The SFFaudio Podcast #405 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, and Maissa discuss The Ringworld Engineers by Larry Niven
Talked about on today’s show:
Speaker to Canadians, off the rails, doing a sequel, 1980 follow up to the 1970 novel, was this a good idea?, seeing the Ringworld one more time, fun, Larry Niven was having a lot of fun with it, retcon (retroactive continuity), Teela’s luck, maybe Paul is completely wrong, bad bad Teela Brown, her boytoy, because reasons, becoming a protector, where the luck problem comes in, the fight between Teela, Chmee and Wu is fabulous, luck is directing all these people, re-re-reinterpretation, happily ever after and sequels don’t play nice, luck as a genetically programmable trait is complete bullshit, that’s what’s going to happen, if you’re going to do a sequel…, waiting for Teela to show up, The Ringworld Throne, Louis becomes a protector, take each book on its own, she’s protecting all of the lucky people who are coming after her, cooler in a couple of ways, why Louis had needed to be a droud addict (a wire-head), he was bored in the first book, he’s an addict in the second, a little flashback to the visit of the gardens of the patriarch, “call me Chmee”, the Kzin patriarch’s version of the Smithsonian, happy all the time and hating his life, he can’t have cheese anymore, no more skinjobs or sleeping plates, caught up by the A.R.M., when Louis quits the droud, the only thing that saves him, a brilliant plotter, making choices, having free will (or not), Teela has to double-think her way, he’s the center of his own Ringworld (as an addict) then it flips, the addiction withdrawal was too easy, gorging on tree-of-life, that’s why sequels are a problem, really good writers use up their characters, that’s what makes The Postman Always Rings Twice so great, there aren’t endless sequels to great books, by the end of Moby Dick only one character is still alive, this whole book is retconning, here’s what’s wrong with the Ringworld!, that’s the game in Hard SF, the game he was playing was too big for him (Larry Niven), incorporating criticism, we were wrong about this…, this is a science heavy book, Prill was a liar, the spill mountains, the unclimbable rim mountains became volcanoes (kind of), how terrible this world is, the scrith covered place, we are very lucky to be on an actively-geological plant, we’re lucky to have metal, Riverworld by Philip Jose Farmer, an asteroid crash that Mark Twain finds, it’s harder to boil things without metal, a ceramics and alcohol based high-technology, fiddling with the facts of the first book, Paul is more annoyed about the Teela brown transformation, Teela becomes both the hero and the villain kind of, maybe we should have read Protector first, the Pak and the Pak protectors, big science, World Of The Ptavvs, a recap of the premise of Protector, two main characters, unwanted and unexpected uplift, are there any women in there?, Protectors are sexless, talking about the sex in The Ringworld Engineers, rishathra, the Babylon 5 episode with rishathra, the two librarian Wendy and Peter, tell me about the mating practices, we make records (anthropological pornography), Jesse defends Larry Niven again, Wu the silent sexual ambassador, if Louis Wu was a female character…, where’s the same sex rishathra?, an obvious method of birth control, too much of that again, projecting what heterosexual males, I gotta get me a harem, mating uncontrollably, venereal disease is a real problem in our world, no mosquitoes, no venereal disease, the logic behind the sexual practices, the grass eaters, the cow and bull people, how cattle work, the sexual practices of wolves, the going on vacation thing, the terms the field scientists used: sneaky fuckers, another double-think, the lone guy in SF willing to do stuff with this, Bloodchild by Octavia Butler, a real reproductive phenomenon, male pregnancy, sympathizing with everyone, males are easily replaced, they way we love our pets, the way he says females should be docile, the third sex of puppeteer, the way females are regarded, he’s a dude from the 1970s whose not trying to be sensitive, some books are male or female, more appealing to males, Niven is so good at thinking, the Wheels Within Wheels chapter, I’m saving this world, when Louis cuts up the hyperdrive, “Come, let us reason