Review of I, Robot By Isaac Asimov

Science Fiction Audiobooks - I, Robot by Isaac AsimovI, Robot
By Isaac Asimov; Read by Scott Brick
7 CDs – Approx. 8 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 2004
ISBN: 0739312707
Themes: / Science Fiction / Robots / Mystery /

The debate rages on. Most don’t know how much the film I, Robot (to be released in July) resembles Isaac Asimov’s original work. A badge-toting Will Smith gracing the cover of this audiobook suggests that the resemblence will be tenuous at best… many say that it doesn’t matter. Whatever your opinion, the result for audiobook listeners is an excellent unabridged version of some classic SF.

I, Robot is a collection of 9 short stories, connected by an ongoing discussion between a reporter and 75 year-old Susan Calvin, robo-psychologist. She is talking to the reporter about the history of robots, or the history of U.S. Robot and Mechanical Men, Inc, the company which produces the world’s robots, and for which she works. The stories she relates to the reporter are:

“Robbie”
A small girl enjoys the family robot – a bit too much, according to her mother, who arranges its disappearance.

“Runaround”
On a manned expedition to Mercury, a robot named Speedy doesn’t return from an important mission. Unfortunately, Speedy’s mission is vital to the survival of the human crew.

“Reason”
A robot believes the unbelievable – is it possible?

“Catch That Rabbit”
A robot used for asteroid mining goes wrong, and U.S. Robots representative Gregory Powell is sent to make it right.

“Liar!”
Could be subtitled: The Mystery of the Mind-reading Robot.

“Little Lost Robot”
Susan Calvin is called in to solve a problem with a collection of robots – which one is lying and why?

“Escape!”
A supercomputer called “The Brain” is asked a question, and it answers.

“Evidence”
A prominent politician is accused of being a robot.

“The Evitable Conflict”
The Machines take an even greater role in the affairs of humanity.

The behavior of all of Asimov’s robots are governed by his famous Three Laws of Robotics (see them below), and the stories themselves are all about the effects of robots on humanity on both the personal and societal levels. These stories are excellent, intelligent, classic science fiction – some of the finest work by one of the finest science fiction writers ever – Isaac Asimov.

Scott Brick, a narrator I always look forward to hearing, performs. He is engaging throughout and reads as if he truly enjoyed doing it. He’s one of the best.

And here, as promised, are the Three Laws:
The Three Laws of Robotics
1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2) A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

NOTE: For more unabridged Asimov, check out Books on Tape, where Scott Brick has narrated more of his titles. Asimov’s robot novels, the first two of which are The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun have not been produced as audiobooks, as far as I know. A glaring omission! The BBC has produced an audio drama of The Caves of Steel, however.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of The Pyramid of Amirah By James Patrick Kelly

The Pyramid of Amirah
By James Patrick Kelly; Read By James Patrick Kelly
FREE MP3 DOWNLOAD (link to jimkelly.net) – 18 Minutes Hour (8.21 MB) [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: www.jimkelly.net
Published: April 2004
Themes: / Fantasy / Religion / Magic Realism /

Sometimes Amirah thinks she can sense the weight of the pyramid that entombs her house. The huge limestone blocks seem to crush the air and squeeze light. Time passes.

Surrounded by boxes of goody-goody bars, her only food, Amirah lives alone in what was once her parent’s house. Its her home now, and she’s honoured to become a pyramid girl. During the day she vacuums up the limestone dust that drifts down onto every flat surface, at night she leaves the lights on all the time, even when she sleeps. As the years pass the light bulbs start to burn out one-by-one and Amirah wonders if the meaning of her living entombment will ever come.

First published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 2002 issue, James Patrick Kelly’s strange tale highlights the meaninglessness of any specific ritual in religion, and then concentrates its focus on how such sacrifices are necessary for religious epiphanies. “The Pyramid of Amirah” is by no means Kelly’s best work, but its quite an original concept and he does a good job given the short length and the subject matter. Some listeners may find themselves wondering what the story is about, and I sympathize with them, but don’t think it’s a problem with the story. If you’re in the mood to think about a tale after you’ve experienced it, this ones for you.

Sound quality and production values as usual are great. Kelly’s reading is pretty upbeat given the lonely isolation of the main character, but it doesn’t detract from the listening. As with the other audio stories available for download on Kelly’s website, “The Pyramid of Amirah” is available for FREE! Kelly only asks that if you enjoyed hearing his stories you consider making a donation to his PayPal account. Donations mean he’ll have reason to continue recording these unique tales!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Icarus Hunt By Timothy Zahn

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Icarus Hunt by Timothy ZahnThe Icarus Hunt
By Timothy Zahn; Read by Jonathan Marosz
9 Cassettes – Approx. 12 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Books On Tape Inc.
Published: 1999
ISBN: 0736649573
Themes: / Science Fiction / Space Opera / Mystery / Galactic Civilization / Aliens /

From Timothy Zahn, Hugo Award winner and New York Times bestselling author of two landmark Star Wars® series, comes an original new tale featuring a renegade space pilot, his unusual alien partner, and an unknown cargo that can change the course of galactic history.

