Review of The Greatest Science Fiction Stories Of The 20th Century

August 25, 2008 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - The Greatest Science Fiction Stories Of The 20th CenturyThe Greatest Science Fiction Stories Of The 20th Century
By various; Read by various
4 Cassettes – 6 Hours [Unabridged]
Publisher: Dove Audio
Published: 1998
ISBN: 0787116807
Themes: / Science Fiction / Magical Realism / Aliens / Time Travel / Parallel Worlds / Space Travel / Mutation / Nuclear Winter /

What would a long time SF fan consider a collection called The Greatest Science Fiction Stories Of The 20th Century when none of the stories would make his top ten list, and some aren’t even SF? In this case, I consider it a very good collection of stories. If anything, this seems a collection of well-read and written, but randomly chosen, speculative fiction stories.

Clearly intended to present a wide variety of “Science Fiction,” this audio-anthology has neither theme nor consistency but it doesn’t need them. The stories, with only two exceptions, are quite entertaining. They are all extremely well read, my quibble with a poor attempt at an accent notwithstanding, ranging from Harlan Ellison’s wonderfully passionate reading of his story to Nana Visitor’s aesthetically perfect interpretation of “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.”

Each story is briefly commented on below.

“Jeffty Is Five”
By Harlan Ellison; Read by Harlan Ellison
Reality is distorted around a boy who doesn’t age. This is Magical Realism, not SF, but an amazing story nonetheless. Ellison’s response to the bitter cynicism of modernity will tear at the core of your soul unless A) you’re very young or B) you don’t have a soul. The best story in the collection.

“Twilight”
By John W. Campbell; Read by Richard McGonagle
A good early SF story but not quite great. It feels a bit to much like Wells’ The Time Machine, but it entertaining enough. A retelling of a time traveler’s visit to the twilight of humanity.

“The Ones Who Walk Away Fom Omelas”
By Ursula K. Le Guin; Read by Nana Visitor
Virtually everyone knows this Fantasy, again not SF, story. It has all the strengths and weakness of Le Guin’s writing, amazing authorial voice and great storytelling, but a strong tendency to be overly didactic to the point of sanctimoniousness. Still as with most of her stories, the strengths far outweigh the weaknesses.

“Bears Discover Fire”
By Terry Bisson; Read by Arte Johnson
Bears start using fire in an otherwise normal Kentucky. This Magical Realism, not an SF. This story was the only one that bored me. It also had my only, relatively minor, reading complaint. The reader’s Kentucky accent is a bit off and sounds a bit condescending.

“The Crystal Spheres”
By David Brin; Read by Alexander Siddig
A very interesting, though highly implausible, story about a universe in which all stars are encircled by invisible, impenetrable, crystal spheres.

“That Only a Mother”
By Judith Merril; Read by Terry Farrell
Due to radiation poisoning, a baby is born mentally gifted but physically impaired. A disturbing, unpleasant story that is only marginally SF.

“Allamagoosa”
By Eric Frank Russell; Read by James A. Watson
Wonderful over-the-top humor. This story of a spaceship facing an inspection while missing an offog, an item no one knows what is, is a gem.

“Tangents”
By Greg Bear; Read by Melissa Manchester.
A boy can see into the the fourth physical dimension and a scientist helps him play music for the beings there. Interesting enough, but forgettable.

“The Nine Billion Names of God”
By Arthur C. Clarke; Read by Alexander Siddig
Tibetan monks have a computer print out all the names possible names of God with the intent of fulfilling the purpose of creation. Good enough but not even Clarke’s best short story.

“Huddling Place”
By Clifford D. Simak; Read by David Ackroyd
In a future with robots and space travel agoraphobia has become a serious threat. This story would have been just acceptable filler except for the fact that in this story from 1944, Simak predicts the internet, though he describes it in terms of a television with knobs.

“Why I Left Harry’s All-Night Diner”
By Lawrence Watt Evans; Read by Wil Wheaton
A fun, interesting take on the the idea of parallel universes. Certainly an enjoyable story.

“Fermi And Frost”
By Frederik Pohl; Read by Denise Crosby
Icelanders face the prospects of nuclear winter in the post-apocalyptic tale. A good downbeat story to balance some of the lighthearted stories.

Conclusion: This is a very good anthology. It definitely isn’t a collection of the best stories, but it may be the best collection of stories available. Highly recommended.

I started reviewing this collection on the expectation that it was out of print and I would have to recommend Amazon or eBay as a source of a used cassette copy. So imagine my surprise when a mere day after finishing it, I hear an Audible.com ad for it on Pseudopod. So, it is easily available for those interested.

