Review of His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

October 21, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audiobook - His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi NovikHis Majesty’s Dragon
By Naomi Novik; Read by David Thorn
5 CDs – 6.5 Hours [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 9780739354131
Themes: / Fantasy / Hard Fantasy / Alternate History / Dragons / 19th Century / War / Britain / France /

Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors rise to Britain’s defense by taking to the skies . . . not aboard aircraft but atop the mighty backs of fighting dragons.

Abridged! And here I thought we were beyond abridged audiobooks. I wasn’t even sure I’d ever see another abridged audiobook on a bookstore bookshelf again, let alone find myself listening to one. After all is said and done though, His Majesty’s Dragon wasn’t badly abridged, there were no jarring transitions, even if it felt as if large parts of the story were missing. Narrator David Thorn and his English accent gave Temeraire and the other dragons a kind of menacing innocence, full of a promise of danger and odd loyalty.

The world of His Majesty’s Dragon posits an alternate history where dragons, once the sole province of kings and emperors across Europe and Asia, are now a weapon delivery platform of choice for the military during the Napoleonic Wars. Will Laurence, a promising young sea Captain of the Royal Navy, captures a French ship carrying a precious bounty, an unhatched dragon egg. Unfortunately, what little the ship’s surgeon knows about dragon eggs is that this one will hatch soon. Too soon, in fact, for if the dragon within is to be of any use it must be harnessed immediately upon hatching to a sailor with whom it will have a lifelong bond.

Much of the action of the novel takes place in the training grounds of Britain’s “Aerial Corps.” The writing is professional and amicable, the characters are interesting and I get the sense this story will definitely appeal to the Harry Potter crowd, especially those who like a little romance in their fantasy. One of the standouts, character-wise, is a female dragon captain, who though battle hardened and physically scarred, packs an emotional wallop in the few scenes she graces. As this is the first book in a series it leaves a lot open at its conclusion, and perhaps my disappointment with the lack of integration within the larger pattern off history will be addressed by the subsequent books.

About that disappointment: History fans, like me, will probably be disappointed with the lack of historical detail. There’s good stuff, but not enough of it. Worse though, Novik’s world isn’t fully thought through. The changes she’s made to her historical setting don’t include any wide-ranging hard consequences. For instance, just having another sentient species on Earth would have had tremendous religious, societal and political ramifications to our history. But if individual members of that sentient species are as powerful as a Lancaster bomber you’d expect even more. These necessary changes are absent, or if not entirely omitted they are at least checkmated by dragons on opposing armies. Sure there attitudinal changes, mostly disdain, coming from the aspects of society that don’t interact with dragons on a daily basis, but this feels like the “muggle” solution, a cheat, like was done in the Harry Potter books. And that doesn’t fit the alternate history with one minor change vibe Novik was going for. Dragons, like the armor plated, jool-loving, fire-breathing creatures Novik uses, would have to impact culture from bow to stern. Just think how many cultures have mythical dragons in their history, now make them real! Simply put, there was work to be done and that work wasn’t done in His Majesty’s Dragon. Admittedly, the threads of the significant changes Novik has woven into her image are good. Attitudes toward women have changed within the Aerial Corps, and this is the most fascinating aspect of the book for me. But the dragon aspect of history feels as if they was just plopped atop an already existing rich tapestry of history, the threads attaching it to real history don’t go deep enough, and ultimately, this may be a case where the history and the fantasy are incompatible. But perhaps this is only an issue in the abridged version? If so I’d definitely be up for more in the Temeraire series – in which case I’d really need to get my mitts on the unabridged editions for subsequent books.

Posted by Jesse Willis

New Arrivals – Asimov, Novik, Harrison, and Bear, Oh My!

June 29, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Uncategorized 

Science Fiction Audiobook Recent Arrivals

Received some nice goodies this week at SFFaudio HQ.

Science Fiction Audiobook - The Caves of Steeel by Isaac AsimovThe Caves of Steel
By Isaac Asimov; Read by William Dufris
6 CD, 7 hrs – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 9781400104215

It’s nice to see this SF classic get the audio treatment.

