The SFFaudio Podcast #346 – READALONG: The Man Who Japed by Philip K. Dick

December 7, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #346 – Jesse, Paul, and Marissa and Luke Daniels talk about The Man Who Japed by Philip K. Dick.

Talked about on today’s show:
When did Luke record The Man Who Japed?, a spate of Dicks, a good six months, generic knowledge, Dick’s writing is like Jack Kerouac’s, Now Wait For Last Year, Dick’s favorite The Man Who Japed, not Marissa’s favorite The Man Who Japed, post nuclear war, censorship and morality, the three-way war before Earth the Starmen and the Reegs, JJ-180, swimming through time, Eric Sweetscent, Alan Purcell, minor-Dick, it’s a big jape, the novels blend together, classic Dick, Allen’s ambivalence, it feels long for a short book, the corporate stuff, Dick’s women are never “flat” they are either “dumpy or perky”, girls and gals, full present or drugged up there’s always a wife, they love each other, loyal and sweet, home development, something pedantic and yet timely, something you’ve never seen, what’s happening in China at the time, living in a condo…, when I first moved into my conapt, a note under the door, “you have ruined my marriage”, using new found powers to search for nude women, you teach a man how to fish he has sex with that fish, council meetings, gossip, condominium apartments, how do people live together, overpopulation world, his bedroom turns into a kitchen, she’s putting her clothes in the oven, Billenium by J.G. Ballard, Make Room Make Room by Harry Harrison, Hokkaido is a radioactive wasteland, Newer York vs. New New York, drugs, how Dick writes the book, undercooked, free will, “it just happened”, a former NHL enforcer, the psychiatrist, memory, A Scanner Darkly, his propaganda job, the juveniles (the robots), “inDickitave”, a society running on fumes, extra-Solar colonies, you don’t want to stand all the way do you?, the big jape, how Dick’s vocab works, the title if it was written today “The Man Who Punked”, the alternate reality, Talking Heads’ Once In A Lifetime, the consequences here, the ending, the faces of the teenagers, as a narrator, what is Allen seeing in the faces of those teenagers?, Allen was always trying to protect people, immigration to Canada in 1988, how harsh the immigration officials were, skimming off the cream, oh you’re an audiobook narrator… ok, a couple Brit narrators are up in the seed vault in Svalbard, The Prisoner episode “A Change Of Mind”, unmutual, conforming drugs, writhing, adultery can get you kicked out of your lease, Mao as Major Streiter, The Three Body Problem, The Red Violin, juveniles -> Juvenal (the Roman satirist), teenagers as opposed to juveniles, the Cultural Revolution was pushed by kids, everything pulling toward the center, The Americans, the world “soviet” means committee, the cohorts (are kids), how Nazi Germany worked, Nazi youth in The Netherlands, kids acting like little-SS, witch hunts, more American than Dick admits, V, a very soft version, no-death camps, slave labour, nobody watches TV in the colony worlds, the spire and the statue of Major Streiter, Colonel Gaddafi character, General Washington and the Washington Monument, can you imagine state TV making fun of Ronald Regan, humour vs. the dictatorship, every authoritarian government, Mr. Whales is rewarded with another apartment, oomphalos, the center, the more morec you are, anti-morec, in anticipation of the big jape…, Dick japes the reader, active assimilation, the cultural revolution, like evil-BBC, the poll, this is the emperor’s new clothes, Jonathan Swift, it’s something Ronald Regan would do!, if it was good enough for the founding fathers…, if John Adams and the founding fathers were all cannibals, it was a different time, he was really good to his slaves (food), turning it into a joke, society is obsessed with propriety, is this the start of the fall of this society, dystopia, optimistic ending, when the cohorts arrived their reaction was to laugh, “Repent Harlequin!” Said The Tick-Tock Man by Harlan Ellison, like Metropolis, infected with laughter, this happens all the time in SF, science fiction like satire, Dick was going on and on about not being a Marxist, timelessness, a crapsack world, a tiller, The Space Merchants, that’s Madison Avenue taking over society, food isn’t really food anymore, the food is always in quotation marks, simulated “baked Alaskan”, we have all the things he was writing about, an artificial meat, tofu has long been with us, simulant meat, Secret Army, ‘Allo ‘Allo!, this isn’t real coffee, WWII is the really big start of all artificial foods, chicory coffee, after WWII Korea and Japan get Spam, Spam restaurants, Minnesota is the home of Spam, it reminds you of your youth, coming to love the crappy stuff that you have, we come to love the crappy worlds Dick creates, the radioactive island, Hokkaido is full of ideas, where’s the government?, society is just kind of null, not total totalitarianism (bottom up), there isn’t a death in the book, a surprisingly soft dystopia, busy-bodied woman, anything over 20mph is terrifying, milquetoast, The Coming Of The Quantum Cats by Frederik Pohl, a pro-Muslim Christian American theocracy, a prim 38mph, the Harvard Law review (on the Black Market), I The Jury by Mickey Spillane, “I Shot Her In The Uterus”, The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson, Guy de Maupassant, “breasts like two cones of white marble”, James Joyce, $10,000 for Ulysses, the sickness, The Grifters, Donald Westlake, how to advance your career in business by killing people, the mental health planet, an alternate world that’s not real, “but I only have $50!”, the missing 15,000 words, getting stuck in debt is a kind of dystopia, Mavis, taking care of cows, clean activities, soul sucking grinding horrible, the interrogation that happens there…, full of resentment, anonymous accusers, an open marriage, a c-class Dick novel, needs a little more spiced, not fully poached,

