Review of The Scarifyers (9) The King Of Winter by Simon Barnard and Paul Morris

October 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Scarifyers (9) The King Of WinterThe Scarifyers (9) The King Of Winter
By Simon Barnard and Paul Morris; Performed by a full cast
Digital Download or 2 CDs – Approx. 1 hour 34 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Bafflegab
Published: October 17th, 2014 (PRE-ORDER AVAILABLE NOW)

Midsummer, 1938. When a train porter is frozen to his living room chair (then nearly crowned Miss Croydon), MI-13’s Harry Crow and Professor Dunning are on the case. But what links the unfortunate porter to the equally glaciated peer-of-the-realm, Lord Trumpley? MI:13’s investigations lead them to exclusive gentleman’s establishment, The Tartarus Club, whose membership appears to be rapidly dwindling. What is the secret of the Tartarus Club? Why are the villagers of Thornton Gibbet afraid of a 300-year-old ghost? And why is it snowing in June? As everlasting winter sets in, Crow and Dunning find themselves pitted against their greatest foe yet… THE KING OF WINTER.

Harry Crow, played by David Warner, and Professor Dunning, played by Terry Molloy, make a terrific duo. Though the main thrust of The King Of Winter is towards laughs the imposing voice of Warner is pure gravitas. This is the actor who played “Evil” in Time Bandits, the Cardassian torturer on Deep Space Nine, and the Master Control Program in the original TRON. Seeing him, or rather hearing him, commandeer a pair of tennis rackets for use as makeshift snowshoes is a truly delightful experience. Terry Molloy, though a staple of BBC radio drama, is probably more famous as the actor who portrayed the evil Davros, the creator of the Daleks. In The Scarifyers Molloy plays against the megalomaniacal type he’s so well know for, being a meek professor of occult literature. Together in The King Of Winter Dunning and Crow investigate the sudden freezing of seemingly unconnected men. There are also mysterious disappearing coins, oddly-aproned men (in a certain secret society that controls the entire world), and ribald jokes!

The period root of The Scarifyers series isn’t all that grounds this madcap show. Take, for example, Professor Dunning’s name. Dunning is the protagonist of M.R. James’ most famous story, Casting The Runes. And where The King Of Winter diverges from the mainstream of weird fiction is in the humour – this is very funny stuff what with two royal Georges, two green men, and two Father Christmases kicking each other. In fact, the writers throw in practically every kind of comedy, from thinly veiled ridicule of famous modern public figures, to the poking fun at dramatic convention itself. Personally, my favourite parts are the god-awful puns and word humour. This is particularly evident in this adventure as there’s a Shakespearian stage play in the climax – when a stage-frightened Professor Dunning improvises his rhymed lines, dressed as a tree … well you’ve got to hear it

Worthy of repeated listening The Sacrifyers: The King Of Winter, like its terrific theme song, is rousing comedic fun.

Cast:
David Warner as Harry Crow
Terry Molloy as Professor Dunning
Guy Henry as Charles Blackthorn
David Benson as Alexander Caulfield-Browne and Reverend Spicer
Stephen Critchlow as Prince George and Sir Reginald Flash
Lisa Bowerman as Dr Crook and Miss Lewis Smith
David Bickerstaff as Lord Huntingdon and Roger Dillcock
Alex Lowe as Hartley and King George VI

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith

October 22, 2012 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audiobook - Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-SmithUnholy Night
By Seth Grahame-Smith; Read by Peter Nerkot
10 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Published: 2012
Themes: / Fantasy / Mythology / Occult / Christianity / Bible /

“Joseph? Mary? My name is Balthazar. This is Gaspar . . . this is Melchyor. We don’t want to hurt you . . . we’re just looking for a place to rest. But, Joseph? if you don’t put that pitchfork down, I’m going to take it from you and stab you to death in front of your wife and child. Do you understand?”

Wanted thieves Balthazar, Melchyor, and Gaspar, disguised as wise men, show up at a little manger in Bethlehem with a huge star blazing overhead, looking for a hideout from the law. But when Herod’s soldiers begin slaughtering the babies in Bethlehem, Balthazar takes the safety of the Holy Family into his own hands. As fugitives on the run to Egypt, they must escape not only Roman soldiers but creatures of mythology and the occult. Everyone’s either gunning for the Antioch Ghost with a price on his head or the innocent newborn who has such an unearthly effect on those around him.

Seth Grahame-Smith (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) finally stops inserting his words into other people’s writing and writes a book in his own words. And a fine job he does of it too. For a violent, gore-filled, action-thriller there are a surprising number of very human characters, many of whom we are meant to recognize.

