The SFFaudio Podcast #439 – READALONG: The Fifth Head Of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe

September 18, 2017 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #439 – Jesse, Scott, and Paul Weimer discuss the novella entitled The Fifth Head Of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe

Talked about on today’s show:
Serberous?, the novella (not the whole book), maybe an accident maybe on purpose, very-Wolfeian, Orbit 10 edited by Damon Knight, fixup vs. novel?, V.R.T., to fully understand…, you need them all together, error or on purpose, many moons ago, novella is the perfect length for any Science Fiction work, read in publication order, old home week, Ender’s Shadow, Ender’s Game, cheating, the Alzabo Soup podcast, The Book Of The New Sun, condensed and distilled, Jorge Luis Borges <- I like what that guy's doing, I'm going to do me some of that -> George R.R. Martin, reader doing the heavy lifting, A Song Of Ice And Fire, almost a fantasy novel, a cloning story, Jack Vance, far future where science has become magic, the Dying Earth subgenre, no magic going on?, the sentences are full of magic, what does the title mean, is the reader the fifth head?, The Black Gate blog post, this story is a combination lock that allows many different combinations, info-dumping, somebody is a clone or a mirror or a part of his imagination, an unreliable narrator, a really good sign, this is Gene Wolfe’s thing, perfect memory, no memory, a consistent memory, how accurate are the details?, how many characters are there?, number five, is one of the characters is “Gene Wolfe”?, the father, the brother (David), the aunt, the lady in pink, the other clone in the warehouse, the four-armed dude is a character, the robot (Mr Millions), Marsh, the anthropologist, the brothel, how its revealed, he has been in prison, the only complete arc, we must infer the rest of them, the death of the father, Christopher Nolan should direct it, it is a complete work or it will be, clones of the same person, hinkey, hokey, or odd, all the books in the private library were written by his father, going to the Ws, very meta, are you a Nigerian prince? Jesse will believe you (for a minute), he is really old, which body did all the typing and research, daily dissertations, studying particular subjects (to be filled in in the labyrinth), The Library Of Babel, the only thing we know about readers is that they like books, writers are readers too, the ultimate fantasy is the place where all the stories are found, cloning to write, cloning to read, what’s up with the late night interrogations, is he psychoanalyzing?, or studying?, voight-kampff tests, what makes something or someone real?, Infinivox, Robert Reed’s Guest Of Honor, there was no quintessential cloning novel, why she is guest of honour, everybody is immortal, he could be downloading, being able to read three books at the same time, David isn’t one of the clones is he?, he escapes, theory and conjecture, nothing more than personality test?, gaining insight into himself, he’s clearly cloned a lot, “failures”, a slave who looks like him, four arms vs. five heads, societal cloning, impressions, “questionable things”, a brothel, a Frankenstian lab, The Island Of Dr Moreau, Littlefinger and Varos from Game Of Thrones, all sorts of play, what the kid’s doing with the frogs, experimenting with all the different ways of living and making life, mirrors and labyrinths, why he lives in a brothel, financial motivations, slave dealing, endless cycle, the Greek Tragedy elements, unfortunately that’s how the prophecy goes, genes are destiny, escaping the trap and escaping the cycle, A Song Of Ice And Fire, castrated folks, incest, pretty interesting, Nightflyers, Sandkings, that hardness, slavery and murder, colonization, genocide, colonialism, what information can we glean, the plastic replicas of the aboriginal stone tools, pre-stone tool culture, is Veill’s hypothesis correct?, does it matter?, good questions, John Marsh or a version of John Marsh, sending messages in the prison…to who?, the third novella, only identified as numbers, more to unlock, 666 to jump up on the stage, Hell, Hell is a stage, the theatre, the woman guard, what are the different theories on the title?, Maitre, the five clones, the maidenhead (virginity), bars and locked doors, suddenly he’s a mad scientist, the slave market visits, the great grandfather, a ROM?, reliability of information, why who is an abbo is important, robot protector, robot tutor, seemingly no emotions, very Christopher Nolan, if Gene Wolfe is the name of 5, one is a mirror of the other, one is a mirror of Earth and one is a mirror of Hell, one way of writing a story summary, what is the metaphor of the stage?, why is the stage stuff in there?, there’s stuff they want you to see, there’s a bunch going on back stage, a facade, the name of the house, The House Of The Dog, base and primal, a sexual position, what the significance of the stone tools (that are actually plastic), John V. Marsh, the significance is overblown because it is the only thing leftover, the kid then confabulates the culture, is David smarter or wiser?, when our father interviews you what does he call you?, escaping the traps, reading Odysseus, the cyclops, don’t give your name, the intertextual references, H.P. Lovecraft, Vernor Vinge, feeling like fantasy, part of the play, nurture vs. nature, it’s all fate, doomed, a metal prison, we seek self knowledge, why we seek, the little ape, we wish to discover why we fail, another reflection, the mirror world you can’t go to, to step through the looking glass, a myth or a fairy tale, trying to connect with the world of myth and legend, quest, maitre means head, like a head of a hotel, so cool, the theories of what is going to happen in Game Of Thrones, Martin’s plans, “interesting”, what bones were put into the soup, how the meal is going to digest, a very complex set of flavours, the anise, the bacon, mixed beans, a very hearty hearty meal, How To Read Gene Wolfe by Neil Gaiman:

