Review of Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King

SFFaudio Review

The Dark Tower II: The Drawing Of The Three by Stephen KingThe Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three
By Stephen King; Read by Frank Muller
Publisher: Penguin Audiobooks [UNABRIDGED]
Date Published: November 1997
ISBN: 0140867155
Themes: / Fantasy / Parallel worlds /

This is the second book in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I read the first volume a few months ago (in print) and found it very different from Stephen King’s other work. To start with, it was not set in our world, where King sets nearly all of his novels. This volume is set both in the wasteland of the first novel and this world. King expertly uses the setting along with his unforgettable characters to explore the notions of Good and Evil in a grand fashion.

The main character in the books is Roland, a gunslinger, possibly the last gunslinger, who travels in a world separate but somehow connected to our own. This second volume starts within hours after the first ends. Roland is required to draw three people from our world into his to help him on his quest to reach the Dark Tower. If none of this makes sense, that’s okay. I’m hesitant to provide too much detail. It is enough to say that what you have here is a contemporary fantasy novel written by one of the finest creators of believable characters in fiction.

And Frank Muller does the narrating. I’ve never been disappointed in a Muller narration, and this certainly is no exception. His voice is perfect for this material – I imagine Roland’s voice to be Muller’s – and the great energy which he provides this novel probably made it more interesting than it actually was. Several times when listening time came to and end, I took an extra lap around the block or listened for an extra ten minutes… and Muller’s reading is as responsible for that as King’s writing.

I am definitely a Stephen King fan. I enjoy nearly all of his stories. My favorites are from his early career, The Stand and Salem’s Lot especially. Neither of those have audio versions, unfortunately. (Well, there is a version of The Stand available from Books on Tape, but it is not the complete version of the novel that King released later in his career.)

For more info on the Dark Tower series, check the Dark Tower Compendium.

On June 7, the Horror Writers Association gave the…

SFFaudio Online Audio

On June 7, the Horror Writers Association gave their 2002 Bram Stoker Awards. There are audio editions of a few of the winners.

FIRST NOVEL

The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold, narrated by Alyssa Bresnahan, Unabridged, Recorded Books

FICTION COLLECTION

One More for the Road by Ray Bradbury, read by Campbell Scott, Harper Audio

WORK FOR YOUNGER READERS

Coraline by Neil Gaiman, read by the author, Unabridged, Harper Audio

ALTERNATIVE FORMS

“Imagination Box”, Steve & Melanie Tem, Lone Wolf Publications (multimedia CD)

J. N. Williamson and Stephen King were given Lifetime Achievement Awards. Find all the awards here.

Personally, the only work listed here that I’ve read is Gaiman’s Coraline which I enjoyed very much. Congrats to all the winners!

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Time Bride by Gardner Dozois and Jack Dann

SFFaudio Review

Time Bride
by Gardner Dozois and Jack Dann; Read by Barbara Rosenblat
One cassette – 67 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Durkin Hayes Publishing Ltd.
Date Published: October 1992 – Out of Print
ISBN: 0886466202
Themes: / Science Fiction / Time Travel / Children /

The man who wasn’t there first spoke to Marcie when she was eight years old. Sitting in a mud puddle outside her house a disembodied voice spoke to Marcie. It said “My name is Arnold Waxman and someday I’m going to marry you”. The voice knew all about Marcie, and was constantly trying to control her behavior, it would scold her for being naughty and tell her what she should think and do. “With my guidance,” It said. “You’ll grow up to be a perfect young lady, the perfect bride.” Marcie didn’t like the voice and she was determined that she would not marry Arnold Waxman when she grew up. She will get her revenge… in time.

Gardner Dozois a Nebula Award winning author, as well as a Hugo Award winning editor has teamed up with Jack Dann himself an honoured editor to construct this neat little SF fable. Originally published in “Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine” December 1983 issue, Time Bride is read by Barbara Rosenblat who has been named a “Golden Voice” by Audiofile magazine and as such she’d been recognized as one of the audiobooks industry’s top narrators. While this tale won’t blow your mind with its originality it will surely entertain you. Barbara Rosenblat reads Dann and Dozois’ dialogue with obvious relish and the dénouement when it comes is very well done indeed. Unfortunately due to Durkin Hayes being out of business you may have great difficulty finding a copy of this audiobook. A search of eBay may turn up a copy.

Review of A Sound Of Thunder by Ray Bradbury

SFFaudio Review

A Sound Of Thunder
By Ray Bradbury; Performed by a full cast
1 Cassette – Approx. 70 minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Durkin Hayes Audio
Published: 1992
ISBN: 0886466687
Themes: / Science Fiction / Time Travel / Dinosaurs / Mars /

Ray Bradbury is another author who is dear to me in both print and in audio. There is an old Caedmon production of his story “Usher II” (read by Leonard Nimoy) which I just love. And I’m currently listening through a collection of old-time radio shows called The 60 All-Time Greatest Science Fiction Radio Shows, selected by Ray Bradbury.

And the books – The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes… Bradbury is unique in my experience, and I really enjoy his stories.

There are two audio dramas on this single cassette program. The first is an excellent production called “A Sound of Thunder”, in which a man pays big bucks to be taken back in time to hunt the biggest of prey – a Tyrannosaurus Rex. But when you go back in time, there are rules… In the second story, “Night Call, Collect”, the last man in the universe receives… a phone call. A short interview of the author is also included.

