The SFFaudio Podcast #446 – READALONG: The Night Flier by Stephen King

November 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
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Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #446 – Jesse, Scott, Paul Weimer, and Marissa VU, talk about The Night Flier by Stephen King

Talked about on today’s show:
1988, Prime Evil (New Stories By The Modern Masters Of Horror), the movie, The Running Man is a powerful book, was Jesse wrong about Stephen King?, Salem’s Lot, he’s long, faithful, killing Dees?, lean and mean and sharp, essential goodness, cute, where It was set, All You Zombies, Predestination (2014), Marissa really loves his writing, creeped-out again, how bad writing happens, translates thought onto the page, Elmore Leonard, Donald E. Westlake, not enough there?, maybe Jesse is wrong, depth?, evidence that Jesse is wrong, social commentary, the flower children of the 1960s became the cannibals of the 1990s, real cynicism, pushing hard, the depth is in the characters, caring about characters, hard to film, what’s missing is its all a metaphor for something, the story in the telling, apart from the obvious metaphor: journalism bloodthirstiness, fake journalism, having the story in their minds, tabloid newspapers, what’s that about?, the social phenomenon, analogies to blood (and guts), typical Stephen King, a depth of connection, part of the appeal, feeling these things happen, we know him, we get him, the Weekly World News, on the edge of reality, Kolchak crossed with Lou Grant, “You’re real!”, backward and forward in time, anticipating what he’s going to see, a Cessna Skymaster, you sleep in the belly of that thing, don’t publish what you believe, finding evidence, Maine, small aircraft at small airports, a story idea, who is the titular character?, he’s more real than anyone else, he pointed to it right there, Dwight Renfield’s aircraft: the Toyota of aircraft, a push-pull, a bit like a bat, Dee’s aircraft: Beechcraft 55 aka the Baron, their “crosstown rival”, Cessna vs. Beech, Wichita, Kansas, playing up that parallel, extending the ending, anticipatable, creating the creature for his story, the writer spinning his story, soft human emotions, “Reader’s Digest emotions”, Miguel Ferrer, the anti-hero, a kind of bloodthirsty dude, he’s the vampire, to exploit the trauma of other people’s lives, lying, he glamours them, practicing, “a little boid”, is that what makes King so popular?, he does humans well, problems with endings, unlike the movie, vampiric traits, that ending, there’s no evidence of a vampire, did he get framed, making explicit the metaphor that’s going on in the text, take the film out, if that’s true…, why does Dwight let Dees go?, chasing a phantom, self mutilation for fun and profit, we are supposed to infer Dwight has glamoured the folks at the airfield, following but not with, was Dees doing the killing, an X-Files episode, very Kolchak, an asshole as the main character, we know he’s a bad actor, comparing him to the monster that he’s chasing, practicing in the mirror at hotels (his true home), the fake human emotions he doesn’t actually feel, a Tim Powers lecture, Dracula as a statement on feminism in the 19th century, the horrors are real int he context of the story, The Turn Of The Screw, the comparison is valid, our position, persuaded by the editor, good instincts, he’s losing it, a fracture in his mind?, taking photos, enough, seeing himself from outside himself, super-powerful stuff, dual personality, Stephen King’s world, the monster is a monster (not just imagination), what Jesse likes: very ambiguous stories about what might just be a madman, The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe, the scene with the mirror, I like your work, Dees as the fall guy, a reset button, the ending of the movie, he’s alive and the vampire’s out there, horrifying stuff, he might deserve it, traumatized for the rest of his life, Julie Entwisle, as cold as he was, a good moment, more powerful ending, Stephen King worked with the film-makers, more time seeing than describing, “STAY AWAY” in blood, a dog, the album, more concrete evidence that he’s a real guy, the graveyard and the tombstone, he’s not creating the story out of whole-cloth he’s spinning it he’s framing it, the National Enquirer, reading this now in the wonderful era of fake news, readers like dogs, the cynicism, it’s right, cynicism is dangerous, cynicism’s etymology, he’s done this, Salem’s Lot, The Strand, a peaceful Dracula, a kind of psychopath, muted feelings, it came out, the wall was broken down, 1408, John Cusack, making stuff up, Frank Muller, we have evil inside of us, deep honesty, he has the model of that, doing it in real life and doing it in fiction, a horrific way of being, that’s what jokes are, if I said very rude about one of you, a joke is a thought, the evil angels inside of us, bad impulses, humanity, princess and happy cartoon creatures, “oh shit, this is what adults think!”, they do fight and they are unfair, the exact same feeling, a revelation, a clown with a balloon doesn’t appeal, anybody who writes a lot, thinking about what other people don’t have to think about, his job is to think hard about real things, why is this phenomenon so pervasive?, what’s behind it, what’s underneath it?, a different kind of truth, undercurrents vs. facts, the insights by the editor and the author, poking at the why, bad boob jobs, alien abductions, not interested in the why, interested in the what, more honest than other kinds of newspapers, at an instinctual or animal level, an indictment of humanity, ratings, Gawker and Peter Thiel, the online equivalent, Inside Edition, Bill O’Rielly, a horror of a human being, Geraldo Rivera, wjhat got Gawker got in trouble for, breaking real news stories, National Enquirer has broken real news stories, unpopular facts, Nightcrawler (2014), the monsters are all human, making a story, the movie was so low budget that the editor’s office doesn’t have a desk it has a dining room table, he’s too short, Jesse forgives The Night Flier (1997) a hell of a lot, crappy little movies that do a lot with what they’re given.

