The SFFaudio Podcast #135 – NEW RELEASES/RECENT ARRIVALS

November 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #135 – Scott, Jesse, Tamahome, and Jenny talk about recently arrived audiobooks, new releases and more.

Talked about on today’s show:
The Year’s Top Short SF Novels edited by Allan Kaster, including “Return to Titan” by Stephen Baxter (set in the Xeelee Sequence), “Jackie’s-Boy” by Steven Popkes, “The Sultan of the Clouds” by Geoffrey A. Landis, “Seven Cities of Gold” by David Moles, “A History of Terraforming” by Robert Reed, “Several Items of Interest” by Rick Wilber, and “Troika” by Alastair Reynolds.  Two were finalists for the Hugo Award this year.  The Seven Cities of Gold is also a video game!

Immortality, Inc. by Robert Sheckley, narrated by the amazing Bronson Pinchot. Originally published serially as “Time Killer” in Galaxy Science Fiction (1960).  Jesse wants to do this as a readalong, but Jenny wants something newer than 1960.

Earth Strike: Star Carrier, Book One by Ian Douglas.  Tamahome is a sucker for space, and this is the first of two books that are available in Audible.  Scott doesn’t care much for military sci-fi, but didn’t mind Starship Troopers, Ender’s Game, and Forever Peace.  What matter is the focus – Scott is looking for a good story, which is hard to find.  “Too much science?” Deep Space Nine.  “Not all Muslims are fanatic, lieutenant…” Is it too politically correct?  Tamahome is a sucker for women who kick ass too, this is right up his alley!

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, also Sputnik Sweetheart, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, A Wild Sheep Chase, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, After Dark.  46 hour commitment for the audio book, originally published as three separate volumes.  Jenny can’t stop reading it!  Aomame = “green peas.”  Publisher says it is a love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, and a dystopia to rival George Orwell.  Tamahome heard that Q sounds like “nine” in Japanese.  Don’t read too much Murakami in a row! Look for cats and spaghetti.

Five books by Philip K. Dick from Brilliance Audio – The Divine InvasionNow Wait for Last Year, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, The Simulacra, and Lies, Inc.  More details in Dick’s newly published journal, Exegesis. Reading about authors vs. just reading their work.  East of Eden on A Good Story is Hard to Find and Steinbeck’s novel journal.  Jesse relates more to life in the suburbs. Rewrite of “The Unteleported Man.”  Gregg Margarite discussed Exegesis on his podcast – “a lot of work to slog through.”

Lots of collections from Brilliance Audio – Wild Cards edited by George R. R. Martin, Wild Cards II: Aces High edited by George R. R. Martin, Songs of Love and Death edited by George R. R. Martin, and Down These Strange Streets edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. We complained about lack of contents and Brilliance has started including them – thank you!  Up next – contents printed on specific discs. George R. R. Martin is spending his time on anthologies because he is not your bitch!  Warriors anthology is cross-genre. Someone should make an audio book of Best of the Best edited by Gardner Dozois.  Tamahome likes “Trinity” by Nancy Kress, but the print in the book is too tiny for anyone over 40.

Manhattan in Reverse by Peter F. Hamilton. Only available outside of the United States, queue proprietary publisher rant by the SFF Audio crew, in fact Jenny posted a sassy one in her blog. Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct detective novels and a reimagined New York City.  Robert E. Howard does a similar thing with countries.  Perfectly genetically engineered female cops (Paula Myo from the Commonwealth Saga) end up with personal problems.

Two picks for post-apocalypse fans – Swan Song by Robert McCammon and A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.  Swan Song is highly rated.  Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon has been recommended to Scott multiple times.  Swan Song reminds Jenny of The Stand with a promise of fantastical elements. Destiny’s Road also comes out December 1.  Death and destruction ends in rejoicing!

Angry Robot and Brilliance Audio have published seven novels that Scott previously posted aboutDarkness Falling by Peter Crowther, Debris by Jo Anderton, Moxyland by Lauren Beukes, Reality 36 by Guy Haley, Roll: The Nightbound Land by Troy Jamieson, Triumff: Her Majesty’s Hero by Dan Abnett, and Zoo City by Lauren Beukes. Jenny heard Lauren Beukes on Writing Excuses, and Tamahome heard she won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Zoo City. Reality 36 has a pie fetish? Oh PI fetish. Tamahome likes cyberspace but not LARPing, John Anealio wrote an Angry Robot Theme song, What is wild magic? Maybe quail.  Angry Robot is doing interesting stuff, also won the World Fantasy Award for professionals in the field this year, and they are doing eBooks the right way.

