The SFFaudio Podcast #408 – READALONG: Friday by Robert A. Heinlein

February 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #408 – Jesse, Paul, Marissa, and Maissa

Talked about on today’s show:
1982, the last readable Heinlein novel, head-shaking, one of the most awkward books, transgender stuff, a New York times article, I Will Fear No Evil, body swap, an old man in a young woman’s body, Predestination (2014), All You Zombies, sex-change and time travel, another example of a Heinlein character getting a sex-change, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, even the computer is gender fluid, Podkayne Of Mars, Heinlein is the man in Science Fiction who really believes in women, the spring of 1991, re-reading experience, characters who defy human emotion and reality, made of human DNA, the Pinocchio story, focusing on the overbuilding, not just sex but odd sex, anti-male homosexuality but he likes lesbianism, a whiff of – but no sex on screen, Red Thursday, there’s a rape at the beginning and she marries her rapist at the end, it needs an editor, losing track of plotting, he let me pee, he’s a nice rapist, it makes sense!, Stranger In A Strange Land, what do we do about it?, horrible Heinlein thoughts, a lot of “doxy” training, an enhanced person vs. an artificial person, increased sexuality bred into them?, Dr. Baldwin engineered her, Gulf by Robert A. Heinlein, supermen, Olympia, late Heinlein is giving up on what early Heinlein wrote, travel reading, line marriages and serial marriages, making families, Christchurch, Winnipeg, Heinlein went to a swingers party and said “let’s do this all the time”, seeing a person’s mind over time, a plotless meandering travelogue/memoir, so many coincidences, that just happened to happen?, from set-piece to set piece, Bellingham, the AP guy never comes back, Chekhov’s gun that turns out to be a red herring, it wasn’t serialized for Playboy but should have been, sex for sex-sake, he’s got the 1997 World Wide Web in this book, Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game did forums, A Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge, Hathitrust, terminals vs. PCs, kittens, cats, how many breakfasts, hungry the whole time, that “triggered” me, Jesse explains this book, Canada, California, Las Vegas, New Zealand, Australia, credit cards, she takes his Diner’s Club card, clothing, Heinlein went on a cruise, transient ischemic attack (TIA), Grumbles From The Grave, lots of eating, good food, cruise ship food, movies, cruise-like, sitting at the captain’s table, Heinlein being respected, touring the United States, crazy governments, “long pig” = human pig, rich “slitch”, playing psychoanalyst, the Earth is doomed, Heinlein is obsessed with the frontier, Time Enough For Love, the frontier hypothesis, racism you wouldn’t notice, law and order in peaceful British Canada, the remainders of the US, the Bear Flag Republic of California, the Free State of Las Vegas, Vicksburg, the Chicago Imperium includes Minnesota, getting Paul’s revolution on, everybody is Amish now, driving draft horses, semi-ballistic skyport, the world’s best batteries: shipstones, Ayn Rand, a libertarian streak, the Galt’s Gulch approach to patents, an unresolved plot point, an internal revolt, they own everything, making an argument, an analogy for the oil industry, s-groups, freeing women up to work, Friday can run 30 km per hour, rolling around on the floor with kittens and babies, housewives, the lesbian couple-ship with Goldie, tension between roles of women, all those contradictions, why is Friday sterile, childless Heinleins, write what you want, Heinlein as a gold bug, making America great again by tearing down the wall between the USA and Mexico, pushing gold hard, politeness is society, no flame wars on Heinlein’s internet, paperbooks vs. ebooks, Google book scans, nobody knew about the internet, the pay internet, the pay web, SOPA and PIPA, a free and open internet, Friday‘s enthusiasm for the web was realistic, I can learn everything, you have no excuse today for not knowing everything, know what you don’t know and don’t talk about it, learning about the world by reading Heinlein novels, the word “knave”, The Queen of Hearts, claques, stylites, particularism, secessionist California, Texas, a balkanized USA, Job: A Comedy Of Justice, alternate dimensions, the Rapture,

