The SFFaudio Podcast #308 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: A Double Barrelled Detective Story by Mark Twain

March 16, 2015 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

A Double Barrelled Detective Story
The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #308 – A Double Barrelled Detective Story by Mark Twain; read by John Greenman. This is an unabridged reading of the story (1 hour 58 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and Paul Weimer.

Talked about on today’s show:
January and February 1902, a one man machine, why don’t people like this story, acerbic humour, puncturing sacred cows (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes), chance and chaos vs. logic and reason, Tom Sawyer, Detective, Mark Twain’s detective fiction, real life detectives are completely incompetent, Pinkertons, corruption, early private detectives as upholding the system, post-WWII detectives, noir, an uneasy triangle, a rogue agent for justice, how ridiculous Sherlock Holmes is, Sherlock Holmes’s brother runs the British government?, Sherlock does the retail and Mycroft does the wholesale, The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975) , Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), if Watson is not there to tell us…, Without A Clue (1988), humble-bragging, the crime doctor, Remington Steele, when the miners deflate Sherlock Holmes, oh yes he’s died many times, the smell of the grave, yet another revival, The Hound Of The Baskervilles, San Bernardino, unkillable, unstaydeadable, how meta this story was, “the great detective narratives”, one of Twain’s autobiographies,

It was a crisp and spicy morning in early October. The lilacs and laburnums, lit with the glory-fires of autumn, hung burning and flashing in the upper air, a fairy bridge provided by kind Nature for the wingless wild things that have their homes in the tree-tops and would visit together; the larch and the pomegranate flung their purple and yellow flames in brilliant broad splashes along the slanting sweep of the woodland; the sensuous fragrance of innumerable deciduous flowers rose upon the swooning atmosphere; far in the empty sky a solitary oesophagus slept upon motionless wing; everywhere brooded stillness, serenity, and the peace of God.

is that a typo?, so many readers didn’t see they were being made fun of, we eat so much bullshit, a parody of everything, epistolary writing, perspective change, the shotgun approach to satire, Fetlock Jones, an obscure English Christan name, pain for all eternity, Melbourne, a travelogue, the great detectives were monsters hounding innocent people, the expectations of the townspeople and the reader, the movements of Holmes’ hands, ravaged by bloodhounds, a superpower, a superhero, the 1965 movie adaptation, a miscreant boss, marriage, revenge, Sherlock Holmes’ American adventures, The Valley Of Fear is a Sherlock Holmes story that begins and ends with Holmes in his bathrobe, The Five Orange Pips, the KKK!, Doyle’s embarrassment by Holmes, Hard Case Crime, a youthful embarrassment, Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014), Galaxy Quest (1999), fan service,

“What a curious thing a detective story is, was there ever one that the author needn’t be ashamed of, except Murders In The Rue Morgue?”

C. Auguste Dupin, earlier detective stories, The Dog And The Horse by Voltaire, Zadig’s super-observance, punishment for honesty, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, Drood by Dan Simmons, Moonmist, Infocom, Agatha Christie, Doctor Who: The Unicorn And The Wasp, Tommy and Tuppence, The Pretender, UPN, Brandon Sanderson, the mystery story, as readers of Sherlock Holmes we feel that we could be like Sherlock Holmes, finger stains and muddy boots and walking sticks with bite marks from Alsatians, Ham Sandwich, Wells Fargo, training you powers of deduction, The Librarian TV movies and The Librarians TV series, a superpower that real people (think) they could have, Doyle’s story on the origin of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Joseph Bell ding ding ding, Murder Rooms, instant diagnosis of disease, predictions vs. diagnosis, web M.D., gout!, Benjamin Franklin, House, M.D., The Talons of Weng-Chiang, The Aluminum Crutch, The Giant Rat Of Sumatra, bad special effects and great writing is preferable to good special effects and shit writing, a little more juice, Murdoch Mysteries (Season 8, Episode 6: “The Murdoch Appreciation Society”), a parallel to the Twain novel, the many cameos by historical figures, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, how interesting the time period was, telegraph technology, the attention to detail is very high, modern Doctor Who elevates relationships over facts about history whereas historical facts are foremost in the Murdoch Mysteries, The Newsroom, as we gain perspective on history…, we know what was going on 100 years ago, why Jesse hates modern Doctor Who, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Corey Carrier’s Indiana Jones, seeing Ernest Hemingway over time, the belle epoch

Stillman accuses Sherlock Holmes (1903) illustration by F. Luis Mora

A Double Barrelled Detective Story by Mark Twain - Stillman Accuses Sherlock Holmes

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

September 10, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Magician's LandThe Magician’s Land (The Magicians #3)
By Lev Grossman; Read by Mark Bramhall
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 5 August 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 16 hours, 27 minutes

Themes: / Fantasy / Magic / Wizard School / Meta Fiction / Alternate Worlds /

Publisher summary:

Quentin Coldwater has been cast out of Fillory, the secret magical land of his childhood dreams. With nothing left to lose he returns to where his story began, the Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic. But he can’t hide from his past, and it’s not long before it comes looking for him.