The Cold Commands by Richard K. Morgan. Jesse will read books out of spite. “Dude! Your homophobia is calling.” “It’s fiction, not you!” From Tamahome’s second tier – Nothing to Lose: The Adventures of Captain Nothing by Steve Vernon.  Some confusion which should be cleared up when it is released.  Something may have been lost in the translation from the Nova Scotian. Might be like Dark Knight, except for actually being a bad guy.  Batman finding his voice, Batman vs. the Clown. The Folded World by Catherynne M. Valente (A Dirge for Prester John #2) – “she writes with the original unicorns.”  “That’s probably because she doesn’t actually have a head.” The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherill.  One of the Neil Gaiman Presents titles.  “The Minotaur sits on an empty pickle bucket….” Anything like American Gods? Realistic restaurant world portrayal. All Clear by Connie Willis, half of this year’s Hugo Award.  Pavane by Keith Roberts is another Neil Gaiman Presents title.  Alternate history and steampunk?  Other novels of loosely related stories – Kirinyaga by Mike Resnick, Accelerando by Charles Stross, Voyage of the Space Beagle by A. E. van Gogt. Light by M. John Harrison – Tamahome finds it to be “unpleasant” between the masturbating and the killing.  Why is this one of Neil Gaiman’s top novels of the last 10 years?  Reinvention of space opera, but the end result is hard to take.  Stephen King’s newest – 11-22-63Ring by Stephen Baxter (from the Xeelee Sequence), Baxter even explains why aliens don’t visit in his Manifold Trilogy, which is based on the Fermi paradox. “That’s it!  Go to your rooms!”  “Everybody out of the pool!” Digital vs. disc, subscription vs. individual purchase, Audible.com sale, Black Friday and Cyber Monday – we are ready for holiday gift giving!  Evacuation Day instead of Thanksgiving. Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke, Jo Walton’s Revisiting The Hugos, the SF Masterworks series (from the U.K.), Jenny’s Around The World bookshelf

From Stephen Baxter’s Ring:

Lieserl was suspended inside the body of the Sun.

She spread her arms wide and lifted up her face. She was deep within the Sun’s convective zone, the broad mantle of turbulent material beneath the growing photosphere. Convective cells larger than the Earth, tangled with ropes of magnetic flux, filled the world around her with a complex, dynamic, three-dimensional tapestry. She could hear the roar of the great gas founts, smell the stale photons diffusing out toward space from the remote core.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

Tantor Media: Exclusive 35% off MP3 Audiobook Downloads

November 2, 2011 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Audio Drama, News 

SFFaudio News

Tantor MediaTantor Media, which has recently set up an excellent MP3 download audiobook store, is offering SFFaudio readers 35% off download orders placed until November 15th!

Use Code: SFFNovember
Code expires: November 15, 2011

There are now more than 1,300 audiobooks currently available for download. To see the complete listing click HERE.

Here are some of the Tantor titles that I’ve both heard and can heartily recommend to you:
The Caves Of Steel by Isaac Asimov |READ OUR REVIEW|
Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan |READ OUR REVIEW|
The Coming Of Conan The Cimmerian by Robert E. Howard |DISCUSSED ON SFFaudio Podcast #42|
The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan |READ OUR REVIEW|
Ascent by Jed Mercurio |READ OUR REVIEW|
Nightmares On Congress Street IV (Audio Drama) |READ OUR REVIEW|

And here are just four promising looking titles:
Up Jim River by Michael Flynn
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
Nightmares On Congress Street V (Audio Drama) |READ OUR REVIEW|
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

I placed an order for two MP3 audiobooks just a few days ago. I found it a pretty smooth process. The files downloaded very quickly and came in zipped folders containing well labelled and well ordered MP3s. Also very well done is the “My Bookshelf” section, which allows you to re-download titles you’ve already ordered. What Tantor has done here is take Audible.com’s good features and left out the terrible one – Tantor has no crippling DRM!

