The SFFaudio Podcast #353 – READALONG: Dr. Bloodmoney by Philip K. Dick

January 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #353 – Jesse, Paul, and Marissa talk about Dr. Bloodmoney by Philip K. Dick.

Talked about on today’s show:
Or How We Got Along After The Bomb, a Nebula Award Nominee?, why this novel?, Now Wait For Last Year, The Man In The High Castle, the ideas are awesome, confusingly written, before the bomb, the earlier atomic blast, jumping back and forth without warning, a subtle change, quasi-flashbacks, a straightforward timeline, jumping between the characters, head hopping, Hoppy Harrington, the Dick themes, Bill’s ability, getting confused, body-switching, consciousness projection, who is Bill?, the parasitic twin brother, Beyond Lies The Wub, the captain is gone, a theme in this story (other than with Bill), telekinetic ability, taking Walt Dangerfield’s place, a weird comedy bit, impressions, is anybody in that satellite at all?, it sounds like him, is Hoppy dead?, he went to Heaven (the satellite), the audiobook narrator’s (Tom Weiner’s) interpretation, bad writing?, dear god!, psychoanalysis, creepy, a mad god resentful of his treatment, the killing of Bluthgeld, something very cool going on, the reason we read Philip K. Dick novels, the Philip K. Dick radio (and other audio interviews), Dick was easily manipulated, you’re an alcoholic, getting into jewelry, a super-impressionable guy, a Zelig, a very human thing (multiplied), Jesse has reviewed himself out, Jesse’s review of Dr. Bloodmoney: a radio repairman with no limbs…, a big fish in a small pond, what Dick knows, an avid mushroom picker, interacting with themselves, a talking sheepdog, Stuart McConchie’s horse, cheating wives, the dog, the rat that plays a nose-flute, he stole the story … but it became part of him (and thus his story), he is a part of her, he is literally inside of her, when someone tells you a story…, classic Dick touches, Cheyenne, a pastoral existence, like Kim Stanley Robinson’s Pacific Edge, they’re crunching their granola, playing video games while listening to audiobooks, Fallout 3, full of mutants, a bit of racism, the second novel with a phocomelus protagonist, Deus Irae by Philip K. Dick and Roger Zelazny, supernatural powers, some life crisis, lifts from stories, The Great C, Of Withered Apples, “In Earth’s Diurnal Course”, a title for marketing, Dr. Strangelove, Bluthgeld as Henry Kissinger, Operation Paperclip, Robert McNamara, bone viruses, gooks, the half-baked, Marissa’s Fallout game, post-nuclear war, E-Day (Emergency Day), starts and ends on a morning, one of PKD’s tricks, Vulcan’s Hammer, Now Wait For Last Year, re-resonance, mutants going about their business, thing about the freaks, being that had been fused together, kind of beautiful, the rat pulling a little cart, one of the rat traps is also scurrying, the pizza rat meme, food and other essentials, radiation tablets, the mutants will be fine, the cats, cats start planning and scheming, Paul’s pic of the Roman cat, Mike Cole, ancient history, dancing pigeons, it sang for it’s supper, ruins inhabited by cats, Villa Appia, a rabbit, rabbits in the ruins, Hoppy’s plan, Looper, telekinetic powers, Hoppy is kind of like the Rainmaker, he heals a watch-spring, Galactic Pot-Healer, a technopath, recycling ideas, School For Sidekicks by Kelly McCullough, Brian K. Vaughn’s Ex Machina, the power to command mechanical objections, superhero comics, consistency, Mr. Pistorius (gets murdered), Bluthgeld is insane right?, does he have abilities?, if there is a viewpoint character… Mary Sueing?, Dick is Bluthgeld, we get deep inside his mind, the switch between dialogue and inner monologue, responsibility, his mistaken calculation, you can take it ambiguously, a catalyst for changing the world, his name, Dick likes German names, Mister Jack Tree, Mister Tree, jackfruit, the story of Odin (hung on a tree for nine days), myster tree?, there’s something central about him, undercooked, Hoppy’s desires and plans drive the plot, goals and ambitions, did Hoppy cause the war?, why am I eating this rat?, money is useless, a hoarder, cigarettes, coffee, Philip K. Dick predicted video games, the bottlecaps (are money), a haorder style game, Stuart McConchie is a modern game player, crafting, the boss, a real life boss, very autobiographical, did Dick know an armless and legless person?, Dick’s obsession with his dead twin sister, the whole “I can see into the land of the dead” thing, monstrous children, rock paper scissors, an angry little child, a snail, real senses, the owl, into Hoppy, where did Hoppy go?, into Dangerfield, Dangerfield had something growing inside him, California, so sad, his wife’s still up there with him, another drug overdose, marriage, Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, The Little Movement by Philip K. Dick, Toy Story, Jesse explains the plot of The Little Movement, kinda freaky, an alien invasion fleet, the other toys, the kid is freaked out, everything is going wrong, a very dark Toy Story, by breaking the fourth wall he’s broken a rule, “that’s this book, kinda”, …because I like Germans, so many cool ideas, confusing, so many people, the central axis of what’s happening, Bonnie’s sleeping around, typical PKD wife stuff, petty office politics after the end of the world, post-apocalyptic travel is hard, Russians and Japanese on Catalina, on the other hand…, it’s not all bad, he’s going to automate his cigarette stuffing, hippies hanging out and doing hippy stuff, more about the alcohol, this podcast is petering out, sorry Mr. PKD, it’s not a great book, not the greatest bull-session ever, that sheep dog with no money, catch the stick, good comedy, kind of tragic, he is a monster (but you feel for him), a really good set-up, he got mistreated, surviving and not becoming bitter about it, Dangerfield isn’t bitter, what do they do in Russia, maybe there’s a bunch of other satellites up there, why did this get a Nebula nomination?, we are happy to have read it, whatever’s next on out list…