1) Trust the text implicitly. The answers are in there.

2) Do not trust the text farther than you can throw it, if that far. It’s tricksy and desperate stuff, and it may go off in your hand at any time.

3) Reread. It’s better the second time. It will be even better the third time. And anyway, the books will subtly reshape themselves while you are away from them.Peace really was a gentle Midwestern memoir the first time I read it. It only became a horror novel on the second or the third reading.

4) There are wolves in there, prowling behind the words. Sometimes they come out in the pages. Sometimes they wait until you close the book. The musky wolf-smell can sometimes be masked by the aromatic scent of rosemary. Understand, these are not today-wolves, slinking grayly in packs through deserted places. These are the dire-wolves of old, huge and solitary wolves that could stand their ground against grizzlies.

5) Reading Gene Wolfe is dangerous work. It’s a knife-throwing act, and like all good knife-throwing acts, you may lose fingers, toes, earlobes or eyes in the process. Gene doesn’t mind. Gene is throwing the knives.

6) Make yourself comfortable. Pour a pot of tea. Hang up a DO NOT DISTURB Sign. Start at Page One.

7) There are two kinds of clever writer. The ones that point out how clever they are, and the ones who see no need to point out how clever they are. Gene Wolfe is of the second kind, and the intelligence is less important than the tale. He is not smart to make you feel stupid. He is smart to make you smart as well.

8) He was there. He saw it happen. He knows whose reflection they saw in the mirror that night.

9) Be willing to learn.

the dogs always stand in, how the red woman and her prophecies play out, king’s blood, a victim of her own witchery, a deep analysis of the opening credits of the Game Of Thrones TV series, it’s not really a map, it’s an inverse orrery, mechanistic movement, behind the scenes, a Dyson’s sphere, when Winterfell falls, a nice metaphor for the creation of a secondary world, Lord Dunsany’s The Wonderful Window, Golden Dragon City, ways of reading, different methods and techniques with which to approach, an interview with Gene Wolfe, the Korean War, once you think you’re smart that’s when they get you, getting killed shows that you’re not smart, I’m a much more literary man, it’s about the love of writing, how ethereal or gossamer Borges stuff is, how it connects to us, it can live without us reading, a story being spun, its the yarn itself, it needs us more than Borges’ stuff does, what would make a failed Gene Story would look like, that’s his brand, Stanisław Lem’s One Human Minute, a cute thought, a professor of 1920s and 1830, a more broad education, the Wikipedia entry for 1908, when you read the Wikipedia entry for 2017 in 100 years…, Durham Stevens, super-deep, The Island Of Doctor Death And Other Stories And Other Stories, he knew exactly what he was doing, a confluence of events, a critical hit, stumbled upon, its not an accident, Faulkner’s The Sound And The Fury, Proust, questions of identity, Sandman, he has always been a really good guy to following the reading of, Douglas Adams, look at this, his essays about Edgar Allan Poe, an even better non-fiction writer than a fiction writer, a book of essays, a mini essay about cities in SimCity 2000, a little Easter Egg, “ruminate”, A View From The Cheap Seats, Philip Reeve, The Hungry Cities Chronicles, The Wind From A Burning Woman (collection) by Greg Bear, this is Lankhmar, Dungeons & Dragons, a city adventure, behind every door is another potential story, a tiny little slice, fully expanded, Fritz Leiber’s not as good as I want him to be, next level stuff, Gene Wolfe never won a Hugo, there’s no justice, you know nothing, Nebulas, who is our best writer?, no official audiobook version, Audible.com, the best of Gene Wolfe on audio is a good idea, a hard no, off the Wolfe subject.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

