Coursera Audio versions

SFFaudio News

About a month ago, we posted about Dr. Eric Rabkin’s upcoming Coursera course: “Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World.” I am one of the thousands of people who has signed up for this free course, which starts next week!

I thought it would be nice to post links to audio versions of the required course readings, when they are available.  I am only listing some of the  unabridged versions, so any abridged or dramatizations will be left out (although they definitely exist for some of these favorites!) Please leave a comment if you will be participating too!

  1. Grimm — Children’s and Household Tales
    Household Tales
    narrated by Kelly Lintz, unabridged, 26 hours, 41 minutes, Audible 2012

  2. Carroll — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass
    Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
    and Through the Looking Glass read by Michael Page, 6 hours, Brilliance Audio
    Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass read by Christopher Plummer, 5 hours, 59 minutes, Harper Audio, 2010
    Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland read by Michael York, 3 hours, Blackstone Audio, 2008
    Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland read by Jim Dale, 2 hours, 57 minutes, Listening Library, 2008
    Through the Looking Glass read by Harlan Ellison, 3.1 hours, Blackstone Audio, 2009
  3. Stoker — Dracula
    Dracula
    read by Alan Cumming, Tim Curry, Simon Vance, Katherine Kellgren, Susan Duerden, John Lee, Graeme Malcolm, Steven Crossley, Simon Prebble, and James Addams, 15 hours, 28 minutes, Audible, 2012
    Dracula read by Marc Nelson, 16 hours, 39 minutes, Trout Lake Media, 2011
    Dracula read by John Lee, 15 hours, 15 minutes, Tantor Audio, 2008
    Dracula
    read by Simon Vance, 14.2 hours, Blackstone Audio, 1998

  4. Shelley — Frankenstein
    Frankenstein
    read by Simon Templeman, Anthony Heald, and Stefan Rudnicki, 8 hours, Blackstone Audio, 2008
    Frankenstein
    read by Simon Vance, 8 hours, 21 minutes, Tantor Audio, 2008

  5. Hawthorne & Poe — Stories and Poems
    Hawthorne – Selected Stories read by Walter Zimmerman, Walter Covell, Jack Benson, and John Chatty, 5 hours, 47 minutes, Jimcin Recordings.  (Contains “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” and “The Birthmark”)
    Poe – The Raven read by Anne Cheng, 8 minutes, LibriVox (video by Jesse of SFF Audio)
    Poe – The Fall of the House of Usher, etc.  read by William Roberts, 4 hours, 54 minutes, Naxos Audiobooks (also includes “Black Cat,” “The Tell-Tale Heart” and the title story)
    Poe – The Oval Portrait read by Gary Zupkas, 9 minutes, SonicMovie.net, 2009
    Poe – The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar read by Walter Zimmerman, 25 minutes, Jimcin Recordings, 2009
    Poe – Annabel Lee read by Patrick Lawlor, 3 minutes, Listen & Live Audio, 2009
    Poe – The Bells read by K. Anderson Yancy, 10 minutes, SonicMovie.net, 2009
  6. Wells — The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, “The Country of the Blind,” “The Star”
    The Island of Dr. Moreau read by Simon Pebble, 5 hours, 21 minutes, Recorded Books, 2011 (you can hear the SFF Audio discussion of this story in January 2012)
    The Invisible Man read by James Adams, 5.6 hours, Blackstone Audio, 2009
    The Invisible Man read by Alan Munro, 5 hours, 49 minutes, Trout Lake Media, 2012
    The Country of the Blind read by Walter Zimmerman, 1 hour, Jimcin Recordings, 2008
  7. Burroughs & Gilman — A Princess of Mars & Herland
    A Princess of Mars
    (multiple versions)
    A Princess of Mars read by William Dufris, 6.8 hours, Blackstone Audio, 2008
    Herland read by William Dufris, 7 hours, Tantor Audio, 2011
  8. Bradbury — The Martian Chronicles
    The Martian Chronicles
    read by Ray Bradbury, 7 hours, 14 minutes, Listening Library 1976
    The Martian Chronicles read by Scott Brick,  9 hours, 3 minutes, Tantor Audio 2010
    The Martian Chronicles read by Peter Marinker,  7 hours, 38 minutes, BBC Audiobooks, 2010
    The Martian Chronicles read by Stephen Hoye, 9 hours, 14 minutes, Blackstone Audio, 2009
  9. LeGuin — The Left Hand of Darkness
    (No audio found)

