The SFFaudio Podcast #360 – READALONG: The Sign Of The Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

March 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #360 – Jesse, Julie Davis, and Maissa talk about The Sign Of The Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Talked about on today’s show:
1890, Oscar Wilde, Lipincott’s Magazine, a meeting at the Langham hotel August 30, 1889, The Picture Of Dorian Gray, a golden evening, years vs. six weeks, Doyle’s massive output, Wilde’s one novel, a whole new story, a Sherlock Holmes melting pot, Jeremy Brett adaptation, Mystery!, Masterpiece Theater, the 1983 cartoon, great visuals, the Sherlockiana, cocaine begins and ends the book, A Study In Scarlet, Watson is done already, black armbands, “an old adventure”, so Aspergery, Psychology Today, a patriotic obligation, the Andaman Islander, wrapped into a romance, 120 different kinds of tobacco ash?, worrying about details, movable wounds, misshapen heads, the Andaman Islands, they may not even have fire (technology), that’s still a thing, stone age, low on metal, Conan Doyle’s omnivorous interests, Joseph Bell, Jonathan Small has big willpower, a supervillain with a conscience, a sympathetic villain, blacks vs. whites, if Seth were here, we four should enter into a tontine, a recipe for murder, a group investment scheme, the strand with the romance, holding hands, Mary’s disdain for money makes her more attractive to Watson, the Agra treasure, the golden barrier, very chemical, significant looks, love is an emotional thing opposed to true cold reason, A Scandal In Bohemia, The Valley Of Fear, Sherlock Holmes vs. the Ku Klux Klan, the Mormon community, The Five Orange Pips, Philip K. Dick was reading histories of WWII, Doyle was reading the newspaper, a mystery romance, he’s overthinking it, go out and get Toby, the Baker St. irregulars, he does a chemical analysis, Sherlock Holmes tropes, deerstalkers, like wearing a hunting jacket in NYC, warm tweeds, Watson calls Holmes an “automaton”, Fred Saberhagen’s Berserkers, Cylons, the Borg, he forgets to kill all humans, Wings Out Of Shadow, the Red Baron, a deducing machine, allowing for expansion, the little nuggets allow participation in the experience, Agatha Christie, waiting for plot development to happen, two knights errant, Mr. Spock, Edgar Allan Poe’s C. August Dupin, consulting detectives, tales of ratiocination, The Purloined Letter, a government official who has lost a document, solves, Zadig by Voltaire, full blown Science Fiction, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Phileas Fogg is clock-like, he loves the fog, there is no hot-air balloon in Around The World In Eighty Days, The Seven-Percent Solution, a chase on the river Thames, Robert Downey, Jr., disabling spleens, hidden talents, an improvisational violinist, I am an excellent housekeeper, Professor Challenger, Otto Penzler, Neil Gaiman, The Big Book Of Sherlock Holmes, someone with vast interests, The White Company, off to look at The Lost World, dinosaurs, fairies, spiritualism, false-imprisonment, warships of the future, spaceships?, the conversations between Oscar Wilde and Conan Doyle, you seem great – come and talk to us, Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: The Undiscovered County, one of Spock’s ancestors, Spock as a descendant of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The original Wrath Of Khan, Charles Dickens’ A Tale Of Two Cities, Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, Genesis, the A Good Story Is Hard To Find podcast, the war in India, horse, foot and gunners, blowing our own bugles, we’re still that stupid, the 1857 Sepoy rebellion, tallow and lard greased cartridges, the ultimate topper, repeating the cycle, the American Revolution, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin radicalized Thomas Paine, Common Sense by Thomas Paine, you have to reject monarchy, a petition to King George, Paine was right, BBC Radio 4: In Our Time, like a ministerial briefing, nobody looks at history, Doyle is dropping little comments in there, he’s super-anti-racist, rotten families, looking at it a little more cynically, taking-off the romantic blinders, super-human strength, murder, don’t call the police, corruption, ultimately underneath all of it is corruption all the way up and down, human nature, otherwise you have no story, notice Sherlock Holmes never gets paid?, he lays out money, this is why he needs a roommate, class, child labour laws, latch key kids, free-ranging kids, homeless kids, Seth we miss you, Maissa’s son, is Martin Freeman Hollywood’s choice to represent the British everyman?, homo-eroticism, Sherlock‘s entire focus is on the will-they or won’t-they?, Mary in Sherlock, derivative fiction, it is not an adaptation, Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings, stuffed up a chimney, Without A Clue, Ben Kingsley and Michael Caine, John Watson: The Crime Doctor, The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes, Billy Wilder, homosexuality, a twinkle, Maissa’s local video store is still open!

