Review of Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi

August 28, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo BacigalupiPump Six and Other Stories
By Paolo Bacigalupi; Read by Jonathan Davis, James Chen, and Eileen Stevens
11 CDs – Approx. 13 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: December 1, 2010
ISBN: 9781441892201
Themes: / Science Fiction / Dystopia / Biopunk / Politics / Society/ Environmentalism / Technology / Food / Death / Thailand / Asia /

The eleven* stories in Pump Six chart the evolution of Paolo Bacigalupi’s work, including the Hugo nominated “Yellow Card Man,” and the Sturgeon Award-winning story “The Calorie Man,” both set in the world of his novel The Windup Girl. This collection also demonstrates the power and reach of the science fiction short story. Social criticism, political parable, and environmental advocacy lie at the center of Bacigalupi’s work. Each of the stories herein is at once a warning and a celebration of the tragic comedy of the human experience.

Let me get the praise out of the way first: Paolo Bacigalupi is an imaginative genius with a message. At times the writing is brilliant. “The Fluted Girl” is excellent, well-written, surely a classic. Every idea in every story is worthy of exploration and consideration and the three narrators are just fine, thanks. His views of dystopia are clever warnings; his ideas endlessly fresh and characters sympathetic. Slow pace is forgivable in his stories, like home-cooked food, worth the wait. James Chen’s reading of the Chinese accents is a great addition to the appropriate stories.

But there are problems. I don’t like having a book of short stories that doesn’t list the names – I shouldn’t have to look on-line for names of the stories and the order in which they appear. I also feel strongly that there is a missing editor. Some of the stories feel as though they are not in final draft version. If I had the print version, my teacher’s red pen would have been in hand marking suggestions for edits. Some information seemed more than unnecessary to the stories (these are short stories after all). It is disappointing that such genius is allowed “out” without polish. Is it possible that the world he created in Pump Six, where literacy has all but disappeared, is actually at its beginning, or did Paolo do it on purpose to see if we are paying attention?

Should you listen to this audiobook? Yes. Brilliant, not perfect, but should definitely not be missed.

*Only ten stories included in the audiobook:
Pocketful Of Dharma • (1999) • novelette • read by James Chen
The Fluted Girl • (2003) • novelette • read by Eileen Stevens
The People Of Sand and Slag • (2004) • novelette • read by James Chen
The Pasho • (2004) • novelette • read by Jonathan Davis
The Calorie Man • [The Windup Universe] • (2005) • novelette • read by Jonathan Davis
The Tamarisk Hunter • (2006) • short story • read by Jonathan Davis
Pop Squad • (2006) • novelette • read by Jonathan Davis
Yellow Card Man • [The Windup Universe] • (2006) • novelette • read by James Chen
Softer • (2007) • short story • read by James Chen
Pump Six • (2008) • novelette • read by Jonathan Davis

Posted by Elaine Willis

Review of The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond

March 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The World Until YesterdayThe World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?
By Jared Diamond; Read by Jay Snyder
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Published: 31 December 2012
ISBN: 9781611761474
[UNABRIDGED] 16 CDs – 19 hours

Themes: / humanity / community / society / history /

Publisher summary:

Most of us take for granted the features of our modern society, from air travel and telecommunications to literacy and obesity. Yet for nearly all of its six million years of existence, human society had none of these things. While the gulf that divides us from our primitive ancestors may seem unbridgeably wide, we can glimpse much of our former lifestyle in those largely traditional societies still or recently in existence. Societies like those of the New Guinea Highlanders remind us that it was only yesterday—in evolutionary time—when everything changed and that we moderns still possess bodies and social practices often better adapted to traditional than to modern conditions.

The World Until Yesterday provides a mesmerizing firsthand picture of the human past as it had been for millions of years—a past that has mostly vanished—and considers what the differences between that past and our present mean for our lives today.

This is Jared Diamond’s most personal book to date, as he draws extensively from his decades of field work in the Pacific islands, as well as evidence from Inuit, Amazonian Indians, Kalahari San people, and others. Diamond doesn’t romanticize traditional societies—after all, we are shocked by some of their practices—but he finds that their solutions to universal human problems such as child rearing, elder care, dispute resolution, risk, and physical fitness have much to teach us. A characteristically provocative, enlightening, and entertaining book, The World Until Yesterday will be essential and delightful reading.

The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond is at its heart a consciousness-raising book. It opens our eyes to the way we live, the ways we used to live, and what we now take for granted. The book covers many broad subjects, and although Jared Diamond had to condense each of them to fit them all into one book, there is enough detail to give readers a clearer perspective about what it means to be a human in a community, and there are plenty of great anecdotes too.

