Reading, Short And Deep #025
Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment was first published as The Fountain Of Youth in The Knickerbocker, January 1837.
Here’s a link to a PDF of the story.
Podcast feed https://sffaudio.herokuapp.com/rsd/rss
Posted by Scott D. Danielson
By Robert Heinlein; Read by MacLeod Andrews
6 CDs – 7 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: July 2012
Themes: / space / genetic engineering / genetic modification / aging / death / interstellar travel / aliens /
After the fall of the American Ayatollahs as foretold in Stranger in a Strange Land and chronicled in Revolt in 2100, the United States of America at last fulfills the promise inherent in its first Revolution: for the first time in human history there is a nation with Liberty and Justice for All.
No one may seize or harm the person or property of another, or invade his privacy, or force him to do his bidding. Americans are fiercely proud of their re-won liberties and the blood it cost them; nothing could make them forswear those truths they hold self-evident. Nothing except the promise of immortality….
This 1941 novel by Robert Heinlein is a short but epic space adventure about the Howard Families, a population of people who can live very long lives thanks to a history of selective breeding. Over the centuries, they took on different identities to hide their long-life nature from “short-lifers,” but eventually some of them decided to share their scientific achievement with the public.
However, instead of celebrating the Howard Families’ scientific achievement, the short-lifers suspect them of concealing the true secret to long life. This is where the story starts: when the government and the public begin to persecute the Howard Families, Lazarus Long (the kilt-wearing leader of the group who is more than 200 years old and who always has a knife strapped to his thigh) hijacks a city-sized starship so the families can flee Earth and go in search of a new home.
Despite its short size, this book covers a long length of time, is packed with ideas, and manages to explore deep themes such as aging, death, human genetic modification, and individualism, among others. There’s bound to be something in here for everyone, although personally I struggled with the first half because of the lengthy democratic meetings and the seemingly endless strategizing about what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. I also thought the discussions about the technicalities of interstellar travel or alien biology were a little tedious, but I’m sure hard-SF fans will love every moment.
I really got into the story later, when the families started arriving on other planets and things got weird. The alien cultures, worlds and philosophies were brilliant and often eerie. How can you not love aliens who say things like, “My people will like to see you and smell your skin.”
The human characters, on the other hand, were less lovable for me. They lacked depth and tended to speak literally and directly, without subtext. The narration on the audiobook didn’t help warm the dialog up either, because in the reading the characters sometimes sounded like they were barking lines at each other, and at other times odd words in the dialog were emphasized that I don’t think should have been.
The narrator McLeod Andrews did give a very clear reading though, and once I got used to his style the odd emphases were less noticeable. He did an awesome job of embodying the voice of grumpy but optimistic Lazarus Long, who was the most developed and interesting character.
Ultimately, even though not everything might be to your taste, there are just so many great ideas and themes squished into this book that you’re bound to find a ton to enjoy, despite its short length.
Review by Marissa VU
There are a lot of new audiobooks showing up on LibriVox every day of the week. This means I get to pick and choose amongst a vast roster of titles that I could possibly tell you about. One that I was not planning to post about was a 1759 Fantasy novel by Samuel Johnson. I had nothing against Johnson. I just hadn’t read any of his books. Sure I knew he had written a dictionary, but it wasn’t one of the ones that I had read. The problem really was I just didn’t know enough about Johnson to be interested in his novel. Frankly, the first thing that came to mind when I thought of Dr. Samuel Johnson was how great a character he was in the “Ink and Incapability“ episode of Blackadder. That one never gets old.
