Talked about on today’s show:
the 1891 version, the 1890 version, Heather Ordover‘s reading of The Picture Of Dorian Gray, a rich odor of lilac, a saddle-bagged divan, Mark Twain’s A Double Barrelled Detective Story, making fun of somebody, a single esophagus, elaborate descriptions, oriental texts, the monotony and tedium of this kind of life, Lord Henry’s epigrams, entertainment vs. a savage critique of society, the dark side, being clever vs. delving deeper, Basil, sin, vanity, a Faustian pact, eternal beauty, beauty as inspiration, don’t say such things in front of Dorian!, the preface, epigrammatic writing, the trial, celebrity, the libel lawsuit, Basil’s trip to France, giving in to the senses, the decadent movement, turns of phrase, the cost of everything and the price of nothing, little witticisms, art and artists, the Gothic parts, those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things, taking the preface seriously, Edgar Allan Poe, should I take this seriously, the decline of the epigrammatic novel, linguistic sophistry, “all influence is immoral”, being immoral is fine, the seven deadly virtues, The Hound by H.P. Lovecraft, a wizard’s medallion, so full of ennui, St. John is a mangled corpse, devastating ennui, only the somber philosophy of the decadents, Baudelaire, that detestable course, Lovecraft’s response to what Wilde was responding to, the Black Museum, voluminous black hangings, the uncovered grave, just like Dorian Gray, another literary connection, The Great Gatsby, skeletons in his closet, the critic and the spectator, all art is quite useless, putting too much into art, the lowest form of art, Lord Henry never involves himself, Wilde can’t adhere to his own philosophy, putting yourself into art, the yellow covered book, he was poisoned by a book, swayed by everything, the book argument, Sibyl Vane, Juliet, Imogen, Viola, perpetuating Basil’s error, lots of cool things in it, the jewels and the clothing and the fabric, Renaissance poisonings, evil as a mode to realize the beautiful, so many good things to like, Sibyl Vane as a reflection of Dorian Gray, reflected suicide, Vane as a triple entendre, killed by her grease paint, the Yellow Book, Jesse loves intertextual things, À Rebours by Joris-Karl Huysmans, ten bound copies bound in different colours, double the amount of orchids and no white ones, every flavour of feeling and experience, indulging in every kind of experience, living your life as a piece of art, the Yellow Book rebound for every mood he was in, camouflage, yellow as code for gay, the yellow nineties (the 1890s), adding a layer, To Kill A Mockingbird, 1894, The Yellow Book (magazine), 1895, The King In Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, symbolism of artistic movements, the vane family, Dorian as a byproduct of melodrama, an allegory for artistic movements, a reaction to Victorianism, reveling in immorality, a sin of thoughtlessness, eventually all that’s left is evil, the rage of Caliban, this is a really important book, the deal with the devil, super-realistic, a very constructed book, making a very real point, the second time Caliban comes up, the Lipincott’s version, the critics mostly savaged the book, then the preface as a standalone defense, the volume publication, edits, the second appearance of Caliban, The Tempest by William Shakespeare, Miranda, the beginning of chapter 7, the Jewish manager, The Horror At Red Hook, racism, a pompous humility, going bankrupt over a poet, anti-semitism, making fun of Charles Dickens, is it just Dorian Gray that’s racist?, the most amazing waistcoat, gorgeous servility, behind the scenes, the “Bard”, you can’t trust anything Lord Henry says, private letters, Dorian Gray starts to resemble in his interests and his appearance the Jew manager, ugly on the outside, overly dramatized servility, Mrs. Vane’s words, indentured servitude or genuine theatrical enthusiasm, wanting Sibyl Vane to succeed, you can’t trust appearances, the chapter about jewels, cloth, Dorian Gray is obsessed with exterior appearance, Fitz-James O’Brien’s The Diamond Lens, a microscopist, what you need is a diamond for your microscope, it doesn’t count, casual racism, this is why we cannot censor books, “man” instead of “Jew”, the hideous man in an amazing waistcoat, re-reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, we love them, in one letter, a massacre of Jews, Wilde loves to shock, Basil is who