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #130 – READALONG: Human Man’s Burden by Robert Sheckley

October 17, 2011 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #130 – Scott, Jesse, Tamahome and Jenny discuss Human Man’s Burden by Robert Sheckley.

Talked about on today’s show:
uppity damn robots, hilarious characterization, soulless robots, Galaxy Magazine September 1956, Star Trek, Harry Mudd, Sears Roebuck catalogues, freeze dried vs. flash frozen, Kiln People by David Brin, The Twilight Zone episode “The Lonely“, robot wives, manufactured fingernails, center of gravity, “could she have been a robot?”, Gunga Sam the foreman robot, duenna is Portuguese for chaperone, Gunga Din, the Writing Excuses podcast with Lou Anders, HuffDuffer, John Scalzi, Casablanca, The Dark Knight, Edward Flaswell, “Sure pal. Sure.”, Frontier Bride, mail order bride, freeze dried preacher, programmed by “a human supremacist of the most rabid sort”, was Flaswell talked into feeling bad, what is the Human Man’s Burden?, is it all a marketing ploy?, The Mote In God’s Eye, the Gold Rush, why is the combustion god?, “Him strong him good, believe me brothers, it is even as I say.”, Rudyard Kipling poem’s The White Man’s Burden, the justification for empire, satire, the page 99 illustration, labeling people, ultra deluxe model bride, “oil glistened on their honest faces”, Tama can prove the robots are having sex, “in their carefree robot fashion”, a series of robots on the moon ordering from Sears Roebuck catalogues (15 F&SF covers by Mel Hunter), Charles van Doren, face-parts, “the robot frontier”, Asteroids in fiction (Wikipedia entry), TZ ep.: “Two“, Dumb Martian by John Wyndham, TZ ep.: “The Lateness Of The Hour“, android vs. gynoid, Firefly, Gunga Sam knows best, Sheila was down-selling herself, this is a feminist story?, Human Man’s Burden could be a cartoon, Kindles/Xboxes/Wiis/PS3s are sold as cheaply as possible because of the profit being in the media they play, iTouch vs. iPhone, free robots in our homes selling moon makers and solidovisions, nesting dolls, Human Man’s Burden probably isn’t public domain, Psycho by Robert Bloch, The Status Civilization, Seventh Victim, Mindswap, Warrior Race, The Space Merchants, Blackstone Audio, Charles Stross, Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan.

ISFDB publication history for Human Man’s Burden HERE.

Human Man's Burden by Robert Sheckley - Page 95 - Galaxy Science Fiction magazine, September 1956

Human Man's Burden by Robert Sheckley - ilustration by Weiss

Sears Roebuck Ordering Robot - Art by Mel Hunter

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #098 – NEW RELEASES/RECENT ARRIVALS

March 7, 2011 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #098 – Scott and Jesse talk with Luke Burrage about the new audiobook releases. And we also play Philip K. Dick’s “Preserving Machine” game in which you pick a piece of music and transform it into an animal.

