Review of Dangerous Women

October 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Dangerous Women Dangerous Women: Stories
Edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
Narrated by Scott Brick, Jonathan Frakes, Janis Ian, Stana Katic, Lee Meriwether, Emily Rankin, Harriet Walter, Jake Weber
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 3 December 2013[UNABRIDGED] – 32 hours, 49 minutes
Listen to an excerpt: | MP3 |

Themes: / short stories / fantasy / women /

Publisher summary:

All new and original to this volume, the 21 stories in Dangerous Women include work by twelve New York Times bestsellers, and seven stories set in the authors’ bestselling continuities—including a new “Outlander” story by Diana Gabaldon, a  tale of Harry Dresden’s world by Jim Butcher, a story from Lev Grossman set in the world of The Magicians, and a 35,000-word novella by George R. R. Martin about the Dance of the Dragons, the vast civil war that tore Westeros apart nearly two centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones.

Also included are original stories of dangerous women–heroines and villains alike–by Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, Sherilynn Kenyon, Lawrence Block, Carrie Vaughn,  S. M. Stirling, Sharon Kay Penman, and many others.
 
Writes Gardner Dozois in his Introduction, “Here you’ll find no hapless victims who stand by whimpering in dread while the male hero fights the monster or clashes swords with the villain, and if you want to tie these women to the railroad tracks, you’ll find you have a real fight on your hands.  Instead, you will find sword-wielding women warriors, intrepid women fighter pilots and far-ranging spacewomen, deadly female serial killers, formidable female superheroes, sly and seductive femmes fatale, female wizards, hard-living Bad Girls, female bandits and rebels, embattled survivors in Post-Apocalyptic futures, female Private Investigators, stern female hanging judges, haughty queens who rule nations and whose jealousies and ambitions send thousands to grisly deaths, daring dragonriders, and many more.”

Stories and Narrators (in order of appearance):
“Some Desperado” by Joe Abercrombie; Read by Stana Katic
“My Heart Is Either Broken” by Megan Abbott; Read by Jake Weber
“Nora’s Song” by Cecelia Holland; Read by Harriet Walter
“The Hands That Are Not There” by Melinda Snodgrass; Read by Jonathan Frakes
“Bombshells” by Jim Butcher; Read by Emily Rankin
“Raisa Stepanova” by Carrie Vaughn; Read by Inna Korobkina
“Wrestling Jesus” by Joe R. Lansdale; Read by Scott Brick
“Neighbors” by Megan Lindholm; Read by Lee Meriwether
“I Know How to Pick ’Em” by Lawrence Block; Read by Jake Weber
“Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell” by Brandon Sanderson; Read by Claudia Black
“A Queen in Exile” by Sharon Kay Penman; Read by Harriet Walter
“The Girl in the Mirror” by Lev Grossman; Read by Sophie Turner
“Second Arabesque, Very Slowly” by Nancy Kress; Read by Janis Ian
“City Lazarus” by Diana Rowland; Read by Scott Brick
“Virgins” by Diana Gabaldon; Read by Allan Scott-Douglas
“Pronouncing Doom” by S.M. Stirling; Read by Stana Katic
“Name the Beast” by Sam Sykes; Read by Claudia Black
“Caregivers” by Pat Cadigan; Read by Janis Ian
“Lies My Mother Told Me” by Caroline Spector; Read by Maggi-Meg Reed
“Hell Hath No Fury” by Sherilynn Kenyon; Read by Jenna Lamia
“The Princess and the Queen” by George R. R. Martin; Read by Iain Glen

It took me a really long time to make it through this book, even with skipping stories, and that was a big sign that it wasn’t working for me. I love and read a lot of anthologies, and Dangerous Women was odd in that it only paid lip service to the theme. Most of these stories had nothing to do with women, dangerous or otherwise, instead focusing on men talking about women. Overall, while I was disappointed in this anthology, and would not recommend it, here are my spoiler thoughts on some of the best and worst individual stories (scroll to the end for a link to more!):

“The Hands That Are Not There” by Melinda Snodgrass
Jonathan Frakes from Star Trek: the Next Generation is the narrator!!! Fortune 500? Strip club? OK, I’m missing the dangerous women portion of this story at the beginning, and am a little confused overall. The main character doesn’t seem to have a great opinion of women in general. Suppose that’s not surprising considering this takes place during a bachelor party. “Sassy little buttocks”? I giggled when he shouted “blackout’. Genetic manipulation? What am I listening to?

Holy. Hell.

Aside from the novelty of the narrator, this was just bad. The characterization of women left a bad taste in my mouth. The prose was an unfortunate shade of purple. The plot twist was silly. So. Bad.

“Bombshells” by Jim Butcher – A Harry Dresden story
I’ve never read any of the Dresden books, although I’m vaguely familiar with the story, and this was a sorely needed palette cleanser after the last story. Except for the leg-shaving bit. Wut? That came across as trying a bit too hard. Bit more telling than showing than is to my taste. And hearing the phrase ‘soul gaze’ spoken out loud just pointed out how silly it is. Holy infodump on how magic works, but overall both the narrator and writing was A+.

“Raisa Stepanova” by Carrie Vaughn
Eeeeeee! Night witches! I love female pilots!

The writing is concise and easy to follow, but full of effective details that really conveyed the feeling of a fire fight. The plot was just heartbreaking. And a lovely relationship between siblings is the focus, rather than a romantic one. Such a nice change! This was an excellent portrayal of female non-competitive friendship. So good. One of the highlights of the anthology.