together” where is that line from?, the book of Isaiah, God talking to man, playing the god gambit, he turns the tables on the Hindmost, aye aye captain, the Bandersnatchi of Jinx is from Jabberwocky by Louis Carol, Wunderland, the Alice In Wonderland theme from Ringworld, the Peter Pan theme, Louis Wu is Peter Pan (the boy who will never grow up), following Louis out the window into Neverland (of the ship), The Man-Kzin Wars books, why is Speaker’s name Chmee, Smee, tag in the dark, Smee is the bosun to Captain Hook, that’s really clever, turning lead to fuel, the alchemy of the planet, a wild goose chase, the 5% 95% trick, it’s legit!, a strong sense of pathos, every character we’ve met on the Ringworld will die, would you kill everyone you’ve ever met to save 95% of the population?, empathizing with the sunflowers, is life for a year for everyone better?, it could be triple-think, talking about motivation, why do anything, what’s the point of anything, caring for the breeders, protecting her own vs. others, very interesting stuff, Jordan Peterson at the University of Toronto, helicopter parenting, you can’t tell me my son’s grades are low, teacher motivation, knuckling under, lowering standards and grade inflation, the Business and Computer Science departments, everyone gets As, only Philosophy was holding out (when Jesse was at university), the mother protecting the young, the bear mother attacks threats to the cub, Free Range Kids, the perception of the threat level is higher, the craziness that happens when the mothering instinct is in charge, imagine Grandma with the powers of Rambo, why Teela is such a fearsome adversary (even when she’s playing to lose), the closest in any other science fiction is in the Banquet Scene in Dune, super-geniuses plotting how to murder each other, literally a role playing game style adventure, totally an RPG player move, where The Ringworld Role Playing Game came from, an nobody noticed he was talking into his hand, layers of fun, two poems,
I. The Book
The place was dark and dusty and half-lost
In tangles of old alleys near the quays,
Reeking of strange things brought in from the seas,
And with queer curls of fog that west winds tossed.
Small lozenge panes, obscured by smoke and frost,
Just shewed the books, in piles like twisted trees,
Rotting from floor to roof—congeries
Of crumbling elder lore at little cost.
I entered, charmed, and from a cobwebbed heap
Took up the nearest tome and thumbed it through,
Trembling at curious words that seemed to keep
Some secret, monstrous if one only knew.
Then, looking for some seller old in craft,
I could find nothing but a voice that laughed.
I held the book beneath my coat, at pains
To hide the thing from sight in such a place;
Hurrying through the ancient harbor lanes
With often-turning head and nervous pace.
Dull, furtive windows in old tottering brick
Peered at me oddly as I hastened by,
And thinking what they sheltered, I grew sick
For a redeeming glimpse of clean blue sky.
No one had seen me take the thing—but still
A blank laugh echoed in my whirling head,
And I could guess what nighted worlds of ill
Lurked in that volume I had coveted.
The way grew strange—the walls alike and madding—
And far behind me, unseen feet were padding.
the first two sonnets from the Fungi From Yuggoth sonnet cycle, some books of elder lore, the audiobook irony, the problems of not having an audiobook version, the connection between finding the old books that reveal the truth about the world (only the machine people know the secret), the cult of knowledge, the paperback cover of Protector, surrounded by ancient tomes, great books make you super-smart, hitting that hard, page 128,
Something leaped from the crest of the next hill over. Green light speared it in midair, and held while the thing flamed and died. So much for Chmeee’s spacesuit. But a flight of hand-sized missiles flew toward the base of the green laser beam. Half a dozen white flashes from behind the rise, and the snap! of lightning striking close, showed that Chmeee had succeeded in turning puppeteer-made batteries into bombs.
Teela was close, and she was using a laser. And if she was circling the pond, just beyond the crest… Louis adjusted his position.
Chmeee’s burnt suit had fallen too slowly. A protector would know it was empty. Cthulhu and Allah! How could anyone fight a lucky protector?
