The SFFaudio Podcast #439 – READALONG: The Fifth Head Of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe

September 18, 2017 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #439 – Jesse, Scott, and Paul Weimer discuss the novella entitled The Fifth Head Of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe

Talked about on today’s show:
Serberous?, the novella (not the whole book), maybe an accident maybe on purpose, very-Wolfeian, Orbit 10 edited by Damon Knight, fixup vs. novel?, V.R.T., to fully understand…, you need them all together, error or on purpose, many moons ago, novella is the perfect length for any Science Fiction work, read in publication order, old home week, Ender’s Shadow, Ender’s Game, cheating, the Alzabo Soup podcast, The Book Of The New Sun, condensed and distilled, Jorge Luis Borges <- I like what that guy's doing, I'm going to do me some of that -> George R.R. Martin, reader doing the heavy lifting, A Song Of Ice And Fire, almost a fantasy novel, a cloning story, Jack Vance, far future where science has become magic, the Dying Earth subgenre, no magic going on?, the sentences are full of magic, what does the title mean, is the reader the fifth head?, The Black Gate blog post, this story is a combination lock that allows many different combinations, info-dumping, somebody is a clone or a mirror or a part of his imagination, an unreliable narrator, a really good sign, this is Gene Wolfe’s thing, perfect memory, no memory, a consistent memory, how accurate are the details?, how many characters are there?, number five, is one of the characters is “Gene Wolfe”?, the father, the brother (David), the aunt, the lady in pink, the other clone in the warehouse, the four-armed dude is a character, the robot (Mr Millions), Marsh, the anthropologist, the brothel, how its revealed, he has been in prison, the only complete arc, we must infer the rest of them, the death of the father, Christopher Nolan should direct it, it is a complete work or it will be, clones of the same person, hinkey, hokey, or odd, all the books in the private library were written by his father, going to the Ws, very meta, are you a Nigerian prince? Jesse will believe you (for a minute), he is really old, which body did all the typing and research, daily dissertations, studying particular subjects (to be filled in in the labyrinth), The Library Of Babel, the only thing we know about readers is that they like books, writers are readers too, the ultimate fantasy is the place where all the stories are found, cloning to write, cloning to read, what’s up with the late night interrogations, is he psychoanalyzing?, or studying?, voight-kampff tests, what makes something or someone real?, Infinivox, Robert Reed’s Guest Of Honor, there was no quintessential cloning novel, why she is guest of honour, everybody is immortal, he could be downloading, being able to read three books at the same time, David isn’t one of the clones is he?, he escapes, theory and conjecture, nothing more than personality test?, gaining insight into himself, he’s clearly cloned a lot, “failures”, a slave who looks like him, four arms vs. five heads, societal cloning, impressions, “questionable things”, a brothel, a Frankenstian lab, The Island Of Dr Moreau, Littlefinger and Varos from Game Of Thrones, all sorts of play, what the kid’s doing with the frogs, experimenting with all the different ways of living and making life, mirrors and labyrinths, why he lives in a brothel, financial motivations, slave dealing, endless cycle, the Greek Tragedy elements, unfortunately that’s how the prophecy goes, genes are destiny, escaping the trap and escaping the cycle, A Song Of Ice And Fire, castrated folks, incest, pretty interesting, Nightflyers, Sandkings, that hardness, slavery and murder, colonization, genocide, colonialism, what information can we glean, the plastic replicas of the aboriginal stone tools, pre-stone tool culture, is Veill’s hypothesis correct?, does it matter?, good questions, John Marsh or a version of John Marsh, sending messages in the prison…to who?, the third novella, only identified as numbers, more to unlock, 666 to jump up on the stage, Hell, Hell is a stage, the theatre, the woman guard, what are the different theories on the title?, Maitre, the five clones, the maidenhead (virginity), bars and locked doors, suddenly he’s a mad scientist, the slave market visits, the great grandfather, a ROM?, reliability of information, why who is an abbo is important, robot protector, robot tutor, seemingly no emotions, very Christopher Nolan, if Gene Wolfe is the name of 5, one is a mirror of the other, one is a mirror of Earth and one is a mirror of Hell, one way of writing a story summary, what is the metaphor of the stage?, why is the stage stuff in there?, there’s stuff they want you to see, there’s a bunch going on back stage, a facade, the name of the house, The House Of The Dog, base and primal, a sexual position, what the significance of the stone tools (that are actually plastic), John V. Marsh, the significance is overblown because it is the only thing leftover, the kid then confabulates the culture, is David smarter or wiser?, when our father interviews you what does he call you?, escaping the traps, reading Odysseus, the cyclops, don’t give your name, the intertextual references, H.P. Lovecraft, Vernor Vinge, feeling like fantasy, part of the play, nurture vs. nature, it’s all fate, doomed, a metal prison, we seek self knowledge, why we seek, the little ape, we wish to discover why we fail, another reflection, the mirror world you can’t go to, to step through the looking glass, a myth or a fairy tale, trying to connect with the world of myth and legend, quest, maitre means head, like a head of a hotel, so cool, the theories of what is going to happen in Game Of Thrones, Martin’s plans, “interesting”, what bones were put into the soup, how the meal is going to digest, a very complex set of flavours, the anise, the bacon, mixed beans, a very hearty hearty meal, How To Read Gene Wolfe by Neil Gaiman:

