Review of Cally’s War by John Ringo and Julie Cochrane

Cally's War by John Ringo and Julie CochraneCally’s War
By John Ringo and Julie Cochrane
Read by Christine Marshall and William Dufris
1 MP3-CD – Approx 13 Hours 15 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Paperback Digital
Published: 2004
ISBN: 1584390034
Themes: / Science Fiction / Alien invasion / Secret agent / War /

She walked over to the body and tilted her head appraisingly a moment before carefully and deliberately spitting on it. “The name’s Cally O’Neal, and that’s for trying to kill me when I was eight.”

Cally is a member of the sisterhood of the Bane Sidhe, which is a group of underground warriors. It’s immediately apparent that she is a warrior who can withstand all manner of assault on her body in the name of completing her mission. I couldn’t help but to mentally insert Uma Thurman in the role of Cally, as the character’s complete indifference to violence and sex (both of which appear in this book in copious amounts) is reminiscent in ways to characters from Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill.

Cally operates in this novel in a complex post-invasion world. She meets all manner of interesting folk while solving a mystery of her own. The events in the first chapter provided a good running start into the novel, but the rest of the book never matched that potential. I was never interested again as the story took a decided turn for the expected.

The audiobook itself is done in a style that at first turned me off, but then won me over in a big way. Christine Marshall and William Dufris take turns narrating, depending on the point of view of the story. This is a technique that I generally enjoy. But during each other’s narrating duties, the other plays a role. Whenever Cally speaks, for example, it’s Christine Marshall doing the speaking whether she’s narrating at the moment or not. This is a technique that I generally abhor – I find it annoying and distracting nearly every time it’s tried. But… it works very well here for two reasons – first, they didn’t follow up every piece of dialogue with he saids and she saids – words which are as transparent with a single narrator as they are on the page, but with dual narration can become annoying. Second, the sheer skill of these two narrators makes the dialogue portions of the audiobook work wonderfully. Both narrators performed several believable characters each, and there was never any doubt who was speaking. The dialogue was snappy and well paced.

This is definitely science fiction of a sort that I don’t sample too often in print, since I feel like I get enough of this kind of story on the screen (big or small). The technical production, though, was absolutely first rate – among the best in the business – which makes me eager to hear titles from Paperback Digital that are more to my taste.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Independence Day UK

Independence Day UKIndependence Day UK
Produced, written, and directed by Dirk Maggs
Starring Nicky Campbell, Patrick Moore, Toyah Wilcox, Colin Baker, and Simon Treves
1 Cassette – 1 Hour [AUDIO DRAMA]
ISBN: 1858496314
Date Published: 1995
Published by the BBC
Themes: / Science Fiction / UFOs / Alien invasion / First contact

I was very intrigued by this title, because First Contact is one of the themes in science fiction that interests me most. This title appears to have been released as a promotion for the movie called Independence Day. The story is new, though it follows the same lines as the successful film.

In this one, a BBC FM Radio station holds a UFO watch after spending some time previous to the story beaming signals into space with hopes that a UFO will respond. The whole thing is tongue-in-cheek and done in good fun. But then something does respond, and it’s headed this way.

The structure of the story is very much like Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds, which is referenced in the beginning. It starts out in a realistic way, the FM host Nicky Campbell reporting the news as it’s happening, then moving into a third person perspective after the aliens have landed, just like Orson Welles’ 1939 production.

I wasn’t fond of this audio drama for one main reason – the entire “realistic” part of it was simply not believable. Nicky Campbell was on an aircraft along with an astronomer (Patrick Moore) and reported live as they monitored the incoming signal. None of the performers in this part of the production act in a believable manner when presented with evidence of an extraterrestrial craft headed their way. It’s more of a “isn’t this interesting and amusing” attitude rather than a “wow, this is REALLY happening” attitude.

In the production’s favor, the host they used (Nicky Campbell) is a real BBC host, and the astronomer (Patrick Moore) a real astronomer, both of BBC Radio 1. In other words, these folks were not actors. Regardless, it just didn’t work, but perhaps the entire production was not meant to be taken seriously.

