The SFFaudio Podcast #332 – AUDIOBOOK: The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

August 31, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #332 – The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, read by Bob Neufeld.

This UNABRIDGED AUDIOBOOK (9 hours 23 minutes) comes to us courtesy of LibriVox.

The Picture Of Dorian Gray was first published in the July 1890 issue of Lipincott’s magazine, and then in 1891, in an expanded and revised edition. This audiobook is made from the latter publication.

The next SFFaudio Podcast will feature our discussion of it!

The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde - illustrated by Tony Kokinos (1961)

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb

August 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fool's Quest by Robin HobbFool’s Quest (Fitz and the Fool #2)
By Robin Hobb; read by Elliot Hill
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 11 August 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 33 hours, 13 minutes

Themes: / epic fantasy / magic /

Publisher summary:

The harrowing adventures of FitzChivalry Farseer and his enigmatic friend the Fool continue in Robin Hobb’s triumphant follow-up to Fool’s Assassin. But Fool’s Quest is more than just a sequel. With the artistry and imagination her fans have come to expect, Hobb builds masterfully on all that has gone before, revealing devastating secrets and shocking conspiracies that cast a dark shadow over the history of Fitz and his world—a shadow that now stretches to darken all future hope.

Long ago, Fitz and the Fool changed the world, bringing back the magic of dragons and securing both the Farseer succession and the stability of the kingdom. Or so they thought. But now the Fool is near death, maimed by mysterious pale-skinned figures whose plans for world domination hinge upon the powers the Fool may share with Fitz’s own daughter. 

Distracted by the Fool’s perilous health, and swept up against his will in the intrigues of the royal court, Fitz lets down his guard . . . and in a horrible instant, his world is undone and his beloved daughter stolen away by those who would use her as they had once sought to use the Fool—as a weapon.

But FitzChivalry Farseer is not without weapons of his own. An ancient magic still lives in his veins. And though he may have let his skills as royal assassin diminish over the years, such things, once learned, are not so easily forgotten.

Now enemies and friends alike are about to learn that nothing is more dangerous than a man who has nothing left to lose.

Executive Summary: I loved this book. It’s everything I had hoped Fool’s Assassin would have been. There are a things I didn’t like, that will understandably be much more off putting for some than they were for me.

Audio book: Elliot Hill once again does an excellent job. He does a variety of voices and inflections that make doing this book in audio a good option.

Full Review
I absolutely loved Fool’s Fate. I’d have been perfectly content if the series ended there. Last year’s Fool’s Assassin was enjoyable, but not as much as I’d have liked. It left me apprehensive for this book. I shouldn’t have been. That isn’t to say bad things don’t happen to our beloved Fitz. Any fan of the Ederling books won’t be surprised by that. Ms. Hobb sure loves to torment Fitz, though probably not as much as he torments himself.

This book grabbed me from the start, and never let me go. I hated every time I had to stop listening. In fact once my hardcover copy arrived, I augmented my audio time by reading the print as well.

For reasons I can’t fathom, many people seem to skip the excellent Liveship Traders series and more have skipped the quite enjoyable Rainwild Chronicles. While I wouldn’t call it a prerequisites for this book, I would highly recommend reading those books first. There are so many great rewards in the book for people who have. If you haven’t, I doubt you’ll be lost, but you won’t get the same enjoyment in my opinion.

It’s pretty much impossible for me to get into why I loved this book more than the last one without massive spoilers, however I suspect most longtime fans will share my excitement.

That said, despite getting one of my rare 5 star ratings (this is only the second book by Ms. Hobb I’ve given that to), there are some complaints. Or maybe not complaints so much as things I wish weren’t in this book. I found them very upsetting. I’d have preferred some kind of alternative reason used to drive the plot forward. I suspect some people may be more upset than I was, and others may be more indifferent.

Overall though, those were very minor things to me in an absolutely fantastic book. I will warn that if you hate cliffhangers, you may wish to avoid reading this book until we’re much closer to the release of the next book. It is a pretty big one. With it being the second book of a trilogy, and how the first book ended, I can’t say I’m very surprised.

Much like the last one, I am both nervous and excited to read the next one and see what Ms. Hobb has in store.

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of CONAN RED SONJA by Gail Simone, Jim Zub, Dan Panosian, Randy Green, Rick Ketcham, and Dave Stewart

August 25, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Dark Horse Comics - Conan Red Sonja (Hardcover)

Conan Red Sonja
By Gail Simone, Jim Zub, Dan Panosian, Randy Green, Rick Ketcham, and Dave Stewart
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Published: July 2015
ISBN: 9781616556518

Conan Red Sonja is a hardcover collecting issues 1-4 of a limited series of floppies put out by Dark Horse Comics.

