The SFFaudio Podcast #337 – READALONG: The Lord Of The Rings (Book 5 of 6) by J.R.R. Tolkien

October 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

TheSFFaudioPodcast600The SFFaudio Podcast #337 – Jesse, Julie Davis, Seth, and Maissa talk about The Lord of the Rings Book V (“The War Of The Ring”) by J.R.R. Tolkien (aka the first half of The Return Of The King).

Talked about on today’s show:
Published 60 years ago; research is Jesse’s “security blanket”; The Black Stone by Robert E. Howard; stone of Erech has parallels to the Kaaba in Mecca; Moses’s ill-fated water-rock in Old Testament; the Stone of Scone; palantíri; War? What is it good for? We aren’t fans of all the battles; Éomer’s poetic “all is lost” moment; The Last Samurai and heroic fatalism; World War I; Faramir’s dislike of war; the movies’ over-reliance on spectacle; the power of words; the Lord of the Nazgûl; Éowyn’s badassery; Houses of Lamentation vs. Houses of Healing; the strength of the weakest; parallels between Merry and Pippin; the flaws of film versions of Éowyn–and Faramir; great deeds vs. duty; Éowyn as Old Norse valkyrie archetype; the twisting of the Nazgûl; debating the corporeality of Sauron; Sauron and Denethor use others for their dirty work; Ghân-buri-Ghân and other marginalized figures; woodwoses; no authorized Lord of the Rings fan fiction; Jesse wants public domain story following Gimil and Legolas on postwar adventures; Fifty Shades of Grey as Twilight fanfiction; Tolkien’s scholarly inside jokes; we don’t know our Greek numbers; on foils, parallels, and the integrity of Tolkien’s work; Théoden and Denethor; Gandalf’s healing power, “see the light”; Denethor’s false wisdom; Denethor passages have quality of a Greek tragedy; modern society, like Denethor, can’t see the whole picture; film portrayal of Gandalf whacking Denethor is not canon; Christ parallels and the resurrection of hope; the layering of symbolism; barrow wights and Théoden’s barrow; Korean harvest festival Chuseok; the aggression of the Tolkien estate; the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings animated movies of yore; “the hands of the king are the hands of a healer”; athelas (kings foil) to the rescue!; the king’s power to call the wounded back from the dead; the title of lore master; the last big distraction and self-sacrifice at the Black Gate; on the division of Lord of the Rings into books and volumes; on the pleasures of slow reading; more discourse on Denethor; Pippin and Merry are interchangeable (!?); even Sauron is just one evil power, parallels cyclical historical events in our world (cf. resurgence of Russia under Putin); no spoilers for Maissa!; the Mouth of Sauron’s terms, and what if Gandalf had surrendered?; Hitler, appeasement, and Alexander the Great; envisioning flamethrower guitarist from Mad Max: Fury Road at the Battle of the Black Gate;

Draggy The Dragon with THE RETURN OF THE KING by J.R.R. Tolkien

Eowyn And The Lord Of The Nazgul - illustration by Jim Reid

Ballantine Books - The Return Of The King by J.R.R. Tolkien

Methuen - The Return Of The King by J.R.R. Tolkien

UNICORN - The Return Of The King by J.R.R. Tolkien

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Shield-Maiden by Michael Tinker Pearce and Linda Pearce

February 13, 2015 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Shield-MaidenThe Shield-Maiden (The Foreworld Saga: A Foreworld SideQuest #4)
By Michael Tinker Pearce and Linda Pearce; Narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 4 January 2013

Themes: / Mongoliad / Vikings / fantasy / warriors /

Publisher summary:

Sigrid is a Shield-Maiden who yearns to break free of the restrictions of her father’s home and join the Sworn Men in an actual raiding expedition. When a small diplomatic party that includes members of the Shield-Brethren lands at her family’s holding on Göttland, the party’s second in command, Halldor, sees in Sigrid a vision of beauty and power that might challenge – and even destroy – many men.

And when bloody chaos ensues at a nearby Viking fishing village, Sigrid proves she has more than mere talent: she has Vor – the fate sight – an astonishing focus in fighting that sets her apart from nearly all who have ever lived and puts her in the rare company of the finest Shield-Brethren.

But as Sigrid and her family confront her otherworldly ability, will it prove to be a gift to be celebrated, or an affliction to be cured?

Review:

Note: This book is available individually (as I listened to it) or as a part of the book SideQuest Adventures No. 1, which includes The Lion in Chains, The Beast of Calatrava: A Foreworld Sidequest, and this story.