calling on one fictional god and one semi-fictional god, calling on other gods, this is Niven playing a game with us, I like this game, gender does really change peoples minds, seeds and fields to plant, that has consequences in thinking, what do men want?, if you look at history, Genghis had a huge harem, the practice of polygamy, viking practices, is it patriarchy, he’s working it out in this Ringworld scenario, providing grandmotherly wisdom and veteran warriors, a generic love, another plot going on, the Earth is great and Ringworld sucks, Ringworld is a Garden of Eden, all the predators are on one island too far away from the rest of the ringworld, this is the story of the Fall, what is the thing that turns you into a Protector and something hard, the tree-of life root, who do we need right now, climate change, we’re so busy pulling the world apart Bussard ramscoops, Ringworld Engineers as an analogy for Earth, we need some smart bad-ass, monstrous, Justin Trudeau’s not going to solve it and neither will Trump, somebody around here needs to eat some Tree-Of Life Root, there were two trees in Eden, the tree of immortality, longevity vs. fertility, banishment, the fall of the cities, the Puppeteers with their snaky heads did this, they have beautiful voices too, a retcon Paul could accept, interpolating,
The smell of tree-of-life was in Louis’s nose and in his brain. It was not like the wire. Current was sufficient unto itself an experience that demanded nothing further to make it perfect. The smell of tree-of-life was ecstasy, but it sparked a raging hunger. Louis knew what tree-of-life was now. It had glossy dark-green leaves and roots like a sweet potato, and it was all around him, and the taste — something in his brain remembered the taste of Paradise.
panspermia is bullshit, Chariots Of The Gods?, the plot of Battlestar Galactica, thallium oxide, the Bible is a true story … we’ve forgotten, damn that’s good!, still doing good work, adding another ring, who were the first people, the two librarians, they get on an Ark, was Teela one of Louis’ descendants? (dating the great great granddaughter), not Heinlein level incest, if you think incest in Science Fiction that’s Heinlein, male SF writers, set pieces, I love the vampires, undercutting Prill’s one skill, vampire perfume, everything on the map of Mars, they have a gas laser, the taboo against lasers went away, I love the ghouls, keeping it in the family, the ghouls are the secret rulers of the Ringworld, non-sentient male and female, free-will vs. choice, he’s sexy, pheromones for humans, animal free will vs. animal free will, insects that get killed in mating, we were all in that state at some point, all the ideas Niven is playing with, all those ridiculous RPG-like events (the sunflowers and the water condensers), looking for ways to create meaning, a really smart book (and also a trashy sequel), stealing stuff for RPGs, dreaming about protectors, one of Niven’s big ideas, where did all the protectors go?, a question for The Ringworld Throne, making a whole bunch of people soft, nature finds a way, The Mote In God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, the hanging people are kind of like the moties, the audiobook narrator didn’t do the Puppeteer contralto, we miss Nessus, the Hindmost is a dick, the tree-of-life virus, where did they go?, Niven didn’t know (in this book), another kind of addiction, their booster spice or their current addiction, a symbiotic virus, who is running the show?, more than Human (or Pak), powerful ideas and powerful characters powerfully motivated, not a wholehearted endorsement.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
1965/1964, Nebula Award, Dr. Bloodmoney, Dune by Frank Herbert, better than Dune?, if books were boxers…, a standard Philip K. Dick book, a lot of religious people, taking the cracker and the juice (communion), religious crises, the smaller ideas, precogs, forgetting the precogs are precogs, writing characters who can see into the future, what this novel has, a certain movie, after chapter 5 you don’t know what is real anymore, actual reality and what we’re seeing aren’t lined up, are we still in the Chew-Z delusion?, a very surreal Dick experiences, it’s a trip, the rhetorical flourish, are they spreading the plague, the questioning of reality, an original idea book (Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?), The Days Of Perky Pat, an improvement of an idea in Perky Pat, a cobbled together book, a collage, Upon The Dull Earth by Philip K. Dick, witchcraft and blood magic, the infection is spreading, Anne’s story (joke) about a cat who eats a steak, transubstantiation, the telepathic martian grandmother jackal beast, the difference, Dr. Bloodmoney is funny, The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch is creepy horror, the colonization of reality, Solaris, 