The SFFaudio Podcast #190 – Scott and Jesse talk about the epic poem, Beowulf (and the Tantor Media audiobook edition read by Rosalyn Landor).
Talked about on today’s show:
The Odyssey, mead, Recorded Books Modern Scholar series, Michael D.C. Drout, Norsemen in the Mediterranean, “embarrassingly subservient to their women”, Miklagard, Russia and the Rus, Vikings -> Normans -> Britons -> Crusaders, the fall of Rome, Beowulf: A Dual Language Edition by Howell D. Chickering, Jr., the king of the blanekty blanks, Seamus Heaney translation, popularity of Beowulf, the Icelandic Sagas, Greeks vs. Romans vs. Scandians, more mead halls, fewer philosophical schools, guardsman vs. tutors, action vs. xenia, thanes just wanta band up, “they’re Klingons”, The 13th Warrior, Eaters Of The Dead by Michael Crichton, biker gangs, Hrothgar, Scyld Scefing, Unferth (un + frith = “mar peace”), Herot, the challenging retainer who gives the hero a sword, the swimming contest, Beowulf (the 2007 Roger Avary/Neil Gaiman adaptation), the visual composition, Babylon 5, Wiglaf, “badasses must compete”, Eric S. Rabkin, nine hours underwater, Grendel -> Grendel’s Mom -> The Dragon, the hoards, “a story to tell while you’re drinking mead”, “story is at the primacy”, “she’s got tentacles!”, the spawn of Cain, “Cain’s clan”, Beowulf is a poem about pagans by a Christian, the historicity of Beowulf (literally “bee” + “wolf” = “bear”), The Iliad, The Odyssey, historical King Arthur, J.R.R. Tolkien, what kind of poetry is it? It’s EPIC!, Tantor Media’s version of Beowulf (translated by Francis B. Gummere), the LibriVox version of Beowulf, Brian Murphy, “whale road” vs. “whale path”, Kevin Crossley-Holland, “foundling” vs. “waif”, Caesar -> Kaiser and Czar, The Hobbit is like Beowulf told to children, rapine warriors vs. cute dwarves, The Lord Of The Rings, golden rings and magic swords, breaker of swords, visual parallels Grendel’s arm + socket -> Beowulf’s arm + socket, “movies excel at visual metaphors”, “the thirteen dwarfs is not a good idea”, heavy going, watch the movie first then read the poem, Beowulf’s death, “often when one man follows his own will many are hurt”, “his high destiny”, a Talmud for Beowulf, having it every way, arguing the Bible, the etymology of “Homer”, we’re fans, Brendan Gleeson, Wiglaf’s choice, why Grendel’s got a grudge, monsters as externalizations of horror within, Viking men and their bastard sons, kings need heirs, the sins of the father (and Original Sin), the family of Cain, why did Cain kill Abel, capturing the reasons hidden within the story, Robert Zemeckis, adaptations of Beowulf, why put Beowulf in the future, the Christopher Lambert Beowulf, The Monarch Of The Glen by Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things, Grendel by John Gardner, Eaters Of The Dead |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Herot Series by Larry Niven, Steve Barnes, and Jerry Pournelle, Sons Of Anarchy, Hamlet, overturning the mead benches, named swords, Hrunting
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
Kage Baker, Subterranean Press, Blackstone Audio, In The Garden Of Iden by Kage Baker, Captive Market by Philip K. Dick, Janan Raouf, Time For The Stars by Robert A. Heinlein, Barret Whitener, telepathy, Starman’s Quest by Robert Silverberg, For Us The Living: A Comedy Of Customs by Robert A. Heinlein, Malcolm Hillgartner, Heinlein’s first and last novel, Spider Robinson, Variable Star by Robert A. Heinlein and Spider Robinson, Job: A Comedy Of Justice, Macmillan Audio, Death Cloud: Sherlock Holmes The Legend Begins by Andrew Lane, Dan Wyman, “endorsed by the Conan Doyle estate” = who cares, Poul Anderson on Sherlock Holmes, Laird of Muck, disabled protagonists, The Lighthouse Land by Adrian McKinty, The Lighthouse War, MG (middle grade) vs. YA, Gerard Doyle, Christopher Paolini, The Gods Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, William Dufris, viscous plant men, does Deja Thoris lay eggs?, Dynamite Entertainment‘s Warlord Of Mars, Valentine Pontifex by Robert Silverberg, Majipoor Chronicles, Lord Valentine’s Castle, Stonefather by Orson Scott Card |READ OUR REVIEW|, Emily Janice Card, The Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy, The Lost Gate, The Last Airbender, R.L. Stine, Timescape by, Darkside by Tom Becker |READ OUR REVIEW|, Bolinda Audio, London, Neil Gaiman-esque, The Graveyard Book, Venus by Ben Bova |READ OUR REVIEW|, Fantastic Audio, Jupiter, Nova Science Now, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Europa, Ganymede, A Stainless Steel Rat Is Born, Brilliance Audio, The Elvenbane by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey, dragons, elves, Odalisque by Neal Stephenson, Alan Moore loves allusions, The League Of Extraordinary Gentleman, Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Honor Harrington, Honor Among Enemies by David Weber, manticore, pirates!, what’s up with all the mix-and-match creatures in the Middle East?, On