Bill Moyers: A World Of Ideas – A conversation between Bill Moyers and Isaac Asimov

December 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Bill Moyers A World Of Ideas

Among the many books in my maternal grandmother’s collection was Bill Moyers – A World Of Ideas which is subtitled “Conversations With Thoughtful Men And Women About American Life Today And The Ideas Shaping Our Future.” I’d read out of it, years ago, at her home and commented on it to her. She had lots of books, lots is a bit of an understatement, and when she died, and it came time to sort through everything, I thought this one was a keeper.

Essentially it is a collection of smart interviews that you can dip into to find fascinating transcriptions of a conversations between Moyers and some other thoughtful person.

My favourite conversation in it, so far, is from 1988, with the inspirational Isaac Asimov. Here’s a |PDF| and here’s an |MP3|

It is also available as a three part YouTube video series:

Posted by Jesse Willis

LibriVox: The Variable Man by Philip K. Dick

May 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
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LibriVoxThere’s a new FREE audiobook version of Philip K. Dick’s 1953 novella The Variable Man available from LibriVox and superstar narrator Gregg Margarite!

Here’s the teaser:

“He fixed things—clocks, refrigerators, vidsenders and destinies. But he had no business in the future, where the calculators could not handle him. He was Earth’s only hope—and its sure failure!”

Here are four different covers from various paperbook incarnations of this time travel tale…

The Variable Man by Philip K. Dick - Covers

And here’s the audiobook…

LIBRIVOX - The Variable Man by Philip K. DickThe Variable Man
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Gregg Margarite
3 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 2 Hours 49 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: May 3, 2010
Predictability has come a long way. The computers of the future can tell you if you’re going to win a war before you fire a shot. Unfortunately they’re predicting perpetual standoff between the Terran and Centaurian Empires. What they need is something unpredictable, what they get is Thomas Cole, a man from the past accidentally dragged forward in time. Will he fit their calculations, or is he the random variable that can break the stalemate? From Space Science Fiction September 1953.

Part 1 |MP3| Part 2 |MP3| Part 3 |MP3|

Podcast feed:

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

[Thanks also to Betty M. and Diana Majlinger]

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

March 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
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Here’s a review of The Veldt, story #20 in our 7th Anniversary Review Spree!

The Illustrated Man by Ray BradburyThe Veldt
Contained in The Illustrated Man
By Ray Bradbury; Read by Paul Michael Garcia
8 CDs – 9 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2009
ISBN: 9781433297199
Themes: / Science Fiction / Automated House / Computers / Children / Simulation /

In a house that cost them “thirty thousand dollars installed”, George and Lydia Hadley and their two children lived happily. Their shoes were tied with automatic shoe-tyers, their bacon was automatically fried, and, most importantly, their children were kept entertained. Life was good in their soundproof Happylife(tm) Home. Of course, things go terribly wrong. In the nursery, the kids seem to be spending a lot of time in Africa. With the lions.

The story was published in 1950, and though nobody’s tying my shoes, here in 2010 I can identify strongly with some of what Bradbury says here. At one point, George gets so upset that he decides to shut the house down:

“Lydia, it’s off, and it stays off. And the whole damn house dies as of here and now. The more I see of the mess we’ve put ourselves in, the more it sickens me. We’ve been contemplating our mechanical, electronic navels for too long. My God, how we need a breath of honest air!”

And he marched about the house turning off the voice clocks, the stoves, the heaters, the shoe shiners, the shoe lacers, the body scrubbers and swabbers and massagers, and every other machine he could put his hand to.

The house was full of dead bodies, it seemed. It felt like a mechanical cemetery. So silent. None of the humming hidden energy of machines waiting to function at the tap of a button.

Every so often I experience the same kind of angst and run around shutting things down. Things don’t end up so well for George, though. Maybe I better just leave it all on… and let the kids play with the lions. moohoowahahaha!

I’ve heard this story many many times, but I don’t know that I’ve actually heard an audiobook version before now. They’ve always been radio dramas, and this story has appeared several times: It was a Dimension X episode (1951), an X Minus One episode (1955), and Episode 11 of Bradbury 13. It was also televised as an episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater in the 1980’s.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Press Enter_ by John Varley

March 25, 2010 by · 2 Comments
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SFFaudio Review

SFFaudio’s 7th Anniversary Reviewathon continues!

Science Fiction Audiobook - Press Enter_ by John VarleyPress Enter_
By John Varley; Read by Peter Ganim
2 Hours 53 Minutes – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible Frontiers
Published: 2008
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mystery / Murder / Computers / Hacking /

This novella won the Best Novella Hugo in 1985 and the Best Novella Nebula in 1984. In 1984 I was 16, and my prize possession was a Commodore 64 computer. I recall programming on it, writing stories, and playing games. hmm. Not much has changed since then but the hardware, it looks like.

A story published in 1984 in which computers play a huge role is a history lesson. Floppy disks, modems, BBS’s – made me long for the good ole days. What was science fiction in 1984 now reads like historical fiction with an SF twist.

Victor receives a phone call one day from a computer, which tells him to run next door to his neighbor’s house. It will keep calling until he does it, says the computer. So he does, entering the house of a man he didn’t know well and finding him dead, an apparent suicide. Police and others are called in because this dead neighbor was into a lot of stuff: surveillance of neighbors, hacking into government systems, manipulation and theft of big money, all through his computers and his phones. Peter Ganim narrates the mystery well.

