Review of Farmer in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein

March 7, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Farmer in the Sky by Robert A. HeinleinFarmer in the Sky
By Robert A. Heinlein; Read by Nick Podehl
6 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: 2012
Themes: / Science Fiction / Solar System / Frontier /

The Earth is crowded and food is rationed, but a colony on Ganymede, one of the moons of Jupiter, offers an escape for teenager Bill Lermer and his family. Back on Earth, the move sounded like a grand adventure, but Bill realizes that life on the frontier is dangerous, and in an alien world with no safety nets nature is cruelly unforgiving of even small mistakes.

I have always enjoyed Heinlein’s tales for juveniles more than his other writing. Having been told many times that I should read this book, I jumped at the chance to review the audiobook for SFFaudio. Bill is an Eagle Scout which comes in handy more than once and which reminds listeners of the original audience. In some ways this is like listening to the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder as Bill details homesteading on Ganymede. Heinlein does a good job of transferring standard pioneer problems and opportunities to a hostile environment in outer space. The tale is absorbing and I really enjoyed every detail of it.

It is funny listening to this book so long after it was written. It takes me back, in some ways, because the protagonist and his father are emigrating to Ganymede because population pressures and lack of available food make life pretty miserable. It isn’t quite as extreme as the movie Soylent Green portrays, but definitely is trending in that direction. If someone made Farmer in the Sky into a movie today, they’d be repurposing it to fit current worries over the environment or lowering birth rates in industrialized countries. It is like a time capsule of past worries, via an adventure/emigration tale.

Nick Podehl’s narration is excellent. I’m not sure how he manages to pull off sounding like a teenager without sounding wimpy, but he does. You get everything from awe at the things Bill encounters, panic at extreme danger, or the annoyance of a teenage boy at his father.

I don’t think that Farmer in the Sky is Heinlein’s best work for juveniles. I reserve that praise for my favorite, Citizen of the Galaxy. That said, Farmer in the Sky is a solid book that I can highly recommend.

Posted by Julie D.

Review of Earth Unaware by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston

August 12, 2012 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Earth Unaware by Orson Scott Card and Aaron JohnstonEarth Unaware
By Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston
Read by Stefan Rudnicki, Stephen Hoye, Arthur Morey, Vikas Adam, Emily Janice Card, Gabrielle de Cuir, and Roxanne Hernandez
14 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Published: 2012
Themes: / Science Fiction / Solar System / Asteroids / Mining / Gravity / Aliens / Alien invasion /

One of the pleasures of listening to science fiction audiobooks over the years has been hearing Orson Scott Card’s Ender series. Besides being expertly narrated by an ensemble led by Stefan Rudnicki, these audiobooks are entertaining because Card isn’t delivering the same book over and over. In Earth Unaware, Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston take the series in yet another direction.

I know, I know. It’s been proven time after time. When a book series gets to the point where [Original Author] picks up [Insert new author here (often a relative)], the results are just… not good. I’m happy to report that Earth Unaware is an excellent novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Aaron Johnston and Orson Scott Card created and are telling the story of the First Formic War in the comic format. I haven’t read those, so I can’t say how similar this novel is, but Aaron Johnston says in the Afterword that Earth Unaware draws from the characters and events in those comics.

The subtitle (First Formic War) implies that we’re in for a military SF novel, but that’s not what this is. This novel is a tense near-space adventure set in the not too distant future and peopled with characters I cared about. The opening reveals the thoughts and feelings of teenager on the El Calvador, a mining ship in the Kuiper Belt. Close by, on a different ship, is a man who has invested much time and effort into the invention of a gravity laser. He needs to prove his worth to his corporate employer. And back on Earth, an elite military unit is being formed. These lives, some entwined, move forward as normal until all interests are altered in the face of the arrival of an alien ship in the solar system.

Even though the cover doesn’t say it, this is Book 1 of at least a few. I look forward to the continued development of the concept of difference. On Valentine Wiggin’s Hierarchy of Foreignness is Varelse. True aliens, aliens so alien that we can’t even communicate with them or even hope to understand them. How could war with such a race be avoided? Difference also extends to human beings, who seem so content to drop their conflicts in the face of greater danger. Why is that what it takes?

The audiobook is performed by multiple narrators in the style that fits Orson Scott Card’s stories so incredibly well. The narrators (all excellent) change with the POV of the story. Reading the story were: Stefan Rudnicki, Stephen Hoye, Arthur Morey, Vikas Adam, Emily Janice Card, Gabrielle de Cuir, and Roxanne Hernandez. Top notch!


 

 
Posted by Scott D. Danielson

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 Protector By Larry Niven

May 5, 2004 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

Science Fiction Audiobook - Protector by Larry NivenProtector
By Larry Niven; read by Mark Sherman
5 cassettes – 7.5 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2003
ISBN: 0786123907
Themes: / Science Fiction / Aliens / Interplanetary Travel / Solar-System Civilization / Asteroid Belt / Mars / Evolution / Genetics / Biology / Ballistic Physics /

Phssthpok the Pak had been traveling for most of his thirty-two thousand years. His mission was to save, develop, and protect the group of Pak breeders sent out into space some two and a half million years before. Brennan was a Belter, the product of a fiercely independent, somewhat anarchic society living in, on, and around an outer asteroid belt. The Belters were rebels, one and all, and Brennan was a smuggler. The Belt worlds had been tracking the Pak ship for days, and Brennan figured to meet that ship first. He was never seen again, at least not by those alive at the time.

Humanity has become an interplanetary species; Luna, Mars, Mercury, the Asteroid Belt and the gas giants of Sol are the playground of mankind. But it wasn’t meant to be that way… an alien race from near the galactic core has set its sights on Earth and the cargo it brings will bear some really strange fruit.

Protector is absolutely bursting with awesome SF ideas, and the twists on them, everything from a precursor to Richard Dawkin’s “Selfish Gene Theory”, to realistic spaceship ballistics and sexual politics. Niven himself has been a giant in the SF field since the early 1970s, of the many living authors who still haven’t been bestowed with the honorific “Grand Master,” Niven is the most deserving. Protector was first published in 1973, and is a part of Niven’s ongoing “Known Space” series, one of the foremost continuing visions of the future by an SF author. Like Robert A. Heinlein’s Future History series, the Known Space novels and stories follow the expansion of humans into the galaxy. And Protector is perhaps the best of the Known Space novels, it offers some of the hardest of the Hard SF ever written, something Larry Niven has a particular talent for, and it’s a great story, both unpredictable and fun! But I can’t stress enough just how good this novel is, the plot is unpredictable but relentlessly logical and enthralling at the same time, even better this novel like Richard Matheson’s classic I Am Legend, has a deep psychological and philosophical impact on the reader, and it also has a similar twist ending. It’s simply fantastic!

Reader Mark Sherman appears to have prepared well for what really could have been a very difficult reading. Larry Niven gave the alien names a real alien sound – I had no idea how to pronounce names like “Phssthpok”, but Mark Sherman does a great job in putting voice to it and numerous other unpronounceable words. Blackstone Audiobooks’s production is super smooth, sound quality is terrific, the cassettes come packaged in the awesome library style clamshell case and the original cover art is simply amazing to behold. For those who prefer other formats, Blackstone has also released Protector in two other media types, a 6 CD set or a single MP3-CD. Whatever format you choose you must choose one as this production of Larry Niven’s Protector is nigh unto perfect.

Posted by Jesse Willis