Pontius Pilate appears as an ambitious young officer ambivalent about truth. Mary and Joseph struggle with how to reconcile the truth of Jesus as God with the reality of a baby who must be fed, loved, and parented. Above all, this is Balthazar’s story, who has a complex story-line driving his actions and attitudes. We learn how he became the cynical Antioch Ghost and we wonder if he will find a more worthy goal than vengeance.

Above all, I was surprised to find myself eventually thinking of Unholy Night as modern midrash. Midrash is a traditional Jewish way of trying to understand the underlying spirit of scripture, sometimes connecting it to modern life, by creating parables. This allows for some imaginative storytelling as rabbis look for interpretations with are not immediately obvious but are nevertheless held within the original text.

Grahame-Smith lives up to the midrash ideal by both being respectful to his source material and also using his vivid imagination on a Biblical event that is wide-open to interpretation, Mary and Joseph’s flight to Egypt with the Christ child. Among other things, the author is very good at opening new views on familiar subjects, such as just how horrible King Herod was. It brings to life the terrible things he did very much as I have read them in history books. One also gets a deeper understanding of the locals’ simmering, resentful hatred of the Roman empire.

Narrator Peter Berkrot is a reader I haven’t come across before but will be seeking out in the future. He conveys just the right amount of cynicism as Balthazar, menace and insanity as Herod, and innocence as Mary. I am not sure how this book comes across in print but I’d listen to it again in a heartbeat thanks to Berkrot’s narration.

Grahame-Smith has delivered a story of Biblical proportions in Unholy Night: zombies, swarms of locusts, epic sword fights, outlaws, obsessed rulers, vengeance, redemption, and more are in this entertaining action tale. That he did it all while staying true to original material that can be unpopular reading these days makes him a writer I am going to seek out in the future. Highly recommended.

Posted by Julie D.

Review of Hounded by Kevin Hearne

December 6, 2011 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

YA Fantasy Audiobook - Hounded by Hounded: The Iron Druid Chronicles
By Kevin Hearne; Read by Luke Daniels
8 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: 2011
Themes: / Fantasy / YA / Druids / Occult / Werewolves / Vampires /

This is the first of a hugely popular YA series, highly recommended by a friend and, luckily for me, available as a review book from SFFaudio.

Here’s the brief summary for those who, like me, hadn’t heard of this book:

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old — when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer. Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down…

The book begins with verve as Atticus is a charming narrator who introduces us to his friends, who are mainly from the supernatural world. We meet Druid gods, local werewolves, a Viking vampire, the local coven of witches, and Atticus’s Irish wolfhound, Oberon, with whom Atticus can carry on mental conversations. There are few genuine humans in Atticus’s life and none are developed beyond a paltry few amusing characteristics, such as the Irish widow who likes to get drunk before going to Mass and forgives murder on her lawn if she is told the victims were British. The most likable character in the group is the dog Oberon who is charmingly focused on doggish things and has just enough understanding of Atticus’s world to offer his own solutions from time to time.

My initial attraction to the story soon ground to a halt. The problem with this book, and it is a large problem, is that Atticus is a perpetual Peter Pan character. His emotional development seems to be frozen at several years younger than his outward 21 years since a heaving bosom is all it takes to permanently distract him from whatever he’s doing. Pity. One would have hoped that 2,100 years of living would result in a certain amount of experience leading to wisdom. Instead, Atticus spends more time in a practical joke on an ambulance attendant than in thinking through how much he should have healed himself from a bullet wound to make it seem convincing to local law enforcement. That’s ok though because Atticus has friends and allies who unfailingly show up to give an easy solution without readers ever feeling that Atticus himself is too worries about the outcome. This leads to a permanent lack of dramatic tension.

It’s a pity there isn’t a “Wendy” to accompany Atticus’s “Peter Pan.” That would give Hounded the necessary depth and contrast. Now we can see how wise J.M. Barrie was in the construction of his tale. Without a truly human element who lacks control of the situation, all the adventures are one boring episode after another with nary a worry about how Atticus will escape.

The one good thing about this book is the narrator, Luke Daniels. I haven’t come across him before but will keep an eye out for him in the future. His talents kept me listening long past the point where I would have given up. His voicing of Oberon has found its way into my head whenever we “speak” for what our dogs in our household.

Sadly, Daniels’ talents aren’t enough to make this shallow story worth your time. There are many wonderful YA stories out there that are worth reading and rereading: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman, White Cat by Holly Black, and Assam and Darjeeling by T.M. Camp are just a few.

For that matter, try Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. You’ll see what Hounded could have been with proper attention given to the storytelling.

