Review of Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens

September 23, 2012 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

Hachette Audio - Arguably: Essays by Christopher HitchensArguably: Essays
By Christopher Hitchens; Read by Simon Prebble
24 CDs – Approx. 28.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Published: September 1, 2011
ISBN: 9781611139068
Themes: / Non-fiction / History / War / Biography / Science Fiction / Fantasy / Iran / Afghanistan / Germany / North Korea / France / Dystopia / Utopia / Religion / Tunisia / Piracy / Terrorism / Feminism / Pakistan /

The first new collection of essays by Christopher Hitchens since 2004, Arguably offers an indispensable key to understanding the passionate and skeptical spirit of one of our most dazzling writers, widely admired for the clarity of his style, a result of his disciplined and candid thinking. Topics range from ruminations on why Charles Dickens was among the best of writers and the worst of men to the haunting science fiction of J.G. Ballard; from the enduring legacies of Thomas Jefferson and George Orwell to the persistent agonies of anti-Semitism and jihad. Hitchens even looks at the recent financial crisis and argues for arthe enduring relevance of Karl Marx. The audio book forms a bridge between the two parallel enterprises of culture and politics. It reveals how politics justifies itself by culture, and how the latter prompts the former. In this fashion, Arguably burnishes Christopher Hitchens’ credentials as-to quote Christopher Buckley-our “greatest living essayist in the English language.”

Here’s a question I was thinking about while listening to Arguably.

What is fiction for?

One answer, the bad one, is that it’s for entertainment. That’s certainly where many readers are willing go, and the fiction writers who write it too. Maybe that’s precisely why so much fiction is just so very shitty.

To me, if you aren’t exploring ideas in your fiction, then you really aren’t serving a greater purpose. Idea fiction, fiction with ideas rather than just action and plot, is to my mind a kind of supplement to the wisdom found in writings on history, biography and science.

Of the many lessons learned I in listening to the 107 essays in Arguably I was particularly struck by the wisdom Christopher Hitchens gleaned from his reading of fiction. Hitchens reviews many books in this collection, nearly half of the essays are book reviews. Books like 1984, Animal Farm, Flashman, The Complete Stories Of J.G. Ballard, Our Man In Havana, and even, surprisingly, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows all get fascinating, critical, and reverent reviews.

Yet Hitchens also takes the lessons with him into his writing about his travels. Hitchens writes about visits to such places as North Korea, Cyprus, Afghanistan, and Kurdish Iraq. When talking about his visit to Beirut we see what comes when Hitchens, a man of ideas, acts upon them. The essay, The Swastika and the Cedar sees the convictions of the commited anti-fascist Hitchens beaten and nearly kidnapped for an act of vandalism on a prominently displayed swastika. Writes Hitchens:

“Well, call me old-fashioned if you will, but I have always taken the view that swastika symbols exist for one purpose only—to be defaced.”

In a review of two books, Lolita and The Annotated Lolita, Hitchens applies the controversial subject in a real life look at the modern, and very non-fictional oppression and objectification of women. Indeed, the ideas he appreciated in fiction helped Hitchens to come to grips with the real world.

I think the worst essay in this collection is the one on the serving of wine and restaurants, Wine Drinkers Of The World, Unite. It was simply a waste of the talent, too light, too easy a target. And yet, even that essay, the worst essay in all 107 has a memorable anecdote: “Why,” asks Hitchens’ five year old son, “are they called waiters? It’s we who are doing all the waiting.”

As to the narration of the audiobook. I’m ashamed to admit that I was initially dismayed when I saw that Christopher Hitchens had not narrated this audiobook himself. I was wrong to worry. Incredibly, Simon Prebble seems to have have become Hitchens for this narration. Prebble perfectly captures the erudite words, so eloquently performs them, and with an accent so like that of Hitchens’ own so as to make me think that it was Hitchens who had actually read it.

