Review of Starship: Mercenary by Mike Resnick

December 24, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Audible Frontiers - Starship: Mercenary, Book 3 by Mike ResickStarship: Mercenary, Book 3
By Mike Resnick; Read by Jonathan Davis
Audible Download – 8 Hours 37 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible Frontiers
Published: April 2008
Themes: / Science Fiction / Space Opera / Galactic Civilization / Aliens / Crime / Military SF / Space Station /

Seeking to find a new life, Wilson Cole first remade the Teddy R. as a pirate ship plying the spaceways of the lawless Inner Frontier. But military discipline and honor were a poor match for a life of pillaging and plundering, and Cole’s principles naturally limited his targets. Seeking a better way of life, the Teddy R. becomes a mercenary ship, hiring out to the highest bidder. Whether it’s evacuating a hospital before war can reach it, freeing a client from an alien prison, or stopping a criminal cartel from extorting money from a terrified planet, the crew of the Teddy R. proves equal to the task. Along the way they form a partnership with the once human Platinum Duke, team up with a former enemy, and make the unique Singapore Station their headquarters. But the life of a mercenary is not always predictable, and eventually circumstance pits Cole and the Teddy R. against his right-hand woman, the former Pirate Queen known as the Valkyrie. Soon the fragile trust that has grown between these two legends is put to the test as they find themselves on opposite sides of a job.

I’m gobbling up this terrific series like a yummy gummy candy. I can’t recommend it highly enough for space opera fans looking for a less restrictive and less incestuous version of the venerable Star Wars universe. Resnick uses all the tropes of space opera without creating any real new ones. This makes this a series without a lot of deep thoughts. But, that doesn’t mean its a series without value. The characters and scenarios are as compelling as hell, and with each book in the series Resnick has added at least one fascinating new crew member to join the vagabond gang of mutineers. Val (Valkyrie), a brash pirate whose mighty physical prowess is only matched by her joined the show in book two, as did David Copperfield, an alien who insists he’s the Dickens character (and that Captain Wilson Cole is his schoolboy chum “Steerforth”). In book three, this book, the two and a half characters from the first book: chief of security Sharon Blacksmith, alien engineer “Slick” (and his symbiotic “gorib” skin) get short shrift in order to make room for the added notable book 3 characters: a canny cyborg space station owner named the “Platinum Duke,” and an honorable enemy alien starship captain, once Wilson’s greatest enemies.

The prior to books in this series should probably be read first (and they are also available via Audible Frontiers). They set up the story line of the wandering Navy hero who got himself exiled. Now, as mutineers with a bounty on all their heads, and with their stolen powerful (but elderly) naval warship they try to make a living however they can (without actually breaking their captain’s moral code). Piracy and mercenary work with a moral code? Hard to do, but Cole and company pull it off – at least most of the time.

Like the first two books in this Audible exclusive audiobook series, Starship: Mercenary begins with an informative introduction by Resnick himself (this continues with the recently released Book 4). Narrator Jonathan Davis has narrated more than 30 Star Wars audiobooks. This is just his third book in this series, but he has given each of the dozen or so characters their own unique voices, keeping track of how he did the old ones and adding a few more distinctive new ones for this terrific adventure. As with the previous novels, much of the story is told through the words of the characters. Resnick makes every word count, and Davis does the same. There’s not one word of filler from either artist. The plot and descriptions are almost completely delivered via dialogue – one doesn’t even notice that the visual descriptions of nearly everything is virtually absent – it just doesn’t seem to matter when you’re making those images appear in your mind.

Posted by Jesse Willis

StanisÅ‚aw Lem’s Solaris to air on BBC Radio 4

July 24, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

Online Audio

Online AudioBoth our regular U.K. contributor Roy, and a friend of SFFaudio, Paul Jenkins (of The Rev Up Review Podcast and The Plitone Revisionist podiobook) have written in to say that the latest issue of the Radio Times gives some brief details on an exciting new BBC Radio 4 “Classic Serial” that is set to be aired as two one-hour episodes beginning on Sunday July 29th…

Solaris
By Stanisław Lem; Performed by a full cast
2 One Hour Broadcasts – 2 Hours [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: BBC Radio 4 / Classic Serial
Broadcast: Sunday Jul 29th 2007 @ 3 pm (UK Time)
The radio debut of ‘s science-fiction classic. A psychologist is sent to a run-down space station to find out what has happened to its crew. When his long-dead wife turns up, he finds himself in deep trouble.