Talked about on today’s show:
New releases, The Adjustment Bureau by Philip K. Dick, Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review, Roger Ebert, “Meet Cute”, Phil Gigante, The Stainless Steel Rat, Gregg Margarite, Russian Ark, Hermitage, The SFBRP Podcast, Your Movie Sucks, Dune, “This movie is a real mess, an incomprehensible, ugly, unstructured, pointless excursion into the murkier realms of one of the most confusing screenplays of all time.”, Korean movies mix humor, horror, drama, “the tone is off” in Shakespeare too, Unknown (a special edition of Out Of My Head), Berlin, Bronson Pinchot, Richard Matheson, On Stranger Tides, Bronson Pinchot has “a whole crew full of pirates in his mouth”, Audible.com, Beverly Hills Cop, Gideon’s Sword by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, Arthur C. Clarke’s Richter 10 by Mike McQuay, a Gene Wolfe writing exercise, The Unincorporated Man by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin |READ OUR REVIEW|, “trickster, prodigy, master thief”, techno-thriller-ish, Planet Of The Damned by Harry Harrison, West Of Eden, Bill The Galactic Hero, Long After Midnight by Ray Bradbury, Tantor Media, Michael Prichard, Drink Entire: Against the Madness of Crowds, The Odyssey of Homer, “he’s in a boat, Poseidon hates him, then he’s home”, the origins of Necromancy are in The Odyssey, Philip K. Dick was directly inspired by The Odyssey, An Improvised Life: A Memoir by Alan Arkin, James Randi, The Black Widowers, The Trapdoor Spiders, Isaac Asimov, the Amazing Larry, Luke jumps on giant balloons |VIDEO|, Galaxy Science Fiction magazine, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Physics Of The Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny And Our Daily Lives By The Year 2100 by Michio Kaku, Art Bell and Coast To Coast AM, Jesse thinks string theory is bullshit, 2012, Higgs boson, Tachyons, what’s wrong with futurism, Popular Mechanics/Popular Science and the flying car, filtering metastases, The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell, Cynical-C, Kenneth Branagh as Wallander, the relationship between Science Fiction and detective fiction is that both allow the reader to participate in them, who-dun-it? vs. what happened?, Sherlock Holmes vs. Columbo, Agatha Christie vs. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie, The Blade Itself, The Writing Excuses Podcast, The Orbit Books Podcast #1, Jack Womack, Tamahome, sycophantic interviews are bad, Robert J. Sawyer, “the best stuff happens after the interview”, Richard K. Morgan’s article on Tolkien, The Space Dog Podcast, Ballentine Books, The Fountains Of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke, Lester del Rey, Utopia by Sir Thomas More, Simon Prebble, Gulliver’s Travels, dystopia, A Truly Golden Little Book, No Less Beneficial Than Entertaining, of the Best State of a Republic, and of the New Island Utopia, Steen Hansen, “immersed in Americanism”, The United States vs. Canada, American utopianism vs. Canadian muddling through, British North America Act, the long gun registry, Winston Churchill, did Winston Churchill write SF?, Newt Gingrich as an alternate history novel, Plato’s The Republic, Mein Kampf, Dianetics, Meatball Fulton (aka Tom Lopez), Ruby, Lady Windermere’s Brass Fantabulous, Part 2, “purposefully ridiculous”, new Audible.com releases, Audible Frontiers, When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger, Jonathan Davis, The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds, “grimy and grungy and punky”, Pushing Ice, mining the Oort cloud, Century Rain, Journey To The Center To The Earth, Gulliver’s Travels, Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Kenneth Brannagh, Jorge Luis Borges, Stromboli, The Wise Man’s Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2) by Patrick Rothfuss, Random House Audio, The Vampire Archives: The Most Complete Volume of Vampire Tales Ever Published edited by Otto Penzler, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, undeadliest, Dreamsongs by George R.R. Martin, Heart Of Darkness, Alas Babylon by Pat Frank, Heavy Time by C.J. Cherryh, Lord Of Light by Roger Zelazny, Sri Lanka, Death Cloud by Andrew Lane, Venus by Ben Bova, The Children Of Dune by Frank Herbert, Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert, “talented readers” is a compliment?, “horribly unreadable” “throwthemacrosstheroomable”, family curse, Christopher Tolkien and Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, Saga Of Seven Suns, Hellhole, sickmyduck, The Preserving Machine by Philip K. Dick |ETEXT|, Doc Labyrinth, Mozart bird, Beethoven beetle, Wagner animal, this is Dick talking about music, “Hey Jesse you must be the coolest teacher out there”, what would The Beatles be, put Lady Gaga in out comes Lady Gaga?, Vampire Weekend into meercats, what gender is this website?, Band Of Horses would yield themselves, “Weird Al” Yankovic?, “I wonder what will happen next?”, A Scanner Darkly, Radiohead would be an owl, if the term “sellout” applies to anyone in the universe it applies to Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert, planetary romance vs. space opera, Greenland vs. Iceland, Berlin means bogtown, are Malad residents are Malodorous?

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #086

December 13, 2010 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Audio Drama, Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #086 – Jesse talks to Ben Aaronovitch. Aaronovitch is an SFF author, a former Doctor Who scriptwriter, and the lead writer of the Blake’s 7 audio drama series.