1) Trust the text implicitly. The answers are in there.

2) Do not trust the text farther than you can throw it, if that far. It’s tricksy and desperate stuff, and it may go off in your hand at any time.

3) Reread. It’s better the second time. It will be even better the third time. And anyway, the books will subtly reshape themselves while you are away from them.Peace really was a gentle Midwestern memoir the first time I read it. It only became a horror novel on the second or the third reading.

4) There are wolves in there, prowling behind the words. Sometimes they come out in the pages. Sometimes they wait until you close the book. The musky wolf-smell can sometimes be masked by the aromatic scent of rosemary. Understand, these are not today-wolves, slinking grayly in packs through deserted places. These are the dire-wolves of old, huge and solitary wolves that could stand their ground against grizzlies.

5) Reading Gene Wolfe is dangerous work. It’s a knife-throwing act, and like all good knife-throwing acts, you may lose fingers, toes, earlobes or eyes in the process. Gene doesn’t mind. Gene is throwing the knives.

6) Make yourself comfortable. Pour a pot of tea. Hang up a DO NOT DISTURB Sign. Start at Page One.

7) There are two kinds of clever writer. The ones that point out how clever they are, and the ones who see no need to point out how clever they are. Gene Wolfe is of the second kind, and the intelligence is less important than the tale. He is not smart to make you feel stupid. He is smart to make you smart as well.

8) He was there. He saw it happen. He knows whose reflection they saw in the mirror that night.

9) Be willing to learn.

