FiveBooks Interviews – Orson Scott Card

SFFaudio Commentary

Orson Scott CardOne of the blogs I follow is FiveBooks, a segment of The Browser: Writing Worth Reading. The site features a daily interview of a renowned authority, invited to discuss his or her area of expertise and provide his or her choice of the best five books to read on that topic. It ranges from fiction to non-fiction, across all genres and subject matters. I like having it in my Google reader because I can just skip the topics that don’t interest me, while those that do have added to my to-read list exponentially.

Recently, Orson Scott Card was given this opportunity. He chose five books that will get readers hooked on science fiction, even if they are new to the genre.  Card also briefly discusses the development of the genre itself.  Check it out and tell me if these are the five you would have chosen.  I thought it might be a slight cop-out to choose two anthologies as two of his five selections, except I keep hearing about one of them as a volume that drew science fiction fans into the genre as children.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

Review of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

SFFaudio Review

Ready Player OneReady Player One
By Ernest Cline; Read by Wil Wheaton
15 hours 46 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 2011
ISBN: 0307913147
Themes: / Gaming / Virtual Reality / 1980s nostalgia / Dystopia / Near-Future /

Sample |MP3|

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, and like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.  

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle…

If you are a pop culture junkie, or a gamer, or a virtual world inhabitant, this is the book for you.   It was such great fun that I found myself making up reasons to listen to the audio book.  Wil Wheaton has become one of my favorite readers, especially at 1.5 speed.  His casual tone is perfect here.

Don’t be turned away by people who claim that this book is pure nostalgia.  While not heavy-handed, and arguably YA in tone, I found it to be thoughtful on issues of identity in an increasingly virtual world.  And just try imagining the new cities of stacked mobile homes without smiling!

Other fun things – author Ernest Cline has a vibrant blog for the book, including a RP1 Game.  He even posted a Spotify playlist featuring most of the music mentioned in the book.  If that can’t get you in the mood for a little nostalgic romp, you are dead on the inside. Dead!

Posted by Jenny Colvin

Review of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

SFFaudio Review

The Night Circus
By Erin Morgenstern; Read by Jim Dale
13 Hours 39 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House
Published: 2011
Themes: / Fantasy / Fairy Tale / Magic /

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians….” (from the publisher summary)

It isn’t often that I download a book as soon as it is released, but I’ve been hearing about The Night Circus for months.  A co-worker tracked down an ARC before it even came out, and declared that she loved it and so would I.  I believed her, but still thought I’d wait.  The tipping point was hearing that Jim Dale was the reader.

I first encountered Jim Dale when I listened to the audiobooks for Harry Potter.  Besides bringing the stories I already loved to life, I had the distinct impression that Jim Dale is the voice I’ve always heard in my head when I read a book that immerses me into another world.  His nuance in character voicing and compelling emotion increases the reading experience one hundred fold.  It was a no-brainer; I had to read this book.

The story bounces between different people who relate to the circus in some way, and moves at will between cities and years, just as the circus does.  Eventually the relationship between the characters starts to be revealed, starting with the midnight banquets, one of my favorite moments in the book. Details weave together to describe the mysterious, magical place of the night circus that kept me so absorbed that I would make up reasons to keep listening… taking the long way home, going through the  coffee drive-through, and taking on cleaning projects.

I have seen comparisons with Ray Bradbury and J.K. Rowling, but I keep thinking of Catherynne Valente, particularly the world she created for Palimpsest.  This is a time to believe the hype.  The Night Circus is magical.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

KCRW Bookworm Podcast Interviews Tom McCarthy

SFFaudio Online Audio

KCRW BookwormA great literary podcast is Bookworm on KCRW, featuring the insightful Michael Silverblatt interviewing authors about their work.  One memorable episode is with Tom McCarthy, author of C, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2010. |MP3|

The novel C follows the story of Serge Carrefax, who has grown up around an environment of invention, at a school for the deaf run by his father.  From there he travels through a period of drug-ridden military service toward his own realization of his abilities that I wouldn’t want to spoil.   The style of the writing makes the novel read as venturing into speculative fiction, maybe alternate history, without ever fully embracing either genre.  Each quarter of the book self-references other authors, which you don’t have to understand to appreciate the novel, but the interview Michael Silverblatt has with Tom McCarthy is very illuminating in that regard.

More than anything, I appreciate Michael Silverblatt’s exuberance about books and learning.

Podcast Feed: http://www.kcrw.com/podcast/show/bw

Posted by Jenny Colvin