September 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review
Jurassic ParkJurassic Park
By Michael Crichton; read by Scott Brick
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] 12 CD’s; 15 hrs. 9 min

Themes: / dinosaurs / adventure / cloning / DNA /

Publisher summary:

An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now humankind’s most thrilling fantasies have come true. Creatures extinct for eons roam Jurassic Park with their awesome presence and profound mystery, and all the world can visit them—for a price.Until something goes wrong.…

I can’t believe how much I enjoyed this book. I guess I’ve always had my reservations because of what an impact the movie had on me as a kid. I was about 9 or 10 when the movie first came out and it blew my mind. As the book likes to point out, boys love dinosaurs and that was true.

As a side note, I’m loving how much my son (5 y.o.) loves dinosaurs. He knows so much more about them than I do, in fact his favorite is the Giganotosaurus, a dinosaur I learned existed from him.

(the hipster’s T-Rex)

Now, I’ll be the first to admit my memory of of the movie is a tad hazy, but from what I do remember, the movie actually follows the book quite a bit, at least up until about 2/3 of the book where either my memory is bad or the books is completely different (oh and Grant loves kids in the book, which is … opposite). More than I would have guessed, which was not a lot.

There’s a little more detail to the initial attacks we see in the movie and it’s not quite as gruesome in parts (and much more gruesome in others). The girl gets attacked by the Compsognathus (little green dinos), or **”compys” as they’re known. **excuse my spelling, I listened to the audio and like Fox news, I don’t feel the need to fact check.

The park is just about ready to open and it’s time to get all the consultants together to make sure it’s on the right track. Thus, Grant and Sattler, Ian Malcolm, the attorney Jennaro, and a couple others are flown in.

Of course, nefarious doings are going on and a competitor wants in on the dinosaur action. In comes Dennis Nedry, who is pretty much spot on copied in the movie. Excellent job Wayne Knight. He’s pretty much built the entire IT system for the park and thus has quite a bit of control over pretty much everything. I don’t remember his involvement in the park being this extensive, but then again, I was 9. There’s a frikkin’ T-REX!!!

As we all know, everything goes to pot and we all know what goes from here. Even though the movie diverges from the book, we all know what goes on from here.

And it’s awesome. I had a blast listening to this book and Scott Brick is such a talented narrator, you don’t even notice him reading. It’s just pure story.

A couple *important* things I wanted to point out… some spoilers for the book:

1. The lawyer, Jennaro, is not as spineless as in the movie, does not get eaten while he’s sitting on the toilet by a T-Rex (okay, that was an awesome addition), and even saves the day at one point by pointing out law that doesn’t exist. (No, this sudden support for the lawyer has nothing to do with the fact that I have an Esq. on the end of my name … perish the thought)

2. Was Lex Murphy that annoying in the movie? I really don’t remember that. She’s super duper annoying in the book.

3. Ian Malcolm’s Chaos Theory should have been cut down like in the movie. There are a number of times he’s going off about it and you’re literally thinking, aren’t there dinosaurs around the corner about to eat them? Does anyone care about any theory at this time besides the theory of escaping dinosaurs? Still a great character, just weird timing of his rants about corporations and such, which I’m not disagreeing with.


(literally the only image you’re allowed to use when referring to Ian Malcolm)

4. So this book was published in 1990 and this book had maybe a total of 15 to 20 people at risk, not counting the rest of the world that could potentially be at risk by dinosaurs escaping. We’re talking people you’re honestly worried about dying or not throughout the book.

Jump to 2015, Jurassic World, and we’ve got an entire park open with thousands and thousands of people at risk. Does that say something about how our society’s penchant for destruction?

5. But seriously, back to Malcolm, Chaos Theory essentially comes down to – because dinosaurs are an unknown, and much like the weather – unpredictable – you’re all screwed and nothing will work right. And then Malcolm gloats. Even while dinosaurs are stalking him.

Now, the opposing argument in the book is that zoos exist so why can’t dinosaurs be kept in a zoo? My problem is that if everyone gave up because there was an unknown then we’d have just about nothing. People go forward with the unknown all the time. Many fail, but that’s how great success comes as well. I guess I’m saying I needed more to this theory and preferably when I can think about the theory and not when DINOSAURS ARE LITERALLY AROUND THE CORNER TRYING TO EAT YOU.