the dogs always stand in, how the red woman and her prophecies play out, king’s blood, a victim of her own witchery, a deep analysis of the opening credits of the Game Of Thrones TV series, it’s not really a map, it’s an inverse orrery, mechanistic movement, behind the scenes, a Dyson’s sphere, when Winterfell falls, a nice metaphor for the creation of a secondary world, Lord Dunsany’s The Wonderful Window, Golden Dragon City, ways of reading, different methods and techniques with which to approach, an interview with Gene Wolfe, the Korean War, once you think you’re smart that’s when they get you, getting killed shows that you’re not smart, I’m a much more literary man, it’s about the love of writing, how ethereal or gossamer Borges stuff is, how it connects to us, it can live without us reading, a story being spun, its the yarn itself, it needs us more than Borges’ stuff does, what would make a failed Gene Story would look like, that’s his brand, Stanisław Lem’s One Human Minute, a cute thought, a professor of 1920s and 1830, a more broad education, the Wikipedia entry for 1908, when you read the Wikipedia entry for 2017 in 100 years…, Durham Stevens, super-deep, The Island Of Doctor Death And Other Stories And Other Stories, he knew exactly what he was doing, a confluence of events, a critical hit, stumbled upon, its not an accident, Faulkner’s The Sound And The Fury, Proust, questions of identity, Sandman, he has always been a really good guy to following the reading of, Douglas Adams, look at this, his essays about Edgar Allan Poe, an even better non-fiction writer than a fiction writer, a book of essays, a mini essay about cities in SimCity 2000, a little Easter Egg, “ruminate”, A View From The Cheap Seats, Philip Reeve, The Hungry Cities Chronicles, The Wind From A Burning Woman (collection) by Greg Bear, this is Lankhmar, Dungeons & Dragons, a city adventure, behind every door is another potential story, a tiny little slice, fully expanded, Fritz Leiber’s not as good as I want him to be, next level stuff, Gene Wolfe never won a Hugo, there’s no justice, you know nothing, Nebulas, who is our best writer?, no official audiobook version, Audible.com, the best of Gene Wolfe on audio is a good idea, a hard no, off the Wolfe subject.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #383 – READALONG: The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

August 22, 2016 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #383 – Jesse, Bryan Alexander, and Steen Hansen talk about The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton.

Talked about on today’s show:
1969, before the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, contemporary critics, SF critics vs. mainstream critics, the defense of the ghetto against interlopers, Ray Bradbury, Doris Lessing, a deep feeling, spoiling the book, showing what was wrong with it, getting the facts wrong, interpretation, Luke Burrage reviewing, Robert J. Sawyer, bad writing, had they done nothing … nothing would have happened, the mutation, the Wildfire facility, Star Trek, scientists out for the good of humanity, self-destruct sequences, MAD: Mutually Assured Destruction, every nuclear sub movie, film-like, The Ipcress File by Len Deighton, airport fiction tropes, hyper competent high level government high tech mcguffins, brain-washing, novel -> film, written for film?, ER, picky fiddly science and bureaucratic operation, killed or useless, trusted scientists to save the world, ruthlessly hard science, Hollywood couldn’t make this movie now, restrained, chilly, the gender swap, Robert Wise, Shirley Jackson, The Haunting Of Hill House, Alfred Bester, a document dump, classified material, overloading the reader with verisimilitude, Eaters Of The Dead by Michael Crichton, The Thirteenth Warrior, Vikings, Russians and Byzantium, completely bullshit, Mr. Bullshit, regular SF vs. techno-thriller, a yummy INFODUMP, nobody had a definition for life, black cloth, a watch, a piece of granite, pure Science Fiction, Bryan’s mind destroyed at age 8, binary numbers, lasers vs. darts, Larry Niven, 24, Colossus: The Forbin Project, Steen welcomes our robot overlord, high-scale AI, Iain M. Banks, humans as pets, humans as cogs, I Have No Mouth And I must Scream, Prof. Eric S. Rabkin, Dante Alighieri, lost race, the descent into Hell, from red to blue, the harrowing of Hell, a cold war story where the Russians aren’t the bad guys, The Bedford Incident, James Follett’s The Light Of A Thousand Suns, set in the recent past, the shotgun approach, Margaret Atwood, picking and choosing at the buffet table, dedicated to A.C.D., M.D. -> Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle -> Dr. Michael Crichton, “not a new story”, the glowing review in Life magazine, a retelling of The Blob, the Technovelgy, auto-doc, the suppressed cancer drug, Jensen Pharmaceuticals, gut flora, nudity and ass-grabbing, rectal suppository, astro-Tang, coffee, all that cleaning, they’re too holy, the five levels is a gimmick, the leveling, it’s bullshit!, we all know we have to wash our hands, the Wikipedia entry for the Airport Genre

Airport novel(s) represent a literary genre that is not so much defined by its plot or cast of stock characters, as much as it is by the social function it serves. An airport novel is typically a fairly long but fast-paced novel of intrigue or adventure that is stereotypically found in the reading fare offered by airport newsstands for travelers to read in the rounds of sitting and waiting that constitute air travel.

