Review of January Dancer by Michael Flynn

March 4, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

The January Dancer by Michael FlynnThe January Dancer
By Michael Flynn; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
1 MP3-CD or 9 CDs – Approx. 10.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2008
ISBN: 9781433250996 (MP3-CD), 9781433250972 (CD)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Space Opera / Aliens / Space Flight /

Captain Amos January, and crew, are forced to look for ship repair materials on an unknown planet. There they discover an alien ship filled with fascinating artifacts, among them a shape-changing sculpture that becomes known as “The Dancer.” We learn of some of The Dancer’s attributes as known in ancient legends and confirmation is received as we watch the story unfold. It is sought by cabals, pirates, governments, and other powers who unleash different characters to acquire The Dancer. Not unexpectedly these characters are scoundrels, idealists, and romantics whose tracks intersect and form their own sort of dance as they maneuver to best one another. This tale is told to us as a story within a story as a Harper hears the tale, a bit at a time, from the Scarred Man. This is an interesting device as not only are we told the story but Flynn uses the framing story to give us his ideas about storytelling as an art.

It is a trend these days, or so it seems to me, for modern science fiction authors to attempt to write “space opera.” As an aficionado of that subgenre who has recently been browsing among the past masters of the art (in large part thanks to Librivox), my view is that the modern take tends to be drawn-out, unfocused, and sprawling by comparison. Sadly, although I also am an aficionado of Michael Flynn’s work, I believe he has fallen prey to the desire to expand the story past the demands of the genre. The original writers wrote snappy, bold, romantic adventures that did not worry overmuch about expostulation and got to the point. Flynn, on the other hand, gives a bewildering combination of too much philosophical conversation and not enough details about the characters’ lives. There is a plethora of characters as well, almost too many to track, and this often leaves the listener bewildered as to just who has suddenly popped up unexpectedly in a scene. As well, in the last couple of chapters the tone shifts unexpectedly, as if Flynn suddenly was told he had to finish up, and thus the novel swung into abrupt action and snapped out a strangely sparse finale. The revelations were not illogical or even unsatisfying. However, after dragging on and on in the middle of the book it was quite disconcerting to suddenly be flung headlong into the finish in the style of “a shot rang out and everyone fell dead.”

Stefan Rudnicki narrates with his usual expertise, adroitly affecting slight voice changes that communicate character when voicing dialogue. One wishes that the editors had added a slight aural indicator when there were scene changes. In a book of many characters who are flung from one exotic location to another at a second’s notice, it is very difficult to tell when there is a scene change immediately with nothing other than a slight pause between sections. I must also note, that my above complains about Flynn’s book overall may have been due to the fact that a complex book is necessarily more difficult to grasp when listening rather than reading as it was written. In this instance, the editors would have done well to help the listener all they could.

If you are a Michael Flynn fan, this book will not be a complete waste. I did enjoy it initially, but I simply wished it had been truly the space opera that it purported to be.

Note: should readers think that there are no modern writers capable of space opera that is worthy of comparison with those of older times, I refer you to the “Agent of Change” series by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (Agent of Change, Conflict of Honors, Carpe Diem, Plan B, and I Dare) and Space Vulture by Gary K. Wolf and John J. Myers. None of these are in audiobook format that I know of but are well worth seeking out.

Posted by Julie D.

Season Four of Robotz of the Company Coming Soon!

October 6, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
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Online Audio

Fall is the time of year for season premieres, and Dream Realm is no exception in that department. Their flagship series Robotz of the Company is about to begin its 4th season of zanyness!

It will kick off at the end of October with their Halloween special Night of the Living Gunk– and you don’t want to miss it!

They also have two promos for ya- so you podcasters and radio folk download these links and spread the bot-word on your shows!

Promo 1:
http://media.libsyn.com/media/audioaddict/ROTCS4Promo.mp3

Promo2:
http://media.libsyn.com/media/audioaddict/ROTCS4Promo02.mp3

Each season keeps getting better and better- so if you’ve never heard the botz before, click the link, take a listen and catch up! You’ll be glad you did. :-)

Review of Voyagers by Ben Bova

August 31, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

 SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Voyagers by Ben BovaVoyagers
By Ben Bova; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
12 CDs -13 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Sample: Click here
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2006
ISBN: 0786167424
Themes: / Science Fiction / Alien Contact / Space Program / Politics / Religion /

Voyagers is a superior first contact novel. It was originally published in 1981, but it holds up extremely well, especially since our space program has not changed all that much in the past 26 years. But the novel’s setting is the now that was then, which means the United States and USSR are the two superpowers and the only two countries with space programs.

The book starts off in a similar way to Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama. An alien craft has been detected, and it’s in the solar system. Those in the know have no clue what the ship wants – are the aliens hostile or friendly? What does this mean for humanity?

From there the story takes a tack similar to another Clarke novel – 2010: Odyssey Two, but Clarke’s book was published a year after Bova’s. The United States and the USSR decide to cooperate rather than fight. The underlings (i.e. the folks doing the actual work) are ready and willing to do so, but the politicians spend their time pulling the other way. Other internal arguments include everything from “when should we tell the public” to “who gets to go”.

Throughout the novel, Bova takes the time to look around at the world’s reaction as they are informed. Rumors fly and some factions of humanity take action based on those rumors. In short, Bova gives us a fascinating and plausible account of the world’s reaction to first contact. Widespread panic? Don’t think so.

