The SFFaudio Podcast #447 – READALONG: The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

November 13, 2017 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #447 – Jesse and Paul Weimer talk about The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

Talked about on today’s show:
1974, if everybody in the modern era writes like him…, depth beyond the good writing and the ideas, what does it MEAN?!, a straightforward 1970s novel, ever further into the future, future-shock, war, Ken Burn’s Vietnam documentary series, accelerated time, mid-2016 and now, WHAT the bleep has HAPPENED?, clown show, a politically traumatic time, 1967-1968, 1968-1969, Paul is my senior, draft dodgers taught Jesse, “not my president, hashtag”, leaving the USA for Canada, they stayed, making a peep, the elites (or quasi-elites) might have to go, the real plutocrats always found a way out, Jimmy Carter, McCain, John Kerry, that trick still works, the Russia thing, collusion, what skills does he bring to the table?, the John Podesta emails, Bill and Hill Clinton, flipped the script, they swift-boated him, a perennial technique, bringing it back to the book, all weird, another tour, all word, Earth is a dystopia, Earth became Texas, the first section, training on Charon, power-armor, technology, silly and weird predictions, Mogadishu, Somalia, the farm, lawless Horn of Africa, the center cannot hold, ever expanding military, no health-care for the mom, death-panel, trying to figure out what’s going on in the mind of the author, an analogy, this is why people sign back up (go on another tour), going back and forth, the big takeaway, oh, my mom’s gay, everybody’s gay!, everybody’s multi-racial now and I’m the queer, that’s interesting, now everybody is a clone, a hyperbolized version of the political changes, Cassius Clay -> Muhammad Ali (and great) -> now he’s a war-resister, the kind of military SF, Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Armor by John Steakley, Old Man’s War, ooh it’s a twist (he’s not even white!), the movie adaptation of Starship Troopers, doing something slightly different, following forward, Jesse’s a big fan of the montage, tedium mixed with fear and shock, the military-industrial complex, romance novels for men, a focus on the specs of the pistols, the serial numbers on their special hand-grips, what gets them going in the night, he did a lot of math, gravity curves, MIT, political stripes, the legalization of cannabis, the acceptance of homosexuality, having latent feelings, a little looser, among those artist types, he’s the “old queer”, a funny twitter conversation: what’s really lacking today…, VHS vs DVD, we’ve become more prudish, conservative marketing, “no, we’ve lost context”, sexist!, homophobe!, “a latent heterosexual”, whenever you put a pressure on a large group of people results happen, everybody in our society is gay now, isn’t that interesting, look at the way we’re living now, the lack of context rule, when Potter converts to heterosexuality…, he’s not trying to target the audience of today, Heinlein was a weird guy, the way he obliquely attacks problems, no qualms about this book, an asexual cyborg, Forever Free, Forever Peace is excellent (Paul doesn’t like it), all about drone warfare, more artificial, The Accidental Time Machine, funny and delightful, Haldeman on Prisoners Of Gravity, he won everything (it was political), overwhelming, a thoughtful and reasonable guy, four serials of this book, Analog, Hero, “Screw you, sir!” -> “Fuck you, sir!”, Robert A. Heinlein’s naval service, a deep respect for the military, a hippie planet called “Middle Finger”, it starts with a “fuck you” and ends with a “Middle Finger”, Mandela’s psychological profile, leading from a position of empathy and ideas (instead of will), how the Marxist soldier during the Spanish Civil War would do business, ambiguous (ambivalent) feelings, Mike Vendetti, not something you take lightly, his emotions in his tweets, he’s got mixed feelings, a big mistake!, this war didn’t need to happen, ultimately the lesson, “support our troops”, taking a knee, a conflation with honouring the military, into the arms of the other f-word (fascism), a very nice point, politicians manipulating the people is nothing new, actual journalism with a critical eye, both Gulf Wars, “embedded with the troops”, stories in a patriotic light, propaganda, still happening today, Brian Williams’ ‘beauty of our missiles’, this book misses, told tightly from Mandella’s POV, the veterans are toured around the world, the comic book adaptation of The Forever War by Marvano (artist), Gay Haldeman (translation) and Joe Haldeman (script), Titan Comics, he stacked the deck, a counter-pole, there’s nothing here, the serialization, We Are Very Happy Here, necessary for serialization, a plot contrivance, 84-year old moms, joining the army for financial reasons, Marygay’s mother and father, true for the people of Somalia, pirates don’t do piracy for the sea-shanties, manipulated for our benefit, in the tradition of Starship Troopers (and not in the tradition), Heinlein’s generation vs. Haldeman’s generation, war with aliens, we become the alien, “you don’t understand politics”, why veteran are the only people are allowed to vote, politics of the era of Nixon vs. the politics of the era of Roosevelt, a “take that”, there was a revolt of veterans on earth at one point, the Bonus Army, the Revolutions Podcast, support our troops is a whip, the American support of the French in Vietnam, depending on how you calculate, a sunk cost fallacy, JFK needed to keep the war going past the next election, we can only badly infer it, what Jesse appreciated about Ender’s Game, a wish-fulfillment avatar for 13 year old boys, a lot of time in the online forums, reading a really deep reddit post, why that