Review of Human Weakness by Karen Traviss

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The 7th Anniversary Reviewapalooza continues! May contain nuts.

Science Fiction Audiobook - Halo EvolutionsHuman Weakness
By Karen Traviss; Read by Jen Taylor
Contained in Halo: Evolutions
90 Minutes – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Published: 2010
Themes: / Science Fiction / Military SF / Artificial Intelligence / Computers / Aliens /

I have died more deaths per minute in Halo than anyone else I know. I spawn, look around, and thud. Or boom. Or thump thump thump. I spend a LOT of time waiting to spawn. Don’t like to brag, but my rate of death has to be some kind of record.

So I listened to this Halo story by Karen Traviss. “Human Weakness”, it’s called. It’s a good story about an artificially intelligent computer that is left behind when The Flood arrives and the humans run for their lives. The story is about something called “The Gravemind”, a borg-like malevolent entity that assimilates data, and it’s attempt to infiltrate the left-behind AI. No matter how much the Gravemind tries to convince the AI to allow it access, the AI refuses. Interesting! Not too many humans in this story.

I mentioned this to a friend of mine whose Halo death rate is respectable. I told him that the AI’s name was Cortana, and he knew exactly who that was. Then I realized that she’s the girl that talks to me at the beginning of Halo 3. That sent me to the Halopedia, where everything started coming together. I haven’t played much Halo in story mode, obviously, but I’m more interested in doing so than I was. A big storyline!

And oh yeah! The narrator was top-notch. Her name is Jen Taylor.

The description of the Halo: Evolutions anthology:

When humanity expanded beyond the safety of Earth to new stars and horizons, they never dreamed what dangers they would encounter there. When the alien juggernaut known as the Covenant declared holy war upon the fragile human empire, millions of lives were lost—but, millions of heroes rose to the challenge. In such a far-reaching conflict, not many of the stories of these heroes, both human and alien, have a chance to become legend. This collection holds eleven stories that dive into the depths of the vast Halo universe, not only from the perspective of those who fought and died to save humanity, but also those who vowed to wipe humanity out of existence.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

SFPRP: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

January 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

Luke Burrage, in the first of two shows with me as a guest on Science Fiction Book Review Podcast, is reviewing and talking about The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells. Its a fun exercise, we run down the whole book and talk about other invisibility stories too. Have a listen…

The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast SFBRP #078 – H.G. Wells – The Invisible Man
1 |MP3| – Approx. 58 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: SFBRP.com
Podcast: Monday, January 18, 2010

Here’s what we talked about:
The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, the public domain status of the writings of H.G. Wells, Luke and Jesse in conversation, The War Of The Worlds, The Island Of Dr. Moreau, The First Men In The Moon, Luke’s review of The Time Machine, Sussex, invasion literature, mad scientist, horror, thriller, the village of Iping, invisibility, scientific invisibility, What Was It?, haunted house, the 2000 film Hollow Man, Smoke by Donald E. Westlake, the development of the invisibility meme, creating tension in a scene with exposition, Luke’s review of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, the Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan Raiders Of The Lost Ark story conference |PDF|, a Nazi monkey, Griffin (the titular Invisible Man) as an anti-hero, The Ring Of Gyges (found within Plato’s The Republic), invisibility as a cipher for moral character, invisibility is good for nothing other than spying, if you’re an invisible person you’ll need a confederate, The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Miss Pim’s Camouflage by Lady Stanley, WWI, Invisible Agent, WWII, isolation, moral isolation, anonymity, Eric Rabkin’s point about, refractive index, albinism, the sleight of hand that H.G. Wells uses in The Invisible Man and The Time Machine, The Crystal Egg by H.G. Wells, Mars, long distance communication, what is the serious problem with invisibility? [the answer is a DEFEATER for any truly HARD SF story], the background for The Time Machine is Charles Darwin, evolution and the class system, the background for The War Of The Worlds is invasion literature, war and colonialism, Eddie Izzard‘s colonialism through flags, the background for The Invisible Man is personal responsibility, isolation and moral character, Thomas Marvel (the tramp with an invisible friend), the parallels between The Invisible Man and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and Fawlty Towers, psychopathy, sociopathy, the one ring’s invisibility, invisibility for burglary is only half as useful as you’d expect, imagine the Sauron’s ring in the hands of Denethor, Boromir, or Gandalf!, the filmspotting podcast, visit Luke’s website!