Narrator had a distinctive, lovely voice.

“I Know How to Pick ’Em” by Lawrence Block
Noir up the wazoo! This was a man’s man kind of a story, I guess. Wow. I had to skip this after he started fantasizing about beating the woman he was with. He had so much hate for women. I felt a little sick just listening.

Narrator has great, gritty voice.

“Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell” by Brandon Sanderson
This was a great story. Silence was amazing, and the world had just enough detail for you to believe and fill in the rest of the blanks. Her background as a bounty hunter was inventive, and I loved seeing the people people who crossed her get their eventual comeuppance.

Narrator had just enough weariness in her voice to be pleasing and appropriate to the story.

“The Girl in the Mirror” by Lev Grossman – A Magicians story
Fabulous characterization of mischievous girls at a magical school. Their talk is real, and the details are well delineated. Think Harry Potter but darker and meaner. Adorable short story. Just lovely.

As an added bonus, Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark on Games of Thrones, was the narrator. She hit the perfect tone, and I would definitely listen to her narration again.

“Second Arabesque, Very Slowly” by Nancy Kress
This was a very quiet, intense, and bleak story. The women are essentially kept for breeding in a post-apocalyptic setting, but during a young girl’s ‘budding’ ceremony, one woman voices her desire to be more. The narrator is the nurse, in charge of the health of the other women. There’s an undertone of packs and the urban forest in this story, like I was waiting for them to turn into werewolves. Women have dressed codes to avoid tempting men, but are somewhat in charge of deciding who they have sex with. The group finds a TV and get it to work. They watch a ballet. Now one of the beta males wants to learn how to dance to entertain the pack. They find a moment of beauty, but lose it just as quickly.

The narrator has an understated style that worked really well for this.

“Pronouncing Doom” by S.M. Stirling – An Emberverse story
This was the most unpleasant part of this whole experience.

At first I was interested, as there was a main character traveling with a baby and some practical discussion of how life with children after the apocalypse works. There were disabled characters, and the women seemed to have some autonomy in the society.

However, the story then turned into a rape trial. The victim recounts escalating abuse from one man, and how the other women blamed her for his actions. Then she describes his violent sexual assault of her, and I turned it off. I had no motivation to finish this story.

The narrator was very pleasant, and her deadpan accounting of the assault was chilling.

“Caretakers” by Pat Cadigan
It starts out with an innocent question about female serial killers. These two sisters live together and while one is obsessed with Red Dawn (Go Wolverines!) the other loves to watch shows about serial killers. There was a lot of realistic characterization driving the story, and rising tension as you begin to wonder exactly how much the sister likes serial killers.

Narrator did a fantastic job, fading back to let the story stand on its strengths.

“Lies My Mother Told Me” by Caroline Spector – A Wild Cards story
I felt a little behind by the abrupt entrance of the first scene, but loved the discussion of prettiness in relation to society. Parades and zombies and consumerism. Mothers and daughters and self-esteem. Fat and bubbles as defense. The villain was such a dick, and such a stereotype of gamer dudes. Overall amazing!

Fantastic narrator.

“The Princess and the Queen” by George R.R. Martin – A Song of Ice and Fire story
Finally. this is the whole reason I was interested in the first place. I’ve read a couple of the ASOIAF books, so I was interested in what Martin would do with two super-powerful women. Not much, it turns out.

Sooooo – everyone in Westeros has always been terrible and power-hungry? OK then. First Night rites? Really? Ahhhh I am so bored. Never has anything with dragons in it bored me as much as this has. It’s about queens, yes, but it’s still the men who do almost everything.

Good narrator, though.

Sarah reviewed each and every story, which you can see on her GoodReads review.

Posted by Sarah R.

The SFFaudio Podcast #233 – READALONG: Oryx And Crake by Margaret Atwood

October 7, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #233 – Scott, Luke Burrage, and Jenny talk about Oryx And Crake by Margaret Atwood.

Talked about on today’s show:
Where’s Jesse?, Eric S. Rabkin, SPOILER TERRITORY, Jenny loves post-apocalyptic dystopian novels, it ends with more questions than answers, a man wandering on the shore, a back and forth structure, Earth Abides by George R. Stewart, big disease, a week, Jimmy’s story, the story of the apocalypse, pigoons and rakunks, The Year Of The Flood, corporate compounds, New New York, dystopia, a future world and then an apocalypse, Octavia Butler, religion, Parable Of The Sower, a parallel story with backstory and humor, a sermon and a hymn by God’s gardeners, the audiobook, a planned trilogy?, the Culture series by Iain M. Banks, extinctathon, Madadam, expert splicers, a hacker genius, the world’s best ever minds, the floor model crakers, war is misplaced sexual aggression, they could eat their own poop, it seems like Jimmy survived through the plague because he wasn’t entirely human, he doesn’t have the right smarts, creating a creation myth, the blood and roses game, nothing was a mystery anymore, yup and tick, Quicktime Osama, Civilization V, is Oryx really Oryx?, SPOILER, “I’m counting on you.”, “If only he’d paid attention to his fridge magnets.”, the way that Jimmy comes to conclusions is kinda different, “he knew why he picked Oryx”, the First Law series, Joe Abercrombie, the music at the end of the audiobook started way too early, narrator Campbell Scott, Jenny hates the convenience of canned and frozen food, wolvogs, any other complaints?, Luke really didn’t like reading about people getting off on child pornography, Jimmy is obsessed with having people tell them stuff while he’s having sex with them, Atwood’s larger point, nighty-night.com, satire, in other parts of their brains and gonads, a big turn off, do I really have to listen to this now?, why is Crake destroying humanity?, neuronormative, there will be no child abuse, random levels of technology, a good novel, good Science Fiction?, technology, DVDs, most SF writers know, Colossus: The Forbin Project,

