The SFFaudio Podcast #382 – READALONG: Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini

August 15, 2016 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #382 – Jesse, Paul, Julie Davis, and Maissa talk about Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini.

Talked about on today’s show:
1921, Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk, The Count Of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, the morality of this character, on his high horse, betraying the Revolution, completely detached, everybody in this novel is morally gray, maddeningly indistinct, not a hero, historical explanation, that is why the book is named “Scaramouche”, he is the goad, acting as Scaramouche, Aline holds up the virtue, the epitaph on Sabatini’s gravestone, a Prisoner Of Zenda situation, based on somebody real, “A Romance Of The French Revolution”, incendiary speeches, the “Paladin of the Third”, critiquing the excesses of the French Revolution, pro-Jacobean, the character has knowledge of the future, excusing a lot of the morality, we don’t know what he’s thinking until he opens his mouth, good writing, “the tiger is the great lord of the jungle…”, hunting the tiger, solidifying what the revolution meant, dual (duel) motivation, playing the actor, foreshadowing, acting, taking on the role of actor (orator and paladin), a Heinleinian hyper-competent character, the author forces the other Scaramouche off-stage, the comedy and drama, a great sequence, becoming the mask, the inner portion of his life is reflected out on to the stage, he is himself as his purest expression, he is best as Scaramouche, he’s happiest and most content as himself as Scaramouche, you did WHAT with WHO?, we are all the sport of destiny, why look at adaptations, the 1952 movie, dad vs. brother, liberty, equality fraternity, the Robe, Omnus Omnibus, the Buskin, the Sword, enraging the audience, the privileged estates, it becomes very meta, William Shakespeare, a horrible sequel (Scaramouche: The Kingmaker), the puppetry, the author is puppetting the characters, traditional swashbuckler, The Princess Pride without the comedy, other ways of telling the story, a revenge tale, A Tale Of Two Cities, Nicholas Nickleby, reading old books, writers who were ravenous readers first, Donald Westlake (Richard Stark), the Parker series, roll and repeat adventures, Scaramouche is just living, accessory criminals, Alan Grofield is an actor/criminal who gets his own spin-off series, The Score by Richard Stark, The Damsel, The Dame, The Blackbird, Benet, there is the other way…, Sabatini’s weakness is his third act, in the center of Islam, Simon Vance’s narration of Scaramouche, Gord Mackenzie’s narration (for LibriVox), expletive deleted, name of name!, in keeping with the 19th century literary tradition, a lost tale of the French Revolution, Lord Valentine’s Castle by Robert Silverberg, wandering Scaramouche-style, juggling, waking-up with amnesia, quasi-global government, The Old Curiosity Shop, commedia dell’arte, pantomime, improv, Who’s Line Is It Anyway?, pantaloon, harlequin, the little skirmisher, Shakespeare’s types, a learned-fool, a brooding older man, the maiden -> the nurse -> the matron, you’re playing pantaloon, more meta, reading books to become a fencing master, the opening is rather boring, but soon after we’re in a sword-fight, the man-on-the-run genre, as a lawyer, taking sides, raising and destroying a company, the trainee becomes the master, friendship, friendships that betray him, caring enough, carrying on a legacy, sucking up to power, at heart a good guy despite the threats, in bed or on board, the 1952 adaptation’s ending is better than the novel’s, a young Corsican officer, played for comedy, the seven-minute fight in the theater, I will meet you behind the cathedral, killing members of the titled classes, weird morality, shooting a good guy and forgiving the man you’re after revenge for, Mel Ferrer, “he had a string of wives and I understand why”, The Taming Of The Shrew, Stewart Granger, he’s not handsome, aha!, an unhandsome Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power, star-quality, The Prisoner Of Zenda, deep into French Revolution politics, the Revolutions Podcast, aristocrats vs. the Third Estate, deep into the weeds, we’re on a powder keg politically (brexit), biting off your own to spite your face, the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the titled (and entitled) classes, the estates: Nobility 1st, Church 2nd, 3rd People, 24% of the population of with 90% of the power, justice for the rich vs. justice for the poor, production efficiency since the French Revolution, the food industry, 1% of the 1%, everybody is fed, far away to the left, the sucking up to power is still around, class betrayal, bastard children, I was betrayed!, everybody is secretly noble, never mind all that revenge, that’s the reality we live in, the book is very realistic, people are people are people, there’s something noble about liberty, equality, fraternity, the resistors to change were pulling dirty tricks, sabotage and betrayal, “noble” and “honorable”, a calculated attack, a professional boxer challenging me to a fist-fight in the street, why dueling is banned, UFC, we should use our words (lawyers), Jesse went off, same sex relationships in 1796, can we not get passed this?, they freed every slave, a very honorable action, high morality, Alexandre Dumas’ father, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss, Napoleon is a sketchy character, the Haitian Revolution, the Church’s stranglehold on France is gone, Quebec, the Quiet Revolution, Napoleon literally sold Louisiana out, Captain Blood, slavery in Barbados, many many pirates, given our success with Scaramouche … could a LibriVox narrator record Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk?

Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini - Famous Authors Illustrated
Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini - Famous Authors Illustrated

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #381 – AUDIOBOOK: Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini

August 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #381 – Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini, read by Gordon Mackenzie.

This UNABRIDGED AUDIOBOOK (16 hours 50 minutes) comes to us courtesy of LibriVox.

Scaramouche was first published in 1921.

The next SFFaudio Podcast will feature our discussion of it!

Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Chimpanzee by Darin Bradley

December 2, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

ChimpanzeeChimpanzee
Written and narrated by Darin Bradley
Publisher: Resurrection House via Audible
Publication Date: 9 October 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 5 hours, 46 minutes

Themes: / dystopia / unrest / cognitive theory / virtual reality / revolution /

Publisher summary:

Unemployment has ravaged the U.S. economy. Foreclosures are rampant. People struggle everywhere, exhausted by the collapse that destroyed their lives . . .

Benjamin Cade is an expert in cognition and abstract literature, and before the flatlined economy caught up to him, he earned his living as a university instructor. Now, without income, he joins the millions defaulting on their loans—in his case, the money he borrowed to finance his degrees. But there are consequences.

Using advances in cognitive science and chemical therapy, Ben’s debtors can reclaim their property—his education. The government calls the process “Repossession Therapy,” and it is administered by the Homeland Renewal Project, the desperate program designed to salvage what remains of the ravaged U.S. economy. The data Ben’s repossession will yield is invaluable to those improving the “indexing” technology—a remarkable medical advance that has enabled the effective cure of all mental disorders. By disassembling his mind, doctors will gain the expertise to assist untold millions.

But Ben has no intention of losing his mind without a fight, so he begins teaching in the central park, distributing his knowledge before it’s gone in a race against ignorance. And somewhere in Ben’s confusing takedown, Chimpanzee arrives. Its iconography appears spray-painted and wheat-pasted around town. Young people in rubber chimpanzee masks start massive protests. A new use of the indexing technology shows up in bars across the country. It’s called “chimping” . . . named after the mysterious protest movement, and it uses goggles and electrodes to reverse the curative indexing process, temporarily (recreationally) offering those inclined a mental illness of their own choosing.

As Ben slowly loses himself, the Chimpanzee movement seems to grow. And all fingers point to Ben . . . or maybe the voice that speaks to him every time he uses the chimping rig. As civil unrest grows, and Homeland Security takes an interest, Ben finds himself at the center of a storm that may not even be real. What is Chimpanzee? Who created it? What does it want?

And is there even enough of Ben left to find out?

What I prefer in my dystopia is realism and possibility, that it could happen here, in my lifetime. I read dystopia for the horror, for the thrill. That is the brilliance Darin Bradley brings to his novels, both in Noise and in Chimpanzee. It helps that Chimpanzee takes place in a town an hour from where I live, a place I visit often, particularly the arts district, where quite a bit of the action takes place. The events are very vivid to me, described in that place. They will be vivid to others for different reasons, but basically anyone watching the news in the last few years will feel they know the world of this novel.