ACE - Dr. Bloodmoney by Philip K. Dick
Peter Elson illustration of Doctor Bloodmoney by Philip K. Dick

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #345 – READALONG: Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon

November 30, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #345 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, Bryan Alexander, and Professor Eric S. Rabkin talk about the Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon.

Talked about on today’s show:
1937, Jesse has a radical thesis, is this book a true story?, I’m not really happy I just think that I am, Alice In Acidland, drugs, what do we mean by true?, arachnoids and ikthyoids, a summary of Last And First Men, the unnamed narrator, astral projection, the contents of this book, not history but a personal experience (of imagination), standing on a hill, an interesting fantasia, considering the size of the universe, Star Trek with Nazi costumes is possible and perhaps even inevitable, The Truman Show, the nature of infinity, an Italian who would be perfectly happy to use the word true about this book, “Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark.”, bitterness, Dante Alighieri, a lyric poem, Olaf Stapledon was a philosopher, a blazing panoply, an image of the rose, OS, “One night when I had tasted bitterness I went out on to the hill.”, an abiding faith, the original meaning of comedy, comedies end in marriage, sitcoms, both narrators acknowledge their psychological state, an exponential rhythm, overhead obscurities in flight, a Doppler shift, the other Earth, Bvalltu, a composite character, planets – > solar systems -> galaxies, a fractal experience, an encompassing wisdom, marriage as a small atom of community, spirit inhabited rock, a World War I novel, 1986, Eric taught Star Maker to Bryan, memories imbricated upon each other, the preface, Stapledon was an ambulance driver in WWI, looming WWII, militarism, seeing the sunny side of a ruined planet, Merseyside, too smashed up to really be alive, a 1930s novel, fascism vs. communism, how to organize the self and society, a secular myth, a shock to civilization, the cycle of mechanization, terrible mutations, the onset of the tank, a sense of horror, WWI and WWII as two different episodes, the Spanish Civil War, shaking off colonialism, materialistic industrialization, the only wait out is an act of faith, how can we not think of the Star Maker as a monster, “struck dumb with shame”, limitations of the audio medium, Bryan’s keyboard, C.S. Lewis, why C.S. Lewis didn’t like Star Maker, a Lewis-nemesis, crusades, the Great War on Terror (2 decades old), mindless religious violence, anticipations of subsequent Science Fiction, The High Crusade by Poul Anderson, two 20th century philosophies, Freud and Marx, neurosis and sublimation, genitals with sense organs, radio pornography, the feelies from Brave New World, crisis of labour, ideologies as philosophical artifacts, not Dave Singer, separated by space and time, supplementary parentheses, adduction of Christianity, three linked universes, playing for the souls of the creatures, a timeless heaven and a timeless hell, Earth, Mars, and Venus in C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, suffering for the redemption of the Earth, explicitly not a Christian view, C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy as a response to a paragraph in Star Maker, all the Christs of all the worlds, “a basket of Christs”, this is Arthur C. Clarke, a tour of Science Fiction in the future, this is The Mote In God’s Eye, The High Crusade, the novel itself is a universe, cosmos vs. universe, Jesse’s theory about the Game Of Thrones universe in the TV show, what Clarke does this in slight watercolours Stapledon paints in bold oils on a massive canvas, Arthur C. Clarke’s life changing moment, copying out the scales of magnitude, Bryan’s son, encapsulating, it is Stapledon, Dante is Dante in The Divine Comedy, The Divine Comedy as political revenge, Niven and Pournelle’s Inferno, Stapledon is not a punishment guy, when Lovecraft looks out of the universe…, when Stapledon looks at the same vista he’s not as melancholy about it, The Cats Of Ulthar, contemporaries, philosophical horror, long distance psychology, like Poe, fairy tales, handling fears, we get to feel, this is an education effort, quite special, a genre issue, the roller-coaster moment, looking at the vocabulary, eldritch and ichor, lucidity, feeling, the etymology of the word “vermin”,

