Review of Rivers by Michael Farris Smith

January 14, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Rivers by Michael Farris SmithRivers
By Michael Farris Smith; Read by Michael Farris Smith
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: September 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 hours, 28 minutes

Themes: / global warming / post-apocalypse / apocalypse / survival / floods / eco-disaster /

Publisher summary:

It had been raining for weeks. Maybe months. He had forgotten the last day that it hadn’t rained, when the storms gave way to the pale blue of the Gulf sky, when the birds flew and the clouds were white and sunshine glistened across the drenched land.

Following years of catastrophic hurricanes, the Gulf Coast—stretching from the Florida panhandle to the western Louisiana border—has been brought to its knees. The region is so punished and depleted that the government has drawn a new boundary ninety miles north of the coastline. Life below the Line offers no services, no electricity, and no resources, and those who stay behind live by their own rules.

Cohen is one who stayed. Unable to overcome the crushing loss of his wife and unborn child who were killed during an evacuation, he returned home to Mississippi to bury them on family land. Until now he hasn’t had the strength to leave them behind, even to save himself.

But after his home is ransacked and all of his carefully accumulated supplies stolen, Cohen is finally forced from his shelter. On the road north, he encounters a colony of survivors led by a fanatical, snake-handling preacher named Aggie who has dangerous visions of repopulating the barren region.

Realizing what’s in store for the women Aggie is holding against their will, Cohen is faced with a decision: continue to the Line alone, or try to shepherd the madman’s captives across the unforgiving land with the biggest hurricane yet bearing down—and Cohen harboring a secret that may pose the greatest threat of all.

In a near-future apocalyptic Mississippi, hurricanes and flooding are so frequent (nearly constant) that the government has redrawn the southern border of the country above the disaster zone. Anyone living south of The Line has no government assistance, no security, and must fend for him or herself. This setting is one of the most realistic apocalyptic worlds I have read. I’m intentionally not using the word “post” because throughout the novel, destruction continues. People are trying to survive below The Line, but hail and winds and rains are still a bigger enemy than the sprinkling of humans trying to create lives for themselves.

Cohen is a man who holed up in grief until he goes against his instincts and gives a ride to a man and woman on the road. Various events force him to make the next moves in his life in order to survive. I was quite interested in the story in the first half and in the end, but the middle almost lost me as Cohen seems to wander more in his memories than in solving his problems.

I listened to the audiobook read by the author. I didn’t realize he was the reader until the end, and thought he must just be a voice actor I hadn’t heard before. His accent is subtle but places the listener within the region, and he sounds slightly worn, slightly tired, which fits the character completely.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

Review of The Year Of The Flood by Margaret Atwood

January 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

RANDOM HOUSE AUDIO - The Year Of The Flood by Margaret AtwoodThe Year Of The Flood
By Margaret Atwood; Read by Bernadette Dunne, Katie MacNichol and Mark Bramhall
11 CDs – Approx. 14 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: September 22, 2009
ISBN: 9780739383971
Themes: / Science Fiction / Dystopia / Disaster / Environmentalism / Environmental Disaster / Ecology / Planetary Ecology / Religion / Genetic Engineering / Sex / Activism / Genetics /

The long-awaited new novel from Margaret Atwood. The Year of the Flood is a dystopic masterpiece and a testament to her visionary power. The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God’s Gardeners—a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life—has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have survived: Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, a God’s Gardener barricaded inside a luxurious spa where many of the treatments are edible. Have others survived? Ren’s bioartist friend Amanda? Zeb, her eco-fighter stepfather? Her onetime lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers, survivors of the mutual-elimination Painball prison? Not to mention the shadowy, corrupt policing force of the ruling powers . . .Meanwhile, gene-spliced life forms are proliferating: the lion/lamb blends, the Mo’hair sheep with human hair, the pigs with human brain tissue. As Adam One and his intrepid hemp-clad band make their way through this strange new world, Ren and Toby will have to decide on their next move. They can’t stay locked away . . .By turns dark, tender, violent, thoughtful, and uneasily hilarious, The Year Of The Flood is Atwood at her most brilliant and inventive.

Margaret Atwood’s book The Year Of The Flood spans several years, before, after and during the waterless flood which is a plague that affects only humans. There are three readers, Bernadette Dunne, Katie MacNichol and Mark Bramhall. Throughout the eleven discs (14 hours), I enjoyed listening to the women, and began to dread the onset of the male reader. He was certainly professional. Was it his character, Adam One, a religious cult leader of God’s Gardeners? Was it the inevitable sermon he would read in a church-appropriate voice? Or was it the hymns, written by Atwood and set to “original” music that would have me engaging in positive procrastination in order to avoid finishing this audiobook.

The loveliest parts of the book take place from the point of view of Ren, a child in God’s Garden. The religion is a logical outcome for a near future on Earth following environmental disasters not too difficult to imagine. Technologies we toy with today lead to some A Clockwork Orange style vocabulary. Words such as “garboil” (a kind of petroleum made from trash) lend a frighteningly vital immersion into this eco-nightmare. Other wonderful vocabulary delights come through the genetic alterations of food and creature such as soydines and bugs with little smiley faces engineered thereon so thoughts of squishing them would be repugnant. The Gardeners have a host of saints to celebrate, showing Atwood’s ability to relate some important environmentalists and peaceniks to her tale including Saint Rachel Carson, Saint David Suzuki and Saint Mahatma Gandhi.

The main female characters, Ren and Toby, both fully developed, are compelling. Throughout the story, one is interested in them as human beings, in their suffering, in their losses, in their desires. Despite the time shifts, the readers manage to keep the characters believable; one is lost in the story (as one should be!) until the final disc. Maybe Atwood can’t write optimistic endings. With all the violence, sadistic sex and death in the world of the Gardeners who are staunch vegetarians who don’t even kill the insects that invade their gardens; with spray guns, layabout body parts and a world of human-pig hybrids conducting funerals, the last disc felt wrong. Ren’s character becomes childish. Toby becomes a murderous cold-blooded killer and then suddenly has another personality shift. The only character to remain true is the one-dimensional ADAM ONE. I was strung along on the brilliant imagination, left flat on story line, and confused in the end by the characters I thought I liked.

Am I waiting for that third expected book in a TRILOGY featuring some of these characters? My interest in Atwood’s “exfernal” world is now lukewarm.

Posted by Elaine Willis

Author Pages: George R. Stewart

June 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: News 

SFFaudio News

Just added to our AUTHOR PAGES section…

George R. StewartGEORGE R. STEWART (1895-1980) Was an American novelist, toponymist, and professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. His entire SFF output consisted of one Science Fiction novel Earth Abides (1949) and two mainstream novels with fantastic elements. Earth Abides is set in a post-apocalyptic landscape and depicts the remnants of humanity recovering from a global environmental disaster. A year after it was published it was turned into a two-part radio drama for the program Escape. It also served as inspiration for Stephen King‘s The Stand. Two of Stewart’s other novels (Storm and Fire) have elements of Fantasy (eponymous anthropomorphized characters). The former features a Pacific storm named Maria as its protagonist. This indirectly lead to the curious practice of the American National Weather Service using personal names to designate storms.

Listed on the new GEORGE R. STEWART page is the new Audible Frontiers audiobook version of Earth Abides as well as the 1950 radio drama.

Posted by Jesse Willis