Review of Adventures in Time and Space with Max Merriwell by Pat Murphy

Adventures in Time and Space with Max Merriwell by Pat MurphyAdventures in Time and Space with Max Merriwell
By Pat Murphy; Read by Johanna Ward
7 Cassettes – Approx. 9.5 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
ISBN: 0783128577
Date Published: 2004
Themes: / Science Fiction / Quantum Physics / Pseudonyms / Multiple Universes / The Nature of Fiction /

In this novel by Pat Murphy, the main character (Susan) and her friend Pat (er… Pat Murphy) take a cruise from New York to Europe. On this cruise is a fiction writer named Max Merriwell who offers a writing class that an uncertain Susan is eager to take. Max Merriwell writes not only under his own name, but also under the pseudonyms Mary Maxwell and Welton Merrimax. Rather quickly, Welton Merrimax starts to appear at various places on the cruise ship, and so does Mary Maxwell, which confuses everyone because, well, they’re supposed to be just pseudonyms. Thus begins an entertaining, wild ride of a novel in which alternate realities intersect and events from Max’s novels start to become real.

I visited Pat Murphy’s website and was pleased to find out that the novel is the third book in a wild experiment. Pat Murphy says, “Adventures in Time and Space with Max Merriwell is an adventure story about the nature of fiction.” This nugget opened up so much more of the novel for me – enough so that I’m eager to listen again. It turns out that Murphy published three novels: There and Back Again by Max Merriwell (which is described as the story of The Hobbit retold as space opera), Wild Angel (which “borrows its premise from Tarzan of the Apes“) by Mary Maxwell, and this novel, Adventures in Time and Space with Max Merriwell by Pat Murphy. All the novels were published as written by Pat Murphy because her publisher felt the confusion would be too great to overcome here in the real world.

Click here for some notes from Pat Murphy (who apparently is real) to unravel the full story.

With all that said, this delightfully quirky novel works stand-alone. I enjoyed it enough to desire the added depth that finding and reading these other two books and re-listening to this one will undoubtedly provide. Listening again will be a pleasure because Johanna Ward performs well, deftly handling the mayhem that must have had her scratching her head a time or two during production. Her voice is pleasant and a very nice match to this material.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Here are this month’s new releases: AUDIO RENAI…

New Releases

Here are this month’s new releases:

AUDIO RENAISSANCE

There and Back Again: An Actor’s Tale by Sean Astin with Joe Layden, read by Sean Astin

I’m looking forward to this memoir of Astin’s experience working on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’m one of the folks who watched every extra goodie on the massive Extended LOTR DVD’s.

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BLACKSTONE AUDIO

Callahan’s Con by Spider Robinson, read by Barrett Whitener

Barrett Whitener read Spider Robinson’s The Callahan Chronicals, which we reviewed on SFFAudio a while back. The Callahan stories are among the most empathic high-quality stories you’ll find in the world of science fiction, and this title is likely no different. The description says that Death himself walks into the bar this time…

Jesse:

I just finished listening to Callahan’s Key, also read by Barrett Whitener. Where you’ve described Robinson’s work as “empathic high-quality stories” I would describe it as “high-functioning fan-fiction”. That isn’t a bad thing, I like the stuff myself, but it certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste.

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HARPER AUDIO

A Coyote In The House by Elmore Leonard

This is a kids book in the tradition of “Call of The Wild” – told from the animal’s perspective.

Jesse:

If nothing else, crime and western writer Elmore Leonard has a great ear for dialogue, so this should be a fun tale with respect to that. But he’s never written juvenile fiction before, so its also unknown territory in some respects.

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PAPERBACK DIGITAL

Cally’s War by John Ringo and Julie Cochrane, read by William Dufris and Christine Marshall

A novel by military SF writer and Baen author John Ringo and Julie Cochrane. Cally had been fighting for the future of the human race, but now she is in a war for survival: the survival of her soul…

Paperback Digital has also released several OTR audio dramas on Fictionwise.com: “The Green Hills of Earth” by Robert A. Heinlein, “Drop Dead” by Clifford D. Simak, “Destination: Moon” by Robert A. Heinlein, and “With Folded Hands” by Jack Williamson.