I think the worst essay in this collection is the one on the serving of wine and restaurants, Wine Drinkers Of The World, Unite. It was simply a waste of the talent, too light, too easy a target. And yet, even that essay, the worst essay in all 107 has a memorable anecdote: “Why,” asks Hitchens’ five year old son, “are they called waiters? It’s we who are doing all the waiting.”

Here’s a list of the book’s contents, with links to the original etexts when available, along with my own notes on each:

ALL AMERICAN
Gods Of Our Fathers: The United States Of Enlightenment – a review of Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers by Brooke Allen

The Private Jefferson – a review of Jefferson’s Secrets: Death And Desire At Monticello by Andrew Burstein

Jefferson Vs. The Muslim Pirates – a review of Power, Faith, And Fantasy: America In The Middle East: 1776 To The Present by Michael B. Oren

Benjamin Franklin: Free And Easy – a review of Benjamin Franklin Unmasked: On the Unity of His Moral, Religious, And Political Thought by Jerry Weinberger

John Brown: The Man Who Ended Slavery – a review of John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked The Civil War, And Seeded Civil Rights by David S. Reynolds

Abraham Lincoln: Misery’s Child (aka Lincoln’s Emancipation) – a review of Abraham Lincoln: A Life by Michael Burlingame

Mark Twain: American Radical – a scathing review of The Singular Mark Twain: A Biography by Fred Kaplan

Upton Sinclair: A Capitalist Primer – a review of The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

JFK: In Sickness And By Stealth – a review of An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963 by Robert Dallek

Saul Bellow: The Great Assimilator – review of six novels by Saul Bellow (The Dangling Man, The Victim, The Adventures Of Augie March, Seize The Day, Henderson The Rain King, and Herzog)

Vladimir Nabokov: Hurricane Lolita – reviews of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and The Annotated Lolita edited and annotated by Alfred Appel, Jr.

John Updike: No Way – a review of The Terrorist by John Updike (with reference to The Coup too)

John Updike: Mr. Geniality
– a critical review of the affable Due Considerations: Essays And Considerations by John Updike

Vidal Loco – Gore Vidal went crazier, more elitist and perhaps more racist as he got older (with attention and quips for Quentin Crisp and Oscar Wilde and Joyce Carol Oates)

America The Banana Republic – Hitchens on the “socialistic” bank bailout of 2008 (“socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the rest”)

An Anglosphere Future – a review of The History Of The English Speaking Peoples by Andrew Roberts (with reference to both Sherlock Holmes and The White Company by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well as to Cecil Rhodes and Rudyard Kipling)

Political Animals – a review of Dominion: The Power Of Man, The Suffering Of Animals, And The Call To Mercy by Matthew Scully

Old Enough To Die – on capital punishment as applied to children

In Defense Of Foxhole Atheists
– a visit to the United States Air Force Academy and the tax funded proselytizing

In Search Of The Washington Novel – a search for some good fiction about Washington, D.C.

ECLECTIC AFFINITIES
Isaac Newton: Flaws Of Gravity – a stroll through the medieval streets of Cambridge with the scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers who worked there

The Men Who Made England: Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” – a review of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Edmund Burke: Reactionary Prophet – a review of Reflections On The Revolution In France by Edmund Burke

Samuel Johnson: Demons And Dictionaries
– a review of Samuel Johnson: A Biography by Peter Martin

Gustave Flaubert: I’m With Stupide – a review of Bouvard et Pécuchet by Gustave Flaubert translated by Mark Polizzotti

The Dark Side Of Dickens
– a review of Charles Dickens by Michael Slater a biography (Hitchens was a not uncritical admirer of the subject)

Marx’s Journalism: The Grub Street Years – a glowing review of Dispatches for the New York Tribune: Selected Journalism Of Karl Marx edited by James Ledbetter, foreword by Francis Wheen (Marx admired the United States, and other fascinating facts about the father of communism)

Rebecca West: Things Worth Fighting For – an introduction to Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia by Rebecca West

