Review of Rocannon’s World by Ursula K. Le Guin

August 5, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Rocannon's World by Ursula K. Le GuinRocannon’s World
By Ursula K. Le Guin; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
5 CDs, 5 hrs – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 9781433210822
Themes: / Science Fiction / Anthropology / Interstellar travel / Aliens / Telepathy /
Listen to sample

Against a cold war subtext of a well-meaning interstellar civilization trampling other cultures in its blind panic to defend itself against a nebulous enemy from beyond the galaxy, Ursula Le Guin kicks off her vaunted Hainish novels with a tale that blends elements of high fantasy, space opera, anthropology, and political commentary. It’s got a little bit of everything: a quest for revenge across two continents and an ocean by boat, by foot, and flying cat-horse back; a main character immersed in adventure, yet torn by guilt for his own decisions and those of his government; a classic “god gambit” featuring an invincible, invisible suit of armor, a sword, and a trial by fire; and not one, not two, not three, but five species of intelligent hominids on the same planet.

Okay, so not all of it flies as plausible science fiction. But it is compelling, as a ripping good adventure yarn, as an examination of how legends are created, and as a thought-provoking examination of our own cultural chauvinism. The complexity of emotions that roil in Rocannon’s soul as he moves into and through this world are so believable, the implausibility of some of the story elements evaporates from our notice. And even the multiplicity of intelligences works on a symbolic level. The subterranean clay-folk, the laughing Fiann, and the lords and mid-men of the North all function like the multiple poles of human nature, offering a mirror of our own nobility and baseness.
Is it LeGuin’s best? Not by a longshot. She’s still developing her craft here, still conforming to a male-dominated genre, and still working on making characters that live and breathe. But the focus on anthropology, the nobility of the small being ground beneath the powerful, and the truth that lies beneath layers of language made for falsity that will permeate so much of her later work are all there.

This is a work of solid storytelling that carefully juxtaposes just the right elements at just the right angles to produce not cold logic but warm emotion. As such, Stefan Rudnicki’s muscular, antiseptic voice is the perfect vehicle to deliver this tale. His tone is impeccable, his pronunciation exact, yet within moments all you hear is rushing wind, blaring static, crackling flames, and shocking silence, the sounds of exhilaration, heartbreak, fear, and guilt. It’s well worth your time.

Posted by Kurt Dietz

aBoSaSoTT: The Forgotten Enemy by Arthur C. Clarke

November 19, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

A Bite of Stars, a Slug of Time, and Thou - a Resonance FM podcastRounding up recently wrapped second series of A Bite of Stars, a Slug of Time, and Thou is a pleasure. Hopefully this delightfully interesting podcast and radio show (on Resonance FM 104.4 FM in London, U.K.) will come back with a third series real soon.

In reverse order of podcast…

First, there’s a terrific tale by Arthur C. Clarke. Set in London, it’s the tale of a lonely man in a deserted London waiting for rescue. He can almost hear the helicopters. Yes, the helicopters. The slow, loud, helicopters coming inevitably from the north.

The Forgotten Enemy by Arthur C. ClarkeEpisode 16 – The Forgotten Enemy
By Arthur C. Clarke; Read by Elisha Sessions
Podcast – 1 Hour [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: A Bite Of Stars, A Slug Of Time, And Thou
Podcast: 2008
First published in December 1948, in an issue of King’s College Review. In a bleak snow and ice covered London, a lone survivor faces isolation, polar bears and loneliness. But even his one hope, the idea that a rescue team is crossing the Atlantic ice sheet isn’t enough to stave off The Forgotten Enemy.

Less accessible, but probably just as interesting if you can get into it, is episode 15, which features some highly literary SF from Ursula K. Le Guin…

A Bite of Stars, A Slug of Time, and Thou: Things by Ursula K. Le GuinEpisode 15 – Things
By Ursula K. Le Guin; Read by Elisha Sessions
Podcast – 1 Hour [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: A Bite Of Stars, A Slug Of Time, And Thou
Podcast: 2008
Written by Ursula Le Guin in 1970. This is a short story about a society sharply divided between nihilist marauders and maudlin do-nothings… and two people who don’t really fit in either camp. Oh, and masonry.

There’s a little editing error in this reading of The Squirrel Cage. And, past that point, Sessions’ reading becomes very quiet, you’ll have to turn up your volume. Despite these issues during the reading of the story, you’ll keep listening, almost as if you don’t have a choice. It’s a compelling narrative of a man trapped alone in a room with a subscription to the New York Times.

A Bite of Stars, A Slug of Time, and Thou: The Squirrel Cage by Thomas M. DischEpisode 14 – The Squirrel Cage
By Thomas M. Disch; Read by Elisha Sessions
Podcast – 1 Hour [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: A Bite Of Stars, A Slug Of Time, And Thou
Podcast: 2008
It’s a story about a writer writing for no one, or for everyone – he’s not sure which.

Episode 13, a story by Brian Aldiss, feels oddly modern, despite its age. Charles Stross might have written it. It’s funny, poignant, and rather subversive – I’m not sure exactly what lessons it teaches, but I like the lesson very much. Perhaps All the World’s Tears is just a lesson in humility? Unfortunate sound effect additions don’t destroy the reading, but they are intrusive.

A Bite of Stars, A Slug of Time, and Thou: All The World’s Tears by Brian AldissEpisode 13 – All The World’s Tears
By Brian Aldiss; Read by Elisha Sessions
1 |MP3| – 1 Hour [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: A Bite Of Stars, A Slug Of Time, And Thou
Podcast: Oct. 7, 2008
The people and culture described in this 1957 short story by Brian Aldiss are human, but they don’t really act like it. Except for maybe the self-destructive part. It’s about a vitiated ecology, a mechanized society, and a desolate, wind-swept mansion where love may not be all you need.

Podcast feed:

Posted by Jesse Willis