1961, whenever a beautiful young woman says “come with me” she always wants to take you to Jesus, Anne Hawthorne, she’s really an agent for Leo, the rehotrizer, the analog for sin, Nathaniel Hawthorne is the religious American version of Edgar Allan Poe, how evil is Palmer Eldritch?, is he a victim?, claims and undercut claims, what real evidence do we have that he’s evil, the three stigmata, subjective realities, then we would all be your children, childlike evil, coming up with the idea, people playing with dolls, Barbie dolls, that connection makes it a better book, all the men go into the Walt (Ken), all the women go into Perky Pat (Barbie), LEGO, a Doctor Who podcast, little mustaches and little hats, The Game Players Of Titan, playing like kids do, you can no longer have the experience of Barbie in her dream house, if I had Can-D (candy) I could have…, so well realized in the Short Story, the kids are adults and the adults are children, hunting for rabbits, waving to the Care-Boys, Martian octopuses looking to help humanity on blasted earth, adults need toys, from Earth to Mars, Chicken Pox Prospect (CPP), a grim prospect, an escapist materialistic world, landscapes of methane ice, the opiate of the colonists, when Philip K. Dick wrote this book he was banished from the house, miserable in his shack, taking his drugs in his hovel-shack, seeing that huge metal mask in the sky, he’s like the doll, Eichorst or Eidhorst, E-therapy (evolution therapy), “look, I’m a bubblehead”, religion vs. evolution, he beats Palmer Eldritch (or he thinks he does), the opening paragraph is the clue, we’re only made of dust, they way he wrote it that’s the idiosyncratic voice, so he did win, thank you Marissa, thank you Philip K. Dick, the runaway green-house effect, resort beaches in Antarctica, it’s 2016, running around in air-conditioned suits, “his conapt Marilyn Monroe, New Jersey”, 4.62 grables, 1.46 wagners, things were hotter than ever, clanked?, Daybreakers (2009), vampires, a nocturnal society, Mayerson is a shriveled up corpse, Guillermo del Toro, The Strain, a retelling of Dracula, an invasion of New York, Chuck Hogan, Eldritch Palmer, a synthesis of Dracula with The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch, that homage, like Babylon 5, Highlander: The Series, flashbacks, it’s fun, he’s really enthusiastic about all the right things, a scary book, seeing the names mispronounced, little details, now is the time when Paul talks about eXistenZ, virtual reality games, deep into the game, take-out from Perky Pat, just like real life, the sting in the tail, are we still in the game?, they’re acting just like characters, a Palmer Eldritch sort of experience, baseline reality, so many levels of reality, out of the rat maze, laserdisc, a gun made out of a bucket of chicken, real-Cronenbergy, it still holds up, sort of Philip K. Dicky, Big Kahuna Burger, identity issues, Felix Blau, how come you keep calling me Leo, “rigid” is a Philip K. Dick keyword, Roog, a good ending, that interoffice audio memo, we’re supposed to infer that he’s not Palmer Eldritch, World of Ptavvs by Larry Niven, don’t be such a Fnool, getting Fnoogled, Larry Niven takes a page out of Philip K. Dick, the most sexist man in the universe, the Kzinti females are non-sentient, he’s wholeheartedly sexist, Ronnie, super-cunning and clever, lots of boobs, plots and plans, nobody ends up at the top in a Philip K. Dick novel, women in his Antarctic colony, Winnie The Pooh Prospect, fluke-pits, it’s a fluke that they lived, homeopapes, just go with it, underappreciated Dick novels, the religious aspect is a really big thing for a lot of people, now you are like Jesus, Americans are baked in religion, Jesse’s students are from Asia, talking about three days in a tomb, fundamental background material, 37 books, Cosmic Puppets, Marissa really liked the virtual reality stuff, Facebook and Second Life, he would have had a lot of fun with Facebook, Palmer Eldritch today is Google, everyone is in the religion of Facebook, Google’s claws are deep, Fallout 3, Tranquility Lane, an evil little girl, a lot of H.P. Lovecraft, if you really want to be a video-game designer you wanna read a lot of this, whoever the nameless game writer are, the Voigt-Kampf tests, Synths, managing towns, an underground railroad for androids, find the Institute (MIT), a robot wants a human body, romance her later, we’re gonna hook up – might as well get straight to it, they all seem to reward re-reading, The Matrix, I’m going to be all the colonists, I’ll be their civilization, playing all the people, SimCity, Civilization, deep into role-playing without the drugs, addicted to evil games, Clash Of Clans, FREE to play, spending $300 on digital skins (for League Of Legends), Candy Crush, I’m going to farm, rejecting the fake world for the real world, The Sims, managing sims lives, micromanaging