The audiobook narration is great. Jay Snyder comes across as personable and interested in what he’s talking about, so it’s easy to stay engaged all the way through. He helped to make the huge spectrum of ideas and information easy to absorb.

Each subject in the book is explored from the context of different societies, ranging from traditional small-scale societies to modern nation-state societies. The subjects covered include the sharing of territory and resources; managing disputes; the benefits and inherent harms of certain justice systems; how we maintain friendships; how we deal with strangers or enemies; how we treat our children and the elderly; what cultural blind-spots we have when it comes to dangers, diseases; varying ideas about nutrition; and how religion has evolved for different purposes in different cultures and eras.

The anecdotes from Jared Diamond’s many experiences living with traditional, small-scale societies range from scary to comical (although of course, we who live in the West are usually the comical ones). The story about the deranged, murdering “sorcerer” who roamed the New Guinea jungle at night gave me the chills. And I cracked up laughing at the story about the New Guinea tribe who could not believe the first white Europeans they ever saw were people and not spirits. The European explorers stayed with them and kept insisting they were just regular humans, but the tribe didn’t believe them until later, when they checked the explorers’ toilet. It had never occurred to me to wonder whether ghosts shit.

Jared Diamond does not romanticize traditional life: he explores what works and what doesn’t in all the different societies. While he is passionate about certain ideas (e.g. the hidden harms in certain child-rearing practices in the West, or the benefits of constructive paranoia), he also tries to remain objective and offers critics’ viewpoints too.

The World Until Yesterday is also a call to action because it not only shows what people in large modern cultures can learn from small traditional societies, it also explains how we might integrate the more beneficial practices into our personal lives (and simultaneously phase out some of the weirder ones).

Overall, this was a fascinating book with loads of insights into what it means to be human as viewed through the lens of other cultures. I think a lot of ideas from this book will stay with me for a long time, and I’m sure I’ll listen to this again at different times of my life when I want a clearer perspective on my community, culture, or even my own behavior as an individual.

Review by Marissa van Uden.

The SFFaudio Podcast #204 – AUDIOBOOK: The Status Civilization by Robert Sheckley

March 18, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #204 – The Status Civilization by Robert Sheckley, read by Gregg Margarite.

This UNABRIDGED AUDIOBOOK (4 Hours 53 Minutes) comes to us courtesy of LibriVox.org. The Status Civilization was first published under the title Omega and was serialized in the August and September 1960 issues of Amazing Science Fiction Stories Magazine.

Go back to episode (SFFaudio Podcast #056) to hear our discussion of it.

Will Barrent awakes without memories just before being deposited on Omega, a planet for criminals where the average life expectancy is three years. He’s listed as a murderer and released into the illicit society as a “peon” the lowest class imaginable. A mysterious girl gives him a weapon that starts him on his path to status, a path that requires constant brutality. But it must be borne if our hero is to discover the reason for his imprisonment; A reason that pits him against himself, and involves the sardonically similar but devoutly different creeds of Omega and Earth.

Amazing Science Fiction Stories - OMEGA by Robert Sheckley

Omega by Robert Sheckley - illustration by Grayam

Omega by Robert Sheckley - illustration by Grayam

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Tunnel in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein

October 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Tunnel in the Sky from Full Cast Audio Tunnel in the Sky
By Robert A. Heinlein; Read by David Baker and cast
10 hours 15 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Full Cast Audio
Published: 2011
Themes: / Science Fiction / Survival / Space Travel / Society /

Publisher summary: When Rod Walker decides to take the final test for “Deacon” Matson’s interplanetary survival course, he knows he will be facing life-or-death situations on an unsettled planet. What he doesn’t expect is that something will go wrong with the “Tunnel in the Sky” and he and his fellow students will not be able to return to Terra.

Stranded on a hostile planet, Rod and his friends are faced with the challenge of carving a civilization out of the wilderness. They must deal with hunger, deprivation, and strangely savage beasts. But the bigger question is, can they survive each other?

This science fiction classic pits a savage world against the most untameable beast of all: the human animal. Chock full of high adventure, futuristic speculation, witty repartee, and profound philosophy, Tunnel in the Sky represents the greatest SF writer of all time at his peak.

Survival stories are frequent in YA literature, and Tunnel in the Sky was probably one of the first, originally published in 1955. It is referred to as one of “Heinlein’s Juveniles,” and is a great tale of adventure with a life-threatening scenario.   Rather than making a statement, as some of Heinlein’s works attempt to do, this book is just danger and kids using what they have learned to create a new society and survive on an alien planet.  Anyone who enjoyed The Hunger Games or Ender’s Game would probably also enjoy this story, as it has similar themes.  The time period of its original publication is evident in a few moments, but not to the extent I am used to when reading Heinlein.

