Review of Tales of Terror

November 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Tales of TerrorTales of Terror Collection
A Night in Whitechapel, Was It a Dream?, Caterpillars, John Mortonson’s Funeral
By: Ambrose Bierce, Guy de Maupassant, E.F. Benson; Performed by Victor Garber
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 1 disc, 1 hour!
Themes: / short stories / horror / classic / supernatural /
Publisher summary:

‘Night in Whitechapel’ French short-story master Guy de Maupassant offers this chilling look into one of the world’s best known cities. When two young men make a trek to London on a cold December evening, they expect to take in the city and maybe a pub or two along the way. But a chance encounter with a mysterious woman soon has them questioning not only the proceedings of their evening but their sanity as well. ‘Was It a Dream?’ Guy de Maupassant once again delivers a spine-tingling narrative. A young man recounts the tragic death of his love, claimed by an unknown illness. In his grief, he wanders the cemetery where she is buried to find a dark secret that she, and many other corpses, share. ‘Caterpillars’ Stories of the supernatural from E.F. Benson have been terrifying audiences for decades—even making the transition to television adaptation. In “Caterpillars,” a man recalls his terrifying stay at a haunted Italian villa. You will never look at caterpillars in the same way. ‘John Mortonson’s Funeral’ Perhaps best known for The Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce is a mainstay of nineteenth-century American literature. In “John Mortonson’s Funeral,” Bierce adds horror to his satirical lens. The mourners at this funeral will be forever changed.

“Night in Whitechapel” – Guy de Maupassant
When two young men make a trek to London on a cold December evening, they expect to take in the city and maybe a pub or two along the way. But a chance encounter with a mysterious woman soon has them questioning not only the proceedings of their evening but their sanity as well.

“Was It a Dream?” – Guy de Maupassant
A young man recounts the tragic death of his love, claimed by an unknown illness. In his grief, he wanders the cemetery where she is buried to find a dark secret that she, and many other corpses, share.

“Caterpillars” – E.F. Benson
A man recalls his terrifying stay at a haunted Italian villa. You will never look at caterpillars in the same way.

“John Mortonson’s Funeral” – Ambrose Bierce
The mourners at this funeral will be forever changed.This collection is well named. All of these tales have a certain creepiness factor that will leave your skin crawling if you think about them too much. They also have the virtue of not being the usual “classic” horror tales included in most anthologies, although they are by authors acknowledged as master storytellers.

What enhances the subtlety and creeping horror is Victor Garber’s soft spoken narration. As any good actor would, he reads each tale differently to reflect its own character, but never with obvious technique that draws the listener away from the story itself. My favorite was “Was It a Dream?” in which the protagonist’s lovelorn state gradually gives way to shuddering fear in the graveyard. The transition was so seamless that I couldn’t tell you when it happened and by the end of the tale I myself was horror stricken.

The collection is short, clocking in at slightly more than an hour, but it is choice. Definitely recommended.

Posted by Julie D.

New Release – The Status Civilization by Robert Sheckley

September 28, 2008 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: New Releases 

New Releases

The Status Civilization by Robert SheckleyThe Status Civilization
By Robert Sheckley; Read by Mark Douglas Nelson
5.5 hrs. – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Wonder Audio
Availiable at Audible and iTunes

Review of Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

September 17, 2008 by · 1 Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules VerneJourney to the Center of the Earth
By Jules Verne; Read by Simon Prebble
7 CDs – 7.5 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2008
ISBN: 9781433243806
Themes: / Science Fiction / Classic / Geology / Dinosaurs /

In listening to Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, I was struck by how much modern films like Raiders of the Lost Ark and National Treasure owe to this book. Although it was written way back in 1864, while the War Between the States was in full swing and the earth was a very different place, in many ways its thoroughly modern, at home alongside recent sci-fi novels like John Crichton’s Jurassic Park.

In summary, Journey to the Center of the Earth is a fast-paced and lively pseudo science/exploration story that manages to be mostly interesting and entertaining. Unfortunately, it also crosses over into unbelievable territory about three-quarters of the way through and ends with a classic deux-ex-machina, but I found I can live with it.

Journey to the Center of the Earth takes aim at the theory that the earth grows hotter the nearer that you travel to its center. Verne posits the idea that the earth’s core is inhabitable and houses massive cavities, caverns so huge that you cannot see their roof. At its center is a sea large enough that you can travel across its and lose sight of land all around. Science has of course since proven this idea impossible, but it makes for a fun story if you divorce it from reality.

Journey to the Center of Earth has a compelling opening that reminded me of The DaVinci Code–Professor Liedenbrock and his nephew Axel, the heroes of the story, find a coded note written in runes within the pages of an Icelandic saga. They puzzle through it and discover that it is a note written by Arne Saknussemm describing a passage he has found to the center of the earth. The opening is located in the interior of a dormant volcano in Iceland. Liedenbrock and Axel recruit an Icelandic guide and the three men embark on their journey.