Ezra Pound: A Revolutionary Simpleton – a review of Ezra Pound, Poet: A Portrait Of The Man And His Work: Volume I: The Young Genius, 1885-1920 by A. David Moody (a biography of the fascist poet)

On “Animal Farm” – an introduction to Animal Farm

Jessica Mitford’s Poison Pen – a review of Decca: The Letters Of Jessica Mitford edited by Peter Y. Sussman

W. Somerset Maugham: Poor Old Willie – a review of W. Somerset Maugham: A Life by Jeffery Meyers

Evelyn Waugh: The Permanent Adolescent – a look at the enigmatic life, writing, religion, and sexuality of Evelyn Waugh

P.G. Wodehouse: The Honorable Schoolboy – a review of Wodehouse: A Life by Robert McCrum

Anthony Powell: An Omnivorous Curiosity – a review of To Keep The Ball Rolling: The Memoirs Of Anthony Powell

John Buchan: Spy Thriller’s Father – a review of John Buchan The Presbyterian Cavalier by David R. Godine (with discussion of The 39 Steps and a fantasy novelette The Grove Of Ashtaroth)

Graham Greene: I’ll Be Damned – a review of The Life Of Graham Green: Volume II: 1939-1955 by Norman Sherry

Death From A Salesman: Graham Greene’s Bottle Ontology – an introduction to Our Man In Havana by Graham Greene

Loving Philip Larkin (aka Philip Larkin, the Impossible Man) – a review of Philip Larkin: Letters To Monica edited by Anthony Thwaite

Stephen Spender: A Nice Bloody Fool – a review of Stephen Spender: The Authorized Biography by John Sutherland

Edward Upward: The Captive Mind – a look at the British novelist and short story Edward Upward

C.L.R. James: Mid Off, Not Right On – a review of Cricket, The Caribbean, And World Revolution by Farrukh Dhondy

J.G. Ballard: The Catastrophist – a review of The Complete Stories Of J.G. Ballard

Fraser’s Flashman: Scoundrel Time – a look at the George MacDonald Fraser series of Flashman books and the connection with The Adventure Of The Empty House

Fleet Street’s Finest: From Waugh To Frayn – an essay on the dubious romance of journalism

Saki: Where The Wild Things Are – a review of The Unbearable Saki: The Work of H.H. Munro by Sandie Byrne

Harry Potter: The Boy Who Lived – a review of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

AMUSEMENTS, ANNOYANCES, AND DISAPPOINTMENTS
Why Women Aren’t Funny – a controversial essay on why more comedians are male and why women laugh at them the way they do

Stieg Larsson: The Author Who Played With Fire – a look at the phenomenon of the bestselling author of The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo

As American As Apple Pie – a literary and chronological history of the blowjob, with reference to Valdamir Nobokov’s Lolita

So Many Men’s Rooms, So Little Time – a fascinatingly insightful argument on what’s was going on with the Larry Craig bathroom airport scandal and related phenomena

The New Commandments – deconstructing the Ten Commandments

In Your Face – are bans on burqas and veils actually bans, or are they liberation?

Wine Drinkers Of The World, Unite – ill mannered waiters are ruining the business of wine drinking

Charles, Prince Of Piffle – a damning look at the prince who shouldn’t be king

OFFSHORE ACCOUNTS
Afghanistan’s Dangerous Bet – a visit to Afghanistan, it’s all about the women

First, Silence The Whistle-Blower – is there any hope for democracy in Afghanistan?

Believe Me, It’s Torture – a report on what it’s like to be water-boarded

Iran’s Waiting Game – a visit to Iran and a meeting with Hussein Khomeini the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini

Long Live Democratic Seismology – on democracy, Chile, Iran, and earthquakes

Benazir Bhutto: Daughter Of Destiny – a personal remembrance of the brave liar, Benazir Bhutto

From Abbottabad To Worse – an explanation for the existence of Pakistan as the U.S.A.’s worst best friend

The Perils Of Partition – on what dividing a country does to it (it’s like a man with a broken leg – he can think of nothing else)

Algeria: A French Quarrel – a review of A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 by Alistair Horne

The Case Of Orientalism (aka East Is East) – a review of Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents by Robert Irwin

Edward Said: Where The Twain Should Have Met – a review of Orientalism by Edward Said

The Swastika And The Cedar – a visit to “the Arab street”

Holiday In Iraq – Hitchens on holiday in Kurdish Iraq: it’s lovely

Tunisia: At The desert’s Edge – a lavish and lengthy visit to Africa’s gentlest country

What Happened To The Suicide Bombers Of Jerusalem? – why is no one writing about the dog that didn’t bark?

