The SFFaudio Podcast #283 – READALONG: Watchers by Dean Koontz

September 22, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #283 – Jesse, Seth, and Steen discuss Watchers by Dean Koontz

Talked about on today’s show:
1987, Amazon and Goodreads reviews, what the fuck’s going on, super-clear = refreshing, mainstream, science fiction elements, a mainstream thriller with sufficently science fiction trappings, the bad guy, action and science fiction, supermarket fiction, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton, flirting with the fantastic, Koontz could go deep if he wanted to, excitement and involvement, an intelligent dog, a human serial killer and the good guy is always super good, a lonely lady who needs fixing, no need for a job, Garrison, the vet, money ex machina, wish fulfillment, sniffing the books, writing instinctual, “I like books”, readers are readers, is Koontz wealth (?) an accident, the same book over and over again with different sentences, dogs, odd without a dog, back to dogs, the fictional golden retriever, service dogs, Trixie Koontz, dog POV, Travis and Nora, if I could only communicate…, five stars with more than 1,000 reviews, cat lovers, sappy wish fulfillment, clunky dialogue, Seth’s retired guide dog, emotional scenes, Einstein, emotional beats hitting home, the Outsider, slow pitch Science Fiction, the NSA, research as depth of feeling, why the eyes, the Mickey Mouse telephone, a direct philosophical descendant of Frankenstein, we must treat our creations with justice and mercy, the disfigured (?) monster, extreme violence is a turn-off, dogs as wild animals that we tamed, a glacial Frankensteinian process, dogs as infantilized wolves, a dog’s nature is to be cowardly, breeding for violence (?), no savagery gene, baboons, bonobos, the creepy cable-guy stalker, delusions of immortality (?), money, surreality, The Call Of The Wild reference, survivalists, true love with a threat, preppers, Home Alone, what do Europeans think of gun culture?, fully automatic uzi kits, the baking of the cookies, the Dean Koontz genre, Phantoms, the town of Snowfield is deserted, a sink-full of jewels, creepy with wish fulfillment, and fun, multiple bad guys (monster and otherwise), The Mysteries Of Udolpho, let’s look at the parallel structure…, snake killing, some (more) cookies, pity, the underlying strength of the book, did the Outsider think that it killed Einstein?, Dean Koontz likes: cookies, mercy, and guns, Koontz’s hair transplant, political things, the soliloquy on technology, computer hacking (prior to the web), a preoccupation with Central/South America, Lebanon, Delta Force, quasi-domestic operations, The Outsider by H.P. Lovecraft, the crappy 1988 movie of Watchers, the horror/1980s-gore aspect, Koontz and King adaptations, completely forgettable single word titles, Koontz’ preferred title would have been “Guardian”, Philip K. Dick’s first story Roog, offering urn, the education of Einstein (paralleling the education of Frankenstein’s monster), Agatha Christie, it makes you happy, 2 Jesses, “a book you will never forget!”, a candy book, The Giver, Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, taking experiences from their own life, Ray Bradbury never had an experience that he didn’t turn into a fix-up novel, turn your brain off, smooth flowing fun, the complainers, the style of dialogue, a straw man of the dialogue, why is the Outsider after Einstein?, a “thing that should not be”, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, page turning machines, stewing in resentment, the Outsider has no bride and hasn’t read Paradise Lost, a shared love of Mickey Mouse, the yin and yang of humanity, the NSA agent’s role is like that of Detective Fix in Around The World In Eighty Days, the level of characterization, Dean Koontz is by himself on his own little island.

Watchers (1988)

An Astronomers Theory illustration by Virgil Finlay

Posted by Jesse Willis

LibriVox: The Devil In Iron by Robert E. Howard

March 19, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

The Devil In Iron by Robert E. Howard

The Devil In Iron - illustration by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala

Considered by some to be the worst Conan story written by Howard, The Devil In Iron isn’t my favourite either.

In it the “gay clad” barbarian visits an island fortress, wrestles a giant green snake, fights an unstabable demon, and saves a sleepy-headed and scantily dressed beauty.

The plot, which is rather intricate, doesn’t do much for me – but several scenes have that Howard writing magic I love.

LibriVoxThe Devil In Iron
By Robert E. Howard; Read by Phil Chevernet
6 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 1 Hour 35 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: March 16, 2013
Alone on the strange enchanted island of Xapur, Conan must face Khostaral Khel, a fearsome monster made of living metal! First published in Weird Tales, August 1934.

Podcast feed: http://librivox.org/rss/7606

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|
The Devil In Iron - illustration by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala

Weird Tales, August 1934

Posted by Jesse Willis

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.

Review of Conan The Barbarian Movie Adaptation LP

February 26, 2007 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews 

SFFaudio Audiobook Review

Conan The Barbarian - Movie Adaptation LPConan The Barbarian
Based on the Motion Picture directed by John Milius; Performed by a FULL CAST
33 1/3 RPM LP – Approx. 43 minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Power Records
Published: 1982 (Out Of Print)
Product #: 1134
Themes: / Fantasy / Revenge / Battle / Mythology / Gods / Snakes /

“I was born on the battlefield! The first sounds I
heard were the screams of dying men!”

