Review of The Wind from a Burning Woman by Greg Bear

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Wind from a Burning Woman by Greg BearThe Wind from a Burning Woman
By Greg Bear; Read by George Guidall and Christina Moore
7 Cassettes – 10 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Published: 1992
ISBN: 1556907672
Themes: / Science Fiction / Fantasy / Terrorism / Asteroids / Metaphysics / Religion / Utopia / Dystopia / Future City / Cloning / Aliens

This superior anthology collects several early Greg Bear stories. The narrators, George Guidall and Christina Moore, guide us skillfully through Bear’s dense prose and do so with obvious relish. This collection features only top-notch stories — any single tale alone would be sufficient evidence that Bear is a future Grandmaster of science fiction and fantasy. Bear’s later novels occasionally suffer from a density that makes reading difficult. Very little of this is evident in this collection. The stories are generally clear in the telling, and where they are not, the confusion is brief. The wholly original and infinitely interesting ideas contained within each story make worthwhile any brief confusion of style.

The Wind from a Burning Woman, the title story, was later to serve as a prequel to Bear’s novel Eon, and describes the possible consequences of the ultimate act of terrorism.

The White Horse Child is an great allegory about a curious young boy who will grow up to become a writer. Written in a style that owes a debt to Clifford D. Simak, this pastoral fantasy story is an instant classic. Petra is a very unusual fantasy tale, its religious theme tackles the hard boiled consequences of taking certain biblical prophecies events as actual future events. So brilliantly does it achieve originality it reminds us why Greg Bear is so exceedingly interesting to read.

Scattershot is my personal favorite in this collection. Its sheer inventiveness and exploration of the consequences of metaphysical physics makes it a fascinating listen.

Mandala is an almost satiric examination of the far end of the curve of utopian ideals. It could almost be thought of as Greg Bear’s take on Arthur C. Clarke’s The City and the Stars.

Hardfought is a Hugo-winning novella that follows the viewpoints of both the aliens and the humans in their interstellar war. It could be considered Greg Bear’s take on Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers or Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War. In order to fight their battle, humans have adapted in strange ways. It’s an absolutely fascinating read.

Stories included:
The Wind from a Burning Woman
The entire crew of Psyche, an asteroid turned into a spaceship, is murdered. Giani, the granddaughter of the project’s administrator commandeers the spaceship in an attempt to uncover the truth.

The White Horse Child
An odd allegory about a boy becoming a writer. God fearing, book burning, censoring Auntie Dancer tries to stop a child from becoming a storyteller.

Petra
“God is Dead”, when stone comes alive after reality rearranges itself. Petra is a half-caste, a lowly figure in the world of the cathedral. His father was a living statue, his mother a human nun.

Scattershot
Francis Geneva finds herself allied with a robotic Russian teddy bear after her starship has an accident. She and her new companion are forced to explores the consequences of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. In a reality where every possibility exists coping can be quite stressful. Sometimes the aliens are from Earth.

Mandala
In order to become perfect the sentient cities of Earth cast off their final flaw, the problem causing people. Mandala explores a future where mankind has reverted to a stone age existence after losing access to their technology.

Hardfought
Insular aliens known as the Sylexy are at war with humanity, in an attempt to understand their strange enemy they capture and clone a human soldier.

Review of Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Snow Crash by Neal StephensonSnow Crash
by Neal Stephenson; Read by Jonathan Davis
12 Cassettes, 18 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Time Warner Audio
Date Published: August 2001
ISBN: 158211137
Themes: / Science Fiction / Computers / Virtual Reality / Religion / Mythology / Cyberpunk /

Snow Crash is one of those rare novels; one of those that stand out, tall and unique, amongst all the novels I’ve read in my life. I know of nothing with which to compare it, but I can say that it ranks amongst my favourite novels. Neal Stephenson impressed me both with his fearless, irreverent tone and with the astonishing range of subjects touched by his characters.

Snow Crash reveals a picture of the not-too-distant future, where the only things the USA is good at are “music, movies, microcode (software), and high-speed pizza delivery.” It’s a world where people spend part of their lives in the Metaverse, a highly developed yet realistic virtual world where they use avatars of their own design to interact with each other. It’s a world divided into burbclaves, or city-states, each with its own identity, laws, and law-enforcement. In stark contrast to this future society, the main character finds himself entangled in a mystery that requires him to explore ancient Sumerian mythology and the roots of biblical religion.

All of this in an extremely fast-paced adventure story. Remarkable. This is an exciting, impressive novel.

For the audio version, Time-Warner selected a first rate reader in Jonathan Davis. I never tired of his effortless inflection changes as different characters spoke — very important in a quick moving story like this one. The production quality was excellent; I found the sounds used to mark breaks in the text to be particularly effective.

And with that, my current list of all-time favorites is complete! See the whole list here!

Review of 2000X: Tales of the Next Millenia

Another for my list of favorites… almost done!

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audio Drama - 2000X2000X: Tales of the Next Millennia
Hollywood Theater of the Ear
Executive Producers – Andy Trudeau and Stefan Rudnicki
Project Director / Producer-Director – Yuri Rasovsky
Hosted by Harlan Ellison

2000X aired on National Public Radio in 1999 and 2000. It’s a diverse series of 46 dramatized science fiction stories from authors like Robert A. Heinlein, Harlan Ellison, C.L. Moore, Robert Sheckley, Connie Willis, and Octavia Butler, just to name a few. This is audio drama at it’s highest quality – both the scripts and the performances are as good as I’ve heard.

