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
Filed under: Reviews 

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

The SFFaudio Podcast #117

July 18, 2011 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #117 – Scott, Jesse and Tamahome talk about audiobooks, the recent arrivals and the new releases.

Talked about on today’s show:
We have some genuine Science Fiction!, The Year’s Top Ten Tales Of Science Fiction Vol. 3 edited by Alan Kaster, Damien Broderick, Robert Reed, Steve Rasnic Tem, Ian R. Macleod, Luke Burrage, The Mars Phoenix has Science Fiction (2008), John W. Cambell, The Things by Peter Watts, 8 Miles should be title 12.1 Kilometers, the metric system can’t be sold politically in the U.S.A., florescent lightbulbs are unamerican, Corner Gas, Larry Niven, Harvest Of Stars by Poul Anderson, totalitarianism, Jerry Pournelle, The Boat Of A Million Years by Poul Anderson, immortality, utopia, Blackstone Audio, the French meter stick (is actually made of platinum and iridium not silver), Charles Stross, Free Apocalypse Al, Where are all the Ted Chiang audiobooks?, Steal Across The Sky by , The Astounding, The Amazing, And The Unknown by Paul Malmont, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, L. Ron Hubbard, The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, Lester Dent, Doc Savage, H.P. Lovecraft, remixing pulp era authors with pulp era stories, Edgar Allan Poe, the boring cover of The Astounding, The Amazing, And The Unknown, Shadow On The Sun by Richard Matheson (a western that’s also supernatural horror), I Am Legend, Gatherer Of Clouds by Sean Russell, Vancouver Island, Dragon’s Time by Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey, Brian Herbert, Citadel Of The Lost by Tracy Hickman, is Harriest Klausner a robot?, Phil Gigante, SFSignal.com’s podcast interview with Tracy Hickman, Patrick Hester, Titus Awakes by Maeve Gilmore, Mervyn Peake, Simon Vance’s YouTube videos, Gormenghast (TV series), The Hitch-hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, grotesque, fantasy with no magic and no intelligent species other than humans, “a fantasy of manners”, “a comedy of manners”, metaphors are not spoilers, The Iron Druid Chronicles: Hammered by Kevin Hearne, viking vampires, “someone give that dog a bacon latte”, Very Bad Men by Harry Dolan, Stories Of Your Life And Other Stories by Ted Chiang, Tower Of Babylon, Story Of Your Life, Hell Is The Absence Of God, The Prophecy, Christopher Walken, Viggo Mortensen, Elias Koteas, Combat Hospital (kind of a dramatic remake of MASH), Keanu Reeves, Blair Butler, comics, Northlanders Vol. 5: Metal And Other Stories, non-vampiric vikings, Brian Wood, Blade Vs. The Avengers, Marvel Zombies, Iron Man has a blonde twin brother, The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman, George R.R. Martin, Dust by Joan Frances Turner |READ OUR REVIEW|, Rule 34 by Charles Stross, A Colder War, Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross |READ OUR REVIEW|, Friday by Robert A. Heinlein, interstellar sex, I Will Fear No Evil by Robert A. Heinlein, the meaning of “Rule 34″, “Space Porn – that’s one sexy nebula”, Luke Burrage’s review of Halting State, Choose Your Own Adventure, “turn to page 61 for the acidic death bath”, Infocom, Lesiure Suit Larry, Heaven’s Shadow by David S. Goyer, William Coon, Resume With Monsters by William Browning Spencer, “just added” vs. “new releases” on Audible.com, Steven Gould audiobooks, Vortex by Robert Charles Wilson, iambik audio, Open Your Eyes by Paul Jessup, Flashback by Dan Simmons, a brand new UNABRIDGED release of Neuromancer by William Gibson, Penguin Audio, American Gods by Neil Gaiman (multi-narrator), George Guidall’s reading of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods |READ OUR REVIEW|, American Gods as a TV series, Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman |READ OUR REVIEW|, Odd And The Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman |READ OUR REVIEW| (even though it is too expensive), Deathworld by Harry Harrison is available on LibriVox narrated by Gregg Margarite, The City And The City by China Meiville, Embassytown, Hexed by Alan Steele, A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin, NPR’s On Point podcast interview with George R.R. Martin, Sandkings, Nighflyers, A Song For Lya, Dreamsongs, Roy Dotrice, drones (unmanned aerial vehicles), Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman will be the subject for an upcoming podcast readalong, Upon The Dull Earth by Philip K. Dick will be the next SFFaudio readalong, what contest should we hold to give away The Selected Stories Of Philip K. Dick Volume 1 (and 2)?, rural fantasy, A Good Story Is Hard To Find podcast #009 The Mystery Of Grace by Charles de Lint, The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth.

Astounding, Amazing and Unknown (SFF magazines)

The Astounding, TheAmazing, And The Unknown by Paul Malmont (with photoshopped cover art)

Posted by Jesse Willis

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