As with The Lion in Chains and The Beast of Calatrava: A Foreworld Sidequest, this story is a “sidequest” in the Foreworld Saga, basically a side story to the main-line books intended to give readers more information on certain characters. As with The Beast of Calatrava: A Foreworld Sidequest, this story seemed to be farther removed from the main crusades in The Mongoliad world, taking place in the north sort of near where the Shield Brethren have their main training facility, though one of the characters, Halldor, may have been a minor character in the main series (his name was familiar, at least).

This short story explores the mysterious “Vor,” the somewhat mystical “force” that overtakes many of the Shield Brethren when they fight. In this story, we see that this force, which is often mentioned in reference to the visions that some of them have (notably, Percival), can also afflict female warriors, and that it is also attributed to feats of amazing bravery and strength, that it is what enables the Shield Brethren to be victorious even against crazy odds. The main character in this story is a young woman, Sigrid, the daughter of the land owner where the story occurs. She has trained as a Shield Maiden, though still lives on her father’s lands, hasn’t been allowed (by her father) to join any of the local skirmishes, even though she’s taken a vow to be a Shield Maiden. Things change, however, when her people find themselves under attack by some Danes, where Sigrid’s ability in battle helps win the day–plays a key role in the victory, in fact. Suddenly, her family, her people, and Sigrid herself, must come to terms with what she is and what she can do. This story was refreshing in that it was primarily about a female warrior, though some of the reactions from the other characters were all too familiar.

Narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal, it was fitting to have a female voice narrate the story of the female warrior. Kowal’s narration was quite good, far superior to the narrator in Siege Perilous (the only other Mongoliad-world story I’ve listened to not narrated by Luke Daniels). That said, sometimes the pronunciation was odd, for places or things mentioned in this book and in others. For example, the island where the Shield Brethren do their initiation was pronounced by Kowal as “Tear’s Hammer” where Daniels pronounced it “Tear-shamar). This sometimes made it confusing to keep the entire world in my head as I listened, but did not detract from the overall story.

All in all, it was a nice diversion for a Saturday afternoon. Read more

BBCR4 + RA.cc: The Viking Way

March 20, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

BBC Radio 4RadioArchives.ccFirst broadcast on BBC Radio 4, in November 2005, The Viking Way is David Aaronovitch‘s three part presentation exploring the world of the Vikings. The documentary is now available via RadioArchive.cc, the great public radio torrent site, HERE.

Part 1 – Ruling The Waves
This programme looks at who the Vikings were, where they came from, their social strata, their home life and why they were called Vikings.

It also examines their carpentry and boat-building skills: Norse craftsmen had a very sophisticated understanding of how to get the best out of wood, and used this knowledge in constructing their houses and ships.

In all nautical matters, Vikings were vastly superior to their contemporaries. Their navigational abilities alone are still being debated by historians and archaeologists: for how did they manage to navigate when out of sight of land?

Had they developed some kind of compass – and if not, what other methods did they use when travelling back and forth between places as far away as Iceland, Norway, and Greenland?

What were their fabled longships really like, and what was the effect of their appearance upon those the Vikings attacked?

…and did Viking warriors really wear those horned helmets?

Part 2 – A Danelaw Day
This programme explores what happened when the Vikings started attacking Anglo-Saxon communities in Britain .

Anglo-Saxon Britain was not a unified state – but it was a wealthy land, and much of that wealth was gathered in the monasteries. It had been gained largely by peaceful trade, but when the Vikings – or “north men” as they tended to be called – turned to raiding rather than trading, the various rival Anglo-Saxon kings found they had a common enemy.

Or did they? Our knowledge of the period is mostly due to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, written by the very people who were on the receiving end of that Viking approach to “free enterprise”. In addition, there are several different manuscript versions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, written at different times and in different monasteries – and they don’t all tell the same story.
And what was life like under Norse domination? For those Anglo-Saxons who found themselves living in Danelaw – the area to the east of Britain ruled by the Danes – in what ways did their existence change? Would those at the bottom of the social scale have been better or worse off? Would they indeed have noticed much difference?

Part 3 – Inform, Educate And Entertain

After a hard day’s pillaging and plunder, what did a Viking do to relax?