The rest of the production? More Dirk Maggs audio magic. UFO’s and jets dueling in the skies, all remarkably done with sound.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Live in Concert by Douglas Adams

Science Fiction Audio - Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Live in ConcertHitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Live in Concert
By Douglas Adams; Performed live by Douglas Adams
Publisher: Dove Audio
Published: 1996
ISBN: 0787108960
Themes: / Science Fiction / Humor / Time Travel / Robots / Artificial Intelligence / Alien Invasion /

In 1995, at the Alameida Theatre in London, Douglas Adams gave a live performance, reading several sections from the first three novels of the inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s Trilogy. The performance was recorded, and the result is one of the most oft-played in my collection. His reading is absolutely hilarious. His energy is high throughout the performance, and his comic timing impeccable.

Amongst the episode segments Adams reads are “Marvin and the Frogstar Battle Robot”, “Arthur and the Irrational Sofa”, and “Agrajag and the Cathedral of Hate.”

Hitchhiker’s Guide remains the best science fiction comedy out there. How to describe it? Well, this fellow named Arthur Dent wakes up one day to discover that someone is trying to knock down his home to make room for a bypass. While dealing with that, he discovers that his good friend Ford Prefect is not actually from Earth, but from somewhere in the vicinity of Betelguese. Further, the Earth itself is about to be destroyed by the Vogon Destructor Fleet to make room for an interstellar bypass. They get off-planet and the adventures commence aboard the Heart of Gold, which is run by an Infinite Improbability Drive, which… well, you just have to experience it.

Unabridged audio versions exist of all the Hitchhiker’s novels, but my favorite ways to enjoy this story is the original BBC Radio dramas and this live performance. A person who enjoys Hitchhiker’s already should very much enjoy this, and it would also offer a good introduction to someone who is unfamiliar with the story.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of The Minority Report and Other Stories By Philip K. Dick

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Minority Report by Philip K. DickThe Minority Report and Other Stories
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Keir Dullea
4 Cassettes – 6 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio
Published: 2001
ISBN: 0694523348
Themes: Science Fiction / Future Knowledge / Time Travel / Paranoia / Robots / Artificial Intelligence / Alien Invasion /

This collection of five Philip K. Dick tales includes stories that will make you laugh, cringe in fear, and most of all… think. Stories included:

The Minority Report
The creator and head of Pre-crime, John Anderton, runs a special branch of the police that uses precognition to lock-up those who plan to commit felonies. When he suddenly finds that his own name is on the list of future-murderers to be rounded up he thinks it’s a conspiracy to dismantle the system. After all, why would he, a respected crime fighter, kill a man he’s never met? His only chance is to escape, find out who this man he’s supposed to kill is. First published in the pulp magazine “Fantastic Universe” in January 1956, “The Minority Report” is an intriguing look at the philosophical consequences of thinking about the future and free will. If we can see into the future then the future is like a book in which we are all characters, and which we have no ability to chose to do anything. But if we can find out what a person’s future behavior is – and can prevent it – how reliable was the view of that future? Aren’t the two mutually exclusive? Isn’t future knowledge an irresolvable paradox? Like nearly every Dick tale, this one is extremely engaging. Unlike the movie adaptation, our hero isn’t a dashing Tom Cruise type, instead as the first line of the story illustrates: “The first thought Anderton had when he saw the young man was ‘I’m getting bald. Bald and fat and old.” Anderton is a protagonist lacking self-confidence. That weakness and the mounting paranoia enhance the tale all the more.

We Can Remember It For You Wholesale
Quail is just a working schlub, too poor to afford a trip to Mars, a place he’s always dreamed about going. His frustration leads him to buy a memory implant, one that will give him an ersatz visit to the red planet, and it’s said to be one so real that if he can find proof that he didn’t actually go, he can get his money back! But when something goes wrong during the procedure Quail starts to remember the truth – he’s actually been to Mars already! “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” was the basis of the feature film Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and for the first three-quarters of the story, the plots are very similar. But fear not! As is becoming the rule in Hollywood, the ending is different. And I happen to think Dick’s version is even better. Originally published in Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine’s April 1966 issue, this one is one you definitely won’t forget.

