Review of Sci-Fi Private Eye edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Sci-Fi Private Eye edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. GreenbergSci-Fi Private Eye
Edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin Greenberg; Read by Bill Fantini and Nelson Runger
4 cassettes – 6 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Dercum Audio
Published: August 1997
ISBN: 155656273X
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mystery / Utopia / Dystpoia / Sherlock Holmes / Mars / Berzerker / Time Travel / Artificial Intelligence / Covert Warfare /

Decades ago, SF grandmaster Isaac Asimov noted the similarity between detective “whodunit” stories and science fiction “puzzle” stories. Avoiding some of the obvious pitfalls, he began to write stories that contain elements of both of these popular genres. Later as an anthologist, Asimov teamed up with Martin H. Greenberg to collect the best of this subgenre. Sci-Fi Private Eye was the happy result. Though obviously not recorded under perfect conditions, you can literally hear the pages turning, I was flabbergasted by the love and care that went into the recording of this audiobook. It starts off with a haunting original musical score, then, instead of simply reading the first story, as is typical with nearly every audiobook, it introduces the anthology with a brief but well composed essay on the subject of mystery science fiction! The packaging is not as good, while in a sturdy enough case, the original cover art falls into a category I call “computer designed abstract boring”. Even worse, they spelled Asimov’s name wrong. The cassettes themselves also lack important details (what story starts where and ends where). The stories though are so good that I’ve got to summarize and review them individually:

Stories Included:
Introduction written and read by Isaac Asimov
“Getting Across” by Robert Silverberg
“The Martian Crown Jewels” by Poul Anderson
“Of The Metal Murderer” by Fred Saberhagen
“Mouthpiece” by Edward Wellen
“War Game” by Philip K. Dick

Robert Silverberg’s “Getting Across” is a terrific SF short story told in the first person. It was originally published in the anthology entitled Future City (1973). A future society is in danger. To house the engorged human race, the Earth is entirely covered by one large metropolis. But it isn’t one big city so much as it is a million city-states abutting one another. Each district has its own government, its own customs and industries, and it’s own way of life. Contact between districts is restricted and often dangerous to those who attempt it. All districts rely on a master computer program for the smooth operation of these automated communities. So when Ganfield’s master computer program is stolen, things start to deteriorate quickly. Garbage starts piling up uncollected, food stops being delivered, the climate control system stops working, and the deactivated robotic police force cannot prevent the cannibalism that is only weeks away. The man whose “month-wife” stole the program is sent to find her and bring it back. His task is nearly impossible because even if he can get out of his district getting across will only be the first hurdle. Typical of Silverberg’s great work in the 1970s.

Poul Anderson’s “The Martian Crown Jewels” was first published in A Treasury of Great Science Fiction, Vol. 1 (1959). The Martian Crown Jewels have been stolen! The theft threatens to destroy diplomatic relations between Mars and Earth. Inspector Gregg, of the Earth police force stationed on Mars, is stumped. Who can solve the baffling locked spaceship mystery and avert a galactic catastrophe of cataclysmic proportions? None other than Mars’ greatest consulting detective, Syaloch, a seven-foot feathered Martian who lives at 221B “Street of Those who Prepare Nourishment in Ovens.” Most entertaining.

Edward Wellen’s “Mouthpiece” first saw print in the pages of Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine’s February 1974’s issue. Most of the stories I’ve read by Edward Wellen tend to be focused on the workings of the human mind, and this one is no exception. This one fictionalizes a fascinating historical curiosity regarding the final hours of “Dutch” Schultz and takes it just that bit farther – into artificial intelligence – leaving us pondering the nature of personality, memory and thought. It’s also a great little mystery to boot!

Fred Saberhagen’s “The Adventure Of The Metal Murderer” was first published in Omni Magazine’s January 1980 issue, and is another in Saberhagen’s long running series of Berzerker short stories. It’s a time travel story that starts in the distant future and then goes back to 19th century London, England. A clever tale that will remind you of Michael Moorcock’s “Behold The Man”.

Philip K. Dick’s “War Game” was first published in Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine’s December 1959 issue. Earth’s traditional enemy, Ganymede, is at it again. They are trying to subvert and soften up the good people of Earth by selling potentially dangerous toys and games as a prelude to invasion. One toy appears to assemble itself over time into a nuclear weapon, another convinces the user that the virtual reality he or she is in is actual reality, and a third is a harmless variation on the board game Monopoly. But the market demand for the inventive Ganymedian games is pressuring the Earth customs to clear the toys for stocking in time for Christmas. If they follow the rules only one will get through to the store shelves. Typically Dickian and thus very entertaining.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review The Complete Works Of L. Ron Hubbard by L. Ron Hubbard

SFFaudio Review

THE COMPLETE WORKS OF L. RON HUBBARD

By L. Ron Hubbard; read by Fran Drescher
48 cassettes – 71 Hours [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: PEDANT AUDIO
Published: April 1st 2004
ISBN: 031200400X
Themes: / Science Fiction / Money / Past Lives / Money / Psychic Alien Invasion / More Money / L. Ron Is The Messiah /

“A year ago it was just another snake cult, but now…”

