Review of Blood Rites by Jim Butcher

August 15, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

PENGUIN AUDIO - Blood Rites by Jim ButcherBlood Rites (The Dresden Files, #6)
By Jim Butcher; Read by James Marsters
11 CDs – 13 Hours 11 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Published: April 6, 2010

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, takes on a case as a favor to his friend Thomas – a vampire of dubious integrity – only to become the prime suspect in a series of ghastly murders.

I can honestly say, Blood Rites is my favorite in the series so far. Now, this was also my first audiobook of the series so that could have something to do with it. It’s hard to tell at this point, but either way, I highly enjoyed Bood Rites.

At first, I thought Marsters was a bit too serious for Harry, at least the Harry I had in my head, but the more I read, the more I realized Marsters is pretty much as perfect as you can get. Harry’s wit and constant one-liners were actually made more hilarious by this narrator who is serious for the majority of the time. I think the heightened seriousness really works better for these books because it gives you a sense of this highly dangerous world where Harry works on a daily basis.

It’s hard to separate the story from Harry himself because it’s told in first person so you’re in Harry’s head the entire time (outside of dialogue from other characters). I thought this was a brilliant way to handle it though, where you get Harry’s sense of humor through his dialogue mostly, his thoughts as well of course, but a seriousness that anchors the narrative because Harry still lives in a world of scary monsters.

I hope any of that made some remote bit of sense.

Anyhow, Blood Rites gets back into the vampires (they seem to be a pretty regular fall back for Butcher) and that makes sense because the set up has been an all-out war between vampires and wizards. Someone’s taking out people on an adult film set and Harry has to go undercover to discover who’s behind it. Of course, it goes deeper than he imagined at first and there’s where the money is for this series… Harry getting into stuff only to get beaten down and beaten on … a lot.

I struggled a slight bit with the first books in the series, but they have really hit their stride now. I didn’t even notice the typical repetitions this time (Harry disrupts electricity, Harry gets really protective of women, etc. etc.) that are explained in each volume as if no one’s ever heard about them before. It probably helps that it’s been a year or so since I last read in the series.

Blood Rites was excellent. James Marsters is so perfectly Harry Dresden it’s almost scary. What a great combination. I’ve already broken my rule of leaving a year between each Dresden file read and started on Dead Beat.

4.5 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)

Posted by Bryce L.

Audio drama review: Robin Of Sherwood: The Knights Of The Apocalypse by Richard Carpenter

June 28, 2016 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Robin Of Sherwood: The Knights Of The ApocalypseRobin Of Sherwood: The Knights Of The Apocalypse
By Richard Carpenter; Performed by a full cast
2 Hours – CD or Digital Download [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Spiteful Puppet
Published: June 30, 2016

England in the reign of King John and a dark force is intent on conquest. Only the hooded man can stand against it… The church lies impotent at the mercy of the Pope and the interdict against the kingdom. With the people living in fear and a series of disappearances that threaten the very fabric of noble society, Robin ‘i’ the hood and his band of outlaws must race to rescue the past so that the future may be protected. A journey to Huntingdon and beyond Sherwood will see them battle their most dangerous enemy yet as Herne’s son faces The Knights of the Apocalypse…

If you close your eyes you’ll see it – it being a new two part episode of the classic ITV television series Robin Of Sherwood, minus the grainy 16mm film stock. From the opening Clannad theme – you’ll see it all – that brightly lit forest green, those grey stone castles and churches, the flashing swords, the flying arrows. You’ll of course hear them all too.

Early into The Knights Of The Apocalypse we learn that England is suffering under the “Interdict”, a punishment of all of England for King John’s offence of the Catholic Church. This really happened. The titular Knights of the Apocalypse, though fictional, are said to be a breakaway branch of the Knights Templar – and the ultimate historical destruction of the Templars is very effectively retroactively-foreshadowed in this production.

The two hours, in two parts, had me struggling with the heroes, thinking deep thoughts, rallying against the heavy hand of oppression, chuckling at the baddies, laughing with the heroes, worried at what might possibly happen next, then heart-warmed, and ultimately delighted at the lightfooted sweep all the little details added up to. This is an epic as big as The Swords Of Wayland and as revolutionary as Robin Hood And The Sorcerer.