“Although ‘MaddAddam’ is a work of fiction, it does not include any technologies that do not already exist, or bio-beings that do not already exist, are not under construction, or are not possible in theory.”

it didn’t feel intentional, it felt clunky and badly thought out, Margret Atwood doesn’t want to call it Science Fiction, she’s just not interested, a lot different in tone and feel than most SF, the Booker prize list, this is a book about humans, super-reductive, what does it tell us about humanity?, social Science Fiction, this is pretty bad Science Fiction (but a good novel), the Science Fiction falls out of Crake’s brain, J.G. Ballard, Jenny’s book club experience, boycotted, people refusing to read Oryx And Crake because it is SF, SF lumpers try to deny, Star Wars isn’t SF, a literature of ideas, “the fear of this battlestation”, a perfect description of SF, literary fiction that’s SF, Gravity’s Rainbow, Infinite Jest, Luke doesn’t like sub-genres, gmail has tags, assigning, where do you shelf it?, in the modern world a book can be shelved in many shelves, Goodreads, own-poetry-unread, STAR RATINGS!, the Force is a fantasy element, “oh, here’s another Death Star.”

Jimmy's Father Worked For Organ Farms Inc. by Mat Roff

Jimmy Went In To See The Pigoons by Jason Courtney

Oryx And Crake illustration by Jeremy Wheeler

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #098 – NEW RELEASES/RECENT ARRIVALS

March 7, 2011 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #098 – Scott and Jesse talk with Luke Burrage about the new audiobook releases. And we also play Philip K. Dick’s “Preserving Machine” game in which you pick a piece of music and transform it into an animal.

Talked about on today’s show:
New releases, The Adjustment Bureau by Philip K. Dick, Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review, Roger Ebert, “Meet Cute”, Phil Gigante, The Stainless Steel Rat, Gregg Margarite, Russian Ark, Hermitage, The SFBRP Podcast, Your Movie Sucks, Dune, “This movie is a real mess, an incomprehensible, ugly, unstructured, pointless excursion into the murkier realms of one of the most confusing screenplays of all time.”, Korean movies mix humor, horror, drama, “the tone is off” in Shakespeare too, Unknown (a special edition of Out Of My Head), Berlin, Bronson Pinchot, Richard Matheson, On Stranger Tides, Bronson Pinchot has “a whole crew full of pirates in his mouth”, Audible.com, Beverly Hills Cop, Gideon’s Sword by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, Arthur C. Clarke’s Richter 10 by Mike McQuay, a Gene Wolfe writing exercise, The Unincorporated Man by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin |READ OUR REVIEW|, “trickster, prodigy, master thief”, techno-thriller-ish, Planet Of The Damned by Harry Harrison, West Of Eden, Bill The Galactic Hero, Long After Midnight by Ray Bradbury, Tantor Media, Michael Prichard, Drink Entire: Against the Madness of Crowds, The Odyssey of Homer, “he’s in a boat, Poseidon hates him, then he’s home”, the origins of Necromancy are in The Odyssey, Philip K. Dick was directly inspired by The Odyssey, An Improvised Life: A Memoir by Alan Arkin, James Randi, The Black Widowers, The Trapdoor Spiders, Isaac Asimov, the Amazing Larry, Luke jumps on giant balloons |VIDEO|, Galaxy Science Fiction magazine, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Physics Of The Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny And Our Daily Lives By The Year 2100 by Michio Kaku, Art Bell and Coast To Coast AM, Jesse thinks string theory is bullshit, 2012, Higgs boson, Tachyons, what’s wrong with futurism, Popular Mechanics/Popular Science and the flying car, filtering metastases, The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell, Cynical-C, Kenneth Branagh as Wallander, the relationship between Science Fiction and detective fiction is that both allow the reader to participate in them, who-dun-it? vs. what happened?, Sherlock Holmes vs. Columbo, Agatha Christie vs. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie, The Blade Itself, The Writing Excuses Podcast, The Orbit Books Podcast #1, Jack Womack, Tamahome, sycophantic interviews are bad, Robert J. Sawyer, “the best stuff happens after the interview”, Richard K. Morgan’s article on Tolkien, The Space Dog Podcast, Ballentine Books, The Fountains Of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke, Lester del Rey, Utopia by Sir Thomas More, Simon Prebble, Gulliver’s Travels, dystopia, A Truly Golden Little Book, No Less Beneficial Than Entertaining, of the Best State of a Republic, and of the New Island Utopia, Steen Hansen, “immersed in Americanism”, The United States vs. Canada, American utopianism vs. Canadian muddling through, British North America Act, the long gun registry, Winston Churchill, did Winston Churchill write SF?, Newt Gingrich as an alternate history novel, Plato’s The Republic, Mein Kampf, Dianetics, Meatball Fulton (aka Tom Lopez), Ruby, Lady Windermere’s Brass Fantabulous, Part 2, “purposefully ridiculous”, new Audible.com releases, Audible Frontiers, When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger, Jonathan Davis, The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds, “grimy and grungy and punky”, Pushing Ice, mining the Oort cloud, Century Rain, Journey To The Center To The Earth, Gulliver’s Travels, Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Kenneth Brannagh, Jorge Luis Borges, Stromboli, The Wise Man’s Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2) by Patrick Rothfuss, Random House Audio, The Vampire Archives: The Most Complete Volume of Vampire Tales Ever Published edited by Otto Penzler, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, undeadliest, Dreamsongs by George R.R. Martin, Heart Of Darkness, Alas Babylon by Pat Frank, Heavy Time by C.J. Cherryh, Lord Of Light by Roger Zelazny, Sri Lanka, Death Cloud by Andrew Lane, Venus by Ben Bova, The Children Of Dune by Frank Herbert, Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert, “talented readers” is a compliment?, “horribly unreadable” “throwthemacrosstheroomable”, family curse, Christopher Tolkien and Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, Saga Of Seven Suns, Hellhole, sickmyduck, The Preserving Machine by Philip K. Dick |ETEXT|, Doc Labyrinth, Mozart bird, Beethoven beetle, Wagner animal, this is Dick talking about music, “Hey Jesse you must be the coolest teacher out there”, what would The Beatles be, put Lady Gaga in out comes Lady Gaga?, Vampire Weekend into meercats, what gender is this website?, Band Of Horses would yield themselves, “Weird Al” Yankovic?, “I wonder what will happen next?”, A Scanner Darkly, Radiohead would be an owl, if the term “sellout” applies to anyone in the universe it applies to Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert, planetary romance vs. space opera, Greenland vs. Iceland, Berlin means bogtown, are Malad residents are Malodorous?