The Queen of Hearts
She made some tarts,
All on a summer’s day;
The Knave of Hearts
He stole those tarts,
And took them clean away.
The King of Hearts
Called for the tarts,
And beat the knave full sore;
The Knave of Hearts
Brought back the tarts,
And vowed he’d steal no more.

its so easy not to appreciate all we have, I pity all the fools, The Number Of The Beast, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Gay Deceiver, there’s no way to fix this!, To Sail Beyond The Sunset, the thing he has about incest, Heinlein’s Future History, Philip K. Dick does the opposite, it all hangs together, someone is hanging himself in a closet, Heinlein’s periods, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, The Door Into Summer, Professor Eric S. Rabkin, walls dilate open, women: I kinda wanna be one, The Puppet Masters, a similar organization, a boss with a bunch of agents, the boss just dies, writing the novel with a pair of dice or the I Ching, weird coincidences, part of the story just falls away, the Dungeon Master, Friday as a pick-a-path book, on the whole we enjoyed it, the writing style, Hillary Huber was the narrator for Blackstone Audio version, a fun listen, I wouldn’t say that I liked it, fun in places, what is an artificial person, if you prick me do I not leak?, people born of three parents, a future person, GMO fruit vs. organic fruit, people have been fucking with fruit forever, Jesse expounds on apples, all apples for harvest are grafts, Maissa expounds on bananas, Paul expounds on corn, corn is in everything in the USA, you’re 80% corn, the enhanced talking dog, kobold miners, Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross, the main character is a robot, no biological creatures, the illegitimate worries that Friday has are programmed into the main character of Saturn’s Children, a romp novel with everybody dead, straight out of Heinlein’s subconscious, Reading, Short & Deep, Who Can Replace A Man? by Brian Aldiss, Ian Tregillis’ Alchemy War novels, Spartacus, Botany Bay, there is a destiny that shapes our lives, an allusion to Hamlet

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - Friday by Robert A. Heinlein

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #330 – READALONG: Dr. Futurity by Philip K. Dick

August 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #330 – Jesse, Paul, and Marissa talk about Dr. Futurity by Philip K. Dick.

Talked about on today’s show:
Time Pawn by Philip K. Dick, 1960, The Little Black Bag by C.M. Kornbluth, Science Fiction Hall Of Fame: Volume 1, The Marching Morons by C.M. Kornbluth, Idiocracy, if smart people don’t have babies…, a kind of Heinleinian authority, a little grey case, his bag is missing, grey vs. black, a doctor from the past visiting a future society, medicine as a crime, interfering with euthanasia, another weird interesting post nuclear war world, primitive or advanced?, we don’t talk about death, reflecting our world back at us, youth culture, worshiping youth, movie heroes used to be old men, Logan’s Run, Nolan’s world, what is the appeal of that world?, a culture will run things for you if you don’t think a lot, the Ancient Egyptian culture of death, you will live your life in your death, the soulcube, immortality through the species itself, The City And The Stars by Sir Arthur C. Clarke, nobody wants to see that, kids are stupid, the wisdom of the grandmothers, the Vietnam War, genetic stupidity, Language For Time Travelers by L. Sprague de Camp, Stargate, Astounding, an editorial note for Time Pawn, the right to live, ruthless euthanasia, time travel, Dr. Jim Parsons, the character is a time pawn, the second arrow, an inevitability, to ensure their own existence, deterministic, the standard classic scene, being careened, the auditorium at the first Beatles concert is only filled with time travelers, Dick’s take on time travel, familiar stars. not familiar? why aren’t they familiar, figuring out the future of the character as he’s writing it, “huh, that’s weird”, completely unpredictable vs. completely predictable, van Vogtian, Paul employs a railroad metaphor, Sir Francis Drake, line by line rewrites, from New York to San Fransisco, matter to mine, Time Pawn vs. Dr. Futurity, glittering vs. illuminated, darting like silver fish, no aircars?, nobody is going to be reading Time Pawn anytime soon, “the chamber was a blaze of light…dead gods waiting to return”, a rushed novel?, what’d you do with all that?, standard Dick tropes: a wife shuffled to the side, missing the wife less in Dr. Futurity, the description of the women is much lengthier, always heaving breasts, there’s no questioning of reality, no surveillance, less questioning, an uncharacteristically straightforward story, it feels like all the other Ace Doubles, in the mode of reading SF, all the tropes are assumed, Margaret Atwood, Michael Crichton, going through the evolution to understand the SF tropes: Wells -> Gernsback -> the 60s, three a week, that’s all we need to know, airbags everywhere, flame retardant spray, toxic chemicals vs. being on fire, we live in a screwed up culture, mercury poisoning, asbestos, guide beams, the google car, GPS, if there was a solar flare…, Aftermath, a Charles Sheffield novel, old infrastructure could save us, Cuba, Alpha Centauri goes supernova, the Three Hoarsemen podcast, steam-punk without the steam is just punk, Pastwatch: The Redemption Of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card, a monster, the Columbian exchange, Dick has just read about Sir Francis Drake, Drake’s voyage, he’s famous for making Queen Elizabeth I a big pile of money, Expo 86, the Golden Hind, Drake’s landing point, Oregon, Vancouver Island, Nova Albion, Albion, British Columbia, albino, a weird figure to fixate on, Cortez, Pissaro, The Mask Of The Sun by Fred Saberhagen, caught in the machinations of time traveling empires, more bushwhacking, Daniel Abraham, the way they talk in this future society, it keeps not working, his presence eventually changes their society, starting that whole tribe, the scene with the arrow, a predestination paradox, those stone markers, “I’ll get around to it”, that whole planet is covered in markers, the way Dick ended it, leaving it loose, why Time Pawn is so much of a better title, he feels he is the chess master after a certain point, the extended spaceship to Mars scene, the robot computer with a rat brain, such a creepy scene, “I wonder what’s going to happen”, if the character doesn’t want to get on track, what’s that about?, what are those guns for?, Shupos?, always people confronting him, make remarks about the women, this is NOT a book written by committee, don’t read this as your first Dick, more fodder for your feed.

