Review of Hounded by Kevin Hearne

December 6, 2011 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

YA Fantasy Audiobook - Hounded by Hounded: The Iron Druid Chronicles
By Kevin Hearne; Read by Luke Daniels
8 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: 2011
Themes: / Fantasy / YA / Druids / Occult / Werewolves / Vampires /

This is the first of a hugely popular YA series, highly recommended by a friend and, luckily for me, available as a review book from SFFaudio.

Here’s the brief summary for those who, like me, hadn’t heard of this book:

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old — when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer. Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down…

The book begins with verve as Atticus is a charming narrator who introduces us to his friends, who are mainly from the supernatural world. We meet Druid gods, local werewolves, a Viking vampire, the local coven of witches, and Atticus’s Irish wolfhound, Oberon, with whom Atticus can carry on mental conversations. There are few genuine humans in Atticus’s life and none are developed beyond a paltry few amusing characteristics, such as the Irish widow who likes to get drunk before going to Mass and forgives murder on her lawn if she is told the victims were British. The most likable character in the group is the dog Oberon who is charmingly focused on doggish things and has just enough understanding of Atticus’s world to offer his own solutions from time to time.

My initial attraction to the story soon ground to a halt. The problem with this book, and it is a large problem, is that Atticus is a perpetual Peter Pan character. His emotional development seems to be frozen at several years younger than his outward 21 years since a heaving bosom is all it takes to permanently distract him from whatever he’s doing. Pity. One would have hoped that 2,100 years of living would result in a certain amount of experience leading to wisdom. Instead, Atticus spends more time in a practical joke on an ambulance attendant than in thinking through how much he should have healed himself from a bullet wound to make it seem convincing to local law enforcement. That’s ok though because Atticus has friends and allies who unfailingly show up to give an easy solution without readers ever feeling that Atticus himself is too worries about the outcome. This leads to a permanent lack of dramatic tension.

It’s a pity there isn’t a “Wendy” to accompany Atticus’s “Peter Pan.” That would give Hounded the necessary depth and contrast. Now we can see how wise J.M. Barrie was in the construction of his tale. Without a truly human element who lacks control of the situation, all the adventures are one boring episode after another with nary a worry about how Atticus will escape.

The one good thing about this book is the narrator, Luke Daniels. I haven’t come across him before but will keep an eye out for him in the future. His talents kept me listening long past the point where I would have given up. His voicing of Oberon has found its way into my head whenever we “speak” for what our dogs in our household.

Sadly, Daniels’ talents aren’t enough to make this shallow story worth your time. There are many wonderful YA stories out there that are worth reading and rereading: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman, White Cat by Holly Black, and Assam and Darjeeling by T.M. Camp are just a few.

For that matter, try Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. You’ll see what Hounded could have been with proper attention given to the storytelling.

Posted by Julie D.

The SFFaudio Podcast #137 – READALONG: A Princess Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

December 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #137 – Scott, Jesse, Tamahome and David Stifel talk about the audiobook of A Princess Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Talked about on today’s show:
A Princess Of Mars, the martian novels, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ first novel was originally titled Under The Moons Of Mars, “I can write rot as bad as this”, WWI, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Normal Bean vs. Norman Bean vs. normal brain, All-Story, Gods Of Mars, Tarzan, Pellucidar, H.G. Wells, Earnest Hemingway, the science with fantastic elements, Mastermind Of Mars, organ (and brain) transplants, radium rifles with radium bullets, zeppelins, the Martian navy, David has been acting since he was 13 years old, the 1960s resurgence of Burroughs books, Ballantine Books vs. Ace Books (in a war for the drug store paperback racks), the authorized vs. unauthorized editions of Burroughs and J.R.R. Tolkien books, The Lost Continent, Tarzan At The Earth’s Core, Del-Rey Books, Tarzan Of The Apes, getting into narration, Irwin Porges, a rich rhythm of language, “Sator Throg is a personal friend of mine”, Tars Tarkas is David’s impression of James Earl Jones doing Darth Vader, Sola, “rescue the girl, escape from capture, become a gladiator and save the planet”, A Princess Of Mars begins as a western, Zane Grey, Arizona, Idaho, it is a kind of a western on Mars, “all of his slaves worshiped the ground he walked on”, good to his slaves and good to his animals, Burroughs loved animals (especially horses), themes of A Princess Of Mars include a love of animals and nature (and nudism), ERBZine website, the James Killian Spratt edition of A Princess Of Mars (puts the nudity up front and center), modesty vs. showmanship, everybody is nude on Barsoom, Teddy Roosevelt, the 19th century physical culture movement, Conan and Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, the oddness of an author who disdains writing, “back to nature and forward”, Flavor Flav or Max von Sydow, repulsor rays, Son Of Frankenstein, a telescope on Mars is looking at Earth, Percival Lowell, Lieutenant Gullivar Jones: His Vacation, the dying civilization that we see, The War Of The Worlds by H.G. Wells, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, “esoteric metaphysical spiritualism”, telepathy, John W. Campbell, lying for honorable reasons, the inconsistencies of lies and deceit in a world with telepathy, How John Carter Got To Mars (is kind of like the Mormon idea of the afterlife), astral projection, Houdini, Thuvia, Maid Of Mars, “the thought was made flesh”, Burroughs was a religious man, the unexplained preservation of Carter’s dead body, Bram Stoker, H.P. Lovecraft, “this is a fun book”, “like a Buck Rogers serial”, the serialization, cliffhangers, Swords Or Mars, Synthetic Men Of Mars, “Deja Thoris has laid an egg”, the curiously oviparous martians, the disney John Carter movie, Princess Of Mars, “Tarzan in a vest, does that work for you”, an evil Russian in cahoots with a French countess, “he was a splendid specimen of the white race”, Gone With The Wind, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, The Lord Of The Rings (movies), the Dynamite Entertainment Warlord Of Mars cover (#5 is done in the style of Norman Rockwell), Marvels Comics, Frazetta, HBO, a stage adaptation of A Princess Of Mars, a ballet of Spartacus (!), Gustav Holst’s Mars, Bringer Of War, Flash Gordon, Franz Liszt, Bronson Pinchot was interviewed by Grover Gardner (Blackstone Audio), the process of narrating an audiobook, The Godfather, Deja Thoris doesn’t get much screen time, Sola is a good character, Thuvia gets more of a leading role in Thuvia, Maid Of Mars, arbitrary customs that extend the narrative, S.M. Stirling’s In The Courts Of The Crimson Kings, Burroughs’ Venus books, all planets are occupied by people (except Mercury).