Oscar Wilde sees himself as, artists pouring things in to books that they can’t themselves see, an accumulated spackle (of censorship), Geoffrey Chaucer, Julie’s movie group, Philomena, what are we doing?, putting a taboo on looking at power, horrible corruption, Basil’s murder, first time reads, Lord Henry’s wife is named Victoria, why it isn’t called a “portrait” of Dorian Gray, The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe, “It’s perfect!”, The Canterville Ghost as a redemptive and sweet story, an obvious homage to Mr Hyde from Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, how do you balance, looking at temptation, starting in a garden, the poison of the book, Henry is wreathed in smoke [like Satan!], something with strawberries, if this is a Faustian tale…, the issue we all deal with all of the time, The Long Conversion Of Oscar Wilde, flirtations with Catholicism, 1888, the very first book where spoiler applied is Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde, we know about the painting, the scientist friend should have been named Dr Jekyll, Jesse watched almost every movie version, I need my equipment…I hate you, a later suicide, this book applies to the entire Victorian society, saying the same thing a different way, Sherlock Holmes, 1891, The Yellow Wallpaper, 1892, The Time Machine, 1897, Dracula, The Island Of Dr Moreau, 1899, Heart Of Darkness, will the books of this decade be remembered in 120 years?, The Rosie Project, Fifty Shades Of Dorian Gray, are we sympathetic?, nudges, and the audio drama, will you stay tonight, the 1945 film version is very good and faithful, the use of color, fifty shades of silver, 1973 TV movie version (is on YouTube), Dark Shadows, Angela Lansbury as Sibyl Vane, 1976 version, Jeremy Brett as the painter, the 2009 horror movie version is horrible, Colin Firth, the niece, every Dorian Gray is handsome, too handsome, why is no one asking about his youthful appearance?, diet or exercise, male Dorian Grays, the Selfie Of Dorian Gray, modern gender views, really quite gay, Wilde, Stephen Fry, Wilde’s children and wife, the term “homosexual”, indecency.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Once thought to have been written by Lord Byron, The Vampyre is one of the earliest fictions about vampires. It precedes Bram Stoker’s Dracula by 78 years!
In the summer of 1816 Europe suffered a climate abnormality. Holed up in a chateau near Lake Geneva, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont and Dr John Polidori were kept inside by three days of rain. To pass the time indoors yhe five romantics read aloud from a French anthology of German ghost stories, Fantasmagoriana. Inspired by these, and their own experiences, both Mary Shelley and Dr John Polidori would produce their own fantastic tales. Mary Shelley’s was of course Frankenstein, Polidori’s was The Vampyre.
Check out narrator Gregg Wagland‘s worthy reading of The Vampyre by Dr John Polidori.
Posted by Jesse Willis
This UNABRIDGED AUDIOBOOK (9 hours 23 minutes) comes to us courtesy of LibriVox.
The Picture Of Dorian Gray was first published in the July 1890 issue of Lipincott’s magazine, and then in 1891, in an expanded and revised edition. This audiobook is made from the latter publication.
The next SFFaudio Podcast will feature our discussion of it!
Posted by Jesse Willis
By Neal Stephenson; Read by Mary Robinette Kowal and Will Damron
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 19 May 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 31 hours 55 minutes
Themes: / science fiction / apocalypse / space station / humanity / disaster /
What would happen if the world were ending?
A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.
But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain….
Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown…to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.
Executive Summary: Another interesting book from Mr. Stephenson, that was somehow a bit too short for me despite its 32 hour duration. This one won’t be for everyone, but I’d put it on par with many of his previous books.
Audio book: This was my first time listening to a book narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal. She’s really excellent. So excellent, that I was pretty disappointed when it changed to Will Damron for Part 3. I’m not sure why they did this. Was Ms. Kowal too busy to finish recording? Was it intentional?