The premise of Chimpanzee (see description above) may be even more chilling to those of us working in academia, who have seen the impact of the various economic downturns on expensive liberal arts educations. Now that there are no job guarantees, and no guarantee on the investment made (often by the students through hefty loans), people are starting to question the benefit of the system we have maintained for so long. I hate this conversation, because I work at one of those schools, and depend on it for my livelihood. So did the author, for a while. And that’s where reality and the terror of this possible future start to blur within the novel.

There is a lot in this novel that might feel over the reader’s head.  I would encourage people who don’t understand every word from the rhetoric of cognitive theory to press on –  treat it like a classic science fiction info dump.  Let it wash over you, grasp what you can. You will be in the same place as the students in the story, who also are put into a position of creating their own meaning, applied to their real situations.

There is a concept of virtual reality in this novel that I liked, called chimping, something you can do at a bar with your friends.  It becomes an important part of the story in ways I will not give away here.

The audiobook has a story to its making. In the insert, it talks about the initial difficulty Resurrection House had in distributing the audio version.  It includes a warning:

“Because some books aren’t meant for sedans on highways. They may have too many voices, or they may have jagged corners that snag plots, or they may have things with no business being in stories… like symbols or formulae or languages we don’t understand. You can listen to them, if you’re ready to pay attention.”

I did not heed the warning and listened to some of this audio production while driving around. The first time I encountered a repossessed memory, the sound used to represent the hole, the deletion, it almost sent me off the road.  When I played it at home, my husband jumped out of his skin. It would be remiss not to warn you.

Otherwise, the audio moves back and forth between a radio-play style performance from multiple readers with sound effects and music, and the author’s own narration.  I liked the music choices and the sound effects were generally effective.  Having sound effects in some parts magnifies the silence of the others. Benjamin Cade spends a lot of time inside his head, and losing what is in his head, so I think that silence is well warranted.  It takes some getting used to, but I ended up appreciating it.  The author also does a good job delivering his narration in a noirish tone, where short sentences shine.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

Review of Beyond This Horizon by Robert A. Heinlein

April 26, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 
SFFaudio Review

Beyond this Horizon by Robert A. HeinleinBeyond This Horizon
By Robert A. Heinlein; read by Peter Ganim
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
8 hours [UNABRIDGED]

Themes: / utopia / revolution / genetic engineering /

Publisher Summary:

Utopia has been achieved. Disease, hunger, poverty and war are found only in the history tapes, and applied genetics has brought a lifespan of over a century. But Hamilton Felix is bored. And he is the culmination of a star line; each of his last thirty ancestors chosen for superior genes. He is, as far as genetics can produce one, the ultimate man, yet sees no meaning in life. However, his life is about to become less boring. A secret cabal of revolutionaries plan to revolt and seize control. Knowing of Hamilton’s disenchantment with the modern world, they want him to join their Glorious Revolution. Big mistake! The revolutionaries are about to find out that recruiting a superman was definitely not a good idea.

Beyond This Horizon is classic science fiction with social commentary thrown in as you may expect from Heinlein.

Mankind has created a Utopian society where poverty and hunger are studied in school but don’t actually happen anymore. Mankind has also worked toward eliminating weaknesses in the human chromosome via gene selection and intentional breeding. There are still some normal people (referred to as “control naturals”) that could potentially provide new genetic mutations for the good of mankind.

Hamilton Felix genetically represents the best of what humanity has to offer. He gets wrapped up in a group plotting to overthrow the government that thinks only the best of humanity should thrive in society while the control naturals are destroyed or used for experiments. There is little risk or adventure in this society, so a bored Hamilton decided to act as a mole within this organization. It’s not really surprising that this novel came out in the 1950’s when eugenics and superiority of different races was a current topic.