Not surprisingly, alcohol featured a lot in their social activities – and picking a fight with a rival whilst emptying the goblets, was a commonplace occurrence. However, these were not just drunken brawls – for Norse society had a great love of poetry, and Viking warriors were practised at Insult-Poems: challenging eachother to aggressive poetic contests, each stanza followed by yet another drink…

The competitive element also emerged in a love of board-games, which have been described in such detail in Norse Sagas, that historians have a clear idea of the rules and stratagems used to play them.

However, Norse society’s chief creative contribution to the world, is the Saga. These secular narratives were filled with drama, action and adventure – and were as gripping for their audience as soaps are today. Not only did they provide massive entertainment, but they also demonstrated the Viking moral code: of bravery and loyalty, honour and vengeance, and the importance of kith and kin…

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #117

July 18, 2011 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: New Releases, Podcasts, Recent Arrivals 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #117 – Scott, Jesse and Tamahome talk about audiobooks, the recent arrivals and the new releases.

Talked about on today’s show:
We have some genuine Science Fiction!, The Year’s Top Ten Tales Of Science Fiction Vol. 3 edited by Alan Kaster, Damien Broderick, Robert Reed, Steve Rasnic Tem, Ian R. Macleod, Luke Burrage, The Mars Phoenix has Science Fiction (2008), John W. Cambell, The Things by Peter Watts, 8 Miles should be title 12.1 Kilometers, the metric system can’t be sold politically in the U.S.A., florescent lightbulbs are unamerican, Corner Gas, Larry Niven, Harvest Of Stars by Poul Anderson, totalitarianism, Jerry Pournelle, The Boat Of A Million Years by Poul Anderson, immortality, utopia, Blackstone Audio, the French meter stick (is actually made of platinum and iridium not silver), Charles Stross, Free Apocalypse Al, Where are all the Ted Chiang audiobooks?, Steal Across The Sky by , The Astounding, The Amazing, And The Unknown by Paul Malmont, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, L. Ron Hubbard, The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, Lester Dent, Doc Savage, H.P. Lovecraft, remixing pulp era authors with pulp era stories, Edgar Allan Poe, the boring cover of The Astounding, The Amazing, And The Unknown, Shadow On The Sun by Richard Matheson (a western that’s also supernatural horror), I Am Legend, Gatherer Of Clouds by Sean Russell, Vancouver Island, Dragon’s Time by Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey, Brian Herbert, Citadel Of The Lost by Tracy Hickman, is Harriest Klausner a robot?, Phil Gigante, SFSignal.com’s podcast interview with Tracy Hickman, Patrick Hester, Titus Awakes by Maeve Gilmore, Mervyn Peake, Simon Vance’s YouTube videos, Gormenghast (TV series), The Hitch-hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, grotesque, fantasy with no magic and no intelligent species other than humans, “a fantasy of manners”, “a comedy of manners”, metaphors are not spoilers, The Iron Druid Chronicles: Hammered by Kevin Hearne, viking vampires, “someone give that dog a bacon latte”, Very Bad Men by Harry Dolan, Stories Of Your Life And Other Stories by Ted Chiang, Tower Of Babylon, Story Of Your Life, Hell Is The Absence Of God, The Prophecy, Christopher Walken, Viggo Mortensen, Elias Koteas, Combat Hospital (kind of a dramatic remake of MASH), Keanu Reeves, Blair Butler, comics, Northlanders Vol. 5: Metal And Other Stories, non-vampiric vikings, Brian Wood, Blade Vs. The Avengers, Marvel Zombies, Iron Man has a blonde twin brother, The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman, George R.R. Martin, Dust by Joan Frances Turner |READ OUR REVIEW|, Rule 34 by Charles Stross, A Colder War, Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross |READ OUR REVIEW|, Friday by Robert A. Heinlein, interstellar sex, I Will Fear No Evil by Robert A. Heinlein, the meaning of “Rule 34”, “Space Porn – that’s one sexy nebula”, Luke Burrage’s review of Halting State, Choose Your Own Adventure, “turn to page 61 for the acidic death bath”, Infocom, Lesiure Suit Larry, Heaven’s Shadow by David S. Goyer, William Coon, Resume With Monsters by William Browning Spencer, “just added” vs. “new releases” on Audible.com, Steven Gould audiobooks, Vortex by Robert Charles Wilson, iambik audio, Open Your Eyes by Paul Jessup, Flashback by Dan Simmons, a brand new UNABRIDGED release of Neuromancer by William Gibson, Penguin Audio, American Gods by Neil Gaiman (multi-narrator), George Guidall’s reading of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods |READ OUR REVIEW|, American Gods as a TV series, Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman |READ OUR REVIEW|, Odd And The Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman |READ OUR REVIEW| (even though it is too expensive), Deathworld by Harry Harrison is available on LibriVox narrated by Gregg Margarite, The City And The City by China Meiville, Embassytown, Hexed by Alan Steele, A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin, NPR’s On Point podcast interview with George R.R. Martin, Sandkings, Nighflyers, A Song For Lya, Dreamsongs, Roy Dotrice, drones (unmanned aerial vehicles), Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman will be the subject for an upcoming podcast readalong, Upon The Dull Earth by Philip K. Dick will be the next SFFaudio readalong, what contest should we hold to give away The Selected Stories Of Philip K. Dick Volume 1 (and 2)?, rural fantasy, A Good Story Is Hard To Find podcast #009 The Mystery Of Grace by Charles de Lint, The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth.

