The SFFaudio Podcast #238 – AUDIOBOOK: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

November 11, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #238 – The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, read by Cathy Barratt (for LibriVox.org).

This audiobook, 4 hours 35 minutes, is complete and unabridged.

Griffin, a scientist, devoted himself to research into optics – he invented a chemical that could change his body’s refractive index to that of air – he absorbs no light, he reflects no light – he is completely invisible.

First published in Pearson’s Magazine, June 12, 1897.

The Invisible Man - illustration by Dino Castrillo and Rudy Mesina

The Invisible Man arrives - illustration by Val Mayerik and Dan Atkins

The Invisible Man - illustration by Val Mayerik and Dan Atkins

And Now Do You See What I Am, Idiots?

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells - POCKET CLASSICS

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

October 11, 2011 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Horror Audiobook - The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman and Jay BonansingaThe Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor
By Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga; Read by Fred Berman
10.5 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Published: 2011
Themes: / Horror / Zombies / Survival / Post-apocalypse / Evil /

“It may be confidently asserted that no man chooses evil, because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.” — Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Men

Because I enjoyed the TV series so much, I was eager to listen to this. My expectations were not too high because (1) it’s a media tie-in and (2) it’s an origin story. Those are not a pair of my very favorite things, but I’m delighted to report that this is a very good novel. There is plenty of zombie mayhem, but foremost this is a horror story in the tradition of Stephen King. In other words, it’s not about the zombies but about people and what monsters bring out in them.

It’s also a satisfying origin story. I knew going in that The Governor (Philip Blake) was an exceptional bad guy. The story of his journey from normalcy to that level of bad could not have been an easy story to tell, but job well done. It was both compelling and surprising. Most importantly, I found the characters and their actions believable. Often reprehensible, sometimes jaw-dropping, but believable. As Philip Blake, his brother, his daughter, and others make their way to Atlanta in their suddenly changed and extremely violent world, I was forced to ask myself what I’d do in their situation, and I wasn’t always comfortable with my answers.

As far as I know, this is the first time I’ve heard a Fred Berman narration. There’s a lot of grisly uncomfortable stuff here, and I can’t imagine another narrator handling it better. I look forward to hearing him again soon. I’m not ready for another intense zombie novel, though. Maybe he’s narrated something with puppies.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Darkside by Tom Becker

September 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Darkside by Tom BeckerDarkside
By Tom Becker; Read by Colin Moody
6 CDs – Approx. 6 Hours 12 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Bolinda Audio
Published: 2008
ISBN: 9781921415340
Themes: / Fantasy / Urban Fantasy / Crime / London / Werewolves / Vampires / Magic / Kidnapping / Evil / Jack The Ripper /
Your home’s been attacked. Your dad’s in an asylum. You’re running for your life. And there’s nowhere to hide.

You’ve stumbled on the city’s greatest secret: Darkside. Incredibly dangerous and unimaginably exciting. Darkside is ruled by Jack the Ripper’s children – a place where nightmares walk the streets. You think you’re in trouble now, but your problems have just begun…

I usually do a fair mount of research about the books I plan to read. Before I pick one up I’ve usually either heard an author interview, read a review, discussed it with people who’ve already read it, or at least got a recommendation from an author whose work I already respect. But I also know these techniques aren’t a very good way to branch out beyond what’s already familiar to me, and so, every so often I just pick up a book, almost at random, and start reading. That’s what I did with Darkside by Tom Becker.

Maybe one of the initial appeals of Darkside, other than the terrific cover, was that it was from a publisher whose audiobooks I’d never heard before. Bolinda Audio is from Australia. And because of that it’s doing things a little differently. First off, it’s narrators are Australian. And second, they’ve got a lot of authors in their catalogue that I’ve never heard of. That’s cool!

Darkside is an interesting tale in itself. In terms of plot, it kind of falls halfway between two Neil Gaiman novels: Neverwhere and The Graveyard Book. It features Jonathan Starling, an unremarkable misfit fourteen-year-old with an ailing father and a deceased mother. He lives in London and is mostly taken care of by a kindly neighbor woman. Other than her, he’s nearly friendless and spends most days skipping-out of school and hanging out at one of the city’s many libraries. His father, an avid book collector himself, suffers some sort of recurring full body paralysis and perhaps it’s related to some of the books he collects. One day, right out in the open on a London street Jonathan is nearly kidnapped by a seemingly invisible giant and a woman with fluorescent hair. He quickly learns that London isn’t going to be safe for him anymore and so his father sends him away. He is to flee, for his own safety, into the arms of a protector. Jonathan takes with him a knife and a bullet. The knife is for protection from the kidnappers, and the bullet is for protection against his would-be protector, a mysterious old friend of his father’s, a man named Carnegie. Plot ensues.