And look for Charlaine Harris’ Vampire Mystery novel Dead Until Dark, which will be released on Halloween. Paperback Digital titles can be purchased on their site (http://www.paperbackdigital.com) or on Fictionwise.

Jesse:

It should also be noted that Paperback Digital has remastered and cleaned up these 1950s era radio dramas. Something which they sorely needed.

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RANDOM HOUSE AUDIO

Legends II: New Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy, Volume III, edited by Robert Silverberg

This volume of the Legends II series contains stories by two of my favorites: “The Monarch of the Glen” by Neil Gaiman and “The Yazoo Queen” by Orson Scott Card. I’m a fan of the short novel length – there is so much treasure out there in the novella and novelette size. While I’m talking about these, Legends II, Vol. 1 contains “The Sworn Sword” by George R.R. Martin and “Beyond Between” by Anne McCaffrey, and Legends II, Vol 2 contains “Lord John and the Succubus” by Diana Gabaldon and “Indomitable” by Terry Brooks.

Jesse:

I look forward to hearing these! The first Legends anthologies were released by HarperAudio last time. Hopefully Random House Audio will do as good a job.

Star Wars: Jedi Trial by David Sherman and Dan Cragg, read by Jonathan Davis

Random House’s Star Wars titles rival Simon and Schuster’s Star Trek titles in production value and style. If you enjoy Star Wars stories, these books are quite good. Also quite good is Jonathan Davis, who I first heard when he read Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash.

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RECORDED BOOKS

Raketty Tam by Brian Jacques, read by Brian Jacques

A title in the Redwall fantasy series!

Another note from Recorded Books – they have a rental program that looks a lot like Netflix. Unlimited audiobook rentals for $29.99/month. Check it out here.

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SIMON AND SCHUSTER AUDIO

Night of the Living Dead by John Russo and George Romero

An audio drama featuring the original cast!

Dark Tower VII by Stephen King, read by George Guidall

The final volume of Stephen King’s epic series. Stephen King read by George Guidall? Yeah, baby. I’m a Stephen King fan, but have not kept up with this series. I’ve heard “The Gunslinger” and “The Drawing of the Three“, and enjoyed them both – time to start on the rest of them.

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COMING SOON!

Wil Wheaton, of wilwheaton.net, has published a book called Just a Geek (which is excellent) and I’m thrilled to report that he’s recording an audio version. Wil says the audiobook has some extra asides, and that it’s more like a performance, or director’s cut, than a straight-forward reading. Look for it on his website in the coming weeks! In the meantime, ITConversations has posted audio of Wil’s recent performance at Gnomedex, where he read excerpts from the book.

Jesse:

This sounds like a terrific idea! Wheaton experimented a little with audio blogging a while back – posting to his website by telephone. He’s also read at least one audiobook short story that I know of. It can be found in Dove Audio’s The Greatest Science Fiction Stories of the 20th Century (which is available on Audible.com). The story is called “Why I left Harry’s All Night Hamburgers” by Lawrence Watt-Evans.

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If you’ve got something you’d like to show up on our monthly New Releases post, write me and let me know. Enjoy, everybody!

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of 84.2 Minutes with Algis Budrys

84.2 Minutes with Algis Budrys84.2 Minutes Of Algis Budrys
By Algis Budrys, Read by Algis Budrys
1 Cassette – 84.2 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Unifont Company
Published: 1995
ISBN: 1886211019
Themes: Science Fiction / Interstellar Travel / War / Immortality / Post Apocalypse / Fairy Tales / Alternate History / Parallel Worlds /

The four stories in this rare collection are densely packed with terrific science fiction ideas and all four share a haunted bittersweet quality. Algis Budrys lets the power of his text completely rule over his performance. Budrys barely distinguishes between the characters; he reads it in an almost conspiratorial style saying, “If you don’t like them, there’s very little more I can say. But I secretly think you will like them, in which case there’s nothing much more I need to say”. His philosophy has extended into the production as well, this is a very utilitarian audiobook, pages can be heard turning in the background while he reads, the cover art is completely non-existent and the title is hardly evocative of much at all, but despite it all 84.2 Minutes Of Algis Budrys is a worthy addition to any science fiction audio fan’s library. The only hard part may be getting a hold of one!

