The SFFaudio Podcast #245 – It’s our -The Best of 2013! episode. For it we invited SFFaudio fans, SFFaudio reviewers, and SFFaudio participants to share their listening highlights of 2013. We asked folks to tell us about their favourite audiobook or podcast episode.
If you don’t see your favourites listed below, feel free to add them as a comment. And remember, it needn’t be a podcast or audiobook from 2013, only one you heard in 2013.
And if you leave a comment in the first week (and a way to contact you) you’ll also be eligible for a a FREE PRIZE audiobook mailed to your home (anywhere in the whole universe*)!
- The Stand by Stephen King, Read by Grover Gardner (Random House Audio)
- The Magicians and The Magician King by Lev Grossman, Narrated by Mark Bramhall (Penguin Audio)
- Hard Magic by Larry Correira, read by Bronson Pinchot (Brilliance Audio)
- Boy and Going Solo by Roald Dahl; Read by Dan Stevens (Penguin Audio)
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, Read by Neil Gaiman (Harper Audio)
- The SFF Audio Podcast #222 – Jesse, Jenny, Paul Weimer and Bryan Alexander discuss Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.
- The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, Read by George Guidall (Harper Audio)
- Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal, Read by Mary Robinette Kowal (Macmillan)
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Read by Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne (Random House Audio)
- The SFFaudio Podcast #232 – Scott, Jesse, Jenny, and Tamahome talk about The Prestige by Christopher Priest
- The SFFaudio Podcast #233 – Scott, Luke Burrage, and Jenny talk about Oryx And Crake by Margaret Atwood
- Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, dramatized by Dirk Maggs, BBC Radio 4
- World War Z by Max Brooks, multiple readers (Random House Audio)
- The Prestige by Christopher Priest, Read by Simon Vance (Blackstone Audio)
Posted by Jenny Colvin
*Mirror universe inhabitants need not apply
Talked about on today’s show:
Jonathan Davis, Pat Fraley, Scott Brick is the Brad Pitt of audiobooks and Simon Vance is the George Clooney of audiobooks, how Simon Vance got started, reel to reel tape recorder, Winnie The Pooh, BBC Radio 4, 1980s, Brighton, RNIB, Grover Gardner, George Guidall, The Book At Bedtime, Margaret Thatcher, California, San Francisco, Christian and devotional audiobooks, “we sound more intelligent (but we’re not)”, Stieg Larsson, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Audiofile Magazine, Earphone Awards, England, Sweden, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the apprenticeship, Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan, a classic dystopia, Thirteen (aka Black Man), The Steel Remains, The Cold Commands, artfulness and in-artfulness of narration, Doctor Who, overwhelming music -> overwhelming emotion, The Lord Of The Rings, the good narrators do the unexpected, “boo”, Dune by Frank Herbert (the full-cast audiobook), Goodreads.com, Simon Prebble, V For Vendetta by Steve Moore, the comic + the movie + Simon Vance = great audiboook, Natalie Portman was awesome, Stephen Rea, most novelizations are terrible, Hugo Weaving, James Bond, Ian Fleming, AudioGo, Blackstone Audio, the Green Knowe books, Listen And Live, Kate Fleming, The Prestige by Christopher Priest, a complicated book, a second chance, The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast review of The Prestige (episode #177), the movie of The Prestige, a final trick, one of the best Science Fiction movies of the last ten years, a thinking man’s book (and movie), The Illusionist, stage magic vs. CGI magic, The Magic Circle, Left for Dead: The Untold Story Of The Tragic 1979 Fastnet Race by Nick Ward and Sinead O’Brien, survival, Antarctica, fiction vs. non-fiction, a cabinet of heads, WWII, the Patrick O’Brian books (the Aubrey–Maturin series), Master And Commander, the incomplete book 21, Robert Hardy and Tim Piggot-Smith, what SFF Simon Vance book should we check out?, The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough, The Exodus Towers, The Plague Forge, zombie apocalypse, aliens, “good honest adventure”, Pan Books Of Horror, c, Rama, Rama II, The Man In The High Castle, Philip K. Dick, Mark Twain, Anthony Trollope, Charles Dickens, a PDF listing Simon Vance’s audiobooks, out of print audiobooks, Audible.com, Christopher Priest’s other audiobooks are done by other audiobook narrators, Peter Ganim, Robert J. Sawyer, The Player Of Games by Iain M. Banks, rights issues, keep your audiobooks.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Themes: / good versus evil / super-flu / post-apocalypse /
Stephen King’s apocalyptic vision of a world blasted by plague and tangled in an elemental struggle between good and evil remains as riveting and eerily plausible as when it was first published. A patient escapes from a biological testing facility, unknowingly carrying a deadly weapon: a mutated strain of -flu that will wipe out 99 percent of the world’s population within a few weeks. Those who remain are scared, bewildered, and in need of a leader. Two emerge—Mother Abagail, the benevolent 108-year-old woman who urges them to build a peaceful community in Boulder, Colorado; and Randall Flagg, the nefarious “Dark Man,” who delights in chaos and violence. As the dark man and the peaceful woman gather power, the survivors will have to choose between them—and ultimately decide the fate of all humanity.