Barnaby Eaton-Jones, the producer, seems to have made it his mission to make The Knights Of The Apocalypse as true to the original show as humanly possible. Soliciting initial funding using an indiegogo campaign, Eaton-Jones paired a script by the now deceased Richard Carpenter, Robin Of Sherwood‘s creator (he also wrote some of the show’s finest episodes), and tracked down every living member of the original cast to this production. The result is truly tremendous! It is amazing to hear the voices of that old cast once again – Mark Ryan (the brooding Saracen swordsman Nasir), Ray Winstone (forever the hot-headed Will Scarlet), Clive Mantle (smiling and gentle Little John), Jason Connery (that noble second incarnation of Robin, the hooded man), curly haired Judi Trott (voicing the summer maid of Sherwood, Marian), Phil Rose (the friendly friar, Tuck), and Peter Llewellyn Williams (Much, the simple miller’s son).

A lot of folks probably think of Alan Rickman as the most iconic Sheriff of Nottingham – he was terrific – but for me the worst (and by that I mean best) Sheriff of Nottingham will always be Nickolas Grace. Grace is back to his old tricks; playing that cowardly cartoon of law, that malefactor of injustice, all the while wonderfully dripping contempt and venom from every sour word. We get Grace in several scenes, including some with his equally contemptible brother, the Abbot Hugo, played wonderfully once again by Philip Jackson. A few of the voices are new, filling in for the deceased Robert Addie (Guy of Gisbourne) and Daniel Abineri (Herne, now played by his son). But we also get some audio drama stars like Colin Baker and Terry Molloy playing guest villains.

The Knights Of The Apocalypse is a magical experience. Its story will satisfy, so much so that it could slip-in right next to that final TV episode that aired June 28, 1986. No, this is not a reboot, not re-imagining, not a rerun – this is a reunification. You’ll be reunited in righteous camaraderie with the merry folk of Sherwood – doing the work that must be done, for the good of the people, and breaking the law as needs must.

In reading some of the other early reviews I think they’ve short-shrifted both the historicity and the timeliness (or maybe the timelessness) of what’s going on in The Knights Of The Apocalypse. This really isn’t just a story about how a cute cult TV show got a little fan service 30 years after the last episode aired. No, this is a story about power, politics, economics, about religion. This is a story about class and class struggle, human virtue and human vice. For who is King John, that off-screen terror, if not the hubristic government the governs for the rich and not for all? Who is the Sheriff of Nottingham if not a cynical functionary enforcing the unjust laws unequally, and for his own gain? And why is it, exactly, that an old folktale about a band of heroes who break the law for the good of the people so very, very resonant exactly 30 years (or approximately 550 years) after they were first told?

Here’s a recent piece of publicity:

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Dead Man’s Hand edited by John Joseph Adams

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

SFFaudio Review

Dead Man's HandDead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird WestEdited by John Joseph Adams, by various (see table of contents below)
Read by Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 13 May 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 15 hours, 59 minutes

Themes: / weird / western / short stories / dirigibles / dinosaurs / demons / clockworks /

Publisher summary:

The weird, wild west – an American frontier populated by gunslingers, rattlesnakes, outlaws, zombies, aliens, time travelers, and steampunk! Twenty-three of science fiction and fantasy’s hottest and most popular authors create all-new tales, written exclusively for this anthology. Aliens and monsters, magic and science are introduced to the old west, with explosive results.

Table of contents:

Introduction by John Joseph Adams
The Red-Headed Dead by Joe R Lansdale
The Old Slow Man and His Gold Gun From Space by Ben H Winters
Hellfire on the High Frontier by David Farland
The Hell-Bound Stagecoach by Mike Resnick
Stingers and Strangers by Seanan McGuire
Bookkeeper, Narrator, Gunslinger by CharlesYu
Holy Jingle by Alan Dean Foster
The Man With No Heart by Beth Revis
Wrecking Party by Alastair Reynolds
Hell from the East by Hugh Howey
Second Hand by Rajan Khanna
Alvin and the Apple Tree by Orson Scott Card
Madam Damnable’s Sewing Circle by Elizabeth Bear
Strong Medicine by Tad Williams
Red Dreams by Jonathan Maberry
Bamboozled by Kelley Armstrong
Sundown by Tobias S Buckell
La Madre Del Oro by Jeffrey Ford
What I Assume You Shall Assume by Ken Liu
The Devil’s Jack by Laura Anne Gilman
The Golden Age by Walter Jon Williams
Neversleeps by Fred Van Lente
Dead Man’s Hand by Christie Yant

I enjoyed this collection of odd tales from the weird west. It may not have knocked my boots off, but I felt them tugged from time to time. And really, what more can we ask from an anthology.