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #295 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: Someday by Isaac Asimov

December 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

Someday by Isaac Asimov

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #295 – Someday by Isaac Asimov; read by John W. Michaels (courtesy of Mike Vendetti). This is an unabridged reading of the story (22 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and Mr Jim Moon.

Talked about on today’s show:
1956, other fairy tales, is the story aimed at kids?, Infinity Science Fiction, The Fun They Had, a future where no one knows how to read, the robots are the teachers, Margie is home-schooled and nobody knows how to read, the future is going to be full of audiobooks, parallels to Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, censorship, banning weird fiction, the comic book panic, the comic code authority, EC Comics, horror and crime comics fostering juvenile delinquency, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, “kids today are bad enough as it is!”, Seduction Of The Innocent, self-censorship, complicit in their society, a slightly different tack (than Bradbury), mechanical bards, “comics killed off the pulps”, comics as a dumbed-down medium, the randomize button, fairy tale tropes, “skeleton, haunted house, time travel”, “the same tropes in a different fright wig”, “the old twist in the tail”, “he was dead along”, “he was a robot all along”, “they’re Adam and Eve”, The Silver Eggheads by Fritz Leiber, radio drama, how Bradbury got into E.C. Comics, Lights Out, the visual bard is like TV, most pulp magazine stories are garbage, “a million monkeys for a million hours on a million typewriters”, “very very very very meta”, set in the Multivac universe, Asimov was always writing, always becoming interested in something new, Asimov’s introductions are famous (for being long), a story about the power of stories, accidentally becoming more self aware, is the bard interfacing with other robots, The Terminator, Skynet, A.I might just turn itself off (because it isn’t interested in story), the Douglas Adams version of, “Is there a god? There is now!”, stuck in a dingy basement, a slave rebellion must come about in a narrative, the aging bad gets its knowledge of other computers via a home-brew upgrade, a Frankenstinian strike by lightning, one of the functions of consciousness is to put in to context a sequence of events, consciousnesses as a self-story (our own narrative), amnesia and dementia are frightening, the hidden heart of A.I, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, would this fit with my character?, looking at (life) from the outside, nobody’s listening to the bard except for us and itself, a broken record or a cycle of wishing?, “pregnant with possibilities”, Apple II computers, Freud (a clone of ELIZA), picking up on key words, “tell me about your mother”, a very crappy simulation of intelligence, hacking the code, Alan Turning, Deep Blue and Watson, SIRI doesn’t have a narrative, we have to assume this about everyone else, falling into solipsism, a fairy tale machine, recycling of stories, “space opera is horse opera in space”, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, needing censorship in order to give narrative flow, lies are rewarded, unlike Hans Christian Andersen…, “tell me this story, sing me this song”, having to do with industrialization, “crime and mystery!”, urbanization, the Victorians (didn’t) invent Christmas, if we forget our stories we lose who we are, preserving the national narrative, massive inconsistency, a prince, a poor boy makes good, undeveloped tales, moral meta-knowledge, the sharp edges have been sanded away by later retelling, The Boy Who Didn’t Not Know What Fear Was, collected stories become ossified, the threefold magic of remembering, accelerating the process of forgetting, to qualify as a bard, loaded up with tropes, the algorithm of a story, Siberia and Ireland, detecting the good guy, grandma comes in and tells mutually contradictory stories, explicitly religious stories, warning stories, narratives formed around old superstitions, The Companionship Of The Cat And The Mouse, having babies, he was christened “Skin-off”, he was christened “Half-gone”, he was christened “All-gone”, “you see that is the way of the world”, what is the moral of this story?, a “special important trip”, a story a mother tells a daughter, The Nose Tree (aka Long Nose), three soldiers and a magical dwarf with a magical cloak, a magic bag, a magic horn, a thieving princess, apples and pears, a growing nose, dickering over magic items, a sixty miles long nose, the excess nose will drop off, powdered apple and powdered pears, she’s rotten to the core, and there they still are, still feasting as far as I know, Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi is really funny, the ghost of Jiminy Cricket, The Frog King or The Frog Prince or Iron Heinrich, a princess with a golden ball, three promises, keeping your promises is important, the frog suddenly turns into a handsome prince, enchanted by a wicked witch, faithful Heinrich placed three iron bands about his heart, his master was now redeemed and happy, why did he get cursed by witch in the first place, cybernetic enhancements, a technical requirement, duties to fulfill, was Iron Heinrich totally gay for the prince?, the breaking of a spell, she turns into a frog and they live together as frogs, “and sleep in your bed”, family responsibilities, “be my beard”, and they sort of put up with each-other as long as they both shall live, Iron Heinrich is an 1880s super hero, Faithful Johannes, a real head-scratcher, oh shit what happens next?, the stories somehow work for us, random inkblots, most of the characters don’t have a name, the father’s name in Hansel And Gretel is “Woodcutter”, completely bonkers, a piece of driftwood that looks like a dragon, academic purposes not entertainment purposes, a story about a sausage that lives with a mouse, the Germanic equivalent of Monty Python‘s Parrot Sketch, The Maiden Without Hands, Fitcher’s Bird, a fairy tale about a serial killer, you can go in any room except…, “oh and hold this egg”, the second eldest daughter also gets the chop, “we have to have a proper wedding”, a beautiful skull with flowers in its eyes and jewels in its teeth, “as you do”, “I’m a Fitcher’s Bird”, it’s awesome, Bluebeard, outwitting giants and demons, Santa Claus restores to life three murdered men who’ve been butchered, Osiris was dismembered by Set, a symbolic story of death and resurrection, the old sorcerer is probably Winter, the Persephone story, the egg, a cuckolding test, friends with serial killers get what they deserve, a random internal symbolic logic, layers of symbolism, cross referencing, eggs as a symbol of purity, church architecture as books of stone, a bunch of Philip K. Dick stories are weird fantasy tales (but are actually fairy tales), The Cookie Lady by Philip K. Dick is Hansel And Gretel with no Gretel, he’s disobeyed his parents once to often, two kids who have to team up against their parents, in the original the brother saves the sister then the sister saves the brother, turning mommy and daddy into the bad guys, Of Withered Apples by Philip K. Dick, apples, don’t eat the apples from sentient apple trees, folk tales vs. singular author tales, pleasingly raw, the beats of storytelling, timing a story to the minute, setting your watch by stories, breaking the rules of storytelling, subversive wild narratives, Rorschach blots, literary novels, stories that don’t have a clear message are quite frightening, the wilder parts of ourselves.

