Review of The Waking Fire

August 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Waking FireThe Waking Fire (The Draconis Memoira, Book 1)
By Anthony Ryan; Narrated by Steven Brand
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 5 July 2016
[UNABRIDGED] – 22 hours, 34 minutes

Themes: / fantasy / epic fantasy / magic /

Publisher summary:

Throughout the vast lands controlled by the Ironship Trading Syndicate, nothing is more prized than the blood of drakes. Harvested from captive or hunted Reds, Greens, Blues, and Blacks, it can be distilled into elixirs that bestow fearsome powers on the rare men and women known as the Blood-blessed.

But not many know the truth: that the lines of drakes are weakening. If they fail, war with the neighboring Corvantine Empire will follow swiftly. The Syndicate’s last hope resides in whispers of the existence of another breed of drake, far more powerful than the rest, and the few who have been chosen by fate to seek it.

Claydon Torcreek is a petty thief and an unregistered Blood-blessed who finds himself pressed into service by the Protectorate and sent to wild, uncharted lands in search of a creature he believes is little more than legend. Lizanne Lethridge is a formidable spy and assassin facing gravest danger on an espionage mission deep into the heart of enemy territory. And Corrick Hilemore is the second lieutenant of an Ironship cruiser whose pursuit of ruthless brigands leads him to a far greater threat at the edge of the world.

As lives and empires clash and intertwine, as the unknown and the known collide, all three must fight to turn the tide of a coming war – or drown in its wake.

Executive Summary: A great start to a new series. It blends a lot of different things together in an interesting way to feel original. I’m really looking forward to see where he takes things from here.

Audiobook: Steven Brand is a great narrator. He reads with good inflection, and does a few voices. In the past my main complaint about him has been he speaks too quietly. He’s either fixed that, or the people making the books are adjusting his volume up to make him a lot easier to hear than past books I’ve listened to.

Full Review
I absolutely loved both Blood Song and Tower Lord. It’s possible that it made it impossible for me to love Queen of Fire. Either way, I was disappointed enough in that book, that I was reluctant to pick this one up. I had planned to wait on reviews from people I trusted to come out before getting it. Then a review copy fell into my lap.

This book is kind of a hodge podge of several things I love: Mistborn, Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Dragons. And if that’s not enough there is also high sea adventure, and pirates! That may sound like a mess, but Mr. Ryan does a great job in blending those elements together. I also can’t guarantee all of those things were influences on this book, but they are things I thought about as I was reading.

Mistborn has one of my all time favorite magic systems. This one feels similar, only a little less structured, and with only 4 known types of abilities. The main similarity is the idea of imbibing something in order to do magic, and that only a small number of people are born with the ability. Beyond that they are quite different.

My favorite character is Lizanne, who is basically Jane Bond. Her story line was always my favorite, and I really want to know more about the training she went through. I hope we get some flashbacks or possibly her training new recruits in future books, but then I’m a sucker for the magic school trope.

Clay was also a great character, and a more reluctant protagonist then Lizanne. His story was reminiscent of an Indiana Jones story, with him being basically nothing like him. If anyone is Jones it’s maybe his uncle.

The final protagonist, Lt. Hilemore was enjoyable enough, but I spent much of the book wondering how his story fit in with the other two. Rest assured it’s made clear by the end of the story, but it takes awhile. That doesn’t mean his story wasn’t interesting, it just felt disconnected from the rest of the book for me. With him you get high seas battles and pirates!

None of that even scratches the surface of the great supporting cast. Each subplot has it’s own supply of interesting characters. And if 3 interesting protagonists influenced by different elements, and a great supporting cast isn’t enough. There are Dragons. And really, isn’t that enough?

Overall, I’m glad I got this is a review copy because I really enjoyed this book. I just hope he can take his time on the sequels because I felt like his last book suffered from rushing to completion to meet a deadline. I love getting new books in a series once a year, but I’m willing to wait longer if the author needs more time. I’m hoping he’ll be able to bring this to a more satisfying conclusion than his previous series.

Review by Rob Zak.