Astounding, Amazing and Unknown (SFF magazines)

The Astounding, TheAmazing, And The Unknown by Paul Malmont (with photoshopped cover art)

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson

June 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audiobook - The Broken Sword by Poul AndersonThe Broken Sword
By Poul Anderson; Read by Bronson Pinchot
7 CDs – 8 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2011
ISBN: 9781441786876
Themes: / Fantasy / Vikings / Myth / Battle /

The Viking Age of England offers fertile ground for storytelling. It was a time of strong men, beautiful fair-haired women, and bloody raids for plunder. Christianity was the new religion on the block, striving to make inroads on the old pagan beliefs—and often at the point of a sword. Gods were said to mingle with men and the world lay poised on the edge of Ragnarok, a final battle and fiery conflagration that would end the world.

Poul Anderson drew on the best of this wild and poetic age, stirred it up with myth and fantasy, and the result was his 1954 novel The Broken Sword. Its like has rarely been matched in the annals of fantasy literature.

I’ve read The Broken Sword previously and knew what a wonderful book it was, but TV and film actor Bronson Pinchot’s narration in this new Blackstone Audio, Inc. production added a new dimension to the novel. I had first heard Pinchot in a reading of Stephen King’s Eyes of the Dragon. While he was wonderful there he ups his game in The Broken Sword, reading with a spite and fury in his voice that perfectly matches the book’s unrelenting grimness and battle fury. Pinchot breathes life into beautiful maidens and proud warriors, deep-throated trolls, and ancient elven warrior-kings whose voices are like winds sighing through treeless leaves.

Oddly enough there is exactly one sound effect in the entire recording—an echo effect used to convey the cold, cruel laughter of Odin—and it’s on the final disc. It was cool but rather jarring, considering it’s on the last disc and there’s no precursor. But on to the tale.

In The Broken Sword the land of Faerie exists alongside the lands of men, invisible save to those with the witch sight. Faerie is a land of bright castles and achingly lovely elves, of the gods of Odin and Tyr, the giants of Jotunheim, black-eyed trolls, and other, fouler monsters.

Pride and ambition touches off the events of The Broken Sword. Orm the Strong is the fifth son of Ketil Asmundsson and thus low in the totem pole of inheritance. Rather than accept a smaller share of wealth Orm seeks his own fortune by going a–viking. On one of his raids he kills a husband and his sons, burning their hall to the ground. The man’s mother, a witch, escapes and swears revenge: She bestows a curse that Orm’s eldest son will be fostered beyond the world of men, while he in turn will foster a wolf that will one day rend him.

The elf-earl Imric travels to the lands of men and sets the witch’s curse in motion. Imric takes Orm’s unbaptized infant son Skafloc and replaces him with Valgard, a changeling, whom Imric himself has fathered by raping a captive troll woman. Valgard’s dark ancestry is evident when he bites his unknowing mother’s breast and grows restless and violent in Orm’s care. Skafloc, raised among the elves, is fair haired and fair of spirit, though equally mighty and otherwise a mirror image of his dark changeling “brother.”

After he discovers his true half troll, half-elf heritage, Valgard embarks on a mission of revenge, killing several members of his foster family. Aided with an army of trolls he then launches a war of annihilation on the elven lands of Alfheim. Skafloc and the elves are beaten back by the initial assaults and all seems lost. Only by going on a quest to reforge a powerful ancient weapon—the eponymous broken sword, a weapon of terrible demonic power that demands blood each time it is drawn and ultimately turns on its wielder—can Skafloc save Alfheim and avenge his family.