I’ve got two favorites in the series:

By His Bootstraps
From a story by Robert A. Heinlein
Adapted, Produced, and Directed by Yuri Rasovsky
Mixed by Richard Fairbanks
Starring Richard Dreyfuss, Cordis Heard, Kascia Marciniak, and Ira Burton
Themes: / Time Travel / Paradox / Far Future /

This production won the Ohio State Award in 1982, and was included later in the 2000x series. It’s a fine dramatization of the story of time travel from one of the masters of the genre, performed by Richard Dreyfuss. It twists and turns back on itself in a brilliantly paradoxical manner. The production is fascinating to hear, as the stereo levels are managed to provide separation between the characters, which gets pretty complicated during the story. This one is best in stereo, while wearing headphones.

“Repent, Harlequin,” said the Ticktockman
Based on the story by Harlan Ellison
Dramatized, Produced, and Directed by Yuri Rasovsky
Recorded and Mixed by Warren Dewey
Starring Robin Williams, Harlan Ellison, Stefan Rudnicki, Arte Johnson, James Otis, Scott Brick, Hamilton Camp, Laura Kellogg, Melinda Peterson, and Phil Proctor

This is a fine way to experience Harlan Ellison’s classic story. It’s introduced and narrated by an enthusiastic Harlan Ellison. Robin Williams is perfect as the Harlequin, and Stefan Rudnicki’s voice makes the Ticktockman positively ominous. It’s an audio treat, full of sound, energy, and humor.

For a play list of all the productions in the series, click here. The 2000X homepage is here. And don’t forget to support your local public radio station!

2000X is currently available is two ways. First, Fantasic Audio has published a collection of some of the shows on cassette. It includes Repent, Harlequin and By His Bootstraps along with several others.

Second, the shows are available individually from Audible.com.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

The Mark Time Awards (named for a character from F…

SFFaudio News

The Mark Time Awards (named for a character from Firesign Theater) are presented annually for the best audio science fiction of the year. The Ogle Awards (named for Charles Ogle, who played Frankenstein in Thomas Edison’s 1910 film) are presented annually for the best fantasy/horror productions of the year. This year, they were presented on July 4, 2003, at the ConVergence convention in Bloomington, MN.

The awards are given soley for audio theater. For the whole scoop, click here.

The winners are:

GOLD MARK TIME AWARD:

Anne Manx and the Trouble on Chromius

The Radio Repertory Company of America

Angelo Panetta, Producer. Elmwood Park, NJ.

A fast-moving 2 hour action adventure with Anne Manx, played by Claudia Christian as a future detective.

SILVER MARK TIME AWARD:

Not From Space

The Borgus collective

Jeffrey Bays, Producer. Marshall, MO.

A very subtle invasion from Mars that takes years, wrapped in a production that sounds like modern commercial radio.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Nebulous Rex

Dave Cerf and Faustus Caceres, Producers. San Francisco, CA.

Shirley & Spinoza, Internet Radio.

Things go wrong on the spaceliner, but is it just accidents?

Red Shift

Seem Real Theater

Thomas O’Neill, Producer. Bridgeport, CT.

Has the Dalai Lama been reincarneted on Mars? A polisci-fi religio-comic rumination.

www.doctechnical.com

GOLD OGLE AWARDS: (Tie)

Fears for Ears

Positive Living Productions

Aida Memisevic, Producer. Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

Five superbly produced horror short stories, made in Canada.

www.fearsforears.com

Dragon Song

Texas Radio Theater Company

Richard Frohlich, Producer. Arlington, TX.

A modern urban fantasy story, performed live.

SILVER OGLE AWARD:

Up On the Rooftops

Imagination X

Jeffrey Adams, Producer. Monmouth, OR.

A very short take on those noises on the roof at Christmas.

HONORABLE MENTION:

Background

Imagination X

Jeffrey Adams Producer. Monmouth, OR.

A short graphic ghost story with a true horror ending.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of The Hedge Knight by George R.R. Martin

Science Fiction Audiobook - Legends 4The Hedge Knight
Contained in: Legends: Stories by the Masters of Fantasy, Volume 4
by George R.R. Martin; Read by Frank Muller
4 Cassettes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio
Date Published: 1996
ISBN: 0694521132
Themes: / Fantasy / Knights / Jousting / Court Intrigue /

I’m not a big epic fantasy fan. I have nothing at all against them – it’s just that I enjoy good science fiction more than I enjoy good epic fantasy. I’ve read and enjoyed Tolkien, then the first three books in Terry Brook’s Shannara series… with that my appetite for epic fantasy novels was sated.

But then came George R.R. Martin. Several people told me to read the first book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Game of Thrones. I finally picked up the thousand-pager, and am now hooked, impatiently waiting for Martin to finish the fourth book (of six!) in the series.

The Hedge Knight is a short novel set in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, but well before the events in the first novel. We follow the travels of Dunc, a squire to an aged hedge knight. When this hedge knight dies in the middle of nowhere, Dunc takes on the role of knight himself and gets into trouble when he crosses a prince at a tournament.

Like the the larger series, The Hedge Knight is filled with interesting, realistic characters, none of which are all good or all bad. There is plenty of intrigue and political maneuvering along with the medieval action.

The story is ably performed by Frank Muller, who’s considerable skill along with Martin’s excellent prose makes this recording one I return to again and again.

The Legends 4 audiobook also contains a Pern story by Anne McCaffrey and a Riftwar story by Raymond Feist.