I was prompted to review this comic, a trade hardcover actually, after re-reading the review snippets on the back of the book. SciFiPulse, Kabooooom, Geeked Out Nation, and Doomrocket all praised Conan Red Sonja (I think I may have heard of one of these websites before).

And, after reading it myself, I’m thinking it might be time for another opinion on Conan Red Sonja.

I didn’t hate it. But I am very disappointed with it.

I think Conan Red Sonja would make an fine book for a preteen who has not read many comics, or maybe someone a little older who needs a bit of distraction while waiting at an airport, or any someone who needed to get an idea who and what Conan and Red Sonja were but didn’t really want to know any the specifics (for some reason). Conan Red Sonja would make a suitable book for one of these persons.

There are some things Conan Red Sonja has going for it. It isn’t completely disjointed, despite having large time jumps between issues. It contains some good artwork. Some good colouring. It is printed on great paper. It is bound very well.

I also think I like what writers Gail Simone and Jim Zub were aiming at. And to be fair they don’t completely miss the mark. This book has a some nice set pieces. Individual panels here and there can be quite pretty. The splash pages are well composed. The whole package is there. Unfortunately its just lacking in all the little polished details that would have made Conan Red Sonja something really good.

In essence what’s wrong with Conan Red Sonja is that it is just not smart enough.

Now I bet most people who haven’t read a lot of Conan comics wouldn’t expect you’d go to Conan or Red Sonja comics for smartness, but I do.

It used to be that Conan’s stories were based on short stories by Robert E. Howard (and a few other authors). That tended to smarten things up quite a bit. And Conan comics, unlike the superhero comics, had real deaths, people would die and – get this – not just come back a few issues down the road. That was smart too. Trust me, I know whereof I speak on this whole issue. I’ve been reading comics since the mid 1980s. I grew up collecting and reading Savage Sword, Conan The Barbarian, King Kull, Red Sonja and pretty much every other Robert E. Howard character they’d do a comic about. So I know Conan and Red Sonja pretty damn well – and it can be very smart stuff.

This comic isn’t very smart.

I’ll point to five very specific problems:

Conan Red Sonja page 29 "Always"

1. NO GUNS. Despite the drawing above, there are no cannons in the Hyborian age. Maybe this wasn’t actually in the script, maybe this is just a slip-up by an enthusiastic artist who, thinking “this is a pirate ship” and “pirate ships have cannons” drew some cannons. They don’t have cannons, not in the Hyborian Age.

Conan Red Sonja pages 30-31 "Attack"

2. INVERSE RACISM. The pirate ship on the right. Do you see what’s missing? You can’t make racism go away by avoiding situations that might look controversial. Bêlit’s crew is supposed to black, made up exclusively of “ebony-skinned warriors.” Bêlit’s crew, in Conan Red Sonja don’t look ebony to me. Yes, Howard was racist, but Bêlit isn’t racist. She is selfish. Wanton. Cruel. But not racist. Having Bêlit not have a black crew is a stupid way to avoid looking like being racist. It’s like having the Kents of Smallville be Chinese for the purposes of racial diversity, but keeping Clark Kent white – he’s a fucking alien! – So, suffice it to say, I don’t get the point of the change here – it just makes me think yeahhh, they’re afraid to deal with the fact that the creator of this character was racist, so lets pretend everyone is white in the Hyborian Age. Howard specifically sets up this image in Queen Of The Black Coast. Bêlit is an “ivory” skinned warrior woman leading a crew of “ebony” skinned pirates. Deal with it.

Conan Red Sonja page 45 "Unsheathed"

3. NO FUCKING WAY! No, Thoth Amon is not responsible for the poisoning of the Zarkheba River, nor, as we are probably supposed to infer, the subsequent death of Bêlit. Bêlit is responsible for her own death. Despite what writers Gail Simone and Jim Zub have Thoth Amon saying above, there’s no reason at all to have him say it – other than it is something for him to say.

First of all, Thoth Amon isn’t the be-all and end-all of evil in the Hyborian Age – he isn’t the evil behind every evil. He isn’t anything close to being the Professor Moriarty of Hyborian Age (and neither was Moriarty, actually). That’s just lazy, lazy writing.

Thoth Amon shows up in exactly one Robert E. Howard story, The Phoenix On The Sword, and the two characters never actually meet. Or as the Wikipedia page for Thoth Amon puts it “[Thoth Amon] is often used as Conan’s arch enemy in derivative works.” Well, here’s another derivative work to add to the list, Conan Red Sonja.