That isn’t to say Mr. Damron is a bad narrator. I just didn’t like him as much as Ms. Kowal, and the change in narration was jarring. If there was any place in the book it was appropriate to change, it was with Part 3, but I think it would have been better suited if they had just stuck with Ms. Kowal.
I’ve been a fan of Mr. Stephenson ever since picking up Snow Crash back in college. I haven’t read all of his books, but I’ve enjoyed all but one of those that I have.
I had no idea what this book was about when I volunteered to review it. Much like most of his work, it’s long. The start is a bit slow, and as usual it goes off on tangents and into way more detail than is necessary on things. In some of his books, I’ve enjoyed those tangents and the excess of detail. In others, less so. This one was somewhere in the middle for me.
This is the kind of thing that will turn many readers away early on. I was never bored myself, but I wasn’t really engaged in the book until nearly halfway. In a book this long, that will be too much of a commitment for many. However, I suspect if you enjoy the detail and tangents, you’ll be engaged much sooner.
This book is split into three parts. The first part is essentially a present day disaster story. The second is largely a space opera, and the third is a bit of a post apocalyptic tale.
Many authors might have focused on one aspect of this story. Instead of giving us bits of history that help shaped the world of part 3, we live many of the details in parts 1 and 2. For me personally, I would have liked part 1 to be shorter with more time spent on part 3. Part 2 was my favorite of the book, but that may be because I felt despite being a third of the book, part 3 ended too soon.
I have questions still. A lot of them. Is Mr. Stephenson planning a sequel that will contain some of these answers? I hope so.
This isn’t a case of a long book that abruptly ends though. For me the issue is that Mr. Stephenson did such a good job with the world building that I want more. I felt like there wasn’t enough. I would have happily sacrificed much of the present day (which I found slower anyways), for more time in the future story with the world he created.
Mr. Stephenson doesn’t spend all the time on world building either. He develops several interesting characters that are used to make most of the story character-driven. We have a largely female cast, and somewhat diverse background for most of them.
Overall, while this isn’t my favorite Neal Stephenson book, I really enjoyed it, and I hope we get another book set in the same world that he built in part 3.
Review by Rob Zak.
Archangel (Book One of the Chronicles of Ubastis)
By Marguerite Reed; Narrated by Dina Pearlman
Audible Studios via Resurrection House
Release date: 17 June 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 hours, 5 minutes
Themes: / military sci-fi / grief / humanity /
The Earth is dying, and our hopes are pinned on Ubastis, an untamed paradise at the edge of colonized space. But such an influx of people threatens the planet’s unstudied ecosystem – a tenuous research colony must complete its analysis, lest humanity abandon one planet only to die on another.
The Ubasti colonists barely get by on their own. To acquire the tools they need, they are relegated to selling whatever they can to outside investors. For xenobiologist Vashti Loren, this means bringing Offworlders on safari to hunt the specimens she and her fellow biologists so desperately need to study.
Haunted by the violent death of her husband, the heroic and celebrated Lasse Undset, Vashti must balance the needs of Ubastis against the swelling crush of settlers. Vashti struggles in her role as one of the few colonists licensed to carry deadly weapons, just as she struggles with her history of using them. And when she discovers a genetically engineered soldier smuggled onto the surface, Vashti must face the nightmare of her husband’s murder all over again. Standing at the threshold of humanity’s greatest hope, she alone understands the darkness of guarding paradise.
I spent a lot of my time while listening to this book confused, which made it all the more surprising when I realized at the end that I’d liked the book, and am fairly intrigued about what will come next. A book spanning multiple topics/thoughts, it was interesting to see how the various topics mostly worked together.
I think this book served in some ways as world-building/scene-setting for future books, which may explain why I was confused at times. This may be seen as a negative, but since I liked the world, it was okay, once I realized that I hadn’t missed anything with the plot (though at times, I was convinced that I had). I also liked the main character, a researcher on the planet of Ubastis but also one of the one people on the planet with a literal license to kill…anything. So while it seemed that the plot may have moved slowly, or that I was sure I was missing things, in the end it worked out okay for me. But others, especially those who listen, might have similar confusion.