Posted by Jesse Willis

New Releases: Dick, van Cauwelaert, Preston/Child, Harrison, Bradbury, Homer, Arkin, Fulton, Abercrombie, More

March 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, New Releases 

New Releases

The Wikipedia entry notes that this story is in the public domain!

BRILLIANCE AUDIO - The Adjustment Bureau by Philip K. DickThe Adjustment Bureau (aka Adjustment Team)
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Phil Gigante
1 CD – Approx. 1 Hour [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: March 4, 2011
ISBN: 9781441894694
Sample |MP3|
The Adjustment Bureau is a major motion picture based on Philip K. Dick’s classic paranoid story, The Adjustment Team. This is the short story, The Adjustment Team, which asks the question – Do we control our destiny, or do unseen forces manipulate us? Ed Fletcher is a real estate agent with a normal life, until one day he leaves the house for work a few minutes later than he should have. He arrives at a terrifying, grey, ash world. Ed rushes home and tells his wife, Ruth, who goes back to the office with him. When they return, everything is normal. But he soon realizes people and objects have subtly changed. Panic-stricken, he runs to a public phone to warn the police, only to have the phone booth ascend heavenward with Fletcher inside…

Trade in Liam Neeson and the movie for Bronson Pinchot and the audiobook…

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - Unknown by Dider van CauwelaertUnknown (A Special Edition of Out of My Head)
By Didier van Cauwelaert; Translated by Mark Polizzotti; Read by Bronson Pinchot
4 CDs – Approx. 4 Hours 21 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: December 2010
ISBN: 9781441759788
This fast-paced thriller is the basis for the February 2011 film Unknown, starring Liam Neeson, Frank Langella, Diane Kruger, and Aidan Quinn. Martin Harris returns home after a short absence to find that his wife doesn’t know him, another man is living in his house under his name, and the neighbors think he’s a raving lunatic. Worse, not a single person — family, colleague, or doctor — can vouch for him. Worse still, the impostor shares all of Martin’s memories, experiences, and knowledge, down to the last detail. He is, in fact, a more convincing Martin than Martin himself. Is it a conspiracy? Amnesia? Is Martin the victim of an elaborate hoax, or of his own paranoid delusion? In his high-powered new novel, Didier van Cauwelaert, the award-winning author of One-Way, explores the illusory nature of identity and the instability of the things we take for granted. Dispossessed of his job, his family, his name, and his very past, Martin Harris is an Everyman caught in an absurd and yet disturbingly convincing nightmare, one that seems to have no exit and that resists every explanation. Part moral fable, part Robert Ludlum-style thriller, Unknown is a fast-paced tale of one man’s desperate attempt to reclaim his existence — even at the cost of his own life.

HACHETTE AUDIO - Gideon's Sword by Douglas Preston and Lincoln ChildGideon’s Sword
By Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child; Read by John Glover
9 CDs – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Published: February 22, 2011
ISBN: 9781600249976
Introducing Gideon Crew: trickster, prodigy, master thief GIDEON’S SWORD At twelve, Gideon Crew witnessed his father, a world-class mathematician, accused of treason and gunned down. At twenty-four, summoned to his dying mother’s bedside, Gideon learned the truth: His father was framed and deliberately slaughtered. With her last breath, she begged her son to avenge him. Now, with a new purpose in his life, Gideon crafts a one-time mission of vengeance, aimed at the perpetrator of his father’s destruction. His plan is meticulous, spectacular, and successful. But from the shadows, someone is watching. A very powerful someone, who is impressed by Gideon’s special skills. Someone who has need of just such a renegade. For Gideon, this operation may be only the beginning…

Here’s a public domain, single narrator, audiobook that’s caught my eye…

Planet Of The Damned by Harry HarrisonPlanet of the Damned
By Harry Harrison; Read by Jim Roberts
Audible Download – Approx. 6 Hours 11 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Jimcin Recordings (through Audible.com)
Published: June 10, 2010
In Planet of the Damned, Brion Brandd, the winner of “The Twenties”, a kind of planet-wide Olympics of both mind and body, barely has time to savor his victory when he is called away by a previous winner to help save Dis, a planet that seems intent on its own destruction and the destruction of it’s neighbor. When Brion and his friend Lea arrive on Dis, they are confronted by baffling questions. What planetary evolution has caused such a difference in the inhabitants? Why are one set of people deeply connected with the planet and one totally unconnected to anything but dominance and destruction? He must find the answersto these questions and find the link essential to saving both worlds while racing against a doomsday clock. It will take all their skill, courage, and empathy to do this.