Stuffed with clockworks, vampires, dinosaurs, and aliens, John Joseph Adams (editor) has wrangled some fun stories. Each author strikes a unique set of harmonics on the scale of voice and tone, and yet the individuality of fellow contributors isn’t lost, but rather merged into a larger, primarily singular melody suiting this particular subgenre

My top five IOP (In Order of Printing):
* “The Hell-Bound Stagecoach” by Mike Resnick
* “Bookkeeper, Narrator, Gunslinger” by Charles Yu
* “Second Hand” by Rajan Khanna
* “Red Dreams” by Jonathan Maberry
* “Dead Man’s Hand” by Christie Yant
* And honorable mention goes to the introduction. John Joseph Adams sets the table for the reader, establishing a foothold on the subgenre through brief and accessible historical context.

The audiobook consists of dueling narrators. Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross take turns, with Gigante reading the majority. And while Ross has a rich and pleasing voice, she lathers on too much thick Southern-sweet for the ear to wholly appreciate.

All in all, a fun anthology.
I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys tales set in the Ole West with a twist of odd fringed with funny.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

The SFFaudio Podcast #229 – NEW RELEASES/RECENT ARRIVALS

September 9, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #229 – Jesse, Jenny, Tamahome, and Paul Weimer talk about NEW RELEASES and RECENT ARRIVALS.

Talked about on today’s show:
Tam is back, Haruki Murakami, Kafka On The Shore, magic realism, Japan, kafkaesque, surrealism, 1Q84, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, pretty books, Chip Kidd, rice paper, Requiem by Ken Scholes, Julie Davis, Tor, magic staff, earth in the future, The Steel Remains, “oh crap this is the future”, Gene Wolfe, Happy Hour In Hell by Tad Williams, Bobby Dollar, The Dirty Streets Of Heaven, urban fantasy, demoness tangling, Lankhmar, urban fantasy => a certain kind of fantasy, noir/detective => hardboiled, Otherland, Luke Burrage, cats, “the Walter Jon Williams effect”, MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood, mostly dystopian, Oryx and Crake, quasi-humans, The Year Of The Flood, genetic engineering, racoon-pigs, storytelling mode, listening at 2X speed, competitive debate, Margaret Atwood’s preview of a review of Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, a sequel to The Shining, Atwood’s weakness for horror and terror, “because he’s Stephen King”, Will Patton, “don’t judge me people”, is there a stigma in literary circles?, Zoomer magazine’s profile of Margaret Atwood as “Queen Of The Nerds”, Twitter, tweetalong?, a genuine literary reputation, poetry, Orson Scott Card, does it matter?, dystopia, Dreamscape Audiobooks, The Night Lands by William Hope Hodgson, The House On The Borderlands, a very daunting book, big and ambitious, Lovecraftian?, The Scarlet Plague by Jack London, Earth Abides, class, mainstream post-apocalypse, Alas Babylon by Pat Frank, a toothless grandfather, Drew Ariana, Goslings by J.D. Beresford, plague talk!, The Children Of Men, Y: The Last Man, the newspapers, HiLoBooks, “Radium Age” Science Fiction, Gweek, The Road To Science Fiction, classicism, sexism, barbarism, The Iron Heel, numeracy and literacy, the size of the universe or the age of the Earth, Simon & Schuster Audio, Rivers by Michael Farris Smith, Jenny loves destroying the earth, wiping the slate clean, Fallout, Tobias Buckell, Interrupt by Jeff Carlson, Hunter Davis, Brilliance Audio, simultaneously published with print, Neanderthals, the pronunciations, Robert J. Sawyer, Discover Magazine, literally means not literally anymore, it’s figuratively raining cats and dogs, The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough, Julie Davis, Simon Vance, science fiction thrillers, John Scalzi, plague, space elevator, working for the enemy?, a compressed schedule, writing 2X, a first novel!, military SF, “we’ve complinished everything”, Reflex by Steven Gould, Jumper, the physical audiobook industry (is it mostly for libraries), Paperback Audio, William Dufris, The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, innate teleportation, the Jumper movie, Portal, post-humans, Nightcrawler without the bad smell, BAMFless, The Clockwork Man by E.V. Odle, Ralph Lister, no introductions makes Jesse sad, are there audio previews?, Affliction: An Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Novel (#22) by Laurell K. Hamilton, The Lord of Opium (Matteo Alacran #2) by Nancy Farmer, The Midnight Heir (Bane Chronicles #4) by Cassandra Clare and Sara Rees Brennan, building on The Hunger Games, Untouchable (Immortals After Dark #8) by Kresley Cole, Robert Petkoff, The Hunt or Capture, the reality TV version of The Hunger Games in The Hunger Games would be very boring, The Truman Show would be a very boring show to actually watch, in fiction the TV shows are without narrative, TVtropes show with an show, Hamlet, William Shakespeare did meta 500 years ago, epic traditional fantasy, traditional epic fantasy marriage, Crown Thief (Tales Of Easie Damasco #2) by David Tallerman, Giant Thief, sword and sorcery, golem or gollum?, Witch Wraith: The Dark Legacy of Shannara by Terry Brooks, Rosalyn Landor, , “Tolkien with the serial numbers filed off”, “its all about the elfstones”, The Lord Of The Rings, questing, trilogy vs. endless series, the Wikipedia entry for Shannara, a magical cataclysm, “a richer broader universe”, Revolution, S.M. Stirling, Robert Jordan, the Dragonlance series, Daniel Abraham, subverting the quest trope, The Eye Of The World, George R.R. Martin, gathering forces and subverting expectations, children’s fantasy, Roald Dahl, Matilda is read by Kate Winslet!, the musical of Matilda, The Twits, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Charlie And The Great Glass Elevator Futurama, Fry and the Slurm factory, Gene Wilder, great character names!, Dickensian names, The BFG, biography, crime, thriller, JFK’s Last Hundred Days: The Transformation Of A Man And The Emergence Of A Great President, Death Angel (Alexandra Cooper #15) by Linda Fairstein, The Kill List by Frederick Forsyth, George Guidall, “now it’s personal”, Penguin Audio, adding heat urgency of character development, adding a baby, Breaking Bad babies, the invisible baby or worse the artificially aging child syndrome, Mork & Mindy, Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson, 30,000 years ago, prehistorical romance, hard edged scientific, Clan Of The Cavebear, Monsters Of The Earth by David Drake, Seanan McGuire, Soldier by Harlan Ellison, The Terminator, The Outer Limits, James Cameron, Philip Wylie, Tomorrow!, John Wyndham, When Worlds Collide, The Answer, nuclear war with angels, The End Of The Dream, The Murderer Invisible.

