Review of The Waking Fire

August 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Waking FireThe Waking Fire (The Draconis Memoira, Book 1)
By Anthony Ryan; Narrated by Steven Brand
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 5 July 2016
[UNABRIDGED] – 22 hours, 34 minutes

Themes: / fantasy / epic fantasy / magic /

Publisher summary:

Throughout the vast lands controlled by the Ironship Trading Syndicate, nothing is more prized than the blood of drakes. Harvested from captive or hunted Reds, Greens, Blues, and Blacks, it can be distilled into elixirs that bestow fearsome powers on the rare men and women known as the Blood-blessed.

But not many know the truth: that the lines of drakes are weakening. If they fail, war with the neighboring Corvantine Empire will follow swiftly. The Syndicate’s last hope resides in whispers of the existence of another breed of drake, far more powerful than the rest, and the few who have been chosen by fate to seek it.

Claydon Torcreek is a petty thief and an unregistered Blood-blessed who finds himself pressed into service by the Protectorate and sent to wild, uncharted lands in search of a creature he believes is little more than legend. Lizanne Lethridge is a formidable spy and assassin facing gravest danger on an espionage mission deep into the heart of enemy territory. And Corrick Hilemore is the second lieutenant of an Ironship cruiser whose pursuit of ruthless brigands leads him to a far greater threat at the edge of the world.

As lives and empires clash and intertwine, as the unknown and the known collide, all three must fight to turn the tide of a coming war – or drown in its wake.

Executive Summary: A great start to a new series. It blends a lot of different things together in an interesting way to feel original. I’m really looking forward to see where he takes things from here.

Audiobook: Steven Brand is a great narrator. He reads with good inflection, and does a few voices. In the past my main complaint about him has been he speaks too quietly. He’s either fixed that, or the people making the books are adjusting his volume up to make him a lot easier to hear than past books I’ve listened to.

Full Review
I absolutely loved both Blood Song and Tower Lord. It’s possible that it made it impossible for me to love Queen of Fire. Either way, I was disappointed enough in that book, that I was reluctant to pick this one up. I had planned to wait on reviews from people I trusted to come out before getting it. Then a review copy fell into my lap.

This book is kind of a hodge podge of several things I love: Mistborn, Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Dragons. And if that’s not enough there is also high sea adventure, and pirates! That may sound like a mess, but Mr. Ryan does a great job in blending those elements together. I also can’t guarantee all of those things were influences on this book, but they are things I thought about as I was reading.

Mistborn has one of my all time favorite magic systems. This one feels similar, only a little less structured, and with only 4 known types of abilities. The main similarity is the idea of imbibing something in order to do magic, and that only a small number of people are born with the ability. Beyond that they are quite different.

My favorite character is Lizanne, who is basically Jane Bond. Her story line was always my favorite, and I really want to know more about the training she went through. I hope we get some flashbacks or possibly her training new recruits in future books, but then I’m a sucker for the magic school trope.

Clay was also a great character, and a more reluctant protagonist then Lizanne. His story was reminiscent of an Indiana Jones story, with him being basically nothing like him. If anyone is Jones it’s maybe his uncle.

The final protagonist, Lt. Hilemore was enjoyable enough, but I spent much of the book wondering how his story fit in with the other two. Rest assured it’s made clear by the end of the story, but it takes awhile. That doesn’t mean his story wasn’t interesting, it just felt disconnected from the rest of the book for me. With him you get high seas battles and pirates!

None of that even scratches the surface of the great supporting cast. Each subplot has it’s own supply of interesting characters. And if 3 interesting protagonists influenced by different elements, and a great supporting cast isn’t enough. There are Dragons. And really, isn’t that enough?

Overall, I’m glad I got this is a review copy because I really enjoyed this book. I just hope he can take his time on the sequels because I felt like his last book suffered from rushing to completion to meet a deadline. I love getting new books in a series once a year, but I’m willing to wait longer if the author needs more time. I’m hoping he’ll be able to bring this to a more satisfying conclusion than his previous series.

Review by Rob Zak.


Reading, Short And Deep #028 – The Storyteller by Saki

August 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 


Reading, Short And DeepReading, Short And Deep #028

Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss The Storyteller by Saki (aka H.H. Munro)

Here’s a link to a PDF of the story.

The Storyteller was first published in Beasts And Super-Beasts (1914).