Audio drama review: Robin Of Sherwood: The Knights Of The Apocalypse by Richard Carpenter

June 28, 2016 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Robin Of Sherwood: The Knights Of The ApocalypseRobin Of Sherwood: The Knights Of The Apocalypse
By Richard Carpenter; Performed by a full cast
2 Hours – CD or Digital Download [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Spiteful Puppet
Published: June 30, 2016

England in the reign of King John and a dark force is intent on conquest. Only the hooded man can stand against it… The church lies impotent at the mercy of the Pope and the interdict against the kingdom. With the people living in fear and a series of disappearances that threaten the very fabric of noble society, Robin ‘i’ the hood and his band of outlaws must race to rescue the past so that the future may be protected. A journey to Huntingdon and beyond Sherwood will see them battle their most dangerous enemy yet as Herne’s son faces The Knights of the Apocalypse…

If you close your eyes you’ll see it – it being a new two part episode of the classic ITV television series Robin Of Sherwood, minus the grainy 16mm film stock. From the opening Clannad theme – you’ll see it all – that brightly lit forest green, those grey stone castles and churches, the flashing swords, the flying arrows. You’ll of course hear them all too.

Early into The Knights Of The Apocalypse we learn that England is suffering under the “Interdict”, a punishment of all of England for King John’s offence of the Catholic Church. This really happened. The titular Knights of the Apocalypse, though fictional, are said to be a breakaway branch of the Knights Templar – and the ultimate historical destruction of the Templars is very effectively retroactively-foreshadowed in this production.

The two hours, in two parts, had me struggling with the heroes, thinking deep thoughts, rallying against the heavy hand of oppression, chuckling at the baddies, laughing with the heroes, worried at what might possibly happen next, then heart-warmed, and ultimately delighted at the lightfooted sweep all the little details added up to. This is an epic as big as The Swords Of Wayland and as revolutionary as Robin Hood And The Sorcerer.

Barnaby Eaton-Jones, the producer, seems to have made it his mission to make The Knights Of The Apocalypse as true to the original show as humanly possible. Soliciting initial funding using an indiegogo campaign, Eaton-Jones paired a script by the now deceased Richard Carpenter, Robin Of Sherwood‘s creator (he also wrote some of the show’s finest episodes), and tracked down every living member of the original cast to this production. The result is truly tremendous! It is amazing to hear the voices of that old cast once again – Mark Ryan (the brooding Saracen swordsman Nasir), Ray Winstone (forever the hot-headed Will Scarlet), Clive Mantle (smiling and gentle Little John), Jason Connery (that noble second incarnation of Robin, the hooded man), curly haired Judi Trott (voicing the summer maid of Sherwood, Marian), Phil Rose (the friendly friar, Tuck), and Peter Llewellyn Williams (Much, the simple miller’s son).

A lot of folks probably think of Alan Rickman as the most iconic Sheriff of Nottingham – he was terrific – but for me the worst (and by that I mean best) Sheriff of Nottingham will always be Nickolas Grace. Grace is back to his old tricks; playing that cowardly cartoon of law, that malefactor of injustice, all the while wonderfully dripping contempt and venom from every sour word. We get Grace in several scenes, including some with his equally contemptible brother, the Abbot Hugo, played wonderfully once again by Philip Jackson. A few of the voices are new, filling in for the deceased Robert Addie (Guy of Gisbourne) and Daniel Abineri (Herne, now played by his son). But we also get some audio drama stars like Colin Baker and Terry Molloy playing guest villains.

The Knights Of The Apocalypse is a magical experience. Its story will satisfy, so much so that it could slip-in right next to that final TV episode that aired June 28, 1986. No, this is not a reboot, not re-imagining, not a rerun – this is a reunification. You’ll be reunited in righteous camaraderie with the merry folk of Sherwood – doing the work that must be done, for the good of the people, and breaking the law as needs must.