6. Jurassic Park gets lots of crap for providing false ideas as to what dinosaurs actually looked like (see raptors). While it’s true, if you ignore the story, it is explained. You know that whole science part toward the beginning, well they talk about only finding partial DNA and having to graft in DNA from other animals (which actually becomes a huge problem). This would lend toward dinosaurs that don’t actually look like they’re supposed to and I’m fine with that explanation.

I have to say, after 25 years, Jurassic Park really held up well. Lots of the communication issues would be the same problem nowadays because of the fact that they’re on a remote island that cell phones would be problematic on anyway. It helps that a book doesn’t have to actually reproduce computer screens so you can picture those as high tech as you want as long as you ignore the amounts of memory they mention. At least they’re in the gigabytes still.

And most of this I just point out because of how into the book I was. I really had a blast listening to Jurassic Park and I can highly recommend a reading of this classic. One of the few book/movie combinations where I can honestly say I loved both for their own reasons. Now, I need to go track down a copy of that movie. If only there were some online subscription service like Oyster for movies.

4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)

Posted by Bryce L.

The SFFaudio Podcast #300 – READALONG: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

January 19, 2015 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #300 – Jesse, Jenny, and Paul talk about Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Talked about on today’s show:
Jenny Beta+, Paul (caste unknown), f-minus, double plus, A-, Beta-, 1932, double plus good, a different dystopia, Orwell read Brave New World, the Aldous Huxley radio drama (CBS Radio Workshop), negative utopia, Nineteen-Eighty Four is hella-dystopia, Paul has read Brave New World five times, drugs and sex and happiness, conditioning, programming, society engineered, identifying with Bernard, Helmholtz, the Falkland Islands, Huxley’s introduction to the CBS Radio Dramatization, 200 years (not 600) in the future, why so obsessed with Henry Ford?, This Perfect Day by Ira Levin, Christ, Marx, Wood, and Wei, Henry Ford as a political and intellectual force, efficiency, modernization, consumerism, pricing the model-t, absenteeism equals losses, Brave New World‘s society is about production efficiency, the 1998 TV movie, what society really is, no Helmholtz, Henry Foster, Lenina, Peter Gallagher, the 1980 TV movie, 1990s hipsters, the reservation, white trash zone, the outlands of Zardoz with mini-vans, The Children Of Men, Los Angeles, very few deviations in the 1980 TV movie, pushing the Shakespeare connection, whatever happened to Lenina?, a definite weakness, Mustapha Mond gave John Savage the conflict he really wanted, I want to be unhappy, the ultimate political act, the suicide solution, the little boy with the cotton balls in his ears, the hope for reform, the stability of the society, an interesting change, how unstable is the social structure, more soma, more conditioning, A World Out Of Time by Larry Niven, hydrolic empires, John as a catalyst, society returns to normalcy, soma rations forever, freethinkers are sent to outlying islands, an Omni magazine story about dissident clones being killed again and again, Edge Of Tomorrow (2014), cloning novels, this is the cloning novel, “it’s clones all the way down”, the caste-system tells us this is a dystopia, seeing the world from the alpha point of view, betas vs. alphas, are betas autistic?, the 1998 adaptation, intelligent, high-producing, and efficient, mentored and disciples, sex-slaves and baby-makers, good tech, the Malthusian belt, helicopters, WWII, a proto-flying car, their Model-T, the sign of the T, “switching on the synthetic music”, the visual medium, the character names, Bernard Marx probably isn’t named after Groucho Marx, Bernard is pathetic by the end, George Bernard Shaw, Lenin -> Lenina, Darwin Bonaparte, Mustafa Mond <- Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, so much Shakespeare, the audiobook is a weird experience, an infantilized world, I drink to the greater being, the plot, the scent organ, the feelies, the perfume tap fauceting cologne all day, drinking fountains full of Shasta, a constantly refilled mini-bar, the economy in Brave New World, overturning the soma tables, want what you can have, deltas, epsilons, the purple eyes, Amazon Prime for soma tablets, drone delivery, Lenina’s obsession, chastity means neurasthenia, plenty of pleasant vices, “engaging”, oiling the machine, a male fantasy utopia, women never say no, “promiscuity is a citizen’s duty”, no females above beta (in the book), yellow from lupus, social hierarchy, male dominance, John the Savage is sexist too, a product of Huxley’s time, a flash of semi-nudity, why the book gets banned -> children engaging in erotic play, the downfall of TV movie versions, how the world is, books old ideas and marriage are pornographic, “motherfather!”, “fight!”, “hate!”, everyone comes from a bottle, mother as a dirty word, outed as a father, a shameful thing, Miguel Ferrer was re-engineered as a delta, a Machiavellian character turned into a smiling idiot, Linda’s story, the reaction to her appearance, the Death Center, ice-cream when someone dies, such strong pathos, death brings us phosphorus, the 1998 Linda, Tommykins, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, the first test-tube baby, birth control, freemartins, a sterilization bonus, Brave New World Revisited (is non-fiction), Walden Two by B.F. Skinner, an expanding horrible utopia, growing up in the soviet union what would we think of Brave New World?, power and control, I love Big Brother, rewind ten years, people are drugging themselves up with drugs TV and the internet, a spy-biography, why don’t they care more about the outlying society, communism, when everyone shares the vision, a step to becoming Mustapha Mond, 1984-ish, assimilation has a cost, the island of all alphas, engineered to be in that place, the temptation of the reader is subversive, are we doing this stuff?, I wanna be more like Helmholtz, Marx gets co-opted by Mond, the shit-disturbers become the leaders in This Perfect Day, you have to see it to believe it, look we’re in the future!, a sick enjoyment, no sense that this world can be destroyed, the benefit of social instability, why Shakespeare is still relevant, we have the analogues for kings and merchant princes, the feelies, a cross-between pornography and reality television, Idiocracy (2006), Three Weeks In A Helicopter, farts, one human need, surrogate pregnancy, violent passion surrogate, The Prisoner‘s secret club within a club, more surreal than it is about something, spies be weird, suddenly in dreamland with giant breasts chasing you down the beach, the world is still for men, we’ve done We and Nineteen Eighty Four