Podcast feed

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Audio drama review: Robin Of Sherwood: The Knights Of The Apocalypse by Richard Carpenter

June 28, 2016 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Robin Of Sherwood: The Knights Of The ApocalypseRobin Of Sherwood: The Knights Of The Apocalypse
By Richard Carpenter; Performed by a full cast
2 Hours – CD or Digital Download [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Spiteful Puppet
Published: June 30, 2016

England in the reign of King John and a dark force is intent on conquest. Only the hooded man can stand against it… The church lies impotent at the mercy of the Pope and the interdict against the kingdom. With the people living in fear and a series of disappearances that threaten the very fabric of noble society, Robin ‘i’ the hood and his band of outlaws must race to rescue the past so that the future may be protected. A journey to Huntingdon and beyond Sherwood will see them battle their most dangerous enemy yet as Herne’s son faces The Knights of the Apocalypse…

If you close your eyes you’ll see it – it being a new two part episode of the classic ITV television series Robin Of Sherwood, minus the grainy 16mm film stock. From the opening Clannad theme – you’ll see it all – that brightly lit forest green, those grey stone castles and churches, the flashing swords, the flying arrows. You’ll of course hear them all too.

Early into The Knights Of The Apocalypse we learn that England is suffering under the “Interdict”, a punishment of all of England for King John’s offence of the Catholic Church. This really happened. The titular Knights of the Apocalypse, though fictional, are said to be a breakaway branch of the Knights Templar – and the ultimate historical destruction of the Templars is very effectively retroactively-foreshadowed in this production.

The two hours, in two parts, had me struggling with the heroes, thinking deep thoughts, rallying against the heavy hand of oppression, chuckling at the baddies, laughing with the heroes, worried at what might possibly happen next, then heart-warmed, and ultimately delighted at the lightfooted sweep all the little details added up to. This is an epic as big as The Swords Of Wayland and as revolutionary as Robin Hood And The Sorcerer.

Barnaby Eaton-Jones, the producer, seems to have made it his mission to make The Knights Of The Apocalypse as true to the original show as humanly possible. Soliciting initial funding using an indiegogo campaign, Eaton-Jones paired a script by the now deceased Richard Carpenter, Robin Of Sherwood‘s creator (he also wrote some of the show’s finest episodes), and tracked down every living member of the original cast to this production. The result is truly tremendous! It is amazing to hear the voices of that old cast once again – Mark Ryan (the brooding Saracen swordsman Nasir), Ray Winstone (forever the hot-headed Will Scarlet), Clive Mantle (smiling and gentle Little John), Jason Connery (that noble second incarnation of Robin, the hooded man), curly haired Judi Trott (voicing the summer maid of Sherwood, Marian), Phil Rose (the friendly friar, Tuck), and Peter Llewellyn Williams (Much, the simple miller’s son).

A lot of folks probably think of Alan Rickman as the most iconic Sheriff of Nottingham – he was terrific – but for me the worst (and by that I mean best) Sheriff of Nottingham will always be Nickolas Grace. Grace is back to his old tricks; playing that cowardly cartoon of law, that malefactor of injustice, all the while wonderfully dripping contempt and venom from every sour word. We get Grace in several scenes, including some with his equally contemptible brother, the Abbot Hugo, played wonderfully once again by Philip Jackson. A few of the voices are new, filling in for the deceased Robert Addie (Guy of Gisbourne) and Daniel Abineri (Herne, now played by his son). But we also get some audio drama stars like Colin Baker and Terry Molloy playing guest villains.

The Knights Of The Apocalypse is a magical experience. Its story will satisfy, so much so that it could slip-in right next to that final TV episode that aired June 28, 1986. No, this is not a reboot, not re-imagining, not a rerun – this is a reunification. You’ll be reunited in righteous camaraderie with the merry folk of Sherwood – doing the work that must be done, for the good of the people, and breaking the law as needs must.

In reading some of the other early reviews I think they’ve short-shrifted both the historicity and the timeliness (or maybe the timelessness) of what’s going on in The Knights Of The Apocalypse. This really isn’t just a story about how a cute cult TV show got a little fan service 30 years after the last episode aired. No, this is a story about power, politics, economics, about religion. This is a story about class and class struggle, human virtue and human vice. For who is King John, that off-screen terror, if not the hubristic government the governs for the rich and not for all? Who is the Sheriff of Nottingham if not a cynical functionary enforcing the unjust laws unequally, and for his own gain? And why is it, exactly, that an old folktale about a band of heroes who break the law for the good of the people so very, very resonant exactly 30 years (or approximately 550 years) after they were first told?

Here’s a recent piece of publicity:

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu

June 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Brilliance Audio - Twelve Kings In Sharakhai by Bradley P. BeaulieuTwelve Kings in Sharakhai (The Song of the Shattered Sands, #1)
By Bradley P. Beaulieu; Read by Sarah Coomes
25 Hours 57 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: September 2015

In the city of Sharakhai, Çeda fights in the pits to scrape by a living. She, like so many in the city, pray for the downfall of the cruel, immortal Kings of Sharakhai. Then on the holy night when the powerful yet wretched creatures known as the Asirim wander the city and take tribute in order to protect the Kings, one of them tells Çeda the origin of their dark bargain. And this dangerous secret may be the very key she needs to throw off the iron grip the Kings have had over Sharakhai….

Stunning, immersive world………………check
Deep, rich history……………………..check
Epic scale…………………………..check
Compelling plot……………………………..check
Exciting ending……………………………check

3/5 Stars

So why only 3 stars if this books scores so well on so many levels? Well, it comes down to the characters. I really didn’t feel much for them. Ceda starts out really cool and compelling. She’s the mysterious “White Wolf” who beats the crap out of an abuser in the fighting pit. How much cooler can you get?

But then as the story moves on, she pretty much gets her butt handed to her by just about every single person. She’s not clever and doesn’t say clever things, and she’s, frankly, annoying after a while.

Emre is the other main character and he’s equally as bland. He’s got a great history and great reasons to be a great character, he grew up on the street, helped save Ceda from the street and had it rough. But there’s not much to him. He seems to have trained Ceda in being boring and that’s it.

Now, the ending to this book is great, but had I not listened to this on audiobook I don’t know if I ever would have gotten this far.

And speaking of the audio, the narrator, Sarah Coomes, did do an excellent job. Her accents were, for the most part, on point although she has a tendency to make all older men sound just about the same, not to mention older women, especially seers or spiritual types. They sounded just about the same.

On the whole, I was really impressed with this book … until I started getting bored and the more I started to get bored the more I realized it was because of the main characters, I just didn’t care if they achieved their goals or not and only slightly cared whether they lived to do it or not.

Posted by Bryce L.

The SFFaudio Podcast #374 – READALONG: Moby Dick by Herman Melville

June 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 


The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #374 – Jesse and Bryan Alexander talk about Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

Talked about on today’s show:
reading Moby Dick to the air, Moby Dick inspiring heavy metal, terror or dismissal, when Bryan was a student, Madness, Meaninglessness, and Deviant Sexuality, drop this class now, paragraph long themes, being driven insane by writing about Moby Dick, when Bryan was a young professor, if you can teach that you’re one of us, how to proceed, becoming a Moby Dick fanatic, going to sea, revisiting the sea, a book about everything, a most excellent LibriVox narration, re-reads, one of the things really good writers do, The Man In The High Castle by Philip K. Dick, “this object” -> “book”, a message about how this book is, besmoked and deface, shades and shadows, delineating chaos bewitched, a long and limber black mass, unimaginable sublimity, a blasted heath, a hyperborean winter scene, that one portentous something, a cape-horner in a great hurricane, every sentence is beautiful, a reader’s guide, a stack of copies, this is a comedy book, the etymology, the extracts supplied by a sub-sub librarian, the extracts are freaking random, something unpublished, he did a google search for “whale”, a complete flop, what the hell is it?, Typee, a giant whaling story, reading Nathaniel Hawthorne lit his brain on fire, SYMBOLISM!, Pierre Or the Ambiguities, The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade, “Herman Melville, Insane?”, everything you hear about it gives you no hint, this novel cannot be adapted, Ray Bradbury’s adaptations, Gregory Peck, a lot like Joseph Conrad, Melville is more terrifying than Conrad, hilarious like Edgar Allan Poe, a tragedy, a disaster, the first line of the book is a lie, gut churning fear, the sharks devouring everything, a terrifying book, the science fiction aspect, the fantasy aspect, when Pip is drowned he goes to the bottom of the sea, the infinite of his soul, the unwarped primal world, the miser merman: wisdom, god’s foot on the treadle of the loom, man’s insanity is heaven’s sense, in different as is god, like a Clark Ashton Smith passage, “anyone seen pip?”, coral insects that made the stars and the planets, every chapter veers sideways, visionary and inspired, mastheads, very strange, the last chapter, what does he mean by that?, our hero disappears, the yawning gulf, the great shroud of the sea, why 5,000 years ago, the sounds of the words, interweaving the whole coffin theme, my keeled soul, one tiny metaphor, a missing Shakespeare play, theatrical, musical, through recorded history, a vast inhuman nature swirling all-round, The Narrative Of A. Gordon Pym of Nantucket, it’s death, meet it fighting, are we gonna bring each other down in the attempt to fight death, yes, we are, the Pequod is like the Enterprise on the original Star Trek, C.L.R. James, Marxist theory, Mariners And Castaways, an anti-racist book, massively cosmopolitan, a slave ship that revolts, Benito Cereno by Herman Melville, slavers as props, the exhumed skeleton of Christopher Columbus, “Follow Your Leader”, a great novel of friendship, the sperm squeezing scene, the gayest and queerest book ever written, burly men squeezing sperm with each other, thumping each other, the universal thump, the barking insane chapter, Loomings, sharing a bed with a harpooner, he’s off selling his head, I’m not going to be the wife, a head in one hand and an axe in the other, hilarious, as if I was Queequeg’s wife, his bridegroom clasp, a hatchet-faced baby, so shockingly obvious, a giant block of time in which homosexuality was taboo, suicide, I quietly take to the ship, astonishing, if this book came out this year, shelved in the gay fiction section, where Ahab the queer old guy, white bone leg, rallying the troops, the three harpooners with their harpoons out, sharp and heavily polished, this is super-gay, like Gothic knight of old, a fresh lance, the three boats, Tashtego is from Gay Head (Martha’s Vineyard), Antarctic in their glittering expressions, his lithe snaky limbs, the son of the prince of the powers of the air, now hes taking to sea, the Science Fiction part, global economy, forward looking, the new global enterprise, Daggoo with his lion-like tread, masculine men, a powerful image, this is the 19th century power industry, you never need to read another book about whales, powering every home, anointing an new king with sperm oil, it’s called sperm-oil because it looks like sperm, touching each other lovingly under the sperm, there’s a library to keep up with Moby Dick, homo-social, Starbuck’s skepticism, going back to the whale, the whale as female or male, a fool’s errand, [recording broken] so much trouble with a book, The Tempest is just too big, what kind of fool was I think I could do a Moby Dick show?, we being repeating ourselves, Thomas Mann, necrophilia, imagine writing a review, contemporary reviews, people were smarter back then, attacking a book from the outside in, Garth Ennis’ Preacher, a big epic story, Alan Moore’s Watchmen, foreigners coming in and telling the American story, Breaking Bad, the noir journey, a lot darker than Moby Dick, Ahab going to his grave, The Oblong Box by Edgar Allan Poe, the American Renaissance, one of the ships at the Spouter Inn is from The Narrative Of A. Gordon Pym Of Nantucket, the 19th century anxiety about being buried alive, a grave with a window, part of the American Gothic heritage, like the Nostromo in Alien, abandoned military fortresses, haunted house, nature Gothic, prairies Gothic, the psycho-geographical features, a castle in the middle of the South Pacific, a secret crew, like Rochester’s secret wife, The Fall Of The House Of Usher, Usher II by Ray Bradbury, our sacred horrors, the mighty walls rushing asunder, a tarn at my feet, reading quotes, Ahab’s soliloquies, reading quotes, he’s dying, more palmy than the palms, the Pequod is him, The Haunted Palace, Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, Khan’s