In reading some of the other early reviews I think they’ve short-shrifted both the historicity and the timeliness (or maybe the timelessness) of what’s going on in The Knights Of The Apocalypse. This really isn’t just a story about how a cute cult TV show got a little fan service 30 years after the last episode aired. No, this is a story about power, politics, economics, about religion. This is a story about class and class struggle, human virtue and human vice. For who is King John, that off-screen terror, if not the hubristic government the governs for the rich and not for all? Who is the Sheriff of Nottingham if not a cynical functionary enforcing the unjust laws unequally, and for his own gain? And why is it, exactly, that an old folktale about a band of heroes who break the law for the good of the people so very, very resonant exactly 30 years (or approximately 550 years) after they were first told?

Here’s a recent piece of publicity:

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #365 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft

April 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
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The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #365 – Jesse, Bryan Alexander, and Mr Jim Moon talk about The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft.

Talked about on today’s show:
Weird Tales, April 1929, set in 1928, the Wikipedia entry, “one of the few tales Lovecraft wrote wherein the heroes successfully defeat the antagonistic entity or monster of the story”, the heroes were a nice family who kept to themselves, hounding the downtrodden, the story structure, the lily white mom, a virgin birth to an extraordinary son, an invisible brother, the holy trinity, it’s Jerusalem all over again, another fallen world, Dostoevsky’s The Grand Inquisitor, she’s sooo virginal, towards racism, non-human entities, deeply inset, the whole of Dunwich is inbred, more sanctified, extreme exogamy, Wilbur Whateley’s literary model, Frankenstein’s monster, yellow skin, lustrous black hair, hounded by the community, nudism is not a sin on your own land, they’re non-Christians, persecution, one of the great problems of Frankenstein, the creation of new life in a socially horrible way, for lack of a better appendage, some of the things Wizard Whateley says are troubling, Wilbur’s strangeness, reserve books, deny all access to this kid, the Call Of Cthulhu RPG is modeled on this story, Yog-Sothoth’s appearances in other stories, Through The Gates Of The Silver Key by E. Hoffman Price and H.P. Lovecraft, the opener of the way, Randolph Carter, Wilbur’s diary, the clearing off of the Earth, a lonely teenager, contempt for his mom, her albinism, somewhat deformed, gestures and hints, her unnamed son, Wilbur is dark, another step down the albinism route, The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, the Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows Providence adaptation (issue 4), Robert Black, the Wilbur stand-in is Willard, the audio drama, family photos, the madwoman in the attic (the mad brother in the attic), dad’s always feeding him, he’s just a big kid, wonderfully atmospheric, he’s a horror writer, the normal way to read this story, weird fiction, The Colour Out Of Space, science fiction, Providence, Rhode Island, Athol, dread and horror, straight-up horror, Lovecraft and race, Lovecraft and class, poor white people are monstrous and horrific, inbred and weak, a fun Malcolm Gladwell piece, To Kill A Mockingbird demonized poor white folk, Trump-bashing, Oswald Spengler’s The Decline Of The West, have we peaked?, patronizing the poor, this is shocking, Theodore Dreiser, Jacob Reese’s How The Other Half Lives, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Degeneration: Fear Of The White Race Declining, war, we’ll all be Teddy Roosevelt and Baden-Powell, WWI, prohibition, the first U.S. propaganda committee, the end of The Shadow Over Innsmouth, rural threat, The Terrible Old Man, a cultural flip-flop, the rural folk as the other, the tipping point, urban migration, canary women in munition factories, the yeoman past, the gold doubloons, where did that money come from?, practicing alchemy?, Keanu Reeves, a ghurka knife, Dracula’s money belt, poor Wilbur, dogs wanna eat him!, dogs are mean, barking at things we cannot see, the dog as index of character, good people feed you bad people eat you, unlike the whippoorwills?, The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen, Wilbur is a little goaty, concepts and styles, the gods having union with humans and birthing the monstrous, a neuroscientist, a gibbering wreck, a trail of destruction, literal devolution, absolute corruption in human form, Helen Vaughn, a mystery story, disturbing hints, an enturely different story with entirely different tropes, a classic bad seed story, a giant monster on the loose story, a New England kaiju story, the Moodus Noises, hollow earth stories, lost race stories, Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race, ravines of problematic depth, Lovecraft casts a spell upon the reader, entranced by the language, landscape description, Elmore Leonard, stage-setting, the river as a serpent, oddly suggestive, feeling uneasy, the weird tale aspect, a little too round and a little too even, pulling down all the stones on all the hilltops, At The Mountains Of Madness, Dreams Of Animals, other families, the etymology of panic, somebody’s panic face, red scares, yellow perils, bank panics, the god Pan,