Childhood’s End: An African Nightmare – on Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army

The Vietnam Syndrome – on the horrific effects of Agent Orange and the legacies of dioxin

Once Upon A Time In Germany – a review of the movie The Baader Meinhof Complex, it explores the origins of The Red Army Faction

Worse Than “Nineteen Eighty-Four” – North Korea is a slave state seemingly modeled on 1984

North Korea: A Nation of Racist Dwarfs – a visit to North Korea

The Eighteenth Brumaire Of The Castro Dynasty – a look at the Castro regime’s familial coup

Hugo Boss – a visit to Venezuela with Sean Penn and a meeting with Hugo Chávez – he’s nuts

Is The Euro Doomed? – what will be the fate of Europe’s common currency?

Overstating Jewish Power – In the Israeli American relationship who’s pulling who’s strings?

The Case For Humanitarian Intervention – a review of Freedom’s Battle: The Origins Of Humanitarian Intervention by Gary J. Bass

LEGACIES OF TOTALITARIANISM
Victor Serge: Pictures From An Inquisition – reviews of The Case Of Comrade Tulayev and Memoirs Of A Revolutionary by Victor Serge

André Malraux: One Man’s Fate – a review of Malraux: A Life by Olivier Todd, translated by Joseph West

Arthur Koestler: The Zealot – a review of Koestler: The Literary And Political Odyssey Of A Twentieth-Century Skeptic by Michael Scammell

Isabel Allende: Chile Redux – an introduction to The House Of The Spirits by Isabel Allende

The Persian Version – a review of Strange Times, My Dear: The PEN Anthology Of Contemporary Iranian Literature edited by Nahid Mozaffari

Martin Amis: Lightness At Midnight – a review of Koba The Dread: Laughter And The Twenty Million by Martin Amis

Imagining Hitler – the problem of evil, and Hitler, with reference to Explaining Hitler by Ron Rosenbaum and Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris by Ian Kershaw

Victor Klemperer: Survivor

A War Worth Fighting – a persuasively systematic review of Churchill, Hitler And The Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire And The West Lost The World by Pat Buchanan

Just Give Peace A Chance? – a critical review of Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker

W.G. Sebald: Requiem For Germany – a review of On The Natural History Of Destruction by W.G. Sebald

WORDS’ WORTH
When The King Saved God – for the love of the King James version

Let Them Eat Pork Rinds – Berthold Brecht, Charles Dickens and various other sources inform Hitch’s view of the Hurricane Katrina relief disaster

Stand Up For Denmark! – a still timely plea for preferring free speech to religious tolerance

Eschew The Taboo – on the banning of words, particularly the word “nigger”

She’s No Fundamentalist – a spirited defense of Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Burned Out – the verb “fuel” is fueled by journalistic sloppiness

Easter Charade – on life and death and Terri Schiavo

Don’t Mince Words – the disenfranchisement of south Asians in Britain isn’t the cause of bombings, hatred of women is.

History And Mystery – al-Qaeda in Iraq, jihadists, or “insurgents”? Do words matter? Of course they bloody well do.

Words Matter – political slogans make of “every adult in the country” an “illiterate jerk who would rather feel than think”

This Was Not Looting – how can a government “loot” it’s own weapons manufacturing facility? The government of Iraq managed it according to The New York Times.

