Review of The Minority Report and Other Stories By Philip K. Dick

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Minority Report by Philip K. DickThe Minority Report and Other Stories
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Keir Dullea
4 Cassettes – 6 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio
Published: 2001
ISBN: 0694523348
Themes: Science Fiction / Future Knowledge / Time Travel / Paranoia / Robots / Artificial Intelligence / Alien Invasion /

This collection of five Philip K. Dick tales includes stories that will make you laugh, cringe in fear, and most of all… think. Stories included:

The Minority Report
The creator and head of Pre-crime, John Anderton, runs a special branch of the police that uses precognition to lock-up those who plan to commit felonies. When he suddenly finds that his own name is on the list of future-murderers to be rounded up he thinks it’s a conspiracy to dismantle the system. After all, why would he, a respected crime fighter, kill a man he’s never met? His only chance is to escape, find out who this man he’s supposed to kill is. First published in the pulp magazine “Fantastic Universe” in January 1956, “The Minority Report” is an intriguing look at the philosophical consequences of thinking about the future and free will. If we can see into the future then the future is like a book in which we are all characters, and which we have no ability to chose to do anything. But if we can find out what a person’s future behavior is – and can prevent it – how reliable was the view of that future? Aren’t the two mutually exclusive? Isn’t future knowledge an irresolvable paradox? Like nearly every Dick tale, this one is extremely engaging. Unlike the movie adaptation, our hero isn’t a dashing Tom Cruise type, instead as the first line of the story illustrates: “The first thought Anderton had when he saw the young man was ‘I’m getting bald. Bald and fat and old.” Anderton is a protagonist lacking self-confidence. That weakness and the mounting paranoia enhance the tale all the more.

We Can Remember It For You Wholesale
Quail is just a working schlub, too poor to afford a trip to Mars, a place he’s always dreamed about going. His frustration leads him to buy a memory implant, one that will give him an ersatz visit to the red planet, and it’s said to be one so real that if he can find proof that he didn’t actually go, he can get his money back! But when something goes wrong during the procedure Quail starts to remember the truth – he’s actually been to Mars already! “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” was the basis of the feature film Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and for the first three-quarters of the story, the plots are very similar. But fear not! As is becoming the rule in Hollywood, the ending is different. And I happen to think Dick’s version is even better. Originally published in Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine’s April 1966 issue, this one is one you definitely won’t forget.

Recently adapted into an action film directed by John Woo and starring Ben Affleck, “Paycheck” is the tale of an engineer who works under a strange contract. As a condition of his employment he must have his memories of his work wiped. After doing the job, two years have passed, and of course he has no memory of the previous two years – in lieu of wages he’s apparently traded in a large cash payment for a bag of seemingly worthless and unrelated objects. When the security police of the totalitarian state he lives in arrests him and demands to know what he’s been working on for the past two years he suddenly discovers that the “worthless objects” are helping him escape! Can this collection of junk actually unlock the secret of his recent past – and insure that he has a future? First published in “Imagination” Magazine’s June 1953 issue, “Paycheck” is as slippery and mysterious as it is slick written and inevitable – Dick is the ultimate idea man.

Second Variety
Under a flag of truce, the UN officer receives an offer of parlay from a lone Russian Soldier. He’s to travel alone to a rendezvous behind enemy lines to discuss a matter of ‘mutual interest’. “Second Variety” is the basis of the obscure SF film Screamers, starring Peter Weller. This novella originally appeared in Space Science Fiction magazine’s May 1953 issue and offers a glimpse at horrifically scarred future Earth where a nuclear winter and two opposing armies are confronted by an even more dangerous weapon than ICBMs. Well written and thoughtful, another masterpiece of paranoia and philosophy. Dick can do no wrong!

The Eyes Have It
This short storylet is a rare humour piece that posits the dire consequences literalism and paranoia. Whimsical and truly laugh-out-loud funny it was first published in “Science Fiction Stories 1” in 1953.

Keir Dullea, the reader of all these stories is probably best known as astronaut Dave Bowman in Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey. In recent years Dullea has gained a name for himself as an audiobook narrator, and this collection can only add to that fame. Dullea does accents, and voice changes, but never gets in the way of the wonderful ideas. Well done.