It is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant
of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself…

and

Pathic men that pretend to be moral exemplars are much worse than those who are open about their proclivities.

he’s talking about Republicans, the “wide stance”, puritanism, strider -> Streiter, making choices, that’s what this book is about, just wing it, self-assured hubris, “he’s an idea, not a man”.

The Man Who Japed by Philip K. Dick
Le Profanateur by Philip K. Dick
Word Cloud for The Man Who Japed by Philip K. Dick
The Man Who Japed by Philip K. Dick - Cast Of Characters

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Angles of Attack by Marko Kloos

August 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Angles of AttackAngles of Attack   (Frontlines #3)
By Marko Kloos; read by Luke Daniels
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 21 April 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 hours

Themes: / military sci-fi / weird aliens / combat power armor / humanity uniting /

Publisher summary:

The alien forces known as the Lankies are gathering on the solar system’s edge, consolidating their conquest of Mars and setting their sights on Earth. The far-off colony of New Svalbard, cut off from the rest of the galaxy by the Lanky blockade, teeters on the verge of starvation and collapse. The forces of the two Earth alliances have won minor skirmishes but are in danger of losing the war. For battle-weary staff sergeant Andrew Grayson and the ragged forces of the North American Commonwealth, the fight for survival is entering a catastrophic new phase.

Forging an uneasy alliance with their Sino-Russian enemies, the NAC launches a hybrid task force on a long shot: a stealth mission to breach the Lanky blockade and reestablish supply lines with Earth. Plunging into combat against a merciless alien species that outguns, outmaneuvers, and outfights them at every turn, Andrew and his fellow troopers could end up cornered on their home turf, with no way out and no hope for reinforcement. And this time, the struggle for humanity’s future can only end in either victory or annihilation.

The more I read Marko Kloos, the more I am impressed. This is military SF done right. The writing is solid, the story is solid, and the longer his Frontline series continues, the better it gets.

Angles of Attack is the third book in the Frontline series, and it is by far the best written and executed story. Kloos delivers truly strange aliens known as the Lankies that force a divided humanity to unite. The year is 2116, and it appears that Earth is about to fall.

When you begin navigating the military SF genre, you quickly, all too quickly, encounter massive info-dumps politely known as exposition, really super extra bad melodramatic writing, and fossilized tropes that just won’t die. And while Marko Kloos does employ some well-known tropes, he does so in such a way that it feels fresh, and the reader doesn’t mind the slight manipulation because the story is engaging.

Here’s the down and dirty of this book. The first four-fifths is stunning. The final one-fifth is comparable to something sticky stuck to the bottom of your shoe. You wish it wasn’t there, but you’re not sure how best to remove it, so you keep walking and hope that eventually it will simply go away. This is to say, even with the not so great last act of this book, it is a damn good story that is well written and worth your while to read.

Audiobook:
Get the audiobook. Luke Daniels hammers this reading out of the park. Seriously, find the audiobook and listen.

