Review of The Twelve by Justin Cronin

October 21, 2012 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Twelve by Justin CroninThe Twelve
By Justin Cronin; Read by Scott Brick
CD or MP3 -[UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: October 16, 2012
ISBN: 9780307702043/9780739366523
Themes: / Vampires / Post-apocalypse / Virus /

Publisher summary:

The end of the world was only the beginning.
 
In his internationally bestselling and critically acclaimed novel The Passage, Justin Cronin constructed an unforgettable world transformed by a government experiment gone horribly wrong. Now the scope widens and the intensity deepens as the epic story surges forward with . . .
 
THE TWELVE
 
In the present day, as the man-made apocalypse unfolds, three strangers navigate the chaos. Lila, a doctor and an expectant mother, is so shattered by the spread of violence and infection that she continues to plan for her child’s arrival even as society dissolves around her. Kittridge, known to the world as “Last Stand in Denver,” has been forced to flee his stronghold and is now on the road, dodging the infected, armed but alone and well aware that a tank of gas will get him only so far. April is a teenager fighting to guide her little brother safely through a landscape of death and ruin. These three will learn that they have not been fully abandoned—and that in connection lies hope, even on the darkest of nights.
 
One hundred years in the future, Amy and the others fight on for humankind’s salvation . . . unaware that the rules have changed. The enemy has evolved, and a dark new order has arisen with a vision of the future infinitely more horrifying than man’s extinction. If the Twelve are to fall, one of those united to vanquish them will have to pay the ultimate price.

I wasn’t going to read this book. I wasn’t! I felt like The Passage was a well-contained story and I didn’t understand where else it could go. I will let the author explain what he focuses on in The Twelve, because I find it too difficult to summarize. (This is from an older post from 2010 on io9.com.)

The next two books each go back to Year Zero at the outset, to reset the story, and to deal with something you didn’t see and didn’t know was as important as it was. It’s not a linear quest story, which I would find dull and plodding. With each book, you need to have the narrative terms reestablished with fresh elements. Also, if you didn’t see [a character] die, they’re not necessarily dead. There’s a big cast in the first book, and plenty of unresolved stuff. I will resolve it by the end. [Early vampire character] Anthony Carter? No, not abandoning him.

In [The Twelve], you go back to what happened in Denver after the outbreak took place. The story will resume in that location a few days after breakout. So you can see another angle on what occurred and certain elements will affect our band of heroes 100 years in the future. It will be called The Twelve – and it’s not who you think.

This means that the story starts with where Amy is, and follows up with an assortment of other characters. Just like in The Passage, storylines are dropped completely as others are followed. Since I was listening to the audio, it was a bit more difficult to keep track of, just because it was harder to flip back and get a refresher on names, etc.

The author provides a lot more information about what happened to various people at the very beginning, explaining how some of the communities were formed, the horrific actions of the USA government (including events like “The Field”), and other parts of the novel jump around up to 97 years from when the virus originally took hold. This kind of information is usually my favorite part of post-apocalyptic stories – the rebuilding. What kind of societies form? How do they work? Who has control? I think Justin Cronin shows a lot of creativity and variety in these situations, since it isn’t just one story, but multiple. Many of the characters, locations, and situations overlap throughout the story, and I had this sense of the author as a puppeteer, drawing strings of stories around each other. Kudos to him that they never seem to tangle in disaster.

Scott Brick is the narrator for the audiobook of The Twelve, and does a fantastic job. He doesn’t bother doing a lot of voices, but his inflection is perfect. He has this ability to get out of the way of the story that I really appreciate when I’m listening. It just comes to life and I’m not constantly thinking of HIM, but of the story.

And The Twelve requires a lot of thinking and paying attention. The multiple story lines, the jumping around in time and history, and the sprinkling of quotations that Cronin throws in kept my attention. He started with a Mark Strand poem, almost as if I needed something to clinch whether or not I’d read this book.