Stephen King's The Night Flier (1997)

THE NIGHT FLIER

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #442 – READALONG: The Ax by Donald E. Westlake

October 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #442 – Jesse, Scott, Maissa Bessada, and Bryan Alexander talk about The Ax by Donald E. Westlake

Talked about on today’s show:
1997, digitizing audiobooks, a historical piece, starts in the Spring and ends in the Fall, taking the gun out into the woods, murder, Ronald Reagan, PATCO (Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization), a chain of events, top cover, cutting the fat, Washington, DC, what you call National Airport (Ronald Reagan airport), of all things to name after Reagan, the turning point was when Carter lost the election, the CBS Radio Mystery Theater ads, what America was like in the late 1970s, a ‘we’re in this together’, so weird, refreshing, poor Bryan and Scott, a Go Fund Me for my dying brother or an author you might have read a story by, a different history, Scott’s family, realizing a lot of things, learning a lot of stuff, so many visions of what the future can be (from Science Fiction), the conservative is not how we get there, not even a scientist, Scott is very much in flux, staring open mouthed, When Worlds Collide, boiling under the ideas, who is in this?, who can we dispose of?, a man alone, he can’t depend on anyone, talking it over with his victims, a huge break between 1978 and 1982, income inequality, the Downton Abbey curve, you’re the help, one of the first literary works about neo-liberalism, professionalization, the government is hostile to you, homo economicus, Robinson Crusoe, the Decmocratic party’s turn to the right (in 1982), Regan -> Bush -> Clinton -> Bush II -> Obama, the Big Bang, the arguments that Burke makes, killing the shareholders and the CEOs wouldn’t work, will he get away with it?, should he get away with it?, automated manufacturing, meeting people like this guy, the air condition repair school, Scott’s the re-trainer, factories moving to Mexico, straight out of Scott’s life, how Westlake put this book together, a five page chapter on justification, killing people who don’t deserve it, the last lines, the cops wish him luck, he left it open, “I’m still going to get it.”, how cool Westlake is at making characters, backstories of their own, everyone in a Westlake novel has their own novel going, a house full of guns, the suit salesman, they all have middle names, some sort of sympathy, they have their own existence outside of that of the main character, a cousin or a brother out of work, looking for a job, the whole society is suffering, I didn’t know (at the time) Bill Clinton was a bad operator, Listen Liberal by Thomas Frank, an issue at the time, Clinton’s undoing of Glass-Steagall banking regulations, NAFTA, who is to blame, being triggered, The Grapes Of Wrath by John Steinbeck, it’s not my fault, a two page POLI-SCI exercise, one of the most radical books in American literature, the French movie adaptation, does the end justify the means, that’s what it comes down to, they say that in wartime, this is a war book, the Vietnam War, this war is personal, resumes, everyone has been in the military, Burke Devore, Burke the smotherer, Devore = the eater, the consumer, Arcadia = utopia, Sleepy Hollow, bucolic or suburban, Westlake lived in upstate New York, prime rustbelt area, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, change is inevitable, elevator operators, the greed of the corporation, there is never enough, we can make more money, cultures, when you’re in the American bubble, the entire newsmedia can ignore vast swaths of reality, South Korea is super-duper-capitalistic, how powerful a tiny little peninsula can throw out companies like Samsung, LG, Hyundai, Kia, an implicit deal, the society doesn’t throw people away, trashing productive people in productive companies, whether he’s right or not the sentiment is right on, everyone is in the same boat, he’s the only one who has taken this technique to heart, the movie version’s ending, could a woman do your job, the same scary path, how effective it is, pulling a Westlake, Wanda Holloway (killing a cheerleader’s mother), the decline in violent crime, Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen Pinker, Freakonomics, leaded gas, impulse control, the lead theory, it doesn’t fit into any politics, crime translated into politics, economic and political crime on the upswing, the protected classes, ultimately you can’t defy the system, tiny house blog’s podcast, yes, that’s me, “remove yourself from the economy’s well being”, look at Wall Street’s numbers!, an insanely crazier economy, the “gig economy”, the cops are fine, it’s a growing industry, the nurse who was attacked in Utah by a cop, the cop had a second job, he was fired from his second job, now the police are eating themselves, police