The SFFaudio Podcast #319 – READALONG: The Lord Of The Rings (Book 3 of 6) by J.R.R. Tolkien

June 1, 2015 by · 2 Comments
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The SFFaudio Podcast #319 – Jesse, Julie Davis, Seth, and Maissa continue their journey through The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien with a discussion of Book III “The Treason of Isengard” (aka the first half of The Two Towers).

Talked about on today’s show:
Lord of the Rings was published in three volumes instead of six volumes due to paper shortages; surprise, Jesse prefers shorter volumes; Ayn Rand’s thick books, and thin books like Anthem; pocket editions of The Hobbit; small books make us feel like giant Alice in Wonder characters; The Two Towers is the shortest volume, though Return of the King is bulked up by appendices; as a first-time reader, Maissa appreciated the quick pacing; Anthony Boucher’s review claims the volume makes “inordinate demands” on readers; overwhelming back history; the difference of reading review and reading for pleasure; reading at Shadowfax speed!; “hope is in speed”; the poetry of Tolkien’s prose; Anglo-Saxon influence on alliteration in Rohan speech; the beauty of Tolkien’s descriptions; Gimli’s descriptions of the caves; the illegitimate heirs of Tolkien can’t compete with Tolkien’s command of language; the Orcs as comic relief; three factions of Orcs set against the three races of runners; Legolas and Gimli working through their differences; evil by definition does not make alliances; Saruman’s cloak of many colors as a symbol of evil; the Orcs’ lack of coöperation; who is the wandering old man in the hat?; the contrast between the Orc draught and Ent draught, similar to Gandalf’s flask of Miruvor in Book II; the persistent symbolism of waters and drinking in this volume; similarities between Rohan and Anglo Saxon culture; linguistic parallels between the speech of the Rohirrim and Old English; “sister-daughter” and different familial relations in Rohan; the emerging importance of Éowyn; the underpopulation of Middle Earth; parallels between the Third Age of Middle Earth and Europe after the “fall” of Rome; Gondor = Rome to some Tolkien scholars; Dan Carlin’s Blueprint for Armageddon on World War I; the influence of World War I on Tolkien’s writing; flood and trench imagery of Orthanc recalls the devastation of World War I; Middle Earth (and the modern world) is in a time of transition; conversation with Éomer about the persistence of legends; “not we, but those who come after, will make the legends of our time”; people tend not to recognize they’re in a time of transition; Jesse deftly defines “Flotsam and Jetsam” for us and ties them into the book’s backward-looking and forward-looking symbolism; Tolkien’s love of etymology; action like the Ents’ storming of Isengard happens off-stage; Agatha Christie style foreshadowing with Longbottom Leaf; we don’t really care about Helm’s Deep; “Aragorn joined Éomer in the van”; horrible tree puns; Old Forest as the Fangorn of the West; we’re pretty sure the Entwives are hanging out there; the Elves are less interesting than Ents because the Elves are too perfect; the Elves talked the Ents into wakefulness; Shadowfax’s race of horses can understand the speech of men; the pre-speech age of human beings and Koko the gorilla; the Rangers are the detectives of Middle Earth; Voltaire’s Zadie and Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin from The Murders in the Rue Morgue; debate about existence of evidence for the Entwines–stay tuned to the next volume!; finding the Entwives = Mission Impossible (cue theme); the growth (in many ways) of Merry and Pippin; Gandalf’s foresight in allowing them to join the Fellowship; “they are the pebbles that began the avalanche of the Ents’ rising”; the three runners sped 220 kilometers in four days; it proved fortuitous that Pippin found the Palantir; the Palantir is FaceTime with Sauron; Merry and Pippin were key to Boromir’s redemption; return of the black swans–and the eagle!; Ariel in The Tempest by Shakespeare does all the work for Prospero, just like the eagles; Gandalf actually performs magic in “The Voice of Saruman” chapter; the voice in Dune; Gandalf takes over the council of wizards; the blue wizards aren’t present because they’re too “swear-y”; the recurring importance of choice; Tolkien is always on the side of free will; Aragorn’s decision not to follow Frodo; Palantir are the “seven stones” of Gondor’s flag; the Palantir is neither good nor evil; Palantir symbolizes communication of superpowers between the world wars, and the iconic red phone; The Victorian Internet by Tom Standee: the telegraph is the best thing since sliced bread; the lazy visual shortcuts that the movie takes with the Palantir and with Saruman’s influence on Théoden; The Man Who Never Was; meanwhile, Sam and Frodo are slogging through; the inevitable breaking of the Fellowship; the four elements in Gandalf’s death and resurrection; more Lovecraftian weirdness in the bowels of Middle Earth; Gandalf has changed; Norse worm gnawing at the roots of the World Tree; Treebeard as shepherd of the trees; “boom, boom, dahrar!; Net names tell the whole story of things; Freebeard’s bed isn’t for sleeping; Shakespeare’s disappointment at Shakespeare’s sleight-of-hand with the trees of Birnam Wood not actually coming to life in Macbeth; “fear not, till Birnam wood do come to Dunsinane” almost perfectly echoed in The Two Towers; nobody does Elves better than Tolkien; the joy Tolkien must have had writing about trees.

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“Aragorn and Legolas went now with Eomer in the van.”