It’s hard to describe what the book is “about” since Archangel covers so many topics. The book is set sometime in the future after the Earth has been effectively destroyed/overused by humans. Humans seem to have escaped to space, though it’s not clear that they had to go far to find other places to live. The book mentions a station at L5, which I presume is the L5 Lagrange point that people who’ve studied physics/astrophysics and sci-fi lovers alike will probably recognize. L5 has long been thought of as a place where space colonization might be feasible, so it seems as if it fits and that it’s not some L5 in relation to the world in the book, separate from our own system. Many humans seem to live in space, while a small handful live on Ubastis. Ubastis is a planet that has seen small waves of colonists; the first two waves of colonists were trained primarily as a military would be trained, though the job was to scout areas of the planet and start setup for more colonists in the future, to establish it as its own world. The other aspect of the colonists’ life is to study the planet and understand the resources it has and the balance between the natural ecosystem and those resources–the colonists do not wish to make Ubastis into another Earth, and so immigration to the planet is heavily controlled, only up for discussion once every 10 years. Archangel takes place just prior to one of these votes, and there is a heavy contingent of “off-worlders” lobbying for the strict limits to be lifted, to open immigration to the planet. In the book, human engineering is also not only possibly but heavily used, and most people have some level of genetic modification; most to dull aggression and many for vanity reasons.
The main character, Dr/Commander Lauren Vashti, is a “natural,” a non-genetically modified human. She was one of the people in the second group of colonists to come to the planet. Her husband was one of the leaders of that second group, and the pair are seen in many ways as a literal mother and father (and in the case of her husband, even a saint) of the planet and its resources. Vashti’s husband was killed by a highly-engineered “assault human,” a BEAST, one who was specifically genetically modified to be a soldier of sorts. This brings me to the first of the interleaved topics that the book touches on–motherhood and, to some extent, single motherhood. Vashti spends much of the book seemingly at odds with her dual role on the world. She has a literal daughter, a toddler, but often sees that being a literal mother is incompatible with being a leader, a voice for the planet as a whole. Because of her natural gifts as well as the reverence given to her, Vashti is also a literal mother to many Ubastians (and off-worlders?), as her eggs were frozen and used to create other offspring. There were striking scenes in the book where Vashti’s grief/memories of her husband are interrupted by her daughter, perfectly capturing the issues with motherhood. Later in the book, as she realizes that she is in some way a mother to the planet, similar memories are jarringly interrupted by the politics of the planet, things she must stand up for.
Obviously, another topic in the book is that of genetic engineering and the…sense…in doing so. I won’t go into details, but Vashti being a “natural” woman actually has a fairly important aspect in the plot. In particular, it seems that BEASTs can only really be “controlled” by natural humans, those without genetic modifications. This speaks volumes to the topic of genetic modification in general, but the topic is also touched upon by human nature. Because Vashti is a “natural,” she has a “normal” level of aggression/willingness to kill. It seems that many people have that particular knob turned down. Vashti is looked down upon by outsiders because she is in fact willing to kill to study the fauna native to Ubastis and willing to kill in self defense. It seems that most others find killing repugnant in general, something to be psychologically educated-away/re-educated away. The people of Ubastis (and also the off-worlders, I believe) are vegetarian. In fact, many are Muslim, though it was never really clear to me why it was important that so many were Muslim (the rest seemed to be Christian of some sort).
Another topic commonly dealt with in science fiction is that of resource use/protection of a planet/avoiding a runaway situation like we have on Earth/that eventually dooms Earth in many books…this book is no different. In her role as scientist and “mother” on Ubastis, Vashti preaches for conservation and minimization of the human footprint on the planet. The Earth is looked to as a sign of the worst that can happen.