I won’t have that dilemma for the final book. While this story has a satisfying climax, I was left with far more questions this time around. I’m not sure I know which side everyone is on. I’m not sure I even know what sides there are, anymore. What I am sure about is that this book is hard to put down.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

LibriVox: Mrs. Shelley by Lucy Madox Rossetti (a biography of Mary Shelley)

October 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

I cannot wholeheartedly recommend you listen to this biography of Mary Shelley. There’s far too much surmising and a great deal too much imagining what Mary Shelley’s life was like for my taste. And while it’s true that we probably know a great deal more about Mary Shelley’s life now, than her biographer knew at the time of the writing, Mrs. Shelley feels as if it was written as a writing assignment, rather than a work of keen interest. Further, the author, Lucy Madox Rossetti, takes it upon herself to do a kind of literary criticism of Shelley’s fiction in the biography! I find it rather catty, and given even my limited understanding of the subject (Mary Shelley), I suspect Rossetti it is badly informed. Take this bit, written about Shelley’s The Last Man, as a for instance:

To give an adequate idea of genius with all its charm, and yet with its human imperfections, was beyond Mary’s power. Adrian, the son of kings, the aristocratic republican, is the weakest part, and one cannot help being struck by Mary Shelley’s preference for the aristocrat over the plebeian. In fact, Mary’s idea of a republic still needed kings’ sons by their good manners to grace it, while, at the same time, the king’s son had to be transmuted into an ideal Shelley. This strange confusion of ideas allowed for, and the fact that over half a century of perhaps the earth’s most rapid period of progress has passed, the imaginative qualities are still remarkable in Mary. Balloons, then dreamed of, were attained; but naturally the steam-engine and other wonders of science, now achieved, were unknown to Mary. When the plague breaks out she has scope for her fancy, and she certainly adds vivid pictures of horror and pathos to a subject which has been handled by masters of thought at different periods.

It’s writing like that makes you wonder why she bothered writing the book at all. And Lucy Madox Rossetti is just plain wrong about some of it. Thomas Newcomen, the father of the atmospheric engine (steam-engine) created his apparatus almost a century before Mary Shelley was even born.

One saving grace, if this audiobook has one, are the capsule synopses of Shelley’s many novels and stories. They are actually rather handy!

But, to the biography, the fact remains this is the only public domain biography of Mary Shelley yet available on LibriVox. Until a better one appears we will have to make do with…

LibriVoxMrs. Shelley
By Lucy Madox Rossetti; Read by various
29 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 6 Hours 44 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: October 13, 2010
Mrs. Shelley is a biography of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley, author of Frankenstein and other works, wife of Percy Shelley, daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin who penned The Vindication of the Rights of Women, and daughter of William Godwin, a philosopher and novelist. The life of this woman, who at nineteen wrote a story that has become a part of everyday culture, is its own story to tell. The author, Lucy Madox Brown Rossetti, was the daughter of the artist Ford Madox Brown and the wife of William Michael Rossetti of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Podcast feed: http://librivox.org/rss/4231

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

[Thanks also to Amy Gramour, [email protected], Andreia, teanah and J.M. Smallheer]

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell

October 20, 2010 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden BellSFFaudio EssentialThe Reapers Are The Angels
By Alden Bell; Read by Tai Sammons
6 CDs – Approx. 6.8 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: August 2010
ISBN: 9781441765994
Themes: / Fantasy / Horror / Zombies / Post-Apocalypse / The South /

God is a slick god. Temple knows. She knows because of all the crackerjack miracles still to be seen on this ruined globe.

Like those fish all disco-lit in the shallows. That was something, a marvel with no compare that she’s been witness to. It was deep night when she saw it, but the moon was so bright it cast hard shadows everywhere on the island. So bright it was almost brighter than daytime because she could see things clearer, as if the sun were criminal to the truth, as if her eyes were eyes of night. She left the lighthouse and went down to the beach to look at the moon pure and straight, and she stood in the shallows and let her feet sink into the sand as the patter- waves tickled her ankles. And that’s when she saw it, a school of tiny fish, all darting around like marbles in a chalk circle, and they were lit up electric, mostly silver but some gold and pink too. They came and danced around her ankles, and she could feel their little electric fish bodies, and it was like she was standing under the moon and in the moon at the same time. And that was something she hadn’t seen before. A decade and a half, thereabouts, roaming the planet earth, and she’s never seen that before.

And you could say the world has gone to black damnation, and you could say the children of Cain are holding sway over the good and the righteous—but here’s what Temple knows: She knows that whatever hell the world went to, and whatever evil she’s perpetrated her own self, and whatever series of cursed misfortunes brought her down here to this island to be harbored away from the order of mankind, well, all those things are what put her there that night to stand amid the Daylight Moon and the Miracle of the Fish—which she wouldn’t of got to see otherwise.