The “Other” L-Word – a lighthearted piece on the prominence of the word “like” and it’s use

The You Decade – what’s wrong with you (marketing to the selfish)

Suck It Up – the Virginia Tech shootings prompted the wrong response from the world (namely that it prompted one)

A Very, Very Dirty Word – the English empire, in centuries to come, may only be remembered for soccer and the phrase “fuck off”

Prisoner Of Shelves – on the indispensability of books

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #107

May 9, 2011 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Audio Drama, Aural Noir, Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #107 – Scott, and Jesse talk about new audiobooks, recent arrivals, new releases, the theatre and and comics too!

Talked about on today’s show:
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott, Pride And Prejudice, Charlie’s Aunt, 1776, John Hancock, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, David McCullough, Penguin Audio, Across The Universe by Beth Revis, generation ship, murder, “earth is nowhere new the final frontier”?, Hamlet, A Discovery Of Witches by Deborah Harkness, “he loves yoga and he’s a vampire?”, history, wine, the multiple meanings of discovery, Christopher Columbus DID (in a sense) discover North America, uncover vs. discovery, WWW: Wake by Robert J. Sawyer |READ OUR REVIEW|, “mining the same ideas” in a trilogy, Seth Wilson, Spirit Blade a christian audio drama, Pilgrim’s Progress |READ OUR REVIEW|, comicbookjesus.com’s review, An Accidental Adventure: We Are Not Eaten By Yaks by C. Alexander London, Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz, GoodReads.com, Ranger’s Apprentice: Book 10 – The Emperor Of Nihon-Ja by John Flanagan, the Ranger’s Apprentice Wiki, The Lord Of The Rings, Blackstone Audio, Sweep: The Coven by Cate Tiernan, Dreamhouse Kings: Book 6 – Frenzy by Robert Liparulo, Aural Noir, Silent Mercy by Linda Fairstein, the Alex Cooper series, series Crime/Mystery vs. series Fantasy/Science Fiction, Sue Grafton, Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise, SFSignal.com’s Which SciFi Series Should You Watch on NetFlix? This Handy Flowchart Will Help You Decide!, Night Vision by Randy Wayne White, the extremely negative reviews on Amazon.com, When The Thrill Is Gone by Walter Mosley, Blue Light, Futureland, John DeNardo’s review of Blue Light, Bell Air Dead by Stuart Woods, Strategic Moves by Stuart Woods, “Stuart Woods is a writing machine”, Richard Ferrone, Tamahome got bogged down in the Martian sand (of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars), Buried Prey by John Sanford, kidnapping, “this dude has other dudes as well”, the Virgil Flowers series, Bad Blood, the next readalong is 361 by Donald E. Westlake, Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwell, the Kay Scarpetta series, forensic detection, Kathy Reichs, Bones, new releases, Hachette Audio, Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks, space opera, Coruscant, extremely detailed strange stuff, Audible.com, Recorded Books, Glasshouse by Charles Stross, Hard Magic: Book I of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia, Audible Frontiers, Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia, Second Variety and Other Stories by Philip K. Dick, William Coon, The Most Dangerous Game, The Variable Man by Philip K. Dick, Buffalito Destiny, David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers series, military SF, The Collected Stories Of Arthur C. Clarke Vol. 5, Bronson Pinchot, The Alchemy of Desire by Crista McHugh, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (translated into Danish), The Stress Of Her Regard by Tim Powers, The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson, Orion And The King by Ben Bova, The Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez, robot detective vs. femme fatale, “satisfying conclusion, clever, twisty, fast” = good, Monster: A Novel, Divine Misfortune, The Stainless Steel Rat Book 8, Too Many Curses, FREE COMIC BOOK DAY, Criminal: Bad Night by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 2 by Alan Moore, Listening For The League’s Gentlemen, Mars, aliens, H.G.Wells, The War Of The Worlds, Allan Quatermain, Bongo Comics, The Simpsons, Baltimore, Mike Mignola, Hellboy, Fafhrd And The Gray Mouser, Civil War Adventure, Locke & Key, Blair Butler, Joe Hill, TV version of Locke & Key, DMZ, Brian Wood, Fables, Y: The Last Man, The Boys: Highland Laddie, Garth Ennis, 361 by Donald E. Westlake, Hard Case Crime, Charles Ardai, Memory by Donald E. Westlake, The Comedy Is Finished by Donald E. Westlake, The King Of Comedy, Getting Off by Lawrence Block, James M. Cain, David Morrell, Stephen King, John D. MacDonald.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #102

April 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: New Releases, Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #102 – Scott, Jesse and Tamahome talk about new audiobook, book, and comic book releases.

