singular melody suiting this particular subgenre

My top five IOP (In Order of Printing):
* “The Hell-Bound Stagecoach” by Mike Resnick
* “Bookkeeper, Narrator, Gunslinger” by Charles Yu
* “Second Hand” by Rajan Khanna
* “Red Dreams” by Jonathan Maberry
* “Dead Man’s Hand” by Christie Yant
* And honorable mention goes to the introduction. John Joseph Adams sets the table for the reader, establishing a foothold on the subgenre through brief and accessible historical context.

The audiobook consists of dueling narrators. Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross take turns, with Gigante reading the majority. And while Ross has a rich and pleasing voice, she lathers on too much thick Southern-sweet for the ear to wholly appreciate.

All in all, a fun anthology.
I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys tales set in the Ole West with a twist of odd fringed with funny.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

Review of She Returns from War by Lee Collins

July 9, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

She Returns from War by Lee CollinsShe 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 /

Publisher summary:

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.

Review of Two for Texas by James Lee Burke

February 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 
SFFaudio Review

Two for Texas by James Lee BurkeTwo for Texas
By James Lee Burke; Read by Will Patton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (link includes an audio sample)
ISBN: 144235478X
Published: January 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 5 discs

Themes: / Western / Alamo / Prison Break /

 

Publisher Summary:

Son Holland arrived in the Louisiana penal camp determined not to spend the rest of his days suffering in a chain gang—but he didn’t imagine for one minute that in order to escape he would need to kill a man. Terrified for his life, he flees the state across the river to Texas, taking with him a beautiful Indian squaw and a fellow prisoner. And as they make their way towards General Houston’s infamous Texas Rangers they find themselves in the midst of the final tragic battle for the Alamo. 

Two for Texas is one of James Lee Burke’s earlier works prior to him hitting his stride with the Robicheaux series of novels in the late 80s, which have through carried him to present day. In addition to these novels, two other Burke characters, cousins Hackberry Holland and Billy Bob Holland, have both had multiple books focusing on them – most recently the Hackberry Holland novel Feast Day of Fools released in 2011.

Two for Texas, first published in 1989, tells the story of the Holland’s great-grandfather Son and his escape into Texas from a Louisiana penal camp along with another hardened convict and their participation in a series of events leading to the battle for the Alamo. Actor Will Patton does a superb job handling the narration on this audiobook, easily tackling the various dialects of the many characters of diverse backgrounds in this story. Will Patton is no stranger of the work of James Lee Burke having recorded a dozen or more previous audiobooks of the author’s works. The combination works great and I am looking forward to checking out some of the others in the near future.

Review by Dan VK.

Recent Arrivals: Blackstone Audio, Brilliance Audio

October 20, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recent Arrivals 

SFFaudio Recent Arrivals

The Boat Of A Million Years by Poul Anderson
Genesis by Poul Anderson
Shadow On The Sun by Richard Matheson
Other Kingdoms by Richard Matheson
Farnham’s Freehold by Robert A. Heinlein
The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted by Harry Harrison
The Stainless Steel Rat For President by Harry Harrison
The Stainless Steel Rat Sings The Blues by Harry Harrison
The Stainless Steel Rat Goes To Hell by Harry Harrison
The Stainless Steel Rat Joins The Circus by Harry Harrison
Count Zero by William Gibson

Posted by Jesse Willis

Recent Arrivals/Commentary: Blackstone Audio – Anderson, Powers, Matheson, Kress and Heinlein

August 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commentary, Recent Arrivals 

SFFaudio Recent Arrivals

Blackstone AudiobooksWe all know that old idiom – “don’t judge a book by its cover” – we all know it is a metaphor, that it isn’t supposed to be literal. In fact, to take it literally is to actually misunderstand the point of it.

But books, the literary things that they are, ARE of course pre-judged based on their covers. We decide whether we want to buy, borrow or steal them, rightly or wrongly, because of their covers. Here’s a great set of covers. I judge these covers as actually looking like really good reads based on their covers. The author names being clearly legible help me, the titles and font being legible and clever help me, but it is the images that are the most visceral component of helping me decide which book is to be picked up, and which is to be ignored.

Take this one. This is the kind of cover that makes you say: “That is fucking cool! Lemme see it for a second.” Then you gaze at it for a while, flip it over, read the back and buy it.

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - Harvest Of Stars by Poul AndersonHarvest Of Stars
By Poul Anderson; Read by Tom Weiner
15 CDs – Approx. 17.9 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: August 1, 2011
ISBN: 9781441788986
Earth lies crushed in the grip of totalitarianism. To save her planet, Kyra Davis is sent on a mission to liberate the last bastion of freedom and to rescue its legendary leader. Her bold adventure will sweep her from Earth’s rebel enclaves to the decadent court of an exotic lunar colony.