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M.E.R.P. - Ents Of Fangorn
M.E.R.P. - Riders Of Rohan illustration by Angus McBride
Ballantine Books - The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

By Seth Wilson

Recent Arrivals from Tantor Audiobooks

June 10, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Recent Arrivals 

SFFaudio Recent Arrivals

Audiobook - City of Dragons by Kelli StanleyCity of Dragons
By Kelli Stanley; Read by Cynthia Holloway
13 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Audiobooks
Published: 2010
|EXCERPT|

February, 1940. In San Francisco’s Chinatown, fireworks explode as the city celebrates Chinese New Year with a Rice Bowl Party, a three-day-and-night carnival designed to raise money and support for China war relief. Miranda Corbie is a thirty-three-year-old private investigator who stumbles upon the fatally shot body of Eddie Takahashi. The Chamber of Commerce wants it covered up. The cops acquiesce. All Miranda wants is justice—whatever it costs. From Chinatown tenements, to a tattered tailor’s shop in Little Osaka, to a high-class bordello draped in Southern Gothic, she shakes down the city—her city—seeking the truth.
 
 
Horror Audiobook - I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan WellsI Am Not a Serial Killer
By Dan Wells; Read by John Allen Nelson
7.5 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Audiobooks
Published: 2010
|EXCERPT|

John works in his family’s mortuary and has an obsession with serial killers. He wants to be a good person but fears he is a sociopath, and for years he has suppressed his dark side through a strict system of rules designed to mimic “normal” behavior.

Then a demon begins stalking his small town and killing people one by one, and John is forced to give in to his darker nature in order to save them. As he struggles to understand the demon and find a way to kill it, his own mind begins to unravel until he fears he may never regain control. Faced with the reality that he is, perhaps, more monstrous than the monster he is fighting, John must make a final stand against the horrors of both the demon and himself.
 
 
Horror Audiobook - The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard by Robert E. HowardThe Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard
By Robert E. Howard; Read by Robertson Dean
24 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Audiobooks
Published: 2010
|EXCERPT|

Robert E. Howard, renowned creator of Conan the barbarian, was also a master at conjuring tales of hair-raising horror. In a career spanning only twelve years, Howard wrote more than a hundred stories, with his most celebrated work appearing in Weird Tales, the preeminent pulp magazine of the era.

In this collection of Howard’s greatest horror tales, some of the author’s best-known characters—Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn, and sailor Steve Costigan among them—roam the forbidding locales of Howard’s fevered imagination, from the swamps and bayous of the Deep South to the fiend-haunted woods outside Paris to remote jungles in Africa.

Included in this collection is Howard’s masterpiece “Pigeons from Hell,” a tale of two travelers who stumble upon the ruins of a Southern plantation—and into the maw of its fatal secret. In “Black Canaan,” even the best warrior has little chance of taking down the evil voodoo man with unholy powers—and none at all against his wily mistress, the diabolical High Priestess of Damballah. Also included is the classic revenge nightmare “Worms of the Earth” as well as “The Cairn on the Headland.”
 
 
Audiobook - BeowulfBeowulf
By A Group of Drunken Anglo-Saxons; Read by Rosalyn Landor
3 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Audiobooks
Published: 2010
|EXCERPT|

When sleep was at its deepest, night at its blackest, up from the mist-filled marsh came Grendel stalking…

Thus begins the battle between good and evil, for lying in wait and anxious to challenge the ogre Grendel is a young man, strong-willed and fire-hearted. This man is Beowulf, whose heroic dragon-slaying deeds were sung in the courts of Anglo-Saxon England more than a thousand years ago.

Beowulf is our only native English heroic epic. In the figure of Beowulf, the Scandinavian warrior, and his struggles against monsters, the unknown author depicts the life and outlook of a pagan age. The poem is a subtle blending of themes—the conflict of good and evil, and an examination of heroism. Its skillful arrangement of incidents and use of contrast and parallel show it to be the product of a highly sophisticated culture.

This version of Beowulf is the translation by Francis B. Gummere.
 
 
Science Audiobook - The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence by Paul DaviesThe Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
By Paul Davies; Read by George K. Wilson
10.5 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Audiobooks
Published: 2010
|EXCERPT|

Fifty years ago, a young astronomer named Frank Drake pointed a radio telescope at nearby stars in the hope of picking up a signal from an alien civilization. Thus began one of the boldest scientific projects in history, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). But after a half century of scanning the skies, astronomers have little to report but an eerie silence—eerie because many scientists are convinced that the universe is teeming with life. The problem, argues leading physicist and astrobiologist Paul Davies, is that we’ve been looking in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and in the wrong way. Davies should know. For more than three decades, he has been closely involved with SETI and now chairs the SETI Post-Detection Taskgroup, charged with deciding what to do if we’re confronted with evidence of alien intelligence. In this extraordinary book, he shows how SETI has lost its edge, then offers a new and exciting road map for the future.

Davies believes that our search so far has been overly anthropocentric: we tend to assume an alien species will look, think, and behave like us. He argues that we need to be far more expansive in our efforts, and in this book he completely redefines the search, challenging existing ideas of what form an alien intelligence might take, how it might try to communicate with us, and how we should respond if we ever do make contact. A provocative and mind-expanding journey, The Eerie Silence will thrill fans of science and science fiction alike.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson