Review of Red Planet by Robert A. Heinlein

April 9, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Red Planet by Robert A. HeinleinSFFaudio EssentialRed Planet
By Robert A. Heinlein; Read by a full cast
6 CDs – 7 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Full Cast Audio
Published: 2009
ISBN: 9781934180518
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mars / Politics / Gender /
Sample |MP3|
Jim Marlowe’s Martian pet, Willis, seems like nothing more than an adorable ball of fur with an astonishing ability to mimic the human voice. But when Jim takes the creature to academy and runs afoul of a militantly rigid headmaster, his devotion to his pet launches the young man on a death-defying trek across Mars. Accompanied by his buddy, Frank, Jim must battle the dangers of a hostile planet. But it is not only the boys’ lives that are at stake: They have discovered explosive information about a threat to the survival of the entire colony—information that may mean life or death for their families.

Listening to Heinlein’s stories brought to life is a wonderful experience. One of the things I enjoy most about Heinlein’s quirky novels is that the politics are never fully aligned with any conventional ideology. There are repeated themes, to be sure, but they play out fairly differently in each story. I had read Red Planet at least once before and upon listening to this terrific audiobook version I was actually quite surprised by the relevance to modern politics and social phenomena. First published in 1949, and set on a Mars that is surprisingly believable, it has some very modern protagonists teenagers. Jim Marlowe and Frank Sutton get into some rather exciting adventures. They spend chilly days outside on Mars suited up in mechanical counter-pressure suits, with supercharging helmets that provide a suitable pressurized oxygen from the wispy (but oxygenated) atmosphere of Heinlein’s Mars. These suits, are much lighter than conventional air pressure suits and allow the extreme mobility needed for their skating down the frozen canals of Mars. When not outside fighting off water seekers Jim, Frank, and almost every other colonist on Mars dresses like they live on a tropical beach (they live, go to school, and work in pressurized domes). Virtually no one goes outdoors during the Martian nights (or winters) as they are cold enough to freeze even a stolid martian kid solid. Indeed, part of the excitement of the novel comes when Jim, and Frank find themselves trapped in the Martian desert far from any habitable shelter just as sunset is approaching. Heinlein’s solution is both ingenious and original.

Unlike some previous Heinlein novels produced by Full Cast Audio, Red Planet is not told in first person by the main character. Instead the voice talent of William Dufris is employed to narrate. I’m a big fan of Dufris’ narrative abilities, and he does a terrific job with Red Planet. Jacob Coppola as Jim Marlowe, and Christopher Reiling as Frank Frank Sutton are both vigorous and youthful but also distinct enough to tell apart. The rest of the cast supports the story with an assortment of villainous, larcenous good humor, and stubborn contrariness – in other words nearly the full Heinleinian character spectrum. One other note, the voice of Willis is often performed by whichever actor Willis is imitating and this works just fine! Finally, check out the gorgeous cover art by Jerry Russell, it’s absolutely fantastic!

Posted by Jesse Willis

The Dimension X and X-Minus One of William Tenn

February 12, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

Here is a complete listing of all the William Tenn stories from both Dimension X and X-Minus One. Child’s Play doesn’t have any actual children in it, instead it is much more like a Philip K. Dick plot played for humor. Venus Is A Man’s World, on the other hand, features children protagonists. It’s a curious remnant of its era, a satire on gender equality. It also has a fun bit about naming your kids after Canadian provinces. The Discovery Of Mornial Matheway is a humorous time travel story with a clever wrinkle, mining the same material as Michael Moorcock’s Behold The Man and Robert A. Heinlein’s By His Bootstraps.

Dimension X was an NBC radio program broadcast from 1950 to 1951 in the USA. One episode was based on a story by William Tenn. The same script would be re-recorded four years later for X-Minus One.

Dimension XDimension X – Child’s Play
Based on the story by William Tenn; Adapted by George Lefferts; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 24 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: NBC Radio
Broadcast: June 21, 1951
Provider: Archive.org
Sam Weber used to be a meek little man. But then one day he received a “Build-A-Man” kit from 100 years in the future – that changed a whole lot. First published in Astounding Science Fiction, March 1947.

X-Minus One was a half-hour science fiction radio series broadcast from 1955 to 1958 on NBC Radio stations in the USA. William Tenn had three of his stories picked out and turned into radio dramatizations.