But, then today I was listening to my favourite Australian podcast, ABC Radio National’s The Philosopher’s Zone, and they mentioned this book. I suspect this wasn’t fated, it being the 300th anniversary of Johnson’s birth people around the world are thinking about old Johnson – but even if it was fate – either if I changed my mind or my mind was changed – after listening to that show I’m telling you about this novel now. The show |MP3| was actually on Johnson’s stoic christian philosophy – or rather his reaction to the ancient stoics. Host Alan Saunders, and guest, John Wiltshire, talked about a poem and then this book and it’s position in Johnson’s philosophy. It was fascinating! Now to listen…
The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia
By Samuel Johnson; Read by Martin Geeson
17 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 5 Hours 31 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: September 25, 2009
In this enchanting fable (subtitled The Choice of Life), Rasselas and his retinue burrow their way out of the totalitarian paradise of the Happy Valley in search of that triad of eighteenth-century aspiration – life, liberty and happiness. According to that quirky authority, James Boswell, Johnson penned his only work of prose fiction in a handful of days to cover the cost of his mother’s funeral. The stylistic elegance of the book and its wide-ranging philosophical concerns give no hint of haste or superficiality. Among other still burning issues Johnson’s characters pursue questions of education, colonialism, the nature of the soul and even climate alteration. Johnson’s profoundest concern, however, is with the alternating attractions of solitude and social participation, seen not only as the ultimate life-choice but as the arena in which are played out the deepest fears of the individual: “Of the uncertainties of our present state, the most dreadful and alarming is the uncertain continuance of Reason.”
iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|
In addition to the reader, Martin Geeson, this audiobook was produced by:
Dedicated Proof-Listener: Stav Nisser
[Thanks to all three LibriVoxateers]
Posted by Jesse Willis
Something Wicked This Way Comes (with A Sound of Thunder)
By Ray Bradbury; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
8 CD’s – 9.5 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Date Published: 2005
Themes: / Fantasy / Halloween / Carnival / Magic / Supernatural / Aging /
Sometime each October, a line is crossed; the line between falling leaves and fallen leaves, between shirtsleeves and a jacket, between the relief that summer has ended and the slight dread of the upcoming winter. Most of us don’t really notice the moment of crossing; we look up sometime afterwards and wonder where all the pumpkins came from. Some people, though, are exquisitely aware of this moment; they live in it, they draw it out and savor it, and a special few of them create art about it that allows the rest us to actually experience it. Dave McKean captures it with his eerie photo collages, M. Ward puts his old-young-man voice to good use singing about it, particularly in a track called “One Life Away,” and Terry Gilliam almost-but-not-quite captured it on film in the recent The Brothers Grimm. Ray Bradbury did some of his best work while inhabiting it. In The Illustrated Man and The October Country, he told stories about people’s lives intersecting that weird border. In The Halloween Tree, he abandoned story for the most part, and spent his time describing the sensory experience of the moment of crossing. In Something Wicked This Way Comes, recently released as an audiobook by Blackstone Audio, he skillfully combined plot and description to examine this and life’s other unnoticed, but profound, sea changes.
Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade are the young protagonists of the story, best friends born just two minutes apart, but each on a different side of the line. Each of the boys personifies their respective border country; Will is blue-eyed and blonde, responsible, mannered, charming, the type of kid who looks like he was born wearing a scout uniform. Jim is darker, his eyes and his hair, but also his mood and personality. While it would be easy (and tempting) to say that Will is “better” than Jim, Bradbury shows his wisdom by describing the value of both of the boys’ attributes, how one, without the other, is vulnerable and incomplete, and how the different elements each boy bring to the friendship ultimately strengthen it.
The story follows Will and Jim as they cross a number of boundaries; the October line, the line between boyhood and adolescence, and the line between innocence and experience. The arrival of a strange carnival to the boys’ idyllic town complicates these passages. “Cougar and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show” is indeed something wicked, and the danger it presents to the boys and their town makes for an engaging, suspenseful tale.
Audiobook veteran Stephen Rudnicki reads Something Wicked, and gives a largely enjoyable performance, with only a few rough spots. Listeners familiar with Rudnicki will understand that dialogue between two pubescent boys isn’t exactly the perfect material for his sonorous voice. Everything is forgiven, however, when Mr. Dark makes his entrance. Rudnicki’s reading of the tattooed ringmaster’s introductory sentence literally gave me chills. Mr. Cougar, the Dust Witch, and the rest of the Shadow Show freaks are also done justice by Rudnicki’s interpretations.
