Review of the BFG by Roald Dahl

December 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The BFG by Roald DahlThe BFG
By Roald Dahl; Read by David Walliams
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 24 June 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 4 hours, 25 minutes

Themes: / fantasy / giants / children /

Publisher summary:

The BFG is no ordinary bone-crunching giant. He is far too nice and jumbly. It’s lucky for Sophie that he is. Had she been carried off in the middle of the night by the Bloodbottler, or any of the other giants – rather than the BFG – she would have soon become breakfast. When Sophie hears that the giants are flush-bunking off to England to swollomp a few nice little chiddlers, she decides she must stop them once and for all. And the BFG is going to help her!

The BFG is classic Roald Dahl: a blend of lighthearted playfulness and bone-crunching, child-munching wickedness.

The story is about a gentle 20-foot-tall giant who lives in Giant Country with a bunch of other giants. The BFG taught himself English by reading Charles Dickens, and he mangles language in beautiful ways: “What I mean and what I say is two different things.”

The other giants, who have adorable names like Bloodbottler, Meatdripper, Childchewer, and Bonecruncher, are all much bigger than the BFG (“at least two times my wideness and double my royal highness!”) and bully him for being vegetarian. While they eat humans of various nationalities (like people from Turkey, who apparently taste like turkey, or people from Jersey, who taste of cardigans), the BFG eats only a disgusting vegetable called a snozzcumber. As he says, “I squoggle it! I mispise it! I dispunge it! But because I is refusing to gobble up human beans like the other giants, I must spend my life guzzling up icky-poo snozzcumbers instead! If I don’t, I will be nothing but skin and groans.”

The story starts when the BFG befriends a little human girl named Sophie, who he takes home with him to Giant Country, where he must hide her from the meaner giants who would eat her on sight. Together, the BFG and Sophie decide to try putting a stop to the terrible child-guzzling that’s been going on.

The narrator David Walliams did such an awesome job with the voices, from Sophie’s soft feminine inflections to the BFG’s indignant horror and naive befuddlement with humankind’s weird ways. It must have been difficult to perform the BFG’s dialogue with all the backwards idioms and inside-out clichés and weird pronunciations, but somehow Williams makes it all flow seamlessly and naturally.

The audio production is also something special, with all kinds of sound effects in the background: bubbling and burping and scraping and gurgling. These special effects didn’t seem intrusive to me at all (despite preferring straight readings usually), and seem to fit perfectly with Roald Dahl’s storytelling style.

Everything else aside, the BFG character alone makes this story worth listening to. How can you not love a creature whose ears are so sensitive he can hear the faraway music of the stars, and who desperately wants to learn how to “make an elephant” so he can ride it around, picking peachy fruits off the trees all day long!

Posted by Marissa van Uden

Review of The Twits, The Minpins, and The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl

November 26, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

 twitsThe Twits, The Minpins, & The Magic Finger
By Roald Dahl; Read by Richard Ayoade, Bill Bailey, and Kate WinsletPublisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 26 September 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 2 hours

Themes: / children’s fantasy / short stories / creatures /

Publisher summary:

THE TWITS
How do you outwit a Twit? Mr. and Mrs. Twit are the smelliest, nastiest, ugliest people in the world. They hate everything—except playing mean jokes on each other, catching innocent birds to put in their Bird Pies, and making their caged monkeys, the Muggle-Wumps, stand on their heads all day. But the Muggle-Wumps have had enough. They don’t just want out, they want revenge.

THE MINPINS
Little Billy strays into the forest, where he meets the Minpins?tiny people who live within the trees. The Minpins tell Billy about The Gruncher, who preys on them. So Billy embarks on a mission to rid the Minpins of their foe once and for all, and sets off?on the back of a swan?to confront The Gruncher.

THE MAGIC FINGER
What happens when the hunter becomes the hunted? To the Gregg family, hunting is just plain fun. To the girl who lives next door, it’s just plain horrible. She tries to be polite. She tries to talk them out of it, but the Greggs only laugh at her. Then one day the Greggs go too far, and the little girl turns her Magic Finger on them. When she’s very, very angry, the little girl’s Magic Finger takes over. She really can’t control it, and now it’s turned the Greggs into birds! Before they know it, the Greggs are living in a nest, and that’s just the beginning of their problems.

Although I have enjoyed many of the movies made from Roald Dahl’s books (most notably James and the Giant Peach) I cannot recall reading any of his books except Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which was … fine but not world changing for me. That’s kind of odd too, when I think about it, because I was the right age to be the prime audience when a lot of his books were coming out but I was largely oblivious to them. (Yep. Dated myself. Don’t care.)