John Carter of Mars and Deja Thoris Princess of Helium (fully clothed)
Map Of Barsoom from Dynamite Entertainment's Warlord Of Mars (illustrating the events of A Princess Of Mars)
John Carter meets Sola - illustration by James Killian Spratt.
Michael Whelan - A Princess Of Mars
Warlord Of Mars Issue #5 cover by Joe Jusko
Riding A Thoat
A Princess Of Mars - illustration by Schoon
Fortunino Matania illustration of a scene from A Princess Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Posted by Jesse Willis

Recent Arrivals/Commentary: Blackstone Audio – Anderson, Powers, Matheson, Kress and Heinlein

August 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commentary, Recent Arrivals 

SFFaudio Recent Arrivals

Blackstone AudiobooksWe all know that old idiom – “don’t judge a book by its cover” – we all know it is a metaphor, that it isn’t supposed to be literal. In fact, to take it literally is to actually misunderstand the point of it.

But books, the literary things that they are, ARE of course pre-judged based on their covers. We decide whether we want to buy, borrow or steal them, rightly or wrongly, because of their covers. Here’s a great set of covers. I judge these covers as actually looking like really good reads based on their covers. The author names being clearly legible help me, the titles and font being legible and clever help me, but it is the images that are the most visceral component of helping me decide which book is to be picked up, and which is to be ignored.

Take this one. This is the kind of cover that makes you say: “That is fucking cool! Lemme see it for a second.” Then you gaze at it for a while, flip it over, read the back and buy it.

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - Harvest Of Stars by Poul AndersonHarvest Of Stars
By Poul Anderson; Read by Tom Weiner
15 CDs – Approx. 17.9 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: August 1, 2011
ISBN: 9781441788986
Earth lies crushed in the grip of totalitarianism. To save her planet, Kyra Davis is sent on a mission to liberate the last bastion of freedom and to rescue its legendary leader. Her bold adventure will sweep her from Earth’s rebel enclaves to the decadent court of an exotic lunar colony.

I like the cover on this one too. Its creepy and ethereal. The blood and the textual shadow make it look like a ghost or vampire story. Without actually telling me the story it still gives me a real sense of what the book might be like (whether that’s accurate or not). This is an affective cover.

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - The Stress Of Her Regard by Tim PowersThe Stress Of Her Regard
By Tim Powers; Read by Simon Vance
14 CDs – Approx. 16.7 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: May 1, 2011
ISBN: 9781441757180
When Michael Crawford discovers his bride brutally murdered in their wedding bed, he is forced to flee not only to prove his innocence but to avoid the deadly embrace of a vampire who has claimed him as her true bridegroom. Joining forces with Byron, Keats, and Shelley in a desperate journey that crisscrosses Europe, Crawford desperately seeks his freedom from this vengeful lover who haunts his dreams and will not rest until she destroys all that he cherishes. Told in the guise of a secret history, this tale of passion and terror brilliantly evokes the nineteenth century. The chilling horror and adventure blend to create a riveting romantic fantasy.