Time Pawn by Philip K. Dick - illustrated by Virgil Finlay

Dr. Futurity by Philip K. Dick - illustrated by Ed Valigursky

Dr. Futurity by Philip K. Dick - illustrated by Harry Borgman

Docteur Futur by Philip K. Dick

Dr Futurity by Philip K. Dick (Methuen)

Dr Futurity by Philip K. Dick - illustrated by Chris Moore

Dr. Futurity by Philip K. Dick (Berkley)

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #289 – NEW RELEASES/RECENT ARRIVALS

November 3, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #289 – Jesse, Jenny, Tamahome, and Paul Weimer talk about NEW RELEASES and RECENT ARRIVALS.

Talked about on today’s show:
A $10 bounty on The House by Fredric Brown, a $10 bounty on The Last Druid by Joseph E. Kelleam, Thomas Pynchon’s masterpiece Gravity’s Rainbow finally in audio, compare Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren, William Gibson’s The Peripheral, we bet Fred Kiesche has read it, The Fire Seekers by Richard Farr, Time’s Edge by Rysa Walker, reminds Paul of Charles Stross’s Merchant Princes books, Tad Williams’s Otherland series (a favorite of Paul’s), compare to Vernor Vinge’s True Names, Second LifeOtherland has some disabled characters — Special Needs In Strange WorldsNnedi Okorafor’s Goodreads Otherland review, Jesse’s not a series guy, The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber, Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow, the spoiler horn, Willful Child by Steven Erikson, not Paul’s favorite, The Enemy of an Enemy by Vincent Trigili, the description is missing the “but”, Horatio Hornblower type series, The Night Terrace (Audio Drama) Nightterrace.comSpark by John Twelve Hawks, Cotard’s syndrome makes you a good assassin, origin of his pen name, Hawks’s nonfiction Against AuthorityChimpanzee by Darin Bradley, possible mashup?, China Miéville’s New Crobuzon series, The Slow Regard Of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss, is his prose like dark chocolate like a fan said on The Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy podcast?, Heraclix and Pomp by Forrest Aguirre, combining two reviews, Dead But Not Forgotten by Charlaine Harris (Editor), the True Blood tv show, “small town fantasy”, Shadow of the Ancients by Pierre Grimbert (translated from French), genre books from other languages are cool, Tam likes French comics (Moebius), Visitors by Orson Scott Card, not a Pathfinder tie-in, Pathfinder vs. Dungeons and Dragons explained by Paul, Of Bone and Thunder by Chris Evans, Shaman, Healer, Heretic by M. Terry Green, Scalped comic was a bit grim, The Snowden Files by Luke Harding, Snowden’s politics, Collapse by Jared Diamond, societies ending, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath by H. P. Lovecraft, The Statement Of Randolph Carter Sffaudio readalongThe Vines by Christopher Rice, Rice’s photo gallery, Anne Rice’s son, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, Jesse’s not that into it, The Island Of Doctor Moreau audiodrama, Robert Sheckley audiobook releasesThe Story of English In 100 Words by David Crystal, G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel No Normal is in Jersey CityThe House by Fredric Brown

