Review of Catskin by Kelly Link

Catskin
By Kelly Link; Read by Kelly Link
|REALAUDIO|* – Approx. 56 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Broadcaster: WNYC
Broadcast: Nov. 1st 2002
Themes: / Fantasy / Horror / Magic / Witchcraft / Cats /

This short story by Nebula, World Fantasy, and James Tiptree Jr. Award winning author Kelly Link can be heard by listening to this archived radio show.

This is an unusual tale of the death of a lonely witch whose magical family must deal with the death of their mother. Frightening mental images and an unconventional approach to traditional horror and fantasy marks much of Kelly Link’s work . Like Neil Gaiman, Link is working with traditional themes, but overturning our expectations and that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, Link reads this tale very matter-of-factly, something all too common with author-performed stories and of course this adds nothing to an otherwise interesting tale. Link’s reading is also accompanied by a constant tinkling and trumpeting musical background – if it merely introduced and concluded the reading it would be great but because it doesn’t it simply distracts from the telling. One other minor issue is the long pauses up to six seconds. Such pauses make the listener think the reading has concluded prematurely. Despite these audio production problems, Catskin makes for a chilling Halloween themed listen.

*Be sure to zip all the way to the end of the first hour of the show and then to the 2 minute mark of the second hour of the show.

Posted by Jesse Willis

NPR’s Weekend Edition did a little piece on the tu…

SFFaudio News

NPR Weekend EditionNPR’s Weekend Edition did a little piece on the tumultuous history of the adaption of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot with comments from those who think the film is a disappointment, like SF authors Geoffrey Landis and Harlan Ellison, and from the film’s supporters, including Asimov’s widow Janet Jeppson and the film’s director Alex Proyas.

Click here for the show.

NPR has also posted a couple of neat sound clips by Harlan Ellison, one on his unfilmed screenplay of I, Robot and the other on why it didn’t get made.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Mind Slash Matter by Edward Wellen

Mind Slash Matter
By Edward Wellen; Read by René Auberjonois
2 cassettes – 3 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Durkin Hayes Inc. [Audio Exclusive]
Published: 1995
ISBN: 0886463890
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mystery / Computers / Artificial Intelligence / Hollywood / Disability /

[His mother] should have died then, at that moment, but she lasted five terrible downhill years longer. Doctors were small help, they couldn’t cure or even treat Alzheimer’s. But they could tell him it seemed to run in families. So during those years, in between looking after her and meeting his deadlines, he put his mind to the matter of insuring that he would not end up mindless and helpless. That he would end up in the middle of a slasher case was farthest from his mind

Depending how you look at it, there are either one or two people named Rush Lightbody. The first Rush was an award winning screenwriter, who is respected in Hollywood. The second Rush is in physically the same body, but this Rush has a terrible secret. He suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive and irreversible brain disorder with no known cure. The effects upon him include extreme memory loss, disorientation, and impaired judgment. But he is able to cope because he anticipated it. Rush saw his own mother disabled by this horrendous disease and knowing that it can run in families he wrote a complex computer program to manage his daily activities for him. It can respond to questions and give instructions to the housekeeper. But most importantly it can help Rush with his daily routine; the program does everything from reminding him who he is and what he’s accomplished to telling him where the bathroom is. It can even answer the phone in Rush’s voice! The program provides constant reminders, telling Rush, “P.J. Katz called Rush, he’s your agent.”

P.J. Katz, like everyone else Rush knew has been fooled into thinking Rush is normal, so he’s isn’t reluctant to call with a new writing assignment – the biography of an aging film star. The biography of Iris Cameron will require Rush to physically visit her and his agent and thus to venture outside the bounds of his home and routine. So the computer program gives Rush a pager with a digital display readout and calls a cab. Disoriented and out of sorts Rush somehow manages not to screw up either the meeting with his agent or Iris Cameron, but when he returns home, Rush’s computer has recorded a death threat from an anonymous caller – if Rush doesn’t stop writing the biography of Iris Cameron, he’s a “dead man.” This threat eventually leads to something the first Rush Lightbody, the young man who wrote the computer program, could never have expected – Rush becoming the prime suspect in serial killer murder investigation! Its now up to a dementia suffering screenwriter and a few lines of code in a PC to both keep Rush alive and discover the real killer.

The plot as detailed above may remind you of a combination of Christopher Nolan’s independent film Memento (2000), and Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd. (1950). But while Mind Slash Matter is certainly inspired by the latter, it precedes the former by a good five years. And as a big fan of both those films I am pleased to announce the resemblance in plots is also duplicated in the quality. Mind Slash Matter is one of the most riveting audiobooks I’ve ever heard! Upon finishing it I immediately attempted to track down more audiobooks by Edward Wellen, but unfortunately he wrote only two novels, and only one other story has been recorded as an audiobook – a short story I highly recommend you track down called “Mouthpiece”. But back to Mind Slash Matter, this is suspenseful, unpredictable, thought provoking and even funny novel with a mentally disabled detective solving a murder mystery. And frankly this story amazes me. Wellen has done the impossible. He’s written something completely and undeniably original. Wellen’s portrayal of what it’s like to live with Alzheimer’s disease is insightful and frightening, and his ideas as presented are almost a meditation on the boundaries of the human mind, a recurrent theme in Wellen’s fiction. The sum is a very powerful tale – and an unforgettable audio experience.

René Auberjonois, the reader, will have a familiar voice to many listeners since he played Odo on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. His performance here is excellent, using different voices for each character and particularly able to inject emotion into Rush’s thoughts – fear, anger, frustration, and confusion. For a straight reading – no music, no voice effects – this is perfect. Cover art is a little hard to decipher but is adequate. To top it all off, Mind Slash Matter was, until recently, only available only as an audiobook. Such an amazing story and straight to audio!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne

SFFaudio Review

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea
Based on the novel by Jules Verne; Performed by a full cast
33 1/3 RPM LP – Approximately 45 minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Wonderland Golden Records
Published: 1974 – Out Of Print
Themes: / Science Fiction / Submarines / War / Mad Scientist /

“…and when I am through I, Captain Nemo, shall rule the earth!”

“He’s mad, Baker! Mad, I tell you!”

Captain Nemo is the genius commander of a strange underwater ship “Nautilus”, which he invented to wage war against civilization. Captain Nemo’s base of operations for his fiendish scheme is the lost continent of Atlantis, which has sunk to the bottom of the sea centuries before.

Performed by something called “The Wonderland Imagination Theater” this is an old time radio style audio dramatization, complete with clichéd lines like “As you well know, my name is…”. What’s worse is that very little of Verne’s plotting is retained, whoever adapted this for audio seems to have decided he or she knew better how to plot a story than the inventor of modern science fiction! Production values are good, with appropriate and well-composed music, sound effects and background noise. Also on the plus side, the LP has a great campy comic book style cover, complete with word balloons. In fact if you think of the whole production as camp, its not all that bad. Unfortunately I don’t think this was what they were going for, admittedly the production is designed primarily for children. Perhaps it was sufficiently interesting for a young child back in 1974. For me it was a disappointment.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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.

Paycheck
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