Image and color and font work much better than color and font alone. We get the “shadow on the sun” of the title, along with an actual shadow on the sun (which is maybe a raven or a hawk). I’m not much for abstract, but the boughs in a fiery orange could be fire or leaves or both. It’s much better than just color and font. This cover is both striking and mysterious.

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - Shadow On The Sun by Richard MathesonShadow On The Sun
By Richard Matheson; Read by Mark Bramhall
5 CDs – Approx. 5.6 Hours
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: July 1, 2011
ISBN: 9781441739957
Southwest Arizona, a century ago — An uneasy truce exists between the remote frontier community of Picture City and the neighboring Apaches. That delicate peace is shredded when the bodies of two white men are found hideously mutilated. The angry townspeople are certain the “savages” have broken the treaty, but Billjohn Finley, the local Indian agent, fears that darker, more unholy forces may be at work. There’s a tall, dark stranger in town, who rode in wearing the dead men’s clothes. A stranger who may not be entirely human.

In this case the image is actually a visual allusion to the cover of The Great Gatsby (and other covers). The foreground framing invites us in, as through a doorway, to go down into the valley where lies that city, a mesa metropolis – and all the while the stars above are watching. The only criticism I have here is that while the font is good there is a repeat on the “E” (and the “S”) – that’s slightly distracting.

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - Steal Across The Sky by Nancy KressSteal Across The Sky
By Nancy Kress; Read by Kate Reading
9 CDs – Approx. 10.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: July 1, 2011
ISBN: 9781441792402
The aliens appeared one day, built a base on the moon, and put an ad on the Internet: “We are an alien race you may call the Atoners. Ten thousand years ago we wronged humanity profoundly. We cannot undo what has been done, but we wish humanity to understand it. Therefore we request twenty-one volunteers to visit seven planets to Witness for us. We will convey each volunteer there and back in complete safety. Volunteers must speak English. Send requests for electronic applications to [email protected]” At first, everyone thought it was a joke. But it wasn’t. This is the story of three of those volunteers and what they found on Kular A and Kular B.

This one feels like it was made quickly (by a skilled artist) mostly out of stock images. The pocket-watch and the radioactive hazard trefoil give you a couple of tips as to the plot (time travel and nuclear war), but there’s also the Sam Browne belt equipped figure (with double braces) walking into what looks like an African Savannah – it all makes you want to open it up and see where that dude is going.

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - Farnham's Freehold by Robert A. HeinleinFarnham’s Freehold
By Robert A. Heinlein; Read by Tom Weiner
8 CDs – Approx. 9.3 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: June 5, 2011
ISBN: 9781441791702
Hugh Farnham is a practical, self-made man, and when he sees the clouds of nuclear war gathering, he builds a bomb shelter under his house, hoping for peace and preparing for war. But when the apocalypse comes, something happens that he did not expect. A thermonuclear blast tears apart the fabric of time and hurls his shelter into a world with no sign of other human beings. Farnham and his family have barely settled down to the backbreaking business of low-tech survival when they find that they are not alone after all. The same nuclear war that catapaulted Farnham two thousand years into the future has destroyed all civilization in the northern hemisphere, leaving Africans as the dominant surviving people. In the new world order, Farnham and his family, being members of the race that nearly destroyed the world, are fit only to be slaves. After surviving a nuclear war, Farnham has no intention of being anyone’s slave, but the tyrannical power of the Chosen race reaches throughout the world. Even if he manages to escape, where can he run to?

Posted by Jesse Willis

Aural Noir Review of Drive by James Sallis

August 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aural Noir, Reviews 

Aural Noir: Review

Blackstone Audio - Drive by James SallisDrive
By James Sallis; Read by Paul Michael Garcia
Audible Download – 3 Hours 26 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2007
Provider: Audible.com
Themes: / Crime / Noir / Los Angeles / Hollywood / Arizona /

“Much later, as he sat with his back against an inside wall of a Motel 6 just north of Phoenix, watching the pool of blood lap toward him, Driver would wonder whether he had made a terrible mistake. Later still, of course, there’d be no doubt. But for now Driver is, as they say, in the moment. And the moment includes this blood lapping toward him, the pressure of dawn’s late light at windows and door, traffic sounds from the interstate nearby, the sound of someone weeping in the next room…”

Drive starts with an important dedication. “To Donald Westlake, Ed McBain and Larry Block.” If an author is going to choose any three modern crime writers as inspiration for a book they could pick no better three than these dudes. Drive starts off with an opening sentence that could have been written by Richard Stark (a pen-name of Donald Westlake), proceeds to punch-out clean and clinical prose like McBain’s 87th Precinct novels and punches the story along like Lawrence Block at his best. Drive stars “Driver”, a nameless Hollywood stunt driver by day and a criminal getaway driver by night. We get how he started in the business of stunt-driving, a few scenes of him pulling off those incredible feats of automotive control, and how he got involved in the punishing business of criminal getaway driving. It’s fast, but it ain’t furious, it’s more of a simmering sizzle.