The word derives from antiquity and is a tribute to the ancient God, Pan. One of the many gods in the mythology of ancient Greece: Pan was the god of shepherds and of woods and pastures. The Greeks believed that he often wandered peacefully through the woods, playing a pipe, but when accidentally awakened from his noontime nap he could give a great shout that would cause flocks to stampede. From this aspect of Pan’s nature Greek authors derived the word panikon, “sudden fear,” the ultimate source of the English word: “panic”.

multiples of Pan:

Pan could be multiplied into a swarm of Pans, and even be given individual names, as in Nonnus’ Dionysiaca, where the god Pan had twelve sons that helped Dionysus in his war against the Indians.

a scapegoat, panic is the sense that everything around you is alive, 1806, a beautiful valley, a few cows, not interested in the modern economy, industry “didn’t take”, party line telephones, gossip, no phone at the Whateley farm, are they all practice hidden religions, The Horror Of The Burying Ground, a humor piece, an experimental embalmer, Herbert West: Embalmer, they’re alive!, everyone goes to their graves alive, gothic horror, comedy, set in Vermont?, Will Murray, Lovecraft’s revisions, tongue in cheek, blackly comic self-parody (almost), The Horror Of The Museum, Hazel Heald, in the 19th century everyone was afraid of premature burial, Edgar Allan Poe, a New York City echo, the different adaptations, the 2009 SciFi channel version, Jeffrey Combs, Dean Stockwell (Dr Yueh), the 1970 movie adaptation, a satanist movie, a lot of the story is in it, an anti-hero, Professor Armitage, Dennis Wheatley, cosmic horror, a beholder from Dungeons & Dragons gone berserk, a staff with a thunderbird totem, don’t go near the hills on certain nights of the year, a resentment, the degenerate side of the family, the opening credits, the love interest, the natural order, the big interpolation, an abomination, like Philip K. Dick, a source for films (mostly bad), The Resurrected, Blade Runner, Total Recall: 2070, Minority Report TV series, The Man In The High Castle TV series, the problem is there’s no real hope…, exactly the opposite of Dick’s idea, what that means for us, the medium shift (from book to movie), The Stone Tape (the BBC radio drama adaptation), checking out a book as a plot point, the Suspense radio drama adaptation of The Dunwich Horror, OTR, The War Of The Worlds, a Lovecraftian flavour, a sense of weirdness, using the whippoorwills, the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre adaptation, Wayne June is Mr Creeps, The Great God Pan, Out Of The Earth, The Thing In The Woods by Margery Williams, Ooze, an episode of Lovejoy, Ian McShane, regular uncursed artifacts, Deadwood, Dunwich On Sea (or In Sea?), a Swinburne poem, Stone Angel, The Ancient Track, Lovecraft’s description of other books in poems, a restatement of the Whateley family, Jesse reads a poem, Mr Jim Moon quotes from Zaman’s Hill, Lovecraft Country, Massachusetts and Vermont, very rural, Wizard Alexander, so articulate, glib stereotype, it would be childish to say it was indescribable…, a master of horror with a deep seated love of humour.