Blazing Wings by L. Ron Hubbard, mercenaries, SFsite.com often reviews the L. Ron Hubbard Stories From The Golden Age, the paperbooks problem, The Unremembered by Peter Orullian, Anne Perry, The Desert Of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones, 8th century, Baghdad, The Desert Of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones, the Fantasy Book Critic blog review, unpronounceable character names, J.R.R. Tolkien, Philip K. Dick was inspired by the Odyssey, Beyond Lies The Wub, Strange Eden, Scott didn’t like Y: The Last Man, Brian K. Vaughan, Gulliver’s Travels, the problem of transitory pop-culture references, The Tyrrany Of Talented Readers, Scalped, Bertrand Russell, Pride Of Baghdad, anthropomorphic fiction, James Tiptree Jr., Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, Masters Of Horror: The Screwfly Solution, Dove Audio, Isaac Asimov, author estates, Escape Pod #100, Nightfall, Tantor Media, Robots Of Dawn, Audible.com has plenty of Arthur C. Clarke, Dream Park by Larry Niven and Steve Barnes, mystery, Science Fiction, On Stranger Tides, Brain Wave, PaperbackSwap, Del Rey art in the ’70s and ’80s was awesome, Scott’s Picasa gallery of book covers, Tom Weiner, Jesse has a terrible memory, our Oath Of Fealty readalong, the Pirates Of The Caribbean films.
Posted by Jesse Willis
By Larry Niven and Steve Barnes; Read by Scott Brick
10 Cassettes or 12 CDs – 13 Hours 54 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Books On Tape, Inc.
ISBN: 0736659374 (cassette), 0736671366 (cd)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Artifical Intelligence / Consciousness Uploading / Cyborgs / Politics / Population Control / Life Extension /
Chaz Koto is a citizen of Xanadu, a near future perfect society hosting the wealthiest men and women on Earth. Along with his fellow citizens, he bears the burden of a dark secret that the outside world would be shocked to hear. Lenore Myles is a student who travels to Xanadu and becomes involved with Koto. When Koto unwittingly lends her his access codes, Lenore stumbles upon the grisly truth behind Xanadu’s glittering facade.
The title is deceptive. The planet Saturn plays no role in the plot and nobody in the book is racing anywhere. This is an earth-bound adventure set in the near future. I figured out what the title meant near the end of the book, but the rest of the novel was relatively predictable. For instance, there is a revelation that happens within the first couple of chapters but it was so broadly telegraphed in the first scene the involved character shows up in that I was bored by the revelation rather than surprised by it. Ultimately Saturn’s Race is one of those novels that just fails to gel. There’s a plot, plenty of interesting ideas and a resolution, but frankly the plot is mediocre, the ideas relatively minor, and the resolution comes through only on the most basic level.
For me, the most memorable concept used in Saturn’s Race is that of “metaphors.” Basically Niven and Barnes illustrate that metaphors, like computer languages or a computer graphic interface, are used as handy tools to leverage work. It’s why poetry can say so much with so few words – the words are densely packed, brimming with meaning. It is also why a little pointer dragging a few color pixels across a screen can unmake or move a file in ways far quciker and easier than by command line interface. In other words computer programs are really elaborate metaphors for the manipulation of data. This is brought to life in the novel when a character runs an artifical intelligence program that simulates Rex Stout’s corpulent detective Nero Wolfe. It’s a neat idea. But ultimately the novel didn’t move me as I had hoped it might. Overall, this is passable faire, but I doubt I’d need to listen to it again anytime soon.
The cover art for Saturn’s Race is almost incomprehensible. Is that a seahorse on there? I can’t tell. The paperback version has a painting of two genetically-modified sharks on the cover. That would have been more apropos. Reading the book is the ubiquitous Scott Brick. Scott does his very best to bring energy to the lackadaisical pace. For the most part it works, since the novel doesn’t bore in the listening, though I’m sure I’d have stopped reading were I experiencing the paper edition. Saturn’s Race is still available to be purchased from the Books On Tape website. But who knows how long that will be for? BOT was forced to dump a good chunk of its older science fiction titles when it got purchased by the aptly titled Random House a couple years ago and this fact has made many of its excellent unabridged titles quite valuable on the secondary market. The same loss may happen again soon to the remaining BOT library. I don’t think out of print copies of Saturn’s Race will be selling for thousands any time soon, but if you think you ever might want a copy acting sooner rather than later may save you some money.
Posted by Jesse Willis