Review of Darkside by Tom Becker

September 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Darkside by Tom BeckerDarkside
By Tom Becker; Read by Colin Moody
6 CDs – Approx. 6 Hours 12 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Bolinda Audio
Published: 2008
ISBN: 9781921415340
Themes: / Fantasy / Urban Fantasy / Crime / London / Werewolves / Vampires / Magic / Kidnapping / Evil / Jack The Ripper /
Your home’s been attacked. Your dad’s in an asylum. You’re running for your life. And there’s nowhere to hide.

You’ve stumbled on the city’s greatest secret: Darkside. Incredibly dangerous and unimaginably exciting. Darkside is ruled by Jack the Ripper’s children – a place where nightmares walk the streets. You think you’re in trouble now, but your problems have just begun…

I usually do a fair mount of research about the books I plan to read. Before I pick one up I’ve usually either heard an author interview, read a review, discussed it with people who’ve already read it, or at least got a recommendation from an author whose work I already respect. But I also know these techniques aren’t a very good way to branch out beyond what’s already familiar to me, and so, every so often I just pick up a book, almost at random, and start reading. That’s what I did with Darkside by Tom Becker.

Maybe one of the initial appeals of Darkside, other than the terrific cover, was that it was from a publisher whose audiobooks I’d never heard before. Bolinda Audio is from Australia. And because of that it’s doing things a little differently. First off, it’s narrators are Australian. And second, they’ve got a lot of authors in their catalogue that I’ve never heard of. That’s cool!

Darkside is an interesting tale in itself. In terms of plot, it kind of falls halfway between two Neil Gaiman novels: Neverwhere and The Graveyard Book. It features Jonathan Starling, an unremarkable misfit fourteen-year-old with an ailing father and a deceased mother. He lives in London and is mostly taken care of by a kindly neighbor woman. Other than her, he’s nearly friendless and spends most days skipping-out of school and hanging out at one of the city’s many libraries. His father, an avid book collector himself, suffers some sort of recurring full body paralysis and perhaps it’s related to some of the books he collects. One day, right out in the open on a London street Jonathan is nearly kidnapped by a seemingly invisible giant and a woman with fluorescent hair. He quickly learns that London isn’t going to be safe for him anymore and so his father sends him away. He is to flee, for his own safety, into the arms of a protector. Jonathan takes with him a knife and a bullet. The knife is for protection from the kidnappers, and the bullet is for protection against his would-be protector, a mysterious old friend of his father’s, a man named Carnegie. Plot ensues.

Where the novel falls short is in comparison to the two Neil Gaiman novels I mentioned earlier. A hidden city within London isn’t really new. And neither is a young kid being protected by a paranormal monster-man. More importantly, Becker doesn’t have anywhere near the mastery of English fiction that Gaiman has. But that’s really not a fair comparison. For my money very few living English authors can compare favorably with Neil Gaiman. Apparently Darkside was written when Becker was just 25! When Gaiman was 25 he hadn’t written a single novel, comic, nor even Don’t Panic, his wonderful biography of Douglas Adams. As a result I think Darkside can stand pretty proudly on its own. It’s quickly paced, pretty fun and most of all it’s got a story that keeps your attention all the way through. Good job new guy.

Narrator Colin Moody, a talent stage trained actor, has an Australian accent, except when performing the dialogue of the characters. When in character Moody cowls him reading with various Londoner regionalisms. There are many sinister sounding villains in this novel and he voices all of them extremely well. If you’re a voracious reader looking for swiftly plotted urban fantasy novel (for the juvenile set), and you’ve already read both Neverwhere |READ OUR REVIEW| and The Graveyard Book |READ OUR REVIEW| do check out Darkside. Series fans will also be pleased to hear that four more Darkside novels follow this one, and that Bolinda has the “audio sequel forthcoming.”

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #046

January 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Podcasts 


The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #046 – Jesse and Scott talk audiobooks, hard SF, current theatrical movies, Kenneth Oppel‘s Skybreaker and the new Gene Wolfe audiobooks at! We also debut a new feature (boldly stolen from the late lamented Sofanauts Podcast). RIP.

