Themes: / parallel universe / urban fantasy / superheroes / detectives / noir / airships /
The Fissure connecting the alternate New York to its counterpart has vanished, plunging the city into a deep freeze. The people are demanding a return to Prohibition and rationing as energy supplies dwindle. Meanwhile, in the real 1954 New York, the political dynamic has changed. Nimrod finds his department subsumed by a radical new group, Atoms For Peace, led by the mysterious Evelyn McHale. Their goal is simple: total conquest – or destruction – of the Empire State. Adam Christopher returns with the thermonuclear sequel to Empire State – the superhero-noir fantasy thriller set in the other New York.
The Age Atomic continues where Empire State left off. Some time has passed since the events of Empire State but the fissure has disappeared from the Empire State. Since the fissure in Battery Park is the source of sustenance to The Empire State, the climate begins to edge toward an ice age as time goes on. While this is happening, Rad Bradley uncovers a plot involving robots. On the other side of the fissure in New York City, a mysterious blue woman made purely of energy (I’m looking at you Watchmen) heads up a secret organization that seems to be researching Empire State technology for no good.
It would be hard to comment on this book without comparing it to Empire State. The Age Atomic is a little lighter on the detective noir and heavier on the robots, airships, and odd superheroes. I found the story much easier to follow than it’s predecessor because the plot was a bit more direct and the character’s loyalties weren’t in such a state of flux. I enjoyed the book more because of these differences – especially the more straight forward plot.
In the end, the book was a fun listen, the characters were enjoyable, and I had some serious flashbacks of Watchmen (down to the blue energy character). I especially like Captain Carson/Nimrod as the old-timey adventurer and would love to see a book involving his adventures. I would recommend this book to people who like comic books, robots, super heroes, and detective stories…or at least a decent subset of that group.
As for the audiobook performance, Phil Gigante did a great job as usual. He was easy to understand and did some good voices for the different characters. I also found this book much easier to audiobook than it’s predecessor because of the straightforward plot. I didn’t feel the need to back up as if I missed anything this time around.
Posted by Tom Schreck
Themes: / parallel universe / urban fantasy / superheroes / detectives / noir /
The empire state is another New York,. It’s a parallel-universe, Prohibition-era world of mooks and shamuses that is the twisted magic mirror to our bustling Big Apple. It’s a city where sinister characters lurk around every corner while the great superheroes who once kept the streets safe have fallen into deadly rivalries and feuds. Not that its colourful residents know anything about the real New York… until detective Rad Bradley makes a discovery that will change the lives of all its inhabitants. Playing on the classic Gotham conventions of the Batman comics and HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, debut author Adam Christopher has spun a smart and fast-paced superhero-noir adventure that will excite genre fans and general readers alike.
Empire State is a novel that sounds really great in concept but comes off a bit confusing in execution. This novel has it all – superheroes, detective noir, gangsters, prohibition, robots, alternate dimensions, you name it. If any or all of that sounds cool to you, this may be a book for you.
The story generally takes the form of a detective noir once you get into it except that the story’s perspective does not only stick with the detective all the time. As with detective noir stories, you don’t know who is on which side all the time and things are slowly revealed as the story unfolds. Unfortunately, the story became confusing as things developed and the loyalties and motivations of characters seemed constantly in flux. The characters didn’t have a whole lot of depth past being exactly what you’d expect from their role in the story (detective, gangster, old-timey adventurer, reporter, etc). Despite the confusion, I really liked the ideas and world that Christopher created in this novel. The world of the Empire State is a dark, foggy equivalent of New York that had me picturing scenes from Dick Tracy. I’m looking forward to seeing what else Christopher does in this world.
Phil Gigante did a great job narrating Empire State. Voices for different characters were distinct and gave a great vocal aspect to the nature of the character being done. That said, I don’t know if I would actually recommend this as an audio book. There were quite a few times I wanted to rewind a bit because I had no idea what just happened (I actually did rewind a few times which is rare for me). I think the ability to easily look back a page or two in a book would probably have helped with the confusion.