Rudyard Kipling’s fiction was published as a railway magazine, the origin of pulp fiction, The Lion’s Game by Nelson DeMille, the opening to The Strain, having the reins of political power at your fingertips, in the 2008 miniseries remake, back stories/love stories, a muddy anti-science mess, pre-Apollo -> Watergate -> conspiracy theories, the technical glitch (paper between the bell and the striker), germ warfare?!, the remake of The Manchurian Cantidate, the films and adaptations reflect the times, the 2008 version is super-militarized, X-18, F-4 phantoms, Dracula, the long gothic tradition of found documents, Plan 9 From Outer Space, a cold war document, The Parallax View, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Crichton like Spielberg loves power, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark, medical people as superheroes, uber-expert scientists, power fantasy fiction, scepticism of power, image Michael Crichton at a Science Fiction convention, the immune reaction, You are not of the body!, techno-thrillers, why Ian Fleming’s James Bond books became so popular, JFK, Ronald Reagan was a big fan of Tom Clancy, The Hunt For Red October, Reagan based foreign policy of Red Storm Rising, Jack Ryan was a wonk Navy -> CIA agent -> CIA Director -> President, Firefox, political fiction written for a jet-set audience, conservative Heinleinian, Andromeda Strain cosplay?, Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, SF writers save the world from alien invasion, science matters vs. science fiction, the first biology crisis, outflanking the ghetto, the 2006 Worldcon, Greg Benford, Greg Bear, David Brin, thinking up scenarios, if I was a terrorist how would I destroy the the United States, Wildfire, Cold War contingency planning, the Rand Corporation, the odd-man out element, his name was Hall but should have been Corridor, does this make sense?, the odd man is gay?, The Odd Couple, gay coding?, gay men are most likely to turn off nukes?, The Great Train Robbery, timing pacing planning tricking, that roller-coaster spark, opening observation, we are always observing, fun fiction for Henry Kissinger and the jet set, bureaucrats of a class, this function material is reflective, Science Fiction writers are poor, Robert Silverberg, Lawrence Block and Donald Westlake, Isaac Asimov, a biology book, Paul Di Filippo, bio-punk, Ribo-funk, The Bay (2012), The Hot Zone, the wet science, cloning, the neglected science, Coma, Protector by Larry Niven, how electron-microscopes work, crystallography, “it mutated”?!?!?, that was odd, it’s communicating with itself, block-chain virus, deep hurting, The Door Into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski, medicine without silicon, the Patriarchy, The Highest Frontier, Blood Music by Greg Bear, a Halo novel, The Wind From A Burning Woman, a “wild” writing style, bio is hard to do, Pontypool, prions, the worst part of The Walking Dead, we’re all infected, a symbol for regular death, Titan by John Varley, a 100ft tall Marilyn Monroe monster, The Satan Bug by Alistair Maclean (1962), where does the techno-thriller begin, a precursor to techno-thriller, The Stolen Bacillus by H.G. Wells, a really obvious anarchist, Wells defused the whole genre for sixty years, The Food Of The Gods, a convincing linguistic maneuver, fawning of technology bureaucracy power and the function of government, a stack of Jane’s Fighting Ships, the Sputnik shock, British invasion novels, Tom Clancy as a zombie brand, special helicopter trip, massive government expenditure for the competent man, an empty jetliner, vicarious thrill, power fantasy, “he’s the most important person right now”, this is our bailiwick!, nice and short, Dean Koontz, Phantoms, A Game Of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, Ghost Fleet by August Cole and P.W. Singer, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child books, no CRISPR, China is no Soviet Union, futurism, education moves so slowly, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, an X-Box with Paranoid Linux, Reamde by Neal Stephenson, a Kurt Vonnegut vibe, a Welsh Muslim terrorist, like pornography you know a techno-thriller when you see it.

