Review of Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb

August 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fool's Quest by Robin HobbFool’s Quest (Fitz and the Fool #2)
By Robin Hobb; read by Elliot Hill
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 11 August 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 33 hours, 13 minutes

Themes: / epic fantasy / magic /

Publisher summary:

The harrowing adventures of FitzChivalry Farseer and his enigmatic friend the Fool continue in Robin Hobb’s triumphant follow-up to Fool’s Assassin. But Fool’s Quest is more than just a sequel. With the artistry and imagination her fans have come to expect, Hobb builds masterfully on all that has gone before, revealing devastating secrets and shocking conspiracies that cast a dark shadow over the history of Fitz and his world—a shadow that now stretches to darken all future hope.

Long ago, Fitz and the Fool changed the world, bringing back the magic of dragons and securing both the Farseer succession and the stability of the kingdom. Or so they thought. But now the Fool is near death, maimed by mysterious pale-skinned figures whose plans for world domination hinge upon the powers the Fool may share with Fitz’s own daughter. 

Distracted by the Fool’s perilous health, and swept up against his will in the intrigues of the royal court, Fitz lets down his guard . . . and in a horrible instant, his world is undone and his beloved daughter stolen away by those who would use her as they had once sought to use the Fool—as a weapon.

But FitzChivalry Farseer is not without weapons of his own. An ancient magic still lives in his veins. And though he may have let his skills as royal assassin diminish over the years, such things, once learned, are not so easily forgotten.

Now enemies and friends alike are about to learn that nothing is more dangerous than a man who has nothing left to lose.

Executive Summary: I loved this book. It’s everything I had hoped Fool’s Assassin would have been. There are a things I didn’t like, that will understandably be much more off putting for some than they were for me.

Audio book: Elliot Hill once again does an excellent job. He does a variety of voices and inflections that make doing this book in audio a good option.

Full Review
I absolutely loved Fool’s Fate. I’d have been perfectly content if the series ended there. Last year’s Fool’s Assassin was enjoyable, but not as much as I’d have liked. It left me apprehensive for this book. I shouldn’t have been. That isn’t to say bad things don’t happen to our beloved Fitz. Any fan of the Ederling books won’t be surprised by that. Ms. Hobb sure loves to torment Fitz, though probably not as much as he torments himself.

This book grabbed me from the start, and never let me go. I hated every time I had to stop listening. In fact once my hardcover copy arrived, I augmented my audio time by reading the print as well.

For reasons I can’t fathom, many people seem to skip the excellent Liveship Traders series and more have skipped the quite enjoyable Rainwild Chronicles. While I wouldn’t call it a prerequisites for this book, I would highly recommend reading those books first. There are so many great rewards in the book for people who have. If you haven’t, I doubt you’ll be lost, but you won’t get the same enjoyment in my opinion.

It’s pretty much impossible for me to get into why I loved this book more than the last one without massive spoilers, however I suspect most longtime fans will share my excitement.

That said, despite getting one of my rare 5 star ratings (this is only the second book by Ms. Hobb I’ve given that to), there are some complaints. Or maybe not complaints so much as things I wish weren’t in this book. I found them very upsetting. I’d have preferred some kind of alternative reason used to drive the plot forward. I suspect some people may be more upset than I was, and others may be more indifferent.

Overall though, those were very minor things to me in an absolutely fantastic book. I will warn that if you hate cliffhangers, you may wish to avoid reading this book until we’re much closer to the release of the next book. It is a pretty big one. With it being the second book of a trilogy, and how the first book ended, I can’t say I’m very surprised.

Much like the last one, I am both nervous and excited to read the next one and see what Ms. Hobb has in store.

Review by Rob Zak.

The SFFaudio Podcast #329 – NEW RELEASES/RECENT ARRIVALS

August 10, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #329 – Jesse, Scott, Jenny, Tamahome and Paul talk about new audiobook releases and recent audiobook arrivals.