Posted by Tom Schreck
Themes: / mad scientists / science / superheroes / villains /
Mad scientists have never had it so tough. In super-hero comics, graphic novels, films, TV series, video games, and even works of what may be fiction, they are besieged by those who stand against them, devoid of sympathy for their irrational, megalomaniacal impulses to rule, destroy, or otherwise dominate the world as we know it. Dr. Frankenstein was the first truly mad scientist of the modern era. And what did it get him? Destroyed by his own creation. And Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo, a man ahead of his time as well as out of his head — what did he do to deserve persecution? Even Lex Luthor, by all accounts a genius, has been hindered not once, not twice, but so many times that it has taken hundreds of comic books, a few films, and no fewer than ten full seasons of a television series to keep him properly thwarted. It’s just not fair. So those of us who are so twisted and sick that we love mad scientists have created this guide. Some of the names have been changed to protect the guilty, but you’ll recognize them. It doesn’t matter, though. This guide is not for you. It’s for them: the underhanded, over-brained paranoiacs who so desperately need our help. What lies behind those unfocused, restless eyes and drooling, wicked grins? Why — and how — do they concoct their nefarious plots? Why are they so set on taking over the world? If you’ve ever asked yourself any of these questions, you’re in luck, because we are exposing their secrets, aiding and abetting their evil. It all awaits, within. Watch out, world!
I really enjoyed the first half of the stories in the collection but thought things got less interesting/slower in the second half. It may have been that some stories shared some similarities and the repetition got tiresome, but I don’t think so. I think it was actually that the second half of the stories had more of a serious tone to them that just didn’t go as well with me as the more humorous first half.
I really liked Chris Claremont’s introduction to the book. I thought it brought some interesting insights into why the bad guy is so important for the hero. I thought John Joseph Adams’ introductions to each story were helpful although a bit confusing in the audiobook format (it took a few stories before I understood what the heck was going on with the scientific categorization). I thought they helped me get into the story faster since I kind of knew what to expect and I do think I enjoyed the short stories more as a result. Some would say they spoil the stories but I didn’t think they revealed any more than the back of a novel would about its story.
There are 22 stories in this collection. Many are humorous and have interesting spins on the common tropes you’d expect from mad scientist or superhero stories. I generally liked all the stories but I’d say my favorites were Professor Incognito Apologizes, The Angel of Death Has a Business Plan, Captain Justice Saves the Day, and Rocks Fall.
I didn’t overly dislike any stories except for The Space Between by Diana Gabaldon. The story is by far the longest and I had trouble following the different character’s stories and understanding the point of the story. It appears that story is from a series by her so it may be that I didn’t like it because I haven’t read her other works.
I thought all three readers did a fantastic job with their voice acting in this collection. I would definitely listen to books performed by these readers again. I particularly liked Mary Robinette Kowal’s performances. She does a great job doing voices of people trying to be patient with the mad scientists – whether it be their therapist, assistant, or fellow evil genius.
Various sites have posted some of the stories online to read for free, compiled on the editor’s site, and those would be a good litmus test if this is the book for you. Professor Incognito Apologizes: an Itemized List by Austin Grossman is a great example of the more humorous offerings and The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss is a good example of the more serious stories.
Posted by Tom Schreck
The SFFaudio Podcast #202 –The Shadow Kingdom by Robert E. Howard, narrated by Todd McLaren (from Tantor Media’s Kull: Exile Of Atlantis). This is a complete and unabridged reading of the novelette (1 hour 25 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Tamahome, Jim Moon.