For those of you who aren’t entrenched military SF readers, the Frontline series by Marko Kloos is one of the best series to become familiar with the subgenre. I highly recommend this series, and this book.

Rating:
This is a 3.5 out of 5 that I am rounding up to 4 out of 5 because I feel generous.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

Review of Puttering About in a Strange Land

July 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Puttering About in a Strange Land PKDPuttering About in a Strange Land
By Philip K. Dick; Performed by Luke Daniels, Kate Rudd, Amy McFadden
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 hours

Themes: / marriage / boarding school / literary / infidelity /

Publisher summary:

When Roger and Virginia Lindhal enroll their son Gregg in Mrs. Alt’s Los Padres Valley School in the mountains of Southern California, their marriage is already in deep trouble. Then the Lindhals meet Chic and Liz Bonner, whose two sons also board at Mrs. Alt’s school. The meeting is a catalyst for a complicated series of emotions and traumas, set against the backdrop of suburban Los Angeles in the early fifties. The buildup of emotional intensity and the finely observed characterizations are hallmarks of Philip K. Dick’s work.This is a realistic novel filled with details of everyday life and skillfully told from three points of view. It is powerful, eloquent, and gripping.

Puttering About in a Small Land (written 1957 but first published in 1985) feels very different from Philip K Dick’s usual stuff. It’s a dark and funny slow-burn set in 1950s Southern California, but there are no simulacra, no time slips, and no telepaths, and the only artificial reality is the one built out of society’s expectations of suburban married life.

It also seems unusually sensitive for PKD – not in a corny or sentimental way but just finely tuned into human relationships. He captures the subtle and imperfect communications of a dysfunctional marriage where two people are pretending to work together but are really pushing and pulling below the surface, wanting different things and resenting each other for it.

“I’ll be back pretty soon,” he said. From his eyes shone the leisurely, confident look; it was the sly quality that always annoyed her.

“I thought maybe we could talk,” she said.

He stood at the door, his hands in his pockets, his head tilted on one side. And he waited, showing his endurance, not arguing with her, simply standing. Like an animal, she thought. An inert, unspeaking, determined thing, remembering that it can get what it wants if it just waits.

“I’ll see you,” he said, opening the door to the hall.

“All right,” she said.

The story is told in three alternating points of view: Roger, his wife Virginia, and the “other woman” Liz. All three are trapped, one way or another, in self-made realities they don’t enjoy.

Some readers complain that PKD writes unflattering female characters, and as usual these ones aren’t much to admire: Virginia is gossipy and judgmental, her mother is a controlling nag (who often corners Roger and has some of the funniest scenes in the book), and Liz Bonner is so naïve and childlike she verges on the idiotic.

“She’s sort of a—” Mrs Alt searched for the word. “I don’t want to say lunatic. That isn’t it. She’s sort of an idiot with a touch of mysticism.”

But even so, Virginia has her strengths, and Liz Bonner is lovely in a quirky way. Her flaws and naïve unpredictability are exactly what free her from society’s expectations, and are what attract Roger. Despite the deceit and infidelity, their love story is somehow still beautiful.

And to be fair, PKD also writes pretty unflattering men. For example, Roger not only cheats on his wife, he also abandoned his previous wife and daughter and seems to be a compulsive liar. He’s a bristly, bad-tempered, and indifferent to his wife’s gestures of love and compromise. All he really cares about his TV retail-and-repair business, which is where the book title comes from: he’s a little king “puttering about in a small land.”

The waning of a marriage and infidelity appear in a lot of PKD’s stories, but in this one they really drive this plot. Normally I wouldn’t try to detect an author’s own life in his fiction, but since PKD has openly admitted he weaves autobiographical details into all his stories, it seems safe to see something of him in Roger.

His essay “How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later” might give some more clues to his approach to fiction set in the real world. Just because the characters’ universe is based in reality doesn’t mean PKD won’t try to disintegrate it.

I like to build universes which do fall apart. I like to see them come unglued, and I like to see how the characters in the novels cope with this problem. I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it. Do not believe—and I am dead serious when I say this—do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or in a universe. … Unless we can psychologically accommodate change, we ourselves begin to die, inwardly. What I am saying is that objects, customs, habits, and ways of life must perish so that the authentic human being can live.”

