Review of Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi

August 28, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo BacigalupiPump Six and Other Stories
By Paolo Bacigalupi; Read by Jonathan Davis, James Chen, and Eileen Stevens
11 CDs – Approx. 13 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: December 1, 2010
ISBN: 9781441892201
Themes: / Science Fiction / Dystopia / Biopunk / Politics / Society/ Environmentalism / Technology / Food / Death / Thailand / Asia /

The eleven* stories in Pump Six chart the evolution of Paolo Bacigalupi’s work, including the Hugo nominated “Yellow Card Man,” and the Sturgeon Award-winning story “The Calorie Man,” both set in the world of his novel The Windup Girl. This collection also demonstrates the power and reach of the science fiction short story. Social criticism, political parable, and environmental advocacy lie at the center of Bacigalupi’s work. Each of the stories herein is at once a warning and a celebration of the tragic comedy of the human experience.

Let me get the praise out of the way first: Paolo Bacigalupi is an imaginative genius with a message. At times the writing is brilliant. “The Fluted Girl” is excellent, well-written, surely a classic. Every idea in every story is worthy of exploration and consideration and the three narrators are just fine, thanks. His views of dystopia are clever warnings; his ideas endlessly fresh and characters sympathetic. Slow pace is forgivable in his stories, like home-cooked food, worth the wait. James Chen’s reading of the Chinese accents is a great addition to the appropriate stories.

But there are problems. I don’t like having a book of short stories that doesn’t list the names – I shouldn’t have to look on-line for names of the stories and the order in which they appear. I also feel strongly that there is a missing editor. Some of the stories feel as though they are not in final draft version. If I had the print version, my teacher’s red pen would have been in hand marking suggestions for edits. Some information seemed more than unnecessary to the stories (these are short stories after all). It is disappointing that such genius is allowed “out” without polish. Is it possible that the world he created in Pump Six, where literacy has all but disappeared, is actually at its beginning, or did Paolo do it on purpose to see if we are paying attention?

Should you listen to this audiobook? Yes. Brilliant, not perfect, but should definitely not be missed.

*Only ten stories included in the audiobook:
Pocketful Of Dharma • (1999) • novelette • read by James Chen
The Fluted Girl • (2003) • novelette • read by Eileen Stevens
The People Of Sand and Slag • (2004) • novelette • read by James Chen
The Pasho • (2004) • novelette • read by Jonathan Davis
The Calorie Man • [The Windup Universe] • (2005) • novelette • read by Jonathan Davis
The Tamarisk Hunter • (2006) • short story • read by Jonathan Davis
Pop Squad • (2006) • novelette • read by Jonathan Davis
Yellow Card Man • [The Windup Universe] • (2006) • novelette • read by James Chen
Softer • (2007) • short story • read by James Chen
Pump Six • (2008) • novelette • read by Jonathan Davis

Posted by Elaine Willis

Review of “There Are Things I Want You to Know” about Stieg Larsson and Me by Eva Gabrielsson and Marie-Francoise Colombani

August 14, 2011 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

TANTOR MEDIA - There Are Things I Want You To Know About Stieg Larsson And Me by Eva Gabrielsson and Marie-Françoise Colombani“There Are Things I Want You to Know” about Stieg Larsson and Me
By Eva Gabrielsson and Marie-Françoise Colombani; Read by Cassandra Campbell
5 CDs – Approx. 5 Hours 30 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Published: June 21, 2011
ISBN: 9781452652344
Themes: / Biography / Sweden / Family /
Sample |MP3|

There is only one person who can tell Stieg Larsson’s story better than he can, and that is his lifelong companion, Eva Gabrielsson. This is her book.

There is no doubt that writing this book was a blend of catharsis and revenge for Stieg Larsson’s life partner. For the listener it provides deep insights into the man, his habits and his motivations for writing his books. All that annoying coffee drinking in the books actually IS a reflection of Stieg’s own life habits and I now forgive him for the every detailed sip in the books.

I am also left wanting to read the other perspectives on Stieg’s life, in case Eva’s is not objective in her views. It “feels” as though she is truly telling the story of a man who truly brought his fight for justice and morality from his life to his fiction. (There are other biographies out there.) He blended facts and fiction – and for those of us listening from North America – provided a view of political troubles in our idealized Sweden. Eva adds another layer of Swedish conservatism with her difficulties as Stieg’s lifelong partner, having no children, her union went unrecognized by the state and Stieg’s assets were claimed by his almost estranged father and brother.