book is powerful, and here’s what’s missing, the general is a child, it kind of explains the real life generals, Netflix’s thinly veiled McCrystal biopic, there’s no job to be finished, there are no victory conditions, a frameworks for continuous unending war, without a draft it is an endlessly churning meat-grinder, a constant war economy, the government is being fleeced of its coffers by war profiteers, why is my standard of living falling?, pointing out the unfair, labeling it is not the solution, the Las Vegas shooting, “this is an act of domestic terrorism!”, we’re going to calm things down, slave revolts are not terrorism, labels are not the issue, the guns and the access to them are a bigger issue, people get caught up on the words and identity politics, sidestepping racism, sexual norms, a made-up name, he dodged the question, the charge of racism, google n-gram, nobody got suddenly racist, when they do the movie, Channing Tatum, they made a decision, socioeconomic status, a person’s story, the Ender’s Game movie, Johnny Rico is Filipino from South America, Ensign Kim is Scandinavian!, is it a weakness that the novel doesn’t explore racism?, a beautiful time capsule, Mandella’s psychology, Doctor Potter: I’m not prejudiced, the soldiers he was fighting beside were all his team and the fear of the enemy was more important than the colour of the skin of the soldier in the fox-hole with him, a media construction, real human beings, outside your bubble and your fears, deep deep resentment, prejudices of all kind, lived experience, ameliorating intolerance, a chance to grow and understand, an overoptimistic story?, a combat team, it treats racism as settled, let’s deal with homosexuality, Heinlein on homosexuality, a greater representation of gender-queer characters (male vs. female), painful and uncomforting, seeing the flaws within yourself, he’s a dude telling his own story, Diana, Margay gets her own standalone story, Spider Robinson, many changes, an excised fourth part, people read science fiction the wrong way, dangerous territory, Jesse you should read this this and this, this is a story of a dude like this…, reading off in my own direction, books written before I was born, reading the books written by the readers of recent books, unlike other genres (with the exceptions of mystery and crime), science fiction is a series of conversations between stories, your going to be missing a large part of the story, Day Million by Frederik Pohl, Friday by Robert A. Heinlein, I Will Fear No Evil, gay characters in a story is passe, I don’t read the stories for the characters at all, reading it for the societies, reading it for the science, I want to see my values reflected, the battle on that last planet, where’s the rest of the story, why people read science fiction (other than to see their values relfected), world-building, effusive for Ringworld, literal world-building, reading to see representation, an era of character based, having not seen themselves they want to see themselves reflected, a sense of wonder, Paul Atreides is someone Paul could sink into, a white male protagonist, they’re not the classic, how cool the other stuff in that book is, why am I having a whispered conversation with this weird lady in my bedroom, kids never pay attention to the author until you graduate from that, cover artists, aha!, this other thing: the author, this Miguel Ferrer is the actor (not the writer), Tom Cruise movies have no writers, the French focus on the film director, it’s not the characters to me, what makes science fiction so different, soft science fiction, looking at trends and forces, here’s a society with a guaranteed annual income, he’s probably male, that Mack Reynolds novel stands out because it is representing me, the scarcity of jobs is important, world-building enough to spend, there’s no one true way to read science fiction, to misquote Rudyard Kipling, alien planets, we get to see Heaven (a paradise planet), we get to see life on a little planet in the Lesser Magellanic Cloud, a deep dive into William Mandella, academic to grunt, what a soldier’s life is like, waiting in a time, a lover or a nurse, reading for the Marygay-William relationship, the Church of Science Fiction, if you read it for the romance you’re going to be disappointed, a Heinleinian bit, looking it as a modern book, are there books still to be written in this conversation?, how Jesse would film the novel, people don’t just live happily ever after, H.E.A. (a romance term), Jonathan and Gary of the Coode Street podcast, how you want to slice it, Linda Nagata’s The Last Good Man, the “Red” series, in this particular thread, digitizing The Lathe Of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin, Le Guin doing Philip K. Dick, a great appreciator of PKD’s writing, she’s trying to have a conversation with Philip K. Dick, the Lovecraft conversation is so loud and churning, fulminating, denouncers, he’s now at max volume, how many sequels to Innsmouth, Ben Bova, a legacy of Analog and Astounding, John W. Campbell seemed to interfere, a pretty stupid man in many respects, the telepathic (psionics), add some bullshit element and you’ll get a sale, nobody writes those (psionics) books anymore, Julian May’s intervention novels, The Many Colored Land, August Derleth, not only a bad writer (a bad person), show me an alien that thinks as well as a man but not like a man, nicely reflected in what happens to the humans, you poor deluded human, Murray Leinster, A Martian Odyssey Stanley G. Weinbaum, an important story, H.G. Wells, I’ve got these great ideas and this piece of paper, thinking through the ideas, tell a story based on that world, what makes Dune so great, a gender-swapped version of Dune, monks instead of nuns, set on a waterworld?, this book has something for everybody.