It took almost a half of century for Robert E. Howard’s legendary thief, warrior, barbarian and eventual King to debut on the silver screen. In the fifty or so years prior to the 1982 theatrical release of Conan The Barbarian, and against all odds, Conan had clutched fate by its throat and demanded success in practically every media it was translated into. Novels, magazines, newspaper syndication and comics, they were all conquered by this sword-wielding barbarian. These conquest continually garnished him a growing legion of loyal followers. So by Conan’s God Crom, it only made sense for Hollywood to be this fantasy character’s next path to tread under his sandaled feet.

Ridley Scott… Oliver Stone… Many talented directors attempted to bring “Conan The Barbarian” to theaters before writer/director John Milius’ inspired script finally got it right and brought the project to fruition. John’s vision, which some critics called “horribly violent” and “sexist”, captured the true lifeblood and essence of the Hyborian Age and all its brutality and sinister ways. Directed on location in Spain for Universal Pictures, it starred world renowned bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan of Cimmeria and Shakespearean actor James Earl Jones as the dreaded snake cult leader Thulsa Doom.

As always, making a motion picture about any character with a large fanbase creates controversy, and Conan The Barbarian was no different. Many fans questioned most of the inexperienced cast and their acting ability. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a world champion bodybuilder. Valeria, played by Sandahl Bergman, was a professional dancer. Even the director’s surfing partner took on the role of Subotai. Overwhelmingly, other than James Earl Jones, the cast was perceived as great lot of physical specimens rather than accomplished actors. Confusion also lingered among purists regarding Milius’ choice to retell Conan’s origin, which somewhat contrasted with the purist understanding of the barbarian’s earlier years. But other fans defended the retelling, arguing that creator Robert E. Howard never truly fleshed out Conan’s childhood, only briefly touched upon it. Moreover, they were quite pleased that Milius honored the legacy of Conan by sampling script ideas from many of Conan’s original tales like “The Tower of the Elephant” and “The Thing in the Crypt”.

Whichever side fans took, most couldn’t help not to revel in the sure beauty of the film… especially its Fantasy panting-like cinematography, awe inspiring original score and its seriousness in tone (something sorely missing in the later and utterly inferior sequel.) So, like all forms of media before it, the film Conan The Barbarian was a success and is now considered a classic among fans of the sword & sorcery genre. Conan was once again triumphant.

That same year, Power Records released the story of “Conan The Barbarian” which was surprisingly good among movie adaptation albums of its time. Known more for creating stories for adolescents, it was really quite astonishing to see Power Records adapt a “R” rated film, gloriously filled with masses of graphic violence, explicit nudity and even an orgy! The adaptation did exclude the “worst” parts of the film of course, but most mothers I know would balk upon their children listening to lines like “The last image I saw was my parent’s heads on a pair of Vanir pikes!” This adaptation was obviously made for young adults.

A whole new cast of actors were used, and the actors chosen for Conan, Subotai and The Wizard were an excellent choice. Conan is more intelligent than he appeared in the film, in the vein of the original Robert E. Howard writings. Actually, the original film script called for Conan to have more dialogue and narrate his own story rather than Mako’s ‘The Wizard’ doing the chronicling. But due to Schwarzenegger’s thick accent, much of Conan’s lines were trimmed down and/or removed in trade of Arnold’s powerful visual presence, which is where a problem lies. I actually had trouble appreciating this adaptation at first. Being a great fan of the film, I had the original actor’s voices and their dialogue (or Conan’s lack thereof) imprinted in my mind so deeply, it was hard to listen with a fresh perspective. Challenging yourself to give it a second “go around” is where the reward lies!

Conan narrating his tale is not the only difference between the adaptation and the actual film. Though fans of the film will be pleased to know that practically all of the story differences you hear were actually in the original John Milius script, before they were edited for various creative and/or monetary reasons. Some differences are subtle, like Thulsa Doom’s high priests are named Yaro and Rexor (rather than the familiar Rexor and Thorgrim). Others are larger events, like when Conan and Subotai enter the cities of Zamora looking to plunder the riches of the snake tower. While traveling through the filthy city of Shadizar, the script & adaptation details an extra scene of Conan and Subotai witnessing a snake cult procession moving through the streets. This is where Conan first hears the cursed chant of his nemesis Thulsa Doom since his parent slaying so long ago. He also gets his first glance of the haunting Princess he would later steal for King Osric, as she calls out to Conan from her platform, commanding him to “throw down his sword” in the name of Set. It’s a great scene.

My only gripe with the record adaptation is I wish it featured the film’s original score. While the orchestration Power Records uses is vast and surprisingly well done, it’s hard to stand against the classic work of composer Basil Poledouris. Though, with their excellent cast and matching production values, this can be easily overlooked. Especially when listening to the “new” dialog and scenes ultimately left on the cutting room floor. As a fan of all things Conan and especially the films, it creates quite a thrill and leaves you slightly imagining… what might have been.