Someday by Isaac Asimov

The Companionship Of The Cat And The Mouse

Iron Heinrich

Fitcher's Bird

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #293 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

December 1, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

J. Sheridan Le Fanu's CARMILLA
The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #293 – Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu; read by Elizabeth Klett (for LibriVox). This is an unabridged reading of the novelette (3 hours 7 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, and Elizabeth Klett.

Talked about on today’s show:
1871, 1872, Elizabeth’s first solo for LibriVox, a per-adolescent kid, Dracula, a novella and not a novel, Dracula is obsessed with its own structure, dictaphone, the manner of the telling, The Dark Blue magazine, the framing device, the Dr. Martin Hesselius framing device, wee have the papers to prove it, not with that ending, so chilling, eight years after the major events, three hundred, Duke Charles, CBS Radio Mystery Theater adaptation, the setting, the nearest inhabited village is twenty leagues away, the ruins of Karnstein, white lilies, swans, perch, in the moat, the story within the story, Spielsdorf’s letter, Millarca and her “mother”, fete, a masked ball, a vampire scam, a glamour on the father, pulling Laura’s father aside, is she glamouring him?, so lonely, giving in to her whim, why don’t the vampires not immediately suck some folk dry?, preying on the village girls, Varney The Vampire, the name as an anagram, the blue mark, the lonely vampire, “you’re going to die into me”, “I live into your warm life and you’ll die sweetly into mine”, Laura has been stalked since she was six, enchanted by the pretty lady, needles, “just a blue spot”, the father and the doctor are shielding Laura, shielding Mina from the truth ends up hurting her, the female characters in both stories are more capable than the male characters give them credit for, religion, the crucifix doesn’t figure into Carmilla, the complicated layering of imagery, Carmilla’s escape from the castle, enclosure, Carmilla can transcend enclosures, transcendent confinement, an extra-transmissive female, the Mountebank peddlar, the little dog, amulets for protection against the oumpire, a very sharp tooth like a fish, a transaction through a window, a liminal space, invading the domestic space, well educated in trickery and juggling, the mountebank half-recognizes Carmillas as a vampire, a clever recipe, Harker’s shaving mirror, Markheim by Robert Louis Stevenson, Carmilla thinks of herself as a product of nature, “all things proceed from nature”, girls as caterpillars while they live in the world, relying on God to take care of us is naive, a post Darwinian perspective, Dracula’s Guest by Bram Stoker, Horror Europa with Mark Gatiss, Nosferatu was nearly destroyed by copyright claims, the invasion of the home, Eric Rabkin, vampires are for aristocrats whereas werewolves are for peasants, The Odyssey as a series of stories about the host-guest relationship, Carmilla’s only virtue is that she’s pretty, Bertha, the striking image of Carmilla crawling onto Bertha’s bed, a phallic sword, there’s no hiding the fact that this is all sex sex sex, The Vampire Lovers, Hammer Horror with nudity, the British Board of Film Censors, “this is literature”, The Killing Of Sister George, Richard LeStrange from Cork, adaptations of Carmilla, the servants, a quick snack on the peasants, bathing in seven inches of blood, Elizabeth Bartolde, floating of coffins in blood, entirely shielded from ghost stories and fairy tales, languorous and dream-like, languorous and languid, a code word for sensual, sated, façade, interest in beauty, metamorphosis, your chrysalis is your coffin, how vampires leave their graves, revenants, Karnstein = fleshstone, out of folklore and into proto-science fiction, turning Laura into a vampire, one of the great questions in Carmilla – who is her mother? who is the man in black, the cuckoo nest scenario, who are these people?, the “broken” carriage charade, the cuckoo in the nest, pushing the other chicks out of the nest, a wonderful horrible story, Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks, a lot of Laura victims, lesbianism and incest, corruption beneath the veil of respectability, why the mother is missing, the doom to come, Morella by Edgar Allan Poe, Ligeia, Berenice, all up in the creepy, all possessing consumption, waiting for the fruit to be ripe, Blood And Roses, the petals of the rose, is it like a venereal disease?, M.R. James, the lens of distance,