The Last Druid by Joseph E. Kelleam

Posted by Tamahome

The SFFaudio Podcast #286 -AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Red One by Jack London

October 13, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

Jack London's The Red One

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #286 – The Red One by Jack London; read by Oliver Wyman. This is an unabridged reading of the novelette (1 hour 3 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Bryan Alexander, and Oliver Wyman.

Talked about on today’s show:
Bryan and Ollie, 1918, WWI, Jack London in Hawaii, a super science fiction story, H.G. Wells, existential concerns, the misogyny and racism, “unbeautiful”, London was racist and anti-racist, Lovecraft, cosmic science fiction, a beautiful sad ending, a transcendent ending, the motifs (motives), head and finger injuries, head blown off, his guide loses his head, the final head chopping, the devil devil house, twisting in the smoke, breadfruit, banyan, God’s Grace by Bernard Malamud, the Solomon Islands, Guadalcanal, the mosquitoes, headhunting, blackbirding is essentially slavery, giant butterflies, the Atlas Moth, it’s not an alien spaceship is it?, Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, Philip K. Dick, unresolved endings, a potential stage production of Flow My Tears The Policeman Said, a giant alien head, the striker has helmeted figures, ancient astronauts is the next year, 1919, Charles Fort, Erich von Däniken, Jack London’s 10 Sex Tips, Cosmopolitan -> cosmos -> cosmetology, Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke, The Sentinel by Arthur C. Clarke, a tripwire, a Lovecraftian sense of the universe, explorer narratives, Mungo Park, Bassett,

“And beneath that roof was an aerial ooze of vegetation, a monstrous, parasitic dripping of decadent life- forms that rooted in death and lived on death.”