I love that Tantor Media is releasing a short story collection AND listing the contents disc by disc…

TANTOR MEDIA - Long After Midnight by Ray BradburyLong After Midnight
By Ray Bradbury; Read by Michael Prichard
8 CDs – Approx. 9 Hours 30 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Piblished: July 26, 2010
In twenty-two stories of amazing range and variety, Ray Bradbury once again works his special magic, sounding out life’s mysteries in the past, present, and the future. Two drifters caught in the backwash of space wander from city to dead city, sifting the rubble for the fabled Blue Bottle of Mars—and find in it two different, equally entrancing, dooms… A young boy in Green Town, Illinois, does not marry—yet marries—his beloved eighth-grade teacher… In the hell of a Manhattan July night, Will Morgan is offered a possibly Mephistophelean proposal by which he might gain a perfect love and a magical immunity… A jealous husband who orders an exact replica of his unfaithful wife from an android manufacturing company (purpose: murder) runs afoul of the compassionate new “live robot” law… At forty-eight, seized with an overwhelming desire to settle an old score, a man journeys back into the past under the spell of his “utterly perfect, incredibly delightful idea,” only to recoil in stunned disbelief when he confronts, at last, his former tormentor… Bradbury’s imaginative field is boundless. In this book, his stories carry us from the cozy familiarity of the small-town America we lived in in Dandelion Wine to the frozen desert and double moon that have been part of our interior landscape since The Martian Chronicles. His characters range from the “ordinary”—a rookie cop, an unhappy wife on vacation in Mexico, an old parish priest hearing confession—to the quite extraordinary: the parrot to whom Ernest Hemingway confided the plot of his last, greatest, never-put-down-on-paper novel, and a woman who, in New York City in the summer of 1974, hangs out a sign reading “Melissa Toad, Witch.” Fantastic or conventional, chillingly suspenseful or hauntingly nostalgic, each of these stories has that aura of the unexpected combined with the special ring of absolute rightness that is brilliantly, uniquely Bradbury.

Track List for Long After Midnight:

Disc 1
“The Blue Bottle”—Track 1
“One Timeless Spring”—Track 10
“The Parrot Who Met Papa”—Track 16
Disc 2
“The Burning Man”—Track 2
“A Piece of Wood”—Track 9
“The Messiah”—Track 13
“G.B.S.—Mark V”—Track 21
Disc 3
“The Utterly Perfect Murder”—Track 3
“Punishment Without Crime”—Track 11
“Getting Through Sunday Somehow”—Track 19
Disc 4
“Drink Entire: Against the Madness of Crowds”—Track 1
“Interval in Sunlight”—Track 11
Disc 5
“A Story of Love”—Track 9
“The Wish”—Track 17
Disc 6
“Forever and the Earth”—Track 2
“The Better Part of Wisdom”—Track 17
Disc 7
“Darling Adolf”—Track 4
“The Miracles of Jamie”—Track 17
Disc 8
“The October Game”—Track 1
“The Pumpernickel”—Track 8
“Long After Midnight”—Track 11
“Have I Got a Chocolate Bar for You!”—Track 16
Not exactly new, but definitely worth highlighting…

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - The Odyssey Of HomerThe Odyssey of Homer
Based on the epic poem by Homer; Performed by a full cast
8 CDs – Approx. 9.3 Hours [RADIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: April 2003
ISBN: 0786192836
When this groundbreaking serialized dramatization premiered on radio, critics were unanimous in their praise, calling it “a feast for the ears” and “a magnificent blend of scholarship and showmanship.” It won numerous honors including the George Foster Peabody Award, the Pulitzer Prize of broadcasting. Now, twenty years after its first airing, Blackstone Audio is pleased to present this outstanding production, dramatized here with intermittent discussions by classical scholars. The 2,600-year-old poem tells of a man, a hero of cunning rather than brawn, who inhabits three worlds: the world of his own reality, the world of the gods and demigods, and the world of magic and monsters. The interweaving of these three worlds contributes significantly to the delight that The Odyssey has inspired throughout the ages.

It’s always exciting when a Science Fiction author writes his own biography (or memoir). Yes, in case you don’t believe it, Alan Arkin is really an SF author!

Blackstone Audio - An Improvised Life by Alan ArkinAn Improvised Life: A Memoir
By Alan Arkin; Read by Alan Arkin
4 CDs – Approx. 4.3 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: March 2011
ISBN: 9781441782274
In this insightful memoir, Oscar-winning actor Alan Arkin reflects back on finding his place as an actor and what theater—specifically the improvisational sort—has taught him about the craft and life. Alan Arkin knew he was going to be an actor from the age of five. From this early age, he recognized that “every film I saw, every play, every piece of music fed an unquenchable need to turn myself into something other than what I was.” An Improvised Life is Arkin’s wise and unpretentious recollection of the process, artistic and personal, of becoming an actor and a revealing look into the creative mind of one of the best practitioners on the stage and screen. Arkin, in a manner that is direct, down-to-earth, accessible, and articulate, reveals not just insights about himself but truths for the rest of us about our sense of self, our work, and our relationships with others.