Dreamscape Audiobooks - Goslings by J.D. Beresford

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Chicks Kick Butt

June 3, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Chicks Kick ButtChicks Kick Butt
Edited by Rachel Caine and Kerrie L. Hughes
Performed by Joyce Bean, Jennifer VanDyck, Justine Eyre, Khristine Hvam, Lauren Fortgang, Nicola Barber, Dina Pearlman, Piper Goodeve, Aimee Castle, Elizabeth Livingston, Christina Delaine, and Kim Mai Guest
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
13 hours [UNABRIDGED]

Themes: / urban fantasy / vampires / werewolves / demons / exorcisms / short stories /

Publisher summary:

Today’s women don’t stand around waiting for a hero. These days, women are quite capable of solving their own problems and slaying their own dragons (or demons, as the case may be). In this all-new anthology, Kerrie L. Hughes and New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine have collected original stories from thirteen of today’s most exciting urban fantasy and paranormal authors. Each story features a strong heroine who kicks butt and takes names in a dangerous world and makes that world a better place for everyone in it — except the bad guys, of course. And if she finds a bit of romance along the way, well, a little heat warms the heart and sharpens the mind . . . just as long as the man can keep up.

Chicks Kick Butt is an anthology of stories with strong, driven female protagonists written by women. I am pretty sure that I’ve never read anything by the majority of the authors, and it was the concept that made me pick it. Most of the stories involved characters or worlds from other, full-length novels. Please note there are spoilers in the individual reviews for the stories, so let me just say if you’re looking for a light entertaining read, I may not recommend this anthology. It was uneven in terms of writing quality overall, although the stories by Rachel Vincent and Lilith Saintcrow were quite good. I will be honest, some of the writing was so bad I couldn’t finish listening, and so the review is only for the first part of the story. The audio narration was similarly off, with some of the narrators’s over-the-top characterization taking me out of the story. There was a neutral male voice actor who gave each story’s relevant info. While the audiobook came on disks, I transferred it to digital for ease of listening. So it is not a flaw, but on each end track the audio would fade into music, there would be the instruction to switch disks, and then the last few sentences would be repeated before moving on.

On to the individual stories:
Shiny by Rachel Caine – *** Not really my thing, but pretty good. I am unfamiliar with this author’s other work, but she wove the explanations in really well. The story was really character driven over the sunny backdrop of Florida, and was definitely entertaining, with diamond bikinis, fast cars, and handsome men. I wouldn’t seek out her work, but I’d listen if she was included in another anthology. The car-obsessed main character, Joanne, has a great voice.

In Vino Veritas by Karen Chance – * So bad I had to stop listening. The narrator was pretty neutral, but the writing was just bad. Admittedly, I’m pretty picky with vampire stories, but I did try to give it a chance even after they came out with the ‘dhampire’ bit. I enjoy well-done daywalker stories. This just wasn’t one of them.