See, God is a slick god. He makes it so you don’t miss out on nothing you’re supposed to witness firsthand.

I actually asked to review this book because I’d seen it described as a “twist on the southern gothic: like Flannery O’Connor with zombies.” As someone who has just begun to appreciate Flannery O’Connor’s writing this hit me like a challenge. However, as I listened to the first chapter, I was struck by the unexpected beauty of the writing and themes that many people wouldn’t attempt, especially in a zombie book. This unexpected beginning was merely the first of the many surprises that Alden Bell had for me in The Reapers Are The Angels.

Temple is a fifteen year old girl who was born ten years after the zombie apocalypse happened. No attempt is made to understand or solve the zombie problem. No government has been formed from the survivors. It is a world with pockets of survivors who set up such systems as seem good to them individually. Chaos rules. Temple has never known a world where zombies were not part of the landscape and this gives us a unique perspective into the apocalyptic novel. It is the world of the survivors where the zombies are a danger but not a shock.

Temple is a fearless drifter, moving from place to place to see wonders or carry out such tasks as she feels she has been given to perform. One such task is when she comes across a severely retarded man in a poignant scene where he is running from zombies with his dead grandmother in his arms. She takes on the task of getting the man, who she calls “Dummy” until she learns his name (Maury), to a safe place where he will be looked after. A wealth of information is conveyed in that name, “Dummy.” This is a world where politically correct doesn’t matter, where truth can sound hard but be kind. Temple is matter-of-fact because that is the only coin that counts in a world where zombies roam wild.

Early in Temple’s travels she encounters the man who becomes her nemesis. Interestingly enough, they understand each other better than any other people on earth, although they are at odds. Both are “God-haunted,” both recognize the truth and resolve it takes to “stay right.” He wants to kill Temple and she understands why, but nevertheless is not going to let him succeed. She is also afraid of something evil within herself which keeps her on the move. In the process of evading her relentless pursuer and caring for her protoge, Temple roams across the South, encountering a wide variety of wanderers and societies. Some are clinging to hopes of returning to normalcy, some accept the new way of the world but refuse to understand it for what it is. Many people encountered are kind and a surprising number of them are also traveling despite the uncertain times. All are shown through Temple’s honest gaze which even can understand and accept the zombies as long as she isn’t being attacked.

This doesn’t mean that Temple is only pragmatic, however. She is weighed down with grief from past actions, which we gradually discover in the course of the novel. She feels joy and wonderment at events such as the fish in the excerpt above and her overriding desire is to see Niagara Falls some day. As she chatters to the largely speechless Maury we see the natural personality of a 15-year-old girl emerge every so often.

I have never read a book with this perspective. I love a good apocalypse story, watching the survivors get over the shock or succumb depending on their natures, watching the alternative governments set up, watching the various ways that everyone attempts to restore the most important aspects of the status quo. This book has no such moments. The world already has “gone to black damnation” but even so there are moments of beauty, meditation on what is right, suspense over what Temple will find in each town, whether she can get Maury to safety, how she will finally elude the determined killer on her trail, and what the evil is that she feels is deep within her. I rarely have listened to a book with such intensity or found myself surprised as often by the lyrical, fluid writing.

Tai Sammons narrates this book with restrained clarity. She has the ability to seamlessly shift into accents from upper class to hardscrabble Southerner while taking on the characters so that the listener tends to forget that there is just one person reading. She does this without altering her voice much either which is a rare skill and one that enhanced the book greatly. In fact, after I found out that the print version does not have quotation marks used for dialogue, I realized that in listening to Sammons’ narration I was enjoying this book in probably the best format for easy understanding. (This experience made me reconsider reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy who is known for both excellent stories and also for the difficulty of reading his prose. I will be seeking out the audio version.)

As with the best science fiction or fantasy, ultimately this story is about much larger issues than hordes of wandering zombies, who have the least presence of any monsters I’ve ever read about. There is blood aplenty, make no mistake, but zombies are far less dangerous that what lies within Temple and her pursuer. The book is not perfect. Some of the plot details are immediately obvious, although they take Temple a long time to figure out, which can be a bit frustrating to the reader. However, overall the book packs its equal share of surprises in plot which more than compensate for the failures.