The cover has a flying car. That seems unlikely. Flying trucks and or trains would be my guess.

RANDOM HOUSE AUDIO - PHYSICS OF THE FUTURE  by Michio KakuPhysics Of The Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny And Our Daily Lives By The Year 2100
By Michio Kaku; Read by Feodor Chin
13 CDs – Approx. 16 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 3/15/2011
ISBN: 9780307877055
In stunningly lucid fashion, award-winning theoretical physicist Michio Kaku synthesizes a vast amount of information to present an exciting roadmap of the century ahead, showing us just what life will be like in 2100. Discussing how science and technology will change our lives over the coming century, Michio Kaku calls on his own expertise and his phenomenal contacts to construct a fascinating and detailed look at the future. He discusses computer technology, artificial intelligence, medicine, nanotechnology, space travel, energy production, and the economy. Combining his own research with that of a myriad of experts, he forecasts a century of earthshaking advances in technology that make even the last centuries’ leaps and bounds seem insignificant. By 2100, the world will have changed dramatically: -Computers, as we know them, will likely cease to exist. Instead chips implanted in contact lenses will project your email, the front page of the newspaper, and in fact anything you currently see on a monitor directly onto your retina, and the cutting edge computer technology will be quantum computers which calculate using subatomic particles. -Life expectancy will probably reach 150 years. Our clothing will constantly monitor our vital signs and alert us to danger, and nanobots will continually scan our cells for signs of cancer. -We will be able to build entire buildings–atom by atom–using nanotechnology. -Most of our energy will come from non-polluting fusion reactors. -Cars will drive themselves with the help of GPS and an intricate network that monitors traffic patterns. The car will not have wheels but instead it will float on a cushion of air using cheap superconductors to create powerful magnetic fields which use up almost no energy. -Although we will probably have permanent manned-bases in space, the most far-reaching exploration will be conducted by millions of needle-sized space ships shot at near the speed of light to distant stars. And as remarkable as this all seems, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Michio’s vision is both optimistic and exuberant, but he also takes us through a step-by-step progression of likely achievements to show just why his forecast is realistic and, in many cases, inevitable. He also has a keen sense for the types of technologies we, as a species, are predisposed to actively pursue and therefore can separate what things we are likely to accomplish from those that will be relegated to the scrap heap of technology. In the end, he looks at how these developments will affect the way we work, the way we play and in fact, the very society in which we live in 2100.Like Physics of the Impossible and Visions before it, The Physics of the Future is an exhilarating ride through the next hundred years of breathtaking scientific revolutions.

In case you were wondering: Henning, Laurie and Robin are all dudes.

RANDOM HOUSE AUDIO - The Troubled Man by Henning MankellThe Troubled Man
By Henning Mankell; Translated by Laurie Thompson; Read by Robin Sachs
14 CDs – Approx. 17 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 3/29/2011
ISBN: 9780307877963
On a winter’s day in 2008, Hakan von Enke, a retired high-ranking naval officer, disappears during his daily walk in a forest near Stockholm . The investigation into his disappearance falls under the jurisdiction of the Stockholm police, but Wallander is personally affected: Enke is his beloved daughter Linda’s father-in-law. Before long, in his inimitable way, Wallander is interfering in matters that are not his responsibility, making promises he has no intention of keeping, telling lies when it suits him, paying little attention to normal procedure (including the law)–and, unlike the other detectives on the case, getting results. But the results seem to be pointing to elaborate Cold War espionage activities that confound even this master detective and grow more confounding the more he uncovers.The “troubled man” of the title is not just Enke, but also Wallander himself. The delighted grandfather of Linda’s newborn daughter, he is nonetheless obsessed with his physical and mental deterioration, negligent of his health and certain that at age 60, he’s on the threshold of senility. Haunted by his past, desperate to live up to the hope that his granddaughter presents him with, facing the future with profound uncertainty, Wallander will be forced to come face to face with his most intractable adversary: himself. Suspenseful, darkly atmospheric, psychologically gripping, THE TROUBLED MAN is Henning Mankell at his mesmerizing best.

To promote The Heroes, Joe Abercrombie went on the new Orbit Books podcast. Abercrombie was ok, but the host, Jack Womack, sounded like he’d bet every cent he owned on the novel being a bestseller. He’s not exactly obsequious, but the hyperbolic doesn’t do it for me. Have a listen |MP3|, judge for yourself.

TANTOR MEDIA - The Heroes by Joe AbercrombieThe Heroes
By Joe Abercrombie; Read By Michael Page
18 CDs – Approx. 22 Hours 30 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Published: March 2011
ISBN: 9781400118472
They say Black Dow has killed more men than winter and clawed his way to the throne of the North up a hill of skulls. The King of the Union, ever a jealous neighbor, is not about to stand by smiling while Black Dow claws his way any higher. The orders have been given, and the armies are toiling through the northern mud. Thousands of men are converging on a forgotten ring of stones, on a worthless hill, in an unimportant valley, and they’ve brought a lot of sharpened metal with them. Bremer dan Gorst, disgraced master swordsman, has sworn to reclaim his stolen honor on the battlefield. Obsessed with redemption and addicted to violence, he’s far past caring how much blood gets spilled in the attempt. Even if it’s his own. Prince Calder isn’t interested in honor, and still less in getting himself killed. All he wants is power, and he’ll tell any lie, use any trick, and betray any friend to get it. Just as long as he doesn’t have to fight for it himself. Curnden Craw, the last honest man in the North, has gained nothing from a life of warfare but swollen knees and frayed nerves. He hardly even cares who wins anymore; he just wants to do the right thing. But can he even tell what that is with the world burning down around him? Over three bloody days of battle, the fate of the North will be decided. But with both sides riddled by intrigues, follies, feuds, and petty jealousies, it is unlikely to be the noblest hearts or even the strongest arms that prevail. Three men. One battle. No Heroes.