Robert E. Howard, Solomon Kane, Mexico, London stole from others and his own life, journal writing, Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, “the abrupt liberation of sound”, the walls of Jericho…, two score feet in length, an alien ark, the libraries of supermen from other stars?, the Jungian analysis, a giant egg with Bassett as a sperm, Earle Labor, the ending resonates, the red one as a mandala, from a distance it appears lacquered, fever dreams, childhood hallucinations and visions, what’s the logic behind head-hunting, mortification, the other white man’s head, helmeted figures sitting inside the mouths of crocodiles, a labour of thousands of years, the twelve tribes, breadfruit is called “nimbalo” in the Solomon Islands -> “nimbus”, ringmanu -> Manu -> the progenitor of all humanity, the twelve apostles, the red one is a voice, twelve deaf apostles, gospel = good news, cure it well, immortality, London was a super-atheist, Lovecraft was an atheist, the harsh horrifying reality of death, “the serene face of the Medusa. Truth.”, Lovecraft’s poems, Alethia Phrikodes, “Omnia risus et omnia pulvis et omnia nihil”, Thomas Ligotti, True Detective, “I think human consciousness, is a tragic misstep in evolution. … species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction”, Edgar Allan Poe, Songs Of A Dead Dreamer, The Conspiracy Against The Human Race, Pseudopod The Bungalow House, being a narrator doesn’t give you time to read, comics maybe, The Manhattan Projects, dealing with the problem of physical, Rainbow’s End, Geoffrey Household, Limbo by Bernard Wolfe, not enough physical volume in the universe, books with maps, books with art, Eadweard Muybridge, Jeff Bezos, ebooks are notorious for not having good art in them, the art of Alex Ross as a PDF, London as a tangible writer, “a mighty cry of some titan of the elder world”, Olaf Stapledon, Starmaker, the separation of the soul and the body, you are your head, the martians in The War Of The Worlds, who is telling this story?, feelings and questions, The Call Of The Wild, he’s a basset hound chasing after a big red ball, London was a dog man, the two dog books, The Sea Wolf is an intense book, To Build Fire, “the cold of space”, a hypnagogic state, the physical and the philosophical, The Iron Heel, so many writers never leave the room where they write the book, the premise for The Red One was suggested by George Sterling, A Wine Of Wizardry, what if aliens sent a message to the earth and it was not understood, if it had been shot, the gun that doesn’t go off, King Kong and Skull Island, a cynical take on religion, the Cosmopolitan illustrations, definitely an artifice, the core of a star that fell to Earth, aliens came out and they killed them, ships or jet fighters, organic ships, the spore of the organic ships, Prometheus, worth looking at and listening to, the most expensive work of fan fiction ever made, the autodoc scene, this is the thing that didn’t need to be made, Alien, Ron Cobb and Geiger, 1966, the year of Star Trek and Batman, Alan Dean Foster, Alien: The Illustrated Story by Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson, recent alien invasion fiction, Footfall, Protector by Larry Niven, infantilized aliens, the fruit of the tree of life, Forge Of God by Greg Bear, “I have bad news”, Orson Scott Card, reared by robots, astrogation, Anvil Of Stars by Greg Bear, Sundiver by David Brin, Forbidden Planet, Glen Cook‘s Starfisher series, Captain Harlock, Anathem by Neal Stephenson, William Dufris, the glossary, Gateway by Frederik Pohl, mushrooms, characters in therapy, one of the greatest works of Science Fiction period, the serialization of Gateway in Galaxy, Dagon by H.P. Lovecraft, 1920, The Temple, black muck, they’ve got cults going.

The Red One illustrated by Jim Nelson
The Red One by Jack London COSMO
The Red One by Jack London COSMO
The Red One by Jack London COSMO
The Red One by Jack London COSMO

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Ender’s Game Als Ungekürztes Hörspiel (the GERMAN language audio drama)

July 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card - GERMAN audio dramaEnder’s Game Als Ungekürztes Hörspiel
By Orson Scott Card; Performed by a full cast
Audible Download – Approx. 8 hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Audible.de
Published: October 24, 2013

Much has been said about Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game from 1985 and there is still much to discuss. Of course there is much more than the ‘Oh, the titular game was real!’ ending. This ending may appear to be a very cheap solution to the reader today. But despite this, the novel’s implications are still delivering up-to-date topics for us to discuss. When the game was manipulated by the military and the kids had been hoodwinked into committing genocide against the Buggers – we can ask ‘what does that say about grown-ups manipulating kids in general?’ Orson Scott Card’s novel remains a classic SF because it constructs ideas within us.

To me this novel is a very particular story and after a long hiatus in the SF field I wanted to go back to the roots of my usual reading habits which used to be SF, Fantasy and Horror. I listened to the episodes of The SFFaudio Podcast and the name Orson Scott Card was sprinkled in here and there. In Cologne I went into an English bookstore named “Fine Tea and Books,” run by a very friendly guy named Christopher Potter – he also happens to be a Conan fan expert in recommending SF. He told me to read Orson Scott Card’s novel “Ender’s game” and so I did and I was immediately immersed into it.

Then I heard about a German audio drama, exclusively published by Audible. And then too I heard of an English language version. Orson Scott Card himself wrote the script for the show and it was translated into German by Andrea Wilhelm. A very experienced director of the audio drama, Balthasar von Weymarn (also well regarded as producer of the audiodrama company “Interplanar”). In addition von Weymarn is head of the Mytho­lo­gi­cal Round­Ta­ble® Char­ter Ber­lin der Joseph Camp­bell® Foun­da­tion, and a screenwriter who no doubt knows his stuff.