The dedication for The Andromeda Strain

title page for The Andromeda Strain

Algis Budrys review of The Andromeda Strain

Life Magazine review of The Andromeda Strain

The Andromeda Strain - illustration by Dusty Abell

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton - Random House Audio read by Chris Noth

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #343 – READALONG: The Lord Of The Rings (Book 6 of 6) by J.R.R. Tolkien

November 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

TheSFFaudioPodcast600The SFFaudio Podcast #343 – Jesse, Julie Davis, Seth, and Maissa talk about The Lord of the Rings Book VI (“The Return Of The King”) by J.R.R. Tolkien (aka the second half of The Return Of The King).

Talked about on today’s show:
On the merits of “The Scouring of the Shire”; final volume as catharsis; on Bilbo opening up the Shire, paving the way for the scouring; the transformation of Pippin and Merry; Hobbit lust for Bilbo’s gold; rejection of wealth compared to The Hobbit; on The Hobbit as a children’s story; “Hobbits are a thing!”; humility as seeing the truth; Hobbits just need a flame to fire them up and save the Shire; Sam’s ring-bestowed vision of a giant World-Garden; core of Hobbit goodness; of the many meanings of the word “scour”–cleansing, ruining, scowling, hurrying; chronology, and just how long Saruman had to ruin the Shire; Saruman on the road, “the beggar and his dog”; debating the value of mercy; Galadriel’s gift to Sam; on the validity of visions in the mirror of Galadriel; Théoden as precedent for mercy; unexpected changes of heart; Frodo’s not a fighter, stops killings; Hobbits don’t kill one another; have Hobbits changed?; World War I monument for Hobbits, mass grave for ruffians; are there sharks in Middle Earth?; Saruman’s voice on Freeboard; even after the last battle, life goes on; Aragorn’s mercy towards the vanquished; determinism not incompatible with free will; on this concluding volume’s themes; George R.R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkien diametrically opposed in their treatment of mercy and duty; can absolute mercy work in the modern political climate?; it’s not a Catholic book; evangelizing Lord of the Rings, promoting mercy, one family at a time; Éowyn and Faramir’s romance; Tolkien is not the best battle-writer; a “book without girls” (almost); the golden moment of the world’s salvation; Éowyn’s not initially a Faramir fan; the tricky gender implications, and many happy pairings; Tolkien’s retcon of names like Eleanor; the circularity of tales and the importance of birthdays; Saruman as Dorian Gray; Jesse wants Hobbit University fanfic; the subtle frame narrative of Lord of the Rings; the thirst of the characters made Julie thirsty; is Lord of the Rings the greatest novel ever?

The Lord Of The Rings - Book 6

posted by Seth Wilson

The SFFaudio Podcast #046

January 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #046 – Jesse and Scott talk audiobooks, hard SF, current theatrical movies, Kenneth Oppel‘s Skybreaker and the new Gene Wolfe audiobooks at Audible.com! We also debut a new feature (boldly stolen from the late lamented Sofanauts Podcast). RIP.