I reflected that not one of the visible features of this celestial and
living gem revealed the presence of man. Displayed before me, though
invisible, were some of the most congested centers of human population.
There below me lay huge industrial regions, blackening the air with
smoke. Yet all this thronging life and humanly momentous enterprise had
made no mark whatever on the features of the planet. From this high
look-out the Earth would have appeared no different before the dawn of
man. No visiting angel, or explorer from another planet, could have
guessed that this bland orb teemed with vermin, with world-mastering,
self-torturing, incipiently angelic beasts.

the stellar wars, too lucid for more tribal patterns, sympsychic partnership, angelic vermin, more real than all the stars, like two close trees grown together, difference can be strength, the Orson Welles radio version of The War Of The Worlds, versus the Martians our differences don’t make a hill’s worth of difference, The Lord Of The Rings, looking for the Ents and the Entwives, there are Ents in Star Maker, the holy sex transmission that never got off, the ships worlds,

It was a strange experience to enter the mind of an intelligent ship to
see the foam circling under one’s own nose as the vessel plunged through
the waves, to taste the bitter or delicious currents streaming past
one’s flanks, to feel the pressure of air on the sails as one beat up
against the breeze, to hear beneath the water-line the rush and murmur
of distant shoals of fishes, and indeed actually to hear the
sea-bottom’s configuration by means of the echoes that it cast up to the
under-water ears. It was strange and terrifying to be caught in a
hurricane, to feel the masts straining and the sails threatening to
split, while the hull was battered by the small but furious waves of
that massive planet. It was strange, too, to watch other great living
ships, as they plowed their way, heeled over, adjusted the set of their
yellow or russet sails to the wind’s variations; and very strange it was
to realize that these were not man-made objects but themselves conscious
and purposeful.

Sometimes we saw two of the living ships fighting, tearing at one
another’s sails with snake-like tentacles, stabbing at one another’s
soft “decks” with metal knives, or at a distance firing at one another
with cannon. Bewildering and delightful it was to feel in the presence
of a slim female clipper the longing for contact, and to carry out with
her on the high seas the tacking and yawing, the piratical pursuit and
overhauling, the delicate, fleeting caress of tentacles, which formed
the love-play of this race. Strange, to come up alongside, close-hauled,
grapple her to one’s flank, and board her with sexual invasion. It was
charming, too, to see a mother ship attended by her children. I should
mention, by the way, that at birth the young were launched from the
mother’s decks like little boats, one from the port side, one from the
starboard. Thenceforth they were suckled at her flanks. In play they
swam about her like ducklings, or spread their immature sails. In rough
weather and for long voyaging they were taken aboard. At the time of our
visit natural sails were beginning to be aided by a power unit and
propeller which were fixed to the stern.