fake people’s lives, buying virtual goods for an artificial world, sucking up your life, alcohol is a drugs, beer allows escape from the body, the rejection, the kids being the responsible ones, we will make our own world, it’s hopeful, A Scanner Darkly, Facebook is a drug, liking a Bernie tweet, little check-boxes, a long vacation away from man (then share it on Twitter), I was here at these sand dunes, Jesse is stingy with Twitter favourites, favourites are currency, bots, we live in a sick world, digitizing a human need, you can buy 7,000 followers for $50, Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, you must!, TV satire commentary, the top video games of all time, the number one game was Twitter, they’re not as good as me, I’m better than you, keeping up with the Morrisons, the Morrisons had more stuff in their layout, their virtual television is at the shop, psychotherapy costs $10 an hour, spinners and squares, a 12 hour flight to New Zealand, 35 hours to New Zealand, Auckland, Helen Lowe in Christchurch.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
1952, 1953, 1951, the serialization, a futuristic old book, purple and green with the big eye, The Stars My Destination, weird corporations, quasi-computer intelligences, Marissa didn’t love it, dated elements, 1950s women, really funny, the deleted prologue (is very confusing), damn amazing, so much in so many pages, it doesn’t baby you, many ideas per page, keeping track, not great as an audiobook, page play that can’t be seen in the audiobook, the narration is great, playful with typography, SMS style talk, the Amazon reviews, @ symbols in the ebook, Jerry Chuch, he’s an Esper
2, a textual clue to his nature, (lap)², the audiobook store, an illiterate society, paperbooks are extinct, a post-literate society, when you start listening to audiobooks…, shame for not reading textual books, reading aloud as entertainment, future societies, better as a paperbook on your first read, font size changes, the reader does a lot of the work, an amazing narration, dissension has begun, image of a laughing horse, more than one text version, the original serialization in Galaxy, the finished draft is the paperbook, changes between the text, Monarch vs. Sacrament, “enhanced books”, the esper world, the best adaptation of of The Demolished Man is Babylon 5, terrible and yet essential, the Alfred Bester episodes of Babylon 5, The Lord Of The Rings in space, it’s Dune, the Psi-Corp, “demolition”, the character of Alfred Bester, a dark Powell, deliciously played by Walter Koenig, evil, powerful, charismatic, on Spaceland, The Hunger Games, an unreal world, Sinclair, rogue telepaths, what does it mean if psi-powers were real, the breeding program, marriage, mundanes and telepaths, the coming war, his girlfriend is in the freezer, D’Courtney was a latent telepath, Ben Reich’s half sister, throat cancer, a psychic-scream, Powell and Reich (also in The Stars My Destination), Ben Reich = good money, Powell = power, Dishonest Abe (Lincoln Powell), Jerry Church (corrupted by the money), when telepaths make love, soooo Freudian, New York, sooo dated, demolishing the daughter, a sexy-father figure (super creepy), room for progression, who is Ben Reich’s heir?, who is D’courtney’s heir?, Powell now has all the power and all the money, he’s the bad guy (if you squint), the reconstruction happens in Star Trek episode (to Uhura), Nomad, we misread the code too, an inverted detective story, how-done-it, how-to-catch-’em, a locked room mystery, adapting it to TV, a Philip K. Dick-style mindfuck, a hugh solipsist section, artificial personalities, false memories, no stars in the sky, Star Trek: The Next Generation: Remember Me, going back to the womb, back to the beginning, explosion, concussion, the man with no face, suddenly blood is on him, very Lady Macbeth, a premonition of his future, he’s afraid of himself, The Prisoner‘s final episode, panettone, just 175 pages, the Hugo award, creepy stuff, the gilded corpse, ReDemolished, an essay by Bester on how novels are written, the book is dedicated to H.L. Gold (editor of Galaxy magazine), Astounding, Amazing, John W. Campbell, Jr., Scientology, ESP stuff, DARPA, remote viewing, one of Jesse’s profs, premonitions, Slan by A.E. van Vogt, power fantasy, “fans are slans”, the Minority Report thingy, no sense of the poor, in the Babylon 5 universe…, resentment of PSI, super-powerful, Babylon 5 is pretty amazing, The Best Of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord, Julian May, tension, a caste system, psionic aliens, class struggles, Chooka Frood (the corrupt brothel-keeper), a role playing game character, ceramicly beautiful, a dream, a blind albino who plays gimpsters, “accident”, Duffy Wyg&,
Eight, sir; seven, sir;
Six, sir; five, sir;
Four, sir; three, sir;
Two, sir; one!
Tenser, said the Tensor.
Tenser, said the Tensor.