A millennium into the future, two advancements have altered the course of human history: the colonization of the galaxy and the creation of the positronic brain. Isaac Asimov’s Robot novels chronicle the unlikely partnership between a New York City detective and a humanoid robot who must learn to work together.


Fantasy Audiobook - His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi NovikHis Majesty’s Dragon
By Naomi Novik; Read by David Thorn
5 CD, 6.5 hrs – [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 9780739354131

Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors rise to Britain’s defense by taking to the skies . . . not aboard aircraft but atop the mighty backs of fighting dragons.

When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Capt. Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future–and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.

Fantasy Audiobook - For a Few Demons More by Kim HarrisonFor a Few Demons More
By Kim Harrison; Read by Marguerite Gavin
14 CD, 17 hrs – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 978006788384

Despite dating one vampire and living with another, Rachel Morgan has always managed to stay just ahead of trouble…until now. A fiendish serial killer stalks the Hollows, claiming victims across society, and the resulting terror ignites a vicious Inderland gang war. And when the vampire master Piscary is set free and the demonic Algaliarept dares to walk openly under the sun, even Rachel Morgan can’t hide forever.

SF Audiobook - Quantico by Greg BearQuantico
By Greg Bear; Read by Jeff Woodman
11 CD, 13.5 hrs – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America
Published: 2007
ISBN: 9780792748441

It’s the second decade of the twenty-first century, and terrorism has escalated almost beyond control. The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem has been blown to bits by extremists, and, in retaliation, thousands have died in another major attack on the United States. The War on Terror has reached a deadly stalemate. Now the FBI has been dispatched to deal with a new menace. A plague targeted to ethnic groups–Jews or Muslims or both–has the potential to wipe out entire populations. But the FBI itself is under political assault. There’s a good chance agents William Griffin, Fouad Al-Husam, and Jane Rowland will be part of the last class at Quantico. As the young agents hunt a brilliant homegrown terrorist, they join forces with veteran bio-terror expert Rebecca Rose. But the plot they uncover–and the man they chase–prove to be far more complex than anyone expects.

New Releases June/July

June 14, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: New Releases 

SFFaudio New Releases

A golden age of audiobooks is upon us! Just look at these beauteous new releases for June and July! It’s as if the gods of Science Fiction are smiling down upon us all!

First up, thanks to Tantor, is a long awaited Asimov mystery, with robots…

The Naked Sun by Isaac AsimovThe Naked Sun
By Isaac Asimov; Read by William Dufris
7 CDs or 1 MP3-CD – 8 Hours 30 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Published: June 2007
ISBN: 140010422X (CDs), 1400154227 (MP3-CD)
A millennium into the future, two advancements have altered the course of human history: the colonization of the Galaxy and the creation of the positronic brain. On the beautiful Outer World planet of Solaria, a handful of human colonists lead a hermit-like existence, their every need attended to by their faithful robot servants. To this strange and provocative planet comes Detective Elijah Baley, sent from the streets of New York with his positronic partner, the robot R. Daneel Olivaw, to solve an incredible murder that has rocked Solaria to its foundations. The victim had been so reclusive that he appeared to his associates only through holographic projection. Yet someone had gotten close enough to bludgeon him to death while robots looked on. Now Baley and Olivaw are faced with two clear impossibilities: Either the Solarian was killed by one of his robots—unthinkable under the laws of Robotics—or he was killed by the woman who loved him so much that she never came into his presence!

Then, we head back in time, courtesy of the good folks at Blackstone Audio, to

Science Fiction AudiobookThe Invasion Of The Body Snatchers
By Jack Finney; Read by Kristoffer Tabori
1 MP3-CD or 6 CDs – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: June 2007
ISBN: 9780786169559 (MP3 CD), 9780786157815 (CDs)
On a quiet fall evening in the small, peaceful town of Mill Valley, California, Dr. Miles Bennell discovered an insidious, horrifying plot. Silently, subtly, almost imperceptibly, alien life-forms were taking over the bodies and minds of his neighbors, his friends, his family, the woman he loved—the world as he knew it.