However, as I have learned in the past, audio often breaks open a book or author who I didn’t find congenial in print. It was that way with Coraline by Neil Gaiman. It was that way with the last half of The Lord of the Rings (yes, I am ashamed but I will not lie). And, now, it is that way with Roald Dahl.

The Twits are the most horrible couple in the world and quite hateful to each other, until they are under attack from a common enemy. Even then they are horrible which makes it quite gratifying to see them get their comeuppance from the Muggle-Wump monkey family and the Roly Poly bird. This story had the most disgusting description of a beard I have ever encountered. Even while I was grimacing, I was also laughing because Dahl had such a clever way with words. Narrator Richard Ayoade had a lovely, calm British narration style that didn’t preclude hilarious, low-class voices for the Twits. First class stuff.

The Minpins has the most perfect monster name I’ve ever heard — The Gruncher, a fire-breathing, boy eating creature in Sin Forest. It sends Billy right up a tree where he meets the Minpins and they form an ingenious alliance to deal with their common foe. Bill Bailey narrated this with a great deal of gusto which didn’t detract in the least from the story.

The Magic Finger was my favorite story, partially because Kate Winslet’s narration won me over from the very beginning. I also just couldn’t resist the little girl who “puts my Magic Finger” on those who displease her. The Greggs are worthy of a magic finger punishment because they are such keen hunters. What the Magic Finger does is typical Dahl ingenuity at its best.

All three of these are little stories but each is a gem which children would love. Heck, I liked them quite a bit myself and, as I have revealed, I am far past the age of tender youth. I am now going to look for more Roald Dahl in audio, possibly even revisiting Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Posted by Julie D.

 

Review of Matilda by Roald Dahl

October 25, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Matilda by Roald DahlMatilda
By Roald Dahl; Read by Kate Winslet
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 3 July 2013
ISBN: 9781611761849
[UNABRIDGED] – 5 hours

Themes: / fantasy / telekinesis / children / school / libraries / bullies /

Publisher summary:

Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she’s just a nuisance. She expects school to be different but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back. It’ll take a superhuman genius to give Miss Trunchbull what she deserves and Matilda may be just the one to do it!

This book made me so nostalgic for childhood, mostly because Roald Dahl is a wizard who can see through a child’s eyes but also because he was such a huge influence on me when I was a kid. Matilda was one of my favorite Roald Dahl stories, and hearing it narrated by Kate Winslet was amazing—probably the best narration I’ve heard. She colors every single character a fully realized personality, from syrupy sweet to hilariously grotesque. I think Kate Winslet is doing in narration what Quentin Blake did for Roald Dahl in illustration.

The story is Roald Dahl at his best: it is sarcastic and dark (featuring a bingo-obsessed mother, a dishonest father, and a headmistress who throws children out windows for eating in class) but it’s also hilarious, magical, and hopeful.

Matilda Wormwood is a very small, sensitive, and brilliant girl who has the misfortune of being born to gormless idiots. Mr. Wormwood is a rat-faced used-car salesman who’s really only interested in people who boost his ego. He seems allergic to his daughter, mainly because she is much cleverer than him. Mrs. Wormwood, when she’s not off playing bingo, sits around watching American soaps and thinks “Looks is more important than books!”

Matilda’s good morals and quick wits unsettle her parents, which makes them even more dismissive and neglectful of her. Her only escape is to visit the local library where she devours the whole children’s section in no time. The amazed librarian than helps guide the little girls through all the classics, from Charles Dickens and Jane Austen to George Orwell and HG Wells.

 “The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.”

Reading all this literature awakens something in Matilda.  She realizes that she now has a view on life that her parents have not experienced and never will, and that there’s far more to life than cheating people and watching television.

But she’s only four, so she’s stuck with them, “no matter how asinine.”  To stop herself from going crazy, she beings to play mischievous pranks on them to punish them for every wrong they do. And when she starts school and meets even nastier bullies, she must use her brain power to develop new techniques for helping good people and punishing rotten ones.

I love the honesty Roald Dahl puts into his children’s stories. Children are often taught they must respect and obey their parents and teachers no matter what, as if we live in some utopia where all adults are intelligent, caring protectors. But Roald Dahl is not afraid to tell children the truth: sometimes monsters are real, and sometimes they look just like the people who have the most power over you or are supposed to care about you. People should earn trust and respect through their actions, not get it automatically because of their authority, age, or status.