Talked about on today’s show:
ecomic, The BOZZ Chronicles by David Michelinie and Bret Blevins, Dover Publications, Iron Man, The New Mutants), a “plucky prostitute”, Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson, the Guardian Podcast, a tyranny of circumstances, The Cold Equations, The Coode Street Podcast, Interstellar, interestingly depressing, Ali Ahn, Hachette, this is all Paul, City of the Chasch: The Tschai, Planet of Adventure, Book 1 by Jack Vance, interesting language, strange customs, fun books, Blackstone Audio, Resurrection House, Reading Envy, Archangel (Book One of the Chronicles of Ubastis) by Marguerite Reed, beasts, military SF, on a planet?, she’s a mother, Terpkristin, Octavia Butler, Dark Disciple: Star Wars, Marc Thompson, Random House Audio, sound effects?, The Year’s Top Ten Tales of Science fiction 7, Infinivox, read by Tom Dheere and Nancy Linari, Bryan Alexander, Elizabeth Bear, Robert Reed, Alastair Reynolds, Michael Swanwick, Peter Watts, The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka, Keith Szarabajka, scientists in labs, Robert J. Sawyer, FlashForward, Blackstone Audio, throwing on a throwback, Thorns by Robert Silverberg, Stefan “the great” Rudnicki, Skyboat Media, from 1967, Ultima, Proxima Book 2 by Stephen Baxter, wild galaxy spanning stuff, Tantor Media, Per Ardua Ad Astra = by struggle to the stars, the Xeelee books, “Traditional Fantasy”, no homosexuals or gender swapping, Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb, lots of fantasy, she writes books people really like Queen of Fire by Anthony Ryan, read by Steven Brand, “urban or contemporary fantasy”, The City And The City, Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories by China Miéville, WORKING FOR BIGFOOT Stories from the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, Buffy, American Harry Potter?, James Marsters, The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth, Book 1 by N.K. Jemisin, secondary world fantasy, post apocalyptic fantasy, City Of Stairs, Deceptions A Cainsville Novel by Kelley Armstrong, The Tale Of The Body Thief, Anne Rice, The Undying Legion by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith, The Conquering Dark: (Crown & Key Book 3) by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith, read by Nicholas Guy Smith, paranormal romance, Earth Bound (Sea Haven #4), Christine Feehan, horror/suspense, Finders Keepers, Stephen King, audiobook exclusive, Drunken Fireworks, a sample of Tim Sample’s audio narration, THE BLUMHOUSE BOOK OF NIGHTMARES: The Haunted City edited by Jason Blum, The Geeks Guide To The Galaxy podcast, Joel and Ethan Cohen, The Purge, Ethan Hawke, Eli Roth, Alive, Scott Sigler, Empty Set Entertainment, the warping of society, contemporary criticism, nonfiction, Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will, Geoff Colvin, could our jobs be replaced by robots or computers?, Tam is their pet, Ex Machina is idea heavy, audio drama or “Audio Dramer”, an Idahoan accent?, And the Sun Stood Still, LA Theatre Works, Dava Sobel, Nicolaus Copernicus, Werner Heisenberg, Niels Bohr, how do we get access to plays, television seems insane to Jesse, there should be a Broadway channel, new podcasts: the Black Tapes podcast, SERIAL, NPR-style audio drama, fake pop journalism, The Great Courses’ The Torch podcast, Eric S. Rabkins course, The American Revolution (Great Courses), Neil deGrasse Tyson’s courses on Netflix, the GENRE STOP! podcast (a readalong style podcast), Ancillary Justice, The Martian, engineering fiction, applied science, readalong style, The Writer And The Critic, The Incomparable podcast, Read-A-Long, “when you hear a chime turn the page”, Books On The Nightstand podcast, The Readers podcast, Booktopia, Readercon, Fourth Street Fantasy, deep discussions, book centric panels, reader centric panels, a Roger Zelazny panel, a Jack Vance panel, Anne Vandermeer on Reading Envy, The Guardian Podcast, whooooah!, paperbook: The Dream Quest Of Unknown Kadath And Other Stories by H.P. Lovecraft and Jason Thompson (adaptor/illustrator) The White Ship by H.P. Lovecraft, Sergio Aragones, Groo, the marginalia in Mad magazine, page composition, J.H. Williams III, Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim, the final episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, a map of the dreamlands, it’s a map man!, illuminated maps,

Dreamlands poster by Jason Thompson

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Dark Disciple by Christie Golden

July 31, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Dark Disciple Star Wars cover imageDark Disciple: Star Wars
By Christie Golden; Foreword by Katie Lucas; Read by Marc Thompson
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication date: 7 July 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 hours

Themes: / Star Wars / Clone Wars / Sith / bounty hunter / Jedi /

Publisher summary:

The latest story never told in The Clone Wars television saga: A tale of trust, betrayal, love, and evil starring the hugely popular ex­ Sith/ never­ Jedi female bounty hunter, Asajj Ventress! A tale written but never aired, now turned into a brand­ new audiobook with the creative collaboration of the Lucasfilm Story Group and Dave Filoni, Executive Producer and Director of Star Wars: TheClone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels!    