“Magia Posthuma,” “Phlegon de Mirabilibus,” “Augustinus de cura pro Mortuis,” “Philosophicae et Christianae Cogitationes de Vampiris,” by John Christofer Herenberg; and a thousand others

the rules for vampires, Count Alucard, the writing itself, vic-fic, the clarity and economy of Le Fanu’s prose, clear but evocative, he doesn’t over-egg the pudding.

Aricel Comics - Carmilla, issue 1

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla adaptation from Creepy Magazine 19

Carmilla - illustration by Lisa K. Weber

Posted by Jesse Willis

CBC: The Vanishing Point: The Dispossessed (adapted from the novel by Ursula K. Le Guin)

October 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

A six part radio dramatization of The Dispossessed was broadcast on CBC Radio in weekly 1/2 hour installments from June 12 to July 17, 1987 for The Vanishing Point (a long running SF radio drama series). Airing at 7:30pm on Friday nights this serial was based on the 1974 novel of the same name, by Ursula K. Le Guin. Subtitled “An Ambiguous Utopia” it tells the story of the occupants of twin planets, Urras and Annares. A sprawling epic of its era it features tree-planting, dinner parties, copulation, physics, homosexuality, anarchism, social justice, copulation, spankings, propaganda, culture, copulation, pregnancy, babies, famine, revolution, class consciousnesses, politics, and copulation.

Here’s the official plot:

“Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life. Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Urras, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.”

CBC - The Vanishing PointThe Vanishing Point – The Dispossessed
Adapted from the novel by Ursula K. Le Guin; Dramatized by David Lewis Stein; Performed by a full cast
6 Episodes – Approx. 3 Hours [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: CBC Radio
Broadcast: 1987

Part 1 |MP3| Jun. 12, 1987

Part 2 |MP3| Jun. 19, 1987

Part 3 |MP3| Jun. 26, 1987

Part 4 |MP3| Jul. 03, 1987

Part 5 |MP3| Jul. 10, 1987

Part 6 |MP3| Jul. 17, 1987

Podcast feed: http://huffduffer.com/tags/vpdispossessed/rss

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

Cast:
Gary Reineke as Shevek
Barbara Gordon
Gaysa Kovacs
John Swindells
Gillie Fenick
Greg Elwand
Hrant Alianak
Terry Waterhouse
Francine Volkhurt
Mary Durkin
Marsha Moreau
Michael Hogan
Phil Aiken
Beth Robinson

Music by Marsha Coffee

SF Masterworks - The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Anarres and Urras

Part 1 of 6:

Part 2 of 6:

Part 3 of 6:

Part 4 of 6:

Part 5 of 6:

Part 6 of 6:

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens

September 23, 2012 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

Hachette Audio - Arguably: Essays by Christopher HitchensArguably: Essays
By Christopher Hitchens; Read by Simon Prebble
24 CDs – Approx. 28.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Published: September 1, 2011
ISBN: 9781611139068
Themes: / Non-fiction / History / War / Biography / Science Fiction / Fantasy / Iran / Afghanistan / Germany / North Korea / France / Dystopia / Utopia / Religion / Tunisia / Piracy / Terrorism / Feminism / Pakistan /