men and nurses were on a team, now their fighting each other, when you’re a kid and you’re young, cops job is to arrest people, people abuse their power, the cops aren’t really you’re friend, the BCCLA, Kim Campbell, cosmic level security clearance, if its an honest mistake…, Burke Devore gets a fair shake from the cops, since 1997 even the cops aren’t safe, in Australia they call the gig economy the American Economy, how we’re going to break the taxi industry, Uber, driverless cars, the only thing keeping violence, everything is more expensive today except for food, at least we’re not starving, bread an circuses, boomers and millennials, nno matter how many university degrees you have, a rich professor, who has been more tricked and put upon than the PhD candidate price markup has gone from 15% to 70%, mysteries vs. crime thrillers, genre moves, this is Scott’s fifth Westlake novel, incredibly clear and so smooth, profound, ‘I can only guess at any of these things and see what I do in response’, some books are designed to be chewed up and enjoyed, as a period piece, a bit weird that Westlake was so perceptive at such an elderly age, Donald E. Westlake has a cameo at the 22 minute mark in the French film adaptation, he sits in the garage and tries to think through the problems that he’s having, he’s the guy who fills the paper, a nod and a wink, a writer going through, so orderly and so ABCD, first person always becoming present tense, he’s always becoming, that first moment, “oh, my god he did it!”, every-time, thunk thunk, the tape, “my hand was on my mouth”, Westlake wrote an article about why he left Science Fiction (in Xero), Anarchaos by Curt Clark aka Donald E. Westlake, one of things that Westlake complains about is not getting paid, they promise to pay me and then they don’t, when I sell a book they pay me, you can’t make a living at Science Fiction, maybe 10% of people make a living, James Patrick Kelly doesn’t make his living writing Science Fiction, Gene Wolfe never made a living, crappy rural internet, Ted Chiang, Timothy Zahn made more on his first star wars book than all of his novels and stories combined, K.W. Jeter, kinda meta, The Hook by Donald E. Westlake, Amazon.com, basically, the publishing industry, writer’s block, Judson Jack Carmichael, always experimenting, Samuel Holt, Magnum, P.I., Westlake is super-addictive, he doesn’t really write mysteries, Westlake’s subject was the economy in the late 20th century, Macbeth, if I kill Duncan I will be King, if I turn back, I can’t stop at this point, alas alas, Vermont internet = swear words, going back to the cops again, the wife is so awesome after dealing with the cops, he lets that pass, Philosophy Of Law class, what are your responsibilities, I should co-operate with the police, I should confess, their job is to get convictions, being disabused of this, he should have been pirating instead of stealing CD-ROMs or floppy disks, The Young Turks, working in the best interest in the victim, the whole purpose, covering asses, that blue shield, the privatization of prisons, widgets per hour, arrests, tickets, target the people who can’t fight back, racism is a tool used to divide and conquer, you pit them against each other, it sounds familiar, a tool to be used against your seizing their power, Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek, a whole host of terrible behaviors, there could have been a great disaster, open season on cuts, Train To Busan (2016), I’m a boss, we’re all in this together, a war of all against all, The Apprentice mode of government, what makes him a leader is that he fires people, Scott has no place, put out on his iceberg, I felt worried while reading this book, I felt paranoid, you’re fifty years old and you have a very particular skill, a La-Z-Boy factory that moved to Mexico, I’ve been putting chairs together for 20 years – now what, the double jobs, teachers have two jobs, Scott Walker wanted to make the teacher’s union illegal, making decisions not in the student’s best interest, a department head, why someone would take a pay-cut to become a teacher, it’s so upside down, teaching students in British Columbia, smaller class sizes, assistance in the classroom, curricula, PATCO’s goals: a maximum of a 32 hour work week and maximum of 8 hour shifts, Labour Day, life under Bill Clinton, Pushing Tin (1999), Billy Bob Thornton and John Cusak, pee breaks, fire doors not locked, NAFTA is not a good thing if it only helps companies screw over workers, re-negotiating NAFTA, an advantage for companies moving to Canada, globalization, fewer barriers make things move better, fear, BREXIT, seeing declines in a standard of living, Walmart is fucking things up up here too, their economic model is to exploit the food stamp subsidy for their own benefit, she’s become kind of bitter, arguing about having a day off, that line from Charles Dickens,