Moreover, Thoth Amon’s explanation for why he supposedly poisoned the Zarkheba River doesn’t hold water. There were no ruins of a coastal town at the mouth of the river! There was a ruined city upriver, that’s the setting for the climax of Queen Of The Black Coast, but that city was ancient, and had very different reasons for going bad. Again, shitty lazy writing.

Maybe there are excuses for this sort of thing, maybe the folks at Conan Properties International and Red Sonja, LLC, are so worried about protecting the characters they invented claim to own that they are micromanaging the writing team – telling them what can and cannot be written. I don’t know.

Conan Red Sonja - page 56 "A Beaten Hound"

4. ART. When not occasionally looking drugged, sometimes, just from panel to panel, Conan will look like a different dude. He will rapidly grow and then lose abdominal hair. Weird right? Too weird. I could buy a version of Conan with abdominal hair, or a version with chest hair, or a version with hair everywhere, or a Conan with a completely hairless torso (the traditional look). What I can’t buy is the growing and mowing I’m being asked to do between panels. Pick a fucking hair pattern.

Conan Red Sonja - page 81 "I Feed You This Impossibility"

5. LOGIC. While The overall plot McGuffin isn’t bad – I like the idea of a red seed (from space) – one that sprouts a red-thorned vine that infects and chokes all the life out of everything in a land – it’s not a new idea of course, its from H.G. Well’s The War Of The Worlds – I like it! Yet I don’t think this book uses it very well. For example, we’re told it kills absolutely everything it gets close to, and so when Conan, after getting infected somehow (the book doesn’t show us how) – after getting infected Conan has the red thorny vines growing out of the muscle on his left forearm. His cure for this infection is fire (which is cool) but when the red thorny vine grows back Conan just pulls it out by the root – and that cures it?!? WTF!? What about all the other people and animals and plants that were killed by this invasive red alien plant? You’re expecting me to accept that this burn it then pull it technique will work for Conan but didn’t work for anyone else?

And that again is the problem with Conan Red Sonja, this book doesn’t expect anything of me. It certainly doesn’t respect the rules and patterns of the Hyborian Age and so it can’t and doesn’t respect itself.

I’ve seen this happen with a lot with corporate controlled franchises. They turn a character with whom an author told stories into fan service machines – telling us more about the character and forgetting what made the original writing so compelling.

Don’t give us more backstory, don’t give us prequels, do something awesome.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #328 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The White Ship by H.P. Lovecraft

August 3, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #328 – The White Ship by H.P. Lovecraft; read by Mr Jim Moon. This is an unabridged reading of the story (1 hour 23 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Seth, and Mr Jim Moon.

Talked about on today’s show:
a Science Fiction, Horror, or Fantasy story?, hard to classify, Idle Days On The Yann by Lord Dunsany, wistful elements, The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, a spiritual or psychological analog, a long prose poem, describing lands that never were, a lovely little tale, narrative isn’t exactly the point, the bird, the bird as an eidolon of the ship, the eidolon Lathi, Jason Thompson‘s comic adaptation of The White Ship, the ghost ship, why is the bird blue?, over the cataract, falls as if it wasn’t going to, the world ending, a description of Cathuria, aloe and sandalwood, an imagined land, dreaming Cathuria into existence, the sacred river Narg, Kublai Khan, a dream snatched away and smashed, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Edgar Allan Poe, Dream-Land by Edgar Allan Poe,

By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule—
From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime,
Out of SPACE—Out of TIME.

Lathi and Thalarion, Celephais, The Dream Quest Of Unknown Kadath, an old dreamer and lighthouse keeper of Kingsport town, fewer and fewer ships, a great delusional fugue state, a white spar and a blue bird, Polaris, a watchman in a watchtower, a beautiful symmetry, structural similarity, a beautiful dead woman, Eleonora, Ligeia, Morella, un-whimsical, Hypnos, the bearded mentors, astral projected journey, going to far, moon-beams, The Moon-Bog, a bridge of moon-beams, big ancient cities, civilization, you can’t have books without cities, lore x 3, he was given many books in his youth, when he was young and filled with wonder, Thanatos the Greek god of death, the throne of Azathoth, a dream of falling, the sin, Randolph Carter is seeking in the dreamlands, where the gods dwell, the gods have conquered, the person from Porlock, Jeff Vandermeer’s dream, William Hope Hodgson, fungal growths,

Then came we to a pleasant coast gay with blossoms of every hue, where as far inland as we could see basked lovely groves and radiant arbours beneath a meridian sun. From bowers beyond our view came bursts of song and snatches of lyric harmony, interspersed with faint laughter so delicious that I urged the rowers onward in my eagerness to reach the scene. And the bearded man spoke no word, but watched me as we approached the lily-lined shore. Suddenly a wind blowing from over the flowery meadows and leafy woods brought a scent at which I trembled. The wind grew stronger, and the air was filled with the lethal, charnel odour of plague-stricken towns and uncovered cemeteries. And as we sailed madly away from that damnable coast the bearded man spoke at last, saying: “This is Xura, the Land of Pleasures Unattained.”