And dissension have begun.
Doctor Who, The Master, Jo’s rhyme, Mary Had A Little Lamb…, jingles, Bester wrote radio dramas, strange observations, everybody is in the business, if you are at a psychic party…, a throwaway line about the old deaf mutes…, blackmail, no man is an island, “make your enemies on purpose”, he’s an awful man, William Edgars from Babylon 5, Donald Trump, how he earned his money, that embrace, their hugging, we are not ignorant but we aren’t fully party to Ben’s plans, eating candy, there was no bullet, an apache duster, the cover of Galaxy, “humans are weird”, compact death, if we are paying very close attention we should be noticing all the details that aren’t there, the missing bullet hole, the closer you read it the better it pays you, a million more themes, we go to Venus we go to Mars, written today it would be a 600 page doorstop that wouldn’t do half the stuff, “I liked dishonest Abe”, “absolutely scary”, “let’s foreground that”, “I might marry you I’m not really sure about that”, “punch me around”, Coming Attraction by Fritz Leiber, a parody of Mickey Spillane, The Man Who Japed, “he shot her in the groin”, there whole world is completely strange, New York, the future computer, typewriter hands and punch cards, glimpses into…, rushing towards demolition, Old Man Mose, “kittenish”, they’ve turned over parts of their society to…, horrible but compelling, damaged or mean or weird, the game of Sardine, Smee by A.M. Burrage, party games, who ends up alone?, everyone is together and naked, a bunch of adults playing naked hide-and-seek, parallels to the fake solipsistic world, “here’s how I did it”, the delusionary world, he finally had to face the man with no face, I couldn’t tell him the truth…, we were buying it the whole time!, skepticism, admissible evidence and objective proof, Powell looking at Ben, the mysterious parcel, it’s a present for you Ben, clumsy hands, we’re all of just nursemaids in this crazy world, Powell friend, “listen normals”, we see the truth that you cannot see, mind to mind and heart to heart, Powell was the villain the whole time, William Edgars virus, “solve the telepath problem once and for all”, something that Reich never does, a moment of self-awareness, he’s a monster but at least he feels bad about it, Garibaldi’s manipulation, revealing all on the train, Harlan Ellison, Powell is secretly evil, we’re distracted by Reich, Inception (2010), the horror lies, tragic despair, D’Courtney’s secret wish (he wanted to die), his son gave him what he wanted, on some level Ben Reich is a telepath, everything Powell says is a lie, the more you read it the better it is going to get, you need to go into analysis, unspool it, re-reading, one of the best audiobooks, Joe Dunlop, Isis Audiobooks, from 1989, still for sale as tapes, it totally worked with the story, a good sign of a good narration.
Posted by Jesse Willis
By Andy Weir; Narrated by R.C. Bray
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 22 March 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 hours, 53 minutes
Themes: / astronaut / Mars / engineering / space exploration / NASA /
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
That’s right, math made it thrilling. Look at it this way, you’re stranded on a planet that’s essentially trying to kill you. You could just keel over and die … like I would most likely do in the same situation, or you could figure out how to stay alive.
Start with the math. NASA planned for 30 days worth of food for 6 people. The next time someone will be on the planet is in 4 years. Even rationing that food only gets you a little over a year’s worth.
Wait, what if you can’t even contact someone to tell them you’re alive and need to be rescued, more math.
It’s the math that made this book exciting. In fact, this XKCD comic pretty much explains it:
Knowing how long until you’re dead is the suspense.
Couple entertaining math (how is this even possible?) with one of the best characters ever created, Mark Watney, and you have an insanely great story.
Mark Watney is an absolutely hilarious character, especially coupled with the situation he’s in (stranded on Mars) and with whom he’s dealing with (NASA, aka the smartest people ever).
Exchanges like this are that much funnier when it’s freaking NASA he’s talking to:
“[11:49] JPL: What we can see of your planned cut looks good. We’re assuming the other side is identical. You’re cleared to start drilling. [12:07] Watney: That’s what she said. [12:25] JPL: Seriously, Mark? Seriously?”
Probably the best part is that it’s not cause he’s going crazy from being alone for so long, it’s just how he is and that’s awesome.