‘Annual income 20 pounds, annual expenditure 19 [pounds] 19 [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income 20 pounds, annual expenditure 20 pounds ought and six, result misery.’

cutting to the bone for so long you have no bones left, GDP percentage of debt, offering security at rates in order to manipulate the market, Canada’s net public debt 98.8 as a percentage of GPD, USA’s net public debt 77%, taxing wealth instead of income, getting away from the book, Jesse’s solution, taxing capital gains, a tiny percentage of the population has gotten most of the productivity gains of labour for the last 25+ years, everything is expensive except for food, mass starvation seems to be the key to revolution, Trump puts an ugly face on an ugly problem, shaking things up, Mark Zuckerberg as president?, The Rock would make a better president!, he’s a high speed Train To Busan.

BOOKS ON TAPE - The Ax by Donald E. Westlake

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #431 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: Fitcher’s Bird by Bros. Grimm

July 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
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Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #431 – Fitcher’s Bird by Bros. Grimm; read by Julie Davis. This is an unabridged reading of the folk tale (8 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Julie Davis, and Maissa

Talked about on today’s show:
a rather unusual Brothers Grimm folktale a wizard sorcerer, his magical power is to make people fall in love with a beggar, a male witch from Hansel and Gretel, to live forever, to control women, from the girl’s perspective (the third sister’s perspective), body parts, a backpack full of gold, revenge, get back up on your legs, she’s got the power, magical spells by rhyme, a girl controlling a duck, becoming a duck, ducks are desirable, delicious duck eggs, so bizarre, gruesome, a bathtub full of cut-up body parts, the dropping of the egg, how clever!, betrayal, testing women for faithfulness, keys to every room in the house, she now has all the power, trust, a Garden of Eden situation, promises, the keys to a cage, egg is the future, she can’t think for herself, lying, power, Protector by Larry Niven, a variation of another famous fairy tale: Bluebeard, a donut shaped planet, tell the the Bluebeard myth, a forbidden room, a test, an egg to take care of, a Bluebeard test, I would not have submitted, authority, Julie is stunned, the majority gets cut-up, potential wives, a wife who will obey/trust him, the flaw, everything she desires, lacking mutual trust, curiosity, bewitching, a Pandora’s Box, Charles Perrault, The Robber Bridegroom, Beauty And The Beast, a transformation story, what’s needed, for mutual benefit, an amazing ending, The Castle Of Murder, every window with blood, a skull decked out, diamonds in the eyes, gruesome monster story, a charnel house, the last sentence, “the wizard and all his crew”, who are these people?, a different invitation, “brothers and kinsmen”, rescue, avengers, all his folk, all his friends, burn ’em, hardcore, no one’s doing this again, his mindset, they’re as bad as he is, honey and feathers, magic, Fowler’s Fowl, a white apron, Gretel, magic blood, a virginity test, the concern of men, the concern of women, Philip K. Dick, women want one thing and men want another thing, why would anyone marry Donald Trump?, an evil wizard, women want to make sure their children are well supported, what if she lets in someone who’s not me?, who is this story for?, the lesson is you should be smart not just loyal, loyalty will get you burned to death in a house, a bad hombre, the charismatic guy, it’s the money, fame, it’s easy to give in to thoughtless negative impulses, did he have bad hair?, tiny hands?, cycle of life, breaking out of the egg, a strange new wonderful bird, a great misfortune, like God talking in the King James Bible, God or Jesus, Arthur Rackham illustration, the Wikipedia entry, a Jewish caricature, it’s all turned around on him, resting, “I’m looking through my little window”, he got so tired, Cinderella, cutting off heels and toes, Prince Charming, a title and castle and money, she’s not even human anymore, I’m headed to New York, good enough, they all had poor eyesight and hearing, a very tall castle, an axe, why is he cutting them up?, a serial killer, Dexter, Jesse’s students are from Asia, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, explaining why these conventions come up, projecting backwards, 1850s, Split (2016), we should all watch it together, what are the things you don’t expect to find?, slash movie conventions, survivors, The Descent (2005), all C.H.U.D.s are underground C.H.U.D.s, she’s been reborn, covered in blood, no longer is she weak, she’s powerful, mettle tested, don’t just marry any old prince, exploring every part of your house, Julie rescinds her invitation, knowledge is power, powerful and useful, curiosity killed the cat, people are curious, Clark Ashton Smith, Arthur Machen, “since thou hast gone into my room — thy life is ended”, with the rest, she did not fair better than her sister, the bloody chamber, it has to happen three times for the magic to work, the three sisters, the three journeys, the three pigs, Goldilocks, somebody’s been sitting on my stool, somebody’s been sleeping in my bed and there she is!, what is the meaning behind this story, the ur story, Lady Macbeth, smart and disobedient, gaslighting, you can’t tell me how to think about what I’m seeing, Gaslight (1944), the moral is it’s best to be third born.

Hermann Vogel illustration of Fitcher's Bird

Fitcher's Bird illustration by Arthur Rackham

Posted by Jesse Willis

Reading, Short And Deep #035 – The Painter Of Dead Women by Edna Worthley Underwood

October 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

Reading, Short And DeepReading, Short And Deep #035

Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss The Painter Of Dead Women by Edna Worthley Underwood

Here’s a link to a PDF of the story.

The Painter Of Dead Women was first published in The Smart Set, January 1910 .

