Review of The Martian by Andy Weir

August 4, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

MartianThe Martian
By Andy Weir; Narrated by R.C. Bray
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 22 March 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 hours, 53 minutes

Themes: / astronaut / Mars / engineering / space exploration / NASA /

Publisher summary:

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
Five stars for pure entertainment and because math made it suspenseful.

That’s right, math made it thrilling. Look at it this way, you’re stranded on a planet that’s essentially trying to kill you. You could just keel over and die … like I would most likely do in the same situation, or you could figure out how to stay alive.

Start with the math. NASA planned for 30 days worth of food for 6 people. The next time someone will be on the planet is in 4 years. Even rationing that food only gets you a little over a year’s worth.

Wait, what if you can’t even contact someone to tell them you’re alive and need to be rescued, more math.

It’s the math that made this book exciting. In fact, this XKCD comic pretty much explains it:

Knowing how long until you’re dead is the suspense.

Couple entertaining math (how is this even possible?) with one of the best characters ever created, Mark Watney, and you have an insanely great story.

Mark Watney is an absolutely hilarious character, especially coupled with the situation he’s in (stranded on Mars) and with whom he’s dealing with (NASA, aka the smartest people ever).

Exchanges like this are that much funnier when it’s freaking NASA he’s talking to:

“[11:49] JPL: What we can see of your planned cut looks good. We’re assuming the other side is identical. You’re cleared to start drilling. [12:07] Watney: That’s what she said. [12:25] JPL: Seriously, Mark? Seriously?”

Probably the best part is that it’s not cause he’s going crazy from being alone for so long, it’s just how he is and that’s awesome.

I not only thought of Watney as a close friend, but I felt like I lived on Mars in this book. You’re constantly aware of how much depends on every little thing not screwing up, how dependent someone is on things we take for granted on a planet that’s actually hospitable to life. And then everything goes wrong.

Which brings me to really the only kind of awkward thing about the book. With the way it’s set up (through log entries and third person omniscient when not with Watney), Andy Weir kind of has to go out of his way to tell you how things are going wrong. Suddenly, you’re brought out of the narrative to be informed how the constant pressure on one area caused the wearing down of material and suddenly … HUGE problem occurs.

Otherwise, I had a blast with this book. The narration by R.C. Bray was top notch. Not that I know anything different, but he nailed the sarcasm and wit of Watney and made this book go more than smoothly. I thought of him as Watney and completely forgot about the narration. That’s when you know it’s good.

This is one of those audiobooks I finished in such a short time because it’s all I wanted to do. I usually have audiobooks for the commute, but this is one you find yourself listening to at every possible moment. That’s when I know I’ve found gold. Eureka, put down what you’re reading and jump on The Martian train (I haven’t lost my metaphors have I?).

5 out of 5 Stars (Cause everything worked together to make this one damn fine read)

Posted by Bryce L.

Review of Dust by Hugh Howey

June 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

DustDust (The Silo Saga #3)
By Hugh Howey; Narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds
Publisher: Broad Reach PublishingPublication Date: October 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 12 hours, 34 minutes

Themes: / destruction / apocalypse / survival / engineering / politics /

Publisher summary:

Wool introduced the silo and its inhabitants. Shift told the story of their making. Dust will chronicle their undoing. Welcome to the underground.

Final books in a series are always tough. Endings are difficult. Not everyone may be happy.

The ending to this series was good, but not great. I think it really comes down to what you’re expecting. Wool really sets the stage of a mystery series with a post-apocalyptic setting. By the end of it I had a ton of questions. Some of those questions were answered or at least explored by Shift, but a few more were posed as well. For me more than anything I wanted my questions answered to my satisfaction in this final book.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the case for me. I still have questions. A few of the things that were explained, weren’t done to my satisfaction. The clarification I was hoping might be in this book never really came. We do get some answers. Just not enough. When discussing it with others I found that some of my lingering questions hadn’t occurred to them at all. Your mileage may vary.

That said, it’s still an enjoyable book with a good, but not great ending. Mr. Howey does a good job in tying the two halves of the story set out in Wool and Shift together.

I found Juliette not as enjoyable in this book as in the first, but I still probably enjoyed it the most. Solo was probably a close second. After Shift I found myself mostly getting tired of Donald however. He’s not exactly the most likable of people. I found myself not really caring what he did except how it affected the others.