obsession with Kirk, if Kirk was out there for revenge it would have been a very different show, The Balance Of Terror, a giant Berserker in space, The Doomsday Machine, Jesse Cuter is on a mission to kill God, Norman Spinrad, the whale lives on buried together in the sea, the greatest adventure writing of all time, action dialogue, the last soliloquy, he’s not afraid to make this book go all these places, so post-post modern, in uncharted territory, like Satan, Tashtego is the primordial American, claiming the doubloon, the head becomes his coffin, the ship, the hearse, the second hearse!, its wood could only be American, From The Earth To The Moon by Jules Verne, eternal malice, on their bull-like necks, sudden realization, slowly suddenly realizing, the hidden crew, The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad, Parsees, Persians, the foreign and the domestic, The Prophet, did you see those shadows going on to the ship?, a raucous ride from one kind of book to another kind of book, like a Gothic horror novel, with one survivor to tell the tale, burn it down, The Castle Of Otranto, so many things get brought into play, the sharks like are vultures following a battle, tiger yellow, words best omitted here, a little censorship, you live in a blessed evangelical land, anti-racist book, The Gold Bug, H.P. Lovecraft, death of beautiful women, Melville is in love with every colour of man, Saint Elmo’s fire turns the ship into candles, Ahab’s razors, the blue in Queequeg’s head, Tashtego’s shark white teeth which strangely gleamed, he’s powerful, holding the chain, blood against fire!, supernaturally tapped into the whale, he can smell the whale, in partial telepathic connection, forehead to forehead, changing from chapter to chapter, Thomas Pynchon, as Shakespearean as anybody has been, extreme states of being, we repeat ourselves, a bottle episode, Ozymandias, that is the devastation, a land epic, he’s in Lima (Peru), the strangest city, the white veil, a rigid pallor, two things that make Jesse sad, despair for humanity, when “net worth” is the autocomplete, despair despair!, ticket sales, desperate search answers for the pop-quiz, destroyed destroyed!, Bone is impossible to stop reading, running gags, trying to get people to read Moby Dick (and they fall asleep), petrified by his aspect, all your oaths are as binding as mine, the mark for thunderbolts, lightning power, the epithet for Captain Ahab is “old thunder”, this is not a book about the plot, we should never see Ishmael, seeing the world under the arm of Queequeg in his bed, it should never be adapted, cinematic to begin with, the storyteller is the frame, illustrated quotes, Fred Heimbaugh, Ahab is the Captain of the Black Freighter from Watchmen, an Alan Moore style book, the ebook for Jerusalem by Alan Moore, Jesse doesn’t read ebooks, traveling, a completely global book, a little map of the whaling ports of New England, the terrible old man in H.P. Lovecraft’s The Terrible Old man in Ishmael, the doubloons in The Dunwich Horror, did I review the book using the text of the book, no [actually, yes], accidentally on purpose, the same effect can be wrought, my illustration of the painting in the Spouter Inn, all the religion in the book, a member of the First Congregationalist Church, you are a preacher yourself, worshiping Wojo, all works turn to comment on themselves, when movies show up in the movies, Hitchcock movies, Tristram Shandy, the novel is doing this, sounding to bottom, Scarface, the American story, the American dream, The Sopranos, The Hunt, dark water is mystery, Gothic 101, the birds, the birds!, he profoundly saw, the undiscoveredable bottom, an open door marbled tomb, a tomb hunting for you, we never see it from the whale’s point of view, the whale as a force of nature, the honours heaped upon warriors (and those not heaped upon whalers), we fight battles no lesser men could ever fight, man against nature, man against himself, the candles, oh thou omnipotent, oh thou foundling fire, leap up and lick the sky, I worship thee, I glory in my genealogy, he’s killing his father, he despairs at his life at sea, 40 years at sea, best go out in a blaze, repeating the description of the Spouter Inn’s be-smoked oil painting, a church that is also a ship, unaccountable masses of shades and shadows, a nameless yeast, what does the marvelous novel mean?, you’re being harpooned, Macbeth, Bryan Alexander (for example), an exasperated whale, the ship is the bread, the sea is the wine, the white whale as the lamb of god, Orson Welles, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, Eric S. Rabkin’s idea of Fantasy, was it bitten off below the knee or above?, maybe it’s only his own ivory there, nobody has written a prequel, Peter Watts’ The Things, a funny thing about The Thing From Another World, John W. Campbell ripping off H.P. Lovecraft, the prequel sequel remake of The Thing was pretty damn good, watching cartoons, In The Walls Of Eryx, At The Mountains Of Madness, condensed Olaf Stapledon, The Shadow Out Of Time, astronomy, tone and effect, psychological science, The Pit And The Pendulum, Arthur Machen, World War I, the Angels of Mons

The Voyage Of The Pequod

The Oil Painting In The Spouter Inn - illustrated by Jesse

Posted by Jesse Willis

Reading, Short And Deep #015 – The Mirrors Of Tuzun Thune by Robert E. Howard

May 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 


Reading, Short And DeepReading, Short And Deep #015

Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss The Mirrors Of Tuzun Thune by Robert E. Howard.

The Mirrors Of Tuzun Thune was first published in Weird Tales, September 1929.

Here’s a link to the PDF of the story.

Podcast feed

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

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