When the Jedi decide to target Count Dooku­­Darth Tyranus­­himself, they turn to his ex­apprentice, Asajj Ventress, for help in getting close to the slippery Sith Lord. But when unexpected sparks fly between Ventress and Quinlan Vos, the unorthodox Jedi sent to work with her, the mission becomes a web of betrayal, alliances, secrets,and dark plotting that might just be the undoing of both Jedi and Sith­­ and everything in between.

Where did this book come from? I’ve never been much of a prequel person and didn’t get into the Clone Wars TV show but man this book is one of my favorite Star Wars books to date. It has a lot more emotional depth to it than your typical Star Wars book and a lot transpires in such a small novel. Yes it still feels like your typical action pulp novel but with even a bit more. This is the novel that will finally get me to go back and watch the Clone Wars.

The general premise of the book is that the Jedi are concerned about the toll the Clone Wars are taking on the galaxy and decide that taking out the head of the snake will reduce the casualties. That means assassinating Count Dooku. If you can get past the very un-Jedi like premise of this, the ride is worth taking. They decide to send one of their most covert Jedi masters, Quinlan Vos, to team up with Asajj Ventress in going after the Sith Lord. Apparently she decided to become a bounty hunter at some point and he needs to stoke the flames of her hate for Count Dooku so she joins the cause…should be interesting!

The story chronicles everything from concept to courting Ventress (choice wording) all the way to conclusion of things. There are some cameos from the mainstream Star Wars characters but overall this story focuses on Vos and Ventress – which I love. It is a breathe of fresh air to see some other characters take center stage. They have a certain spark for each other and play off one another really well. I think their different backgrounds and their issues add much more of a dynamic to what happens.

We all know how Episode 3 starts but I genuinely did not know where this book was headed. I knew that they couldn’t be the ones who finally did the deed, but wondered if they set up circumstances at the beginning of Episode 3 (I won’t tell you if that happened though). The only reason I bring it up is because I’ve seen reviews of other Star Wars books where people said they almost believed Vader would turn against the Emperor (Lords of the Sith) or that some rebellion could succeed even if you knew it couldn’t because of the movie. I guess this book was that to me where the others were just a fun ride I knew couldn’t succeed.

I wouldn’t say the book is perfect. A lot of things happen in a short period of time or at least I didn’t feel the passage of time as the story progressed. The characters go through a LOT of change in that time and sometimes it felt a bit rushed, but I give Golden credit for pushing for that much change out of them. Other things typical of a pulp novel are here too; like meeting the bad guy and everyone getting away fine.

As for the audio side of things, Marc Thompson did a great job as usual and the sound engineers added all the sound effects and music we’ve come to expect from a Star Wars audiobook. My one minor gripe is that Thompson’s Mace Windu sounds a hell of a lot like Lando Calrissian. That kept throwing me off when the Jedi would convene but apart from that, the audio was great!

Posted by Tom Schreck

Review of The Blumhouse Book of Nightmares: The Haunted City

July 28, 2015 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Blumhouse House of NightmaresTHE BLUMHOUSE BOOK OF NIGHTMARES: The Haunted City
Edited by Jason Blum; Read by Various
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 7 July 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 14 hours

Themes: / horror / short stories / ghosts / demonic possession / violence / murder /

Publisher summary:

Emmy Award-winning producer Jason Blum has ushered in a new dawn of horror with franchises like Paranormal Activity, The Purge, Insidious, and Sinister. Now he presents THE BLUMHOUSE BOOK OF NIGHTMARES: THE HAUNTED CITY, a stunning collection of original, terrifying fiction from a unique cast of master storytellers.   

Contents include:

“Geist” by Les Bohem
“Procedure” by James DeMonaco
“Hellhole” by Christopher Denham
“A Clean White Room” by Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill
“Novel Fifteen” by Steve Faber
“Eyes” by George Gallo
“1987” by Ethan Hawke
“Donations” by William Joselyn
“The Old Jail” by Sarah Langan
“The Darkish Man” by Nissar Modi
“Meat Maker” by Mark Neveldine
“Dreamland” by Michael Olson
“Valdivia” by Eli Roth
“Golden Hour” by Jeremy Slater
“The Leap” by Dana Stevens
“The Words” by Scott Stewart
“Gentholme” by Simon Kurt Unsworth

Do you enjoy ghost, demon, and gore-lit? If yes, then you’ll enjoy this collection of stories ranging from psychological horror to down and dirty violent bloodletting. I feel this anthology does a nice job at covering the various bases in this subgenre, and for those of you interested in such reading material, I think you’ll enjoy the reading experience.