The Reapers Are The Angels looks at the pursuit of beauty, the pursuit of God, the flight from inner demons, and the fact that none of us can ever see the whole truth at any time. We are too small and truth is woven too large. It isn’t Flannery O’Connor but it doesn’t need to be to accomplish the same thing that O’Connor always wrote about. The Reapers Are The Angels is a book about being human with all the questions and struggles that humans have had throughout time. Highest recommendation.

Posted by Julie D.

Review of Blake’s 7 – Point Of No Return and Eye Of The Machine

August 25, 2009 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

Blake's 7 - Point Of No Return and Eye Of The MachineSFFaudio EssentialBlake’s 7 – Point Of No Return and Eye Of The Machine (Vol. 1.2 & 1.3)
By Ben Aaronovitch and James Swallow; Performed by a full cast
2 CDs – Approx. 70 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: B7 Media
Published: November 2008
ISBN: 9781906577063
Themes: / Science Fiction / Politics / Crime / Artificial Intelligence / Terrorism / Noir /

‘Blake’s 7 draws much of its inspiration from the legend of Robin Hood. It follows a small band of outlaws, under a figurehead leader, leading a rebellion against a tyrannical regime.’

A History and Critical Analysis of Blake’s 7 by John Kenneth Muir

This is the second release in the first season of Blake’s 7 prequel stories. For more information on the original the Trilogy Box Set and Volume 1.1 of the prequel series read our reviews HERE and HERE.

Point of No Return and Eye Of The Machine are two more rousing and unconventional adventures in the Blake’s 7 reimaginging. As is typical with most excellent series the music, sound design and acting are absolutely stellar. But, it is the writing which amazes me the most. There are two ways you can go with remakes of old television series. One is to write it so that the dumbest people in your audience won’t have any trouble following it (New Doctor Who I’m looking at you). The other is to re-imagine, re-construct and re-engage with those who loved a smart Science Fiction series for its intelligence. I’m happy to say that this new Blake’s 7 series is in the latter category. Feelings of surprise and utter engagement followed from the opening moments of a rainswept city soundscape to the final credit sequence. I was rapt, imagining the goings-on as vividly as if they were projected onto 1,000 foot screen. Here are my thoughts on each of the two episodes in this set…

Point of No Return – (Episode 1.2)
Written by James Swallow, directed by Andrew Mark Sewell

Point of No Return depicts a critical juncture in the life of Major Stefan Travis. Travis is a Blake’s 7 baddie, the Guy of Gisborne to Roj Blake’s Robin Hood. In this prequel story we find Travis assigned to investigate Carl Varon. Varon is a kind of proto-Blake – a political troublemaker who claims to have been setup by the powers that be. The evidence is against Varon is damning. There’s a laundry list of horrific charges against him. Plus, there’s all the video evidence. So what’s Travis’ problem? Just that Varon may be entirely innocent. Travis has two duties. 1. A duty to the state. 2. A duty to the truth. Which will he choose?

Actor Craig Kelly plays Travis. To my ears his voices sounds pretty similar to the original TV series actor Brian Croucher. What benefits Kelly here is that he gets a much meatier role than poor Croucher (the TV Travis) ever got. He also benefits by playing against a veteran like Peter Guinness. Guinness has a Jekyll And Hyde-like role in this story, we get him as the innocent man in jail and as a political terrorist (during some video playback sequences). Jake Maskall has the least to do here, playing Sub-Lieutenant Garcia. His role being to mostly act as a naive assistant to Travis.

Eye Of The Machine – (Episode 1.3)
Written by Ben Aaronovitch, directed by Andrew Mark Sewell

Eye Of The Machine also follows a baddie (but one of the less bad baddies). Kerr Avon (the Will Scarlet of Blake’s 7) in this prequel story is a brilliant and geeky post-graduate student at Oxford in 2230. The university’s campus, like so many on Earth, is roiling with political protest movements. Avon wants nothing to do with politics, but a fellow student is hot for two things – political change and Kerr Avon. Meanwhile Avon’s brilliance in his chosen studies has caught the eye of a respected cyberneticist professor. Professor Ensor is working on an artificial intelligence breakthrough – he needs a mind like Avon’s. Will Avon’s attendance at Freedom Party meetings or the ambitious Professor Ensor be his undoing?