I know, I just listened to Stephen King’s Carrie and now The Stand. I’ve found that reading one King book begets more just about every time. There’s something to these tragic characters that you need more and more of.
Now, I have to tell a quick story on this one and I promise this will (probably not) be the last time I tell it to intro a review for a Stephen King novel. This is THE novel I hated so I figure it has to be told here if anywhere.
A number of years ago, I was in Borders and that tells you it was a least a couple years ago. I hadn’t read Stephen King before this time, but you can’t help being an avid reader and reading King, it’s bound to happen at some point, he’s way too prolific. I was looking through his section and I decided I would either buy The Stand or The Talisman as I’d heard very good things about both. There happened to be a guy in the same section and I asked him to make the call. He enthusiastically pointed to The Stand and thus it was purchased. I was in the middle of a huge fantasy binge at the time, making up for lost time I guess since I was never a huge reader growing up. I had read The Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia and a number of other fantasy books, but it was always sporadic at best and this was a HUGE binge I’m telling you.
I had just finished The Riftwar Saga and loved it immensely. I had The First Law sitting on my shelf and waiting to be read, calling to me even. But I was determined to read this book everyone was talking about – The Stand by Stephen King. I started reading and it was compelling enough. The super-flu, or Captain Trips was interesting and it was obviously creating this world change, but the characters were almost too real. I didn’t really like any of them, maybe Nick Andros (and how do you not like him?) and it seemed to drone on and on without anything really happening. Yes, there were the coughs in the theater, the slow spread of the flu is documented ad nauseum, but at 300 pages in, I still felt like nothing was ever going to happen.
I figured, if I’m not enjoying myself at 300 pages, then when am I ever going to enjoy this book? So I stopped. This was no easy decision, let me tell you. After all the praise, I don’t even think I’ve ever heard one poor word said about this book, I had to keep pushing and 300 pages in is really a lot since I can drop a book now after 50 to 100 pages without any qualms whatsoever.
Somehow, a couple years later I was drawn into Stephen King’s world again. This time it was The Dark Tower series with the good folks at Goodreads. Everyone seemed to be reading this series a couple years back and so I jumped in. I didn’t love the first book, but it has some great moments. The second book made me rethink my whole opinion on King because it blew my mind in so many ways. The third and fourth are two of my top ten books I’ve ever read, so you know I got to thinking about my problems with The Stand and how this fantasy fan couldn’t get into it.
Thus, the reread or more like “retry.” This time, things were completely different. I loved it from just about the first page. The way the super-flu spreads is genius – one accident leads to the cough that’s heard around the world. Then we have the characters. The first time, I could hardly stand any of them. But this time, I absolutely loved them. It was simply genius to put them in situations that seemed monumental to them at the time and you just know it’s about to become the smallest thing in the world. The girl who has to tell her parents she’s pregnant, the guy who’s just had his first hit on the radio and blows all his money, the guy who works at a failing factory, the kid who just got beat up and robbed. Simply genius.
Then there’s the “bad guys” who aren’t even all that bad, who in fact have plenty of redeeming qualities, but who happen to be on the other side. Again, genius. I can’t stop using that word.
And for some reason none of this clicked the first time I attempted reading The Stand. I do have some theories, so indulge me if you would.
- I don’t think I was read for King and all his King-ness. You’d think after having read George R.R. Martin I could take brutal reality, but that was more an exception at the time from all my other non-realistic heroes and villains reading that I just wasn’t ready for this kind of reality.
- I didn’t really get the fantasy part of the book. I KNOW! The fantasy fan doesn’t get the fantasy! What is the world coming too? But I didn’t get it at all. We had this very realistic situation with very real people and then all of a sudden there’s this “walking dude” who embodies pure evil and even sparks some supernatural events. It just didn’t gel for me at the time and started to pull me out of the story. I knew this was considered a fantasy novel, but that wasn’t the kind of fantasy I was remotely comfortable with so it didn’t work for me at the time.
- The characters. I don’t know if I’ve grown a lot as a person since then (I like to think I have), but the first time I thought Frannie was just being a brat and Larry was completely dumb. Now, I can’t even believe I thought those things of some of my favorite characters. Frannie’s giggling in awkward situations alone should have made me love her! But how else would you deal with such a situation? It was so great, I didn’t even realize it.
M-O-O-N. That spells didn’t even realize it.
