Lux Radio Theatre: No Highway In The Sky based on the novel No Highway by Nevil Shute

August 6, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

I was talking with a friend of mine about Nevil Shute. Shute has been blipping onto my radar since about ten years ago when my Science Fiction uncle gave me a copy of Slide Rule: The Autobiography Of An Engineer. Over the years I’ve gotten into Shute’s fiction, notably On The Beach and A Town Like Alice. Most recently I just finished watching, and listening to No Highway In The Sky, a pair of adaptations of Shute’s novel No Highway. Here’s the premise:

The Rutland Reindeer, a recently developed trans-Atlantic passenger aircraft, is approved for flying. But one Anglo-American scientist thinks the Reindeer’s tail may just up and fall off when it hits the golden number of flight hours. He’s got the numbers to prove a catastrophic failure is inevitable, but that won’t be enough to ground the already flying Reindeer. So, he’s dispatched to Labrador to inspect the wreckage of a recently crashed Reindeer. It was reported to have been downed by “pilot error” but our scientist thinks it may have been metal fatigue. Then comes the twist we can see coming from miles away, our hero finds himself flying aboard just such another doomed aircraft. Can the logic of his calculations be enough to persuade the captain to turn the Reindeer back to England? Or will they crash into the North Atlantic?

No Highway In The Sky

Jimmy Stewart and Marlene Dietrich reprise their roles on Lux Radio Theatre’s adaptation of the film – the main difference between this version, and the movie (besides the lack of video), is the in-studio audience laughing at the character based comedy in this story of suspense. It’s well worth a listen!

Lux Radio TheatreNo Highway In The Sky
Based on a novel by Nevil Shute; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 56 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: CBS / Lux Radio Theatre
Broadcast: April 21, 1952
Theodore Honey (James Stewart) is a highly eccentric “boffin” with the Royal Aircraft Establishment. A widower with a precocious young daughter, Honey is sent from Farnborough to investigate the crash of a “Reindeer” airliner in Labrador, which he theorizes occurred because of a structural failure in the tail caused by sudden metal fatigue. To test his theory in his laboratory, an airframe is continuously shaken in eight-hour daily cycles. It isn’t until Honey is aboard a Reindeer that he realizes he himself is flying on one such aircraft and that it may be close to the number of hours his theory projects for the fatal failure. Despite the fact that his theory is not yet proven, Honey decides to warn the passengers and crew, including actress Monica Teasdale (Marlene Dietrich).

Here’s a section of the Dell Mapback edition of No Highway showing the locations mentioned in the story:

No Highway by Nevil Shute DELL MAPBACK

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Jupiter by Ben Bova

June 30, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Audiobook Review

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Jupiter by Ben BovaJupiter
By Ben Bova; Read by Christian Noble and
David Warner
8 Cassettes, 10 CDs – 12 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Fantastic Audio
Published: 2001
ISBN: 1574534114 (cassette)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Solar System / Scientists / Aliens / Exploration
/ First Contact / Espionage

“We will be exploring a region where no human has gone before. We will be searching for life on a world that is utterly alien to us. We will be seeking intelligent life, if it exists, down in the sea. These are good things to do no matter how much discomfort we have to endure.”

Ben Bova has been creating novels in his Grand Tour series since 1992. The series is based on a speculative near future exploration of our solar system. If you haven’t read or listened to any of these books, Jupiter is a good place to start. In this novel the main character, Grant Archer, is sent to a Jupiter research station. He is sent as an unwitting spy for a theocratic government. The fundamentalist religious government is afraid of some secret research that could destabilize their political control. Grant Archer, who is a scientist and a devout believer, struggles with the dual role that has been thrust upon him. He has to figure out why the space station has a genetically altered gorilla and a unique space craft tethered to the station. And there’s big question of what the crew has discovered on the massive planet, Jupiter.

The audiobook is read by two actors, Christian Noble and David Warner. I find multiple narrators confusing. I’m not talking of a cast recording here, but of the narrative duties of a novel being divided between two or more people. While listening, I wonder why there’s a change of narrators instead of paying attention to the story. That’s not the case on this audiobook. There’s a shift of viewpoint, which is easily understood, and one is quite divergent from the other.

The audiobook begins with a nice introduction by Ben Bova’s long time friend, Harlan Ellison. And there’s a also a postscript by the author himself. Nice additions to an already rewarding listen.

Bova is a master of his craft. His characters and world-building are well developed. His theme of religion versus science is well defined. His plotting is well paced. He writes with a scientific accuracy that places him as one of the best hard SF writers. He has written over 100 books and has won six Hugos. Is this the next SF Grand Master? I can’t think of a better candidate.

ed. – This review was of Ben Bova’s Jupiter as released in 2001 by Fantastic Audio. In 2005, Audio Renaissance re-issued this same recording on CD – ISBN 1593974884.

Review of The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

August 29, 2003 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Andromeda Strain by Michael CrichtonThe Andromeda Strain
By Michael Crichton; Read by Chris Noth
2 Cassettes – 3 Hours [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 1993
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mystery / Disease / Disaster / Scientist / Medical /

A top secret research satellite falls to Earth near a small town in Arizona. Hours later a recovery team discovers that something  has killed off the town’s entire population except for an old man and a new-born baby, statistically the most likely age groups to succumb to any normal disease. In anticipation of such an event a team of microbiologists assembles in a top-secret, underground laboratory in the Nevada desert. This laboratory was designed to handle an accidental introduction of virulent organisms into Earth’s atmosphere and ecological systems. The team begins to study the survivors and the “toxic” satellite and discovers several black/green patches of deadly bacteria that they have code-named: The Andromeda Strain.

First Published in 1969, The Andromeda Strain is one of Crichton’s best science fiction tales and a terrific scientific mystery story! As the microbiology team races against the clock, trying to figure out the toxic effect of the alien infection, the US government contemplates a nuclear cauterization of the infected crash site. But when The Andromeda Strain mutates it begins to eat through plastic lab suits and rubber gaskets protecting the scientists and the population from escaping toxins. Its a real thriller of a story, and was successfully turned into a great feature film directed by Crichton himself.

This fine novel is only available as an abridgement, and this is unfortunate. The missing portions actually improve the novel to a very large degree because the novel is written in the style of a non-fiction report of events. The original text includes, images, citations, timelines and references, their absence is a disservice to the remaining story. Chris Noth, most famous for his role on the NBC television series Law And Order, reads with a rich and compelling voice. But Noth does merely a satisfactory reading, he makes good attempts with the scientific jargon replete throughout the novel, but they are often mispronounced. Added to this is his lack of range for the voices. Given more audiobook experience Noth will probably become a good reader, in this audiobook however, his performance is merely satisfactory. All in all well worth a listen, but I sincerely hope an unabridged edition is released.