While their society is Utopian and futuristic, they also have notions of honor and violence such that people can get into gun duels when slighted. I found Heinlein’s debate of honor and privilege in this to be interesting in much the same way as his notions of earning rights by military service in Starship Troopers.

I liked the main plot as described but thought it could have happily ended about halfway through. The main plot of the story wraps up and the second half of the book felt like a really long epilogue to me. Heinlein seems to spread himself a bit thin on so many different issues like government influence of the market, government spending, the meaning of life, telepathy, duels for honor, and the afterlife. There were a few long monologues/dialogues going into painful detail of chromosome selection where I had trouble paying attention and following the book.

On the audio book side of things, Peter Ganim does a good job. I thought he had a good conversational tone, did some decent voices (they didn’t differ much though), and was easy to understand. If you’re trying to decide whether reading or listening is preferable, I don’t think there is much benefit either way.

Helpful tip if listening to this book: Hamilton Felix (superman, star line, game making guy) is referred to as “Hamilton” in the first half of the book but people start calling him “Felix” later for some reason. This wouldn’t be confusing except that his friend Monroe-Alpha Clifford (finance, mathematician guy) also goes by “Monroe-Alpha” and “Clifford” at different times. Since Ganim’s voices aren’t very distinct, there were some moments where it took me a little bit to realize which character was talking.

Posted by Tom Schreck.

Review of Star Wars: Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn

November 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Star Wars: Heir to the Empire by Timothy ZahnStar Wars: Heir to the Empire, 20th Anniversary Edition
By Timothy Zahn; Read by Marc Thompson
13 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 2011
Themes: / Science Fiction / Fantasy / Star Wars / Revolution / Space Opera /

Listening to Star Wars: Heir to the Empire on unabridged audio was nostalgic for me. I read the novel in print when it came out almost 20 years ago. I liked it then, and I enjoyed this audiobook, too.

There have been many Star Wars audiobooks. Until a few years ago, the available titles were abridged, anywhere from 3 hours to 9 hours in length. One of the qualities of those short audiobooks that I liked is that they successfully incorporated the Star Wars sounds, and I LOVE the Star Wars soundscape. I expected this unabridged reading to leave those sounds behind, but I’m very happy to report that they are here. This audiobook opens with the John Williams opening score, and there are plenty of light sabers, droids, wookies, and blasters throughout. Awesome.

Listen to an excerpt: |HERE|

It’s a few years after the Battle of Endor (from Return of the Jedi), and the New Republic now has to deal with the fact that they’ve won. Many of the characters we know from the original film trilogy are here: Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and her husband Han, Chewbacca, R2D2, C3PO, Lando Calrissian, etc. Making things difficult for our heroes is Grand Admiral Thrawn and an unstable Dark Jedi named Joruus C’Boath.

I was impressed with Marc Thompson’s skilled narration. He was able to evoke these well-known characters with his voice, from outright impression to a cadence change or other verbal tic. I always knew which character was speaking.

This novel came out well before the film versions of Episodes 1, 2, and 3, so there are blessedly no midi-chlorians here. If you like the original Star Wars films and have considered reading one of the novels, this audiobook is an excellent place to start. I enjoyed revisiting Lucas’ universe, and it’s an entertaining story.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

BBC 7 has Blake’s 7

December 27, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

BBC 7's The 7th DimensionWait! wait! Don’t miss it! BBC7 is broadcasting the Sci-Fi Channel UK’s audio drama series of Blake’s 7! This was the show we told you about back in May, written by Doctor Who writer Ben Aaronovitch this series is morally complex, deeply noir, and sounding slicker than ever in its now feature length format (it previously aired in 5 minute segments). Go right now and get the first part of the first series before its gone from the site, starting with…

Blake's 7Blake’s 7: Rebel
Episode 1 of 3 – Approx. 1 Hour [AUDIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: BBC7 / The 7th Dimension
Broadcast: December 26th 2007

Get it now, via the “listen again” feature.

Exiled to the notorious prison planet of Cygnus Alpha, the Federation thinks it has seen the last of Roj Blake.

Posted by Jesse Willis