Of note to you, dear readers, is the fact that both Stieg and Eva were huge Science Fiction fans. If you haven’t dipped into the trilogy yet, Eva’s explanation of Salander’s (the main character) cyborg-like brain in a Pippi Longstocking body with superhuman strength may whet your appetite.

It is clear as Eva’s tale unfolds that she was intimately involved in the unfolding of Stieg’s trilogy. In a way they are her stories too – the books – their children in some odd way. This story may be the story of her custody battle for the rights to finish writing (raise to adulthood) Stieg’s final book, The Vengeance Of God. From listening to her tale and her writing style, I am positive that she will have no difficulty bringing the story to completion, should she be given the opportunity.

The reader, Cassandra Campbell, has been the narrator (or one of) in a host of books I have listened to and enjoyed (especially The Help). I was surprised that she pronounced the Swedish words and places perfectly adding immensely to my enjoyment of this audiobook.

Posted by Elaine Willis

The Moth: The Undertaker’s Daughter

November 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

The MothLike a little humour? A good speaker? A short podcast? A surprise ending? You HAVE TO LISTEN to this The Moth Podcast by Jeffery Rudell: The Undertaker’s Daughter from 2003. It is ostensibly about a youth losing his childhood because of “Mr. Stiffie” in Small Town, U.S.A. on Hallowe’en night. In its just under 18 minutes it is set in the mind of an adolescent and in a mortuary. For those of you unfamiliar with The Moth, stories are presented live and without notes. I was, and this will be of more interest after you listen, introduced to this podcast at a funeral by my cousin, Malcolm McColl. It is now at the top of my favourites – and not just because my attention span is shortening in my advancing years. Listen and enjoy!

|MP3|

Podcast feed:

http://feeds.themoth.org/themothpodcast

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

Posted by Elaine Willis

Review of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

October 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aural Noir, Reviews 

Aural Noir: Review

WHOLE STORY AUDIO BOOKS - The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg LarssonThe Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
By Stieg Larsson; Read by Saul Reichlin
Audible Download – Approx. 18 Hours 50 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Whole Story Audio Books
Published: May 2009
Provider: Audible.com
Themes: / Mystery / Murder / Intrigue / Political Intrigue / Hacking / Violence / Sex / Sweden / Politics / Feminism /

Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder – and that the killer is a member of his own family. He employs journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, truculent computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet’s disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history. But the Vangers are a secretive clan, and Blomkvist and Salander are about to find out just how far they are prepared to go to protect themselves.

Better to read than to listen…maybe. There are too many characters in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and we get to know all their names and all their breakfast habits, no matter how minor a role they play in the story. And like the overdeveloped minor characters, there are also many overly lengthy descriptions and over-described scenes that are not key to the plot. It may be that both the character and the storyline problems that I describe are more distracting in the audiobook version than in the print book. After finishing The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo I started reading the second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire, in paperback in order to compare the experiences. I still notice the excessive detail in the paperbook, but it is a more minor annoyance than in the audiobook. At first I thought my discomfort was because The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a translation from Swedish, but I recognized that the translation is seamless. The only other Swedish books, in translation, that I recall reading are those of Astrid Lindgren and, if memory serves, they weren’t nearly as cluttered as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. A quick look at the paperbook edition of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo revealed that the print edition comes with a genealogical table for keeping track of the numerous members of the Vanger family.

On the whole the almost 19 hours of listening is pleasant enough. There is no doubt that the main character is compelling, the plot interesting and that the reader, Saul Reichlin, is brilliant – but as an audio experience it can be daunting – at least without carrying around a character map.

[Here’s one!]

The Vanger Family Tree

Posted by Elaine Willis

TED Talk: Elif Şafak on The Politics Of fiction

September 23, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: News 

SFFaudio News

Elif Şafak present this TED talk about fiction and storytelling. I confess I put off listening to it, I listened to it last when other items on my iPad had run out. TED Talks, after all, are about hard science, data, controversy. I wasn’t planning to listen to a TED talks discussion of fiction.

When I did finally listen, I was in awe. If you watch rather than listen you will see Elif receive a much deserved standing ovation for her presentation on the power of fiction to change the world. Her hypothesis is that that fiction can overcome identity politics. Her advice to writers is that you should not write what you know, you should write what you dream, whatever you can conceive, write beyond the comfort zone about what you feel.