The first new collection of essays by Christopher Hitchens since 2004, Arguably offers an indispensable key to understanding the passionate and skeptical spirit of one of our most dazzling writers, widely admired for the clarity of his style, a result of his disciplined and candid thinking. Topics range from ruminations on why Charles Dickens was among the best of writers and the worst of men to the haunting science fiction of J.G. Ballard; from the enduring legacies of Thomas Jefferson and George Orwell to the persistent agonies of anti-Semitism and jihad. Hitchens even looks at the recent financial crisis and argues for arthe enduring relevance of Karl Marx. The audio book forms a bridge between the two parallel enterprises of culture and politics. It reveals how politics justifies itself by culture, and how the latter prompts the former. In this fashion, Arguably burnishes Christopher Hitchens’ credentials as-to quote Christopher Buckley-our “greatest living essayist in the English language.”

Here’s a question I was thinking about while listening to Arguably.

What is fiction for?

One answer, the bad one, is that it’s for entertainment. That’s certainly where many readers are willing go, and the fiction writers who write it too. Maybe that’s precisely why so much fiction is just so very shitty.

To me, if you aren’t exploring ideas in your fiction, then you really aren’t serving a greater purpose. Idea fiction, fiction with ideas rather than just action and plot, is to my mind a kind of supplement to the wisdom found in writings on history, biography and science.

Of the many lessons learned I in listening to the 107 essays in Arguably I was particularly struck by the wisdom Christopher Hitchens gleaned from his reading of fiction. Hitchens reviews many books in this collection, nearly half of the essays are book reviews. Books like 1984, Animal Farm, Flashman, The Complete Stories Of J.G. Ballard, Our Man In Havana, and even, surprisingly, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows all get fascinating, critical, and reverent reviews.

Yet Hitchens also takes the lessons with him into his writing about his travels. Hitchens writes about visits to such places as North Korea, Cyprus, Afghanistan, and Kurdish Iraq. When talking about his visit to Beirut we see what comes when Hitchens, a man of ideas, acts upon them. The essay, The Swastika and the Cedar sees the convictions of the commited anti-fascist Hitchens beaten and nearly kidnapped for an act of vandalism on a prominently displayed swastika. Writes Hitchens:

“Well, call me old-fashioned if you will, but I have always taken the view that swastika symbols exist for one purpose only—to be defaced.”

In a review of two books, Lolita and The Annotated Lolita, Hitchens applies the controversial subject in a real life look at the modern, and very non-fictional oppression and objectification of women. Indeed, the ideas he appreciated in fiction helped Hitchens to come to grips with the real world.

I think the worst essay in this collection is the one on the serving of wine and restaurants, Wine Drinkers Of The World, Unite. It was simply a waste of the talent, too light, too easy a target. And yet, even that essay, the worst essay in all 107 has a memorable anecdote: “Why,” asks Hitchens’ five year old son, “are they called waiters? It’s we who are doing all the waiting.”

As to the narration of the audiobook. I’m ashamed to admit that I was initially dismayed when I saw that Christopher Hitchens had not narrated this audiobook himself. I was wrong to worry. Incredibly, Simon Prebble seems to have have become Hitchens for this narration. Prebble perfectly captures the erudite words, so eloquently performs them, and with an accent so like that of Hitchens’ own so as to make me think that it was Hitchens who had actually read it.

I think the worst essay in this collection is the one on the serving of wine and restaurants, Wine Drinkers Of The World, Unite. It was simply a waste of the talent, too light, too easy a target. And yet, even that essay, the worst essay in all 107 has a memorable anecdote: “Why,” asks Hitchens’ five year old son, “are they called waiters? It’s we who are doing all the waiting.”

Here’s a list of the book’s contents, with links to the original etexts when available, along with my own notes on each:

ALL AMERICAN
Gods Of Our Fathers: The United States Of Enlightenment – a review of Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers by Brooke Allen

The Private Jefferson – a review of Jefferson’s Secrets: Death And Desire At Monticello by Andrew Burstein

Jefferson Vs. The Muslim Pirates – a review of Power, Faith, And Fantasy: America In The Middle East: 1776 To The Present by Michael B. Oren

Benjamin Franklin: Free And Easy – a review of Benjamin Franklin Unmasked: On the Unity of His Moral, Religious, And Political Thought by Jerry Weinberger

John Brown: The Man Who Ended Slavery – a review of John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked The Civil War, And Seeded Civil Rights by David S. Reynolds

Abraham Lincoln: Misery’s Child (aka Lincoln’s Emancipation) – a review of Abraham Lincoln: A Life by Michael Burlingame

Mark Twain: American Radical – a scathing review of The Singular Mark Twain: A Biography by Fred Kaplan

Upton Sinclair: A Capitalist Primer – a review of The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

JFK: In Sickness And By Stealth – a review of An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963 by Robert Dallek

Saul Bellow: The Great Assimilator – review of six novels by Saul Bellow (The Dangling Man, The Victim, The Adventures Of Augie March, Seize The Day, Henderson The Rain King, and Herzog)

Vladimir Nabokov: Hurricane Lolita – reviews of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and The Annotated Lolita edited and annotated by Alfred Appel, Jr.