  10. Doctorow — Little Brother
    Little Brother
    read by Kirby Heyborne, 11 hours, Listening Library

Review of The Folded World by Catherynne M. Valente

SFFaudio Review

The Folded World (A Dirge for Prester John, #2)The Folded World (A Dirge for Prester John #2)
By Catherynne M. Valente, Read by Ralph Lister
9 hours 18 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: November 2011
ISBN: 1597802034
Themes: / Fantasy / Creatures / Monks / Quest / Immortality / War / Crusades / Parenting

Publisher Summary: When the mysterious daughter of Prester John appears on the doorstep of her father’s palace, she brings with her news of war in the West–the Crusades have begun, and the bodies of the faithful are washing up on the shores of Pentexore. Three narratives intertwine to tell the tale of the beginning of the end of the world: a younger, angrier Hagia, the blemmye-wife of John and Queen of Pentexore, who takes up arms with the rest of her nation to fight a war they barely understand, Vyala, a lion-philosopher entrusted with the care of the deformed and prophetic royal princess, and another John, John Mandeville, who in his many travels discovers the land of Pentexore–on the other side of the diamond wall meant to keep demons and monsters at bay.

These three voices weave a story of death, faith, beauty, and power, dancing in the margins of true history, illuminating a place that never was.

To fully appreciate this book, it is essential to first read The Habitation of the Blessed (A Dirge for Prester John #1), because The Folded World starts off right where the last book left off. The mythology of this trilogy is thick, and the second book builds nicely on what is developed in the first.  Where in The Habitation of the Blessed, the reader is introduced to all the fantastical creatures and the ways of the new lands, The Folded World digs deeper into the stories of some of the characters.  Although Prester John himself has lived with his blemmye wife for some time, he is still experiencing life as an outsider as he tries to put his own religion through the filters of the various beings he encounters.

It doesn’t help that the Crusades are going on, and the armies are getting closer.  Prester John doesn’t exactly fit in with his old life the way he used to.  This conflict is central to the development of the overarching story that I’m sure will continue in book #3.

While The Folded World lacked the breathtaking impact of the first book, probably just because the overall world was familiar to me, the same elements that I loved are present here – beautiful writing, a detailed mythical place with its own history and stories, and the clash between worlds.  There is one more book planned in this series, with the release date tentatively set for November 2012.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

Review of Moxyland by Lauren Beukes

SFFaudio Review

Image of Moxyland audiobook Moxyland
By Lauren Beukes; Read by Nico Evers-Swindell
8 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Angry Robot via Brilliance Audio
Published: 2011

Themes: dystopia / commericalism / police states / apartheid / art / AIDS / cell phones

Publisher summary:

You think you know what’s going on?
You think you know who’s really in power?
You have No. Fucking. Idea.

Moxyland is an ultra-smart thriller about technological progress, and the freedoms it removes. In the near future, four hip young things live in a world where your online identity is at least as important as your physical one. Getting disconnected is a punishment worse than imprisonment, but someone’s got to stand up to government inc., whatever the cost.

This might be one instance where an audiobook has the potential to lead a reader (listener) into confusion more than reading the print might do. Moxyland is read by Nico Evers-Swindell, best known for his portrayal of Prince William in the made-for-tv movie William & Kate.  While he does a good job with the voices and South African accents, the intertwining stories are hard to keep up with, particularly with the way the reader is dumped right into the center of everything already going on.

That’s how living in a totalitarian, nearly-post-Apartheid South Africa can be sometimes. The four main characters in Moxyland don’t seem to have a grasp of the big picture either, and can hardly keep up with navigating the landscape where your cellphone can punish you, viruses can be used as crowd control, and your body can be turned into an irrevocable product advertisement.