I like the cover on this one too. Its creepy and ethereal. The blood and the textual shadow make it look like a ghost or vampire story. Without actually telling me the story it still gives me a real sense of what the book might be like (whether that’s accurate or not). This is an affective cover.

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - The Stress Of Her Regard by Tim PowersThe Stress Of Her Regard
By Tim Powers; Read by Simon Vance
14 CDs – Approx. 16.7 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: May 1, 2011
ISBN: 9781441757180
When Michael Crawford discovers his bride brutally murdered in their wedding bed, he is forced to flee not only to prove his innocence but to avoid the deadly embrace of a vampire who has claimed him as her true bridegroom. Joining forces with Byron, Keats, and Shelley in a desperate journey that crisscrosses Europe, Crawford desperately seeks his freedom from this vengeful lover who haunts his dreams and will not rest until she destroys all that he cherishes. Told in the guise of a secret history, this tale of passion and terror brilliantly evokes the nineteenth century. The chilling horror and adventure blend to create a riveting romantic fantasy.

Image and color and font work much better than color and font alone. We get the “shadow on the sun” of the title, along with an actual shadow on the sun (which is maybe a raven or a hawk). I’m not much for abstract, but the boughs in a fiery orange could be fire or leaves or both. It’s much better than just color and font. This cover is both striking and mysterious.

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - Shadow On The Sun by Richard MathesonShadow On The Sun
By Richard Matheson; Read by Mark Bramhall
5 CDs – Approx. 5.6 Hours
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: July 1, 2011
ISBN: 9781441739957
Southwest Arizona, a century ago — An uneasy truce exists between the remote frontier community of Picture City and the neighboring Apaches. That delicate peace is shredded when the bodies of two white men are found hideously mutilated. The angry townspeople are certain the “savages” have broken the treaty, but Billjohn Finley, the local Indian agent, fears that darker, more unholy forces may be at work. There’s a tall, dark stranger in town, who rode in wearing the dead men’s clothes. A stranger who may not be entirely human.

In this case the image is actually a visual allusion to the cover of The Great Gatsby (and other covers). The foreground framing invites us in, as through a doorway, to go down into the valley where lies that city, a mesa metropolis – and all the while the stars above are watching. The only criticism I have here is that while the font is good there is a repeat on the “E” (and the “S”) – that’s slightly distracting.

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - Steal Across The Sky by Nancy KressSteal Across The Sky
By Nancy Kress; Read by Kate Reading
9 CDs – Approx. 10.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: July 1, 2011
ISBN: 9781441792402
The aliens appeared one day, built a base on the moon, and put an ad on the Internet: “We are an alien race you may call the Atoners. Ten thousand years ago we wronged humanity profoundly. We cannot undo what has been done, but we wish humanity to understand it. Therefore we request twenty-one volunteers to visit seven planets to Witness for us. We will convey each volunteer there and back in complete safety. Volunteers must speak English. Send requests for electronic applications to witness@atoners.com.” At first, everyone thought it was a joke. But it wasn’t. This is the story of three of those volunteers and what they found on Kular A and Kular B.

This one feels like it was made quickly (by a skilled artist) mostly out of stock images. The pocket-watch and the radioactive hazard trefoil give you a couple of tips as to the plot (time travel and nuclear war), but there’s also the Sam Browne belt equipped figure (with double braces) walking into what looks like an African Savannah – it all makes you want to open it up and see where that dude is going.

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - Farnham's Freehold by Robert A. HeinleinFarnham’s Freehold
By Robert A. Heinlein; Read by Tom Weiner
8 CDs – Approx. 9.3 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: June 5, 2011
ISBN: 9781441791702
Hugh Farnham is a practical, self-made man, and when he sees the clouds of nuclear war gathering, he builds a bomb shelter under his house, hoping for peace and preparing for war. But when the apocalypse comes, something happens that he did not expect. A thermonuclear blast tears apart the fabric of time and hurls his shelter into a world with no sign of other human beings. Farnham and his family have barely settled down to the backbreaking business of low-tech survival when they find that they are not alone after all. The same nuclear war that catapaulted Farnham two thousand years into the future has destroyed all civilization in the northern hemisphere, leaving Africans as the dominant surviving people. In the new world order, Farnham and his family, being members of the race that nearly destroyed the world, are fit only to be slaves. After surviving a nuclear war, Farnham has no intention of being anyone’s slave, but the tyrannical power of the Chosen race reaches throughout the world. Even if he manages to escape, where can he run to?

Posted by Jesse Willis

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