Tim Gerard Reynolds is once again a great reader. When deciding between reading or listening to a book, who the reader is often makes a big difference, and Mr. Reynolds makes this a must listen. He does voices and accents that add a little extra something to the story. If you’re deciding between listening and reading the book, I’d recommend listening.

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of Energized by Edward M. Lerner

November 18, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Energized by Edward M. LernerEnergized
By Edward M. Lerner; Read by Grover Gardner
Length: 10.5 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Published: 2012
ISBN: 1470813033
Themes: / Science! / satellites / engineers / NASA / terrorists / oil / energy / space / thriller /

The SFFaudio crew pegged me to read this book because the description says that one of the main characters is a NASA engineer. I always think it’s funny when people specify “NASA” engineer. It’s like on TV shows when you see people working near the space shuttle, they’re all wearing NASA hats. Nobody does that. The description could just as easily said “aerospace engineer” and the meaning would be the same…but less sexy, somehow. I admit, I was weary of reading this one at first. My experience with people who write about “NASA engineers” is that they have no idea what they’re talking about excepting cursory research. I’m happy to report that Edward M. Lerner does know what he’s talking about with regards to the space and satellite stuff (looking at his bio, it’s no surprise). That said, I went into this thinking it was going to be a science fiction book. It’s much more a mystery/thriller with science fiction elements. It’s as much “science fiction” as Daemon is (which is to say, not much).

In the interest of full disclosure, it’s probably worth mentioning that I am currently employed by a company that (among other things) designs and builds satellites, both for the government and the commercial sector. I currently work on the commercial side of things and have never worked on a NASA contract. There are definite holes and inaccuracies with the science and engineering in this book. But most people won’t recognize them, and they don’t impact the overall enjoyment of the story.

That disclaimer done with, Energized was pretty entertaining. Set in the near-future United States, the world has gone through a “crude-tastrophe” and the price of oil has skyrocketed to the tune of $20+/gallon to fill up a car. There is a fixed market, controlled mostly by Russian interests, for oil, so naturally the US explores alternate energy sources. Unfortunately, Rome wasn’t built in a day and it’s virtually impossible to produce enough energy via alternate sources overnight. NASA has been working on a large-scale satellite that can beam solar energy to earth from space.

The first third of the book (maybe closer to the first half) deals with the public (and private sector) reactions to this kind of a satellite and introduces the reader (listener?) to the concept and its risks. Admittedly, this section could have been shorter without sacrificing much of the story; it did seem to drag on a bit.

The second section of the book introduces the “thriller” aspect. As anybody in the aerospace industry is aware, the stuff built “for the powers of good” in/for space can usually be used to do evil. Sure enough, terrorists find a way to take over the satellite and use its harnessed energy to destroy ground-based and air-based targets. As is typical for thrillers, there are some good guys in the area, capable of stopping the terrorists. In this case it’s Marcus Judson, NASA engineer, one of the lead consultants for the power satellite project, along with some of his colleagues. Yet again, this section seemed overly long and drawn out.

However, the length of the first two sections may only seem long in relation to the final section–the part where the final “battle” occurs and either good or evil triumphs. This part felt a bit rushed, comparatively. In retrospect, I think it was probably the right length and that the other two parts were just a bit too long. I won’t spoil it for you, but the final “battle” involves maneuvering (literally and metaphorically) on the ground and on the 2 mile-on-a-side power satellite. It stretches the belief but still left me interested and wanting to listen to see what happened next.

As I stated previously, the book was enjoyable. It was a bit far-fetched but not so far-fetched as to be completely unbelievable. The science fiction elements are there and create an atypical setting for most mystery/thriller type books, and I’d recommend this to anybody that enjoys the mystery/thriller genre.

Grover Gardner is one of my favorite narrators and he shines in this type of book. He also narrates the Andy Carpenter books, another mystery/thriller series, so it feels natural for him to read Energized. The only “weirdness” I had is that the Andy Carpenter books have a character named Marcus as well, so hearing of two very different “Marcus” characters read by the same narrator was a bit jarring at times.

All in all, this is a popcorn-type book, easily consumed and digested. It does have its flaws (with the technical side of things as well as story length), but they’re not so big as to ruin the fun. If you’re in the market for a hard science fiction book with far-reaching themes, this isn’t the book for you. But if you’re in the mood for a thriller with science fiction elements, you’ll probably enjoy Energized well enough.