Where the novel falls short is in comparison to the two Neil Gaiman novels I mentioned earlier. A hidden city within London isn’t really new. And neither is a young kid being protected by a paranormal monster-man. More importantly, Becker doesn’t have anywhere near the mastery of English fiction that Gaiman has. But that’s really not a fair comparison. For my money very few living English authors can compare favorably with Neil Gaiman. Apparently Darkside was written when Becker was just 25! When Gaiman was 25 he hadn’t written a single novel, comic, nor even Don’t Panic, his wonderful biography of Douglas Adams. As a result I think Darkside can stand pretty proudly on its own. It’s quickly paced, pretty fun and most of all it’s got a story that keeps your attention all the way through. Good job new guy.

Narrator Colin Moody, a talent stage trained actor, has an Australian accent, except when performing the dialogue of the characters. When in character Moody cowls him reading with various Londoner regionalisms. There are many sinister sounding villains in this novel and he voices all of them extremely well. If you’re a voracious reader looking for swiftly plotted urban fantasy novel (for the juvenile set), and you’ve already read both Neverwhere |READ OUR REVIEW| and The Graveyard Book |READ OUR REVIEW| do check out Darkside. Series fans will also be pleased to hear that four more Darkside novels follow this one, and that Bolinda has the “audio sequel forthcoming.”

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

February 21, 2009 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry PournelleInferno
By Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle; Read by Tom Weiner
5 CDs – 5.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2008
ISBN: 9781433259050
Themes: / Science Fiction / Fantasy / Bangsian Fantasy / Religion / Literature / Evil /

After being thrown out the window of his luxury apartment, science fiction writer Allen Carpentier wakes to find himself at the gates of hell. Feeling he’s landed in a great opportunity for a book, he attempts to follow Dante’s road map. Determined to meet Satan himself, Carpentier treks through the Nine Layers of Hell, led by Benito Mussolini, and encounters countless mental and physical tortures. As he struggles to escape, he’s taken through new, puzzling, and outlandish versions of sin—recast for the present day.

I don’t like that the book’s copywriter has spoiled the revelation of Benito’s last name. I figure most people would figure it out PDQ anyway, but it’s not actually revealed until more than half way through this novel. This is a rather interesting book, I’d heard about the title a few times over the years, along with the mention that Niven/Pounelle had written it, but had never actually got my hands on a copy until this year. It’s rather fitting that it’s been re-released now with all the hubub about religion vs. atheism going on. But the timing on the re-release probably has more to do with the imminent (like now) release of the sequel, Escape From Hell.

The Allen Carpentier character is, I assume, an analogue of Niven/Pounelle, an SF writer of the Hard variety. Carpentier is one of those folks who likes all those Fantasy ghouls and goblins to be either nailed down under a microscope for proper cataloging or poofed away in puffs of neuro-psychological explanation. Basically, a guy like me. When Carpentier finds himself alive, or at least not dead, after falling from a balcony, trapped in a place that resembles Dante Alighieri’s Inferno he insists the place is an “Inferno-land”, a kind of twisted Disneyland, created by something he mentally marks down as “Big Juju” (possibly an immensely powerful alien) rather than “God.” As a book it does stand well on its own, but leaves the ultimate revelations off-pages – something the sequel is pretty much going to have to address if it’s gonna be a satisfying sequel. This book however offers an effective and nuanced rumination on the nature of evil. I found myself sympathizing with the injustices Carpentier sees perpetrated throughout “Inferno-land” – sure a lot of the residents are highly contemptible, selfish, short sighted, and maybe even evil – but is any bad act enough to garner naught but eternal torture? That “Big Juju” character has just gone too far!

Tom Weiner delivers another terrific reading, providing vocal shading and accents for each character in the novel. It’s an even handed delivery, straddling the knife edge between the comedic possibility and the main character’s skeptical POV. Allen Carpentier often talks to himself, mentally checking his sanity as his highly skeptical eyes confront the pervasive reality of a manifest hell.

A Map of HELL (from the 1976 paperbook of Inferno):

Map Of Hell

Cover for Galaxy, October 1975 - Illusted by Richard Pini and Wendy Pini (INFERNO by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle)

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of A Colder War by Charles Stross

January 9, 2006 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Audiobook Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - A Colder War by Charles StrossA Colder War
By Charles Stross; Read by Pat Bottino
1 CD – 80 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Infinivox
Published: 2005
ISBN: 1884612482
Themes: / Science Fiction / Horror / Alternate History / Politics / War / Evil / Cthulhu Mythos /

“Warning. The following briefing film is classified SECRET GOLD JULY BOOJUM. If you do not have SECRET GOLD JULY BOOJUM clearance, leave the auditorium now and report to your unit security officer for debriefing. Failing to observe this notice is an imprisonable offense. You have sixty seconds to comply.”

The biggest single threat to NATO may be the Shoggoth Gap. The wild card is Lt. Col Oliver North, President Reagan’s man. Roger Jourgensen, CIA operative, is at the center of this crisis. If all the political wrangling doesn’t work out perfectly there will be hell to pay, or worse, far, far worse.

Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant! A modern novellete in H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, rich in detail, frightening in execution! Stross’ stunning tale will pull you back into that old cold war era embalming fear and then magnify it into non-euclidian infinities. Imagine David Cronenberg directing Dr. Strangelove based on a script by H. P. Lovecraft. Imagine an alternate history in which nuclear bombs are not the ultimate weapon, but instead they are merely a stepping stone to eldritch technologies accessible through certain trans-dimentional forces first encountered in 1920s Antarctica, technologies which neither the USA nor the USSR can quite contain. Stross has admitted A Colder War is directly inspired by Lovecraft’s novel At The Mountains Of Madness. The amount of research and historical mastery Stross sprinkles throughout the narrative creates a verisimilitude necessary for truly effective alternate history. Insert the CD and then shudder in horror as the concept locks you in for the duration.

Pat Botino’s tremulous voice isn’t at all typical for professional narrators, but when it comes to subverting heroic self-assurance, he’s got no equal. Here it works extremely well. The production is loud and straight, the way I like it. A few voice effects are used to distinguish documentation bookmarks of each section. Nothing flashy, nothing distracting. I’d be satisfied if every straight reading single narration audiobook was done this way. For a while now I’ve been telling just about anyone who would listen that editor and producer Alan Kaster at Infinivox has been picking out the best modern short science fiction and tunring it into fabulously read audiobooks. This latest wave of Infinvox’s GREAT SCIENCE FICTION STORIES includes three Charles Stross audiobooks.Lobsters, Antibodies and A Colder War. Each of these is available for just $7.99 right now on the Infinivox website. There’s nary a better value on the web!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Dark Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft Volume 1: The Dunwich Horror and The Call of Cthulhu by H.P Lovecraft

October 31, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

Horror Audiobooks - The Dunwich Horror and The Call of the CthulhuThe Dark Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft Volume 1: The Dunwich Horror and The Call Of Cthulhu
By H.P. Lovecraft; Read by Wayne June
3 CDs – Approx 3.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Realms
Published: 2005
Themes: / Fantasy / Horror / Gods / Evil / Mathematics / Dreams /

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

When Fantasy is inspired by science it can be especially powerful. H.P. Lovecraft built his mythos using the scientific concepts of his day. There could have been sensible talk of ‘other dimensions’ before the experiments surrounding the nature of light. And much of the alienness of his creations explicitly depend on such concepts in theoretical physics as non-euclidian geometry. With these concepts being in the air Lovecraft set out to plant a seed of churning fear with his fiction – turning the many unknowns science was uncovering into unspeakable horrors that lurk within the imagination. Combine this with Lovecraft’s dense and brooding prose and you’ve got something that no modern author could get away with. No modern author could, Lovecraft does. Audio Realms is starting to release the titles that make any classic fantasy fan salivate. Here in this terrific audiobook are two tales of horror that we declare to be SFFaudio Essential:

The Dunwich Horror is the tale of a backwater New England town with a devolving populace and one particularly strange family’s chronicle. It starts with two small things. The cataloguing of some mouldering old books and a disturbing birth of a new resident. These events are the begining of a new danger for the hamlet of Dunwich and possibly the Earth entire. What’s interesting here, as with so many early horror tales, is that Lovecraft creates evil not by revealing action directly but by atmosphere and appeal to our primitive revulsion reflex. Lovecraftian evil is not something created by moral degeneracy (though he does talk of that), but rather by sheer alieness, an atmosphere of ignorance and most of all a lurking dread.
I’m not sure it would make much sense to be an apologist for the Elder Gods who’d consume us without a thought – but what exactly makes them so evil? Since everyone who finds out has their sanity blasted we’re not likely to find out very soon.

The Call Of Cthulhu is a reconstructed tale. A nephew finds in the his recently deceased uncle’s study some strange documents. A young nephew discovers in his recently deceased uncle’s study some correspondences and notes, along with a mysterious and disturbing statue. It seems that several mysteriously similar cults worship of a being, who they call Cthulhu. A sea voyage eventually yielded a brush with an unearthly force. I won’t reveal any more of the plot, but I will say this, I think Philip K. Dick may have been inspired by this story for his novel Galactic Pot Healer. This creepy tale is perhaps the definitive Lovecraftian work. They even named a great role playing game after it. One suggestion, this one is pretty scary, you may want to wear brown pants while listening.

Narrator Wayne June’s voice will give you the absolute lurking creeps. His deep raspy voice is also used to good effect for all the narration, when he is infrequently called upon to do the voices of the damned he distinguishes between them well. This is the best Lovecraft adaptation to audio I’ve heard and more frightening than hell. For full effect a listener should turn down the lights, put on a good set of headphones, sit in a lonesome room with a view of the sea and pray that Lovecraft was just making all this stuff up.

Posted by Jesse Willis