nothing like this in Science Fiction, Lloyd Abbey’s The Last Whales, an elegiac book, another sub-genre of Kindle based pornography, much of William Wordsworth’s poetry is admired too simply, Eric reads Lines Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, the houses with windows like sleeping eyes, watching the lives of dreams, the houses are sleeping not the people within them, the smokeless air, lying still, what makes the beauty, The World Is Too Much With Us, a cry for God, Fungi From Yuggoth (IX): The Courtyard by H.P. Lovecraft:

It was the city I had known before;
The ancient, leprous town where mongrel throngs
Chant to strange gods, and beat unhallowed gongs
In crypts beneath foul alleys near the shore.
The rotting, fish-eyed houses leered at me
From where they leaned, drunk and half-animate,
As edging through the filth I passed the gate
To the black courtyard where the man would be.

The dark walls closed me in, and loud I cursed
That ever I had come to such a den,
When suddenly a score of windows burst
Into wild light, and swarmed with dancing men:
Mad, soundless revels of the dragging dead—
And not a corpse had either hands or head!

deemed unfit, body horror, Robert E. Howard, M.R. James, ever more capacious mentalities, being taught by groups, the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Inner Light, The Horla by Guy de Maupassant as a horrible version of this, Passengers by Robert Silverberg, Boneland by Jeffrey Thomas, from a microscopic perspective, these things pass, bodyless timelords, a swarm of locusts, eugenics, Chapter 9, cultural and eugenical means, The King In Yellow (The Repairer Of Reputations) by Robert W. Chambers, the lethal chamber, Futurama, Providence, Alan Moore, criticism of Moore, turning everything Lovecraft hates into love, Last And First Men was a bestseller in 1930, the fifth generation, the Martian hive-mind, what is the moral ideal that Stapledon hopes that we move toward?, individuality in community, a literary allusion, a race on Venus, from epoch to epoch, that scaling thing again, the problem with fascism, fasces, is this a Darwinian book?, parasitism, symbiosis, evolution, Marx dedicated Capital to Darwin, getting rid of Harper, mutual aid, The World, the Flesh & the Devil by J.D. Bernal, astronomy, Peter Kropotkin (Mutual Aid: A Factor Of Evolution), mutual slaughter, profit in fraternization with the enemy, like Rod Serling The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street, gentleness as a religion, the entangled bank (in Origin Of Species), functional stability arising out of local possibilities of violence, virtue in the creator is not the same of virtue in the creature, a third position, the sense experience of a star, in the center of this paragraph, free will and determinism are compatible, always bigger, a selfless star, the normal voluntary motor activity of a star, if you empty your ego and just feel others, perfect selflessness allows entrance into perfect community, getting your karma clean, dark matter, the science is pretty damn good, the key word is “lucid”, the vast emptiness enables the insight into the stars, rubies lay behind me, the sky’s familiar diamonds, all possible light, watch Steven Universe, ageless like Star Maker, the tag cloud, world and worlds, Oswald Spengler, growth -> change -> decay, the myth at the end, the course of empire paintings, The Decline Of The West, Arnold J. Toynbee, future histories, we could see if we were lucid, a great Götterdämmerung moment, the Russian civil war, The White Goddess, The Golden Bough, subsequent Science Fiction, for those who haven’t yet read the book…, the most disliked and most liked book, what kind of a novel is this?, an epic poem crossed with a lyric poem, erroneous expectations, feel better about your fishwife and your step children, back to Lovecraft, a writer of ideas, Odd John and Sirius are more like regular novels, Jack London’s Star Rover, more swords fewer wives, Frank Herbert, God Emperor Of Dune, when you frame it that way…, Accelerando by Charles Stross, full time IT professionals writing SF, Ted Chiang and Cory Doctorow, Ted Chiang can do anything, lapidary, Jorges Luis Borges wrote an introduction for Star Marker, A Story Between Jest and Earnest, Love and Discord.

Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #344 – READALONG: Now Wait For Last Year by Philip K. Dick

November 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #344 – Jesse, Paul, and Marissa talk about Now Wait For Last Year by Philip K. Dick

Talked about on today’s show:
1966, in the high end, if you want to know what Philip K. Dick writes, it has everything, interplanetary, pretty-earthbound, marriage issues, resonances with other novels, Eric Sweetscent, a nice Dick protagonist, touchy relationship stuff, “misogynist”, he loves women too much, his “headbasher”, The Search For Philip K. Dick, when he was ending their relationship, impotence, psychoology, a husband-father formula, a teenage alternate girlfriend, Eric is so sweet and so sympathetic, an evil bitch destroying the relationship, sympathetic and pathetic, addiction, JJ-180, drugs, time travel, the robot goes with her, robants, the secret service agents, the bill collector robant, the cab robant, “Sir, we’re not allowed to get married”, the robant that wants a bribe, Total Recall, the secretary with the fingernails that change colour, nude breasts with dye and sparkles, a decorative secretary, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, Blade Runner, wheels, a confusing start, using amoebas to make stuff?, Wash30 = Washington 1930, the Philip K. Dick Fans site, none of this stuff is possible, the print amoeba, really cool writing, “in bed alone”, potent spirits of the past, a graveyard, describing space, is Cheyenne underground?, writing Wyoming again, NORAD?, dialogue vs. description, a nice state capital, “he was enjoying the sight of her dressing”, Lillistar’s secret police, creepy, the Reegs, Gino Molanri, a single medal on his uniform, that’s Hitler!, Gino Molinari is Mussolini, the Earth is Italy and the Star Men are the Nazis, Mussolini is not Hitler, the first fascist dictator, Rimmer from Red Dwarf, not racism but power and glory, when the Americans and the Canadians and the British invade Italy, the soft underbelly of Europe, why Molinari is getting sick, Mussolini’s alpine prison, Otto Skorzeny, rescue/liberate, “Hey, Hitler!”, Molonari is a smart Mussolini, the Reegs are nice, we look like the star-men but we have more in common with the reegs, Tony And The Beetles, telepathic females, one of the weirdest Philip K. Dick stories, a weird ending, the racist father, a frightening story, The Father-Thing, Hansel and Gretel without Gretel: The Cookie Lady, a really creepy story, a quasi sequel or a dry run for Now Wait For Last Year, the same themes, grapefruit sized baseball heavy plastic brains, the lazy brown dogs, the Martian print amoeba, from another Dick story, Colony and Beyond Lies The Wub, attacks by microscopes and towels, “I trusted the rug completely.”, camouflage aliens, when Cathy has her first trip, the history of their tech, matching furs, Virgil, he destroyed the fur industry, killing amoebas is ok?, the fur bearing animals are saved, “furs, that’s the best thing you can think of to do?”, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, monad lazy brown dogs, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”, are they dog brains?, fur is not alive in the first place, brains are plastic, both meanings, non-living brains, half a cent, so sweet, super sweet, their attacking each other, animal nature, they are as much alive as we are, their god is black, Himmel = heaven, the martian bat guano business, Molan-air-e, Wash-35, collecting stuff, authentic artifacts, The Thirteenth Floor, and Eye In The Sky, Time Out Of Joint, artificial towns, recreated towns, recapturing youth, a rich person’s game, Pitts39, the robant was lying… wasn’t it?, who is the liar?, strange and weird, a similar character in Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, a flawed god, his unsightly body, shambling, a pathetic figure, it does something to the whole book, first the book takes the shape and then at the end it is fixed, there’s a little animal at the end of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, all this ersatz, Jonas, as dead as a robant, suicide, Tijuana, the absurdity of their jobs, seeing to it that factory-rejects got their place in the sun, “I love this stuff”, strong resonances, Wash35 is a 135 year old man recreating a frozen moment in time, time is NOT frozen, Dick has it every which way, “do you object to a stereotape…”, the orchestra isn’t there, all you possess is 1,200 feet of iron-oxide tape, we live with illusion daily, The Iliad is as much a fake as the robant children trading stamps, old-age making its dread appearance, “have an affair with me doctor”, The Cosmic Puppets, set in Virginia, Dick recreating his childhood, remembering the details, alternate presents, a cloud of possibilities, Tijuana Fur and Dye, “Mrs. Sweetscent, sweetheart”, when Cathy destroys the comedian recordings, Dick’s got some awesome recording…, by the way about that American Weekly with that article on the Sargasso Sea…, the Hearst newspapers, an empty cigarette package, antiques are the mcguffin for The Man In The High Castle, he’s right! we don’t live in the present, tweeting dreams, the internet is more reliable than the sun, it’s always on, the internet never goes off, we are living in a weird illusionary reality, when Cathy gets Korsakoff’s syndrome, all these elements that almost completely come together, the gel doesn’t completely set, there’s so much love for Cathy, the robot says he’s a good man, getting into the female character’s mind, he’s a boob man, so much empathy for people, hate and spite, she’s so mad, a movie star named Marm, the microwave dings, my purpose is to make your life a living hell, “good luck with that”, totally re-readable, I would love it again, we had no idea, what is with Molinari getting diseases from his staff?, his zipper was open, he kills people, we don’t know what’s true about him, he’s using his diseases, pulling a sick-day to avoid meetings, a plot device, sympathy pains, hypochondria, empathizing, the uber-empathizer, Bill Clinton felt your pain, literally, JJ-180 is the main character of this book, playing rope-a-dope with the Star-men, brain-freeze, Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen, Starman (1984), Return To Lilliput, every toddler’s dream, the war like Lilliputians, little Napoleons, we’re getting pushed around by little tiny people, taking slave labour from Earth, so we can win this war, whether the illnesses are real or not they are a great strategy, you can’t have Italy fighting on your side unless you’ve got Mussolini, Molinari is finding the middle ground, admirable, thinking the way Nixon is thinking in the Vietnam War, as we re-experienced with Iraq and Afghanistan, slow or fast peeling a band-aid, a self inflicted wound, an exploratory examination, “Molinari you are awesome”, Molinari is the hero, he saves Eric Sweetscent, so many good resonances, thinking while listening, why this isn’t the best ever Philip K. Dick novel ever.