Stories Included:

“The Distant Sound Of Engines”
Severely maimed in an automotive accident, a patient recovering in hospital listens as his roommate, a dying man spouts formulas for faster than light travel, the alloy specifications for ultra strong spacecraft hulls and everything else necessary to make humans an interstellar species. First published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s March 1959 issue.

“Explosions!”
On a distant water-world that was long ago colonized by humans, a pirate king comes up with a plan to unify the many islands of his planet, and do it by force. “Explosions!” was written under the pseudonym William Scarff and first appeared in Tomorrow Speculative Fiction’s April 1993 issue.

“The Price”
The Earth’s civilizations have been destroyed, fewer than 100 people survive, mankind’s last hope is an enigmatic hunchback who’s been imprisoned for more than 150 years. He’d been chained in various dungeons or enslaved in forced labour camps, but when Europe was annihilated in a global war, and every person there was destroyed, he alone walked out. First published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s February 1960 issue

“Never Meet Again”
England surrendered in 1940, by 1941 German U-boats ruled the Atlantic, by 1942 the Russian’s had surrendered at Stalingrad. Now fifteen years later a respected researcher in the Greater German Reich has finished his life’s work, a machine that can access alternate worlds. “Never Meet Again” was first published in the 1958 anthology The Unexpected Dimension.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Soundings by Jeff Green

Review

Audio drama - Soundings by Jeff GreenSoundings
Radio drama by Jeff Green
1 MP3-CD – 7.75 hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
ISBN: 0788763334
Date Published: 1998
Themes: / Science Fiction / Fantasy / Radio drama / Private Investigator / Atlantis / Christmas / Vigilante / Psychiatry / Plague / Sound /

Jeff Green has really created something special here. Included in Soundings are eleven full cast radio dramas. The stories are very good, and the sound? Fantastic. Green really knows how to tell stories in this medium. Sound is used to excellent effect – it is not there to enhance the story in many cases, it is a vital part of the story itself. In “Somebody Talking To You”, voices heard through the media have effects on people. The sound of those voices stays with me. In “Spaxterback”, a computer creates an image of a person known only through the machine’s memory of past media (comic books, television, etc.). The conversations between computer and Spaxter sound both powerful and intimate. In “Vigilante”, a TV obsessed psychic kills people he’s sees on the news – the sound of him flipping through the channels in search of a victim is disturbing indeed. And in “Flash”, the sound of the characters being shown visions of what might be past lives is mesmerizing.

I enjoyed the stories as well. “Plague”, the story of the survivors of a plague that forces them to live under domes, was a particularly excellent example, though I would have preferred less exposition in the form of news stories (though they were riveting) and a longer drama to tell the story instead. I enjoyed “Spaxterback” which I mentioned earlier, for its dialogue between creator and created. “Psychotherapy” was a twisted pretzel of a horror story made even more enjoyable if you are a fan of Edgar Allen Poe. “Xmas is Coming to the District of Drudge” is an atypical Christmas story that reminds us all to live a little.

The actors did a great job at keeping everything believable, and the music was first-rate. This is some fine storytelling. I really enjoyed it.

Check out Jeff Green’s Stranger Media website for a rich multimedia experience.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Tales From The Crypt

SFFaudio Review

Tales from the CryptTales From The Crypt
Performed by Tim Curry, Gina Gershon, Luke Perry, Oliver Platt, John Ritter, Campbell Scott and others
4 CDs – Aprox 3 hrs. [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Highbridge Audio
Published: 2002
ISBN: 1565116747
Themes: / Fantasy / Horror / Crime / Murder / Humor / Undead / Music / Zombies /

Produced by the now defunct Sci-Fi Channel’s Seeing Ear Theatre, these seven audio plays are based on EC comicbook stories from the 1950s, skillfully updated and masterfully produced its one of the best anthology audio drama series of the last 25 years! Unfortunately, only seven of the eight episodes actually produced are included. And that is the biggest disappointment with this collection. The actors are awesome, the sound effects and music fill the audio landscape without drowning out their performances – but all this would be nothing without good writing, and again we’ve lucked-out. All seven tales are a whole lot of fun. Each episode is bookended by the Cryptkeeper’s introduction and comments on the story. The Cryptkeeper is voiced by John Kassir, the same actor as in the television series. This undead host’s obsession with horror is only exceeded with his obsession with frightfully bad puns. It is really good stuff boys and ghouls!