Hero by Joe Haldeman - Analog June 1972 - Illustrated by Frank Kelly Freas

Hero by Joe Haldeman - Analog June 1972 - Illustrated by Frank Kelly Freas

Hero by Joe Haldeman - Analog June 1972 - Illustrated by Frank Kelly Freas

We Are Very Happy Here by Joe Haldeman - Analog, November 1973

We Are Very Happy Here by Joe Haldeman - Analog, November 1973

We Are Very Happy Here by Joe Haldeman - Analog, November 1973

We Are Very Happy Here by Joe Haldeman - Analog, November 1973

End Game by Joe Haldeman - illustration by Vincent Di Fate - Analog, January 1975

End Game by Joe Haldeman - illustration by Vincent Di Fate - Analog, January 1975

You Can Never Go Back by Joe Haldeman - Amazing, November 1975

You Can Never Go Back by Joe Haldeman - Amazing, November 1975

You Can Never Go Back by Joe Haldeman - Amazing, November 1975

You Can Never Go Back by Joe Haldeman - Amazing, November 1975

You Can Never Go Back by Joe Haldeman - Amazing, November 1975

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #285 – READALONG: The Girl Who Was Plugged In by James Triptree, Jr.

October 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #285 – Jesse, Scott, Luke, and Jenny talk about The Girl Who Was Plugged In by James Triptree, Jr.

