Reading, Short And Deep #312
Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss The Stolen Bacillus by H.G. Wells
Here’s a link to a PDF of the story.
The Stolen Bacillus was first published in The Pall Mall Budget, June 21, 1894
A six part radio dramatization of The Dispossessed was broadcast on CBC Radio in weekly 1/2 hour installments from June 12 to July 17, 1987 for The Vanishing Point (a long running SF radio drama series). Airing at 7:30pm on Friday nights this serial was based on the 1974 novel of the same name, by Ursula K. Le Guin. Subtitled “An Ambiguous Utopia” it tells the story of the occupants of twin planets, Urras and Annares. A sprawling epic of its era it features tree-planting, dinner parties, copulation, physics, homosexuality, anarchism, social justice, copulation, spankings, propaganda, culture, copulation, pregnancy, babies, famine, revolution, class consciousnesses, politics, and copulation.
Here’s the official plot:
“Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life. Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Urras, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.”
The Vanishing Point – The Dispossessed
Adapted from the novel by Ursula K. Le Guin; Dramatized by David Lewis Stein; Performed by a full cast
6 Episodes – Approx. 3 Hours [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: CBC Radio
Part 1 |MP3| Jun. 12, 1987
Part 2 |MP3| Jun. 19, 1987
Part 3 |MP3| Jun. 26, 1987
Part 4 |MP3| Jul. 03, 1987
Part 5 |MP3| Jul. 10, 1987
Part 6 |MP3| Jul. 17, 1987
Podcast feed: http://huffduffer.com/tags/vpdispossessed/rss
iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|
Gary Reineke as Shevek
Music by Marsha Coffee
Part 1 of 6:
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Posted by Jesse Willis
The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates
By Peter T. Leeson; Read by Jeremy Gage
Audible Download – Approx. 7 Hours 41 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible, Inc.
Published: September 4, 2009
Themes: / Economics / Piracy / History / Slavery / Democracy / Anarchy /
Pack your cutlass and blunderbuss–it’s time to go a-pirating! The Invisible Hook takes readers inside the wily world of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century pirates. With swashbuckling irreverence and devilish wit, Peter Leeson uncovers the hidden economics behind pirates’ notorious, entertaining, and sometimes downright shocking behavior. Why did pirates fly flags of Skull & Bones? Why did they create a “pirate code”? Were pirates really ferocious madmen? And what made them so successful? The Invisible Hook uses economics to examine these and other infamous aspects of piracy. Leeson argues that the pirate customs we know and love resulted from pirates responding rationally to prevailing economic conditions in the pursuit of profits.
I love non-fiction, and I love books that look at history, books that look at history through one lens or another are even better! And so there is much to love in The Invisible Hook. The title is a play on Adam Smith’s elegant metaphor for how markets work, the invisible hand. Most of the examples cited deal with the Atlantic and Caribbean pirates, rather than earlier Roman era or modern day pirates. But we get a sense of how it likely worked in other regions and times. Chapters on the paradoxical attitudes towards pirate slavery, the wildly contradictory stories about piratical impressment, and the chapter on the Jolly Roger, the pirate flag, are absolutely fascinating. And, as something of a piratical hobbyist myself, I’m pleased to report they deliver clear insights only hinted at in other non-fiction books about piracy. You know you’ve got a good book in hand when you find yourself relating the premises, arguments, and conclusions of whole chapters to friends.
How good is the analysis really? That’s kind of hard to tell. Democracy and equality as a function of economics? Wonderful! Seems logical, seems plausible. And that’s the sort of thing you don’t hear often enough. Indeed, economist Steven Levitt, of Freakonomics fame, gets a shout out early on in The Invisible Hook. This is a book in that vein, a kind of entertaining pop-economics, well written, and very thoughtful. But it also boasts the same kind of inarguable psychohistory-style post-analysis of such books. It reminds me of books like William Rosen’s The Most Powerful Idea in the World, and Jared Diamond’s Collapse. Well written history looked at through the lens of a soft science makes the seemingly inexplicable events of history seem almost inevitable. That is to say, this book should be just one of many such on such topics. In the end though how can you not wanto to read a book that makes piracy, as depicted in The Princess Bride, actually very plausible?
But this is not as merry a ship as it might be. As with many book published these days, there’s some bit of puffery. Concepts well illustrated in a paragraph or two are revisited, whole passages nearly reworded, and I’m betting that this for reasons of market driven economics. It might be that each chapter can be looked at on it’s own, textbook style, but listened to as I did, back to back the chapters have a tendency to revisit the same ports too often. This is one of my major complaints about books these days. Too many books are being published with too many words that don’t say different things. At under eight hours even this relatively slim volume, by today’s market standards, but it’s still puffier than any pirate’s shirt really ought be. It is like a pirate cutter on the stalk, slowed down by a sea-anchor of unneeded repetition. Saying the same thing over and over and over. Get my point? Okay, its the market, and to be fair Adam Smith’s own The Wealth Of Nations is a bloody long book, 36 hours! I’d be willing to bet my strong right arm that the original article, as published by Levitt (mentioned in the book), would be an even better audiobook than this very fine one, and no doubt it’d measure at least a peg leg shorter.
Narrator Jeremy Gage is from the old school of audiobook narration, the kind I like. He doesn’t so much as perform a book as read it. His conspiratorial tone typically him a great choice for first-person POV novels, like Lawrence Block’s Burglars Can’t Be Choosers. This is the first non-fiction book I’ve heard him narrate. So now I can say he’s great for non-fiction too.
