The SFFaudio Podcast #337 – READALONG: The Lord Of The Rings (Book 5 of 6) by J.R.R. Tolkien

October 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
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Podcast

TheSFFaudioPodcast600The SFFaudio Podcast #337 – Jesse, Julie Davis, Seth, and Maissa talk about The Lord of the Rings Book V (“The War Of The Ring”) by J.R.R. Tolkien (aka the first half of The Return Of The King).

Talked about on today’s show:
Published 60 years ago; research is Jesse’s “security blanket”; The Black Stone by Robert E. Howard; stone of Erech has parallels to the Kaaba in Mecca; Moses’s ill-fated water-rock in Old Testament; the Stone of Scone; palantíri; War? What is it good for? We aren’t fans of all the battles; Éomer’s poetic “all is lost” moment; The Last Samurai and heroic fatalism; World War I; Faramir’s dislike of war; the movies’ over-reliance on spectacle; the power of words; the Lord of the Nazgûl; Éowyn’s badassery; Houses of Lamentation vs. Houses of Healing; the strength of the weakest; parallels between Merry and Pippin; the flaws of film versions of Éowyn–and Faramir; great deeds vs. duty; Éowyn as Old Norse valkyrie archetype; the twisting of the Nazgûl; debating the corporeality of Sauron; Sauron and Denethor use others for their dirty work; Ghân-buri-Ghân and other marginalized figures; woodwoses; no authorized Lord of the Rings fan fiction; Jesse wants public domain story following Gimil and Legolas on postwar adventures; Fifty Shades of Grey as Twilight fanfiction; Tolkien’s scholarly inside jokes; we don’t know our Greek numbers; on foils, parallels, and the integrity of Tolkien’s work; Théoden and Denethor; Gandalf’s healing power, “see the light”; Denethor’s false wisdom; Denethor passages have quality of a Greek tragedy; modern society, like Denethor, can’t see the whole picture; film portrayal of Gandalf whacking Denethor is not canon; Christ parallels and the resurrection of hope; the layering of symbolism; barrow wights and Théoden’s barrow; Korean harvest festival Chuseok; the aggression of the Tolkien estate; the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings animated movies of yore; “the hands of the king are the hands of a healer”; athelas (kings foil) to the rescue!; the king’s power to call the wounded back from the dead; the title of lore master; the last big distraction and self-sacrifice at the Black Gate; on the division of Lord of the Rings into books and volumes; on the pleasures of slow reading; more discourse on Denethor; Pippin and Merry are interchangeable (!?); even Sauron is just one evil power, parallels cyclical historical events in our world (cf. resurgence of Russia under Putin); no spoilers for Maissa!; the Mouth of Sauron’s terms, and what if Gandalf had surrendered?; Hitler, appeasement, and Alexander the Great; envisioning flamethrower guitarist from Mad Max: Fury Road at the Battle of the Black Gate;

Draggy The Dragon with THE RETURN OF THE KING by J.R.R. Tolkien

Eowyn And The Lord Of The Nazgul - illustration by Jim Reid

Ballantine Books - The Return Of The King by J.R.R. Tolkien

Methuen - The Return Of The King by J.R.R. Tolkien

UNICORN - The Return Of The King by J.R.R. Tolkien

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #319 – READALONG: The Lord Of The Rings (Book 3 of 6) by J.R.R. Tolkien

June 1, 2015 by · 2 Comments
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Podcast

TheSFFaudioPodcast600

The SFFaudio Podcast #319 – Jesse, Julie Davis, Seth, and Maissa continue their journey through The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien with a discussion of Book III “The Treason of Isengard” (aka the first half of The Two Towers).