Brave New World (1980)

Posted by Jesse Willis

BBC Radio 4: Dangerous Visions

June 14, 2013 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

BBC Radio 4Dangerous Visions “A season of dramas that explore contemporary takes on future dystopias” is the title for new BBC Radio 4 programming that airs from Saturday June 15 to Friday June 21, 2013.

Here’s the official description:

Alternative worlds dominate radio drama this week. To complement productions of The Drowned World and Concrete Island (next week) by the master of the near future J.G. Ballard, writers imagine their own dystopias in our season Dangerous Visions. As well as the maternal death syndrome threatening the survival of the human race in The Testament Of Jessie Lamb, dramatised from her own novel by Jane Rogers, the original plays ask what happens if sleep is outlawed? If cloning becomes a matter of course, and your loved ones are indistinguishable from their cloned replicants? If North London declares UDI against the wasteland of South London? If human sacrifice becomes an accepted necessity? If one man becomes immortal? Along with other related programmes on Radio 4, 4 Extra completes the season with a chilling new four-part serialisation of William Golding’s classic fable, Lord of the Flies, exploring the very essence of good and evil.

Here are the programs, and related goodness:

Saturday 15th June:

Dangerous Visions: The Sleeper
Radio 4, 1430: A fable for our times. In The Sleeper by Michael Symmons Roberts we see our own society as it is today but with one familiar element removed. This is a Britain in which, decades ago, human beings gradually lost the gift of sleep. With Maxine Peake and Jason Done.

Archive on 4: Very British Dystopias
Radio 4, 2000: Beneath the calm surface of British politics, lurking in the imaginations of some of our leading writers, terrible things have happened. Professor Steven Fielding examines these dystopian visions which have gripped creative and public imaginations.

Lord of the Flies: Fire on the Mountain (part 1 of 4)
Radio 4 Extra, 2300: William Golding’s classic story about a group of boys plane-wrecked on a deserted island. New dramatisation by Judith Adams, with Ruth Wilson narrating.

Sunday 16th June:

Dangerous Visionaries
Radio 4, 1445: As Radio 4 begins its new season of Dystopic Dramas, Dangerous Visions, the playwright and poet Michael Symmons Roberts wonders how close the gap between imagining and living in dystopia actually is.

Dangerous Visions: The Drowned World
Radio 4, 1500: JG Ballard’s story of a scientific mission surveying drowned cities. This is a future where the earth’s atmosphere, and human consciousness, has eroded. Adapted by Graham White.

