A couple of very nice new releases to tell you abo…

New Releases

A couple of very nice new releases to tell you about:

From Telltale Weekly, an unabridged The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. Click here for a page that includes an excerpt. I’m looking forward to this – I listened to the Brilliance Audio version of this one… well, TRIED to listen to it. Found the reader not to my liking, though, which really kills an audiobook for me. It was packaged, by the way, with Wells’ The Time Machine, which was really excellent.

And from Infinivox, Solstice by James Patrick Kelly. Click here for more info and an excerpt. I really urge you to check out their stories.

Review of Demo Mode by Tom Gerencer

Demo Mode
by Tom Gerencer; Read by Tom Gerencer
14 minutes, 31 seconds [UNABRIDGED]Publisher: Telltale Weekly
Published: April 2004
Themes: Science Fiction / Humor / Identity / Viruses /

In the future, knowledge will be grafted straight into our brains, no learning required! Just make sure they configure the innoculotron correctly, or you might wind up contracting Esperanto by mistake. First published in Science Fiction Age Magazine’s May 2000 issue, “Demo Mode” is a humourous short story about a schlub in the future who thinks a simple bit of viral-software will improve his personality. The plot is very similar to the NFB animated film “Personality Software.” Tom Gerencer’s reading is quick, perhaps too quick, but sound quality is great and his “rich and lilting yet somehow phoney sounding stereotypic Scottish accent” is absolutely spot on. Available online at www.telltaleweekly.com for only $.75 USD, “Demo Mode” is a good value and a good laugh!

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

One of the nice things about public radio is often…

One of the nice things about public radio is often their hosts are able to persue their own interests. David Garland, the host of the WNYC (New York City’s National Public Radio affiliate) program SPINNING ON AIR populates his weekly two hour broadcasts with music, interviews and readings. Garland has worked in comics, is a successful musician and lyricist, and has read science fiction and fantasy extensively. When he interviews his guests, his abundant familiarity with their work makes the interviewees comfortable and able to talk in depth – something typically absent from commercial radio. Subjects covered on SPINNING ON AIR have included filk music, science fiction in music, science fiction satire, science fiction movie music, and readings of both science fiction and fantasy fiction. New shows air Fridays from 9PM-11PM EST on 93.9 FM in New York City. You can also listen online, or listen to archived shows.

Here are some of the most interesting shows of the last three years:

Music and Science Fiction – Jul. 12, 2002

LISTEN TO THE ARCHIVED SHOW:

http://www.wnyc.org/shows/spinning/episodes/07122002

Science Fiction Author William Tenn – Nov. 22nd 2002

LISTEN TO THE ARCHIVED SHOW:

http://www.wnyc.org/shows/spinning/episodes/11222002

Catskin (a fantasy story by Kelly Link) – Oct. 31, 2004

LISTEN TO THE ARCHIVED SHOW:

http://www.wnyc.org/shows/spinning/episodes/10312003

Philip K. Dick Loved Music, and Music Loves Him – Jan. 02, 2004

LISTEN TO THE ARCHIVED SHOW:

http://www.wnyc.org/shows/spinning/episodes/01022004

Review of Star Trek: Vulcan’s Soul by Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz

Star Trek Audiobooks - Star Trek Vulcan's SoulStar Trek: Vulcan’s Soul Book I: Exodus
By Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz; Read by Boyd Gaines
3 Cassettes or 4 CD’s, 4 hours [ABRIDGED]
ISBN: 0743529995 (Cassette), 0743530004 (CD)
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Audio
Published: 2004
Themes: / Star Trek / Vulcans / Aliens /

A disheartening thing about being a fan of Star Trek is that one of its most beloved characters, Spock, has been left with an unfinished story. The last time we saw him on the screen was during the two-part Star Trek: The Next Generation episode entitled Unification. That the ratings for that episode are among the best Star Trek has ever gotten demonstrates the fan’s desire to see more of Spock. Alas, the business world encroaches, and for whatever reason, Spock was left on Romulus, his fate uncertain.

Enter Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz. Their previous two Star Trek novels, Vulcan’s Forge and Vulcan’s Heart (both available on audio) were excellent science fiction, focusing on Spock in particular and Vulcan culture in general. Vulcan’s Soul Book 1: Exodus continues that story in the same manner, focusing both on the character of Spock and the Vulcan world during the time of Surak, the great Vulcan philosopher who championed logic over emotion, and to whom we were first introduced during the Original Series.