http://www.sfbrp.com/?feed=podcast

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Jack Finney

May 29, 2008 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Jack Finney Invasion of the Body Snatchers
By Jack Finney; Read by Kristoffer Tabori
6 CD – 6.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 9780786157815
Themes: / Science Fiction / Invasion / Aliens /

“I warn you that what you’re starting to read is full of loose ends and unanswered questions….Now if you don’t like that kind of story, I’m sorry, and you’d better not read it. All I can do is tell what I know.”—from the book

On a quiet fall evening in the small, peaceful town of Mill Valley, California, Dr. Miles Bennell discovered an insidious, horrifying plot. Silently, subtly, almost imperceptibly, alien life-forms were taking over the bodies and minds of his neighbors, his friends, his family, the woman he loved—the world as he knew it.

First published in 1955, this classic thriller of the ultimate alien invasion and the triumph of the human spirit over an invisible enemy inspired the acclaimed 1956 film, directed by Don Siegel and starring Kevin McCarthy, one of Time magazine’s 100 Best Films.

The image of Donald Sutherland at the end of the 1978 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers—mouth yawning open, eyes rolled back, finger stabbing at the screen—haunted me throughout my childhood. I stumbled onto the now iconic scene while watching television one day and it absolutely traumatized me. I found that alien shriek terrifying, and I still do.

It was with that chilling image gnawing at my mind that I began listening to the audiobook of 1955’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Jack Finney, upon which the Sutherland and as well as earlier (1956) film are based. I found out early on that, while lacking the visceral fear of the 1978 film, the novel evokes a deeper sense of dread, and also packs some literary and historic heft, including a deft examination of the political landscape of 1950’s America.

While I went into Body Snatchers listening for pure story alone, its subtext was undeniable. Body Snatchers was written during the height of McCarthyism, and you don’t have to try to look for parallels—Body Snatchers is as much a reaction to the existential threat of Communist Russia as it is a book about battling alien invaders.

But Body Snatchers is no simple allegory of the Red Scare, either. Finney also provides a nostalgic snapshot of a simpler time, infusing the story with elements that are largely fond relics these days—soda jerks, doctors’ home visits, and shoe-shine men, for example. Finney sets the book in 1976, but perhaps he sensed that, even in the mid-50’s, those elements of small town America were already starting to fade away. You can’t help but feel a sense of sadness and loss amid the growing horror.

For those who are unfamiliar with the plot of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, it’s a tale about an alien race of seed pods who drift through space, seeking out planets whose life they imitate with perfect simulacrums while the host body is absorbed.

The book opens with the narrator, Miles Bennel, living a quiet, uneventful life as a doctor in the small California town of Santa Mira. But soon a creeping, icy fear begins that builds deliciously over the course of the book, rising to near-panic when we learn the magnitude of the invasion. Remember that this is 1950’s style horror, so there’s no overt bloodshed or gore. But who needs splatterpunk when you’re confronted with an alien, parasitic race intent on consuming all life on the planet? Try to imagine the suffocating paranoia and slowly awakening terror of discovering that people all around you that you thought you new—teachers and sales clerks, husbands and wives—are being replaced by emotionless clones. And no one believes you.

Kristoffer Tabori reads the audio version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and does a wonderful job. He also shares in an interview on the final disc that his father, Don Siegel, directed the original 1957 film by the same name.

This is not a book without some flaws, however. One weakness is the spread of the aliens. At the risk of divulging a minor spoiler, the seed pods absorb their hosts’ bodies by growing in close proximity to their victims, typically in the basement of their homes. The process can take hours or days (how long is never revealed), but it begs the question: If Bennel and his friends managed to stumble upon a clone before it came fully to life, how come more Santa Mira residents didn’t do the same? Are we supposed to believe that every home has a convenient hiding hole in its basement capable of concealing three-foot long green vegetable pods? Also, the ending of the book was a bit of a let-down. I won’t spoil it, but suffice to say it felt a bit tacked-on and unsatisfying.

But, overall, Invasion the Body Snatchers is well-written and thought-provoking sci-fi/suspense, and a fine way to pass the time while commuting amidst the rest of the soulless conformists “packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes” on their way to the office.

Posted by Brian Murphy

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