Dangerous Visions: Face to Face with JG Ballard
Radio 4 Extra, 1800: The late author of Empire of the Sun and many works of speculative fiction reveals his perspective on the world and the media.

Monday 17th June:

Dangerous Visions: The Testament Of Jessie Lamb
Radio 4, 1045/1945, Monday to Friday: Jane Rogers dramatises her award winning dystopian novel about a teenage girl who decides to save humanity. Starring Holliday Grainger as Jessie Lamb.

Dangerous Visions: Billions
Radio 4, 1415: Blake Ritson and Raquel Cassidy star in Ed Harris’s wicked tale of love and deception, in which Mark comes home to find a replacement wife provided by her insurance company.

Tuesday 18th June:

Dangerous Visions: Invasion
Radio 4, 1415: On his return from Mars, Astronaut Kadian Giametti wakes up in quarantine. Slowly he discovers that the world outside his cell has changed beyond recognition.

Wednesday 19th June:

Dangerous Visions: London Bridge
Radio 4, 1415: In Nick Perry’s dark vision of the future, the River Thames has become a border separating the crime-free police state of North London from the lawless slumland of the South.

Thursday 20th June:

Dangerous Visions: Death Duty
Radio 4, 1415: In Michael Butt’s dark vision of the future, a city-state plagued by drought has instituted a system of sacrifice in a desperate measure to bring about rain. With Nicholas Jones.

[Thanks to David and Roy!]

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Mayberry

January 26, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audiobook - The Dragon Factory by Jonathan MayberryThe Dragon Factory: A Joe Ledger Novel
By Jonathan Maberry; Read by Ray Porter
16 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio via Audible.com
Published: 2011
Themes: / Science Fiction / Cloning / Genetics / Mayhem /
 
 
 
“Detective Ledger?” he said, and held out an ID case. “NSA.”

“How do you spell that?”

Joe Ledger’s back.

In Patient Zero, (SFFaudio review here) he saved the world from a zombie apocalypse and Muslim terrorists. Almost single handed.

How will he do on the island of Dr. Moreau?

In The Dragon Factory Joe is evading government agents trying to shut down the DMS, is the only man alive to have defeated genetically engineered super warriors, and is romancing his beautiful fellow agent Grace Courtland.

And that’s just in the first few chapters.

Once again, Jonathan Maberry weaves a threat we know with a threat from fiction. A mad scientist (Cyrus) is using genetic experiments to mold the world in a way that will have horrific results for the population at large. Did I mention he’s German? And enjoys cloning as a light pastime?

Meanwhile, a pair of amoral, super intelligent, albino twins are mixing and matching genetics to create creatures of myth and monsters from your worst nightmares.

Joe’s got to find and stop all of them before the “Extinction Wave” doomsday program counts down to zero and releases havoc on the world. With a little help from Top, Bunny, Grace, and the enigmatic Mr. Church, of course.

I enjoy the way that Maberry mashes up several genres, with tongue in cheek, and produces a pulp fiction style, action-packed roller coaster ride that keeps me on the edge of my seat.

This book tells a good portion of the story from the crazed villains’ point of view, to good effect. I really love the dysfunctional family of super-villains where the children have disappointed the father by not having enough “vision” and the kids have giant “daddy” issues.

Maberry also dug just a bit deeper than I expected by contrasting the villainous family with Eighty-Two the clone who Cyrus loves most but who fails every psych test in being “acceptable” (as his henchman, Otto, puts it). I didn’t stop to think about what that meant when filtered through the horrific mindsets that Otto and Cyrus have, but the result was an interesting surprise that led to some interesting musing about free will versus evil and nature versus nurture. It isn’t that deep but I still found its inclusion refreshing in a book of this sort.

As in Patient Zero, Ray Porter’s narration was spot on, voicing Joe Ledger as if he were the man himself, with slight variations applied to other characters to make them come alive equally well. I’d rather hear these books narrated than read them myself just for the sheer enjoyment of Porter’s style and emphasis.

Make no mistake, The Dragon Factory is a straight-up thriller without a lot of twists and turns in plot. You read it for the hunt, for the action, for the adventure. You also read it for the twists of humor, the pulp fiction style, and the monsters. Especially for the monsters.

It’s a good time at high speed. What more can you ask?

Posted by Julie D.