Island of Death
A dot-com millionaire with a penchant for movie trivia crash lands on an isolated tropical island and becomes embroiled in a twisted cross between a reality television show and Odysseus’ encounter with the sea-nymph Kalypso. Luke Perry (Jeremiah) is teamed with Gina Gershon (Bound) for the least successful tale in this collection. Gershon and Perry are great, but the action is a might hard to follow.

A Little Stranger
They say politics makes for strange bedfellows, but did they really mean vampires and werewolves? Set in 1968, this is the sole episode without a major Hollywood star in the lead. Randy Maggiore and Lisa Nichole star, and make the horrific crossbreed of terror and comedy.

Tight Grip
Told from a truly bizarre perspective, this is a tale of a young concert violinist is boxed in by a terrible secret stars Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show). Original and really scary.

By the Fright of the Silvery Moon
A modern day sheriff in New Mexico faces deadly perils, irate environmentalists and angry ranchers. John Ritter (Three’s Company) stars as the sheriff.

Zombie!
The longest tale in the collection. An immigration lawyer who has stolen his client’s money retires to mysterious Haiti. What he finds there may just be enough to overcome a powerful zombie curse. Oliver Platt (Funny Bones) stars. An immersive and fascinating tale of horrific Caribbean curse that makes you crave the sweetmeats.

Carrion Death
A truly excellent “horrality” tale. A bookish schoolteacher – disgusted with his inept students – goes on a crime spree and lands himself in prison. When he escapes from custody into the desert the only thing that can stop him are the talking ants. Campbell Scott (The Spanish Prisoner) seems to revel in his character’s clear insanity.

Fare Tonight, Followed by Increasing Clottiness!
A vampire hunter takes cab ride to bloody peril during a citywide vampire outbreak. An ingenious pairing of a modern day Van Helsing and an East Indian taxi driver. Keith David (The Chronicles Of Riddick), is awesome in this one, and not just for his iconic maniacal laughter. Aasif Mandvi (Spider-Man 2) is also excellent, playing his meek humor close to the vest!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Fantasy Audiobooks - Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray BradburySomething Wicked This Way Comes
By Ray Bradbury; Read by Paul Hecht
7 CD’s – 8 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
ISBN: 0788746375
Date Published: 1999
Themes: / Fantasy / Halloween / Carnival / Magic / Supernatural / Aging /

First of all, it was October. A rare month for boys.
— Prologue, Something Wicked This Way Comes

As I write this, it’s a cool October night. The trees outside are starting to drop autumn leaves. It’s not difficult, especially after finishing this novel, to see why October turns my thoughts to Ray Bradbury more than any other author. He can instill the spirit of Halloween in a person the same way that Dickens instills the spirit of Christmas, and Something Wicked This Way Comes is his work that does it best.

Paul Hecht, in one of his finest narrating performances, reads this unabridged version of Bradbury’s novel, and adds an infectious enthusiasm to the poetic prose. I was captured by his performance.

The novel revolves around Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, who are best friends. They are both nearly thirteen years old, and it’s the week before Halloween. Into town comes a lightning rod salesman who warns of an approaching storm. Later that same night a carnival comes to town, full of bizarre people and sinister magic. The boys are immediately drawn to it and, after an unsettling event involving a carousel, know that they are dealing with something dangerous and powerful. The two boys are very different people, so they react to the carnival, its people, and its magic in different ways.

Something Wicked This Way Comes is a novel full of images. The carnival, the carousel, the boys themselves running here and there, the lightning rod covered with ancient symbols… those images come through with crystal clarity in this audiobook. Happy Halloween!

Posted by Scott D. Danielson