Talked about on today’s show:
bananas, Smoke by Donald E. Westlake, invisibility, humor, the Richard Stark novels are only funny to psychopaths, crime, Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You by Donald Westlake (Westlake’s open letter to Science Fiction on why he’s not writing SF anymore), Philip K. Dick’s interview on Hour 25, Those Sexy Vintage Sleaze Books: A Blog About Vintage Soft Core Paperbacks, Robert Silverberg, Lawrence Block, paperbackswap.com, The Ax and The Hook by Donald E. Westlake, The Engines Of God by Jack McDevitt, Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke, aliens, xenoarcheology, terraforming, Tom Weiner, hard SF, 2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke, exoplanets, social science fiction, soft SF, The Windup Girl by Paulo Bacigalupi, androids, first contact, Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer |READ OUR REVIEW|, how to win any argument about modern SF: bring up Ted Chiang, The Story Of Your Life by Ted Chiang, The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, Starship: Flagship by Mike Resnick, hero characters doing villainous things, Island Of The Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, Summer Of The Monkeys by Wilson Rawls, Dolphin Island by Arthur C. Clarke, hovercraft, Australia, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, marine biology, District 9, the MacGuffin in District 9 is stupid, Avatar, Sharlto Copley, Star Trek, Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel, Full Cast Audio, audio drama, Science Fiction, alternate history, Fantasy, airships, pirates, lifting gasses, phrenology, Howard Hughes, Thomas Edison, Graphic Audio, Brandon Sanderson‘s Warbreaker, Elizabeth Moon‘s Serrano Legacy series, audio drama is for truckers!, Jesse’s pick of the week: William Friedkin‘s Sorcerer (1977), laserdiscs, the great thing about laserdiscs!, VHSrips!, The Wages Of Fear (1953), Scott’s Pick of the week: Gene Wolfe’s The Book Of The New Sun (a novel in four parts), narrated by Jonathan Davis, the SFFaudio Yahoo! Group, Audible.com, Blake’s 7 The Early Years – Jenna: The Trial / The Dust Run (Vol. 1.5), Carrie Dobro, Babylon 5: Crusade, the Blake’s 7 television series, Blake’s 7 is the best audio drama space opera series ever!, Brian AldissHelleconia series, Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss, Best SF Stories of Brian W. Aldiss, the fix-up novel, Dreamsongs by George R.R. Martin |READ OUR REVIEW|, Maps In A Mirror by Orson Scott Card, short stories turned into novels, Karen Makes Out (a short story), Out Of Sight (a novel) by Elmore Leonard, Out Of Sight (the film), Karen Sisco, Meatball Fulton‘s Ruby The Galactic Gumshoe, NPR, Recorded Books, The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross, what Jesse wants for his birthday: the complete fiction of Ted Chiang in audio, The Bishop’s Heir by Katherine Kurtz, the Deryni series, David Weber, series should end!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan

September 1, 2009 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - The Steel Remains by Richard K. MorganThe Steel Remains
By Richard K. Morgan; Read by Simon Vance
[UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Published: 2009
ISBN: 9781400139637
Themes: / Fantasy / Noir / Hard Boiled / Magic / War / Homosexuality /

“Men were like blades, they would all break sooner or later, you included. But you looked around at the men you led, and in their eyes you saw what kind of steel you had to hand, how it had been forged and tempered, what blows, if any, it would take.”

—Richard Morgan, The Steel Remains

With his new book The Steel Remains, Richard Morgan sets out to (as main character Ringil Eskiath might say) “prick the bloated arse” of J.R.R. Tolkien and post-Tolkien fantasy. Elsewhere on the web Morgan has expressed his deep dissatisfaction with traditional high fantasy, which often pits stainless forces of good against hordes of irredeemable evil in bloodless, antiseptic sword play. He’s accused Tolkien of the same shortcomings (a flawed analysis with which I vehemently disagree). Against this backdrop, Morgan set out to write The Steel Remains as a deliberately gray, grimy, alternative viewpoint. His book succeeds in sliding cold steel into the lie of childlike fantasy, with which my favorite genre of fiction is admittedly littered.

But when the screaming of gutted men and the skirling of steel dies down, and the full extent of the destruction is laid bare for us to see, The Steel Remains does not have much to offer. The old cliché that it’s easier to tear down and destroy than to build anew applies here. In its falling over itself desire to slice and dice fantasy’s traditional conservatism, The Steel Remains indulges in plenty of its own predictable clichés: Every priest is a religious fanatic and a sex fiend, every leader a morally and ethically corrupt, egotistic blowhard, for example. The book lacks a moral compass; Morgan the author’s world view must be a bleak one, indeed.