The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft - illustrated by Hugh Rankin

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #364 -AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Lottery In Babylon by Jorge Luis Borges

April 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
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The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #364 – Jesse, Bryan Alexander, Mr Jim Moon, and Paul Weimer talk about The Lottery In Babylon by Jorge Luis Borges

Talked about on today’s show:
aka The Babylonian Lottery, 1941, 1962, The Library Of Babel, baffling mystifying, blurring and seeping, The Garden Of Forking Paths, the framing story, the context, he’s leaving, in this “statement”, missing fingers, a rented cloak, a tattoo of the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, fleeing the city, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime Of The Ancient Mariner meets Forrest Gump, abomination and criminal, the sacred disorder of our lives, an affection for the company, Solar Lottery is a similar Philip K. Dick novel, company vs. corporation, like everyone in Babylonia…, that’s a lot of proconsuls, metaphorical, metonymies for the high and the low, Dark City, those Borgesian moments, deliberate inaccuracies, the hand changed hands, Borgesian translations, The Pit And The Pendulum, a story without hop with Hope as the title, not having firm ground on any detail solidifies the Borgesian effect, Labyrinths, the company’s communications, a mask factory, trash and kipple, Thomas Ligotti, one of the heresies, lottery is a myth we tell ourselves to make sense of chance, The Red Tower, an authentic madman, sacrifices, priest or sorcerer, Kabbalist magic, the mysterious assassination, where’s A?, he’s B, he turned into a god!, deified, a god of Chance, Heliogabalus, Martian Time-Slip by Philip K. Dick, an autistic boy, they’re reading the same books, omnivorous readers, reincarnation, thinking through reincarnation, Jesse’s weird theory, I’m Napoleon, more than just wish-fulfillment, what if we are living in a universe in which there is only one soul, the Platonic references, no need to follow the laws of time, John Rawls’ the Veil Of Ignorance, it’s a lottery in essence, a rich European healthy body, what we would want for other people is what we would want for ourselves, justice, if we take it as literally true…, we can’t see all of his body, waiting for Charon to show up in his boat, a perfect story for the middle of the twentieth century, the least inequality, the most inappropriate story for the twenty-first century, a radical document, when is this taking place, after Elagabalus but before the fall of Babylon?, the barbers, the mythology, to omit -> to interpolate -> to change, making a curved line between points, this is the symbolic scheme, infinite draws, all that is necessary is that time is infinitely divisible, one of those Xeno stories…, an infinitely divisible strawberry pie?, something tricky going on here, the company’s origins as a religious explanation for fate, as noted on the Wikipedia entry, Qaphqa (Kafka), The Castle, a sacred latrine -> it’s a holy shit -> it’s a pisser, mask factories, the messages come from the kipple, the sacred lions, scribbles on the ruined walls of the mask factory, thicker layers, the tease of Plato, we’re still in the cave, the Allegory Of The Cave, if it’s not a cabal… (kabbal?), it must be the lottery, were all a part of the secret cabal, the Paranoia RPG, trust the computer, trust the company, Jim’s punishment and Jesse’s reward, a spy LARP, the intertwined nature, I have throttled the sacred bulls, declared invisible for a year, based on a Robert Silverberg story, no matter what happens he gets executed, a universal solvent, application to the modern day scientific view, random chains of cause and effect, science as a conspiracy theory, god playing dice, medium sized objects are subject to physical laws, the ghosts and shadows of quantum mechanics, an expert in Anglo Saxon, studying Norwegian history as one does, some hidden premise, reminiscent of Olaf Stapledon, was To See The Invisible Man by Robert Silverberg inspired by this story?, like Lovecraft family Borges’ family had a huge library, of these executors…, enriched torture, a Swiftian character, the last sentence as a thesis statement, what’s the worse horror, the lottery as a consolation religion, think about that in 1941.

The Babylonian Lottery by Jorge Luis Borges

Posted by Jesse Willis

Reading, Short And Deep #004 – The Words Of Guru by C.M. Kornbluth

March 2, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 


Reading, Short And DeepReading, Short And Deep #004

Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss The Words Of Guru by C.M. Kornbluth

The Words Of Guru was first published in Avon Fantasy Reader, No. 5, 1947.

Here’s a link to the PDF of the story.

Podcast feed

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

The SFFaudio Podcast #357 – READALONG: Captain James Hook And The Curse Of Peter Pan by Jeremiah Kleckner and Jeremy Marshall

February 22, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 


The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #357 – Jesse and David Stifel talk about Captain James Hook And The Curse Of Peter Pan by Jeremiah Kleckner and Jeremy Marshall.