X Minus 1X-Minus One – Child’s Play
Based on the story by William Tenn; Adapted by George Lefferts; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 23 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: NBC Radio
Broadcast: October 20, 1955
Provider: Archive.org
Sam Weber used to be a meek little man. But then one day he received a “Build-A-Man” kit from 100 years in the future – that changed a whole lot. First published in Astounding Science Fiction, March 1947.

X Minus 1X-Minus One – Venus Is A Man’s World
Based on the story by William Tenn; Adapted by Arthur Small; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 22 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: NBC Radio
Broadcast: February 6, 1957
Provider: Archive.org
War has severely decimated the Earth’s male population. Females now make all the rules men are subservient to women. First published in Galaxy Science Fiction, July 1951.

X Minus 1X-Minus One – The Discovery Of Mornial Matheway
Based on the story by William Tenn; Adapted by Ernest Kinoy; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: NBC Radio
Broadcast: April 17, 1957
Provider: Archive.org
A time traveler from the future returns to the era of Morniel Mathaway, the greatest artist in history only to discovere that Mathaway is completely talentless. First published in Galaxy Science Fiction, October 1955.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #037

September 28, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #037 – Jesse and Scott talk about the latest audiobook releases, audiobook narrators and plenty more. It’s a show full of “stage-actory goodness” in which we learn the ultimate truth:

“the monster frozen in the ice is definitely alive”

Talked about on today’s show:
Scott is living the sequel to High Plains Drifter, Hercules by Geraldine McCaughrean, Full Cast Audio, Who was the greatest Greek hero?, Perseus, Odysseus by Geraldine McCaughrean, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, Achilles, Guest Law by John C. Wright, Infinivox, Aliens Rule edited by Allan Kaster, “How Music Begins” by James Van Pelt, Listening Library, the Becka Cooper series, Terrier by Tamora Peirce, Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce, Random House Audio, The Year Of The Flood by Margaret Atwood, Audible addiction, Audible Frontiers, The Wind Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, Jonathan Davis, Infinivox’s The Fluted Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, Recorded Books, Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross, Wild Voices Audio, The City And The Stars by Arthur C. Clarke, Blind Lake, Bridge Of Years, Darwinia, Spin by Robert Charles Wilson, Julian Comstock by Robert Charles Wilson, Hachette Audio, Transition by Iain M. Banks (UNABRIDGED), also the podcast version, Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks, Dune: House Atredies by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, Blackstone Audio, Treason by Orson Scott Card, Audible.com’s latest sale includes: Kindred by Octavia E. Butler, Ringworld by Larry Niven, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, Stalking The Vampire by Mike Resnick, Waystation by Clifford Simak, Grover Gardner, Born Standing Up by Steve Martin, The Jerk, Macmillan Audio, The Box: Uncanny Stories by Richard Matheson, The Twilight Zone (1985), “Button Button” by Richard Matheson, (the collection also includes: Girl Of My Dreams, Dying Room Only, A Flourish Of Strumpets, No Such Thing As A Vampire, Pattern For Survival, Mute, Creeping Terror, Shock Wave, Clothes Make The Man, The Jazz Machine, ‘Tis The Season To Be Jelly, The Mystery Of Grace by Charles de Lint, Slings & Arrows – Series 1, Podkayne Of Mars by Robert A. Heinlein, Armor by John Steakley, John Carpenter’s Vampires
FlashForward by Robert J. Sawyer, Star Trek by Alan Dean Foster, FlashForward (the TV series), revealing or realizing the solution to a mystery in fiction, Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child, Zachary Quinto, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, Shed Skin by Robert J. Sawyer, Burn Me Deadly by Alex Bledsoe, Sword Edged Blond, Blood Groove, Escape From Hell by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, The Mote In God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, first contact, gender, feminism, The Gripping Hand by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, iPhone, audiobook functionality, CBC Radio and NPR apps.

Posted by Jesse Willis

GenderTalk talks to Samuel R. Delany about his novel Dhalgren

February 14, 2007 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

Online Audio - Gender TalkGenderTalk is the leading worldwide weekly radio program that about transgenderism. Each week GenderTalk presents news and information that aims to challenge traditional views of gender. No, we haven’t changed focus, instead there is a particular GenderTalk episode that has an interview with Science Fiction author Samuel R. Delany about his novel Dhalgren!