The story takes place one year after the Dominion War. A hostile and powerful race called the Watarii, claiming to have an ancient score to settle with the Romulans, invade Romulan space. Spock and his wife, Captain Saavik, swoop in to help, enlisting the assistance of old friends Admiral Uhura and Admiral Chekov. They work to unravel the mystery of the Watarii while doing their best to assist in defending against them. Frequent flashbacks tell the interwoven story of Surak’s effect on the planet Vulcan.

The story is fast paced and extremely well-read by Boyd Gaines. The sound effects and music typical of previous Star Trek audiobooks is also present, effectively used to establish setting and tone.

My only quibble with this one is that I hadn’t heard from Uhura and Chekov in so long that I had to seriously question whether or not they would be alive one year after the Dominion War. The answer is: apparently so. They’d be over 150 years old, but possibly still kicking. Uhura is mentioned in a previous novel (Catalyst of Sorrows) as being the “centenarian head of Starfleet Intelligence.” I’m certainly finding this kind of thing old. I assume Sherman and Shwartz have a valid reason for using these two particular characters, but I’m currently not sure why they would bring yet another couple of TOS characters into the TNG/DS9/VOY era rather than using some contemporary characters from other series. Perhaps the Enterprise-A encountered some kind of strange nebula which had a hypnotic effect that prevents these folks from retiring… Another story, perhaps.

Other than that annoyance, this was a very good Star Trek novel with lots of Vulcan mythos, lots of eyebrow-raising conundrum, and a fantastic battle scene.

Find more on Star Trek audiobooks here!

(I’d like to acknowledge the kind assistance of Scott Armstrong, who did some research for me for this review. Any mistakes, of course, are my own.)

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Solution Unsatisfactory

Solution Unsatisfactory
Adapted by Daniel Taylor from the short story by Robert A. Heinlein; Full Cast Production
1 CD – 68 Minutes UNABRIDGED
Publisher: Atlanta Radio Theater Company
Published: 2003
ISBN: 0929483316
Themes: / Science Fiction / WWII / Nuclear Holocaust / Time Travel /

Solution Unsatisfactory describes an American supersecret project to develop an atomic superweapon that proves vital to the Allied triumph of World War II. ‘So what,’ you say. ‘That’s old news.’ And you’d be right, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 were the final nails in the coffin of WWII. But what’s weird is, Solution Unsatisfactory was published in 1940, a full half decade before the atom bomb was even known to exists by the general public. What’s more, Heinlein’s story goes on to foresee the coming cold war with the Soviet Union and the concomitant race to arm with atomic weapons. Heinlein’s story doesn’t actually foretell the same events that happened, but the similarities are pretty eerie.

Daniel Taylor and the Atlanta Radio Theater Company have gone to great lengths to perform this difficult-to-adapt tale. Heinlein’s original short story is full of lots of exposition and less dialogue, and it takes place over a number of years, so Taylor has been forced to use propaganda radio transmissions and news bulletins to inform dramatically. The dramatization sounds crystal clear, performances are impactful and it follows the spirit of the text quite faithfully. The audiobook comes packaged in a DVD style amaray case with liner notes on the inside – a very cool idea. For the longest time the colourful cover art really baffled me, I figured it was like a Rorschach, but actually its not projective at all, I just was looking at it wrong. ARTC should be proud of themselves, Solution Unsatisfactory is a chilling reminder of how prescient science fiction can be, and more importantly, how it can serve as a warning.

Also included on the CD are two other shorter dramatizations. The Assassins by Gerald W. Page, a time-travel tale which is highly enjoyable, though predictable. It starts off at a convention of scientists where the topic of the day is to change the present by means of selective historical assassination. It ends in a familiar place. The final dramatization on the CD is the whimsical Grandma’s Diary by Daniel Taylor, which is neither SF or Fantasy, but entertaining.

As with other ARTC productions Solution Unsatisfactory needs a particular environment for maximum enjoyment. Cut out ambient background noise – use snug fitting headphones or a very quiet room (no white noise producers like ceiling fans for instance) with a solid pair of high fidelity speakers.

Posted by Jesse Willis