I’m not averse to reading stories that are violent or haunted by ghosts, but I need good writing. Some of these tales are fine examples of solid craft and storytelling. “A Clean White Room” by Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill was a delight in the forward lean immediacy of the story. “Gentholme” by Simon Kurt Unsworth is an excellent story rendered in a pleasing unfolding of character exploration, and while the ending is a little flat, it was a pleasure to read.

Regarding recommendations? Yes, if you are a fan of these types of stories. No, if you are only an occasional horror reader. This is not a good collection to start on. It is a great collection if you’re looking to add to your already substantial horror reading catalog.

Several different narrators collaborate on this audiobook. I couldn’t find a list of the readers, but I think all deliver an outstanding reading. I was impressed with the audio quality.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

Review of Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp

July 10, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Lords of the SithLords of the Sith (Star Wars)
By Paul S. Kemp; Narrated by Jonathan Davis
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 28 April 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 hours, 56 minutesThemes: / Star Wars / space / sith / spice /Publisher summary:

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….

When the Emperor and his notorious apprentice Darth Vader find themselves stranded in the middle of insurgent action on an inhospitable planet, they must rely on each other, the Force, and their own ruthlessness to prevail.

“It appears things are as you suspected, Lord Vader. We are indeed hunted.”

Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight, is just a memory. Darth Vader, newly anointed Sith Lord, is ascendant. The Emperor’s chosen apprentice has swiftly proven his loyalty to the dark side. Still, the history of the Sith Order is one of duplicity, betrayal, and acolytes violently usurping their Masters – and the truest measure of Vader’s allegiance has yet to be taken. Until now.

On Ryloth, a planet crucial to the growing Empire as a source of slave labor and the narcotic known as “spice”, an aggressive resistance movement has arisen, led by Cham Syndulla, an idealistic freedom fighter, and Isval, a vengeful former slave. But Emperor Palpatine means to control the embattled world and its precious resources – by political power or firepower – and he will be neither intimidated nor denied. Accompanied by his merciless disciple, Darth Vader, he sets out on a rare personal mission to ensure his will is done.

For Syndulla and Isval, it’s the opportunity to strike at the very heart of the ruthless dictatorship sweeping the galaxy. And for the Emperor and Darth Vader, Ryloth becomes more than just a matter of putting down an insurrection: When an ambush sends them crashing to the planet’s surface, where inhospitable terrain and an army of resistance fighters await them, they will find their relationship tested as never before. With only their lightsabers, the dark side of the Force, and each other to depend on, the two Sith must decide if the brutal bond they share will make them victorious allies or lethal adversaries.

Lords of the Sith is a decent entry in the Star Wars universe with a familiar setup but good execution. As this takes place before Episode IV, we know this story has many limitations that Kemp works within well. We get a good amount of action both in space and planet-side and a surprising amount of insight and introspection from Darth Vader along the way.

The beginning feels like so many others that have come before: random resistance/rebellion is causing trouble and the Empire must respond. If more books are written in this time period, I really hope some oter source of tension is found because the perpetual rebellions are getting kind of tired (not to say that shouldn’t be happening but there were far more creative issues hitting the New Republic in the expanded legends universe). A lot of time is spent developing characters and their reason for a rebellion that we know won’t be sticking around very long when I really want to see more of the Sith. I kind of felt the same way with the time spent on characters I didn’t care about in Kenobi when I wanted more of the wizened old Jedi Master. Thank goodness that lightens up a good way into the book.

Things really start to get interesting when Vader and the Emperor show up to shut things down in a Star Destroyer only to suffer a pretty crazy attack prepared by the resistance. I enjoyed this part because of Kemp’s clever usage of many of the different technologies and capabilities seen in Star Wars over the years. It was also fun to see Vader flying around in a craft with limited capabilities with only the Force as his weapon. How do you kill a jedi or a sith? Lots and lots of back up plans would give you a shot!