Now Wait For Last Year - DAW Books

URANIA - Now Wait For Last Year by Philip K. Dick

Posted by Jesse Willis

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

 

The SFFaudio Podcast #271 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Prisoner Of Zenda by Anthony Hope

June 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The Prisoner Of Zenda
The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #271 – The Prisoner Of Zenda by Anthony Hope; read by Andy Minter. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the novel (5 hours 30 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Tam, Seth, and Paul Weimer.

Talked about on today’s show:
1894, the movies, Moon Over Parador, ripoff vs. homage, Dave, the Ruritanian influence, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sherwood Smith, a feminist Ruritanian romance, book trends, Seth kind of enjoyed it, put British taboos in a make believe country, accent on the romance, an eastern German state, the bathroom key in Spanish, to avoid research, a fake name for a real place, Bavaria, A Scandal In Bohemia by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the sister-in-law, Rudolph Rassandale as a pseudonym for Anthony Hope, autobiographical wish fulfillment, an author avatar, not exactly modern storytelling, a male romance, “getting close to something happening”, a chaste-ness, innuendos, what’s lacking in the non-comic book adaptations, red-headedness, the black and the red, Rose, the Red rose of Ruritania, “if it’s red it’s right”, Black Michael, the real king is a prat, the better man, Eric S. Rabkin is all about “food and sex”, Jesse is all about “it’s all a dream”, mirroring and inverting, The Prestige, Madame Maubin, the dream, Total Recall, doubling echoing, the attack plan, Rupert! Rupert!, a happy version of the drunk king, the drugged wine, half the kingdom, that’s really good writing, The Princess Bride, a Fantasy edgecase, is it Fantasy?, “wading in the waters outside the island of Fantasy”, adopted into Fantasy, Coronets And Steel by Sherwood Smith, Doctor Who, The Androids Of Tara, electro-swords in a feudal future, Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein, a professional actor, Mars as Ruritania, A Princess Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Latveria (in the Marvel universe), Doctor Doom, just a time passer, a finite number of monarchs, Utopia by Sir Thomas More, the noble house of Elphberg (elf berg), Austria, the beautiful streets of Streslau, the tell-tale hair colour, the problem of cheating, the sequel Rupert Of Hentzau, Queen Victoria, The Red And The Black by Stendhal, George R.R. Martin, the ostensible antagonist is Black Michael but actually the baddie is Rupert, “he leaves bloody but laughing”, Rupert as a twisted version of Rudolph, Antoinette du Maubin, a female version of Rudolph, the two Rudolphs, about six months, a romantic trope, no consummation, everybody is cousins here, morganatic marriage, Randy not Randolph, Crusader Kings, Lord Burlsdon, this second son thing is what EMPIRE is all about, smoked in their smoking rooms, India, Afghanistan, North America, South Africa, who this book is for, the problems of aristocratic families, The Man Who Would Be King, the Wikipedia entry, Winston Churchill wrote a Ruritanian Romance, the restoration of a parliamentary system instead of a monarchy, so Churchill, Churchill turned down a Lordship, the suspension of disbelief issue, Colonel Sapt and Fritz, the country is run by like seven people, a kidnapper and a kingslayer, somebody is going to have to swim that moat, the missing cellphone, the moving mole, Robin Hood: Men In Tights, “is this gonna be a thing?”, Saddam Hussein’s doubles, Star Wars, Princess Amidala and whoever…, first person narration, the eggspoon, a new use for a tea table, An Improvement On Jacob’s Ladder, he likes that ladder a bit too much, Jacob (in The Bible) dreams the ladder, GOOD!