Talked about on today’s show:
that Burroughs guy (or Captain Hook), Jeremy Marshall, Jeremiah Kleckner, a modern book?, a little under six hours, a take off on a well known property, not a kid’s book, the Peter Pan play, the starting point for this book, childish irresponsibility, a Twilight Zone episode, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, written for adults, vocabularies, they got a dog, in-jokes, Alice In Wonderland, he workshopped it, Hook wasn’t in the play originally, kids love pirates, this kid kidnaps other kids, a sequel, the timeline, Harry Potter of a hundred years ago, Hook, Pan, the Disney film, the black and white Broadway broadcast, kinescope, what a great role, the prototypical adult, the Etonian accent, Cyril Ritchard’s voice, The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd, the writing is so good, subtly twisted scenes, why it is short, Jeremiah Kleckner is an English teacher, how to enjoy reading, pre-production, the competition, an ACX book, Jeremiah Kleckner’s blog, auditions, the new publishing model, the cover art, Jesse is very cynical, so is David, self-published, word-wooze, wound and wooze, guberreality?, Chinese food, David Baldacci, what writing is about, a lot of gushing, an alternate take, a prequel to Peter Pan, fairies, a crocodile, Neverland, the Lost Boys, a jigsaw puzzle, who is Captain Hook?, Hook is right, Peter Pan is a self-indulgent little brat, flying, too bad!, Peter Pan treats the Lost Boys like toys, set on a course for evil, with Billy Mumy, It’s a Good Life, “happy fun”, the alliterative punctuation, the god Pan, the god of lonely shepherd boys and the god of panic, panopticon, pan was able to multiply himself infinitely, not the horny goat god, the god of wildness, children and childhood became a thing, children’s literature, child focused culture, child labour, Barrie was the peak of child culture, anti-science, “who believes in fairies?”, why we need Mr Jim Moon, the push pull of science, science killing all the fantasy of being a child, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, he just wants to believe, The Best Of Sick Jokes,

Willie, with a thirst for gore,
Nailed his sister to the door.
Mother said, with humor quaint,
“Willie, dear, don’t scratch the paint.”

the symbol of how good the writing is, James Hoodkins, breaking the bottle, the night before his thirteenth birthday, “have fun forever”, a lucky escape, Michael Darling, the Darling family, a failed adult, a funding problem, Smee, Captain Hook’s boatswain (bo’sun), an interesting backstory for Smee, “it’s me”, Blackbeard, Long John Silver, Treasure Island, Black Sails mixes historical and fictional pirates, Robert Louis Stevenson, the second reality, Jesse Labette, Smee by A.M. Burrage, clean fun, hide-and-seek, The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester, sardine, a retelling, why does Hoodkins have a sidekick in William, responsibility, double-sided reality, watch out for William, a first step towards manhood, be his mommy, what if…, a stunning achievement, “I’m taking them to heaven.”, a child’s heaven, death, never land, just step out the window, jumping off the roof, almost a real place, The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through The Hidden Connections Of The English Language by Mark Forsyth, the impact of Peter Pan, Wendy, Jonathan Swift, Vanessa, Hermione, a romp, a great performance in a meaty role, natives will tell, by today’s standards, losing regionalisms, mid-Atlantic accent, the Edgar Rice Burroughs audiobooks, a swashbuckling adventure, a completely flawless performance, a sleeper that deserves to be heard, a really fine audiobook that deserves more exposure, the reviews are excellent, “masterful narration”, little Billy at 5, an undersold masterpiece, with the marketing budget…, David’s tastes, science fiction as a modernization of fantasy, thinking critically about a classic, Hook was right!, Hook’s the hero!, it’s not just what you know about Peter Pan, a lot of pirate research, more real than The Pirates Of The Caribbean, not an arrrgh until the appearance of Long John Silver

Captain James Hook And The Curse Of Peter Pan by Jeremiah Kleckner and Jeremy Marshall

Posted by Jesse Willis

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