Needless to say, I’m very happy I gave The Stand a second try. This is one amazing book that’s constantly compelling, especially witnessing the birth of a new civilization and the interactions of some of the greatest characters I’ve ever read. Really the only problem I had was that it felt a little too long and drawn out and that’s got to be the expanded version. For me, if there’s ever the choice between more editing and less, you should really go with less. I feel like a great book was made a little less great by adding back in what was cut in the first place. But then again … money!
I know that was the longest way in the history of anything to say, wow, what a good book. From the rise of the super-flu to the dawning of a new civilization and the ever-overshadowing and always looming confrontation, this was one epic read. Not for the faint of heart (or even close – The Kid, just think of The Kid!), but definitely an experience not to be rivaled.
Grover Gardner is just about the perfect narrator for this story. He has just the right amount of twang to his voice for the multiple southern accents and it’s gruff enough for the subject matter as well. There are plenty of characters in The Stand and he nailed every one of them.
4.5 out of 5 Stars (very highly recommended!)
Posted by Bryce L.
By Edward M. Lerner; Read by Grover Gardner
Length: 10.5 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Themes: / Science! / satellites / engineers / NASA / terrorists / oil / energy / space / thriller /
The SFFaudio crew pegged me to read this book because the description says that one of the main characters is a NASA engineer. I always think it’s funny when people specify “NASA” engineer. It’s like on TV shows when you see people working near the space shuttle, they’re all wearing NASA hats. Nobody does that. The description could just as easily said “aerospace engineer” and the meaning would be the same…but less sexy, somehow. I admit, I was weary of reading this one at first. My experience with people who write about “NASA engineers” is that they have no idea what they’re talking about excepting cursory research. I’m happy to report that Edward M. Lerner does know what he’s talking about with regards to the space and satellite stuff (looking at his bio, it’s no surprise). That said, I went into this thinking it was going to be a science fiction book. It’s much more a mystery/thriller with science fiction elements. It’s as much “science fiction” as Daemon is (which is to say, not much).
In the interest of full disclosure, it’s probably worth mentioning that I am currently employed by a company that (among other things) designs and builds satellites, both for the government and the commercial sector. I currently work on the commercial side of things and have never worked on a NASA contract. There are definite holes and inaccuracies with the science and engineering in this book. But most people won’t recognize them, and they don’t impact the overall enjoyment of the story.
That disclaimer done with, Energized was pretty entertaining. Set in the near-future United States, the world has gone through a “crude-tastrophe” and the price of oil has skyrocketed to the tune of $20+/gallon to fill up a car. There is a fixed market, controlled mostly by Russian interests, for oil, so naturally the US explores alternate energy sources. Unfortunately, Rome wasn’t built in a day and it’s virtually impossible to produce enough energy via alternate sources overnight. NASA has been working on a large-scale satellite that can beam solar energy to earth from space.
The first third of the book (maybe closer to the first half) deals with the public (and private sector) reactions to this kind of a satellite and introduces the reader (listener?) to the concept and its risks. Admittedly, this section could have been shorter without sacrificing much of the story; it did seem to drag on a bit.
The second section of the book introduces the “thriller” aspect. As anybody in the aerospace industry is aware, the stuff built “for the powers of good” in/for space can usually be used to do evil. Sure enough, terrorists find a way to take over the satellite and use its harnessed energy to destroy ground-based and air-based targets. As is typical for thrillers, there are some good guys in the area, capable of stopping the terrorists. In this case it’s Marcus Judson, NASA engineer, one of the lead consultants for the power satellite project, along with some of his colleagues. Yet again, this section seemed overly long and drawn out.
However, the length of the first two sections may only seem long in relation to the final section–the part where the final “battle” occurs and either good or evil triumphs. This part felt a bit rushed, comparatively. In retrospect, I think it was probably the right length and that the other two parts were just a bit too long. I won’t spoil it for you, but the final “battle” involves maneuvering (literally and metaphorically) on the ground and on the 2 mile-on-a-side power satellite. It stretches the belief but still left me interested and wanting to listen to see what happened next.
As I stated previously, the book was enjoyable. It was a bit far-fetched but not so far-fetched as to be completely unbelievable. The science fiction elements are there and create an atypical setting for most mystery/thriller type books, and I’d recommend this to anybody that enjoys the mystery/thriller genre.
Grover Gardner is one of my favorite narrators and he shines in this type of book. He also narrates the Andy Carpenter books, another mystery/thriller series, so it feels natural for him to read Energized. The only “weirdness” I had is that the Andy Carpenter books have a character named Marcus as well, so hearing of two very different “Marcus” characters read by the same narrator was a bit jarring at times.