Talked about on today’s show:
Lord of the Rings was published in three volumes instead of six volumes due to paper shortages; surprise, Jesse prefers shorter volumes; Ayn Rand’s thick books, and thin books like Anthem; pocket editions of The Hobbit; small books make us feel like giant Alice in Wonder characters; The Two Towers is the shortest volume, though Return of the King is bulked up by appendices; as a first-time reader, Maissa appreciated the quick pacing; Anthony Boucher’s review claims the volume makes “inordinate demands” on readers; overwhelming back history; the difference of reading review and reading for pleasure; reading at Shadowfax speed!; “hope is in speed”; the poetry of Tolkien’s prose; Anglo-Saxon influence on alliteration in Rohan speech; the beauty of Tolkien’s descriptions; Gimli’s descriptions of the caves; the illegitimate heirs of Tolkien can’t compete with Tolkien’s command of language; the Orcs as comic relief; three factions of Orcs set against the three races of runners; Legolas and Gimli working through their differences; evil by definition does not make alliances; Saruman’s cloak of many colors as a symbol of evil; the Orcs’ lack of coöperation; who is the wandering old man in the hat?; the contrast between the Orc draught and Ent draught, similar to Gandalf’s flask of Miruvor in Book II; the persistent symbolism of waters and drinking in this volume; similarities between Rohan and Anglo Saxon culture; linguistic parallels between the speech of the Rohirrim and Old English; “sister-daughter” and different familial relations in Rohan; the emerging importance of Éowyn; the underpopulation of Middle Earth; parallels between the Third Age of Middle Earth and Europe after the “fall” of Rome; Gondor = Rome to some Tolkien scholars; Dan Carlin’s Blueprint for Armageddon on World War I; the influence of World War I on Tolkien’s writing; flood and trench imagery of Orthanc recalls the devastation of World War I; Middle Earth (and the modern world) is in a time of transition; conversation with Éomer about the persistence of legends; “not we, but those who come after, will make the legends of our time”; people tend not to recognize they’re in a time of transition; Jesse deftly defines “Flotsam and Jetsam” for us and ties them into the book’s backward-looking and forward-looking symbolism; Tolkien’s love of etymology; action like the Ents’ storming of Isengard happens off-stage; Agatha Christie style foreshadowing with Longbottom Leaf; we don’t really care about Helm’s Deep; “Aragorn joined Éomer in the van”; horrible tree puns; Old Forest as the Fangorn of the West; we’re pretty sure the Entwives are hanging out there; the Elves are less interesting than Ents because the Elves are too perfect; the Elves talked the Ents into wakefulness; Shadowfax’s race of horses can understand the speech of men; the pre-speech age of human beings and Koko the gorilla; the Rangers are the detectives of Middle Earth; Voltaire’s Zadie and Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin from The Murders in the Rue Morgue; debate about existence of evidence for the Entwines–stay tuned to the next volume!; finding the Entwives = Mission Impossible (cue theme); the growth (in many ways) of Merry and Pippin; Gandalf’s foresight in allowing them to join the Fellowship; “they are the pebbles that began the avalanche of the Ents’ rising”; the three runners sped 220 kilometers in four days; it proved fortuitous that Pippin found the Palantir; the Palantir is FaceTime with Sauron; Merry and Pippin were key to Boromir’s redemption; return of the black swans–and the eagle!; Ariel in The Tempest by Shakespeare does all the work for Prospero, just like the eagles; Gandalf actually performs magic in “The Voice of Saruman” chapter; the voice in Dune; Gandalf takes over the council of wizards; the blue wizards aren’t present because they’re too “swear-y”; the recurring importance of choice; Tolkien is always on the side of free will; Aragorn’s decision not to follow Frodo; Palantir are the “seven stones” of Gondor’s flag; the Palantir is neither good nor evil; Palantir symbolizes communication of superpowers between the world wars, and the iconic red phone; The Victorian Internet by Tom Standee: the telegraph is the best thing since sliced bread; the lazy visual shortcuts that the movie takes with the Palantir and with Saruman’s influence on Théoden; The Man Who Never Was; meanwhile, Sam and Frodo are slogging through; the inevitable breaking of the Fellowship; the four elements in Gandalf’s death and resurrection; more Lovecraftian weirdness in the bowels of Middle Earth; Gandalf has changed; Norse worm gnawing at the roots of the World Tree; Treebeard as shepherd of the trees; “boom, boom, dahrar!; Net names tell the whole story of things; Freebeard’s bed isn’t for sleeping; Shakespeare’s disappointment at Shakespeare’s sleight-of-hand with the trees of Birnam Wood not actually coming to life in Macbeth; “fear not, till Birnam wood do come to Dunsinane” almost perfectly echoed in The Two Towers; nobody does Elves better than Tolkien; the joy Tolkien must have had writing about trees.

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“Aragorn and Legolas went now with Eomer in the van.”

AragornEomerVan

M.E.R.P. - Ents Of Fangorn
M.E.R.P. - Riders Of Rohan illustration by Angus McBride
Ballantine Books - The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

By Seth Wilson

Review of Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

July 12, 2011 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audiobook - Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil GaimanOdd and the Frost Giants
By Neil Gaiman; Read by Neil Gaiman
Audible Download – Approx. 1 Hour 46 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Children’s Audio
Published: September 2009
Provider: Audible.com
Themes: / Fantasy / giants / Scandinavia / Norse mythology / winter /

Odd (a Scandinavian name meaning tip of the blade) is a boy living in long ago Scandinavia. After his father dies, he is accidentally crippled, his mother remarries a bully, and winter extends into the months of spring, Odd’s life doesn’t seem as if it can get worse. Odd decides to go live in his father’s cabin in the woods. An otherworldly adventure begins when a fox fetches him to rescue a bear whose paw is stuck in a tree.