Review by terpkristin.

Lux Radio Theatre: No Highway In The Sky based on the novel No Highway by Nevil Shute

August 6, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

I was talking with a friend of mine about Nevil Shute. Shute has been blipping onto my radar since about ten years ago when my Science Fiction uncle gave me a copy of Slide Rule: The Autobiography Of An Engineer. Over the years I’ve gotten into Shute’s fiction, notably On The Beach and A Town Like Alice. Most recently I just finished watching, and listening to No Highway In The Sky, a pair of adaptations of Shute’s novel No Highway. Here’s the premise:

The Rutland Reindeer, a recently developed trans-Atlantic passenger aircraft, is approved for flying. But one Anglo-American scientist thinks the Reindeer’s tail may just up and fall off when it hits the golden number of flight hours. He’s got the numbers to prove a catastrophic failure is inevitable, but that won’t be enough to ground the already flying Reindeer. So, he’s dispatched to Labrador to inspect the wreckage of a recently crashed Reindeer. It was reported to have been downed by “pilot error” but our scientist thinks it may have been metal fatigue. Then comes the twist we can see coming from miles away, our hero finds himself flying aboard just such another doomed aircraft. Can the logic of his calculations be enough to persuade the captain to turn the Reindeer back to England? Or will they crash into the North Atlantic?

No Highway In The Sky

Jimmy Stewart and Marlene Dietrich reprise their roles on Lux Radio Theatre’s adaptation of the film – the main difference between this version, and the movie (besides the lack of video), is the in-studio audience laughing at the character based comedy in this story of suspense. It’s well worth a listen!

Lux Radio TheatreNo Highway In The Sky
Based on a novel by Nevil Shute; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 56 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: CBS / Lux Radio Theatre
Broadcast: April 21, 1952
Theodore Honey (James Stewart) is a highly eccentric “boffin” with the Royal Aircraft Establishment. A widower with a precocious young daughter, Honey is sent from Farnborough to investigate the crash of a “Reindeer” airliner in Labrador, which he theorizes occurred because of a structural failure in the tail caused by sudden metal fatigue. To test his theory in his laboratory, an airframe is continuously shaken in eight-hour daily cycles. It isn’t until Honey is aboard a Reindeer that he realizes he himself is flying on one such aircraft and that it may be close to the number of hours his theory projects for the fatal failure. Despite the fact that his theory is not yet proven, Honey decides to warn the passengers and crew, including actress Monica Teasdale (Marlene Dietrich).

Here’s a section of the Dell Mapback edition of No Highway showing the locations mentioned in the story:

No Highway by Nevil Shute DELL MAPBACK

Posted by Jesse Willis

LibriVox: The Variable Man by Philip K. Dick

May 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

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]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
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:

http://librivox.org/rss/4275

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

[Thanks also to Betty M. and Diana Majlinger]

Posted by Jesse Willis

LibriVox: The Pirates Of Ersatz by Murray Leinster

November 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

LibriVoxElliot Miller, one of the participants in last year’s SFFaudio Challenge has completed his audiobook project! Elliot recorded one of the funnest, and funniest SF novels of the 1950s:

The Pirates Of Ersatz by Murray Leinster!

I’m loving this novel’s playful storytelling, I find it very reminiscent of The Space Merchants.

First published in three successive 1959 issues of Astounding Science Fiction magazine. It was later republished as half of an Ace double novel under the title The Pirates Of Zan.

LibriVox - The Pirates Of Ersatz by Murray LeinsterThe Pirates Of Ersatz
By Murray Leinster; Read by Elliott Miller
12 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 6 Hours 16 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: November 19, 2009
Bron is the offspring of infamous space pirates but instead of following in the family footsteps he decides to become an electronic engineer. Unfortunately, every time he tries to get out, something pulls him back in. This is a tongue-in-cheek space adventure along the lines of the Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison. It was originally published in the FEB-APR issues of Astounding Science Fiction in 1959.

Podcast feed:

http://librivox.org/rss/3120

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

[In addition to the reader, this audio book was produced by the good works of dusty, Betty M. and David Lawrence – Thanks so much folks!]

Posted by Jesse Willis

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