Along with Plum, a brilliant young undergraduate with a dark secret of her own, Quentin sets out on a crooked path through a magical demimonde of grey magic and desperate characters. But all roads lead back to Fillory, and his new life takes him to old haunts, like Antarctica and the Netherlands, and buried secrets, and old friends he thought were lost forever. He uncovers the key to a sorcerous masterwork, a spell that could create magical utopia, a new Fillory – but casting it will set in motion a chain of events that will bring Earth and Fillory crashing together. To save them he will have to risk sacrificing everything.

This series gets better book by book. I liked the story of the first but didn’t like any of the characters. I liked the story of the second and the characters grew on me quite a bit. This third book to the trilogy is definitely my favorite of the three. The story is interesting and has some throwbacks to the previous installments, Grossman’s dry humor is completely on point, and the characters are the best of this trilogy yet. My favorite part is Grossman’s use of humor throughout the book and his breadth of imagination with the use of magic throughout the book. Grossman brings the trilogy to a satisfying conclusion that you should definitely experience if you’ve already read the first two books of the series.

If you’re even considering reading this book, I’m sure you’ve already read the first two (if not, I’ll wait here while you go take care of that). Quentin is left shut out from Fillory so what is he to do with himself? Surprisingly enough, he does NOT turn into the miserable wreck of a creature he became after graduating in the first book – thank goodness for that. Quentin seems to have grown quite a bit from his past adventures and finds more purpose in his life. It’s really cool to see him develop that way across the books.

Grossman adds a few other point of view characters in this novel and all were nice additions to Quentin’s typical somber tone. You get to find out what other members of the old gang are getting up to as Grossman approaches the climactic conclusion of the trilogy. I particularly like Plum, a brilliant student at Brakebills that also gets involved in the adventure. Those who read Dangerous Women will recognize part of her story from Grossman’s submission to the anthology.

Grossman’s writing comes off smooth and natural. His dry tone and humor stand out as in the first two books and the book was completely enjoyable. He makes references to other works of fiction and modern influences like Harry Potter without feeling forced or making the book feel like it will be dated. There are some points in the plot where things come together far too well by happenstance, but that doesn’t hurt the story too much if you don’t focus on it.

As for the audio side of things, Mark Bramhall continues to perform his role as narrator superbly in this book. He handles the tone of the book so well – executing the voices of characters with all the sarcasm or droll tone you’d expect from these characters. Such simple ways of saying the lines Grossman has written actually made me laugh out loud in some places (“Wands out Harry”). I will definitely be looking for other books narrated by Bramhall.

Posted by Tom Schreck

Review of The Magicians by Lev Grossman

June 3, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audiobook - The Magicians by Lev GrossmanThe Magicians
By Lev Grossman; Read by Mark Bramhall
17 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Published: 2009
Themes: / Fantasy / Magic / Wizard School / Meta Fiction / Alternate Worlds / Fictional fictional characters /

It would be too easy to simply compare this book to the Harry Potter series. There are obvious elements that are present in both, specifically the magic school. But Lev tells a story that only uses that as a means to bring the characters together and move onto the main story, which really kicks off once they graduate.

The main character, Quentin Coldwater, is a very bright high school kid who is busy applying to Universities. Despite his academic excellence, Quentin struggles to connect with the real world. He has a fascination with a series of fantasy books about a land called Fillory. In those books he can see a purpose to existence that he can’t find in his own life.

One university, Brakebills Academy, takes an interest in him and gives him an exam. It is during this exam that Quentin discovers that he is one of those few who have a talent for magic. He is enrolled in the school and goes from the smartest kid in his school to about average in his year. He pushes himself to excel and eventually finds that he is being skipped ahead a year. He makes friends and finds love. But his time there is not without upset. Eventually he and his friends graduate and we are not even half-way through the book.

Struggling to decide what to do with their lives, Quentin and his college friends drift through life for a short time. The world of the wizards isn’t challenging to them. This secret culture looks after their own, keeping a low profile and pretty much doing whatever interests them. Lacking direction and guidance Quentin and his friends have too much money and no responsibilities. They party. Drink, drugs and sex. But then they discover something that even their tutors didn’t know about. Fillory, the land from Quentin’s books, is real and they have a way to get there. They gear up and mount a small expedition to find adventure and fill the hole in their lives. They go into this with a tactics and planning of a group of fantasy role-players. They see everything in terms of the stories of Fillory. They expect quests will turn up to tell them what they need to do, and indeed one does.

The parallels between Fillory and Narnia are much stronger than those with the Harry Potter series, and pervades through much more of the novel. In the Fillory novels, a family of children, the Chatwins, from rural England in the early 1900’s keep finding secret paths into Fillory where they have adventures, defeat enemies to the land and return home as if no time has passed. While there isn’t a Lion god, there is Ember and Umber the twin Ram gods, who clean up any remaining mess and sends the Chatwin children back home. The events and characters in these books are real and have a serious impact on Quentin and his friends as they try to figure out what really happened in Fillory. There are hints and clues throughout that a second reading would put into a clearer context after knowing the ending.

The narrator, Mark Bramhall, gives an excellent performance, keeping most of the voices distinct.

Although this is described as a coming of age novel, I would hesitate to recommend it to younger teen readers. There are several strong uses of offensive language, all fitting with the characters and their situation. Definitely not aimed at the same primary market Harry Potter was.

Posted by Paul [W] Campbell