Talked about on today’s show:
Hypnogoria and Hypnobobs, King Kull, Kaa Nama Ka Lajerma, the magic phrase, snake men, shibboleth, the Book Of Judges, the letter after “G” in the alphabet, Z, Jay-Zed, Isaac Asimov’s test unionized, a gloomier and more brooding hero, a more philosophical CONAN, a more fantastical Howard story, wolf-men, a talking cat, animal people, Picts, Atlanteans, the Thurian Age, Mu, Lemuria, Atlantis, the final cataclysm, H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Plato, Man from Atlantis, sea-barbarians, Brule the Spear-Slayer, “What, you would have me come alone?”, the Tower of Splendor, kingdom vs. empire, the Empire of The Seven Kingdoms, “squatting and living in the remnants of an older civilization”, secret passages and secret chambers, it’s like a mall, “I am Kull!”, in light of later events, King Kull’s identity crisis, I’m King, stop trying to depose me, Mel Brooks, Jared Diamond’s The World Until Yesterday, barbarians vs. traditional societies, constant talking, “a more purple depth of language”, the Shakespearean soliloquy, manly men, Hulk will smash, Weird Tales, By This Axe I Rule, King Conan vs. regular CONAN, Kull as a practice run for CONAN, Exile Of Atlantis, a sort of Science Fiction idea, Philip K. Dick, Robert Sheckley, The Thing (aka Who Goes There?), Eight O’clock In The Morning by Ray Nelson, They Live, waking to the full reality of the world, “the owners of the Earth”, a human mask over an alien face, “are you a snake man?”, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney, alien replicants, The Hanging Stranger by Philip K. Dick, identity, Howard isn’t only a purple prose action man, Kull’s philosophical bent, the speaking of the hooves, ruling an alien land, deep time, geologic time, reptoid conspiracy phenomenon, Congress as aliens, V, David Icke, Howard as a message man, there’s something metaphorical happening, a paranoia of trust, the old regime vs. the new regime, a Yes, Minister situation, new broom vs. old guard, a superhero story, the nameless serpent god, Set, Yig, Worms Of The Earth by Robert E. Howard, Thulsa Doom, Conan The Barbarian (1982), the Kull movie (Kull the Conqueror) with Kevin Sorbo, there’s no Brule, big hair and heavy metal guitar, a good farce, Valka’s face, it’s not god-awful.
Posted by Jesse Willis
I do not hide my love for the Red Panda.
But, SPOILER ALERT, I’m actually in love with the Flying Squirrel.
Both of my loves show up in the three Red Panda novels that are now available on Audible.com.
Written by a certified genius, Gregg Taylor, and read by a certifiable genius, Gregg Taylor, these are the long-form superhero adventures that we’ve been waiting for. They are:
Posted by Jesse Willis
Written and directed by Dirk Maggs
Cast: William Hootkins, Lorelei King, Vincent Marzello, Garrick Hagon, Kerry Shale, Eric Myers, Denica Fairman, Liz Ross, Stuart Milligan, Bert Kwouk, Leon Herbert
Publisher: Time Warner AudioBooks
Released: 1994 BBC Enterprises Ltd/2005 Time Warner AudioBooks
Synopsis: Daily Planet loves birds Clark Kent and Lois Lane finally get engaged. Lex Luthor dies in a plane crash, and Metropolis is thriving with prosperity and happiness under the infinite protection of Superman.
Or so it seems…
Follow the story of Lex Luthor’s true fate, and the fate of the new woman in his life…Supergirl. Listen to the heart-pounding fight to the death between Superman and a monster called Doomsday. Discover the truth about four new mysterious Superman.
And take a journey into the heart, minds, and unpredictable future of the Man of SteelTM everybody can count on…
…until one day, when he’s gone.
As with Star Wars, this is another of my “gold standard” shows against which other audio dramas are weighed. I mentioned it before in the standards post.
Helmed by the incomparable Dirk Maggs, Superman Lives! (known across The Pond as Superman: Doomsday and Beyond) features a stellar cast who give stunning life to some of the classic characters in the DC pantheon.
This is what Kingdom Come should’ve aspired to be.
From the opening funeral procession to the stirring fight to save Coast City at the end, we are treating to a veritible feast for the ears. Within just a few seconds of beginning, you know instantly that you’re in the hands of a master audio drama craftsman. When I first heard this back in the mid-90s, I was hooked right from the start.
I guarantee you will be, too.
The cast is simply fabulous and the acting is top-notch. As Clark Kent and Superman, Stuart Milligan initially evokes Christopher Reeve’s portrayal of the character (slightly bumbling Everyman Kent vs. commanding and authoritative Supes) through vocal quality then immediately makes it his own. Lorelei King gives Lois Lane a kind of quiet strength–part Margot Kidder from the original film, part Katherine Hepburn from The African Queen. William Hootkins as Lex Luthor is simply delicious in the role. I got an Alan Rickman-Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves vibe from his performance.
Superman’s titanic fight with Doomsday is the highlight of this production. In my view, at least. Music, sound design, and acting all come together in a breathtaking sequence that still, even after multiple listenings, make me wince, cringe, shudder, and leave me with a lump in my throat. I have to applaud Stuart and Lorelei for their performances in this section.
Overall, fantastic. Simply fantastic.
If you don’t own this yet, I highly suggest you get it now from Amazon or Audible.
Posted by Abner Senires