Talked about on today’s show:
Alice Sheldon, why no audiobook?, how James Triptree, Jr. died, the award, the Virginia Kidd agency, the PDF version, who owns it?, James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips, Her Smoke Rode Up Forever, she was a spy, Racoona Sheldon, a murder/suicide or a suicide pact?, nearly blind, what would Seth think of that?, Huntington D. Sheldon, OSS -> CIA, Cordwainer Smith, Jesse is glad “new wave” is dead, re-reading, you must pay close attention, grammar, a potential audio version, caps and italics, Scott’s proto-cyberpunk, story summary, holographic TV, a “waldo” system, product placement advertizing, the 1998 TV adaptation for Welcome To Paradox (was very faithful), emotional, internal, the weird framing style device, is it NEW WAVE?, J.G. Ballard, an ancient version of the singularity, the reader needs to do a lot more work, Day Million by Frederik Pohl, who is the narrator talking to?, “Listen zombie, believe me…”, the truth is in question, Scott is falling down the Jesse Well, Evel Knievel, media and money, someone goes time traveling, the sharp faced lad, Luke goes biblical, why do we need firm ground?, P. Burke, a media controlled dystopia, post-modern stream of consciousness, its set in the 1970s, “Nixon Unveils Phase 2”, a loopy temporal anomalyizer project, bringing the horrible future into being, investment opportunities, what do people do in this future?, the Wikipedia entry on product placement, “gods”, media consumers, Kyle Marquis @Moochava tweet: “Yearly reminder: unless you’re over 60, you weren’t promised flying cars. You were promised an oppressive cyberpunk dystopia. Here you go.”, dystopic is this?, reserving the word dystopia, “a bad place”, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, a world community, “the world is a dystopia for poor people”, buying into it, required consumption, a softer opt-in dystopia, Wool by Hugh Howey, the lack of truth, the six people in the GTX tower, Rupert Murdoch, government control vs. corporate control, biography of Anonymous, Wikileaks, Amazon.com, PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, Russia, Jony Ive, Jeff Bezos, Google, this one person, this relationship, the emotional part of the story, a suicide attempt, “her eyes leak a little”, the godlings, media stars, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, the family and the fourth wall, a tax-dodge marriage, the narrator is full of contempt for everything, a soap opera and the show around that, Jean Harlow‘s story, the actress in that movie vs. the person in that life, her Prada bag, her Jimmy Choo, her iPhone 6, the meta-story, the movies remind us why they’re famous, South America, they’re just shows that happen to love soap (not soap operas), another allusion, Green Mansions by William Henry Hudson, Rima the Bird Girl, Audrey Hepburn, tragic end, “your brain is a dystopia for you”, tragedy, what of the empty body?, the best expression of the system, a plastic brain, a red herring?, was she trying to kill her biological body?, plugged in emotionally, I Will Fear No Evil by Robert A. Heinlein, old man becomes young woman, grandfatherly lust, P. Burke thinks she is Delphi, The Matrix, if this is the start of the technology, The Beautiful People by Charles Beaumont, Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series, vat-grown avatars, Wii miis, World Of Warcraft, Team Fortress 2, unique trumps beauty, the second smartest man in the world, scars are cool, trans-humanism, did anyone enjoy this book (story)?, Jenny loves this story, Scott liked it, the value of short fiction, James Triptree, Jr. writing is not like other people’s, it feels like an artifact, hey you daddy-o, Luke is the dissenting voice, Luke doesn’t like short fiction very much, Rudy Rucker’s Software and Wetware, Cory Doctorow, the futuristic patois, Luke doesn’t like the punk in cyberpunk, “it kind of just flops there”, KCRW’s Bookworm, Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose, using people, “the real hairy thing…love?”, the narrator’s cynicism, Isaac Asimov’s thoughts on New Wave, New Wave as the literary version of SF, style over content, what Rudy Rucker was doing, what is the first cyberpunk book?, Anne McCaffrey’s short story The Ship Who Sang, what it’s not, who wants straightforward?, addressing the reader directly, Peter Watts, infodumping, “As you know Jim…”,

On this day I want to tell you about, which will be about a thousand years from now, there were a boy, a girl and a love story. Now although I haven’t said much so far, none of it is true. The boy was not what you and I would normally think of as a boy, because he was a hundred and eighty-seven years old. Nor was the girl a girl, for other reasons; and the love story did not entail that sublimation of the urge to rape and concurrent postponement of the instinct to submit which we at present understand in such matters. You won’t care much for this story if you don’t grasp these facts at once. If, however, you will make the effort, you’ll likely enough find it jam-packed, chockfull and tiptop-crammed with laughter, tears and poignant sentiment which may, or may not, be worth while. The reason the girl was not a girl was that she was a boy.