This has tastes of William Gibson and Cory Doctorow, and the realism is helped by the ten years Beukes spent as a journalist, where she started thinking “What would happen if…?” The world she has created is scary, but not difficult to imagine.  After all, some of us are already living it.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

The SFFaudio Podcast #135 – NEW RELEASES/RECENT ARRIVALS

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #135 – Scott, Jesse, Tamahome, and Jenny talk about recently arrived audiobooks, new releases and more.

Talked about on today’s show:
The Year’s Top Short SF Novels edited by Allan Kaster, including “Return to Titan” by Stephen Baxter (set in the Xeelee Sequence), “Jackie’s-Boy” by Steven Popkes, “The Sultan of the Clouds” by Geoffrey A. Landis, “Seven Cities of Gold” by David Moles, “A History of Terraforming” by Robert Reed, “Several Items of Interest” by Rick Wilber, and “Troika” by Alastair Reynolds.  Two were finalists for the Hugo Award this year.  The Seven Cities of Gold is also a video game!

Immortality, Inc. by Robert Sheckley, narrated by the amazing Bronson Pinchot. Originally published serially as “Time Killer” in Galaxy Science Fiction (1960).  Jesse wants to do this as a readalong, but Jenny wants something newer than 1960.

Earth Strike: Star Carrier, Book One by Ian Douglas.  Tamahome is a sucker for space, and this is the first of two books that are available in Audible.  Scott doesn’t care much for military sci-fi, but didn’t mind Starship Troopers, Ender’s Game, and Forever Peace.  What matter is the focus – Scott is looking for a good story, which is hard to find.  “Too much science?” Deep Space Nine.  “Not all Muslims are fanatic, lieutenant…” Is it too politically correct?  Tamahome is a sucker for women who kick ass too, this is right up his alley!

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, also Sputnik Sweetheart, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, A Wild Sheep Chase, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, After Dark.  46 hour commitment for the audio book, originally published as three separate volumes.  Jenny can’t stop reading it!  Aomame = “green peas.”  Publisher says it is a love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, and a dystopia to rival George Orwell.  Tamahome heard that Q sounds like “nine” in Japanese.  Don’t read too much Murakami in a row! Look for cats and spaghetti.

Five books by Philip K. Dick from Brilliance Audio – The Divine InvasionNow Wait for Last Year, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, The Simulacra, and Lies, Inc.  More details in Dick’s newly published journal, Exegesis. Reading about authors vs. just reading their work.  East of Eden on A Good Story is Hard to Find and Steinbeck’s novel journal.  Jesse relates more to life in the suburbs. Rewrite of “The Unteleported Man.”  Gregg Margarite discussed Exegesis on his podcast – “a lot of work to slog through.”

Lots of collections from Brilliance Audio – Wild Cards edited by George R. R. Martin, Wild Cards II: Aces High edited by George R. R. Martin, Songs of Love and Death edited by George R. R. Martin, and Down These Strange Streets edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. We complained about lack of contents and Brilliance has started including them – thank you!  Up next – contents printed on specific discs. George R. R. Martin is spending his time on anthologies because he is not your bitch!  Warriors anthology is cross-genre. Someone should make an audio book of Best of the Best edited by Gardner Dozois.  Tamahome likes “Trinity” by Nancy Kress, but the print in the book is too tiny for anyone over 40.

Manhattan in Reverse by Peter F. Hamilton. Only available outside of the United States, queue proprietary publisher rant by the SFF Audio crew, in fact Jenny posted a sassy one in her blog. Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct detective novels and a reimagined New York City.  Robert E. Howard does a similar thing with countries.  Perfectly genetically engineered female cops (Paula Myo from the Commonwealth Saga) end up with personal problems.

Two picks for post-apocalypse fans – Swan Song by Robert McCammon and A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.  Swan Song is highly rated.  Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon has been recommended to Scott multiple times.  Swan Song reminds Jenny of The Stand with a promise of fantastical elements. Destiny’s Road also comes out December 1.  Death and destruction ends in rejoicing!