Next, my fellow droogs, is a classic from Harper/Caedmon, never before released unabridged…

Harper Audio - A Clockwork OrangeA Clockwork Orange
By Anthony Burgess; Read by Tom Hollander
7 CDs – 8 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio / Caedmon
Published: June 2007
ISBN: 0061170623
A vicious fifteen-year-old droog is the central character of this 1963 classic. In Anthony Burgess’s nightmare vision of the future, where the criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends’ social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. And when the state undertakes to reform Alex to “redeem” him, the novel asks, “At what cost?” *This edition includes both the controversial last chapter and Burgess’s introduction “A Clockwork Orange Resucked.”

Further, we travel with BBC Audiobooks America to the golden age of SF for one of the pillars of A.E. van Vogt’s mighty career…

Science Fiction Audiobook - Slan by A.E. van VogtSlan
By A.E. van Vogt; Read by Oliver Wyman
6 CDs – 7 Hours 40 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America
Published: 2007
ISBN: 9780792748946
Jommy Cross is a slan, a genetically bred superhuman whose race was created to aid humanity but is now despised by normal humans. Slans are usually shot on sight, but that doesn’t stop Jommy’s mother from bringing him to see the world capital of Centropolis, the seat of power for Earth’s dictator, Kier Gray. But on their latest trip to Centropolis, the two slans are discovered, and Jommy’s mother is killed. Jommy, only 9 years old, unwittingly becomes caught up in a plot to undermine Gray, who may be more sympathetic to slans than the public suspects. The nonstop action and root-for-the-underdog plot has made Slan a science fiction favorite.

Now with a quick jump forward with Books On Tape, to the modern sequel…

Science Fiction Audiobook - Slan Hunter by A.E. van Vogt and Kevin J. AndersonSlan Hunter
By Kevin J. Anderson and A.E. Van Vogt; Read by Scott Brick
8 CDs – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Books On Tape
Publication date: July 10, 2007
ISBN: 1415940320
“This startling SF adventure novel is a collaboration between the classic SF grand master A. E. van Vogt and contemporary master Kevin J. Anderson. At the time of his death in 2000, van Vogt left a partial draft and an outline for the sequel to his most famous novel, Slan. Now the story is completed by Anderson and is sure to be one of the most popular SF novels of the year. Slans are a race of superior mutants, smarter and stronger than homo sapiens and able to read minds. Thousands of years in the future on Earth, the Slan Wars are over, and the slans were largely wiped out, but people still fear and distrust them. They are now a persecuted minority who live in hiding from the greater population. Slan Hunter tells of this towering conflict in the far future, a war among the races of mankind, as humanity–all types of humanity–struggles to survive. Mutant Jommy Cross, the hero of Slan, and the other great characters from that book return, including Kier Gray, Gray’s beautiful daughter Kathleen, and the villainous John Petty. The final Slan War now begins.”

And what Golden Age would be complete without a revist to an audiobook that’s probably had more incarnations than your average time lord? Yep, it’s Dune, this time done up in an unabridged multi-voiced version…

Science Fiction Audiobook - Dune by Frank HerbertDune
By Frank Herbert; Read by a full cast
? CDs – 27 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Renaissance
Published: June 2007
ISBN: 1427201439
Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Maud’dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family—and would bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream. A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what is undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction. Frank Herbert’s death in 1986 was a tragic loss, yet the astounding legacy of his visionary fiction will live forever.

And finally we conclude with respected first novel in a new fantasy series that Books On Tape is offering…

Fantasy Audiobook - His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi NovikHis Majesty’s Dragon
By Naomi Novik; Read by Simon Vance
9 CDs – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Books On Tape
Release Date: June 26, 2007
ISBN: 1415940142
Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors rise to Britain’s defense by taking to the skies … not aboard aircraft but atop the mighty backs of fighting dragons. When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Capt. Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future–and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarefied world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.

My ears are tingling just thinking about all these!

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