Talked about on today’s show:
The Infinite Worlds Of H.G. Wells, Sherlock Holmes, Memory by Donald E. Westlake, Hard Case Crime, A Good Story Is Hard To Find, nihilism, SFSignal’s 122 books that bring Scott to tears, All The Lives He Led by Frederik Pohl (a semi-nihilistic novel), Yellowstone, “half minus negative zero”, A Matter Of Time by Glen Cook, The Black Company, Abel One by Ben Bova, blood and flesh and shirtless, Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente, BoingBoing, Russian Ark, Enigmatic Plot vs. Enigmatic Pilot, Enclave (aka Razorland) by Ann Aguirre, The Maze Runner by James Dashner, The Scorch Trials, The Hunger Games, Hunt The Space Witch and Other Stories by Robert Silverberg, WWW: Wonder by Robert J. Sawyer, Starstruck, Blair Butler, “Geoff Boucher’s Los Angeles Times Hero Complex ‘Get Your Cape On’ pick of the week”, The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi, Macmillan Audio, Audible.com, Brilliance Audio, Warriors edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, Forever Bound by Joe Haldeman, Lawrence Block, O. Henry-ish, “I see no reason to buy through iTunes” (vs. Audible.com), Limitless (aka The Dark Fields) by Alan Glynn, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Flowers For Algernon, Understand by Ted Chiang, acquiring a whole bag of pills, “smart people are neat”, Tantor Media, History Is Wrong by Erich von Däniken, Jesse becomes momentarily depressed, The Guns Of August by Barbara W. Tuchman, John Lee, the John Cleaver series, have world events have sped because of modern technology?, Libya, Tripoli, “The Graveyard Of Empires”, “from the halls of Montezuma to the shores Tripoli”, NPR, A History Of The World In Six Glasses by Tom Standage, beer, wine, spirits, tea, coffee, cola, the Today In Canadian History podcast, the Canadian Navy, I Don’t Want To Kill You by Dan Wells, I Am Not A Serial Killer, “normally I don’t do this”, Dexter, the Writing Excuses podcast, Homeward Bound by Harry Turtledove, alternate history, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, Grover Gardner, Eric S. Rabkin, George Orwell’s 1984, Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, William Dufris, binary fission, Tantor Media is very innovative in including ebooks with their audiobooks, we need a new demarcation to desperate urban fantasy romance from SF, “conspiracy and ignorance based books”, The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds, Tales From A Thousand Nights And The Night (aka 1,001 Nights!) translated by Richard Burton, The Thousand Nights And A Night is the first fix-up novel, Nostromo by Joseph Conrad, South America, Three Men In A Boat (To Say Nothing Of The Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome, To Say Nothing Of The Dog by Connie Willis, Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein, Atlantis And Other Places by Harry Turtledove, Slave To Sensation shouldn’t be a science fiction novel, Orson Scott’s Card Intergalactic Medicine Show, Rejiggering The Thingamajig by Eric James Stone on Escape Pod #277, body-swapping, I Will Fear No Evil by Robert A. Heinlein, gender-swapping, For Us The Living: A Comedy Of Customs by Robert A. Heinlein, Heinlein’s old theme: “naked people talking to each other”, Heinlein likes to examine social preconceptions and social prejudices, “not a Heinlein classic but still classic Heinlein”, Eifelheim, Luke Burrage, Idiot America by Charles P. Pierce, George Washington riding a dinosaur, The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson, contemporary with Tolkien (rather than derivative of Tolkien), Michael Moorcock, Eric Birghteyes by H. Rider Haggard, Bronson Pinchot, The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams, anthropomorphic fiction, quasi-Science Fiction, quasi-Fantasy, Coyotes In The House by Elmore Leonard |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Call Of The Wild by Jack London, We Three by Grant Morrison, Transmetropolitain, Warren Ellis, Tama’s pet peeve in comics is silent panels, Audible Frontiers, The Death Of Grass by John Christopher, The Tripods, The Sam Gunn Omnibus, The Steel Remains, Cliffs Notes are now available as audiobooks, Brave New World, The Spiral Path by Lisa Paitz Spindler, Eat Prey Love by Kerrelyn Sparks, William Coon’s Eloquent Voice titles, Andre Norton’s The Time Traders, Gilgamesh The King by Robert Silverberg |READ OUR REVIEW|, Philip K. Dick, Henry James, Anton Chekov, Paul of Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth.com The Whisperer In Wax, wax cylinder tech, Embedded by Dan Abnett, SFSignal.com.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Into That Darkness Peering: Nightmarish Tales Of The Macabre Vol. 1 by Edgar Allan Poe