Posted by Jesse Willis
V For Vendetta
Novelization by Steve Moore; Read by Simon Vance
11 Cassettes, 8 CDs or 1 MP3-CD – 9.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
ISBN: 0786144637 (Cassette), 0786170777 (CDs), 078617711X (MP3-CD)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Dystopia / Terrorism / Anarchy / England /
This audiobook had a long and treacherous road to release. Perhaps even worse, it has a questionable provenance. V For Vendetta, the unabridged audiobook, is several steps removed from the original source material. Worse still, the adapted property has been completely disowned by its original creator, celebrated graphic comics writer Alan Moore. He quite literally had his name removed from the movie credits, the novelization, and consequently this audiobook – in short he wants nothing to do with it.
Alan Moore is a famous figure in comics, and his opinion carries much weight among comic book readers. Because of all this, V For Vendetta, the novelization of the movie of the same name, is in serious jeopardy of being dismissed. But given the original material’s quality and the near classic vintage – the character and setting for “V” was originally birthed in early 1980s – you might be inclined to give this audiobook a try anyway. And for that you will be rewarded.
The road to release began with The Wachowski Brothers, the creators of the film The Matrix, optioned the story. They purchased the rights and scripturally adapted the graphic novel of V For Vendetta for the screen. After the film began production their script was then again adapted, this time as a movie novelization (or as the industry calls it a movie tie-in novel). The novel was written by Steve Moore, who, while no familial relation to Alan Moore, is very much his friend. Then Blackstone Audiobooks stepped in, hiring Simon Vance to voice an unabridged audiobook version of the Steve Moore’s novelization of The Wachowski Brother’s script of their movie which was originally based on Alan Moore’s original comic book series (that was collected into a graphic novel). See what I mean about a treacherous road? At any point along this journey the story could have been ruined. But what happened instead is that it has been IMPROVED! Indeed I think story-wise this is the best version of V For Vendetta…
Soon after the opening of the novel a mysterious figure named “V,” who dresses in a Guy Fawkes costume, promises to destroy the British Parliament buildings on November 5th, one year hence. It is a bit unlear at first, is the fascist governing party the target of this threat, or perhaps it is the people of England in general? Only one woman has even a clue. Her name is Evey. With war raging round the world, an English supremacist party called “Norsefire” has fully secured governmental authority in England. Some time ago, Norsefire successfully seized the initiative, and now England’s remaining citizenry are in a stranglehold of their own making. At the start of the novel the government controls media and a petrifying secret police force seemingly made up of little more than street thugs prowls the streets after dark. In the recent past the last of the last of the concentration camps has closed – their grisly work completed. The populace has been lulled into their docility by a combination of mindless television drama, propaganda posing as opinion, and horrifying news stories about how much worse everywhere else is. So when an anarchic revolutionary destroys London’s Saint Paul’s Catherdral in pyrotechnic display, the compliant populace is only slightly stirred. The government explains that it was just a “scheduled demolition” and many Britons even believe it. But when “V,” a seeming superhero/supervillan goes on BTN the sole governmental television network, and announces a violent campaign to be capped in by the destruction of parliament buildings in one year’s time the populace begins to question if “England shall prevail” or whether it even should.
Like George Orwell‘s classic dystopia 1984 the totalitarian regime in V For Vendetta rose to power by exploiting people’s worst fears and firing-up their prejudices. Interestingly the viewpoint character is not V himself. V’s personal history, past a certain point, remains mysterious right to the end. Despite a completely third person perspective we basically follow a young woman named Evey through this tale. V saves Evey early on in the novel from a rape by government agents known as “Fingermen.” Evey’s journey is not unlike that of the population, for which she can serve as an emotional example. One other character, a police Inspector named Finch, as dutiful and honest a detective as one’d want, offers another view of that same populace coming to grips with the type of society in which it lives. Finch is assigned to pursue the mystery of V, and in so doing unravels the history of the party’s origins and V’s vendetta. About two-thirds of the way through Evey’s journey with V and his vendetta Evey is captured and tortured. Her only solace during her ordeal is a scrap of toliet paper with a moving biography of her neighboring victim. The payoff from this is extremely surprising, utterly transendant and I think probably even true. There isn’t enough praise to go round for this one, Alan Moore for originally writing it of course, the Wachowski Brothers for recognizing it and popularizing it and Steve Moore for preserving and enhancing it. They all deserve major public honours here.
On the audiobook end, Simon Vance is my new favorite British narrator. The Shakespearean inspired “V-speech” that he delivers near the beginning of this audiobook is without parallel in my experience. It’s deliciously composed, elegantly constructed and with Vance’s performance, wonderfully delivered. The film version of this same speech is very good too, but I actually found myself better able to follow it via Vance’s excellent enunciated delivery. Steve Moore, the adaptor of the film’s script, has done something special. He’s taken many inspired liberties with the script by filling in as much detail as he could to flesh out the story – nearly every effective new addition to the story was taken from the original source material the comic book version of V For Vendetta. Finally, I can thankfully say that the plot detail involving the destruction of the British parliament buildings (including London’s Big Ben) is preserved from the film version. This is extremely important. To be sure there is a scene of the destruction of the British parliament buildings in the original graphic novel but the timing of it there is far less effective in terms of a story’s arc. Though it might be controversial to say, I think it is true: The Wachowski Brothers, in their adaptation of Alan Moore’s story, clearly understood the power of terrorism better than Alan Moore himself did at the time of the comic’s writing. The goal of terrorists is to show that an authority cannot control the terrorists. When a terrorist threat, like the destruction of a weighty architechtural symbol, is made and then carried out that effect is achieved. Some fear comes from a lurking dread of some muzzy non-specific threat but true political power stems from being able to call every shot, make the predictions on destruction and have them all come true every single time. In rejigging the story to make the destruction of the British parliament buildings happen near the end instead of the start, the already powerful story of V For Vendetta is vastly improved. An SFFaudio Essential.
Posted by Jesse Willis