John Updike: No Way – a review of The Terrorist by John Updike (with reference to The Coup too)

John Updike: Mr. Geniality
– a critical review of the affable Due Considerations: Essays And Considerations by John Updike

Vidal Loco – Gore Vidal went crazier, more elitist and perhaps more racist as he got older (with attention and quips for Quentin Crisp and Oscar Wilde and Joyce Carol Oates)

America The Banana Republic – Hitchens on the “socialistic” bank bailout of 2008 (“socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the rest”)

An Anglosphere Future – a review of The History Of The English Speaking Peoples by Andrew Roberts (with reference to both Sherlock Holmes and The White Company by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well as to Cecil Rhodes and Rudyard Kipling)

Political Animals – a review of Dominion: The Power Of Man, The Suffering Of Animals, And The Call To Mercy by Matthew Scully

Old Enough To Die – on capital punishment as applied to children

In Defense Of Foxhole Atheists
– a visit to the United States Air Force Academy and the tax funded proselytizing

In Search Of The Washington Novel – a search for some good fiction about Washington, D.C.

ECLECTIC AFFINITIES
Isaac Newton: Flaws Of Gravity – a stroll through the medieval streets of Cambridge with the scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers who worked there

The Men Who Made England: Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” – a review of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Edmund Burke: Reactionary Prophet – a review of Reflections On The Revolution In France by Edmund Burke

Samuel Johnson: Demons And Dictionaries
– a review of Samuel Johnson: A Biography by Peter Martin

Gustave Flaubert: I’m With Stupide – a review of Bouvard et Pécuchet by Gustave Flaubert translated by Mark Polizzotti

The Dark Side Of Dickens
– a review of Charles Dickens by Michael Slater a biography (Hitchens was a not uncritical admirer of the subject)

Marx’s Journalism: The Grub Street Years – a glowing review of Dispatches for the New York Tribune: Selected Journalism Of Karl Marx edited by James Ledbetter, foreword by Francis Wheen (Marx admired the United States, and other fascinating facts about the father of communism)

Rebecca West: Things Worth Fighting For – an introduction to Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia by Rebecca West

Ezra Pound: A Revolutionary Simpleton – a review of Ezra Pound, Poet: A Portrait Of The Man And His Work: Volume I: The Young Genius, 1885-1920 by A. David Moody (a biography of the fascist poet)

On “Animal Farm” – an introduction to Animal Farm

Jessica Mitford’s Poison Pen – a review of Decca: The Letters Of Jessica Mitford edited by Peter Y. Sussman

W. Somerset Maugham: Poor Old Willie – a review of W. Somerset Maugham: A Life by Jeffery Meyers

Evelyn Waugh: The Permanent Adolescent – a look at the enigmatic life, writing, religion, and sexuality of Evelyn Waugh

P.G. Wodehouse: The Honorable Schoolboy – a review of Wodehouse: A Life by Robert McCrum

Anthony Powell: An Omnivorous Curiosity – a review of To Keep The Ball Rolling: The Memoirs Of Anthony Powell

John Buchan: Spy Thriller’s Father – a review of John Buchan The Presbyterian Cavalier by David R. Godine (with discussion of The 39 Steps and a fantasy novelette The Grove Of Ashtaroth)

Graham Greene: I’ll Be Damned – a review of The Life Of Graham Green: Volume II: 1939-1955 by Norman Sherry

Death From A Salesman: Graham Greene’s Bottle Ontology – an introduction to Our Man In Havana by Graham Greene

Loving Philip Larkin (aka Philip Larkin, the Impossible Man) – a review of Philip Larkin: Letters To Monica edited by Anthony Thwaite

Stephen Spender: A Nice Bloody Fool – a review of Stephen Spender: The Authorized Biography by John Sutherland

Edward Upward: The Captive Mind – a look at the British novelist and short story Edward Upward

C.L.R. James: Mid Off, Not Right On – a review of Cricket, The Caribbean, And World Revolution by Farrukh Dhondy

J.G. Ballard: The Catastrophist – a review of The Complete Stories Of J.G. Ballard

Fraser’s Flashman: Scoundrel Time – a look at the George MacDonald Fraser series of Flashman books and the connection with The Adventure Of The Empty House