I not only thought of Watney as a close friend, but I felt like I lived on Mars in this book. You’re constantly aware of how much depends on every little thing not screwing up, how dependent someone is on things we take for granted on a planet that’s actually hospitable to life. And then everything goes wrong.
Which brings me to really the only kind of awkward thing about the book. With the way it’s set up (through log entries and third person omniscient when not with Watney), Andy Weir kind of has to go out of his way to tell you how things are going wrong. Suddenly, you’re brought out of the narrative to be informed how the constant pressure on one area caused the wearing down of material and suddenly … HUGE problem occurs.
Otherwise, I had a blast with this book. The narration by R.C. Bray was top notch. Not that I know anything different, but he nailed the sarcasm and wit of Watney and made this book go more than smoothly. I thought of him as Watney and completely forgot about the narration. That’s when you know it’s good.
This is one of those audiobooks I finished in such a short time because it’s all I wanted to do. I usually have audiobooks for the commute, but this is one you find yourself listening to at every possible moment. That’s when I know I’ve found gold. Eureka, put down what you’re reading and jump on The Martian train (I haven’t lost my metaphors have I?).
5 out of 5 Stars (Cause everything worked together to make this one damn fine read)
The Martian Chronicles
By Ray Bradury; Performed by Mark Boyett
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 hours
Themes: / Mars / science fiction / short stories /
Ray Bradbury is a storyteller without peer, a poet of the possible, and, indisputably, one of America’s most beloved authors. In a much-celebrated literary career that has spanned seven decades, he has produced an astonishing body of work: unforgettable novels, essays, theatrical works, screenplays and teleplays, and numerous superb short-story collections, including The Martian Chronicles: masterfully rendered stories of Earth’s settlement of the fourth world from the sun. Bradbury’s Mars is a place of hope, dreams, and metaphor—of crystal pillars and fossil seas—where a fine dust settles on the great empty cities of a silently destroyed civilization. It is here the invaders have come to despoil and commercialize, to grow and to learn—first a trickle, then a torrent rushing from a world with no future toward a promise of tomorrow. The Earthman conquers Mars…and then is conquered by it, lulled by dangerous lies of comfort and familiarity, and enchanted by the lingering glamour of an ancient, mysterious native race.Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles is a classic work of twentieth-century literature whose extraordinary power and imagination remain undimmed by time’s passage. In connected, chronological stories, the grandmaster of science fiction enthralls, challenges, and delights us, exposing in stark and stunning spacelight our strengths, our weaknesses, our follies, and our poignant humanity, on a strange and breathtaking world where humanity does not belong.
I’ve never read anything by Mr. Bradbury before. I’m not really well read in the “classics”. There is too much modern stuff I want to read, and in general I prefer fantasy to Sci-Fi. But when Brilliance Audio was releasing some of his better known works on Audio CD (although the production itself was done by Audible) last year, I jumped at the chance to finally give him a try.
I’ve been in a bit of a reading funk this year, and was trying to figure out what to read AFTER this book to get me out of it. Since it was short, I wanted to listen to it sooner rather than later, write up my review then move onto something else.
Apparently I just needed to listen to this. Apart from one story (Way in the Middle of the Air) which made me really uncomfortable and showed it’s age. It appears to have been eliminated from several of the more recent editions of this book, and I wish I had skipped it as it really adds very little to this collection.
Everything else was enjoyable. A bit depressing, but enjoyable. Mr. Bradbury paints a bleak picture of a future that thankfully never came. This isn’t hard sci-fi by any means, but more like dystopian space opera.
I would have never thought something bleak would lighten my mood, but the stories were that good, and the prose are excellent. They reminded me a lot of the Twilight Zone, although I know these stories predate that show. I think The Silent Towns could easily have been an episode of the show, as could several others.
I think my favorite of the collection is Usher II. I can’t pretend to get all the references apart from Poe and Lovecraft, but his tale of revenge for censorship is quite good. I’ll have to check out the Poe story The Fall of the House of Usher that seems to have influenced it.
Mark Boyett’s voice reminds me a bit of Rod Serling, which as I get into a bit below seemed a perfect fit. I know there are multiple versions of the audiobook. I’m not sure how easy they are to get a hold of, but this one seems like a good option.
Overall this is an excellent collection of stories, and if like me you haven’t read it/anything by Mr. Bradbury, this seems like as good a place as any to start.