In all, Archangel is a book about revolution. There are many types of revolution in the story, both personal revolution for Vashti, but other aspects of revolution, too. Once I came to terms with being “confused” every now and then, it was actually a fun read. The narrator, Dina Pearlman, is one whose name is familiar but I can’t find any other books that I’ve listened to that she’s narrated. Her narration had an odd cadence that was particularly difficult to follow at first. I found speeding up the audio playback helped that significantly, though her pacing may also have contributed to my confusion at times. Once I got “used” to it (at the faster playback speed), I got more into the book, but it did take awhile.
This book might not be for everybody–and certainly might not be for everybody in audio form–but as for me, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next on Ubastis.
Posted by terpkristin.
Fool’s Quest (Fitz and the Fool #2)
By Robin Hobb; read by Elliot Hill
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 11 August 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 33 hours, 13 minutes
Themes: / epic fantasy / magic /
The harrowing adventures of FitzChivalry Farseer and his enigmatic friend the Fool continue in Robin Hobb’s triumphant follow-up to Fool’s Assassin. But Fool’s Quest is more than just a sequel. With the artistry and imagination her fans have come to expect, Hobb builds masterfully on all that has gone before, revealing devastating secrets and shocking conspiracies that cast a dark shadow over the history of Fitz and his world—a shadow that now stretches to darken all future hope.
Long ago, Fitz and the Fool changed the world, bringing back the magic of dragons and securing both the Farseer succession and the stability of the kingdom. Or so they thought. But now the Fool is near death, maimed by mysterious pale-skinned figures whose plans for world domination hinge upon the powers the Fool may share with Fitz’s own daughter.
Distracted by the Fool’s perilous health, and swept up against his will in the intrigues of the royal court, Fitz lets down his guard . . . and in a horrible instant, his world is undone and his beloved daughter stolen away by those who would use her as they had once sought to use the Fool—as a weapon.
But FitzChivalry Farseer is not without weapons of his own. An ancient magic still lives in his veins. And though he may have let his skills as royal assassin diminish over the years, such things, once learned, are not so easily forgotten.
Now enemies and friends alike are about to learn that nothing is more dangerous than a man who has nothing left to lose.
Executive Summary: I loved this book. It’s everything I had hoped Fool’s Assassin would have been. There are a things I didn’t like, that will understandably be much more off putting for some than they were for me.
Audio book: Elliot Hill once again does an excellent job. He does a variety of voices and inflections that make doing this book in audio a good option.
I absolutely loved Fool’s Fate. I’d have been perfectly content if the series ended there. Last year’s Fool’s Assassin was enjoyable, but not as much as I’d have liked. It left me apprehensive for this book. I shouldn’t have been. That isn’t to say bad things don’t happen to our beloved Fitz. Any fan of the Ederling books won’t be surprised by that. Ms. Hobb sure loves to torment Fitz, though probably not as much as he torments himself.
This book grabbed me from the start, and never let me go. I hated every time I had to stop listening. In fact once my hardcover copy arrived, I augmented my audio time by reading the print as well.
For reasons I can’t fathom, many people seem to skip the excellent Liveship Traders series and more have skipped the quite enjoyable Rainwild Chronicles. While I wouldn’t call it a prerequisites for this book, I would highly recommend reading those books first. There are so many great rewards in the book for people who have. If you haven’t, I doubt you’ll be lost, but you won’t get the same enjoyment in my opinion.
It’s pretty much impossible for me to get into why I loved this book more than the last one without massive spoilers, however I suspect most longtime fans will share my excitement.
That said, despite getting one of my rare 5 star ratings (this is only the second book by Ms. Hobb I’ve given that to), there are some complaints. Or maybe not complaints so much as things I wish weren’t in this book. I found them very upsetting. I’d have preferred some kind of alternative reason used to drive the plot forward. I suspect some people may be more upset than I was, and others may be more indifferent.
Overall though, those were very minor things to me in an absolutely fantastic book. I will warn that if you hate cliffhangers, you may wish to avoid reading this book until we’re much closer to the release of the next book. It is a pretty big one. With it being the second book of a trilogy, and how the first book ended, I can’t say I’m very surprised.
Much like the last one, I am both nervous and excited to read the next one and see what Ms. Hobb has in store.
Review by Rob Zak.