Talked about on today’s show:
the original Doctor Who, how to break into TV (in the mid 1980s), Andrew Cartmel, the price of VCRs in 1985, Caroline Aulton, Remembrance Of The Daleks, big budget BBC, Geoffrey Palmer, do it again with 40% more fear, Ben Aaronovitch’s blog Temporarily Significant entitled: I shall eviscerate you, Daleks and An Unearthly Child, racism, The Hand Of Omega, two sets of Daleks, proto-U.N.I.T., Battlefield, what killed the original Doctor Who?, the BBC!, the fetishization of the writer, Russel T. Davies, Queer As Folk, “a Doctor Who shaped whole in the British psyche”, Jon Pertwee, KVOS-TV, the abortive FOX Doctor Who reboot, Doctor Who as an episode of The X-Files, Paul McGann, The New Adventures of Doctor Who:Transit by Ben Aaronovitch, Rivers Of London by Ben Aaronovitch (aka Midnight Riot), Moon Over Soho, Whispers Underground, Peter F. Hamilton, “extruded fantasy product”, Michael Moorcock, Charlaine Harris, Diana Gabaldon, Harry Potter meets The Sweeney (the British version of Kojak), The Dresden Files (is “Gandalf noir”), reviews of Rivers Of London (aka Midnight Riot), Midnight Riot on GoodReads.com, negative reviews are very helpful, The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan, Morgan’s screed against J.R.R. Tolkien, Joe Abercrombie and China Miéville are good because they are good not because they are grim, the Blake’s 7 audio dramas started on The Sci-Fi Channel UK, Andrew Sewell, Rebel, Traitor, Liberator is an SFFaudio Essential |READ OUR REVIEW|, “Star Trek: British or Robin Hood in space”, Terry Nation, Chris Boucher, Avon’s one liners, Firefly, Farscape, the Blake’s 7 prequel series, Cally: Blood & Earth and Flag & Flame |READ OUR REVIEW|, Alistair Lock, the quality of the actors on Blake’s 7, Colin Salmon, Michael Praed, B7 is real Science Fiction ideas in a space opera setting, the internet is a huge echo chamber, the effect of torrents on Blake’s 7, B7 is on Audible.com (and Audible.co.uk), Bernice Summerfield, Big Finish, Blake’s 7: The Early Years: Zen: Escape Velocity (Volume 2.1), Series 2 of Blake’s 7 is already written, the rebooting of Battlestar Galactica, the Pegasus episode of BSG, landing a Battlestar was badly though through, Ronald D. Moore‘s Cylons didn’t have a plan, Lost, J. Michael Straczynski, television is like life, Dexter, detective shows can run longer, The Mentalist, Law & Order, why Doctor Who need never die, the Pertwee years, Doctor Who as the “universal television format”, Frankenstien = The Brain Of Morbius, Greek myth = The Myth Makers, there’s no end-game in Doctor Who, writers are used as a crutch by British TV executives, the credit given to writers by UK television, USA TV vs. UK TV, the writer’s room is very attractive, the homogeneous end product, Castle is beautifully written fluff, the psychic episode of Castle was soul-deadening, HBO, True Blood, Downton Abbey is kind of like Upstairs Downstairs, the problems of USA and UK TV, DaVinci’s Inquest, Intelligence, Downton Abbey, Highlander, Seacouver, The 4400 lake (is Buntzen Lake), “Caprica city is decaying”.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Update:

Here’s a photo I took of Buntzen Lake this morning.

Buntzen Lake, the morning of December 13, 2010

Review of The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

September 13, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Bade Itself by Joe AbercrombieThe Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One)
By Joe Abercrombie; Read by Steven Pacey
Audible Download – 22 Hours 18 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group
Published: 2010
ISBN: 9781409111443
Provider: Audible.com
Sample |MP3|
Themes: / Fantasy / Sword and Sorcery / Dark Humor / Revenge / Violence /

For a couple years now, Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law Trilogy has been at the top of my to-read list, but as I’m a slow print reader, the series inevitably yielded to more readily available audiobooks. Imagine my delight, then, when I recently realized that Orion Publishing Group had published the series in audio last June. The wait was worth it. The opening volume, The Blade Itself is a darkly humorous tale full of antiheroes and intrigue. Abercrombie’s strong writing and wry wit set The Blade Itself a cut above other novels in the reactionary subgenre of fantasy spawned by George R.R. Martin.