Roald Dahl also teaches the other great wisdom: the world is full of idiots and oversized egos, and the best way to survive them is to keep your wits sharp and find the humor in every situation.

Posted by Marissa van Uden

 

The SFFaudio Podcast #235 – NEW RELEASES/RECENT ARRIVALS

October 21, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #235 – Jesse, Jenny, Tamahome, Luke Burrage, Paul Weimer and Seth Wilson talk about NEW RELEASES and RECENT ARRIVALS.

Talked about on today’s show:
Jenny’s the only woman in the kitchen, many audiobooks by Roald Dahl, The Twits, no Leo Laporte, The WitchesBoy and Going Solo (nonfiction), “piece of cake” (aeronautical term?), maybe we need a kid reviewer, Fantastic Mr. Fox and Other Animal Stories, (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang:  Roald Dahl – screenplay, Ian Fleming – novel), (it wasn’t black and white), You Only Live Twice, Jenny got her grabby hands on The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two (Fairyland #3) by Catherynne Valente and read by Catherynne Valente, play sample here, should authors narrate their own audiobooks? (didn’t Stefan Rudnicki want to narrate John Crowley’s Little, Big?), Jesse again mentions the mystery/science fiction novel Golden Fleece by Robert J. Sawyer, ‘Radium age sf’ books (Jesse was saying dreamscapeab.com, but I think it’s hilobrow.com?), Theodore Savage by Cicely Hamilton, “monoculture is bad”, (downpour.com is another alternative), Marvel: Spider-Man Drowned in Thunder by Christopher L. Bennett from Graphicaudio in 5.1 surround sound! (how do you sample that?), The Watchmen motion comic (link), “can’t you do 5.1 in dvd?” Luke wonders, Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson, |READ OUR/SETH’S REVIEW|, conservative women, “magic indistinguishable from science”, Luke’s cut of The Way Of Kings, the ‘Jesse’ unit, paper books, Six Pack o’ Strange Tales by Michael Faun, CaddyshackThe Goliath Stone by Larry Niven and Matthew Joseph Harrington, The One-Eyed Man by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. is science fiction, cover controversy, Paul’s Sfsignal interview with L.E. Modesitt, Jr. (has cover), The Lost Prince by Edward Lazellari, Canada is one-way, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher, “Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter”, Star Wars Uncut video collaboration, some text from the Shakespeare Star Wars, Shakespeare is written in blank verse, duh, Joss Whedon can do the movie, Golden Age full cast audio drama (link), infecting dreams, Lumosity brain games and training, The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane by Robert E. Howard includes The Hills Of The Dead, is Solomon like Dresden?, Out Of Time’s Abyss by Edgar Rice Burroughs read by David Stifel, The War Of The Worlds: Global Dispatches edited by Kevin J. Anderson, it’s purely an English invasion, Ender’s Game Alive: The Full-Cast Audioplay by Orson Scott Card (out 10/22/2013), Stefan Rudnicki talked about it on Functional NerdsRepublic Of Thieves by Scott Lynch isn’t out yet (out 10/22/2013), talking like Bane from The Dark Knight Rises, The Circle by Dave Eggers, tech thrillers, is Gravity science fiction?,The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin, 2012Neil deGrasse Tyson’s critical tweets about Gravity, she cried in space wrong, Kaleidoscope by Ray Bradbury, Superheroes! Capes, Cowls, and the Creation of Comic Book Culture by Laurence Maslon and Michael Kantor, Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser, Germany says no more, The Year’s Top Short SF Novels 3 Edited by Allan Kaster from Infinivox, Bleeding Edge By Thomas Pynchon is a tech thriller maybe, Star Trek Aurora is sexualized (sounds like Joe Haldeman’s Star Trek books), don’t get mad Paramount, Luke has to eat, Paul Weimer tweets photos.

[Applicants for the two giveaway copies of THE SAVAGE TALES OF SOLOMON KANE should leave a comment with a verifiable factoid about Robert E. Howard (as well as an email address) – the two most interesting factoids, as selected by Jesse, will receive their prizes by mail.]