Posted by David Tackett

Review of The Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton

August 9, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - The Dreaming Void by Peter F. HamiltonThe Dreaming Void
By Peter F. Hamilton; Read by Toby Longworth
20 CDs – 23 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Audio UK
Published: February 2008
ISBN: 9780230709829
Themes: / Science Fiction / Aliens / Artifact / Nanotechnology / Politics / Singularity / Space Travel /
AD 3580. The Intersolar Commonwealth has spread through the galaxy to over a thousand star systems. It is a culture of rich diversity with a place for everyone. Even death itself has been overcome. But at the centre of the Commonwealth is a massive black hole. This Void is not a natural artefact. Inside there is a strange universe where the laws of physics are very different to those we know. It is slowly consuming the other stars of the galactic core – one day it will devour the entire galaxy. Inigo, a human, has started to dream of a wonderful existence in the Void. He has a following of millions of believers and they now clamour to make a pilgrimage into the Void to live the life they have been shown. Other starfaring species fear their migration will cause the Void to expand again. They are prepared to stop them no matter what the cost. And so the pilgrimage begins…

The Dreaming Void is a very big book and it’s an even bigger audiobook. Peter F. Hamilton’s story is one of the better recent SF stories that I’ve experienced in any form, full of fascinating settings, situations, and ideas. It has many fully realized subplots and varied characters, too many. What could have been at least two brilliant stories, one of the commonwealth dealing with the potentially disastrous consequences of an attempted pilgrimage into the Void, and one of the much more low-key story of Inigo’s dreams, is instead merely a long opening to a longer trilogy.

The main plot(s) of the story are wonderful. It is science fiction as it should be. It takes the imagination to new vistas, mixing newer ideas (the Void, gaiafield, etc) with core traditions of SF (space travel, aliens, etc). Indeed, the basic story is nearly perfect but with all the stretching, it greatly overstays its welcome. Somewhere around the twelve hour mark, listening to The Dreaming Void became a chore. If I had not already committed so much time to the story, I would have quit then.

Final analysis: The Dreaming Void is just too big a novel, filled with many unnecessary subplots and distractions. It is far too easy loose track of the multitude of characters inhabiting this enormous beginning to the “Void Trilogy.” Yet, it is far from a hopeless audiobook. Throughout the epic story, the skill of both author and the reader are quite apparent and each part of the story is interesting. I am still of very mixed opinions about the story. I will look for more stories written by Peter F. Hamilton and more read by Toby Longworth, but only if they are about half this length or shorter. However, the audiobook might well be worth the effort for someone who has a lot of free time and is willing to take notes.

Posted by David Tackett

Dark Pods – Two Audiostories

December 3, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

OnlineAudio

Here are a couple of dark treats before the holiday spirit consumes us all. Not for younger listeners!

From Escape Pod,
“Me and My Shadow” by Mike Resnick.
Read by Stephen Eley.
First appeared in Unauthorized Autobiographies and Other Curiosities, 1984.

Of course, even if we had met before, they couldn’t recognize me now. I know. I’ve spent almost three years trying to find out who I was before I got Erased — but along with what they did to my brain, they gave me a new face and wiped my fingerprints clean. I’m a brand new man: two years, eleven months, and seventeen days old. I am (fanfare and trumpets, please!) William Jordan. Not a real catchy name, I’ll admit, but it’s the only one I’ve got these days.

A dark story about a personality better left buried.

Available in [mp3] format hereYou can subscribe to the podcast feed via this url:
http://escapepod.org/podcast.xml

From Pseudopod,
“Finding Allison” by Glen Krish
Read by Alasdair Stuart

Disarming and cruel. Two words could sum up Allison’s smile, and that’s all he had left of her. Her smile hid right behind his eyes, pushing at his brain like a tumor — that angled, curt, and thick-lipped smile. Even the day before she left, they seemed collectively twined together, a seamless mass of flesh, two shadows of one body. Now he was alone with a gun in his lap.

Another dark story about personality, but in a very different way.
Available in [mp3] format here You can subscribe to the podcast feed via this url:
http://feeds.pseudopod.org/Pseudopod

Posted by David Tackett

LibriVox: The Shadows by George MacDonald

November 29, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

shadowsfin2.jpgThe Shadows
By George MacDonald; Read by Catherine Eastman
2 Zipped MP3s or Podcast – Approx. 1.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: November 27, 2007

Though no longer well known, his works (particularly his fairy tales and fantasy novels) have inspired admiration in such notables as W. H. Auden, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Madeleine L’Engle. The Shadows is one such fairy tale. The strange Shadows spend their existence casting themselves upon the walls and forming pictures of various sorts: mimicking evil actions of those who have done wrong in the hopes of causing their repentance, playing a comic dumb-show to inspire a playwright and dancing to inspire a musician, nudging a little girl to comfort her grandfather, and playing with a sick little boy as he waits for his mother to return home. For all that their forms are black, their hearts are of the whitest.