Colin Salmon (playing Avon) is a movie star with stage acting chops. Anna Grant (played by Keeley Hawes) is fast talking and passionate. She’s terrific. Ensor, is played by Geoffrey Palmer, a veteran of virtually every television series made in the U.K.. In this he’s slimy, mean-spirited and perfect. The script jumps back and forth between the events as they unfolded chronologically and sometime shortly after ‘what happened’ wherein Ensor and Grant give one sided answers to an interrogator’s questions. Both Episode 1.2 and 1.3 use just three actors each but we don’t need even more. These scripts are perfectly polished audio drama gems. Highly recommended.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Red Panda Adventures – Season 4

SFFaudio Review

Superhero Audio Drama - The Red Panda Adventures - Season FourThe Red Panda Adventures – Season 4
By Gregg Taylor; Performed by a full cast
12 MP3 Files via podcast – Approx. 6 Hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcaster: Decoder Ring Theatre
Podcast: September 2008 – May 2009
Themes: / Fantasy / Superheroes / Mystery / Crime / Adventure / Marriage / Toronto / Magic / South America / Dinosaurs /

“I’m not implying mystic threats, foreign powers and shadowy organizations aren’t important. But sometimes they do disconnect us from the street.”

After four years and 48 episodes Gregg Taylor’s writing is still amazingly fresh. It’s super-quotable too. As I listen I find myself writing down, here and there on scraps of paper, lines of dialogue. That’s terrific writing folks. Is it kind of sick that I even enjoy the commercials?

“I like all of those words.”

Speaking of words, in the opening lines of the new season Kit Baxter is no longer just the red panda’s “driver” now she’s his “fiance”! Another change is the introduction of a new sponsor (fast and easy weight loss dot com). Still around are the charming birthday wishes and other greetings from family members around the world who spend their dollars on keeping the Red Panda show going.

I’ve got a detailed episode by episode review below (minus any serious spoilers)…

Episode 1 – “The Third Wave
The season 3 finale of The Red Panda Adventures set up a Nazi scientist called Professor Von Schlitz to be the major villian for Season 4. So it wasn’t too shocking to have him take the first scene of episode one The Third Wave, of Season 4. As the show begins Schlitz and his new pilot are headed toward a secret lair in the jungles of South America. All is proceeding normally. Then SLAM! A twist I didn’t see coming. This opening shocked me! First there was the introduction of a new superhero, a man named “Captain Tom Sunlight” (played by Christopher Mott) – apparently an ally of The Red Panda’s. Second, I realized just how much Von Schlitz is a pastiche of two Raiders Of The Lost Ark villains (Belloq and Toht). An auspicious beginning. With this episode The Red Panda has now done something previously “unthinkable.” The rest of the episode deals with a frightening 1930s phenomena – with the title of the band of villains taken from a 1967 high school history class experiment.

Episode 2 – “The Mask of Death
This episode feels like the Red Panda Version of The Taking Of Pelham 123 but with zombies! A train station full of passengers is held for ransom. The arch-villain involved is another tenured teacher, Professor Zombie! playing junior panda member Harry is rather obviously female (and not male) – this is a problem I can’t see around. Finding child actors of talent are difficult, adults playing children ditto.

Episode 3 – “Murder In The Castle
The scenic Casa Loma is the setting for this season’s locked room mystery. A locked castle mystery actually as an unexpected murder that interrupts Kit’s romantic evening with her groom-to-be. This episode feels like a Nero Wolfe plot (minus the many confusing characters). Does old RP have a rooftop orchid garden?

Episode 4 – “The Gathering Storm
A full-scale dimensional breach imperils 1930s Toronto and only Red Panda and his trusty side-kick are up to the task of patching it back up. This episode clearly demonstrates the way magic is handled in the Red Panda universe. Scientists, especially ones named Chronopolis, can wrap their heads around the mystical arts and mystical objects – sometimes they just can’t control them.

Episode 5 – “Trial By Terror
Barton Meyer, an orderly at the Queen Street Lunatic Sanitarium, meets an old resident who claims to have been “born here.” The Electric Eel (performed by Scott Moyle) is home at last! With his incredible powers, and made up entirely of energy, he’ll team up with a few imprisoned residents/patients at the mad house (The Genie and The Jackrabbit). But this dastardly team-up doesn’t want to kill the Red Panda, they want to put him on trial in order to determine his sanity. The results? An electrifying episode.