TANTOR MEDIA - The Savage Tales Of Solomon Kane by Robert E. Howard

Recent Arrivals from Tor Books

Posted by Tamahome

Review of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl

October 15, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Henry Sugar by Roald DahlThe Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More
By Roald Dahl; Read by Andrew Scott
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 25 July 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 7 hours
Listen to an excerpt: | Link |

Themes: / children’s fantasy / short stories / animals / buried treasure / turtles / trains /

Publisher summary:

Meet the boy who can talk to animals and the man who can see with his eyes closed. And find out about the treasure buried deep underground. A cleaver mix of fact and fiction, this collection also includes how master storyteller Roald Dahl became a writer. With Roald Dahl, you can never be sure where reality ends and fantasy begins.

Roald Dahl’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar: and six more, is a collection of seven brilliant short stories. Andrew Scott narrates this audio, and I speak true when I say his voice along with Dahl’s words produce a galvanic amalgam of magic intimacy for the ear and mind.

The seven stories are:
* The Boy Who Talked with Animals
* The Hitchhiker
* The Mildenhall Treasure
* The Swan
* The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar
* Lucky Break
* A Piece of Cake.

These are all fine specimen. In “The Boy Who Talked with Animals,” I became spellbound with the plight of the large old turtle on its back as crowds of people gathered close. Maybe it was the idea of a helpless animal being pulled up to the kitchens where the sharp knives waited, but I could sense the immediacy of the old sea turtle’s predicament. As a gauge, this story is good and solid.

The three stories that stole my breath?
* The Mildenhall Treasure
* The Swan
* A Piece of Cake.

Out of these, “The Swan” is reason enough to read this collection. This story is haunting. It lingers in the mind and tied me into knots. Dahl made me taste the hot close breath of the train. It frightened me, and I’m a grown man. When you reach the duck and swan on the water, Dahl’s description is heart-wrenchingly beautiful.

To all the folks at Penguin Audio, “Thank you.” Thank you for getting this right.” Thank you for not cluttering up the tracks with God Damn sentimental music that’s supposed to tell me how and when to feel. Thank you for not mucking about with narrators trying to needlessly inject drama into stories that only require reading, not a performance. Thank you Penguin Audio for doing one of the best production jobs I’ve come across in a while. Sometimes the best ingredients are truly simple, a healthy appetite and a pinch of salt.

Here is an interesting video on the process of recording Dahl’s books:

Posted by Casey Hampton.

Review of Going Solo by Roald Dahl

January 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Going SoloGoing Solo
By Roald Dahl; Narrated by Dan Stevens
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 26 September 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 4 hours, 38 minutes

Themes: / memoir / World War II / RAF / colonialism / growing up / snakes /

Publisher summary:

Going Solo is the action-packed tale of Roald Dahl’s exploits as a World War II pilot. Learn all about his encounters with the enemy, his worldwide travels, the life-threatening injuries he sustained in a plane accident, and the rest of his sometimes bizarre, often unnerving, and always colorful adventures. Told with the same irresistible appeal that has made Roald Dahl one of the world’s best-loved writers, Going Solo brings you directly into the action and into the mind of this fascinating man.

Going Solo is the gripping autobiographical follow-up to Roald Dahl’s Boy. Whereas Boy tells the story of Dahl’s childhood, this speaks of his time in Africa before the war began, and relays his participation in the RAF. Whereas Boy was an odd concoction of heartwarming sadness that kept me smiling throughout its duration, Going Solo is less amusing and more riveting as we, through Dahl’s eyes, witnessed death.

Dahl doesn’t squander his words. He draws vivid images with powerful verbs and bright adjectives. His sparing prose paints these vignettes so true that we squint for the dust, smell the oily flames, and feel the wind pressing us back.

Dan Stevens narrates this wonderful production from Penguin Audio. Stevens, as he did in Boy, becomes the voice of Roald Dahl. Both this production and the reading of Dan Stevens are beyond improvement. Thank you Penguin Audio, and thank you Dan Stevens.

I’m left feeling a profound sense of wonder. I was constantly forced to remind myself “this is true,” “this is not fiction.” We really do see an African lion carry off the cook’s wife. We really do see the illogical and stubborn face of war. I could go on and on. I could try to tell you how much this book deserves your attention. I could try and relate all the wondrous encounters with snakes or Dahl’s solitary conversation with giraffes. But at this point, you have a good sense as to whether you will or won’t read this. I hope you do. I hope you start with Boy and continue with Going Solo.

This may not be as incredible as Boy, but I don’t believe it’s meant to be. Our childhood is a time separated from adulthood, and should retain a special magic free of weighty responsibility. Oh! And you don’t need me to point out the obvious metaphor in “Going Solo” as it pertains to both flight and life, right? Good, I knew you caught that.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

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