Angry Robot and Brilliance Audio have published seven novels that Scott previously posted aboutDarkness Falling by Peter Crowther, Debris by Jo Anderton, Moxyland by Lauren Beukes, Reality 36 by Guy Haley, Roll: The Nightbound Land by Troy Jamieson, Triumff: Her Majesty’s Hero by Dan Abnett, and Zoo City by Lauren Beukes. Jenny heard Lauren Beukes on Writing Excuses, and Tamahome heard she won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Zoo City. Reality 36 has a pie fetish? Oh PI fetish. Tamahome likes cyberspace but not LARPing, John Anealio wrote an Angry Robot Theme song, What is wild magic? Maybe quail.  Angry Robot is doing interesting stuff, also won the World Fantasy Award for professionals in the field this year, and they are doing eBooks the right way.

The Cold Commands by Richard K. Morgan. Jesse will read books out of spite. “Dude! Your homophobia is calling.” “It’s fiction, not you!” From Tamahome’s second tier – Nothing to Lose: The Adventures of Captain Nothing by Steve Vernon.  Some confusion which should be cleared up when it is released.  Something may have been lost in the translation from the Nova Scotian. Might be like Dark Knight, except for actually being a bad guy.  Batman finding his voice, Batman vs. the Clown. The Folded World by Catherynne M. Valente (A Dirge for Prester John #2) – “she writes with the original unicorns.”  “That’s probably because she doesn’t actually have a head.” The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherill.  One of the Neil Gaiman Presents titles.  “The Minotaur sits on an empty pickle bucket….” Anything like American Gods? Realistic restaurant world portrayal. All Clear by Connie Willis, half of this year’s Hugo Award.  Pavane by Keith Roberts is another Neil Gaiman Presents title.  Alternate history and steampunk?  Other novels of loosely related stories – Kirinyaga by Mike Resnick, Accelerando by Charles Stross, Voyage of the Space Beagle by A. E. van Gogt. Light by M. John Harrison – Tamahome finds it to be “unpleasant” between the masturbating and the killing.  Why is this one of Neil Gaiman’s top novels of the last 10 years?  Reinvention of space opera, but the end result is hard to take.  Stephen King’s newest – 11-22-63Ring by Stephen Baxter (from the Xeelee Sequence), Baxter even explains why aliens don’t visit in his Manifold Trilogy, which is based on the Fermi paradox. “That’s it!  Go to your rooms!”  “Everybody out of the pool!” Digital vs. disc, subscription vs. individual purchase, Audible.com sale, Black Friday and Cyber Monday – we are ready for holiday gift giving!  Evacuation Day instead of Thanksgiving. Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke, Jo Walton’s Revisiting The Hugos, the SF Masterworks series (from the U.K.), Jenny’s Around The World bookshelf

From Stephen Baxter’s Ring:

Lieserl was suspended inside the body of the Sun.

She spread her arms wide and lifted up her face. She was deep within the Sun’s convective zone, the broad mantle of turbulent material beneath the growing photosphere. Convective cells larger than the Earth, tangled with ropes of magnetic flux, filled the world around her with a complex, dynamic, three-dimensional tapestry. She could hear the roar of the great gas founts, smell the stale photons diffusing out toward space from the remote core.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

Review of Tunnel in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein

SFFaudio Review

Tunnel in the Sky from Full Cast Audio Tunnel in the Sky
By Robert A. Heinlein; Read by David Baker and cast
10 hours 15 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Full Cast Audio
Published: 2011
Themes: / Science Fiction / Survival / Space Travel / Society /

Publisher summary: When Rod Walker decides to take the final test for “Deacon” Matson’s interplanetary survival course, he knows he will be facing life-or-death situations on an unsettled planet. What he doesn’t expect is that something will go wrong with the “Tunnel in the Sky” and he and his fellow students will not be able to return to Terra.

Stranded on a hostile planet, Rod and his friends are faced with the challenge of carving a civilization out of the wilderness. They must deal with hunger, deprivation, and strangely savage beasts. But the bigger question is, can they survive each other?

This science fiction classic pits a savage world against the most untameable beast of all: the human animal. Chock full of high adventure, futuristic speculation, witty repartee, and profound philosophy, Tunnel in the Sky represents the greatest SF writer of all time at his peak.