Talked about on today’s show:
bananas, Smoke by Donald E. Westlake, invisibility, humor, the Richard Stark novels are only funny to psychopaths, crime, Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You by Donald Westlake (Westlake’s open letter to Science Fiction on why he’s not writing SF anymore), Philip K. Dick’s interview on Hour 25, Those Sexy Vintage Sleaze Books: A Blog About Vintage Soft Core Paperbacks, Robert Silverberg, Lawrence Block,, The Ax and The Hook by Donald E. Westlake, The Engines Of God by Jack McDevitt, Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke, aliens, xenoarcheology, terraforming, Tom Weiner, hard SF, 2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke, exoplanets, social science fiction, soft SF, The Windup Girl by Paulo Bacigalupi, androids, first contact, Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer |READ OUR REVIEW|, how to win any argument about modern SF: bring up Ted Chiang, The Story Of Your Life by Ted Chiang, The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, Starship: Flagship by Mike Resnick, hero characters doing villainous things, Island Of The Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, Summer Of The Monkeys by Wilson Rawls, Dolphin Island by Arthur C. Clarke, hovercraft, Australia, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, marine biology, District 9, the MacGuffin in District 9 is stupid, Avatar, Sharlto Copley, Star Trek, Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel, Full Cast Audio, audio drama, Science Fiction, alternate history, Fantasy, airships, pirates, lifting gasses, phrenology, Howard Hughes, Thomas Edison, Graphic Audio, Brandon Sanderson‘s Warbreaker, Elizabeth Moon‘s Serrano Legacy series, audio drama is for truckers!, Jesse’s pick of the week: William Friedkin‘s Sorcerer (1977), laserdiscs, the great thing about laserdiscs!, VHSrips!, The Wages Of Fear (1953), Scott’s Pick of the week: Gene Wolfe’s The Book Of The New Sun (a novel in four parts), narrated by Jonathan Davis, the SFFaudio Yahoo! Group,, Blake’s 7 The Early Years – Jenna: The Trial / The Dust Run (Vol. 1.5), Carrie Dobro, Babylon 5: Crusade, the Blake’s 7 television series, Blake’s 7 is the best audio drama space opera series ever!, Brian AldissHelleconia series, Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss, Best SF Stories of Brian W. Aldiss, the fix-up novel, Dreamsongs by George R.R. Martin |READ OUR REVIEW|, Maps In A Mirror by Orson Scott Card, short stories turned into novels, Karen Makes Out (a short story), Out Of Sight (a novel) by Elmore Leonard, Out Of Sight (the film), Karen Sisco, Meatball Fulton‘s Ruby The Galactic Gumshoe, NPR, Recorded Books, The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross, what Jesse wants for his birthday: the complete fiction of Ted Chiang in audio, The Bishop’s Heir by Katherine Kurtz, the Deryni series, David Weber, series should end!

Posted by Jesse Willis

ABC Radio National: Wake In Fright by Kenneth Cook

October 23, 2009 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

ABC Radio National - Book ReadingSo Canada’s public radio book reading program Between The Covers is podcast. One whole channel (BBC Radio 4) for the U.K. is available through Radio Downloader subscription. So what about our friends in Australia? Are they making their shows available?

Yes, they sure aren’t!

ABC Radio National is still in bad shape podcasting wise. They’ve got their terrific non-fiction programs like The Philosopher’s Zone and All In The Mind pleasing everyone all over the world but their book reading program, called Book Reading, isn’t available except via 20th century tech called “streaming audio” (RealAudio or Windows Media). This is really bad.

I’ve said it before, and before and before and before, and most assuredly before – when oh when will ABC Radio National join the 21st century?

I bring this up because they’ve got a terrific sounding novel being broadcast right now:

Wake In Fright is an open-eyed nightmare played out under a scorching outback sun. On one level it’s a great, mad, hallucinatory yarn about landing yourself in the ultimate geographical cul-de-sac – a place without exit. But underneath its compulsively readable surface lurks another, even darker story; a sort of ‘bush existentialist’ tale about the nature of self-entrapment, and the way in which we are often the architects of our own worst dreams.

ABC Radio National - Wake In Fright by Kenneth CookWake In Fright
By Kenneth Cook; Read by Gabriel Andrews
15 Broadcasts – Approx. 3 Hours 45 Minutes [ABRIDGED]
Broadcaster: ABC Radio National / The Book Reading
Broadcast: 2006 / 2009
An open-eyed nightmare played out under a scorching outback sun, Wake in Fright is on one level a great, mad hallucinatory yarn about landing yourself in the ultimate geographical cul-de-sac, a place without exit. But underneath its compulsively readable surface lurks another, even darker story; a sort of ‘bush existentialist’ tale about the nature of self-entrapment, and the way in which we are often the architects of our own worst dreams.

Sounds great don’t it? Too bad almost no-one will listen to 3.75 hours of story sitting in front of their monitors.

Posted by Jesse Willis

BBC Radio 4: On The Beach by Nevil Shute dramatized

October 28, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

BBC Radio 4Roy of the U.K. writes in to say there’s a “Classic Serial” on BBC Radio 4 that is worthy of our attention. It’s a BBC dramatisation of this recently mentioned Nevil Shute novel: On The Beach

A 1957 novel set in the then future 1963. A nuclear conflict has devastated the northern hemisphere, polluting the atmosphere with radioactive fallout and killing all animal life. While the nuclear bombs were confined to the northern hemisphere, global air currents are slowly carrying the fallout to the southern hemisphere. The only part of the planet still habitable is the far south of the globe, specifically Australia and New Zealand, South Africa, and the southern parts of South America, although all of these areas are slowly succumbing to radiation poisoning as the fallout continues to circulate southwards!

BBC Radio 4 Radio Drama - On The Beach based on the novel by Nevil ShuteOn The Beach
Based on the novel by Nevil Shute; performed by a full cast
2 Parts – Approx. 2 Hours [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: BBC Radio 4 / Classic Serial
Broadcast: Sunday Nov. 2nd 2008 & Sunday Nov. 9th 2008 @ 15:00-16:00

These will each be repeated once at 21:00-22:00 on the following Saturdays.