The action of The Steel Remains focuses on the converging storylines of three uneven characters—one very well done (Ringil, a sarcastic, war-weary, homosexual master swordsman), one middling (Egar, a brawling, boisterous, randy barbarian from the steppes), and one rather forgettable (Archeth, a black, female half-breed of human and Kiriath, deadly with throwing knives and hooked on drugs). All three are veterans of a recent war against an invading race of “scaly folk,” in which humanity staved off utter destruction at a very high price. Ringil, a war hero but now combat- and world-weary, has retreated from his mercenary lifestyle and is living a slothful, under-the-radar existence, until he’s summoned by an urgent message from his mother: Ringil’s cousin, Sherin, has been sold into slavery to repay a debt, and Ringil’s mother wants her back. Ringil reluctantly agrees.

Soon Ringil finds out that the slavery web in which Sherin has been caught is very dark, wide, and sinister. At its centre are a race of alien beings called the dwenda—tall, attractive, human-like, magic-using creatures that are a combination of Michael Moorcock’s Melniboneans with their cruel and alien immorality, and Poul Anderson’s Nordic-inspired, haughty, and warlike elves (Morgan lists Anderson and Moorcock as two of his sources of inspiration; the third is, unsurprisingly, Karl Edward Wagner). The dwenda are planning to incite a second war on earth and then destroy the victor, taking back their ancestral lands (the dwenda dwelled on earth many years ago). The dwenda require the sacrifice of barren human females to fuel the dark powers that are the source of their sorcery.

There’s much to like in The Steel Remains. Morgan’s prose is sharp and highly readable, and he shows a fine eye for detail and realism in his culture and city-building. Trelayne—a nasty, sprawling, brawling city in which whoring, slavery, and public executions are practiced openly—feels real. Egar’s Majak culture is based on pre-colonized North American Indians, and is well-done with its shamans and superstitions, trade in vast herds of buffalo, and armor and weapons suited to a nomadic lifestyle on the plains.

In addition, if you like your battles bloody and realistic, Morgan is your man. His fight scenes are well-done and you get a great sense of Ringil’s skill with his deadly broadsword of Kiriath steel, and Egar’s brutal butcher’s work with his two-bladed Majak lance. Disembowelings, beheadings, and other ghastly wounds are rife.

Much of the book passed under my eyes as well-oiled but heartless machinery producing graphic combat carnage and highly explicit sex (I’ll pause here to state that the blood and semen-soaked pages of The Steel Remains would make George R.R. Martin blanch, and Eric Van Lustbader—author of The Ninja—green with envy). I found the characters rather unlikeable and unengaging, and the plot fair at best. Very little actually clicked with me until the concluding act, in which Ringil, Egar, and Archeth reunite to fight a desperate last stand against the duenda. This was one of the few moving scenes in the book in which I actually felt some measure of concern and identification with our heroes. Ringil’s rousing speech is of the stuff with which great heroic fantasy is made. I wish there was more like this.

In summary, we know that life is can be dirty and horrible. War is hell, yes, and men are weak and piggish. But Morgan drives the same points home, again and again, over 400 dark, cynical, iconoclastic pages of The Steel Remains, which by the end is too one-note and sacrifices story at the expense of the author’s agenda.

Narrator Simon Vance does a terrific job as narrator, changing his voice to suit the temperaments and personalities of the various characters in Morgan’s novel. Clarity and precision are among Vance’s strengths as a reader and he does not disappoint here. When I began listening to The Steel Remains, and before I had seen the narration credits, I recognized Vance’s distinctive voice from his wonderful depiction of Count Dracula and the rest of the characters from Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Blackstone Audiobooks). For unknown reasons Vance performed Dracula under the pseudonym, Robert Whitfield.

[For more of Brian’s thoughts on The Steel Remains check out The SFFaudio Podcast #034]

Posted by Brian Murphy

Worldcon 2009: Interview with George R.R. Martin

August 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

The Montreal Gazette Narratives BlogGeorge R.R. Martin is at Worldcon 2009 in Montreal. Matthew Surridge (of the Montreal Gazette’s Narratives blog) has posted a short audio interview with him.

Have a listen |MP3|

[via SF Signal]

Posted by Jesse Willis

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