Episode 6 – “The Boy In Blue
Constable Andy Parker, voiced by Brian Vaughan, best known from previous episodes of RPA for his crush on Flying Squirrel (like pretty much everyone else who listens to the show) takes center stage in this tale of police corruption. Is Parker working for The Syndicate or is there a more innocent explanation for him palling around with dirty cops? Which reminds me, all this Parker/Syndicate has got to be a nice little shout out to Richard Stark. I tell you that Greg Taylor packs a whole lot of goodness into each episode. Another thing to take note of in this episode is the new “Pappy” moniker Kit Baxter is floating for her husband-to-be.

Episode 7 – “The Golden Idol
A new superhero is prowling the streets of Toronto. He’s got super-strength, can fly and seems more than capable of replacing the Red Panda – the only question is: Why? Christopher Mott playing the ever excitable Mad Monkey makes an appearance – meaning he steals the show – in this case almost literally. Fun stuff!

Episode 8 – “I Dream Of Genies” Modern technology allows banks to secure their vaults better than ever. 17 stories into the sky they’re safe aren’t they? But can they stop a heat ray wielding villain on a flying carpet? Probably not. There’s a very cool audio montage in this ep. That’s something I don’t ever remember ever hearing before! Actor Brian Vaughan returns, reprising his super-villain role as The Genie from Seasons 2 and 3 (and 4).

Episode 9 – “Jungle Of Terror
Paying back a favour to their superhero buddy, Captain Tom Sunlight, Red Panda and Flying Squirrel fly into a South American jungle. There they discover a strange gateway, an old enemy, and some very large and very hungry fauna. This episode feels inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. This is a cool away adventure. I hope RP and FS can do more of these next season.

Episode 10 – “The Crimson Death
Returning from South America with her fiance, the Flying Squirrel is all aflutter about her upcoming nuptials to her partner in crime-fighting. Luckily, there’s been a series of mysterious murders in Toronto while they’ve been away; solving them will be the perfect distraction from her wedding jitters. Her first stop: A visit to the Queen’s Street Lunatic Asylum. Whoever is responsible has some mean-ventriloquism chops, is invisible and wields fire. What an odd combination! This is the shortest (and probably weakest) episode of the fourth season – but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. There’s plenty of wonderful character development in between all that invisible, fire-throwing, voice-chucking menace.

Episode 11 – “Endgame
Tied up and hanging above a vat of acid Commander Varkin has the Red Panda and Flying Squirrel just where he wants them – now for the speechifyin’. Varkin (voiced by Gregory Z. Cooke) is a Blowfeld type villain – he fills us in on the season spanning conspiracy – and unleashes a lot more than hot air. But that isn’t the dynamic couple’s only problem, it seems that a vat of acid and a world domination speech aren’t enough for Varkin as a dangerous virus and secret partner will keep Squirrel and Panda busy. The perfect penultimate play? Possibly!

Episode 12 – “Operation Cold Feet
Kit Baxter’s even more antsy with her impending wedding just days away. But what’s up with all the false Red Panda sightings? They don’t seem to bother the real Red Panda. But when a fake Flying Squirrel makes a newspaper appearance Big Red nearly chokes on his toast! In this episode we finally learn the true identity of the Red Panda! For the previous 47 episodes Gregg Taylor has managed to side-step revealing our hero’s real name. Even characters who should have known the name of the man “who wears the mask of the Red Panda” have carefully not spoken it up to this point. He’s been called “Pappy” and “Puddin” by Kit Baxter, “my dear boy” by his fellow wealthy peers Toronto, really everything but “hey you.” It’s a name that’ll be remembered with the likes of Lamont Cranston and Bruce Wayne.

Happy Canada Day everybody, go celebrate with some RED PANDA!

Here’s the podcast feed:

http://decoderring.libsyn.com/rss

Posted by Jesse Willis

Aural Noir review of Columbine by Dave Cullen

June 23, 2009 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

Aural Noir: Review

I didn’t expect to be reviewing this audiobook. Prior to its arrival in the SFFaudio mailbox I didn’t even know this audiobook existed. It is neither Science Fiction, nor Fantasy. Its Horror is of the very detached and remote kind because of the way it is told. I scoured the packaging looking for a sign as to why we were sent this audiobook. The only thing that stood out was that it was directed by Emily Janice Card (that’s Orson Scott Card‘s audiobook producing daughter). That’s a very tenuous connection to what is normally our kind of audiobook. But, after listening to the book in its entirety I found I had some things to say about it. And… we do have this handy “Aural Noir” tag that I use to talk about the Mystery, Thriller, and Noir audiobooks that I so love. Why not review it under its aegis?