Hunt by Rachel Vincent – **** Powerful, slightly triggery with flashbacks to a sexual assault, threatened sexual assault, and violence. Werecat Abby goes on vacation with some friends only to have their camp invaded by several violent men. It is a story about finding the strength within oneself, and the narrator was a perfect match to the story. She relayed Abby’s emotional reaction to the events well without distracting from the story.

Monsters by Lilith Saintcrow – **** Characters, concept, narration, all of it was great. Perfect match between the tone of the narrator and the luridly poetic imagery. This story threw together a vampire and werewolf in a quest for revenge, but the depiction of both felt fresh, more visceral than most modern vampire stories. I would definitely read more by this author.

Vampires Prefer Blondes by P N Elrod -*** Surprised how much I liked it. Narrator really sold it, effortlessly falling into the main character and the verbal ticks of the noir novel. I had my doubts for the first track or two, but the story drew me in. It had a very solid universe that didn’t need much explanation, plus the realistic reactions of the characters was a refreshing change.

Ninth Tenths of the Law by Jenna Black – ** I was getting an Exorcist vibe from this (which is good, especially since it was about exorcism), but the ending was a bit weak. The build up was great, with a runaway rebellious teenage possibly possessed by a demon, an over-bearing religious fanatic, and a jaded protagonist, but then the world-building kicked in and overshadowed a really interesting story. I understand that Morgan having a demon inside her is from a series of novels, but here it felt like a cheap trick to resolve the plot. The narrator was great, completely hidden by the story.

Double Dead by Cheyenne McCray – ** I had to look this one up to see which one it was, and I still can’t really remember anything about it.

A Rose by Any Other Name Would Still be Red by Elizabeth A Vaughn – ** I really wanted to like this. It was probably the most violent of the stories, and the violence was described rather well. I couldn’t get a good handle on the main character or world. It felt like something that should be developed into a longer format.

Superman by Jeanne C Stein – * I couldn’t get into this at all. I listened to the whole thing, but found my mind wandering. Neither the narrator’s delivery nor the story were strong enough to hold my interest.

Monster Mash by Carole Nelson Douglas – **** Although I’m sure I missed a few references, I enjoyed this story quite a bit. There’s a lot to keep up with as Delilah tries to figure out who or what is haunting a supernatural casino, but it’s entertaining even if you’re unfamiliar with this universe. Narrator did an excellent job, with just enough characterization to make it fun.

Wanted Dead or Alive by L A Banks – *** Interesting (yes, I know, damning with faint praise). It was a little hard to follow, as the beginning was an infodump on the particulars of vampires in this universe, but I would give the author another shot with something longer. The characters were interesting, there was just a lot of explaining going on.

Mist by Susan Krinard – * I couldn’t finish this, and I LOVE Norse mythology. It may have been the combination of narrator and text. The voice actor droned a little while I was trying to parse which parts of the mythology they were using, and together it just lost my interest. I listened through to the fight scene in the park, but I figured I had enough when even a fight between a valkyrie and a giant couldn’t keep my attention.

Beyond the Pale by Nancy Holder – NR. At first the story was amazing, although the changeling bit made me snort out loud in surprise (Hitler and Manson as changelings instead of humans) but I let that part go. Then it got to the bit where faeries actually stole babies and the Nazis were blamed for it, and no. Just no. It kept nibbling at my mind while I was listening to what seemed to be a very well written story, so it would appear this isn’t the story for me.

Posted by Sarah R.

LibriVox: The Devil In Iron by Robert E. Howard

March 19, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

The Devil In Iron by Robert E. Howard

The Devil In Iron - illustration by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala

Considered by some to be the worst Conan story written by Howard, The Devil In Iron isn’t my favourite either.

In it the “gay clad” barbarian visits an island fortress, wrestles a giant green snake, fights an unstabable demon, and saves a sleepy-headed and scantily dressed beauty.

The plot, which is rather intricate, doesn’t do much for me – but several scenes have that Howard writing magic I love.

LibriVoxThe Devil In Iron
By Robert E. Howard; Read by Phil Chevernet
6 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 1 Hour 35 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: March 16, 2013
Alone on the strange enchanted island of Xapur, Conan must face Khostaral Khel, a fearsome monster made of living metal! First published in Weird Tales, August 1934.

Podcast feed: http://librivox.org/rss/7606

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|
The Devil In Iron - illustration by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala

Weird Tales, August 1934

Posted by Jesse Willis

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