Captain Jordan McKell, and his alien partner, Ixil, incautiously agree to fly The Icarus and its special cargo to Earth. The Icarus turns out to be an unusual ship containing a ragtag crew and a secret cargo that everybody in the Spiral seems to want to get their hands on. Things look tough but get worse, when they discover one of the crew’s been murdered and that there’s a saboteur aboard.

The Icarus Hunt is more science fantasy than science fiction. Set in a universe very similar to that of Star Wars, it’s also a novel firmly planted in that tradition of smugglers and space jockeys eluding powerful governments, with plenty of aliens, gunfights and seedy spaceports. If you’re in the mood for old-fashioned escapist SF, this one’s definitely for you. Myself, I enjoyed the simplicity of the tale, which is told entirely from one character’s perspective, but with enough curves to keep it interesting. Timothy Zahn wrote a few Star Wars novels, so he’s got the chops for this, but unlike with those novels, Zahn is able to build his own universe instead of just riding on the coattails of the first three movies. Zahn himself has described The Icarus Hunt as “Star Wars meets Alastair McLean”, and he’s telling the truth. The protagonist is a human that’ll remind you of the Han Solo/Lando Calrissian type, the good hearted rogue, and the plot has enough double-crossing to make you think you’re watching Where Eagles Dare or Ice Station Zebra. This isn’t deep material but it’s engaging. The worst sin it commits is in its length, its just a tad long for the plot material.

Jonathon Marosz uses more than a dozen voices and his reading is spot on. The viewpoint character is, as I stated before, a Han Solo type, and Marosz could definitely pinch hit for Harrision Ford in a minute. The cover art for this one is taken from the Bantam books paperback, and looks great. Production values are excellent, sound quality is perfect, though it has no extras at all. A solid reading of a solid space adventure.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Fantasy Audiobooks - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
By J.K. Rowling, Read by Jim Dale
7 Cassettes – approx 12 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Listening Library
Published: February 2000
ISBN: 0807282316
THEMES: / Fantasy / Young Adult / Magic / School / Magical Creatures / Childhood /

The Harry Potter juggernaut is about to leave port once more. The film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is scheduled for release on June 4. I’ve got two kids myself, both Potter fans, so I thought I’d revisit this audiobook.

It was my pleasure to do so because the Harry Potter audiobooks (all five to date) represent one of the finest matches of reader to material that I have heard. Jim Dale is brilliant as… well, as everybody in this book. He reads with a nuanced energy and enthusiasm for the text, creating an audio experience that’s every bit as entertaining as any movie. More so, in fact, as the novel has a depth that the films simply can’t match.

The story? After extracting himself from yet another summer spent with the Dursleys, Harry discovers that a man named Sirius Black has escaped from the infamous Azkaban prison. Further, Potter finds out that Black is a friend of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (er… Voldemort), and therefore out to get him. Harry spends the school year trying to live normally at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry while the adult teachers try to keep him protected. Flanked by his best friends (Ron and Hermione) he navigates the year, discovering things about himself along the way.

Not only has J.K. Rowling filled Hogwarts with interesting and funny characters, but she’s also added the witty details of the Wizarding world, which are endlessly entertaining. Harry and his friends grow up a little in each book – this is not the same Harry we met in the first book, and is not the same Harry we meet in books 4 and 5. This is what I think makes the book so appealing to adults as well as children – we enjoy experiencing Hogwarts as much as the kids, but with the added dimension of viewing childhood from afar.

A fun, engaging story. An excellent reader. Fabulous.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of The Ice Is Singing By James Patrick Kelly

The Ice Is Singing
By James Patrick Kelly; Read By James Patrick Kelly
FREE DOWNLOAD – 12 Minutes MP3 (4.96MB) [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: www.jimkelly.net/pages/free_reads.htm
Published: April 2004
Themes: / Fantasy / Modern / Poetry /

“The man in the ice is wearing a blue three-piece suit. He is facing up at you and the bright sky and his eyes are open. What does he see? Nothing. He’s dead, no? You look around the lake. None of the other skaters seem to realize that there’s a man frozen in the ice on Christmas Day. Someone could do a sit spin right on his nose, a triple lutz from his head to his black, tasseled loafers. Except nobody on the lake is that good a skater. Certainly not you.”

“The Ice Is Singing” was first published in Realms Of Fantasy magazine’s April 2003 issue. It’s told in the second person, making the protagonist “you”. This gives it a very “choose your own adventure” feel as do most second person narratives – the effect is like a cross between virtual reality and a rail shooter. Overall, it works very well with this one, which has a very good twist at the end, even if one an attentive listener may have seen coming. Production values and sound quality are great, with an exceptional musical accompaniment to Kelly’s excellent reading. As with all the James Kelly Free Reads stories “The Ice Is Singing” is essentially shareware. You can copy it for friends, email it, and even burn it to disc all for free. Kelly only asks that if you enjoy the story you consider donating to his PayPal account. And you really can’t ask for more than that. Well worth the listen!

Posted by Jesse Willis