Harper Audio did an excellent job with this collection. Recording quality is top notch and they’ve even accented the reading with little musical cues to let you know when a story has ended or the tape is ready to be flipped. Other than the uninteresting cover art and the flimsy packaging, which is unfortunately, all too standard these days, my only complaint was that they didn’t do more of Philip K. Dick’s stories. I wan’t more! More!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Icarus Hunt By Timothy Zahn

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Icarus Hunt by Timothy ZahnThe Icarus Hunt
By Timothy Zahn; Read by Jonathan Marosz
9 Cassettes – Approx. 12 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Books On Tape Inc.
Published: 1999
ISBN: 0736649573
Themes: / Science Fiction / Space Opera / Mystery / Galactic Civilization / Aliens /

From Timothy Zahn, Hugo Award winner and New York Times bestselling author of two landmark Star Wars® series, comes an original new tale featuring a renegade space pilot, his unusual alien partner, and an unknown cargo that can change the course of galactic history.

Captain Jordan McKell, and his alien partner, Ixil, incautiously agree to fly The Icarus and its special cargo to Earth. The Icarus turns out to be an unusual ship containing a ragtag crew and a secret cargo that everybody in the Spiral seems to want to get their hands on. Things look tough but get worse, when they discover one of the crew’s been murdered and that there’s a saboteur aboard.

The Icarus Hunt is more science fantasy than science fiction. Set in a universe very similar to that of Star Wars, it’s also a novel firmly planted in that tradition of smugglers and space jockeys eluding powerful governments, with plenty of aliens, gunfights and seedy spaceports. If you’re in the mood for old-fashioned escapist SF, this one’s definitely for you. Myself, I enjoyed the simplicity of the tale, which is told entirely from one character’s perspective, but with enough curves to keep it interesting. Timothy Zahn wrote a few Star Wars novels, so he’s got the chops for this, but unlike with those novels, Zahn is able to build his own universe instead of just riding on the coattails of the first three movies. Zahn himself has described The Icarus Hunt as “Star Wars meets Alastair McLean”, and he’s telling the truth. The protagonist is a human that’ll remind you of the Han Solo/Lando Calrissian type, the good hearted rogue, and the plot has enough double-crossing to make you think you’re watching Where Eagles Dare or Ice Station Zebra. This isn’t deep material but it’s engaging. The worst sin it commits is in its length, its just a tad long for the plot material.

Jonathon Marosz uses more than a dozen voices and his reading is spot on. The viewpoint character is, as I stated before, a Han Solo type, and Marosz could definitely pinch hit for Harrision Ford in a minute. The cover art for this one is taken from the Bantam books paperback, and looks great. Production values are excellent, sound quality is perfect, though it has no extras at all. A solid reading of a solid space adventure.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Noreascon: The 29th World Science Fiction Conventi…

Noreascon: The 29th World Science Fiction Convention Awards Banquet
Produced by William Desmond; Various Speakers
Two 33 1/3 RPM LPs – Approximately 90 minutes [UNABRIDGED EXCERPTS]
Publisher: Nesfa Inc.
Published: 1973 – Out Of Print
Themes: / Science Fiction / Awards / Fandom / Hugo Awards /

A set of two long-playing records of the Awards Banquet at the 1971 World Science Fiction Convention in Boston. The Toastmaster for the function was Robert Silverberg. In addition to the speeches by Guest of Honor Clifford D. Simak and Fan Guest of Honor Harry Warner, Jr., there is a eulogy for John Campbell given by Lester del Rey. Other speeches were given by the TAFF delegate (Mario Bosnyak) and the Bob Shaw Fan Fund winner (Bob Shaw). Awards were presented for First Fandom (received by Philinda Hammond for late father, John W. Campbell) and the P.A.T. Terry Award for Humour in SF. The Hugo Awards were presented by Isaac Asimov.

I had to find a working record player to play this set, something more difficult than I expected, but it was worth the wait. Recorded in real time, this is a collection of excerpts from the awards banquet, so there are some slow spots, a little dead air, but the energy and sheer voyeurism more than makes up for this. After all, listening to these LPs is for a science fiction fan what the Oscars are to a movie fan.