This fantasy for younger readers/listeners has a couple of things in its favor for adults other than just the historical interest in its author.  The reader here, Catherine Eastman, does an outstanding job and the story is quite imaginative. Highly recommended for younger listeners and not too bad for adults either.

Complete Audiobook [zip], individual MP3s here.

And here’s the podcast feed:

http://librivox.org/bookfeeds/the-shadows-by-george-macdonald.xml

Posted by Dave Tackett

LibriVox Short Horror Story Collection #2 – out now

November 16, 2007 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

sffaudio online audio

With two stories by H. P. Lovecraft and a Solomon Kane story by Robert Howard, there was no way that I could resist this latest LibriVox offering. Tales of horror and stories of the weird by the masters at the bargain price of $0.00.

Horror Story Collection 2
10 MP3 files – 2 hours 39 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: November 15th, 2007

“An occasional collection of 10 horror stories by various readers. We aim to unsettle you a little, to cut through the pink cushion of illusion that shields you from the horrible realities of life. Here are the walking dead, the fetid pools of slime, the howls in the night that you thought you had confined to your more unpleasant dreams.”

1. A Ghoul’s Accountant
By Stephen Crane; Read by Julie Bynum
1 |MP3| Approx. 6 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]

2. Ex Oblivione
By Howard Phillips Lovecraft; Read by Maxim Lenyadin
1 |MP3| – Approx. 7 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]

3. The Picture In The House
By H.P. Lovecraft; Read by: Glen Hallstrom
1 |MP3| – Approx. 20.5 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]

4. Rattle of Bones
By Robert E. Howard; Read by Paul Siegel
1 |MP3| – Approx. 14.5 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]

5. The Raven
By Edgar Allen Poe; Read by: Zoe Earley
1 |MP3| – Approx. 8 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]

6. The Soul of the Great Bell
By Lafcadio Hearn; Read by Paul Sze
1 |MP3| – Approx. 16 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]

7. The Story of Mimi Nashi Hoichi
By Lafcadio Hearne; Read by Mark Nelson
1 |MP3| – Approx. 24 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]

8. The Tell-Tale Heart
By Edgar Allen Poe; Read by Sharontzu
1 |MP3| – Approx. 17 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]

9. The Spider
By Hans Heinz Ewers; Read by DrWombat
1 |MP3| – Approx. 42 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]

10. The Thing at Ghent
By Honore de Balzac; Read by Julie Bynum
1 |MP3| – Approx 4 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]

Get the complete audiobook in a big zipped file [zip], or use the
podcast feed:

http://librivox.org/bookfeeds/horror-story-collection-002.xml

Posted by Dave Tackett.

Review of Armageddon’s Children by Terry Brooks

November 10, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audiobook - Armageddon’s Children by Terry BrooksArmageddon’s Children
By Terry Brooks; Read by Dick Hill
12 CDs – Approx. 14 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: 2006
ISBN: 1423322568
Themes: / Fantasy/ Post-Apocalyptic / Demons / Elves / Quest /

The first entry in Terry Brooks’ new Genesis of Shannara trilogy, Armageddon’s Children starts things off brilliantly. It is immediately engrossing, capturing the listener’s attention from the first minute clear through its cliffhanger ending. Set on an Earth where civilization has been mostly destroyed by war, diseases, and by demonic entities it is a world inhabited by mutants, demons, elves and humans, all hiding from an inevitable end. Post-apocalyptic fantasy is an odd sub-genre but Brooks pulls it off well, mostly combining the feel of post-apocalyptic science fiction with the trappings of fantasy.

Like many stories of this size, there is more than one main character. Armageddon’s Children has four: Logan Tom, a Knight of the Word is the foremost protagonist. Here has been given a mission to find a mysterious “gypsy morph” and lead it and a few human survivors to salvation. Logan, like most of the characters, must overcome self-doubt and accomplish his mission if humanity is to be saved. Another character, Angel Perez, another knight is sent with a tatterdemalion to find, and help save the elves. Hawk, a street urchin leads a small group of children. Kirisin, an Elf, is chosen to tend the Ellcrys, a sentient tree from the original Shannara series. The fates of all these characters are all intertwined and each must succeed in their respective quest if humanity and elfkind are to survive the looming destruction of the Earth.

Dick Hill, the narrator, is one of the better readers I’ve heard. Though the novel builds upon characters and ideas from earlier books in Brooks’ series, it stands on its own quite well. I haven’t heard or read many of them, yet I never felt as I were missing anything while I was listening to Armageddon’s Children. Indeed, the only complaint I have about the audiobook is a very minor one. This is a marketing problem. It is annoying that “Shannara” is not mentioned anywhere on the cover of the audiobook, despite the fact that it is the third largest word on the paperback version’s cover. Simply put I loved the audiobook of Armageddon’s Children and I can’t wait for the next in the series to be released.

Posted by David Tackett

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