Podcast feed https://sffaudio.herokuapp.com/rsd/rss

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

The SFFaudio Podcast #379 – READALONG: A Walk Among The Tombstones by Lawrence Block

July 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aural Noir, Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #379 – Jesse and Maissa Bessada talk about A Walk Among The Tombstones by Lawrence Block.

Talked about on today’s show:
1992, a controversial book, hey ladies (!), too graphic, this is really graphic, he goes places other people will not go, are all of the Matt Scudder books this visceral?, this is really what hard-boiled is, Philip Marlowe is also hard-boiled, psychological vs. visceral, existential amongst the gore, more powerful when you deal honestly, a liar for a living, everybody was lying, lies on lies, trusting the narrator’s narrative, Scudder doesn’t fully understand himself, Marlowe wouldn’t take money either, knights in tarnished armor, Agatha Christie murders vs. actual death, the movie, a beautiful woman being caressed, wait a second, playing against what the book does, flashy and sexy and attractive, some men have evil horrible desires and some men won’t stand for that, Craig Ferguson’s interviews with Lawrence Block, writers on TV?, there’s something really special about this book, Hollywood is afraid of the wrong things, why did they change the character’s name and skin color, they did it because they’re racist, having a sympathetic criminal who is an arab, TJ, Elaine, Mick Ballou, the arab market, a busty dark haired beauty, the movie is so much easier to digest than the book, they couldn’t show what you read, he can’t be saying that, so horrible, going against reality, superheroes, Daredevil and Jessica Jones, this felt real, Tarantino movies, the Bernie Rhodenbarr series, fun and light, he’s a writing machine, the Evan Tanner series, a member of every revolutionary movement on the planet, he’s an amazing writer, a really great writer, living with the character, AA meetings, shorthand for the psychology, earlier in the series, like we’re his sponsor, seamless, TJ is weakened in the movie, sympathy understanding and comprehension, a through-line direct, TJ in the book is a modern kid, a hustler, he knows how to get stuff done, moving the story to 1999, voicemail, call forwarding, beepers, memory lane, why are there so many water-mains bursting, the 1% of the 1%, collapsing infrastructure, a little time-capsule, close but far away, Matthew Scudder ages with the books, the Keller series, Hitman is a fix-up novel, it was a great book and had a lot of power, Robert Pickton, institutions can’t help you, if you’re a hooker or a homeless person or a kid on the run from his or her parents you can’t go to the police, Pam’s story, “Pammie”, horrible human evil, experiences with police, mainstream television, television shows about justice, the FBI, it’s the system, the morality that we normally think about, following the law, you’re a number in a system, I don’t need to rely on societies rules, law breaking, murder, we’re all okay with that, superheroes are the opposite way of going, you