Blackstone Audio seems to have heard my pleas for more DVD-type extra features on audio books, and have included an extra disc with a Bradbury short story, “A Sound of Thunder,” also read by Rudnicki. The story, a powerful exploration of the dangers of time travel, was recently made into a motion picture starring Edward Burns (and almost universally panned).
An interesting element of this audio book is that, whether by accident or design, the discs almost invariably ended at a point of terrific suspense. Rather than simply turning a page to assuage my anxiety about the fate of the characters, I was scrambling to eject discs, open cases, balance discs on my various fingers and insert new discs. Call me a masochist, but I thought it actually made the experience more enjoyable. Even listeners who don’t share my Hitchockian penchant for prolonging a story’s tension will have a hard time finding a better group of guides than Bradbury, Rudnicki, Jim, Will, and Mr. Dark for this year’s passage over that peculiar line.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
By Ray Bradbury; Read by Paul Hecht
7 CD’s – 8 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Date Published: 1999
Themes: / Fantasy / Halloween / Carnival / Magic / Supernatural / Aging /
First of all, it was October. A rare month for boys.
— Prologue, Something Wicked This Way Comes
As I write this, it’s a cool October night. The trees outside are starting to drop autumn leaves. It’s not difficult, especially after finishing this novel, to see why October turns my thoughts to Ray Bradbury more than any other author. He can instill the spirit of Halloween in a person the same way that Dickens instills the spirit of Christmas, and Something Wicked This Way Comes is his work that does it best.
Paul Hecht, in one of his finest narrating performances, reads this unabridged version of Bradbury’s novel, and adds an infectious enthusiasm to the poetic prose. I was captured by his performance.
The novel revolves around Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, who are best friends. They are both nearly thirteen years old, and it’s the week before Halloween. Into town comes a lightning rod salesman who warns of an approaching storm. Later that same night a carnival comes to town, full of bizarre people and sinister magic. The boys are immediately drawn to it and, after an unsettling event involving a carousel, know that they are dealing with something dangerous and powerful. The two boys are very different people, so they react to the carnival, its people, and its magic in different ways.
Something Wicked This Way Comes is a novel full of images. The carnival, the carousel, the boys themselves running here and there, the lightning rod covered with ancient symbols… those images come through with crystal clarity in this audiobook. Happy Halloween!
Posted by Scott D. Danielson
Tales With a Twist
By Jerald Fine; Read by Jerald Fine
2 CD’s – 2 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tales with a Twist
Themes: / Fantasy / Horror / Short Stories / Alamo / The Mob / Nature / Aging / Ghosts /
This audiobook by Jerald Fine delivers what it promises: five tales in the tradition of The Twilight Zone. The tales:
“Twilight of Youth”: A man who loathes old people gets his.
“The Hit”: A cautionary tale for any future employee of organized crime.
“The Wave”: The world’s greatest surfer tries a tidal wave.
“Return to the Alamo”: Could modern paratroopers make a difference at the Alamo?
“Fog Encounter”: A headless phantom stalks a community.
The stories capture the feel of the old Twilight Zone series, and each tale, as the title promises, ends with a twist. The audio is narrated by the author, who has a great dramatic voice. That voice in combination with some of the underlying music creates a few points that are TOO dramatic, but overall the balance is very good. There are places in the book where Fine is joined by a female voice, and I was heartened to see that the he saids/she saids were removed, and the actors were allowed to act where appropriate.
The result is a very good audiobook by Jerald Fine. Tales with a Twist is five stories with a classic feel read with good tone and energy. This book can be purchase on the author’s site at: www.taleswithatwist.com.
A note on packaging: I do not have in my hands the final package – the author informs me that the final package will include “a completed cover with barcodes in a double jewel box case.”