Together with audio technican Jochen Simmendinger, von Weymarn had to coordinate 101 voice actors, including 40 child and teen voice actors at a recording studio in Berlin. The deadline was very tight because the German audio drama had to be released simultaneously with the start of the movie adaptatoion. The pressure was high but Baltashar von Weymarn loves challenges as he said “A challenge makes it fun.”

Von Weynarm is into the story and knows the novel well. A good director does not only consult the script, but researches much about the author and the cicrumstances around which the novel was written. Von Weynarm knows it all, he wonders why kids are trained that way, what kind of government rules Earth, and he goes deep into the story itself. And this hard thinking shows up in the production. The director’s interpretation of the audiodrama script, as well as of the novel, drives his imagination, evokes mind pictures that von Weynarm is able to explain to his actors. Perhaps every director has to work that way. However, Balthasar von Weynarm had to do it with 40 young and 61 adult actors, each one had to fulfil her or his part and the director had to explain how it all had to be done. This is an amazing achievement.

Due to the fact that the script was written by Orson Scott Card himself the director’s interpretation has it’s limits. But von Weynarm’s production maximizes the script’s power. There is no narrator. All “off-screen” information is given to us via comments by spectators of certain scenes. These spectators observe actions that are happening somewhere else and then anallyze these action right away. This is the issue director and his ensemble can show action. All that can be explained through the voice is well done. Music is also used, but shows up more between the scenes. And so as to fuel the listener’s imagination there are also addedsound effects, created by sound designer Tommi Schneefuss. Schneefuss does a terrific job because the sound effects are not intrusive nor too disturbing. They fit into the setting.

A special issue must have been the casting of the kid actors especially because there were strict specifications by the author. The central character Ender was played by 12-year-old Arne Kapfer. And because his mother was cast for this audio drama he was asked to join the cast. This is a tricky part in all audio drama productions, von Weynarm reports, because boys at that age can suddenly have their voice change. Arne Kapfer though is a pro himself, and brings in five years worth of experience as TV commercial actor. And at home his parents have their own recording studio. It was great to hear the development of Ender was transported through Arne Kapfer’s voice. His slight intonations toward sarcasm, in particular scenes in the Battle School, were very well performed. Kapfer brought in a lot of talent – though voice acting is only a hobby as he has career aspirations toward geology.

The producer of the audio drama is the Lauscherlounge company that works together with most of the best voice artists in Germany – many of whom t apper in “Ender’s Game.” Take for example one of my all-time-favourite voice actors Udo Schenk, who played Colonel Graff. Schenk is the voiceover artist for Garry Oldman, Ralph Fiennes, David Morrissey, Ray Liotta and many more. Timmo Niesner for Chamrajnagar (who dubs Elijah Wood), and Erich Rauker as Mazer Rackham (artist for Will Patton). Their talents form a neat audio drama that is both enjoyable and the very essence of the novel. Does this audiodrama replace the book? No, but it enlarges the listener’s understanding of the novel and it’s a whole lot of fun to hear. The seven hours pass almost too quickly.

Until recently the book itself was long out of print in Germany but because of the movie it was re-published in the general SF section of the Heyne Verlag and not marked out as a YA book.

Posted by Mirko

Review of Ender’s Game Alive by Orson Scott Card

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

SFFaudio Review

Cover for Ender's Game Alive

Ender’s Game Alive
By Orson Scott Card; Performed by a full cast
Publisher: Skyboat Media
Published: 2013
7 hours 24 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Themes: / science fiction / childhood / aliens

Sometimes you hear about something and can’t wait to get your hands on it because you want to experience it, to touch it, see it, whatever. You have expectations and hope like mad that in the end, you won’t be disappointed.

for me, the new audio drama adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game fits the above description perfectly. The fact that Card wrote the script himself only made the anticipation worse because the bar went higher. It was raised further when I found out who was producing it: the folks at Skyboat Media. To find out whether or not they succeeded, the end result, (enemy’s gate), is down.