All in all, this is a popcorn-type book, easily consumed and digested. It does have its flaws (with the technical side of things as well as story length), but they’re not so big as to ruin the fun. If you’re in the market for a hard science fiction book with far-reaching themes, this isn’t the book for you. But if you’re in the mood for a thriller with science fiction elements, you’ll probably enjoy Energized well enough.
Review by terpkristin.
The SFFaudio Podcast #065 – Scott and Jesse and Luke Burrage talk about the latest audiobook releases!
Talked about on today’s show:
The Year’s Top Ten Tales Of Science Fiction – Volume 2 edited by Allan Kaster, Infinivox, On The Human Plan by Jay Lake, Tarnsman Of Gor by John Norman, Gorean subculture, The Chronicles Of Counter-Earth, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Boris Vallejo, Brilliance Audio, Dog Blood by David Moody, Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League, Hater by David Moody |READ OUR REVIEW|, David J. Williams, editing your novel, Gerard Doyle, Guillermo del Toro, Borders Of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold, The Reader’s Chair, Grover Gardner, Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold |READ OUR REVIEW|, Penguin Audio, The Left Hand Of God by Paul Hoffman, Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfus, A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire, Rosemary And Rue by Seanan McGuire, “urban fantasy warning”, fey vs. fairy, Audio Realms, Double Shadow by Clark Ashton Smith, H.P. Lovecraft, Weird Tales, William F. Nolan, Michael Bishop, F. Marion Crawford, Wayne June, The Empty House And Other Ghost Stories by Algernon Blackwood, Robert E. Howard, The Willows by Algernon Blackwood, The Things That Are Not There by C.J. Henderson, naming your weapons, Happiness Is a Warm Gun, Gonji: Red Blade From The East by T.C. Rypel, the anti-Marco Polo, Hunt: Through The Cradle Of Fear by Gabriel Hunt, The Hunt For Adventure series, Charles Ardai, Hard Case Crime, manly adventure, Christa Faust, Money Shot by Christa Faust, the Hitchhiker’s Guide series, Nancy Drew, James Reasoner, People Of The Dark: The Weird Works Of Robert E. Howard – Volume 2, CONAN, Queen Of The Black Coast, Castaways by Brian Greene, A Princess Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Disney edition (John Carter Of Mars), chain-mail bikini, Chicks In Chainmail, hauberk and coif, Gust Front: Legacy of the Aldenata by John Ringo, the Legacy of the Aldenata series, “military science fiction warning”, Flag In Exile (Book 5 In The Honor Harrington Series) by David Weber, “there is no happily ever after in a series”, Mass Effect, Steam, the wikipedia entry for Elder Race, big dumb objects, xenoarchaology, uplifting as a god replacement, Sid Meier, Babylon 5, Absolution Gap by Alastair Reynolds, Heechee vs. XeeLee, lamp-shading the foam forehead, GoodReads.com, Smoke by Donald E. Westlake, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, House Of Suns by Alastair Reynolds, Century Rain, Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds, The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, Audible.com, Audible Frontiers, Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Oath Of Fealty by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Fallen Angels by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Michael Flynn, Eifelheim by Michael Flynn, The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, Steve Feldberg, Ubik by Philip K. Dick, Science Fiction And Politics podcast, Lost, Geek Nights podcast, The Darkness That Comes Before, The Lies Of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch |READ OUR REVIEW|, middle grade vs. young adult vs. vampire romance, The Books Of Elsewhere: The Shadows by Jacqueline West, Penguin Audio, Song Of The Dragon by Tracy Hickman, Brilliance Audio, fantasy, Harriet Klausner, Tracy And Laura Hickman’s Eventide, Adventures In Sci-Fi Publishing, Medal Of Honor (pre-order), Dragonlance, 23 Hours by David Wellington, vampires, comics, Classics Illustrated #3: The Count Of Monte Cristo, Epic Illustrated, The Rook, Unknown Worlds Of Science Fiction, Behold The Man by Michael Moorcock, Conan: Black Colossus, Garth Ennis’ The Boys, Herogasm, the video review of Herogasm, The Guns Of August by Barbara Tuchman, GraphicAudio, Batman: Inferno by Alex Irvine, “I’m Batman”, Elantris, Writing Excuses, Cory Doctorow, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson, Anathem by Neal Stephenson, The Way Of Kings, A Game Of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, Luke’s Pick Of The Week: The Writing Excuses Podcast, “stories have to have an end”, Epic Fantasy’s appeal is that it has no end, The Lord Of The Rings vs. A Game Of Thrones, Eric S. Rabkin, I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells, Scott’s Pick Of The Week: GraphicAudio’s Batman: Inferno by Alex Irvine, Jesse’s Pick Of The Week: The Sandbaggers, BFS Entertainment, Ian Mackintosh, James Bond, espionage, Queen & Country by Gregg Rucka,
Posted by Jesse Willis