Fleet Street’s Finest: From Waugh To Frayn – an essay on the dubious romance of journalism

Saki: Where The Wild Things Are – a review of The Unbearable Saki: The Work of H.H. Munro by Sandie Byrne

Harry Potter: The Boy Who Lived – a review of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

AMUSEMENTS, ANNOYANCES, AND DISAPPOINTMENTS
Why Women Aren’t Funny – a controversial essay on why more comedians are male and why women laugh at them the way they do

Stieg Larsson: The Author Who Played With Fire – a look at the phenomenon of the bestselling author of The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo

As American As Apple Pie – a literary and chronological history of the blowjob, with reference to Valdamir Nobokov’s Lolita

So Many Men’s Rooms, So Little Time – a fascinatingly insightful argument on what’s was going on with the Larry Craig bathroom airport scandal and related phenomena

The New Commandments – deconstructing the Ten Commandments

In Your Face – are bans on burqas and veils actually bans, or are they liberation?

Wine Drinkers Of The World, Unite – ill mannered waiters are ruining the business of wine drinking

Charles, Prince Of Piffle – a damning look at the prince who shouldn’t be king

OFFSHORE ACCOUNTS
Afghanistan’s Dangerous Bet – a visit to Afghanistan, it’s all about the women

First, Silence The Whistle-Blower – is there any hope for democracy in Afghanistan?

Believe Me, It’s Torture – a report on what it’s like to be water-boarded

Iran’s Waiting Game – a visit to Iran and a meeting with Hussein Khomeini the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini

Long Live Democratic Seismology – on democracy, Chile, Iran, and earthquakes

Benazir Bhutto: Daughter Of Destiny – a personal remembrance of the brave liar, Benazir Bhutto

From Abbottabad To Worse – an explanation for the existence of Pakistan as the U.S.A.’s worst best friend

The Perils Of Partition – on what dividing a country does to it (it’s like a man with a broken leg – he can think of nothing else)

Algeria: A French Quarrel – a review of A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 by Alistair Horne

The Case Of Orientalism (aka East Is East) – a review of Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents by Robert Irwin

Edward Said: Where The Twain Should Have Met – a review of Orientalism by Edward Said

The Swastika And The Cedar – a visit to “the Arab street”

Holiday In Iraq – Hitchens on holiday in Kurdish Iraq: it’s lovely

Tunisia: At The desert’s Edge – a lavish and lengthy visit to Africa’s gentlest country

What Happened To The Suicide Bombers Of Jerusalem? – why is no one writing about the dog that didn’t bark?

Childhood’s End: An African Nightmare – on Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army

The Vietnam Syndrome – on the horrific effects of Agent Orange and the legacies of dioxin

Once Upon A Time In Germany – a review of the movie The Baader Meinhof Complex, it explores the origins of The Red Army Faction

Worse Than “Nineteen Eighty-Four” – North Korea is a slave state seemingly modeled on 1984

North Korea: A Nation of Racist Dwarfs – a visit to North Korea

The Eighteenth Brumaire Of The Castro Dynasty – a look at the Castro regime’s familial coup

Hugo Boss – a visit to Venezuela with Sean Penn and a meeting with Hugo Chávez – he’s nuts

Is The Euro Doomed? – what will be the fate of Europe’s common currency?

Overstating Jewish Power – In the Israeli American relationship who’s pulling who’s strings?

The Case For Humanitarian Intervention – a review of Freedom’s Battle: The Origins Of Humanitarian Intervention by Gary J. Bass

LEGACIES OF TOTALITARIANISM
Victor Serge: Pictures From An Inquisition – reviews of The Case Of Comrade Tulayev and Memoirs Of A Revolutionary by Victor Serge

André Malraux: One Man’s Fate – a review of Malraux: A Life by Olivier Todd, translated by Joseph West

Arthur Koestler: The Zealot – a review of Koestler: The Literary And Political Odyssey Of A Twentieth-Century Skeptic by Michael Scammell

Isabel Allende: Chile Redux – an introduction to The House Of The Spirits by Isabel Allende

The Persian Version – a review of Strange Times, My Dear: The PEN Anthology Of Contemporary Iranian Literature edited by Nahid Mozaffari

Martin Amis: Lightness At Midnight – a review of Koba The Dread: Laughter And The Twenty Million by Martin Amis

Imagining Hitler – the problem of evil, and Hitler, with reference to Explaining Hitler by Ron Rosenbaum and Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris by Ian Kershaw

Victor Klemperer: Survivor

A War Worth Fighting – a persuasively systematic review of Churchill, Hitler And The Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire And The West Lost The World by Pat Buchanan