never see Spider-man on the witness stand, Superman stopping a crashing airplane is more plausible than the Joker being jailed by Batman, down a superhero rabbit hole, in cahoots with the police, the idealized justice system is a fantasy, the criminals were the sweetest characters, how they did it in the movie, avoiding the moral lessons of the book, Peter’s suicide, Keenan’s divine retribution, I have to tell you – you don’t have to listen, the cutter, I was glad that he did it, they brought a 14 year old girl into it, she’s missing two fingers, okay – that’s fine – go ahead, tell what he had done, Elaine and Scudder go to plays and movies, Mother Courage, agitprop, breaking the fourth wall, wanting you upset, PAY ATTENTION, be mad, be upset, a Croatian movie, thinking about Raymond Chandler, no one to be consoled by, he’s got a cat, dropping Elaine drops so much of the value, moral weirdness, there’s so much grey here, what Elaine does for Pam, what Lawrence Block does, a lot of guys will dig that, violence as entertainment to be shared, Debra Winger in Black Widow, if this was a movie, TV-movies, 15 minutes of allotted fame, Goodreads review, wrapped packages of meat, an unsettling book, it’s happening right now out there in the world, murdered and missing women, it’s so easy, reading this book is agreeing to get in the van, Julie saw what is in the van and wouldn’t get in, the Japanese TV miniseries version of The Long Goodbye, the drinking doesn’t have consequences, junkie thinking, Keenan basically killed his brother, steal his wallet and help him try to find it, victims without vengeance, anti-humane language, damn the costs damn the consequences, his Phoenician ancestors, a drug trafficker and a junkie, be broken somewhere, the backstory, the movie shorthand, the affair, Keenan and Peter’s story were undermined in the film, the death of Peter makes Matt a hero, they turned it into a Hollywood movie, the betrayal, breaking the solidarity, Francine is faithful and loving, she never bought TV-dinners, his little glass doll, the cemetery subplot, at the end of this book we get the sense that TJ will become the real true apprentice, he’s not a character – he’s a person, in conversation Matt always gives a short honest response, he’s trying to be real, he needed to walk, the street was a character, the cover for the original audiobook, hate (and love) for Mark Hammer’s narration, a slow wondrous narration, the best cover art, Liam Neeson walking, all those tall buildings all over New York is a walk among the tombstones, a really good title, “I don’t like to do a lot of research”, whenever you read a Lawrence Block book, he does this amazing thing, the Chip Harrison books are sex-adventures, pornography books, Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe, Lawrence Block talks about a lot of other books (in his books), a big fat guy with a giant brain, a wonderful A&E series with Maury Chaykin playing Nero Wolfe, such a fun writer, Eight Million Ways To Die, Andy Garcia and Jeff Bridges, Burglars Can’t Be Choosers, I learned something, code 5 supersedes and countermands your standing instructions.