An important note for Ender’s Game fans, I am going to be limiting my scope to the book when reviewing this audio play. For the purposes of this review, the film does not exist. I want to tackle that challenge under its own merits. Any references to it will be made in passing if at all. With that said, our gate is open; on with the review.

The setup: a young boy at the age of six is taken from his home to attend a school for brilliant minds; to turn the “little dorklings” into soldiers and commanders because there is a war going on. This is the third such conflict with this alien race and our protagonist (unknown to him at the onset), is being groomed to be the commander that leads the entire fleet, hopefully, with good results. If not, the human race is doomed.

Our story follows Andrew Wiggin (nicknamed “Ender” by his sister) from the very beginning of his journey; even before that when the decision is made by his parents to have him with the full knowledge that this goes against the population policy in place.

“No more thirds.”

Of course, because this is the international fleet (I.F.) making the request; the rules are bent. All they have to do is sign on the dotted line and fill out the forms. If they don’t, genetic material will be seized and used until the right child is born and sent to battle school; a space station that prepares its students for lives spent as part of the fleet.

Ender’s parents are a special case because their first two children , Peter and Valentine, are geniuses. Why the first wasn’t chosen for the school, (as explained by the commander in charge), is because the kid is plum psycho. Why the sister isn’t picked is because she’d break under actual battle pressure when real losses come her way. And thus the fleet wants the parents to give it another go or else. This is the world Ender is born in. He’s at a disadvantage from the start. The running theme is, “Let’s see how ender handles it.”

The audio play does a great job of setting the appropriate pieces on the chessboard and letting the game play out. The story to tell is Ender’s story. Where it deviates from the book is the fleshing out of the interactions between the staff observing his progress. This is a necessary change since the book mostly takes place from Ender’s mind and point of view. This may seem like The Cabin in the Woods kind of gimmick but it is an important evolution in the way the story is being told. The play has to present things from a different angle and come to the same conclusions; adjusting things as needed to fit the plot’s progression.

the second major deviation is the focus on the other Wiggin children subplot. There are hints to it but it is treated almost as an afterthought. The reasoning for this change is sound; political debates and research would only drag down the story and make the listening experience tedious in places.

All in all, the major plot points of the novel are hit home like a well-aimed shot. There are subtle clues to other works that have been written since Ender’s Game came out in 1985. There are adjustments to some scenes to give the audio play a different feel than just a retreading of the original story step for step. This gives us something a little unexpected and fresh as we take the 7 hour, 24 minute journey.

If you have listened to the audio book of Ender’s Game, several of the casting choices will be no surprise. You hear a particular person’s voice and feel a sense of familiarity that makes the experience that much more enjoyable. Each character is brought to life. You know them, understand them, will not always agree with them or the decisions they make, but can listen to these portrayals and feel like you are the proverbial fly on the wall throughout the story. And when you listen to a scene as heart-felt as when Ender breaks down before his next assignment to command school, you really connect with the emotions in the room. This is how good storytelling becomes great by simply allowing the actors to raise the bar by their performances. The scenes before build up to a moment that is devastating in its impact.

The sound design and score never distract from the dialogue. And for the most part, the editing of the words spoken is top notch. Occasionally, you will hear the hum of the studio where lines were being recorded. If this issue were a constant refrain, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the play as much. As it stands, I only noticed such things myself when listening to the play a second time. That just shows you how engaging the whole packages when listening to it. Even though I noticed these issues, I wasn’t distracted.

At the end of the original audio book, Orson Scott Card said that it was the definitive way to experience his novel. With Ender’s Game Alive, that statement may (and should) be revised. It is a masterful work of audio fiction. Of course, this is in part to the source material. But the transformation from novel to audio play is not an easy undertaking. Orson Scott Card’s background in theatre shines through in this presentation; letting the dialogue drive the story forward. The many actors take on the roles and bring them to life. You won’t mind when adults are playing children. You just want to hear where the story goes. Aside for the minor audio issues, (studio hum in a couple scenes which I won’t spoil here and the inconsistent panning of characters when talking to each other), the production is definitely a recommended listen if you are a fan of Ender’s Game. I give it five out of five toon leaders; that’s one victory ritual.

Posted by Allen Sale

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