“There’s a great future there”, All You Zombies by Robert A. Heinlein, it’s not a time travel story?, newspapers, typewriters, telegrams, has writing gotten worse or is it just evolving?, brid -> bird, Luke thinks it’s all cyclical, this is just another princess, this is Princess Diana’s story, we are complicit, the message, everyone should have to read the news in a second language, being two steps removed from current events, the value of the short story (it’s short), speed dating books, good luck.

The Girl Who Was Plugged In by James Triptree, Jr.

Rima the bird girl

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #200 – READALONG: Mars Needs Books! by Gary Lovisi

February 18, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aural Noir, Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #200 – Jesse, Mirko, and Gary Lovisi discuss the Science Fiction novel Mars Needs Books! by Gary Lovisi.

Talked about on today’s show:
the great description, Audible.com, it’s a prison novel, it’s a dystopian science fiction novel, it’s a book collector’s novel, Philip K. Dick, a reality dysfunction, The Man In The High Castle, 1984 by George Orwell, “retconning“, Stalin, airbrushing history, a new Science Fiction idea!, Amazon’s Kindle, Mark Twain, “The Department Of Control”, J. Edgar Hoover, Simon is the most evil character ever, oddball individualists, a straw man gulag, one way of keeping the population in control is to send troublemakers away, another is to give them someone to hate, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein, the Attica Prison riot (1971), Arabella Rashid, entertainment media, when you can’t tell what the truth is anymore it’s very easy to control people, maybe it’s an allegory for our times, Paperback Parade, SF writers were wrong about what our times are like, Mars, crime novels, Science Fiction as a metaphor, people are scared of reading, “I like good writing”, Richard Stark’s Parker novels, getting the word out about Mars Needs Books!, Gargoyle Nights, H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Jack Vance, horror, fantasy, nice and short, short books pack a punch (and don’t waste your time), Stephen King, Patrick O’Brian, ideas, paperback novels from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, customers want thick books, Winter In Maine by Gerard Donovan, were looking at a different readership today, James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, there’s nothing that doesn’t add to the story, “Lawrence Block is scary good”, Donald E. Westlake, Robert Bloch, Eight Million Ways To Die, A Pair Of Recycled Jeans by Lawrence Block, Evan Hunter (Ed McBain), Charles Ardai (was on SFFaudio Podcast #090), book-collectors, Murder Of A Bookman by Gary Lovisi (is also on Audible.com), collectable glassware, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, cool dialogue, Driving Hell’s Highway by Gary Lovisi (also on Audible.com), That Hell-bound Train by Robert Bloch, noir, Violence Is The Only Solution by Gary Lovisi (paperback), hard-boiled, revenge, betrayal, personality disorder, Sherlock Holmes, westerns, “if there’s one truth in the universe that I know it’s that Germans love westerns”, which frontier are you talking about?, The Wild Bunch, a western with tommyguns, Akira Kurosawa, Outland (is High Noon in space), Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan, hard-boiled, violence, the Martian national anthem, Prometheus Award, libertarian motifs, world-building, GryphonBooks.com, Hurricane Sandy, Wildside Press, POD Books, eBooks, fire and water, that paperback is still in readable condition in 150 years?, fanzines, Jack Vance, The Dying Earth, Robert Silverberg, Dell Mapbacks, paperbacks were disposable, used bookstores, sex books.

Audible - Mars Needs Books! by Gary Livosi

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #152 – READALONG: The Comedy Is Finished by Donald E. Westlake

March 19, 2012 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Aural Noir, Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #152 – Jesse talks with Trent Reynolds and Paul Westlake about the AudioGo and Hard Case Crime novel The Comedy Is Finished by Donald E. Westlake.