Posted by Julie D.

LibriVox: The Beetle by Richard Marsh

April 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

LibriVoxa panel from The League Of Extraordinary GentlemenAttentive readers of Alan Moore’s The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen may have noted this panel…

…according to Jess Nevins, of The Fourth Rail, it depicts a “giant beetle in [a] vacuum tube.” and asserts that it

“is the Beetle, from Richard Marsh’s The Beetle (1897). In that novel, a shapechanging Egyptian princess, who can take the form of a giant, malign beetle, a beautiful androgyne, and an old woman or man, pursues a vendetta against a British M.P.”

Prior to the release of The Beetle as a LibriVox audiobook I hadn’t even heard of it. But a little online research indicates that The Beetle came out the same year as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and initially outsold it! How did I not hear of this book before?

LibriVox Horror Audiobook - The Beetle by Richard MarshThe Beetle
By Richard Marsh; Read by various readers
48 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 11 Hours 56 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: April 24, 2009
A story about a mysterious oriental figure who pursues a British politician to London, where he wreaks havoc with his powers of hypnosis and shape-shifting, Marsh’s novel is of a piece with other sensational turn-of-the-century fictions such as Stoker’s Dracula, George du Maurier’s Trilby, and Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu novels. Like Dracula and many of the sensation novels pioneered by Wilkie Collins and others in the 1860s, The Beetle is narrated from the perspectives of multiple characters, a technique used in many late nineteenth-century novels (those of Wilkie Collins and Stoker, for example) to create suspense.

Podcast feed:

http://librivox.org/bookfeeds/the-beetle-by-richard-marsh.xml

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

Posted by Jesse Willis

BBC Radio 4 @ Xmas: Roald Dahl and M.R. James

December 12, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

BBC Radio 4 has two non-Xmasy programs on the schedule for the week of Xmas.

BBC Radio 4The Witches
By Roald Dahl; Performed by full casts
2 Parts Approx 2 Hours[AUDIO DRAMA]
BROADCASTER: BBC RADIO 4
BROADCAST: Sunday 23 December and Sunday December 30th 2007 @ 3.00-4.00pm
A boy who has lost his parents in a car crash is looked after by his Norwegian grandmother. She tells the boy how to identify witches – they are bald (with wigs that itch), have no toes (but they wear fashionable shoes), gloved hands (to hide their long fingernails), large nostrils (to sniff out children) and blue spittle. Fortunately, the boy and his grandmother live in Norway where they are safest from the meanest witches, who spirit away children at the drop of a hat. However, the reading of the boy’s father’s will sends him and his grandmother to England, where the world’s most dangerous witches live. The boy finds himself trapped in a Bournemouth hotel ballroom where groups of witches meet, masquerading as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. As the Grand High Witch whips the meeting into a child-hating frenzy, the witches discover the boy and force him to drink a potion which turns him into a mouse. He then has to run for his life.”

M.R. James At Christmas
By M.R. James; Perfomed by full casts
Five Broadcasts – Approx 75 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
BROADCAST: @ 19:45 December 24th-28th
Introduced by Derek Jacobi as MRJ, the stories are Oh Whistle And I’ll Come To You My Lad, The Tractate Middoth, Lost Hearts, The Rose Garden and Number 13.

Thanks Roy!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Four H.P. Lovecraft Lectures

May 15, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio, Podcasts 

SFFaudio Online Audio

Yog RadioSure we point you towards actual recordings of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories – that’s nothing new – but surely you’d like to go deeper. How about some lectures on Lovecraft himself? Ya, we see you nodding that head… POOF! Your wish is our command…

Posted below are a series of four linked lectures titled H.P. Lovecraft and The Occult. These were recorded at Treadwell’s Bookshop in Covent Garden, London, UK. The speaker is Justin Woodman, a Social Anthropology lecturer at Goldsmiths College (University of London).

Lectures - H.P. Lovecraft And The Occult by Justin WoodmanH.P. Lovecraft Lectures
By Dr. Justin Woodman
4 MP3s – 5 Hours 26 Minutes [LECTURES]
Podcaster: Yog Radio / Yog-Sothoth.com
Podcast: May 2007
Lecture #1 – HPL: Fabulist, Myth-Maker & Shaman |MP3|
Lecture #2 – Legends of The Necronomicon |MP3|
Lecture #3 – Chariots of The Dark Gods |MP3|
Lecture #4 – Chaos, Cthulhu & Contemporary Consciousness |MP3|

An alternative to the download is the podcast feed for Yog Radio which is right here:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/cthulhu

[via Joseph Remy’s Lost Carcosa blog]

Posted by Jesse Willis