At first blush, the world of the First Law Trilogy looks like your average fantasy world. The bulk of the action takes place in Adua, capital city of The Union, a land with a dotard king facing imminent war on two fronts: the newly-unified North and the Gurkish Empire to the South. The city, and especially its central citadel the Agriont, is teaming with ambitious councilman, posturing soldiers, and brutal inquisitors. The North, as one might epect, is a sparse unwelcoming land peopled by warrior clans recently unified under the iron fist of King Bethod. In The Blade Itself we see only snatches of the Gurkish Empire, but it follows the usual desert formula for southern kingdoms. (Why do most fantasy series seem to be set in the Northern hemisphere?) This opening volume hints at an intricate magic system that underlies and informs the world, but so far it’s rather underdeveloped.

The viewpoint characters bring this seemingly run-of-the-mill fantasy world to life in vibrant color. Each character is an antihero, in some sense of the word. Like George R. R. Martin, Richard K. Morgan, and other recent writers, Abercrombie is writing against the tropes of the traditional good-versus-evil format of epic fantasy. Unlike some other writers in this vein, though, Abercrombie rarely seems too self-conscious about what he’s doing. Logen Ninefingers, dubbed the “bloody-nine” in the North, does not read like an anti-Aragorn, nor does Bayaz, First of the Magi, read like an anti-Gandalf. Rather, they’re fully developed characters in their own right.  Then there’s San dan Glokta, survivor of a horrible ordeal of torture at the hands of the Gurkish Empire who has in turn become a torturer for the inquisition. Rounding out the cast is Jezal, a headstrong noble youth determined to win the year’s fencing contest. With the exception of Jezal, these characters have endured tremendously hard lives, so naturally their thoughts aren’t filled with sunshine and butterflies. This is a dark book.

The fun lies in watching these characters come together and interact with one another. As in any good book, too, it’s fun to watch these characters, who we’ve come to empathize with even if we don’t actually like them, overcome their internal and external challenges. The most obvious case is Jezal and his fencing contest, which is brought to a most satisfying concentration. Then there’s Glokta, trying to stay afloat in the political post of Inquisitor, all while struggling merely to get out of bed. Then there’s Logen, fleeing his reputation as the “bloody-nine.” And at the heart of it all is Bayaz, First of the Magi, whose story hints at the direction the series may ultimately take. Bayaz, though not a point-of-view character, drives the plot in many ways, either subtly or overtly manipulating events to suit his needs.

If the book has a weakness, it’s the ending. Endings are always tricky things to pull off, especially in the first novel of a trilogy, where an author must bring the present volume to a satisfying conclusion while enticing the reader to continue with the series. Unfortunately, Abercrombie leans too far towards the latter. While the last hour or two of audio will be a treat for fans of vividly-depicted action sequences, they’re light on any satisfying story development. The ending certainly isn’t bad, it just left me a bit disappointed. On the other hand, it also did its job in whetting my appetite for the next volume.

As alluded to earlier, the standout character in The Blade Itself is perhaps Abercrombie’s deft writing style. Admittedly, it took some getting used to. I remember complaining on Twitter back when I first had a go at reading the print edition that the book was too full of sentence fragments and “said bookisms.” I stand by that complaint. The thing is, the style really fits the world and especially the characters. The dialogue reads like you’re sitting in on the conversation, especially under the standout narration by Steven Pacey. And while I’m not personally a fan of long action sequences, there’s no doubt that Abercrombie writes them masterfully. You can feel every bone-jarring sword blow and taste the tang of blood in the air.

I approached this audiobook with some hesitation. I feared that no narrator could match Michael Page’s performance of Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold. At best, I feared, I’d be disappointed; at worst, I wouldn’t even be able to listen to the book in its entirety. Fortunately, Steven Pacey is equal to the task of narrating such an ambitious work. His narration walks the fine balance of capturing the characters’ voices–literally and figuratively–without calling too much attention to them and thereby detracting from the story. The toothless Glokta, for instance, speaks with just a hint of a lisp, a slight slurring. Every now and then, his narration moves a touch too far toward the dramatic, but for the most part it’s spot on.

The Blade Itself, if it were a film, would carry a solid R rating, and therefore isn’t for everyone. Strong language and violence abound. Under its dark veneer of brutality, however, the novel shines with complex characters, compelling writing, and a story that, though not yet fully baked, promises to yield great rewards in subsequent novels.

Posted by Seth Wilson

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