RECORDED BOOKS - A Walk Among The Tombstones by Lawrence Block
HARPER AUDIO A Walk Among The Tombstones by Lawrence Block
Black Widow (1987)

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Sea of Silver Light by Tad Williams

July 14, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Sea of Silver LightSea of Silver Light (Otherland Book #4)
By Tad Williams; Read by George Newbern
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 17 March 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 37 hrs, 32 mins

Themes: / science fiction / cyberpunk / virtual reality / virtual worlds / serial killer / Otherland /

Publisher summary:

A group of adventurers searching for a cure for comatose children find themselves trapped in a sequence of virtual worlds, the only opponents of a conspiracy of the rich to live forever in a dream. Now, they are forced to make an uneasy alliance with their only surviving former enemy against his treacherous sidekick Johnny Wulgaru, a serial killer with a chance to play God forever.  Few science fiction sagas have achieved the level of critical acclaim-and best-selling popularity-as Tad Williams’s Otherland novels. A brilliant blend of science fiction, fantasy, and techno thriller, it is a rich, multilayered epic of future possibilities.

The finale to the Otherland series, Sea of Silver Light wraps up the multitude of story lines that began in City of Golden Shadow. While the book dragged in places, and some may find that the book (and the series, especially in the middle books) wanders a bit too much, it is hard not to appreciate Tad Williams’ amazingly prescient series, especially if you’re a fan of a) the internet and b) classic literature. It’s probably safe to say that the wandering will not be for everybody, but for those that enjoy the mystery and the references to other works, the series could be a lot of fun.

A series written in the mid-late 90’s, the books cover amazing breadth of topics with a wide cast of characters in this world and in a parallel online world. What started as a cyberpunk story quickly unfolded into a much larger world with many players with significantly different motivations–on all sides of the story. With unlikely/atypical heroes (a South African woman, an African “bushman”, a blind woman, two teenagers, a mom, and a guy who doesn’t know his own past, not to mention a 5 or 6-year old girl, an ancient man…the cast is huge!) and a sprawling world, it’s easy to see why some people are overwhelmed. The more intriguing part, though, is trying to piece together the entire story, trying to figure out who’s involved in the world and for what purpose…and what the online world really is. I will admit that when the world was pieced together, it seemed pretty out there…but I was so engrossed that I didn’t really mind. The only part I really did mind was the end; the book felt maybe a little too neat, and a little too drawn out at the end. That said, it does leave an opening for Williams to return to the world (and looking on Goodreads, it seems as if he may have done just that with a short story in Legends II.