This is the longest story I’ve reviewed so far this month; it clocks in at 2 hours, 53 minutes. I LOVE novellas, and there is so much great science fiction out there at this length. Hollywood, take note! If you are mining for material, check out the science fiction novella.

Audible Frontiers has published many novellas, including more by John Varley (The Persistance of Vision is really excellent) and some by Connie Willis and Allen Steele.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Human Weakness by Karen Traviss

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
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The 7th Anniversary Reviewapalooza continues! May contain nuts.

Science Fiction Audiobook - Halo EvolutionsHuman Weakness
By Karen Traviss; Read by Jen Taylor
Contained in Halo: Evolutions
90 Minutes – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Published: 2010
Themes: / Science Fiction / Military SF / Artificial Intelligence / Computers / Aliens /

I have died more deaths per minute in Halo than anyone else I know. I spawn, look around, and thud. Or boom. Or thump thump thump. I spend a LOT of time waiting to spawn. Don’t like to brag, but my rate of death has to be some kind of record.

So I listened to this Halo story by Karen Traviss. “Human Weakness”, it’s called. It’s a good story about an artificially intelligent computer that is left behind when The Flood arrives and the humans run for their lives. The story is about something called “The Gravemind”, a borg-like malevolent entity that assimilates data, and it’s attempt to infiltrate the left-behind AI. No matter how much the Gravemind tries to convince the AI to allow it access, the AI refuses. Interesting! Not too many humans in this story.

I mentioned this to a friend of mine whose Halo death rate is respectable. I told him that the AI’s name was Cortana, and he knew exactly who that was. Then I realized that she’s the girl that talks to me at the beginning of Halo 3. That sent me to the Halopedia, where everything started coming together. I haven’t played much Halo in story mode, obviously, but I’m more interested in doing so than I was. A big storyline!

And oh yeah! The narrator was top-notch. Her name is Jen Taylor.

The description of the Halo: Evolutions anthology:

When humanity expanded beyond the safety of Earth to new stars and horizons, they never dreamed what dangers they would encounter there. When the alien juggernaut known as the Covenant declared holy war upon the fragile human empire, millions of lives were lost—but, millions of heroes rose to the challenge. In such a far-reaching conflict, not many of the stories of these heroes, both human and alien, have a chance to become legend. This collection holds eleven stories that dive into the depths of the vast Halo universe, not only from the perspective of those who fought and died to save humanity, but also those who vowed to wipe humanity out of existence.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of A Hymn Before Battle by John Ringo

January 5, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
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Science Fiction Audiobook - A Hymn Before Battle by John RingoA Hymn Before Battle
By John Ringo, Read by Marc Vietor
12 CDs – 15 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: 2009
ISBN: 9781423395089
Themes: / Science Fiction / Military SF / Battle / Aliens / Computers /

First published in 2000, John Ringo’s A Hymn Before Battle is the 1st book in his Posleen War series, also known as the Legacy of the Aldenata. It is 2001 and America is at peace. Former Lieutenant Mike O’Neal is now a website developer. Despite throwing in some web development jargon I was impressed that it didn’t sound dated, even after nine years. Mike is recalled to a top secret briefing where it is revealed that aliens have contacted the heads of the major governments. Their message warns that there is a rampaging alien horde, the Posleen, are coming this way through the galaxy and they need our help. Unfortunately for the alien’s Galactic Federation, they have no ability when it comes to war. One race go so far as to revert to a virtual non-sentient state whenever they attempt to take another’s life. Needless to say, they are losing the war against the sauroid aliens, the Posleen. They are nearly as afraid of the humans as they are the Posleen. But with their backs to the wall, they have decided to enlist mankind to fight their war for them. The fact that we would be over run by the Posleen in a few years is enough to rally all the nations to join the cause.

Mike O’Neal, together with many others, including a sly reference to an SF author of space combat novels refered to only as “David”, are tasked to develop the weapons, vehicles and systems that mold Galactic technology to human use. Mike’s own project is the development of the ACS, the Armoured Combat Suit.

The first battle is fought with several international forces attempting to defend one of the worlds of the pacifistic worker race, the Indowy. Perhaps something that might not have been included in books written more than a year later, is the tactical collapsing of inhabited alien megascrapers as weapons. The versatility and vastly changed tactics the Armoured Combat Suits bring to the combat scenes are well thought out, even to the point of a rather grisly flaw caused by the armour being too strong.

The action is well described as Ringo build up the range of abilities embodied by the ACS’s. Lots of characters are introduced and their personalities brought to life by the narrator, Marc Vietor.

It must be said, Marc Vietor dives into the alien words and names with gusto. Ringo surely didn’t have narration in mind when he named Ttckpt Province, or Tulo’stenaloor, First Order Battlemaster of the Sten Po’oslena’ar. For a couple of chapters I was even reading along from the Baen Free Library/WebScription edition. This impressed me as I could see how Vietor added lots of texture and emotion to the dialog and prose, that you might not otherwise have from reading the text alone.

The story doesn’t just follow Mike O’Neal. There are two other plot threads that clearly are building towards something much larger for later books in the series. A Hymn Before Battle sets the stage with, what I presume are it’s major players, for the following books in the series. I look forward to reading more in this series, and to more of John Ringo’s other works.

Posted by Paul [W] Campbell

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