The production quality – sound effects, music, the acting – is excellent, the scripts are wonderful. Highly recommended.

Both of the stories here (“A Sound of Thunder” and “Night Call, Collect“) are part of a radio series called The Bradbury 13. Twelve of the thirteen shows were released through Durkin Hayes/DHAudio. Jesse has some of these shows in stock – contact him here about getting a copy. A summary of all thirteen of the Bradbury 13 can be found here.

posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer

SFFaudio Review

The Terminal Experiment
by Robert J. Sawyer; Read by Paul Hecht
7 Cassettes – 9.25 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Date Published: 2003
Themes: Science Fiction / Near Future / Artificial Intelligence / Canada / Mystery /

It started as an experiment in life after death. It ended in death. Dr. Peter Hobson has created a monster. Three of them, in fact. In order to test his theories of immortality and life after death, he has created three electronic simulations of his own personality. The first Hobson has all memory of physical existence edited out. It will simulate life after death. The second Hobson is without knowledge of aging or death. It will simulate immortality. The third Hobson is unmodified. A control. But now all three of them have escaped from Hobson’s computer into the worldwide electronic matrix. And one of them
is a killer . . .

— from the back cover of the paperback

Prior to this production, no Robert J. Sawyer audiobook had ever been produced, so it was with much anticipation that I discovered Recorded Books was set to release the winner of the Nebula and Aurora awards for Best SF Novel of 1995, The Terminal Experiment. And what a fantastic choice it was! It was originally serialized in Analog Science Fiction magazine’s Mid-December 1994 through March 1995 issues as Hobson’s Choice. Sawyer’s story is absolutely original, thoroughly engaging and certainly the best audiobook I’ve listened to this year.

Sawyer is a fantastic structural writer, a craftsman capable of laying out the ideas in just the right order. We get meaty philosophical thought experiments and thus pure HARD SF, and as a bonus, as with most of Sawyer’s novels, a baffling mystery that needs solving. Reader Paul Hecht does a good job narrating, characters come across well and you always know who is speaking. Aside from a very few pronunciation problems it is a perfect reading. I had previously read the paperback version of this novel so upon listening this time I was really able to sit back and enjoy the details much more. And there is a lot of detail to enjoy: in one chapter we get a humorous episode of computer hacking. The computers of Shopper’s Drug Mart (a Canadian drug store chain) are un-hackable, yet a “Food Food” fast food delivery service (a thinly veiled Pizza Pizza) and the Canadian federal government medical database computers are both hacked by a murderous Artificial Intelligence. Social commentary or simply a joke? Either way it’s a funny chapter in what is often a tense and deadly serious murder mystery. We also get a fascinating explication of why funny is funny, it’s all about making new mental connections.

One major/minor quibble I noticed the second time through though; Dr. Peter Hobson our protagonist in collaboration with another scientist, invents a machine capable of mapping all electrical activity in the brain. When a patient dies a the device tracks a mysterious “soulwave” leaving the brain we later learn that it heads off towards Alpha Centauri. All absolutely fascinating, and rather important to all the philosophical explorations and plot developments that follow. But I can’t help but wonder why such a “soulwave” must logically be proof of a soul. Yes it is evidence for a soul, but surely not proof. Hobson has this same doubt, but it eventually passes and he accepts the majority opinion that it does indeed constitute proof of the soul. I guess the problem here comes down to a “who wants to read six chapters on epistemology when it’s the idea that is important” question. And that is why I say it is a major/minor quibble. Ultimately I don’t like such a major conclusion like that just getting away unexamined. But on the other hand any science fiction story worth its salt is allowed one ‘gimme’, a conceit, be it faster than light travel, telekinesis or anything else impossible by what we know of science. Perhaps this is just a case where the conceit isn’t of the usual form, being more of an identification/epistemological problem than an “absolute impossibility” problem.

The packaging for this audiobook is interesting in itself. Recorded Books has decided to market in two formats. Both editions share original commisioned cover art that while visually interesting may be somewhat misleading (see picture above). The library binding, available for additional cost, is of the durable vinyl clamshell type, which makes for attractive and secure storage of tapes. “The Collectors Edition”, the one I got, is less expensive and is essentially just a cardboard box with a printed insert. That may sound rather disappointing, but it isn’t. Audiobook packaging typically comes in two varieties, SUPERB & EXPENSIVE (designed for durable extended usage, typically the type needed for public libraries) and CRAPPY & CHEAP (designed solely to get the product to market cheaply). This “Collector’s Edition” packaging is in-between the two; it is a step above the typical thin cardboard and millimeter-thick plastic of the CRAPPY & CHEAP designs, a compromise between durability, space efficiency and cost. The cardboard is thick, a clear plastic sheet protects the printed insert, and the customizable interior is held rigid by styrofoam inserts. I still prefer the library style bindings, standard with Blackstone Audiobooks and Books On Tape audiobooks but my wallet can’t always afford it.

Quibbles aside, it’s a great audiobook, and my sincere hope is that Recorded Books, Blackstone Audiobooks or Books On Tape see fit to produce another unabridged Robert J. Sawyer novel soon. If they don’t Scott and I might have to do it ourselves, they’re just that good.