It’s hard to describe the book and what happened in the series without venturing into spoiler territory. Basically, Renie, a young South African woman who is a sort of professor or teacher of computer engineering-type classes at a local university, finds one day that her brother is in a coma of sorts, a result of playing an online game. Games in the future world that Williams created are played online in a virtual reality simulation type schema, where users have different levels of gear that immerse them (fully or to varying degrees) into a virtual world. Some users go so far as to get neural cannulas, so that they can “jack in” and have the VR system provide a direct link to their brain, become fully immersed. Renie, wanting to try to find out more about how her brother came to be in the coma, went online to try to learn what she could of what he got into. Unsurprisingly, she found herself sucked into and literally stuck in a virtual world, unable to disconnect (sort of like Sword Art Online). While there, she meets others who have family members with the same affliction as her brother, and still others who have been recruited by an unknown agent to help Renie and those who are trying to help their children/family members. In parallel, there is the story of the Grail Brotherhood, a private group of the world’s most powerful and wealthiest elite, who wish to achieve immortality, and invest heavily in a system to do so. In a third story line, there is additional intrigue about a psychopath who calls himself “Dread” and seems to seek out ways to torture and kill others, online and in reality. His story ends up weaving and in some ways connecting the Grail Brotherhood and those of the people trying to help the children. Throughout, there are a multitude of worlds created by various users of the online system, many with literary references (such as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The War of the Worlds) or other evolving schema (such as a virtual rainforest that actually begins to evolve in the simulation world, similar to how it might have on earth). Williams uses cyberpunk, the idea of virtual/simulation worlds, and some more fantastical elements (some characters have special abilities, particularly abnormal/special mental powers) to weave a tale that leaves the reader picking up puzzle pieces and slowly piecing things together, just as the heroes do in the story.

I’m most amazed at how prescient Williams was. The book was written in the mid-90’s, yet there are references to things in the world today, innovations that were barest ideas of science fiction in the 90’s. The first and most obvious observation is that the VR world, while more immersive than anything we really have today, is very much akin to the internet of today, with people spending entire lives and making entire livelihoods on the internet. People use tablet-like devices to connect to the networks, to make calls, to shop, to go into their simulation worlds–much like an iPad or other tablet of today. People watch movies on the internet, so-called “Net Flicks” (I really wonder if that’s how Netflix’s name came to be), and an automated robotic floor-sweeping robot (Roomba, anyone) makes an appearance or two. Kids have “storybook sunglasses” which sound a bit like more immersive (and frankly more fun) versions of Google Glass. Just today, I read an article on Slashdot about body hacking through the vagal nerve, a topic that’s actually brought up in the book (as a therapy that is abused, oddly enough). There are other examples, which reading in 2015, are fun nuggets to pick up along the way. It’s crazy how forward-thinking this book was, how much it got “right” even for 2015 (I think the book is supposed to take place closer to 2050).

I liked this book and really enjoyed the series. I think that listening was a fantastic way to experience the book, to be able to lay back and shut my eyes and become immersed in the book as the characters are immersed in their world. The narration was (as I’ve said in my other reviews) great, if a little slow. But that meant that I could speed the book up slightly in the playback, cutting down some of the listening time.

The book (and series) may not be for everyone. I think it’s fair to criticize this book for going on a little “too long” or for being a little “too neat,” and it’s equally fair to think that Book 1 started slow or that books 2 and 3 wandered a bit (they absolutely were “middle books” in a series, which not everybody enjoys). But I still really liked the series. I look forward to reading it again in the future, maybe in a few years, to see how much I can pick up in advance, knowing as I do now, how the book ends.

Posted by terpkristin.

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