All of this builds up to a truly powerful conclusion. The final two CDs of this audiobook contain the most affecting first contact narrative I’ve ever heard or read. I couldn’t help but to play them both again immediately upon finishing, and I’ve resolved myself to keeping them on my iPod indefinitely so that I’m sure to have them with me next time I find myself in a quiet moment under a starry sky.

Stefan Rudnicki continues to impress with this narration, in which he performs many different voices with many different accents, all effective. Though Bova’s story is Clarke-like, there is much more to work with in the character department than in Clarke’s stories, and this allows Rudnicki the opportunity to shine. Also effective in the audiobook are the chapter breaks, each of which is read by a different narrator and each of which contain thought-provoking stuff, from quotes of real-life scientists to news stories that are part of the fiction. I greatly appreciate this kind of thing in an audiobook because it provides a true break as effective as a new chapter in text. All too often, audiobooks don’t create this break for the listener, resulting in a few moments of disorientation as the listener mentally moves to a new setting and/or POV. No such problem here – the prominent breaks are much appreciated.

New FREE AUDIOBOOK: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Colors Of Space

August 1, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
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A new LibriVox title has piqued our interest. It’s Marion Zimmer Bradley’s 1963 novel The Colors Of Space. Sadly, this is not the ideal audio version of it as it has multiple readers – who seem to have randomly chosen their chapters. I think the ethos of LibriVox is absolutely wonderful, but the output, especially in cases like this seems more geared towards project completion and narrator convenience rather than listener preference. That said, the audiobook is 100% free and very easily downloadable either by a Zipped Folder full of MP3s, singly in individual file of MP3 or OGG Vorbis formats and by the podcast feed (including a one click iTunes subscription).

LibriVox audiobook - The Colors Of Space by Marion Zimmer BradleyThe Colors Of Space
By Marion Zimmer Bradley; Read by various readers
15 zipped MP3 Files or podcast – 5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: July 29th 2007
Bart Steele, a Space Academy graduate, has the potential to gain the secret of an alien “warp drive”, a super-fast technology for interstellar travel. He’ll have to get some surgery, and spy upon an alien race to do it but he’s . lucky because by a bit of genetic quirk Bart can see a wider optical range than ordinary humans. Still, countless human spies have already failed to gain the secret.

You can get the entire novel in podcast form, via this handy url:

http://librivox.org/bookfeeds/the-colors-of-space-by-marion-zimmer-bradley.xml

Decoder Ring Theatre reaches farther with Deck Gibson

July 14, 2007 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

SFFaudio Online Audio

Decoder Ring TheatreDecoder Ring Theatre SUMMER SHOWCASE continues with an all new two episode series about a manly space adventurer named Deck Gibson. I got an advance listen of this show, and it lives up to the stupendous quality Decoder Ring is becoming so well known for. The series is called:

“Deck Gibson – Far Reach Commander”

Both shows are written by Matt Wallace, the Parsec Award-winning writer and creator of The Failed Cities Monologues which first podcast through Variant Frequencies. The cast is, as always, made up of the talented actors and actresses from the Decoder Ring Theatre stable.

Deck Gibson Far Reach Commander

The first show is available now…

“Deck Gibson And The Star Dust Dancers” |MP3|

And in two week’s you’ll be able to hear the second adventure “Deck Gibson And The Last Squadron Fighter”!

Subscribe to the podcast feed to insure prompt delivery:

http://decoderring.libsyn.com/rss

BBC7 celebrates Robert A. Heinlein Centenary with audio fiction

July 10, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
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Online Audio

BBC 7's The 7th DimensionIn honour of the 100th anniversary of Robert A. Heinlein’s birth, BBC7’s The Seventh Dimension is airing a special series of Heinlein stories. The first of which aired this last Saturday. First up was The Green Hills Of Earth, a Heinlein story he partially credited to a line from C. L. Moore and her story Shambleau (which also aired this year on BBC7). The Green Hills Of Earth is also one story with a distinction few others could possibly equal, it was quoted to listeners on the Moon – namely the crew of Apollo 15! Next Saturday the Heinlein Centenary celebration continues with Ordeal In Space. And, all this week, BBC7 is airing Methuselah’s Children. You can have a listen to The Green Hills Of Earth now, and for the next few days, via the Listen Again service. Same goes for the first episode of Methuselah’s Children. More details below..

The Cool Green Hills Of Earth by Robert A. HeinleinThe Green Hills Of Earth
By Robert A. Heinlein; Read by Adam Sims
1 Broadcast – Approx. 30 Minutes [UNABRIDGED?]
BROADCASTER: BBC7’s The 7th Dimension
BROADCAST: Saturday July 7th 2007
This is the poignant story of Rhysling, the blind space-going songwriter whose poetic skills rival Rudyard Kipling’s. This yarn is about a radiation-blinded spaceship engineer crisscrossing the solar system writing and singing some of the best lyrics in science fiction. In a fine display of writing skill, the spaceship and crew feel as real to the reader as a contemporary tramp steamer.

Science Fiction Methuselah's Children by Robert A. HeinleinMethuselah’s Children
By Robert A. Heinlein; Read by Paul Birchard
6 Parts, Six 30-Minute Broadcasts – Approx. 3 Hours [ABRIDGED]
BROADCASTER: BBC7’s The 7th Dimension
BROADCAST: Weekdays July 2007 to July 16th 2007
Robert A Heinlein’s sci-fi novel about a group of families who can live for several hundred years.

Jesse Willis

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