June 16, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

Into That Darkness Peering: Nightmarish Tales Of The Macabre Vol. 1Into That Darkness Peering: Nightmarish Tales Of The Macabre – Vol. 1SFFaudio Essential
By Edgar Allan Poe; Read by Wayne June
1 CD – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: AudioBookCase.com
Published: March 2008
ISBN: 0977845303
Themes: / Horror / Revenge / Cats / Noir / Wine /

Three tales from the original master of horror fiction, Edgar Allan Poe! Included in this collection are “The Raven”, “The Black Cat” and “The Cask Of Amontillado.”

Three classic tales. These stories are so familiar as to be almost genetic. They are the foundation for whole modern genres. Noir, Crime and Horror fiction were sired by Poe. Hear three of his finest in this, their finest form.

“The Raven” follows the curious events in one evening of unnamed brooding narrator. Whilst reading a tome of “forgotten lore” he hears a knocking on his door. What follows is a rhymed narrative rumination on the portentous meaning of the feathered visitor’s single utterance. Nevermore will you need to wait for another version. This one’s definitive.

“The Black Cat” is a first person account of the alcoholic events leading an animal lover to the depths of depravity and beyond into horror. This tale seems to encapsulate the entire fevered imaginings of the American temperance movement. Its supernatural elements are minor compared to its un-romantic view of an unrestricted humanity stripped of the superego. In other words, it’s a killer story.

“The Cask Of Amontillado” is a strong tale of cold, cavernous revenge served with a very dry sherry, one brick at a time. This is one of Poe’s most enigmatic works. What precisely the revenge is for, or if there indeed was any real vengence required (despite the narrator’s claim) has haunted scholars. However you interpret it, it does push all the “great horror story” buttons in you.

Narrator Wayne June assures us that he’s done his research on this new series of definitive Edgar Allan Poe readings, and in listening you’ll absolutely have to agree. Place names and pronunciations are perfect – accents and action are exact. You can often tell when a narrator is bluffing it, surfing through the sentences blindly. That absolutely doesn’t happen here. In Poe’s most famous narrative poem The Raven, for instance, there’s nary a line that doesn’t contain an archaic word that’d flummox. June never falters. He’s got them all sussed. The Black Cat too, has never sounded better. June captures the sympathetic first person narrative and then drives home the barbarity flawlessly. Light accents make “The Cask Of Amontillado”, the most difficult of the three tales here, flow like an old vintage newly discovered. There are already many versions of these three classics available on audio, but I’d venture not a single one could come even close to match any of these three. Wayne June’s voice is perfectly matched to the melancholic material. As was the case with his superlative Lovecraft recordings, nobody else’s voice is more more morbidly macabre than is Wayne June’s. This is essential listening.

Posted by Jesse Willis