Review of On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers

SFFaudio Review

BLACKSTONE AUDIO - On Stranger Tides by Tim PowersOn Stranger Tides
By Tim Powers; Read by Bronson Pinchot
10 CDs – Approx. 11.7 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: August 2010
ISBN: 9781441754981
Themes: / Fantasy / Pirates / Magic / Caribbean / Voodoo / Zombies /

On Stranger Tides follows the exploits of John “Jack Shandy” Chandagnac, who travels to the new world after the death of his puppeteer father to confront his uncle, who has apparently made off with the family fortune. During the voyage, he befriends Beth Hurwood and her father Benjamin Hurwood, an Oxford professor. Before they arrive at their destination, their ship is waylaid by Blackbeard (via Davies) and his band of pirates. With the help of the professor and his assistant, the captain is killed and Chandagnac is pressed into piracy and sorcery as Blackbeard searches for the Fountain of Lost Youth (and other nefarious goals). Chandagnac, newly dubbed “Jack Shandy,” must stop the evil plot and save Beth Hurwood.

I was all set to buy the audiobook, when I found an iPhone app for half as much.  The app has some problems though.  The sleep function only works when you disable locking on the phone.  So if you fall asleep, you might get screen-burn.  Also, frequently the app would lose its place in the current chapter, and if I didn’t write down my place in Simplenote app, I would have had to start the chapter over.  Otherwise it was a bargain.

I have some reservations with this book as an audiobook.  Bronson Pinchot is very dramatic in his reading of the dense text, but if you’re in your car or walking in public with some ambient noise, some of the whispering (Blackbeard), mumbling, and toothless (Skank) characters may be hard to hear.  Plus, the plot is so Byzantine, if you miss some important piece of information, you may not know what is going on later on, and get bored.  And watch out because some of the characters have multiple names, like Blackbeard may also be called Thatch or Hunzie Conzo (?), and others.  Hurwood and Shandy’s uncle assume different identities as well.  Even ships like the Vociferous Carmichael may change their identities.  This link may help (possible spoilers).  (Help me, Wikipedia, with a better plot summary.)  By the way, this is how you spell ‘Bocor’ (“Hatian witchdoctor”).  You’ll want to google it .  I’m still not sure what a ‘loa’ is.  Plus you have to watch out for scenes that only take place in fantasy, or within characters’ minds.  I found much more enjoyment when I listened to the book in a quiet room and actually took notes.  But it took a little more effort than I want from a novel.  The characters didn’t seem to have much depth to me, except maybe the evil zophtig Leo Friend.  So the plot is the highlight, and there are some good scenes toward the end, some memorable death and puppetry.

Also, listening to Tim Powers’ 2010 interview (scroll down) on the Agony Column helped me appreciate the book more.  He talks about this book around the 8 minute mark.  His method is to research and find ’20 cool true things’ and string them together into a novel.  (Yes, Blackbeard was real.)  If only the book had a nice appendix.

Remember, never eat a chicken with writing on the beak.

posted by Tamahome

Review of Podcaster 3.7.3 (iTunes App)

SFFaudio Review

PodcasterPodcaster (iTunes App)
OS Environment: Apple iPhone / Apple iPod Touch / Apple iPad
Manufacturer: Alex Sokirynsky
Version: 3.73

“Over the Air” podcast manager.  Subscript, download and play audio & video podcasts without having to sync with a computer.

Here’s the app that I use to download podcasts to my iphone/ipod/ipad.  You can keep track of all your subscriptions, unlike in the iTunes app on the phone.  It can download an over 10-meg podcast over the 3g phone network, if you wanted to.  It can use the Apple ‘push’ technology to notify you when a new episode is up;  but if you want to keep an eye on over 10 different podcasts, it costs extra.  You can download ‘in the background’ and switch to other apps, although there’s a 10 minute limit (set by Apple?).  Often, I hit refresh on the ‘Favorites’ screen, hit start in the ‘Downloads’ screen, and then go to the ‘Unplayed Downloads’ playlist to play them.  Here’s a link to an opml file backup of the 10 podcasts I normally listen to (they’re all somewhat sff related).  You can copy & import this url in the Podcaster app ‘Directory’ screen, and edit out the ones you don’t want.  (The io9 one is Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy, and tDP/C2C is Dragon Page, Cover to Cover)


Posted by Tamahome

Review of Starstruck by Elaine Lee, Susan Norfleet and Dale Place

SFFaudio Review

AUDIO DRAMA - StarstruckStarstruck
Based on the comic series and the play by Elaine Lee and Mike Kaluta; Adapted by Elaine Lee, Susan Norfleet and Dale Place; Performed by a full cast
2 CDs – Approx. 2 Hours 11 Minutes
Publisher: The Audio Comics Company
Published: 2010
ISBN: 9780615411439
Themes: / Humor / Science Fiction / Space Opera / Feminism / Galactic Civilization /

The basis for the critically acclaimed comic book series, Starstruck was first presented off-off-Broadway in 1980, and again off-Broadway in 1983. In a far-flung and very alternative future, Captain Galatia 9 and the crew of the Harpy and on a mission for the United Federation of Female Freedom Fighters. When the Harpy runs into a living ship inhabited by a team of galactic evildoers, including Galatia’s insidious sister Verloona Ti, the outcome of the battle may well decide the fate of the free universe. The AudioComics Company is proud to present the audio adaptation of the play script as its inaugural production! Often hilarious, always surprising, Starstruck is a spine-tingling joy-ride to the far side of the spiral arm!

I’ve listened to all 2 hours or so. There’s certainly a rich variety of different voices, special effects, and music, on a level with Graphic Audio. You can hear a lot of samples at Amazon. But I found the plot and the humor challenging to follow. Wikipedia called the original play obtuse (as in not staightforward), and I agree. Maybe they should give you a 10 minute sample, to show what you’re getting into. The acting is played for humor, and way over the top. I’m a fan of Michael Kaluta’s run on the old Shadow DC comic, but there are no visuals here. I’ll definitely check out the reprint of the Starstruck comic in hardcover, when it comes out soon. Those not familiar with the play or the comics will find this audiodrama difficult to get into.

Posted by Tamahome