Review of Very Bad Deaths by Spider Robinson

March 7, 2005
Filed under: Reviews 

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Very Bad Deaths by Spider RobinsonVery Bad Deaths
By Spider Robinson; Read by Spider Robinson
10 CDs – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2005
ISBN: 0786182431
Themes: / Science Fiction / Serial Killer / Psychic /

Many listeners don’t like it when the author narrates his own story. I’ve never understood this, especially when it comes to science fiction, which has a long history of this. Early Caedmon titles featured Frank Herbert, Arthur C. Clarke, and Isaac Asimov reading their own works. Live readings are common events at science fiction conventions. And I find that I usually like author-read audiobooks. The author lends an extra dimension to the reading that a third-party narrator simply can’t provide.

Every now and then you run across an author/narrator who is good enough at narrating that you’d like to see him narrate some other author’s books too. Harlan Ellison is that good, for example. And so is Spider Robinson. He reads in such a comfortable, personable way that it’s easy to imagine that this guy you know popped in for lunch and is telling you this story over the kitchen table. I enjoyed his reading so much that I wondered first how good his Callahan Chronicals would be read by him (not that Barrett Whitener did a bad job – he didn’t), and further, how Spider would be narrating another author’s work, like, say, a Heinlein novel. The answer? He’d be pretty damn good. I found myself eager to return to this audiobook every time I was forced to put it down.

Along with Russell, who is the loosely autobiographical main character, the story involves a serial killer with a fetish for inflicting pain, a psychic roommate who is appropriately named “Smelly”, and a female cop who is not a lesbian. The story flits from the past, where Russell first met Smelly, to the present, where Smelly seeks him out to tell him that he read the mind of the serial killer as he flew over his house in an airplane and they better by God do something about him.

The story is mainly about these characters going after the serial killer, having many conversations about whether they should go after him. Robinson keeps it interesting throughout, but doesn’t hesitate to move off the plot for some tangential opinion dumps, or some science fiction references, or some puns. The story moves, and is personal, enjoyable, often funny, and touching. And the bad guy is flinchingly bad. Enjoy this one.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

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