Though I have not read her fiction, I am sold on her passionate view of it. It is the extraordinary, the imaginative in fiction that has a draw for me. Is that why science fiction, at its best, is worthy of my limited time?

She begins with the image of a circle and her personal story. She discusses the importance of connecting with people outside our own circles. “Communities of the like-minded is one of the greatest dangers of today’s globalized world.” She believes fiction can best dispel cultural stereotypes; fiction can end elitism. And, she proves it.

Posted by Elaine Willis

Review of The Year Of The Flood by Margaret Atwood

January 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

RANDOM HOUSE AUDIO - The Year Of The Flood by Margaret AtwoodThe Year Of The Flood
By Margaret Atwood; Read by Bernadette Dunne, Katie MacNichol and Mark Bramhall
11 CDs – Approx. 14 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: September 22, 2009
ISBN: 9780739383971
Themes: / Science Fiction / Dystopia / Disaster / Environmentalism / Environmental Disaster / Ecology / Planetary Ecology / Religion / Genetic Engineering / Sex / Activism / Genetics /

The long-awaited new novel from Margaret Atwood. The Year of the Flood is a dystopic masterpiece and a testament to her visionary power. The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God’s Gardeners—a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life—has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have survived: Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, a God’s Gardener barricaded inside a luxurious spa where many of the treatments are edible. Have others survived? Ren’s bioartist friend Amanda? Zeb, her eco-fighter stepfather? Her onetime lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers, survivors of the mutual-elimination Painball prison? Not to mention the shadowy, corrupt policing force of the ruling powers . . .Meanwhile, gene-spliced life forms are proliferating: the lion/lamb blends, the Mo’hair sheep with human hair, the pigs with human brain tissue. As Adam One and his intrepid hemp-clad band make their way through this strange new world, Ren and Toby will have to decide on their next move. They can’t stay locked away . . .By turns dark, tender, violent, thoughtful, and uneasily hilarious, The Year Of The Flood is Atwood at her most brilliant and inventive.

Margaret Atwood’s book The Year Of The Flood spans several years, before, after and during the waterless flood which is a plague that affects only humans. There are three readers, Bernadette Dunne, Katie MacNichol and Mark Bramhall. Throughout the eleven discs (14 hours), I enjoyed listening to the women, and began to dread the onset of the male reader. He was certainly professional. Was it his character, Adam One, a religious cult leader of God’s Gardeners? Was it the inevitable sermon he would read in a church-appropriate voice? Or was it the hymns, written by Atwood and set to “original” music that would have me engaging in positive procrastination in order to avoid finishing this audiobook.

The loveliest parts of the book take place from the point of view of Ren, a child in God’s Garden. The religion is a logical outcome for a near future on Earth following environmental disasters not too difficult to imagine. Technologies we toy with today lead to some A Clockwork Orange style vocabulary. Words such as “garboil” (a kind of petroleum made from trash) lend a frighteningly vital immersion into this eco-nightmare. Other wonderful vocabulary delights come through the genetic alterations of food and creature such as soydines and bugs with little smiley faces engineered thereon so thoughts of squishing them would be repugnant. The Gardeners have a host of saints to celebrate, showing Atwood’s ability to relate some important environmentalists and peaceniks to her tale including Saint Rachel Carson, Saint David Suzuki and Saint Mahatma Gandhi.

The main female characters, Ren and Toby, both fully developed, are compelling. Throughout the story, one is interested in them as human beings, in their suffering, in their losses, in their desires. Despite the time shifts, the readers manage to keep the characters believable; one is lost in the story (as one should be!) until the final disc. Maybe Atwood can’t write optimistic endings. With all the violence, sadistic sex and death in the world of the Gardeners who are staunch vegetarians who don’t even kill the insects that invade their gardens; with spray guns, layabout body parts and a world of human-pig hybrids conducting funerals, the last disc felt wrong. Ren’s character becomes childish. Toby becomes a murderous cold-blooded killer and then suddenly has another personality shift. The only character to remain true is the one-dimensional ADAM ONE. I was strung along on the brilliant imagination, left flat on story line, and confused in the end by the characters I thought I liked.

Am I waiting for that third expected book in a TRILOGY featuring some of these characters? My interest in Atwood’s “exfernal” world is now lukewarm.

Posted by Elaine Willis

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