Review of Blake’s 7: The Early Years: Zen: Escape Velocity

December 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

B7 PRODUCTIONS - Blake's 7: The Early Years: Zen: Escape VelocitySFFaudio EssentialBlake’s 7: The Early Years: Zen: Escape Velocity (Volume 2.1)
By James Swallow; Directed by Andrew Mark Sewell; Performed by a full cast
1 CD – Approx. 1 Hour [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: B7 Productions
Published: April 26, 2010
ISBN: 978190657709
Themes: / Science Fiction / Artificial Intelligence / Cloning / War / Aliens /

Based on Terry Nation’s seminal 70s science fiction TV series, The Early Years is a prequel series of audio stories that explores the origins of key Blake’s 7 characters prior to them meeting rebel leader Roj Blake. This latest entry to the ever-expanding series takes a new twist, concentrating on a character that doesn’t breathe or have any parents, the synthetic intelligence known only as Zen. When Roj Blake first stepped on board the mysterious, derelict alien spaceship Liberator, his every movement was monitored by the ship’s controlling intelligence, Zen Luckily, Blake and his rebel crew managed to gain the ‘confidence’ of this creation from an alien world and so he was able to use the Liberator in their quest for justice against the Federation. But the origins of Zen have remained a mystery, until now. What terrible catastrophe left the Liberator drifting and shattered? What drove the ship’s intelligence to murder its original crew? What dark secrets lie at the heart of this alien machine? And are Blake and his crew really safe on board the Liberator?

Often, you’ll want to know somebody’s back-story, and then later, when you actually get it – in a prequel story – you’ll find that it is far, far, far less interesting than whatever was going on in your imagination. For me, the years between 1980 and 1999 were ones filled with near-reverence for a fascinating character, the ultimate baddie: Darth Vader. But no amount of apologetics can possibly remove the sickly saccharine story of a nine-year-old Darth Vader filled with “a high concentration” of midichlorians. Yuck. And yet “prequel” is not always a dirty word. I don’t feel that way about The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, and likewise the Blake’s 7 prequel stories (1.1 |READ OUR REVIEW|, v.1.2 & 1.3 |READ OUR REVIEW|, 1.4 |READ OUR REVIEW|). By far the most mysterious character in the original TV series was Zen, the artificial intelligence. Zen was pretty closed-circuit about its past, not revealing much over the two years it appeared in the series (1978 – 1980). In life Zen “projected a dour, non-committal personality” and would “reply to certain questions with the phrase ‘That information is not available.'” This left left open the possibility that Zen was hiding secrets or “secretly executing its own agenda.” In this magnificent audio drama we are given a genuinely interesting explanation as to why Zen was so very melancholic, why the ship was found crew-less, seemingly abandoned and drifting near Cygnus Alpha.

Zen: Escape Velocity clearly reveals the frightening truth about all of Zen’s character quirks and its cryptic answers from the TV series. But it also shows more. Back in 2008 I reviewed the Blake’s 7 – Audio Adventures boxed set |READ OUR REVIEW| – the first three episodes of the new B7 audio drama series. One detail found within that review was that Zen was, unlike the original series, suicidal at the time of its discovery. Listening to Zen: Escape Velocity you will discovery exactly why that was so.

Six actors, Zoë Tapper, Jason Merrells, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Alastair Lock, Sam Woodward and Pamela Banks play different members of the original crew of the Liberator (back when it was still called “Deep Space Vehicle 2” and when Zen was called “SHIP-MIND”). The story, told by a careful cross-cutting backwards and forwards in time, shows the original crew welcoming their new PILOT, Zoë Tapper, aboard DSV2. Strangely, she is having memory problems and needs shepherding by the ship’s doctor. As the crew takes its positions and readies themselves for battle, we learn about their fascinating society. This is wonderful social Science Fiction like nothing exactly I’ve read or seen or heard before!

Zen (SHIP-MIND) only used the first-person, singular personal pronoun (“I”) once on the television series – it is used multiple times in this production. Zoë Tapper (who appeared in another Terry Nation re-imagined series) and Jason Merrells (playing the doctor), are the central sympathetic heroes of Zen: Escape Velocity. Alastair Lock, who also acts as a post-producer, musician and sound effects man for the CD, portrays SHIP-MIND (Zen). Sounds are rich, deep and best experienced in a quiet room. The stereo effect and a good set-of headphones,as I used, will bring an immense visual experience that belies the fifty-six minute running time. A five minute “Bonus Music Track” (original to this episode) rounds out the disc.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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