Survival stories are frequent in YA literature, and Tunnel in the Sky was probably one of the first, originally published in 1955. It is referred to as one of “Heinlein’s Juveniles,” and is a great tale of adventure with a life-threatening scenario.   Rather than making a statement, as some of Heinlein’s works attempt to do, this book is just danger and kids using what they have learned to create a new society and survive on an alien planet.  Anyone who enjoyed The Hunger Games or Ender’s Game would probably also enjoy this story, as it has similar themes.  The time period of its original publication is evident in a few moments, but not to the extent I am used to when reading Heinlein.

This was my first experience with Full Cast Audio, and I felt the story was greatly enhanced by being in audio form.  There is sometimes transition background music, but it isn’t distracting, and the voice actors do a good job.  The narrator manages not to blend in with the other adult characters, making it clear when the story is being told.  A few occasions of the word “Huh?” are quite jarring screamed into the listener’s ear, but I think I’ll blame Heinlein for that.  After all, the main character of Rod needs to be a little naive for the story to work, and he is, more than a little.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

Review of The Habitation of the Blessed by Catherynne M. Valente

SFFaudio Review

The Habitation of the Blessed
By Catherynne M. Valente, Read by Ralph Lister
11 hours 10 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: November 2010
ISBN: 1441870245
Themes: / Fantasy / Creatures / Monks / Quest / Immortality /

Publisher description: This is the story of a place that never was: the kingdom of Prester John, the utopia described by an anonymous, twelfth-century document which captured the imagination of the medieval world and drove hundreds of lost souls to seek out its secrets, inspiring explorers, missionaries, and kings for centuries. But what if it were all true? What if there was such a place, and a poor, broken priest once stumbled past its borders, discovering, not a Christian paradise, but a country where everything is possible, immortality is easily had, and the Western world is nothing but a dim and distant dream? Brother Hiob of Luzerne, on missionary work in the Himalayan wilderness on the eve of the eighteenth century, discovers a village guarding a miraculous tree whose branches sprout books instead of fruit. These strange books chronicle the history of the kingdom of Prester John, and Hiob becomes obsessed with the tales they tell. The Habitation of the Blessed recounts the fragmented narratives found within these living volumes, revealing the life of a priest named John, and his rise to power in this country of impossible richness. John’s tale weaves together with the confessions of his wife Hagia, a blemmye — a headless creature who carried her face on her chest — as well as the tender, jeweled nursery stories of Imtithal, nanny to the royal family.

Full disclosure – I am an unrestrained, shameless fan of Catherynne M. Valente.  She ranks among my top three favorite authors, Palimpsest being my favorite novel, and I have read practically everything she has written.  The only exceptions are Labyrinth, her first novel which she has made available for free online, Deathless, and some of her short stories.  Valente’s prose is beautiful, and her knowledge of mythology and the classics is apparent in every story.  Some of her earlier works read more like poetry.

The Habitation of the Blessed is the first book in a trilogy called Dirge for Prester John.  The next book will be out before the end of the year, and the third is set to be published in 2012.  It is based on the medieval legend of Prester John, and Catherynne Valente has created a website called PresterJohnOnline where you can read more.  Check out this video demonstrating the medieval legend as acted out by action figures (also created by Valente).

Of all of Valente’s works, this reminds me of The Orphan’s Tales, the way there are multiple stories that are loosely connected in an overarching narrative.  But somehow, it is much more intricate, and I was drawn in by this tree of books that is encountered early on by Brother Hiob of Lucerne.  The interweaving stories in the book come from this tree, but they may act more like fruit than paper.

“This tree bore neither apples nor plums, but books, where fruit should sprout. The bark of its great trunk shone the color of parchment; its leaves a glossy vibrant red, as if it had drunk up all the colors of the long plain through its roots. In clusters and alone, books of all shapes hung among the pointed leaves, their covers obscenely bright and shining, swollen as peaches, gold and green, and cerulean, their pages thick as though with juice, their silver ribbon marks fluttering in the spiced wind.”

My imagination was captured in that moment, and it only got better.  The creatures in this book are bizarre and enchanting, and stretch the limitations of the reader alongside Brother Hiob. It is impossible not to start longing for the imaginary landscape of Pentexore, and I look forward to the future books in this world.

Ralph Lister also does a wonderful job with the audio, and the subtle differences in voices help the listener know where one is within the story.

Posted by Jenny Colvin