The Valley Of Unrest by Edgar Allan Poe,

Once it smiled a silent dell
Where the people did not dwell;
They had gone unto the wars,
Trusting to the mild-eyed stars,
Nightly, from their azure towers,
To keep watch above the flowers,
In the midst of which all day
The red sun-light lazily lay.
Now each visitor shall confess
The sad valley’s restlessness.
Nothing there is motionless—
Nothing save the airs that brood
Over the magic solitude.
Ah, by no wind are stirred those trees
That palpitate like the chill seas
Around the misty Hebrides!
Ah, by no wind those clouds are driven
That rustle through the unquiet Heaven
Uneasily, from morn till even,
Over the violets there that lie
In myriad types of the human eye—
Over the lilies there that wave
And weep above a nameless grave!
They wave:—from out their fragrant tops
External dews come down in drops.
They weep:—from off their delicate stems
Perennial tears descend in gems.

what the heck does that mean?, nameless things that feast upon the corpses of men, a large layer of death, allegorical symbolism, the platonic forms,

“On the green and flowery mountains of Cathuria stand temples of pink marble, rich with carven and painted glories, and having in their courtyards cool fountains of silver, where purl with ravishing music the scented waters that come from the grotto-born river Narg.”

what good writing!, Fungi From Yuggoth XVIII: Gardens Of Yin

Beyond that wall, whose ancient masonry
Reached almost to the sky in moss-thick towers,
There would be terraced gardens, rich with flowers,
And flutter of bird and butterfly and bee.
There would be walks, and bridges arching over
Warm lotos-pools reflecting temple eaves,
And cherry-trees with delicate boughs and leaves
Against a pink sky where the herons hover.

All would be there, for had not old dreams flung
Open the gate to that stone-lanterned maze
Where drowsy streams spin out their winding ways,
Trailed by green vines from bending branches hung?
I hurried—but when the wall rose, grim and great,
I found there was no longer any gate.

verse for birthday cards, The Haunted Lake, Christmas poems, a concordance of themes, all the shades of Lovecraft, The Picture In The House, The Bells, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, the discover of sanity blasting horrors, ebbs and flows, soul and sanity loss, cosmic transcendence, drawing what we see,

“For the aeons that I dwelt there I wandered blissfully through gardens where quaint pagodas peep from pleasing clumps of bushes, and where the white walks are bordered with delicate blossoms.”

Basil Elton’s sin, distant whispers, really?, better than Sona-Nyl?, “Dude you’ve always lived alone!”, a sea-faring Tyler Durduen, a Coleridgian-Obi-Wan Kenobi, a big eastern theme, fantastical oriental places, like Narnia, Arabia mythologized, a marked contrast, Lovecraft as a homebody in the center of a great American port, like living in Atlanta and never getting on an airplane, Citizen Of The Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein, wherever you go, there you are, an interesting visualization, Celephais, writing down dreams, a penniless tramp, travels tell me, King Kuranes, his spirit lives on in the dreamlands, scented monsters, the basalt pillars of the west, Jason And The Argonauts, the Pillars of Hercules, Gibraltar, DC Comics, Thalarion and Themyscira, The H.P. Lovecrafts‘ song The White Ship, late-sixties hippies and beatniks, wow these are AMAZING!, J.R.R. Tolkien.

Providence 02 - The White Ship illustration by Jacen Burrows

The Gardens Of Yin by H.P. Lovecraft illustrated by Jesse

Jason Thompson's comic of H.P. Lovecraft's The White Ship

The White Ship - illustrated by Jason Eckhardt

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Worldbinder by David Farland

July 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy - Worldbinder by David FarlandWorldbinder, The Runelords, Book 6
By David Farland; Read by Ray Porter
11.7 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2012

Themes: / Fantasy / Epic Fantasy / Magic / Supernatural /

After the events of Sons of the Oak, Fallion and Jaz, the sons of the great Earth King Gaborn, are living as fugitives in their own kingdom, newly invaded and secretly controlled by supernatural beings of ultimate evil. The sons are hiding until they can regain their rightful places in the land.