Speaking of using the Force for a weapon, we really get to see Vader and the Emperor unleash a bit on their abilities in this novel. Early on, Vader infiltrates a ship on his own and is scary efficient at cutting his way through everyone on board. It’s kind of like when they storm the blockade runner in Episode IV except just Vader running through the place taking people out. We also get to see the two sith working in tandem to face all kinds of scenarios that range between cool/plausible to just putting random indigenous threats through the meat grinder (that part kind of felt like a, “lets just show how totally badass these guys are by making them kill meaningless things”). There are a bunch of moments where I wondered how they were fooled by something dumb, didn’t just kill someone that was being a nuisance the whole time, etc but overall it was pretty good.

The book isn’t all violence and craziness because we get to see Vader struggling with serving his master. Episode III ended with Vader having submitted to Palpatine but their master/servant relationship wasn’t exactly fleshed out by the end of the film. Vader still struggles with the repercussions of previous events and contemplates attacking his master at regular intervals…as every sith should. It’s interesting to hear his thoughts and struggles and knowing what he’ll become.

On the audio side of things, Jonathan Davis did a great job as usual and the sound effects/music were great. Jonathan Davis always puts on a great performance with high energy and does not disappoint here. Some of the sound effect got to me – mainly the squelching noises that one would normally associate with a sith crushing enemies or smashing an enemy into a wall, but such sounds should make you cringe.

Overall this was not my favorite Star Wars book but was still a decent entry in the universe. If you’re looking for more sith action, definitely check out the Darth Bane book that start with Path of Destruction.

Posted by Tom Schreck

Review of The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov

March 3, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Gods ThemselvesThe Gods Themselves
By Isaac Asimov; Narrated by Scott Brick
Publisher: Random House Audio
Release Date: January 2014
[UNABRIDGED] –  11 hrs, 26 mins

Themes: / science fiction / aliens / annihilation / survival /

Publisher summary:

Only a few know the terrifying truth – an outcast Earth scientist, a rebellious alien inhabitant of a dying planet, a lunar-born human intuitionist who senses the imminent annihilation of the Sun… They know the truth – but who will listen? They have foreseen the cost of abundant energy – but who will believe? These few beings, human and alien, hold the key to the Earth’s survival.

Though a science fiction novel, The Gods Themselves is also primarily about magic.

Throughout the courses I took for my my undergraduate degree in Economics, we talked a lot about the driving forces behind the choices people make. One of the greatest is magic. We all want to find that magical thing that makes us not have to work as hard; magic makes life easier.

This quest for magic has helped us innovate on a grand scale and use the resources around us for our own benefit. Whether it’s been good in the long run, I’ll not get into just this second.

In The Gods Themselves, a magic is found which makes life easier and it’s the Electron Pump. Somehow, some beings have reached across the universe, time, or something, to impress themselves upon our world and made possible an endless energy source, which benefits all of humanity.

The only problem is whether it is really for our benefit and what happens when the worst is found out? Would humanity easily give up such a gift?

It’s interesting to read this book, published in 1972, in light of today’s problems with humanity’s stewardship of the world. I’m sure, actually, that Mr. Asimov thought his day was bad.

This book is told in three separate parts, each of which was published independently in Galaxy Magazine and Worlds of If. They focus on three quite different groups of people and their interaction with the Electron Pump.

The first focuses on the physicists who discover and deal with the Electron Pump. The second focuses on those others and it’s absolutely otherworldly, so much so, that it was quite difficult to read at first until you understood what was going on a bit more. It reminded me a little of Orson Scott Card’s Mithermages series.

The final part focuses on a human colony on the moon. One of the parts I can talk about without spoiling things is the description of gravity on the moon. Those who’ve lived there all their lives are essentially trapped there because their bones couldn’t survive Earth’s gravity and those who travel there have to take frequent, excruciating, trips home to Earth to keep their bodies in shape. After listening to a Star Wars book, it’s interesting to note how little they care about the different gravities of worlds. Must be some hyper-technology that accounts for it right?

Because Asimov is himself a scientist, the physics are competently explained, at least to a lay person like myself, and the dire consequences of humanity’s actions are understood … through science. Amazing!

And a note on the audiobook reader, Scott Brick. Brick has been around the block, I don’t know how many times I’ve come across his recordings. You can always trust him to bring the gravitas to any recording and you’ll find nothing less here.

This cleverly named book won both the Nebula Award in 1972 and the Hugo in 1973. And as the origin of the name of the book says, quoted from Friedriech Schiller, “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.” (for the German speakers: “Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.”)

As apt today as it was … when it was written.

4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)

Posted by Bryce L.

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