I found Verne’s descriptions of overland and sea travel to Iceland interesting, and the first scenes of the descent fascinating. Verne vividly portrays the vast depths and terrifying downward drops of the volcano draft, and creates excitement and dread in two sequences in which Axel gets lost in the inky blackness and the three men nearly die of thirst.

Unfortunately I thought that the tale started to unravel once the men near the earth’s center, which contains ice age creatures, dinosaurs, and even early men. If the story didn’t literally jump a shark it certainly started to lose me once Liedenbrock and Axel’s small boat passes very nearly over an Ichthyosaurus. I was also puzzled with the abrupt ending–Liedenbrock and Axel gain great fame from their expedition, while others treat their claims with skepticism. But, inexplicably, no one ever bothers to re-trace their footsteps and verify their claims.

Still, you could do worse than pass the time by giving it the book a listen. It’s also skillfully read by English-accented, professorial-sounding narrator Simon Prebble.

Posted by Brian Murphy

New Release – The Adaptive Ultimate by Stanley G. Weinbaum

August 31, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: New Releases 

New Releases

Stanley G. Weinbaum was a SF sensation when his first story, A Martian Odyssey, appeared in 1934.  In less than two years though, he died of throat cancer.  But he still managed to leave numerous classics and near-classics to posterity.

The Adaptive UltimateThe Adaptive Ultimate
By Stanley G. Weinbaum; Read by Mark Douglas Nelson
1 hr. – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Wonder Audio
Availiable at Audible and iTunes

Dr. Daniel Scott, through experimentation with lab animals, has invented a serum that enables an organism to adapt itself to overcome injuries and disease. He gets his chance to try his experimental drug on a dying tubercular patient named Kyra Zelas.

Scott and his colleague, Dr. Herman Bach, are amazed when the girl recovers, but she soon begins to exhibit strange actions. Her physical appearance can change to hide her abhorrent behavior. She appears to adapt herself emotionally to save herself. But can she love?

Kyra Zelas has become the Adaptive Ultimate. How she adapts to survive may be to the detriment of the human race.

The Adaptive Ultimate originally appeared in the November 1935 issue of Astounding Stories under the pseudonym John Jessel.

BBC7 presents: Down and Safe (Blake’s 7)

August 26, 2008 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Audio Drama 

SFFaudio Online Audio

BBC Radio 7 - BBC7

Down and Safe: A Celebration of Blake’s 7
Presented by fan Mitch Benn.
Airdate: August 25, 2008 (aired 3 times).

Holy moly, I was busy and away and almost missed this excellent radio retrospective of Blake’s 7. (Fortunately for all of us, it is still available to listen to -see below.) Clocking in at three hours, Down and Safe covers the whole shebang, from the groundbreaking and influential late 70’s television series to the latest version reimagined and presented as audio drama, with clips and snippets and informed commentary and…

…And, speaking of audio drama, well, check out the BBC7 blurb: The BBC 7 bank holiday rebellion starts with the history and rebirth of a sci-fi classic, with episodes including The Syndleton Experiment (1999), Liberator (2007) and When Vila Met Gan (2008).

Yep, you heard right. Three complete full cast audio plays -they form the bulk of the show; three different and very entertaining takes on the Blake’s 7 universe that you shouldn’t miss (unless you have a very good excuse like, say, hives). So, space science fiction luvvers everywhere, be sure to check out Down and Safe here, here, here (RealPlayer required) or here (webpage – RealPlayer required) through Sunday, August 31!

Posted by RC of RTSF

Review of A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

January 18, 2006 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice BurroughsA Princess of Mars
By Edgar Rice Burroughs; Read by John Bolen
6 CD’s – 6 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Published: 2001
ISBN: 1400100186
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mars / Aliens / Swordplay / Classic /

There are few classic novels with as much influence as Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars. First published in 1912 (serialized in All-Story magazine with the title Under the Moons of Mars), Burroughs sparked the imagination of many of science fiction’s golden age writers, including Ray Bradbury and his Martian Chronicles. The audiobook cover is a detail from the 1919 Grosset & Dunlap cover.

A Princess of Mars is an imaginative adventure novel in which John Carter, a Virginian military man who starts the story running from Indians in the Arizona desert, is magically transported to Mars. Burroughs does not go into detail on the mechanics of the transportation, but does go into great detail about the inhabitants of Mars, called “Barsoom” by its natives.

There are two races on Mars – a four-armed green warrior race, and a red human-like race. The princess of the title is Dejah Thoris of Helium, whose beauty captures John Carter when he sees her taken by him in chains by some four-armed Barsoomians.

The novel is filled with damsel-in-distress/derring-do-male-hero sensibility that is laughable at times, but still the story holds up as a classic of the genre. Burroughs’ description of an alien culture is a forerunner of an entire category of science fiction, and I found it entertaining on that level. I also felt a great deal of nostalgia, because I read this book a few times as a early teen, along with the other ten Mars volumes, and a Tarzan or three.

John Bolen performs the whole book as John Carter, with a southern gentlemanly manner that the character demands. This means not only Carter’s attitude, but his southern accent, which took me a few minutes to settle into.

Check out Tantor’s science fiction and fantasy section for more Edgar Rice Burroughs titles.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

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