Cast:
Kris – Ron Cook
Rheya – Joanne Froggat
Snow – Tim McMullan
Sartorius – Stuart Richman
Woman – Maxine Burth
Crew:
Producer by Polly Thomas
Adpted by Hattie Naylor
Repeated on Saturday at 9 pm

No other details available yet, but the Classic Serial website is here:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/arts/classic_serial.shtml

Both episodes should be available via the ‘listen again‘ service after broadcast.

Thanks Paul and Roy! At only two hours it looks like they aren’t going with the Tarkovsky script for this one eh?

Review of Ender’s Game: Special 20th Anniversary Edition by Orson Scott Card

September 28, 2005 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Ender's Game by Orson Scott CardEnder’s Game: Special 20th Anniversary Edition
By Orson Scott Card; Read by Stefan Rudnicki, Harlan Ellison, Gabrielle de Cuir, David Birney and a FULL CAST
9 CDs – 10.5 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Renaissance
Published: 2004
ISBN: 1593974744
Themes: / Science Fiction / War / Children / Military / Politics / Spaceships / Space Station / Aliens /

Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin isn’t just playing games at Battle School; he and the other children are being tested and trained in Earth’s attempt to find the military genius that the planet needs in its all-out war with an alien enemy. Ender Wiggin is six years old when his training begins. He will grow up fast. Ender’s two older siblings, Peter and Valentine, are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world–if the world survives.

Many male children covet uniforms and the manly art of war – and on the surface that is what Ender’s Game appears to be about, a wish-fulfillment novel for the pre-teen set. But it isn’t only that. Science Fiction is an accumulative literature, perhaps more so than any other kind. Good creations stick in SF and accumulate and grow. Robots once invented, need not be reinvented. Faster than light travel, time travel or Asimov’s “three laws” are tools which once created need not be ignored as outside the scope of another SF novel, quite the contrary in fact. Simply ask yourself; in what other literature could a constructed story device like an “ansible” (invented by Ursula K. Le Guin in 1966 but used in Ender’s Game) be mentioned without renaming it? But it is not just the story props that SF shares, the concepts and themes of science fiction can never be fully appreciated in isolation. Every science fiction story is in dialogue with another.

Ender’s Game is especially engaged with two other superlative science fiction novels that preceded it, namely Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, and like those two masterpieces of science fiction Ender’s Game has something new and unique to say. Whereas Starship Troopers can be viewed as the relationship between a teenager’s individualism and his relationship to society (a neo-Hobbesian social contract concept typical of mid-career Heinlien), and The Forever War as a discussion of that same relationship but with a college aged young man and his more skeptical worldview (the post Vietnam influence) Ender’s Game engages neither an adult’s nor a teen’s relationship to his society its war. Instead Ender’s Game is that relationship from a child’s perspective. It is also, paradoxically, not a grunt’s view of a war, as was the case with both Heinlein’s and Haldeman’s novels, but rather is about how the supreme commander of an interstellar war is created.

Orson Scott Card has not ignored the disconnect between a child’s desire to play at war and the brutal cost of killing, and the burden of ultimate responsibility. We primarily follow Ender and his classmates as they train to command Earth’s military in a genocidal war against a hostile alien threat, but the parallel story of his two siblings back on Earth compels equally. Each character in this novel is in a chess match of emotional and philosophical conflict with one another and their society. There are a few better hard science fiction stories, and a few better soft science fiction stories, but there are fewer science fiction stories as well constructed and emotionally satisfying as this one.

The 20th anniversary of the novel’s re-publication brought about this audiobook. It is regrettable that the cover art of this edition is as generic as it is because the folks at Audio Renaissance have quite literally have brought greatness to the text. They’ve included an introduction and a postscript read by Card himself, both of which place the novel and the audiobook in its context as well as enlightening us to the author’s method of its construction. Multiple readers lead by Stefan Rudnicki work perfectly to vocally illustrate each chapter, character and scene. Stefan Rudnicki, Harlan Ellison, Gabrielle De Cuir, David Birney and the rest of the readers have given us an audiobook perfectly rendered. In what is the pattern for the Enderverse novels adapted for Audio Renaissance readers trade off at the ends of chapters, and when two unplaced voices are unattributed – except by what they actually say – two actors engage in conversation. Multi voiced readings have never been better.

And so it is with great pleasure that we enter this Special 20th Anniversary edition of Ender’s Game as the first into the ranks of the SFFaudio Essential audiobooks.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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