Talked about on today’s show:
Is The Comedy Is Finished going to be the last Donald E. Westlake novel to be published?, Memory (and our discussion of it), Charles Ardai, Max Allan Collins, Mickey Spillane, getting paid is a priority for professional writers, the 1970s, Honeydew, USO tours, Bob Hope, the audiobook experience, Peter Berkrot’s narration of the audiobook of The Comedy Is Finished, Koo Davis, Bob Hope as Red Skelton vs. Bob Hope as Gene Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock, Ricky Gervais, Koo Davis narrates his own POV in the present everyday tense sense, “Westlake is the master of sentence by sentence writing”, “in the moment”, “the god-damned Vietnam thing”, “the real Americans”, the redemption, healing vs. moving on, Ronald Reagan, “new normal”, “the Carter malaise” and “festering wounds”, Larry, Peter, Mark has daddy issues, Joyce, the Dortmunder gang if they were all psychotic, “doing a Westlake”, why do Koo’s boys not look like him?, the role of a father, the mirror scene, “genetics don’t matter in fiction”, fatherhood as a choice, leave the messages to Western Union, character arcs, Lindsey, A Sound Of Distant Drums, radio drama, “there are round characters and there are flat characters”, “oh this is a Westlake”, “Charo has become a bitter old woman”, “a romantic writer”, succinct description, taking plots from real life, The Score, “he can heist anything”, The Mourner, The Stepfather, “that’s pretty much how these work”, three Dortmunder ideas, Kahawa should be an audiobook, California, Burbank, Santa Barbara, Elizabeth Taylor’s biography, Under An English Heaven should be an audiobook too, Anguilla, an option has been taken out on Kahawa, the new Parker movie, Stephen King’s filmography vs. Donald Westlake’s filmography, The Hot Rock, Cops And Robbers (1973), The Split (based on The Seventh), Payback, Les Alexander, The Outfit, City Of Industry, The Sour Lemon Score, Made In U.S.A., the Criterion Collection, it’s Clint Eastwood with internal monologue, a Dortmunder TV series, The Limey, Terence Stamp, Idi Amin, Uganda, “the coffee train”, Enough, Ordo, A Slight Case Of Murder, A Travesty, it’s very hard to be a Westlake expert, the sound a girl makes when you’re kissing her, “it’s just a weird name”, Bob Hope was a knight!, Conrad Black, Baron Black of Crossharbour, Westlake’s Science Fiction and Fantasy, Westlake’s renunciation of SF, Anarchaos by Curt Clark, “Rolf Malone is a precursor to Parker”, Theodore Bikel (the fiddler in The Fiddler On The Roof), The Risk Profession, Nackles (is great for kids!), The Twilight Zone, Harlan Ellison’s screenplay for Nackles, the Starship Hopeful series (available on DonaldWestlake.com), Lawrence Block’s fantasy story, SF is very allegorical (and that’s not Westlake), Humans, Westlake’s Smoke vs. Wells’ The Invisible Man, “and everybody’s an asshole”, “everybody one way or another is a jerkoff”, “Joyce goes crazy in the most wonderful way”, a survivor of Chernobyl, “is God really an asshole?”, “angels are assholes”, Milton’s Paradise Lost, The Sacred Monster, Get Real, ridicule in print, Money For Nothing, Westlake never lectured, interior thoughts that are so revealing about the shallowness of a character’s nature, Washington, D.C., “moving up the ladder”, “what does Ginger want?”, “it’s fun to play with fire”, “I’ve got to have something”, did Don hate rock and roll?, he liked classical and atonal jazz, “damn hippie”, 99% of politics is pointless, talking to death, Jimmy The Kid (a Parker novel inside of a Dortmunder novel), kidnapping, Help I Am Being Held Prisoner, Patty Hearst, Gangway, Brian Garfield, Spider Robinson’s Dortmunder homage, Lawrence Block, The Sour Lemon Score, Dashiell Hammett, Piers Anthony, Poul Anderson, Robert A. Heinlein, shiny spaceships, don’t read by genre, read by author, the genre label, Jim Thompson, The Grifters, Trent’s beef with Angelica Huston, a period piece, Paul had a problem with John Cusack, J.T. Walsh, Pat Hingle, Annette Bening, “I’ll never look at a bag of oranges the same way”, Donald Westlake: NYC Personified, The Violent World Of Parker website, Nick Jones, Westlake’s bibliography at DonaldWestlake.com.