The book opens with Shadowath and Lady Despair setting a trap for Fallion Van Orden by using The One True Tree as bait.

The world that Fallion and his friends, Rhianna, Talon and Jaz return to is one of corruption and darkness. People using any means to usurp power and control others. It’s a world grown dark after the death of the Earth King, Gaborn Val Orden. But Fallion hopes to mend the world by combining it with another.

Sadly, this is exactly what Lady Despair wanted. The two shadow worlds are falling into darkness. The one Fallion knew where humans were turning to greed and corruption, using their Runelord powers to force their will on the people, and the other shadow world where the Warrior Clan fought the evil Wyrmlings who served Lady Despair and wished to destroy all things good, including nature itself.

Fallion, Jaz, Talon and Rhianna must find allies and forge new alliances to combat the Wyrmling threat and save both worlds from Despair.

Like Brotherhood of the Wolf, this is a dark book that leads the main characters into untenable situations. The story goes from bad to worse. And yet, you are left with the hope that all is not lost and that the worlds may yet be saved.

I admit that I had a very hard time with the ending of this book. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I do not generally like dark stories, but the characters and story are so compelling, so well-written, that I found myself continuing with the story.

It is not all dark. Like all good tales there are ups and downs, victories and losses. This book has more losses than victories, but in the Hero’s Journey, loss is a necessary part of growth and Fallion must grow to become The Light Bringer.

Ray Porter does a wonderful job pulling you into the story and holding your attention. I’ve enjoyed listening to his telling of the tale.

Like all of the Runelords books, I recommend this one. As long as you go in knowing it’s part of a series and that the dark times prophesied in the first series are now here, it’s a great story.

The book can be read as a stand-alone, but I think reading it as a series is much better as you get the entire saga.

I give this book a 4. It sucks you in. I’m reminded of the trip to Moria in Lord of the Rings. It’s dark and gets darker, but I have great hope that all will end well.

Posted by Charlene Harmon

Review of Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire

July 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Half-off RagnarokHalf-Off Ragnarok (InCryptid #3)
By Seanan McGuire; Performed by Emily Bauer and Ray Porter
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: December 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 hours, 17 minutes
Themes: / fantasy / urban fantasy / cryptozoology / basilisks / cryptid /

Publisher summary:

What do gorgons, basilisks, and frogs with feathers all have in common? They’re all considered mythological by modern science, and some people are working very hard to keep them that way. Alexander Price is a member of a cryptozoological lineage that spans generations, and it’s his job to act as a buffer between the human and cryptid worlds—not an easy task when you’re dealing with women who have snakes in place of hair, little girls who may actually be cobras, and brilliant, beautiful Australian zookeepers. And then there’s the matter of the murders.…Alex thought he was choosing the easier career when he decided to specialize in non-urban cryptids, leaving the cities to his little sister, Verity. It turns out that he had no idea what he was getting himself into. It’s a family affair, and everyone—from his reanimated grandfather to his slightly broken telepathic cousin—is going to get involved before things get any better.

Half-Off Rangarok is the third book in the InCryptid series and has a change in narrators and locations. No longer are we in New York with Verity but with her brother Alex, in Ohio.

The story line picks up maybe a month or two after book two. Alex Price is living with his grandparents and Sarah trying to have some semblance of a life while overseeing a secret basilisk breeding program. For Alex some things are going well – Sarah is getting better; other things are challenging like keeping secrets from his girlfriend Shelby about who he really is. It all goes downhill when Alex is faced with dead bodies that are turning to stone and the realization someone is trying to kill him too.

This book is interesting with a band of characters. Shelby and the grandparents are total hits. We learn about new cryptids which were kind of fascinating.  Things that I missed were the mice; I liked all of their crazy holidays. While they are in the book it is more like a passing thing. I also preferred the New York setting. This was supposed to be in Ohio but I think the setting could have been anywhere. For me, I had trouble relating.

I listened to the book on audio and the narrator made it feel like the book was evenly paced. His voice was interesting enough to keep me interested without losing me.  I am not sure if it was because I listened to the book on audio verses reading but this book has a different kind of feel. Perhaps this is due to the change in narrator …I cannot really say.

My biggest overall challenge of the book was despite how good the writing is for me there is something missing between characters for some reason I was just not as vested in the outcome.

Still a good read 3 ½ stars

Posted by Dawn V.

Next Page »