Recently adapted into an action film directed by John Woo and starring Ben Affleck, “Paycheck” is the tale of an engineer who works under a strange contract. As a condition of his employment he must have his memories of his work wiped. After doing the job, two years have passed, and of course he has no memory of the previous two years – in lieu of wages he’s apparently traded in a large cash payment for a bag of seemingly worthless and unrelated objects. When the security police of the totalitarian state he lives in arrests him and demands to know what he’s been working on for the past two years he suddenly discovers that the “worthless objects” are helping him escape! Can this collection of junk actually unlock the secret of his recent past – and insure that he has a future? First published in “Imagination” Magazine’s June 1953 issue, “Paycheck” is as slippery and mysterious as it is slick written and inevitable – Dick is the ultimate idea man.

Second Variety
Under a flag of truce, the UN officer receives an offer of parlay from a lone Russian Soldier. He’s to travel alone to a rendezvous behind enemy lines to discuss a matter of ‘mutual interest’. “Second Variety” is the basis of the obscure SF film Screamers, starring Peter Weller. This novella originally appeared in Space Science Fiction magazine’s May 1953 issue and offers a glimpse at horrifically scarred future Earth where a nuclear winter and two opposing armies are confronted by an even more dangerous weapon than ICBMs. Well written and thoughtful, another masterpiece of paranoia and philosophy. Dick can do no wrong!

The Eyes Have It
This short storylet is a rare humour piece that posits the dire consequences literalism and paranoia. Whimsical and truly laugh-out-loud funny it was first published in “Science Fiction Stories 1” in 1953.

Keir Dullea, the reader of all these stories is probably best known as astronaut Dave Bowman in Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey. In recent years Dullea has gained a name for himself as an audiobook narrator, and this collection can only add to that fame. Dullea does accents, and voice changes, but never gets in the way of the wonderful ideas. Well done.

Harper Audio did an excellent job with this collection. Recording quality is top notch and they’ve even accented the reading with little musical cues to let you know when a story has ended or the tape is ready to be flipped. Other than the uninteresting cover art and the flimsy packaging, which is unfortunately, all too standard these days, my only complaint was that they didn’t do more of Philip K. Dick’s stories. I wan’t more! More!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of War of the Worlds, LA Theatre Works

Science Fiction Audio Drama - War of the WorldsWar of the Worlds
Starring Leonard Nimoy, Jerry Hardin, Gates McFadden, Dwight Schultz, Armin Shimerman, Brent Spiner, and Wil Wheaton
Adapted by Howard Koch; Directed by John de Lancie
Duration: 1 cassette, 70 minutes
ISBN: 0807235628
Producer: LA Theatre Works
Themes: / Science Fiction / Alien invasion / H.G. Wells / Civilization’s End /

In 1938, Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater of the Air frightened the American public with its realistic radio version of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. Authentic sounding radio shows were interrupted by authentic sounding news casts which reported the landing and subsequent chaos caused by several angry aliens in Grover’s Mill, NJ. The story after the broadcast was the chaos caused by folks who thought the fictitious events were really happening, despite the occasional disclaimer. Orson Welles proved to us all, once and for all, that you can’t always believe what you hear.

In 1995, LA Theatre Works recreated this performance, live, directed by John de Lancie. The same script originally used by Welles, written by Howard Koch, is used here. This is not a remake, but a re-creation. The same script, same words, and the same cues are all here, just delivered by different actors.

The idea to gather Star Trek alumni and do this live radio show was John de Lancie’s. While listening, it is interesting to pick out who is who in the show. The production quality is excellent. But, as a fan of the original Welles production, only the performance of Brent Spiner as a crazed survivor stands out as a reason to give this one a listen. The original, imbued with its history and its great performances, is still the one to get.

This re-creation spawned several fine dramatic science fiction recordings led by John de Lancie and Leonard Nimoy under the name Alien Voices, and for that I’m grateful.