Toastmaster Robert Silverberg, who just this year (2004) has been named a “grand master,” sprinkles his 33 year old speeches with jokes, about Nixon, marijuana and other topical to 1971 themes – Silverberg also “roasts” many of his colleagues to his own and to the audience’s obvious delight. But Silverberg isn’t the only speaker. A somber and lamenting Lester Del Rey eulogized John W. Campbell and presented the first Fandom Award. Bob Shaw, specially imported to Boston just for the occasion made a brief speech full of warmth and humour and delightful Irish accent was a real treat! And Clifford D. Simak gave what sounded like a prepared speech – with some unfortunately insecure dentures. Simak’s unadulterated benevolence shone through – in his late 60’s by the time of this recording, he was the most eloquent speaker among all the honourees that night. Simak suggested in his speech that perhaps the “golden age”, wasn’t quite so golden as we all seem to remember and that the current ‘dry spell’ isn’t perhaps quite so dry. He extolled the virtues of the “new wave” and suggests that science fiction is stronger than it ever was, and that the expansion into the softer sciences of economics, ethics, sociology, etc. is actually a good thing. Simak’s conviction and good will brought genuine tears to my eyes and I wasn’t the only one moved. Simak’s speech was interrupted by spontaneous applause. After he’d concluded his speech he was again subject to a rousing and sustained round of applause and Silverberg said as Simak took his seat “He’s a good man, a pretty good writer too, we have a lot of good writers here tonight but he’s a good man”. We’ll miss you Cliff.

On Side 4 the serious handing out the “silver spaceships” began in earnest with Isaac Asimov as the dispenser. Asimov had even more fun with the microphone than did Silverberg, giving us a raunchy limerick and several references to himself as the worlds greatest science fiction author!

Larry Niven makes a brief vocalization too, after having been handed his Hugo for best novel (Ringworld), Niven said “I promised my wife I’d quit smoking right after this convention”. Thankfully Larry is still with us more than a third of a century later and no doubt we have his wife to thank for that.

Sound quality with this 1973 production is only fair, vinyl/needle friction combined with numerous microphone bumps, pops and hisses are only a minor annoyance, most speakers are easily heard, the audience laughs at all the jokes and everyone seems to be having a great time. The line drawing cover art is rudimentary and is taken from the program to the convention (click on the picture to see the expanded fold out cover), the inside of the 2 disc set is illustrated with black and white photos from Noreascon 1971. With only 300 of these record sets ever printed this is a mighty rare collectible, I’ll cherish mine until they invent that time machine these SF authors are always promising – then I can visit the convention myself!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Faster Than Light producer Joe Mahoney, informs us…

SFFaudio News

Faster Than Light producer Joe Mahoney, informs us that the third pilot for the proposed science fiction radio show, has not been greenlighted by the CBC Radio big wigs for summer broadcast. But its not all bad news, while this is the third pilot for the series, the CBC brass arent abandoning the concept. Joe informs us “they want to tweak it just a little bit more before committing to a series. I got a clear message that they believe in the project but they want to take the time to make certain that it’s done absolutely right. This can only be a good thing for the show.” Having heard both the first and second pilots so far myself, I can tell they’ve really got some great people working on the project and its just a matter of time. Thanks for the update Joe! Personally I’ve come to the conclusion that I should follow Roman Republic senator Cato the Elder’s example and end every post on SFFAudio with: “And Faster Than Light MUST live!” Maybe that’ll help.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Here’s an interview with Alexander Wilson, the cre…

SFFaudio Interview

Here’s an interview with Alexander Wilson, the creative mind behind Telltale Weekly, a website dedicated to building a free online audio library. Here’s an excerpt:

I’m a big fan of NPR [National Public Radio] when driving, exercising, or working at my day-job. And, as an avid reader, I never feel I have enough time in the day to read all the stuff I want. Before starting this project, I’d take a work with me by converting a Project Gutenberg text or a long online article to an MP3 or AAC using my Mac’s text-to-speech ability and a GUI/program I released called Audiobook Studio. Very utilitarian, but it’s tedious to listen to a lot of it. A few years ago I sold my recording equipment because of space and money considerations, and have since been looking for an excuse to replace it. When the back of your mind constantly looks for new ideas, occasionally one comes up that seems worth pursuing.

Enjoy the entire interview here.

Posted by Jesse Willis