The Prisoner Of Zenda by Anthony Hope

Marvel Classics #29 - The Prisoner Of Zenda

The Prisoner Of Zenda - Marvel Classics - Page 3

Zenda Castle

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos

March 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Lines of Departure by Marko KloosLines of Departure
By Marko Kloos, read by Luke Daniels
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 28 January 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 discs; 10 hours

Themes: / military sf / basic training / overpopulated earth / battle armor combat / aliens / marriage / mutiny / mathematics /

Publisher summary:

In the sequel to Terms of Enlistment, a desperate battle for interstellar supremacy pits man against man and humanity against aliens in an epic tale of vicious combat and political deception.

Vicious interstellar conflict with an indestructible alien species. Bloody civil war over the last habitable zones of the cosmos. Political unrest, militaristic police forces, dire threats to the solar system…

Humanity is on the ropes, and after years of fighting a two-front war with losing odds, so is Commonwealth Defense Corps officer Andrew Grayson. He dreams of dropping out of the service one day, alongside his pilot girlfriend, but as warfare consumes entire planets and conditions on Earth deteriorate, he wonders if there will be anywhere left for them to go.

After surviving a disastrous spaceborne assault, Grayson is reassigned to a ship bound for a distant colony—and packed with malcontents and troublemakers. His most dangerous battle has just begun.

In Lines of Departure, Marko Kloos picks up where Terms of Enlistment left off. Earth is overpopulated, various terrestrial governments are still warring with one another in space as people colonize the stars, and there’s a new nearly indestructible alien species that appears determined to exterminate mankind.

The combat scenes are crisp and the action flows at a nice clip. For the majority of the narrative, we tag along with Andrew Grayson as he along with his fellow NAC troopers battle the Lanky, the new aliens on the block. Again we are plunged into a universe where the Chinese, Russians, and North American Commonwealth manage to still fight one another in space as they simultaneously battle the eighty-foot tall Lanky.

Kloos writes a nice sequel, but unlike many others, I didn’t feel that Lines of Departure was as strong as Terms of Enlistment. Still, this is a good Military SF book and worth your time. I like the military hardware, interactions between troops and civilians, and the realistic paradoxical bureaucracy that apparently still plagues humanity’s future.

My favorite scene? Andrew Grayson having breakfast with his mother in a small Vermont diner. I like Military SF combat, and Kloos writes good combat scenes. But the breakfast is something special. Character development happens seamlessly, dialogue feels effortless and natural, and there is some genuine emotional growth occurring. I could almost taste the food, smell the coffee, and feel the heft of the menu and napkins.

The ending is good, maybe not surprising, but it’s true to the story and well written. Nice Job, Mr. Kloos. Thank you for not overreaching. You gave me what the story needed, and you resisted the temptation of adding too many whirly-bangs.

Luke Daniels narrates the audiobook, and turns in another outstanding reading.

I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. If you’ve read Terms of Enlistment, you’ll want to give this a go.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

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