I listened to Puttering About in a Small Land on audio and read the print version too. The audiobook was read by Amy McFadden, Kate Rudd, and Luke Daniels, one for each of the main characters. All three were great, although using three narrators didn’t work so well for me since the story is in third-person. Hearing the same characters read three slightly different ways gave the audiobook a patchwork feel and was a bit jarring and distracting sometimes.

I’d recommend Puttering About in a Small Land for PKD fans but not so much as an entry to his works. For anyone who knows his style, it’s very cool to see a more subtle side of him and to see how beautifully he can write about human relationships in the artificial universe we call reality. Definitely worth the read.

Posted by Marissa van Uden

 

Review of An Unwelcome Quest by Scott Meyer

March 24, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

An Unwelcome Quest by Scott MeyerAn Unwelcome Quest (Magic 2.0, Book 3)
By Scott Meyer; Narrated by: Luke Daniels
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 10 February 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 hours, 46 minutes

Themes: / hacker / time travel / fantasy / humor / wolves / wenches / wastelands /

Publisher summary:

Ever since Martin Banks and his fellow computer geeks discovered that reality is just a computer program to be happily hacked, they’ve been jaunting back and forth through time, posing as medieval wizards and having the epic adventures that other nerds can only dream of having. But even in their wildest fantasies, they never expected to end up at the mercy of the former apprentice whom they sent to prison for gross misuse of magic and all-around evil behavior.

Who knew that the vengeful Todd would escape, then conjure a computer game packed with wolves, wenches, wastelands, and assorted harrowing hazards – and trap his hapless former friends inside it? Stripped of their magic powers, the would-be wizards must brave terrifying dangers, technical glitches, and one another’s company if they want to see Medieval England – and their favorite sci-fi movies on VHS – ever again. Can our heroes survive this magical mystery torture? Or will it only lead them and their pointy hats into more peril?

Review:

Executive Summary: This series is a lot of fun, and this book might be the best yet. I really hope we’ll get a 4th book.

Audio book: What more can I say about Luke Daniels? I said he’d be good at reading the phone book, and he obliged me. I bet he’d even do a good job of the Begats. He brings this book to life. It may as well be a radio play. Do yourselves a favor and do this book in audio.

Full Review
I sort of fell into this series by accident last year. It’s not going to be winning any awards or anything, but if you want a fun and light series, look no further.

I thought that while the second book addressed my complaints about the lack of women from the first book, the plot and the humor were weaker. This book seems the most polished yet. While probably not as funny as the first book, it’s definitely the best written. The characters are more developed, the plot is tighter, and in general I was always excited to to start listening again.

If you’ve ever played buggy video games, or written buggy code, I think you’ll especially find a lot to like here. I like how some of the supporting characters from Off to Be the Wizard that mostly took a backseat in Spell or High Water were not only more heavily featured, but really had a chance to shine. I especially enjoyed Tyler’s running commentary throughout the book.

That said, my favorite character continues to be Phillip. Especially when he’s talking to Jimmy. And Jimmy of course is as great as ever.

If you liked the first two books, definitely give this one a try. And if you haven’t given this series a try yet, you really should. It’s a lot of fun, and I really hope we’ll get more of them.

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of Spell or High Water by Scott Meyer

August 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Spell or High WaterSpell or High Water (Magic 2.0 #2)
By Scott Meyer; Narrated by Luke Daniels
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: June 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 hours, 39 minutes

Themes: / hacker / time travel / fantasy / humor / Atlantis /

Publisher summary:

The adventures of an American hacker in Medieval England continue as Martin Banks takes his next step on the journey toward mastering his reality-altering powers and fulfilling his destiny. A month has passed since Martin helped to defeat the evil programmer Jimmy, and things couldn’t be going better. Except for his love life, that is. Feeling distant and lost, Gwen has journeyed to Atlantis, a tolerant and benevolent kingdom governed by the Sorceresses, and a place known to be a safe haven to all female time-travelers. Thankfully, Martin and Philip are invited to a summit in Atlantis for all of the leaders of the time-traveler colonies, and now Martin thinks this will be a chance to try again with Gwen. Of course, this is Martin Banks we’re talking about, so murder, mystery, and high intrigue all get in the way of a guy who just wants one more shot to get the girl. The follow-up to the hilarious Off to Be the Wizard, Scott Meyer’s Spell or High Water proves that no matter what powers you have over time and space, you can’t control rotten luck.