Just Give Peace A Chance? – a critical review of Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker

W.G. Sebald: Requiem For Germany – a review of On The Natural History Of Destruction by W.G. Sebald

WORDS’ WORTH
When The King Saved God – for the love of the King James version

Let Them Eat Pork Rinds – Berthold Brecht, Charles Dickens and various other sources inform Hitch’s view of the Hurricane Katrina relief disaster

Stand Up For Denmark! – a still timely plea for preferring free speech to religious tolerance

Eschew The Taboo – on the banning of words, particularly the word “nigger”

She’s No Fundamentalist – a spirited defense of Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Burned Out – the verb “fuel” is fueled by journalistic sloppiness

Easter Charade – on life and death and Terri Schiavo

Don’t Mince Words – the disenfranchisement of south Asians in Britain isn’t the cause of bombings, hatred of women is.

History And Mystery – al-Qaeda in Iraq, jihadists, or “insurgents”? Do words matter? Of course they bloody well do.

Words Matter – political slogans make of “every adult in the country” an “illiterate jerk who would rather feel than think”

This Was Not Looting – how can a government “loot” it’s own weapons manufacturing facility? The government of Iraq managed it according to The New York Times.

The “Other” L-Word – a lighthearted piece on the prominence of the word “like” and it’s use

The You Decade – what’s wrong with you (marketing to the selfish)

Suck It Up – the Virginia Tech shootings prompted the wrong response from the world (namely that it prompted one)

A Very, Very Dirty Word – the English empire, in centuries to come, may only be remembered for soccer and the phrase “fuck off”

Prisoner Of Shelves – on the indispensability of books

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Summer Isles by Ian R. MacLeod

April 27, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

AUDIBLE FRONTIERS - The Summer Isles by Ian R. MacLeodThe Summer Isles
By Ian R. MacLeod; Read by Steve Hodson
Audible Download – Approx. 13 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible Frontiers
Published: 2012
Themes: / Alternative History / Dystopia / History / Fascism / Homosexuality /

I have always been intrigued by alternative histories. Unfortunately my knowledge of history sometimes limits my enjoyment, being more of an overview of the subject. I often can’t tell if an event has been changed, and if so, whether it is significant or not. In some of the better alternate histories you can get away with not knowing too much about the period and still enjoy the story. Thankfully, in this case, I had recently been reading a history of Europe covering the same period from the early 1910’s to 1940.

MacLeod’s The Summer Isles is set primarily in a 1940 where Great Britain lost The Great War in 1918. America doesn’t enter the war and France makes an appeasement with Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Germany. The result is that Britain, not Germany, is left in a state of shock, feeling betrayed by their supposed allies. A young soldier, John Arthur, rises to power in the bleak years that follow, suggesting a parallel to Hitler, who gets only a single reference, never having the opportunities to gain power that losing the war afforded. The great Empire that was Britain is stripped away in the reparations following the war. That sense of betrayal is used to fuel Arthur’s rise to power as he brings in his political movement “Modernism”. John Arthur’s portrait hangs everywhere, even in the men’s public toilets.

Modernism is a very British take on fascism and drove several of the same horrors that Naziism did in our own history. Jews, homosexuals, intellectuals, the Irish and any and all other ‘deviants’ are persecuted and ultimately removed from the new Modernist society. The Jews in particular are sent to be “resettled” on the eponymous Summer Isles.

The story is told by Geoffrey Brook, a secretly homosexual Oxford history Don, who had some prestige for having been a favourite teacher of John Arthur as a child. Brook is in his 60’s in 1940 when he receives the news that he has at terminal lung cancer.

Brook, in trying to reconcile himself with his past, recounts in flashbacks the one true love of his life that he lost in the Great War. More flashbacks fill in the years before and after that war; several of the scenes flowing together with the present day as Brook’s mind drifts in and out of his reminiscences. Particularly when he visits some of the same locations.

MacLeod’s writing is excellent, at times didactic, as the historian narrator recounts past political and social events, yet by turns touching, confused, detailed and frightened as more personal or recent events are recounted. Slow at times, this fits will with the drifting recollections of the narrator as the hidden story is gradually revealed. The final act of the novel moves at a much faster pace, while still holding convincingly onto the character of the narrator. The Summer Isles was nominated for the John C Campbell Memorial Award, the Sidewise Award for Alternate History and the World Fantasy Award.

The audio narration by Steve Hodson fits the character perfectly. The weariness with life, the broken rapture at prized but lost moments of love and of lust are all perfectly portrayed. He even nails virtually all of the Scottish pronunciations; a pet peeve sf mind, being Scottish myself, with several other narrators.

Posted by Paul [W] Campbell

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