AudioGo - The Comedy Is Finished by Donald E. Westlake

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Blood Groove by Alex Bledsoe

November 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Blood Groove by Alex BledsoeBlood Groove
By Alex Bledsoe; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
7 CDs – Approx. 8.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2009
ISBN: 9781433243880
Themes: / Fantasy / Urban Fantasy / Vampires / Revenge / Love / 1970s / 1910s / Memphis / Wales /

When centuries-old vampire Baron Rudolfo Zginski was staked in Wales in 1915, the last thing he expected was to reawaken in Memphis, Tennessee, sixty years later. Reborn into a new world of simmering racial tensions, he must adapt quickly if he is to survive. Hoping to learn how his kind copes with this bizarre new era, Zginski tracks down a nest of teenage vampires, who have little knowledge of their true nature, having learned most of what they know from movies like Blacula. Forming an uneasy alliance with the young vampires, Zginski begins to teach them the truth about their powers. They must learn quickly for there’s a new drug on the street created to specifically target and destroy vampires. As Zginski and his allies track the drug to its source, they may unwittingly be stepping into a trap that can destroy them all.

The vampire is the Mr. Potato Head of Fantasy fiction. It’s an old and worn out monster, fully mythologized with more than 100 interchangeable preternatural powers and weaknesses from which to assemble a fully customized vampire. For what might be a complete list of them check out the terrific website TVTropes.org. It cites a wonderfully cynical list of vampire tropes under the title: “Our Vampires Are Different.” So then the question is: If there is nothing really new under the sunless skies of vampire fiction why do we pick up them up? It’s a good question and one worth pondering. I picked up Blood Groove in large part because of the title. I liked the pun, figuring it referred to a blood groove (or fuller) on a sword and/or the idea of groovy 1970s vampires and/or the dado in a forensic pathologist’s slab. And before I picked up Blood Groove I noticed other Bledsoe books (probably a pun to be made there too) had cute titles like: The Sword-Edged Blonde and Burn Me Deadly.

Alex Bledsoe doesn’t give any new power to the vampire that he hasn’t had before, but he does add a new figurative kryptonite (like sunlight and garlic and crosses) to the mix. In fact, it’s creation and dissemination is central to the plot of Blood Groove. Along the way we also get an historical setting (1975), a virtual tour of parts of Memphis, Tennessee, some trivia about Elvis Presley and a relatively unpredictable story.

One of the elements that surprised me was not knowing who the protagonist of Blood Groove was. The vampires seemed the focus, and yet there was almost nothing that could make them sympathetic in a heroic or anti-heroic way. We’d meet one, he’d be killed, and then I thought “Okay…and?” but the story wouldn’t explain – which was a nice move actually. So for a good chunk of the novel the characters, all well fleshed out, appeared in scenes, died or were killed, only to be replaced by new characters with new agendas and new back-stories. The period shifted too. First we are in 1975 Memphis, then 1915 Wales. Eventually it settles down and we’re given fresh references, almost devotionals actually, to two early 1970s movies Blacula and Vanishing Point. As with many an urban fantasy novel these days there’s a mixing up of sex and love. Blood Groove doesn’t feel particularly paranormal romancy – but it’s probably not too far from the edges of curve.