I’m convinced Luke Daniels could read the phone book and make it sound interesting. When given a funny book to read he shines even more. He may be my favorite audio book reader. His voices are great and seems to really bring the characters to life.  I grabbed the first book in this series a few months ago because partially because it sounded interesting, but mostly because it was read by Luke Daniels. I grabbed this book however because I really enjoyed the first one and was excited to see that a second book was out.

My favorite character in the series is probably Philip, and he seemed to get more focus in this book. This book also addressed my major criticism of the first book: Where are all the women? This book sees us visit Atlantis, which was used as the explanation for why there was almost no women. I enjoyed the female characters introduced in this one, especially the Brits.

Time travel stories are really hard to write well as it can all be very confusing. I think Mr. Meyer does a great job of handling this by having the characters be just as confused as everyone else. They offer several theories to explain things, but seem just as unsure of the plausibility as I was. This is definitely not a hard sci-fi book.

The humor in this book probably wasn’t as good as the first one, but that didn’t make the story any less fun. I did find the parts focused on Jimmy to be less enjoyable than the stuff with Philip and Martin however.

Overall I think this was another great entry in this series. Almost everything was nicely wrapped up, while the epilogue planted the seeds for a possible third book. I hope he does write a third because I’ll happily listen to it. If not, maybe I can get Luke Daniels to read me the phone book.

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of Shattered by Kevin Hearne

July 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Shattered by Kevin HearneShattered (The Iron Druid Chronicles, #7)
By Kevin Hearne; Read by Luke Daniels
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 17 June 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 hours, 35 minutes

Listen to an excerpt: | MP3 |

Themes: / druids / urban fantasy / plague /

Publisher summary:

For nearly 2,000 years, only one Druid has walked the Earth – Atticus O’Sullivan, the Iron Druid, whose sharp wit and sharp sword have kept him alive as he’s been pursued by a pantheon of hostile deities. Now he’s got company. Atticus’ apprentice, Granuaile, is at last a full Druid herself. What’s more, Atticus has defrosted an archdruid long ago frozen in time, a father figure (of sorts) who now goes by the modern equivalent of his old Irish name: Owen Kennedy. And Owen has some catching up to do.

I’ll start by saying that this is my first foray into the Iron Druid series so this review is from the perspective of someone who hasn’t done the previous books. I would not suggest this book as a great place to start this series. I heard this was a great entry point into the series for fans of urban fantasy but so much of what’s going on in the plot is lost that I missed the overarching significance of what happened in the story. Now that that’s out of the way…

Shattered is an urban fantasy story about one of the last druids in the world trying to live his life while trying to survive the crazy plots of mythical creatures and gods. Hearne’s writing style flows easily and his characters are enjoyable, but I thought the story lacked focus and almost felt like two disjoint stories that didn’t really relate to one another until both ended into a third thread. I liked the use of the urban setting and the creative use of different abilities/powers that characters. There are many quotes and references to geek culture in there but so much that it kept pulling me out of the story.

The first 2/3 of the story has two different threads that are both interesting in their own right but have nothing to do with each other. One thread is about a female druid trying to stop a plague happening in India while the other follows the eponymous iron druid as he introduces someone trapped in time centuries ago to modern culture. Neither story required prior knowledge of the series but the last 1/3 of the story seemed to be a culmination of events from previous stories that was mostly lost on me. I actually thought I was almost done with the audiobook 2/3 of the way through and it felt like a bit of a false ending.

The world and characters in this story are the best part. I liked most characters, thought they were well written, and stayed true to character. I really liked the old druid getting to know modern culture and hearing his take on how he sees things. The comedy relief and quotes/references to geek culture was a bit much at times and took me out of the story too much.

As for the audio side of things, Luke Daniels does a fantastic job reading this book. On one side of things I can hardly believe he does all the voices I heard in the book, on the other side the two main characters sound an awful lot like each other and I would get confused at the beginning of a chapter sometimes until I identified who was speaking. Both voices were great and it didn’t take away from the story, I just thought it was interesting considering how different many of the other voices are. I will definitely be looking for other audiobooks narrated by Luke Daniels.

Posted by Tom Schreck

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