Though The Broken Sword seems largely forgotten these days it remains influential. The elf Imric for example reveals the clear stylistic (and thematic) influence The Broken Sword had on subsequent authors like Michael Moorcock. Moorcock (a big fan of the book, who once wrote thatThe Broken Sword “knocked The Lord of the Rings into a cocked hat”) based his Melniboneans heavily on Anderson’s elves. Imric is (largely) Elric of Melnibone, not only in similarity of name, but in appearance and even character. Anderson’s Elves are darker than those in The Lord of the Rings (though I would point out that Tolkien’s elves closely resembled Anderson’s in his source material; see the prideful warrior Feanor from The Silmarillion). They are haughty, prideful, shun the sunlight, and if not malicious are certainly mischievous. These traits have their roots in Norse myth, which both Tolkien and Anderson drew upon.

Everything about the book is wonderfully northern. Characters mingle soaring verse with common speech in conversation. Anderson weaves old northern vocabulary into the tale, evocative words like “Fetch,” “Fey,” and “Weird” (the latter is a fate from which no man escapes), which lend The Broken Sword a hard northern ethos to match its flavor. In this pagan hierarchy the Norns are higher than the towering Jotuns or even the Aesir. Even the gods will die in the fires of Ragnarok at their appointed time. That grimness bleeds through into The Broken Sword as its protagonists are slowly crushed beneath the merciless wheel of fate.

“Throw not your life away for a lost love,” pleaded Mananaan. “You are young yet.”

“All men are born fey,” said Skafloc, and there the matter stood.

This is hard stuff and an unforgiving outlook on life, though not incompatible with that other somewhat famous work that debuted in 1954—Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring. No matter what Moorcock—he of the tin ear when it comes to Tolkien analysis—may tell you.

The writing in The Broken Sword is top-notch, really and truly great stuff. A small sample of dialogue uttered by the troll-woman Gora:

“The world is flesh dissolving off a dead skull,” mumbled the troll-woman. She clanked her chain and lay back, shuddering. “Birth is but the breeding of maggots in the crumbling flesh. Already the skull’s teeth leer forth and black crows have left its eye sockets empty. Soon a barren window will blow through its bare white bones.”

One final, important note about the Blackstone recording: The text is Anderson’s original from the 1954 version of the book, which Anderson updated in 1971 for republication in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line. This is not immediately apparent from the description on the Blackstone website. I’ve only read the 1971 version, so for those who haven’t had the chance to experience The Broken Sword in its earliest and rawest incarnation you now have another chance.

Posted by Brian Murphy

LibriVox: Eric Brighteyes by H. Rider Haggard

November 2, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

LibriVoxBack in April my friend Brian Murphy wrote a wonderful essay generally extolling the virtues of Viking Age Fantasy, and particularly recommending H. Rider Haggard’s Eric Brighteyes as one of the best of the genre. Here’s a taste:

“…I would unhesitatingly declare it [Eric Brighteyes] among the finest works in the genre, better than [Bernard] Cornwell and at least as good as [Poul] Anderson’s best. It may not be as much a household name as Haggard’s more famous works King Solomon’s Mines and She, but it’s nevertheless rightly considered a classic in some quarters and one of Haggard’s best.”

The entire in-depth review can be read over on The Cimmerian. And if you’re looking for more of Lancelot Speed‘s wonderful illustrations (like the one I used for the art below), check out Archive.org’s scan of the 1891 edition HERE. It is wonderful!

LIBRIVOX - Eric Brighteyes by H. Rider HaggardEric Brighteyes
By H. Rider Haggard; Read by Brett W. Downey
33 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 10 Hours 17 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: November 2, 2010
Eric Brighteyes is the title of an epic viking novel by H. Rider Haggard, and concerns the adventures of its eponymous principal character in 10th century Iceland. Eric Thorgrimursson (nicknamed ‘Brighteyes’ for his most notable trait), strives to win the hand of his beloved, Gudruda the Fair. Her father Asmund, a priest of the old Norse gods, opposes the match, thinking Eric a man without prospects. But deadlier by far are the intrigues of Swanhild, Gudruda’s half-sister and a sorceress who desires Eric for herself. She persuades the chieftain Ospakar Blacktooth to woo Gudrida, making the two men enemies. Battles, intrigues, and treachery follow. First published in 1890.

Podcast feed: http://librivox.org/rss/4317

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

[Thanks also to Theresa L. Downey and Diana Majlinger ]

Posted by Jesse Willis

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