Narrator Stefan Rudnicki gives voice to about a dozen characters of mixed gender, ethnicity and accent. Most obviously the East European vampire Baron Rudolfo Zginski has a suitably Bela Lugosi type accent. As with every Rudnicki read audiobook I’ve heard his rich voiced narration in Blood Groove is always in service to the text. One reviewer on Amazon.com put it well: “[Reading Blood Groove] was like eating a brownie with nuts when you don’t like the nuts.”

The trailer for Vanishing Point:

The trailer for Blacula:

Posted by Jesse Willis

Aural Noir review of The Monster Of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi

April 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aural Noir, Reviews 

Aural Noir: Review

HACHETTE AUDIO - The Monster Of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario SpeziThe Monster Of Florence: A True Story
By Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi; Read by Dennis Boutsikaris
8 CDs – Approx. 9.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Published: 2008
ISBN: 9781600242090
Themes: / Crime / History / Mystery / Murder / Serial Killer / Conspiracy / Italy / Florence / Sardinia / The Renaissance /

In 2000, Douglas Preston and his family moved to Florence, Italy, fulfilling a long-held dream. They put their children in Italian schools and settled into a 14th century farmhouse in the green hills of Florence, where they devoted themselves to living la dolce vita while Preston wrote his best-selling suspense novels. All that changes when he discovers that the lovely olive grove in front of their house had been the scene of the most infamous double-murders in Italian history, committed by a serial killer known only as the Monster of Florence.

If you’re a fan of Douglas Preston’s fiction you’ll be all into digging the biographical details he adds to this illuminating non-fiction account of a real monster and the labyrinthine twists and turns the investigation took. Those readers looking for insight into Thomas Harris’ Hannibal novels can find this story impactful too. Myself, I was most interested in the unparalleled access this fearsome story details, namely the historical forces that shaped Florence, Tuscany and Sardinia from ancient days, through the Renaissance, the 1960s, 1970s, and on up to the present. Preston, with help from Spezi, provides elucidating details about how the killer (or killers) got away with 16 murders that took place between 1968 and 1985. Their book, this audiobook, is an indictment of Florentine and Italian journalists, the Italian national police , the Florentine investigators, and one prosecutor in particular. In short, after more than 30 years of criminal investigation the case remains an unsolved mystery. Spezi and Preston do take a guess at the culprit, and they back that guess up with a logic chain that is a helluva-lot-more compelling than the official explanation. But, just thinking about it all, a week or two later, I’m still shaking my head. The final disgrace of this story came as a result of a convergence between the Public Minister of Perugia, Giuliano Mignini, and a fraud psychic named Gabriella Carlizzi. Together they explained to themselves, and the arresting police, that Mario Spezi was actually involved in the murders and was a member of a satanic cult.

Even more worrisome, if it is possible to imagine, is what Preston argues is a fairly widespread Italian cultural embrace of something called “dietrologia.” Literally meaning “behindology,” dietrologia is the practice of assuming that nothing notable is as it actually appears – that something hidden (often sinister, cynical and/or conspiratorial) is behind any and all notable events. In Canada we might call it acting paranoid, or being a conspiracy theorist. In Italy, apparently, it is regularly practiced around the dinner table. And it’s all fun and games, I guess, until you end up throwing innocent people in jail. During the writing of The Monster Of Florence Spezi was arrested for either being a collaborator with the Monster or actually being the serial killer himself. Meanwhile Douglas Preston was interrogated, told to confess, threatened with arrest, and forced to leave Italy upon pain of prosecution. The Monster Of Florence case was completely bungled. This was a clusterfuck on par with the notorious California’s McMartin preschool investigation and trial. I guess it all goes to show that police and prosecutorial incompetence is alive and well in the new and old worlds both.

Reader Dennis Boutskaris takes full control of the narrative, becoming the voice of Preston (and Spezi) for the entire audiobook. To my untrained ears his Italian accent sounded fine. The cover art, as mentioned in the audiobook, comes from a photograph of a statue in Piazza della Signoria, in Florence (The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna |JPG|). In addition, on the final disc, there is an informative interview with Douglas Preston.

Posted by Jesse Willis