Review by Rob Zak.
By Dan Simmons; Narrated by Kevin Pariseau
From the towering heights of Olympos Mons on Mars, the mighty Zeus and his immortal family of gods, goddesses, and demigods look down upon a momentous battle, observing—and often influencing—the legendary exploits of Paris, Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, and the clashing armies of Greece and Troy.Thomas Hockenberry, former 21st-century professor and Iliad scholar, watches as well. It is Hockenberry’s duty to observe and report on the Trojan War’s progress to the so-called deities who saw fit to return him from the dead. But the muse he serves has a new assignment for the wary scholic, one dictated by Aphrodite herself.With the help of 40th-century technology, Hockenberry is to infiltrate Olympos, spy on its divine inhabitants…and ultimately destroy Aphrodite’s sister and rival, the goddess Pallas Athena. On an Earth profoundly changed since the departure of the Post-Humans centuries earlier, the great events on the bloody plains of Ilium serve as mere entertainment.Its scenes of unrivaled heroics and unequaled carnage add excitement to human lives devoid of courage, strife, labor, and purpose. But this eloi-like existence is not enough for Harman, a man in the last year of his last 20. That rarest of post-postmodern men—an ‘adventurer’—he intends to explore far beyond the boundaries of his world before his allotted time expires, in search of a lost past, a devastating truth, and an escape from his own inevitable ‘final fax.’ Meanwhile, from the radiation-swept reaches of Jovian space, four sentient machines race to investigate—and, perhaps, terminate—the potentially catastrophic emissions of unexplained quantum-flux emanating from a mountaintop miles above the terraformed surface of Mars.
If someone were to describe this book to me (if they even could), I don’t know if I would believe how much I absolutely enjoyed it. Dan Simmons is a mad genius.
Shakespeare-quoting humanoid robots, Greek Gods, post-humans, and old-style humans somehow make the craziest awesome story imaginable.
Ilium is a story told through essentially three unrelated viewpoints. First, there’s Hockenberry. This is told in first person. Hockenberry is called a “Scholic,” a human from our the 20th century (our time) who was rebirthed in a future where Homer’s Trojan War is being fought. His job is to report on the war … to the Greek Gods.
At first, this is completely confusing. Why? is a question I asked myself over and over, but it begins to make sense with time. Plus, it’s hard not to be fascinated with the events of the Iliad. It’s also impressive how much research went into it, though that’s only an assumption since my knowledge of the Trojan War is essentially from the movie, Troy (but I have read the Odyssey!).
The second viewpoint is the humans, mainly Daemon. Daemon is a self-involved fool who is unlikeable to say the least. But who wouldn’t be when you have everything handed to you on a silver platter by robots called servitors (sp – I did listen to the audio so forgive me), like all humans everywhere. Pleasure is their life, knowledge … is lacking.
The third viewpoint is that of a sonnet-loving humanoid robot called a “moravec” and named Mahnmut. Specifically, and only, Shakespeare’s sonnets. It’s work consists of exploring the moon of Jupiter called Europa. Mahnmut is called in on a mission with a group of moravecs to explore some occurrences on the planet mars.
At first, I was highly entertained, though confused, with the events of the Trojan war and the other parts were just above boring. Slowly, the story takes hold and it had me hook, line, and sinker.
Listening to the audiobook, I was looking forward to my morning and evening drives and not too sad to do errands on my lunch hour either. Somehow, it ALL makes sense even though it sounds like the oddest collection of classics to make up a cohesive story all its own. What does Shakespeare have to do with the Iliad or Proust (his work makes appearances too) for that matter, all set in the future with technology that gives humans everything they ever want or need?
It’s crazy I tell ya. Crazy! How did I like this book this much? I’m telling you, Simmons is a mad genius. I will just sit back and let him take me on his journey. It’s amazing. I question not.
Kevin Pariseau is the narrator of this audiobook and while at first I thought he over-acted the part of Hockenberry, though somehow not the other parts, I really grew to like him and found out that it was literally just the character of Hockenberry that he was playing. And it’s impressive given how many Greek words and names he’s got to …erm… name.
The only problem is that Ilium is only half the story. It stops at a huge cliffhanger and I’m already heading to Olympos to see how this ends.
5 out of 5 Stars (Mind … blown)
Posted by Bryce L.