Samuel Delaney, author of “Dhalgren”, an apocalyptic tale which received rave reviews on its release in 1975, which went on to become one of the bestselling science fiction novels of all time, and which is being reissued today. He has received two Hugo and four Nebula awards for his Science Fiction writing, which presents groundbreakingly diverse gender, sexual and racial imagery. Delaney is well known as the first ‘out’ gay African American science fiction writer, and we spoke with him about diversity themes in his work and in the world of science fiction. Delaney currently teaches creative writing at Temple University.

You can download the entire show |MP3| but to get to the interview scroll ahead to the 64 minute mark.

For more Delany goodness be sure and check out the recent episode of Starship Sofa too |MP3|!

Review of The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

July 6, 2003 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le GuinThe Left Hand Of Darkness
By Ursula K. Le Guin ; Read by Ruth Stokesberry
8 Cassettes – Approx. 11.5 hours UNABRIDGED
Books On Tape
ISBN: 0736611290
Themes: / Science Fiction / Galactic Civilization / Sociology / Gender / Worldbuilding /

“…our entire pattern of socio-sexual interaction is non-existent here. The Gethenians do not see one another as men or women. This is almost impossible for our imaginations to accept. There is no division of humanity into strong and weak. One is respected and judged only as a human being…it is an appalling experience for a Terran.”
-Ong Tot Oppong’s field notes of the planet Winter

Genly Ai, the lone emissary of a galactic federation of planets, has landed on the planet named Winter. His job is to make first contact and offer membership to the federation. But Winter is a strange world. Its people are adapted to the chilly planet, use some highly technological devices and yet have a feudal political structure. Slightly complicating matters is the people themselves – they are all bisexual hermaphrodites.

The Left Hand of Darkness is a recognized classic of Science Fiction; it won both the Nebula and the Hugo awards for best novel for 1970. At its center this novel is a thought experiment, built to planetary proportions. This subgenre of HARD SF includes many great novels like Frank Herbert’s Dune and Robert Silverberg’s A Time Of Changes. It also acts in some manner as does a dystopia or utopia novel, shining light on those things hidden, in this case by gender politics, of the time in which it was written. In the late 1960’s and 1970’s women were just becoming fuller participants in power and business. The Left Hand of Darkness taps into this burgeoning social movement. Asking the question “What would a world look like where there were no gender politics at all?”. Le Guin’s answer is fascinating.

While at times slow and ponderous this is a great novel for its time. It is filled with almost endless detail of life on a fully thought out world. Of special note is a fully fleshed out and powerful series of reading of the mythology of Winter, it is superbly crafted stuff. I’m not a huge fan of Le Guin’s body of work but I did appreciate this audiobook. The central idea is very well thought out and the details show in her attention. At least in the abstract, the plot plays out much like a good Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. And there is good reason for this. Indeed, Star Trek: The Next Generation has dealt with both “first contact” situations in the episode aptly named “First Contact” and hermaphroditic aliens in the episode “The Outcast”. The fact that both of those episodes are among the best ST:TNG ever did tells you something about the themes. The Left Hand Of Darkness is not a great page turner, or in this case a tape flipper of a novel. And it is not simply the subject matter that bogs it down. Barry Longyear’s Enemy Mine deals with gender neuter aliens in a thrill-ride fashion that is sadly absent here. Nor does the political intrigue present in The Left Hand of Darkness keep you sitting in the car after you’ve got where your going, waiting for the tape to finish, like it does with the similar Frank Herbert’s Dune. But despite these criticisms, make no mistake, this is
a classic of SF.

Books On Tape did a fabulous job putting together this production. The stunning original cover of the paperback is featured on the plastic clamshell case. The reading is by Ruth Stokesberry, who although unknown to me before this is good at her job. But funnily enough I was immediately thrown off by her voice reading the male narrator’s lines. Typically in audiobooks, male protagonists are read by male readers, who then go into falsetto to read female character’s lines, in this case it is the opposite. And while this is somewhat jarring, it doesn’t have a negative effect as much as it puts the listener into the same situation as the protagonist. In short, it works. The reading itself includes a lengthy and absolutely fascinating introduction written by Ursula K. Le Guin and an appendix explaining the different names and formulas used to determine the months, years, and days of the week. This is a great example of how to make an audiobook.

« Previous Page