Done!

Blackstone Audiobooks - Columbine by Dave CullenColumbine
By Dave Cullen; Read by Don Leslie
11 CDs – Approx. 13 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks
Published: March 2009
ISBN: 9781433290435
Themes: / Crime / History / Colorado / Murder / Suicide / Psychopathy /

“If you want to understand ‘the killers,’ quit asking what drove them. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were radically different. Klebold is easier to comprehend, a more familiar type. He was hotheaded, but depressive and suicidal. He blamed himself for his problems. Harris is the challenge. He was sweet-faced and well-spoken. Adults, and even some other kids, described him as ‘nice.’ But Harris was cold, calculating, and homicidal. ‘Klebold was hurting inside while Harris wanted to hurt people.'”

Journalist Dave Cullen has assembled what must be, for the foreseeable future, the definitive book about the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. Myself, I was only vaguely familiar with the incident at the time. In 2002 I watched Michael Moore’s disturbing film Bowling For Columbine. It was a kind of editorial-documentary on the event itself, the connections with other shootings and firearms in general. Since then, the Columbine High School massacre had been completely off my radar. Dave Cullen’s non-fiction book Columbine supports my conviction that if you really want to know what exactly happened, you’ll have to wait for the facts to be ferreted out by a historian. Cullen is just such a historian. The history Cullen paints is rich in factual details. His sources are: the writings and videos of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold themselves, county records, friends of the murderers, their fellow students, eyewitness interviews, police records, victims, victim’s families and probably most crucially a senior FBI agent. That agent, Dwayne Fuselier, had a son attending Columbine High School on the day – so his arrival on the scene was both personal and professional – his later investigations reveal insights into the vast reams of documents and video produced by the killers themselves. With Fuselier’s assistance Cullen debunks virtually all of the many myths and falsehoods that swirled around the media’s coverage of the massacre.

Other than the two murderers, and the gun suppliers, the only other major villain in Cullen’s account of the massacre and its aftermath is the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. “Jeffco” was in charge of the investigation. It was also responsible for a lot of the incompetence that lead to it being necessary. In the aftermath Jeffco had a limelight loving sheriff who was concocting conspiracy theories that he had no investigative evidence for. But that bunk seems to have supressed some very interesting facts. For instance. Were you told the police had, prior to the attack, documented murder threats by Harris/Klebold prior to the attack? Did you know that the police had even made out a search warrant based on these threats? Did you know that, if the warrant had been taken to a judge, it would have allowed the police to discover the weapons cache the teens were preparing? Did you know that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold been arrested together, for another crime, prior to the attack?

Other myths Cullen debunks are those generated by the media and church groups. Had you heard about the girl who said ‘yes’ when asked if she ‘believed in God’? Ya, I had too. Did you know that she actually didn’t say it? That another teen had, and that she wasn’t shot? That instead this survivor, the one who had actually proclaimed her belief, was branded a liar by the evangelical community? I hadn’t known that.

With Columbine Cullen, has assembled a first rate piece of non-fiction history. It illustrates exactly why a public reaction to the daily news so often leads to dangerously false beliefs. If there was just one takeaway from this audiobook let it be that American society needs to be more focused on the problem of detecting psychopathy. Not all psychopaths are murderous, in fact most are law abiding. What unites them all is that other people don’t matter to them, except as a means to their ends.

Blackstone has issued the same stark cover for the audiobook as is on the paperbook. Chapters jump back and forth in time, showing the consequences of and the preparations for the murderous assault. This is a wise structural move as the day’s events themselves are not the primary focus of this book. In fact a good deal of the narrative follows others who were there that day: Frank DeAngelo, the Columbine High School principal, some of surviving victims and their families or the workings of the media itself. Don Leslie, the narrator, is given the grim task of reading the words of Klebold and Harris. It isn’t an enviable job, but he is up to the task. There is a disclaimer at the beginning of the audiobook that explains that all the words in quotes are sourced from interviews, transcripts and articles. This is naturally less clear in the audiobook version than the paperbook edition but Leslie does his best to make each quote as clear as he can.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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