This charming, simple story takes us into the world of Norse mythology, acting almost as a primer on the characters of Thor, Loki, Odin, and Freya. And, of course, we learn about the Frost Giants. Written for younger children, it is nevertheless a fresh, well paced story that held my interest quite well. It could well interest readers enough to explore the Nordic myths for themselves. Above all, it is the story of a gentle, kind, intelligent boy who has had terrible events in his life but who does not let those events define how his attitude toward life.

The audiobook was read by author Neil Gaiman who, as always, does his story full justice. He has a particular talent with using accents to define character that is a joy to hear. There is also something wonderful in hearing an author read his work so that listeners know just how he imagined it.

Neil Gaiman is a master story teller and this tale, no matter what the intended age, is enchanting. Recommended for younger readers and the young at heart.

Posted by Julie D.

The SFFaudio Podcast #087 – READALONG: Hyperion by Dan Simmons

December 20, 2010 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #087 – Jesse talks with Gregg Margarite and Mark Douglas Nelson (two terrific LibriVox and iambik audiobook narrators) about the Brilliance Audio (Audible Frontiers) audiobook Hyperion by Dan Simmons.

Talked about on today’s show:
SciPodBooks.com (Mark Douglas Nelson’s audiobooks), Mark’s double understanding of Hyperion, “make it internally consistent”, Jurassic Park, living in forward and backward time, “The Scholar’s Tale”, setting reality aside, “why can’t stories be written in less than 600 (or 1100) pages”, “the nomenclature was great”, Hyperion made Gregg sad (it reminded him of Walmart), The Canterbury Tales, The Decameron, was Hyperion a near miss?, “The Priest’s Tale”, Robert Sheckley, if they were self contained stories would it have worked better?, The Fall Of Hyperion, comparing the Hyperion Cantos to Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld series, “The Diplomat’s Tale”, the stories get worse as you go along, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s Slaughterhouse Five |READ OUR REVIEW|, “The Soldier’s Tale”, making a link between sex and violence, Starship Troopers, Colonel Fedmahn Kassad is a good character, “The Poet’s Tale”, Martin Silenus (the Satyr) and Sad King Billy (William XXIII of the Kingdom of Windsor-in-Exile), “The Detective’s Tale” (the long goodbye), cybrids are very cool, John Keats, Ezra Pound, combining a hardboiled/noir detective story with William Gibson’s Neuromancer, talking to dolphins, narrator duties, you don’t fall in love with the client!, “when a detective‘s partner is killed he’s supposed to do something about it”. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, “The Scholar’s Tale”, Sol Weintraub, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Merlin sickness (Merlin’s disease), David Hume‘s explanation of miracles: a miracle would be “a transgression of a law of nature”, if speculative fiction exists this is what they were talking about, time debt, if anything can happen then I don’t care what happens, the story of Abraham and Isaac (the binding of Isaac), is Hyperion a religious book?, Abraham’s ethics were childish compared to Sol, The river Lethe (was one of the rivers in Hades – it was river of unmindfulness, The Green Odyssey |READ OUR REVIEW|, why was the windwagon late?, Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express and Ten Little Indians, what happened to the Templar?, We’re Off To See The Wizard, The Wizard Of Oz, the confrontation with the Shrike, it’s a grab bag of everything, Simmons must have been inspired by all sorts of sources, the half-hour blender metaphor, Gregg is upset we all came to the same (and correct) conclusion, Simmons set himself a Titanic task with Hyperion, where was the editor?, listening to a multi-voiced audiobook, Full Cast Audio, Hyperion‘s narrators (Marc Vietor, Allyson Johnson, Kevin Pariseau, Jay Snyder, Victor Bevine), having to fend off the legions of audiobook groupies, Gregg gets emails about the pronunciation of “prestidigitation”, the generic American sitcom accent, Norse mythology, Yggdrasil (the world tree), Stephen King’s the Dark Tower series and Kevin J. Anderson’s Saga of Seven Suns series, Kevin J. Anderson‘s writing secret (he goes hiking with a voice recorder), Frank Herbert’s Dune, David Lynch’s Dune, Dune Messiah is a let-down but it has the Golah!, Gregg wants a copy of The Orange-Catholic Bible, “would you be a Bene Gesserit or a Mentat?”, Gregg would be a Morlock, look elsewhere for a cannibal podcast, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle‘s Oath Of Fealty, Jonathan Swift‘s Gulliver’s Travels, Julie Davis of Forgotten Classics, Gregg says Julie is really a horse!

Posted by Jesse Willis