Blackstone narrator Paul Michael Garcia, who I last heard as the reader of Starman Jones, has a young voice – I knew I’d enjoy his reading of something in this genre. Garcia’s narration made it an incredibly solid listen. What’ll keep it from being a classic of the niche is that same anonymity of the protagonist. I enjoyed the ride with the guy, the “driver”, he has an incredible story to tell, but it was like I got hypnotized by the road somehow – I got to the end, refreshed and exhilarated but not particularly aware of what route we took. Perhaps this makes Drive the ideal summertime, top down, high-gear audiobook? It’s a novella so it’s short and you’ll zip through it practically before the commute is over. I think its worth giving a try.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Everybody’s talking about podcasting these days, e…

May 9, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: News 

SFFaudio News

Everybody’s talking about podcasting these days, either that or starting their own and then talking about it. We’ve collected some resources for the Science Fiction and Fantasy audio fan who is finally ready for the MP3 experimentation to begin…

The Dragon Page
A long running Arizona radio show has transitioned from mere frequency and amplitude modulations to the exciting world of Podcasting! But in a disturbing turn it has started to multiply at a truly alarming rate! The Dragon Page has spawned three, count em three, podcasts and a number of spin-off serial novels. Will they become the Walmart of SF & F podcasting? Tune in and see…

Cover to Cover
A podcast with a literary science fiction and fantasy bent, authors are interviewed frequently, hosted by Michael R. Mennenga and Evo Terra.
http://dragonpage.com/

Slice of Sci Fi
A podcast with a spec fic media and Star Trek bent, hosted by Michael R. Mennenga and Evo Terra.
http://www.sliceofscifi.com/

Wingin’ It
Two bent SF & F geeks, Michael R. Mennenga and Evo Terra, podcasting without a net.
http://dragonpage.com/

Evo Terra came up with the term, “Podiobooks”, for serially podcast audiobooks and he’s built a site showcasing four spec fic novels that are doing just that, the first three were associated with The Dragon Page prior to the the creation of the Podiobooks site, but they’ve generously included a fourth independent author’s “podiobook” there too:

MOREVI: The Chronicles of Rafe and Askana
Tee Morris and Lisa Lee’s paperbook novel Morevi: The Chronicles of Rafe and Askana gets serially podcast with Tee Morris reading and engineering.
http://www.teemorris.com/podcast

Earthcore, Scott Sigler’s geology and mining centered novel is being serially podcast. It plays out like a technothriller in the vein of a Lincoln Child novel only far, far angrier. Sigler reads it himself.
http://www.scottsigler.net/earthcore/

The Pocket and the Pendant, Mark Jeffrey’s young adult fantasy novel being serially podcast.
http://markjeffrey.typepad.com/

Tom Corven is a tale being written and read by Paul Story. Story (a pseudonym) originally hails from Scotland but he’s writing it in Split, Croatia and podcasting it serially from a cybercafe there.
http://www.dreamwords.com/TomCorven.htm

Rev Up Review
British blogger and SF author Paul Jenkins’ new podcast sounds very promising indeed. His second podcast carefully surveys what’s available in the speculative fiction podcast field and what of it is worth listening to. He’s also reading his short story “The Journey of Jonathan Cave”, but part one starts with his first “experimental” podcast so be sure to check that one out first.
http://www.rev-up-review.co.uk/

The Seanachai
Thanks to Paul S. Jenkins for finding this one. The Seanachai is a “weekly(ish)” podcast of dramatic storytelling and commentary by Patrick E. McLean.
Funny fantasy so far!
http://www.goodwordsrightorder.com/

Nuketown Radio Active
Speculative fiction reviews from “a geek dad”. Includes movie, book, game, comic book, web site and podcasts reviews.
http://www.nuketown.com/music/archive.php?type=74

The Comic Geeks
A podcast about comic books, toys, memorabilia, science fiction and more.
http://www.thecomicgeeks.com/

SFSite.com Podcasts
MP3 reviews of audiobooks!
http://www.sfsite.com/depts/podcast.xml

Matamea Rising
“A fictional serialized radio show”. Despite that description this radio style serial actually exists!
http://www.matamea.org/podcast/

“Next, I Hem a Cyclic Door”
A project using “podcasting”, comic book panels and video to tell an episodic science-fiction story across different mediums. A collaboration between comic book artist Tim Dedman and Code Owl Productions founder Gabriel Walsh. Dedman and Walsh exchange scripts and execute each other’s idea.
http://www.codeowl.com/nextihemacyclicdoor/

Have we missed a podcast? Let us know!

Posted by Jesse Willis