And, Roy tells us to stick around for the “Bookclub programme” that immediately follows the first broadcast of Part 1 as it features Fay Weldon discussing her 1989 novel The Cloning Of Joanna May. That’s later repeated the following Thursday at 16:00 (30 minutes).

Thanks Roy!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Surviving a sudden time travel to 1000 AD

June 25, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

SFFaudio Online Audio

History According To Bob today posted a link to a story on the Marginal Revolution blog which answers a question about what would happen if you suddenly time-traveled back to 1000 AD Europe. Read that article HERE.

I think this is far too softball a question. What if you got suddenly transported to somewhere else on Earth? Why do those pesky time travel machines always send you to Europe? Don’t we already have like a thousand answers to that question already?

I mean, just read Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court for one!

Why not go for something or somewhere we are less familiar with here?

Well, it just so happens Bob Packett of the History According To Bob podcast has just completed a 7 part tour of the year 1000 AD. In it he tours all around the world in the year 1000 AD. This was done in celebration of History According to Bob‘s 1000th podcast! Have a listen…

1000 AD Part 1 |MP3| Africa, South America, Meso-America, North America
1000 AD Part 2 |MP3| Oceania and Australia, East Asia, South East Asia
1000 AD Part 3 |MP3| South Asia (India and Himalaya)
1000 AD Part 4 |MP3| West Asia (Middle East, Anatolia, Arabia, Iraq, Iran), Central and North Asia (the ‘stans)
1000 AD Part 5 |MP3| Europe (Balkans)
1000 AD Part 6 |MP3| Europe (Eastern Europe and Scandinavia)
1000 AD Part 7 |MP3| Europe (Italy, Iberia, France, and the British Isles)

Or subscribe to the podcast feed:

Posted by Jesse Willis

BBC7 features: Vonnegut, and Secret Weapons of WWII

November 9, 2007 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama 

SFFaudio Online Audio

BBC 7's The 7th DimensionRemembrance Day PoppyAs November 11th is Remembrance Day here in Canada I thought it ok to include a war history (almost alternate history) radio drama from BBC7. The play is set in Alberta on Lake Patricia (near Lake Louise). In the middle of the lake under the clear water lies the metal frame of Habakkuk, a ship for which a secret is about to be revealed. Everyone should listen for the fascinating true story of professor Geoffrey Pyke in…

Habakkuk of Ice
By Steve Walker; Performed by a full cast
1 Broadcast – [RADIO DRAMA]*
Broadcaster: BBC7
Broadcast: Thursday November 15th @ 11am and 5am
“There is a cold clear lake in Northern Alberta called Patricia. Take one of the two rowboats that lie beside the lake. Row out into the middle of the lake. Lean over the side. Open your eyes in the clear water and before your eyeballs freeze you will see the twisted metal skeletal remains that supported the body of Habbakuk, a battleship made of ice.”
*Incidentally you can read the script for the play HERE.

Next up is a “fast moving science fiction drama” by the team behind Cold Blood

The Voice of God
By Simon Bovey; Performed by a full cast
5 Broadcasts – [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: BBC7 / The 7th Dimension
Broadcast: Monday to Friday at 6pm and midnight
When a series of earthquakes rock Australia, seismologist, Sam Rideout and her outback guide Joshua Patamerri track the epicentre to a top secret facility researching the use of infrasound as a weapon. Following the mysterious death of the team’s seismologist, Sam and Joshua are asked to help.

Less interesting to myself (I’m not a super fan) is a collection of Kurt Vonnegut fiction including…

Report On The Barnhouse Effect
By Kurt Vonnegut; Read by Stuart Milligan
1 Broadcast – 30 Minutes [ABRIDGED]
Broadcaster: BBC7 / The 7th Dimension
Broadcast: Sunday at 6:30pm and 12:30am
Professor Barnhouse discovers a way of channelling his mind to control the forces of nature. He sees his skill as a marvellous opportunity to secure world peace. However, the American government has other ideas.

Slaughterhouse 5
By Kurt Vonnegut; Read by Robert Jezek
4 Broadcasts – [ABRIDGED]
Broadcaster: BBC7 / The 7th Dimension
Broadcast: Monday to Thursday at 6:30pm and 12:30am
Billy Pilgrim, is a boy soldier, an innocent abroad armed only with a pencil stub. He’s so traumatised by the experience of witnessing the decimation of Dresden by Allied bombing in February 1945 that he becomes unstuck in time, even to the extent that he experiences alien abduction.

By Kurt Vonnegut; Read by Kerry Shale
1 Broadcast – 30 Minutes [ABRIDGED]
Broadcaster: BBC7 / The 7th Dimension
Broadcast: Friday at 6:30pm and 12:30am
A military space mission is taken over by the voices of the dead, calling back to earth. How will the generals and scientist in charge cope with this sudden confrontation with mortality?

Posted by Jesse Willis

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