This was my first experience with Full Cast Audio, and I felt the story was greatly enhanced by being in audio form.  There is sometimes transition background music, but it isn’t distracting, and the voice actors do a good job.  The narrator manages not to blend in with the other adult characters, making it clear when the story is being told.  A few occasions of the word “Huh?” are quite jarring screamed into the listener’s ear, but I think I’ll blame Heinlein for that.  After all, the main character of Rod needs to be a little naive for the story to work, and he is, more than a little.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

The SFFaudio Podcast #056 – READALONG: The Status Civilization by Robert Sheckley

April 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #056 – Jesse and Scott talk with Rick Jackson, Gregg Margarite, Jerry Stearns and Julie Davis about Robert Sheckley’s The Status Civilization!

Talked about on today’s show:
Wonder Publishing Group (Wonder Audio and Wonder Ebooks), LibriVox.org, Acoustic Pulp, Sound Affects, Great Northern Audio Theatre, Doctor Who, The Prisoner, Riverworld by Philip Jose Farmer, deep Science Fiction, Deathworld by Harry Harrison, The Space Merchants (aka Gravy Planet) by Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth, Preferred Risk by Frederik Pohl and Lester del Rey, Gladiator At Law by Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth, Anarchaos by Donald E. Westlake, a religion based on evil, satire, Friedrich Nietzsche‘s “master-slave morality,” good and evil, David Hume‘, the naturalistic fallacy, cognitive dissonance, original sin (aka atavistic guilt), Skulking Permit by Robert Sheckley, Breaking Point by James Gunn |READ OUR REVIEW|, psychology, society, robots, This Perfect Day by Ira Levin, utopia, dystopia, libertarianism, rebellion, “a benign evil,” narrating audiobooks, Mark Douglas Nelson, This Crowded Earth by Robert Bloch, Deathworld 2 by Harry Harrison, Watchbird by Robert Sheckley, Second Variety by Philip K. Dick, Tunnel Under The World by Frederik Pohl, Bellona Times, X-Minus One, Mark Time , Yuri Rasovsky, Raymond Z. Gallun, Bing, Seeing Ear Theatre, Orson And The Alien, The SFFaudio Challenge, turning modern public domain books into audio drama, Night Of The Cooters by Howard Waldrop, Jack J. Ward, The Sonic Society, Brian Price, Alfred Bester‘s review of The Status Civilization (from The Magazine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction, December 1960), the naming of “Tetrahyde”, a readalong on The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, the “amazing” audio drama version from BBC Tiger Tiger, The Count Of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Frederik Pohl’s review of The Status Civilization (from January 1961 issue of Worlds Of If), the competition between the LibriVox and the commercial versions of audiobooks, Plato’s Cave, precognition, John W. Campbell, skrenning, scrying, Icelandic cook books!

The Status Civilzation (Planet Of The Criminals) GERMAN INTERIOR
The Status Civilzation (Planet Of The Criminals) GERMAN INTERIOR
The Status Civilzation (Planet Of The Criminals) GERMAN INTERIOR
The Status Civilization (Planet Of The Criminals) GERMAN INTERIOR
The Status Civilization (Planet Of The Criminals) GERMAN INTERIOR
The Status Civilization by Robert Sheckley
Signet - The Status Civilization by Robert Sheckley

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast by Eugie Foster

March 9, 2010 by · 7 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Another entry in the 7th Anniversary Reviewathon!

Science Fiction Audiobook - Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast by Eugie Foster“Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast”
By Eugie Foster; Read by Lawrence Santoro
57 minutes – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Escape Pod (Ep. 214)
Published: Sep. 2009
Themes: / Science Fiction / Masks / Sex / Passions / Society /

Each morning is a decision. Should I put on the brown mask or the blue? Should I be a tradesman or an assassin today?

Whatever the queen demands, of course, I am. But so often she ignores me, and I am left to figure out for myself who to be.

We all wear masks every day, presenting different faces to the different groups of people we interact with. But what if those masks were literal objects? Eugie Foster presents us with such a society in this intense Nebula-nominated novelette. Each morning, citizens select a mask to wear before moving about among other people – the mask they select determines who they will be that day.

Wearing the masks arouses passions in the wearer, and each section of the story is a heightened emotional experience. The intensity of this story was spectacularly captured by Lawrence Santoro, who narrated in a dramatic manner that reminds me of Harlan Ellison. Bravo to author and narrator – a perfect match. A great story, truly worthy of a Nebula.

This story can be found over at Escape Pod – it’s |Episode 214|.
You can find more Eugie Foster audio |HERE|.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

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