Craphound, wasn’t Cory Doctorow’s first short story, but it was the first one I’d ever read of his. Published in Science Fiction Age, a slick full sized magazine in which Doctorow had a regular column, it featured many of the elements you’ll find in his other stories and novels. A kind of curious combination of warm and fuzzy nostalgia with a clear eyed thinking. Craphound is also what Doctorow named both his website and podcast.
By Cory Doctorow; Read by Jesse Thorn
1 |MP3| – Approx. 45 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Escape Pod
Podcast: January 2006
“Aliens have once again decided to visit Earth in this lighthearted romp. Rather than having conquest on their minds, they merely wish to visit, and explore. Jerry is a junk dealer, a collector, a pack rat of crap and antiques and memorabilia, depending on your point of view.” First published in Science Fiction Age, March 1998.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Ready Player One
By Ernest Cline; Read by Wil Wheaton
15 hours 46 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Themes: / Gaming / Virtual Reality / 1980s nostalgia / Dystopia / Near-Future /
It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, and like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.
And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle…
If you are a pop culture junkie, or a gamer, or a virtual world inhabitant, this is the book for you. It was such great fun that I found myself making up reasons to listen to the audio book. Wil Wheaton has become one of my favorite readers, especially at 1.5 speed. His casual tone is perfect here.
Don’t be turned away by people who claim that this book is pure nostalgia. While not heavy-handed, and arguably YA in tone, I found it to be thoughtful on issues of identity in an increasingly virtual world. And just try imagining the new cities of stacked mobile homes without smiling!
Other fun things – author Ernest Cline has a vibrant blog for the book, including a RP1 Game. He even posted a Spotify playlist featuring most of the music mentioned in the book. If that can’t get you in the mood for a little nostalgic romp, you are dead on the inside. Dead!
Posted by Jenny Colvin
Now and Forever
By Ray Bradbury; Read by Paul Hecht
4 CDs – 4.75 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Themes: / Fantasy / Collection / Novella / Small town / Nostalgia / Starship / Aliens / Telepathy /
In some ways the most interesting part of the two novellas that make up this book are Ray Bradbury’s introductions. He explains that both “Somewhere the Band is Playing” and “Leviathan ‘99” have their origins in his long ago days as a Hollywood screenwriter. These explanations hang on in the listener’s mind and provide insights and color for the stories that follow.
“Somewhere the Band is Playing” evokes the memories of the idyllic towns that Bradbury loves to write about, a la “Mars is Heaven” in The Martian Chronicles. One wonders if this bucolic turn-of-the-20th-century setting has its roots in his own youth in Waukegan, Illinois. The story is told by James Cardiff, a reporter who awakens one morning mysteriously drawn to Summerton, Arizona, which does not appear on the map although the train stops there. As he explores the town he finds it is full of mysteries that seemingly defy explanation such as adult inhabitants, but no children; a graveyard, but no dates of death on the tombstones. This story gently invites the listener to consider questions of immortality, paradise, and the consequences of our choices.
Moby Dick was the inspiration for “Leviathan ‘99”. In Bradbury’s tale, the white whale has become a huge comet, Ishmael is a young astronaut, Queequeg is a mind-reading alien, and Captain Ahab a nameless starship captain who is madly pursuing his nemesis after their original encounter left him blind. Ray Bradbury is known for his love of words which comes through strongly in in the Shakespearean-like soliloquies through which The Captain shows his descent into madness. I especially liked the use of Quell the mind-reader to show us The Captain’s true frame of mind when he was elsewhere. Even the reader who has barely a speaking acquaintance with Moby Dick will appreciate the parallels that Bradbury employs and thrill to the question of how he will choose to end the story.
Neither of these stories has the depth of Ray Bradbury’s great works such as Something Evil This Way Comes or Fahrenheit 451. However, they are novellas and perhaps it may be better to compare them to his short stories. On a first listening, they left me rather flat, wondering, “Is that all there is?” However, further contemplation made it obvious that there is a common theme of man’s blindness, the wonders that are just within reach, and the consequences of our choices. I would not recommend these as a first outing for someone who hasn’t read Bradbury before but to the reader who already appreciates this author, they have much to recommend them.
Paul Hecht’s narration is perfect and his ability to voice characters is exceptional. It is a mystery to me how such a deep voice can portray a woman so well without using falsetto or sounding ridiculous but Hecht does it with little effort. His characters spring to life within the listener’s mind and add depth to the story.
Highly recommended for those who enjoy Ray Bradbury’s writing.
Posted by Julie D.
ed. – This is our first review of an audiobook from the new Sci-Fi imprint from Recorded Books. Click here for a look of what’s coming up from this imprint, which is shaping up to be a fine selection from the literary end of science fiction and fantasy.
The Best Christmas Ever
By James Patrick Kelly; Read by James Patrick Kelly
FREE MP3 DOWNLOAD – 38 minutes, 19 secs [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: James Patrick Kelly
Themes: / Science Fiction / Christmas / Nostalgia /
Albert Paul Hopkins was the last man. The biops were determined to see to his every need. It had only been eight months since the last Christmas so it was definitely time for another one, the man needed another one. And if this wasn’t the best Christmas ever it might be his last!
This is the first James Patrick Kelly short story MP3 available through Fictionwise, but it was actually available along with several other short stories on James Patrick Kelly’s own FREE READS website back in 2004. First published on SciFiction, the online fiction wing of the sci-fi channel, The Best Christmas Ever has been nominated for a 2004 Hugo in the best short story category. As the story progresses facts about what has happened to the world start to slip out, and it seems that something has made mankind all but exitnct. In its place are creatures called “biops” which are able to morph into any living thing. This is a very pogniant tale of a man who duitfully continues to exist when he clearly doesn’t want to and how his continued existence effects those around him. You might think of it as a James Patrick Kelly version of I Am Legend. Kelly is great at incorporating narrative information into his plots and his reading is as always excellent. There are a couple time he stumbles over a word or two and I could here pages turning but none of that really harms the production. Available for FREE on the Fictionwise site and JPK’s FREE READS site. It’s like an early Christmas present, now go unwrap it!
Posted by Jesse Willis