I read this in my teens, along with a number of other classics, I should probably revisit.

TANTOR MEDIA - Utopia by Sir Thomas MoreUtopia
By Sir Thomas More; Translated by Bishop Gilbert Burnet; Read by Simon Prebble
4 CDs – Approx. 4 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Published: February 23, 2011
ISBN: 9781452601212
Sir Thomas More’s Utopia has spurred debate, reflection, and critical thinking since its original publication in the sixteenth century. More’s fictional island of Utopia provides an exploration of issues that shook him and his contemporaries and that continue to be problematic in the modern day. The details of More’s utopian society, such as the permissibility of euthanasia and comments on chastity in the priesthood, combine with proposals of coexisting varied religions to put forth a work that incorporates the totality of More’s religious, sociological, and philosophical talents.

A steampunk spoof with zombies from Meatball Fulton (aka Thomas Lopez)…

ZBS Foundation - Lady Windermere's Brass Fantabulous - Part TwoLady Windermere’s Brass Fantabulous, Part 2
By Meatball Fulton; Performed by a full cast
1 CD or MP3 Download – Approx. 75 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: ZBS Foundation
Published: January 28, 2011
The Zombies were created to fight the Not-So-Great-War. The Krauts have been using zeppelins to drop canisters of synthetic Zombie gas on various villages in hopes of creating a ravenous fighting force. Our hero, Butterfield-Smith, was flying low over the Rhineland when patriotic Prussian peasants pelted his plane with tomatoes and cauliflowers. The Prussian’s ground artillery, seeing a pilot and biplane appearing to be splattered with blood and bits of brain, believed the English had created a Zombie Flying Corp!

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #086

December 13, 2010 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Audio Drama, Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #086 – Jesse talks to Ben Aaronovitch. Aaronovitch is an SFF author, a former Doctor Who scriptwriter, and the lead writer of the Blake’s 7 audio drama series.

Talked about on today’s show:
the original Doctor Who, how to break into TV (in the mid 1980s), Andrew Cartmel, the price of VCRs in 1985, Caroline Aulton, Remembrance Of The Daleks, big budget BBC, Geoffrey Palmer, do it again with 40% more fear, Ben Aaronovitch’s blog Temporarily Significant entitled: I shall eviscerate you, Daleks and An Unearthly Child, racism, The Hand Of Omega, two sets of Daleks, proto-U.N.I.T., Battlefield, what killed the original Doctor Who?, the BBC!, the fetishization of the writer, Russel T. Davies, Queer As Folk, “a Doctor Who shaped whole in the British psyche”, Jon Pertwee, KVOS-TV, the abortive FOX Doctor Who reboot, Doctor Who as an episode of The X-Files, Paul McGann, The New Adventures of Doctor Who:Transit by Ben Aaronovitch, Rivers Of London by Ben Aaronovitch (aka Midnight Riot), Moon Over Soho, Whispers Underground, Peter F. Hamilton, “extruded fantasy product”, Michael Moorcock, Charlaine Harris, Diana Gabaldon, Harry Potter meets The Sweeney (the British version of Kojak), The Dresden Files (is “Gandalf noir”), reviews of Rivers Of London (aka Midnight Riot), Midnight Riot on GoodReads.com, negative reviews are very helpful, The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan, Morgan’s screed against J.R.R. Tolkien, Joe Abercrombie and China Miéville are good because they are good not because they are grim, the Blake’s 7 audio dramas started on The Sci-Fi Channel UK, Andrew Sewell, Rebel, Traitor, Liberator is an SFFaudio Essential |READ OUR REVIEW|, “Star Trek: British or Robin Hood in space”, Terry Nation, Chris Boucher, Avon’s one liners, Firefly, Farscape, the Blake’s 7 prequel series, Cally: Blood & Earth and Flag & Flame |READ OUR REVIEW|, Alistair Lock, the quality of the actors on Blake’s 7, Colin Salmon, Michael Praed, B7 is real Science Fiction ideas in a space opera setting, the internet is a huge echo chamber, the effect of torrents on Blake’s 7, B7 is on Audible.com (and Audible.co.uk), Bernice Summerfield, Big Finish, Blake’s 7: The Early Years: Zen: Escape Velocity (Volume 2.1), Series 2 of Blake’s 7 is already written, the rebooting of Battlestar Galactica, the Pegasus episode of BSG, landing a Battlestar was badly though through, Ronald D. Moore‘s Cylons didn’t have a plan, Lost, J. Michael Straczynski, television is like life, Dexter, detective shows can run longer, The Mentalist, Law & Order, why Doctor Who need never die, the Pertwee years, Doctor Who as the “universal television format”, Frankenstien = The Brain Of Morbius, Greek myth = The Myth Makers, there’s no end-game in Doctor Who, writers are used as a crutch by British TV executives, the credit given to writers by UK television, USA TV vs. UK TV, the writer’s room is very attractive, the homogeneous end product, Castle is beautifully written fluff, the psychic episode of Castle was soul-deadening, HBO, True Blood, Downton Abbey is kind of like Upstairs Downstairs, the problems of USA and UK TV, DaVinci’s Inquest, Intelligence, Downton Abbey, Highlander, Seacouver, The 4400 lake (is Buntzen Lake), “Caprica city is decaying”.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Update:

Here’s a photo I took of Buntzen Lake this morning.