A work to stagger the imagination, The Complete Works Of L. Ron Hubbard (abridged) includes short stories, novellas, novellettes, novels, trilogies, quadrilogies, grocery lists and much much more by L. Ron Hubbard! You really can’t deny the persuasive argument it all makes – in fact the good folks at PEDANT AUDIO made sure I couldn’t leave their Scientology compound until it did make sense and of course only after the symbolic signing-over of my trust fund and all my worldly goods! What’s especially nice is the writing all hangs together like a beautiful audio-tapestry, kind of like the way things do when you’ve been denied sleep for three days straight. In fact now that I think about it, it makes sense in exactly that way. The audiobook is performed by Fran Drescher, who you probably remember from “The Nanny” television series. Fran Drescher’s range is impressive, she’s able to put a Queens, NY accent with her trademark nasal quality into any character she chooses – thankfully she chooses to do it a lot in this audiobook. The packaging is also excellent, it comes in a lead lined box weighing 88 pounds guaranteed to prevent Xenu and his evil minions from controlling it with their thought-rays. Thankfully the audiobook is available by express courier for the reasonable price of $560.99 + $122.50 shipping. I suggest you take out a second mortgage and buy this audiobook immediately, I know I did. This review will self destruct in 5 seconds…

Posted by Jesse Willis

Fans of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series will be…


Fans of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series will be pleased to hear that a six part adaptation of Pratchett’s 8th novel in the series, titled “Guards! Guards!” will be airing on BBC7’s The 7th Dimension starting April 5th 2004.

This coincides with BBC7’s Audio On Demand service, which allows listeners around the world to download streaming content archived for five days from the BBC7 website!

If you’re even half as excited as we are at the prospect of CBC Radio picking up FASTER THAN LIGHT, a new Science Fiction & Fantasy radio show, that will be available through streaming audio around the world, you now have a way to show your support for the idea. Send a quick email to CBC Audience Relations at: [email protected]. You can also call CBC Audience Relations, use this number (416) 205-3700. I know I will!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Good news everyone! BBC7, the current king of Sci…


Good news everyone! BBC7, the current king of Science Fiction and Fantasy radio broadcasting, will be implementing an “Audio On Demand” (AOD) service starting Monday, April 5, 2004. BBC7’s The 7th Dimension has a minimum of 30 minutes of Science Fiction and Fantasy content every day of the week. This means that if you live outside the UK you’ll be able to tune into programs at your convienience – each program will be available through the AOD service for five days following the scheduled broadcast. Keep checking with SFFAudio for specific program announcements and links.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Twilight Zone No. 1 – The Mighty Casey by Rod Serling

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Twilight Zone No 1The Twilight Zone No. 1 – The Mighty Casey
By Rod Serling; Read by Fritz Weaver
1 cassette – 75 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio
Published: 1992 – Out Of Print
ISBN: 1559946598
Themes: / Fantasy / Baseball / Robots / Humor /

Submitted for your approval…

Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone is revived for audio in the form of unabridged short stories by Rod Serling. All the stories in this series were previously adapted for the original Twilight Zone television series. This is the first in a series of six single cassette adaptations read by stars of the original series. In this case, Fritz Weaver spins the tale of “The Mighty Casey”, an almost mythical player for that near-mythical sport of baseball. The Brooklyn Dodgers were down in the dumps until tryouts turned up a talented left hander with a pitch like nobody’s business. Casey, the pitcher “with an exceptional left hand”, inspires the tired old players to new glory. They become the team to beat. Everything was swell until Casey gets beaned by a ball. A doctor is summoned and pronounces that Casey is alright, but then the doctor has trouble finding a pulse. It’s soon discovered that Casey is actually a robot and as such does not have a heart!

When thinking of baseball, most people probably associate the name Casey with the Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s 1888 poem “Casey At The Bat”. It’s clear to me that Rod Serling tapped into it for inspiration. “The Mighty Casey” is a very funny story. The dialogue is humorous and the situation is funny too, but it also has a lot of pathos. The story is entertaining but also has that most important of Twilight Zone elements, a twist with a satisfying ending. Fritz Weaver has great fun playing the characters, especially Mouth McGarry, the comic manager of the Dodgers, a character full of deep anxiety and deeper ignorance. This is pretty light material for The Twilight Zone, which often deals with the darker elements of the Human condition. Presented like an actual episode of the television series, there’s the haunting Twilight Zone music and an introduction just like Serling used to make. I actually listened to the tale twice, and I enjoyed it even more the second time around. Overall its a very good start to the series.

Posted by Jesse Willis

CBC Radio Drama: Faster Than Light

Hugo and Nebula award winning author Robert J.Sawyer has just announced the completion of a third pilot for the proposed weekly radio science fiction radio show FASTER THAN LIGHT. Produced by Joe Mahoney and Fergus Heywood for CBC Radio One, the half-hour long program includes:

-An interview with Julie E. Czerneda, one of Canada’s best SF writers

-A mini documentary on aliens in movies

-A short essay by Robet J. Sawyer on “the other” in science fiction

-An original full-cast radio drama based on Richard Matheson’s 1950 short story “Born of Man And Woman”!

Sounds like a real winner. The word is that if the pilot is picked up there could be as many as ten episodes of Faster Than Light broadcast over the summer! We will keep you updated as more information is available, this is really terrific news!

Posted by Jesse Willis