Buntzen Lake, the morning of December 13, 2010

Review of The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

September 13, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Bade Itself by Joe AbercrombieThe Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One)
By Joe Abercrombie; Read by Steven Pacey
Audible Download – 22 Hours 18 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group
Published: 2010
ISBN: 9781409111443
Provider: Audible.com
Sample |MP3|
Themes: / Fantasy / Sword and Sorcery / Dark Humor / Revenge / Violence /

For a couple years now, Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law Trilogy has been at the top of my to-read list, but as I’m a slow print reader, the series inevitably yielded to more readily available audiobooks. Imagine my delight, then, when I recently realized that Orion Publishing Group had published the series in audio last June. The wait was worth it. The opening volume, The Blade Itself is a darkly humorous tale full of antiheroes and intrigue. Abercrombie’s strong writing and wry wit set The Blade Itself a cut above other novels in the reactionary subgenre of fantasy spawned by George R.R. Martin.

At first blush, the world of the First Law Trilogy looks like your average fantasy world. The bulk of the action takes place in Adua, capital city of The Union, a land with a dotard king facing imminent war on two fronts: the newly-unified North and the Gurkish Empire to the South. The city, and especially its central citadel the Agriont, is teaming with ambitious councilman, posturing soldiers, and brutal inquisitors. The North, as one might epect, is a sparse unwelcoming land peopled by warrior clans recently unified under the iron fist of King Bethod. In The Blade Itself we see only snatches of the Gurkish Empire, but it follows the usual desert formula for southern kingdoms. (Why do most fantasy series seem to be set in the Northern hemisphere?) This opening volume hints at an intricate magic system that underlies and informs the world, but so far it’s rather underdeveloped.

The viewpoint characters bring this seemingly run-of-the-mill fantasy world to life in vibrant color. Each character is an antihero, in some sense of the word. Like George R. R. Martin, Richard K. Morgan, and other recent writers, Abercrombie is writing against the tropes of the traditional good-versus-evil format of epic fantasy. Unlike some other writers in this vein, though, Abercrombie rarely seems too self-conscious about what he’s doing. Logen Ninefingers, dubbed the “bloody-nine” in the North, does not read like an anti-Aragorn, nor does Bayaz, First of the Magi, read like an anti-Gandalf. Rather, they’re fully developed characters in their own right.  Then there’s San dan Glokta, survivor of a horrible ordeal of torture at the hands of the Gurkish Empire who has in turn become a torturer for the inquisition. Rounding out the cast is Jezal, a headstrong noble youth determined to win the year’s fencing contest. With the exception of Jezal, these characters have endured tremendously hard lives, so naturally their thoughts aren’t filled with sunshine and butterflies. This is a dark book.

The fun lies in watching these characters come together and interact with one another. As in any good book, too, it’s fun to watch these characters, who we’ve come to empathize with even if we don’t actually like them, overcome their internal and external challenges. The most obvious case is Jezal and his fencing contest, which is brought to a most satisfying concentration. Then there’s Glokta, trying to stay afloat in the political post of Inquisitor, all while struggling merely to get out of bed. Then there’s Logen, fleeing his reputation as the “bloody-nine.” And at the heart of it all is Bayaz, First of the Magi, whose story hints at the direction the series may ultimately take. Bayaz, though not a point-of-view character, drives the plot in many ways, either subtly or overtly manipulating events to suit his needs.

If the book has a weakness, it’s the ending. Endings are always tricky things to pull off, especially in the first novel of a trilogy, where an author must bring the present volume to a satisfying conclusion while enticing the reader to continue with the series. Unfortunately, Abercrombie leans too far towards the latter. While the last hour or two of audio will be a treat for fans of vividly-depicted action sequences, they’re light on any satisfying story development. The ending certainly isn’t bad, it just left me a bit disappointed. On the other hand, it also did its job in whetting my appetite for the next volume.

As alluded to earlier, the standout character in The Blade Itself is perhaps Abercrombie’s deft writing style. Admittedly, it took some getting used to. I remember complaining on Twitter back when I first had a go at reading the print edition that the book was too full of sentence fragments and “said bookisms.” I stand by that complaint. The thing is, the style really fits the world and especially the characters. The dialogue reads like you’re sitting in on the conversation, especially under the standout narration by Steven Pacey. And while I’m not personally a fan of long action sequences, there’s no doubt that Abercrombie writes them masterfully. You can feel every bone-jarring sword blow and taste the tang of blood in the air.

I approached this audiobook with some hesitation. I feared that no narrator could match Michael Page’s performance of Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold. At best, I feared, I’d be disappointed; at worst, I wouldn’t even be able to listen to the book in its entirety. Fortunately, Steven Pacey is equal to the task of narrating such an ambitious work. His narration walks the fine balance of capturing the characters’ voices–literally and figuratively–without calling too much attention to them and thereby detracting from the story. The toothless Glokta, for instance, speaks with just a hint of a lisp, a slight slurring. Every now and then, his narration moves a touch too far toward the dramatic, but for the most part it’s spot on.

The Blade Itself, if it were a film, would carry a solid R rating, and therefore isn’t for everyone. Strong language and violence abound. Under its dark veneer of brutality, however, the novel shines with complex characters, compelling writing, and a story that, though not yet fully baked, promises to yield great rewards in subsequent novels.

Posted by Seth Wilson