Review of Bernardo’s House by James Patrick Kelly

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Bernardo's House by James Patrick KellyBernardo’s House
By James Patrick Kelly; Read By James Patrick Kelly
FREE MP3 DOWNLOAD (link to jimkelly.net) – 1 Hour (26.97 MB) [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: www.jimkelly.net
Published: April 2004
Themes: Science Fiction / Post Apocalypse / Robots / Artificial Intelligence / Sexuality / Fairy Tales /

“Once on time,” said the girl, “Louise lives in that castle. Louise’s Mom dies, don’t say where her Dad goes. So Louise stuck with spang bitch taking care of her. That Louise castle got no door, only windows high and high. Now Louise got most hair.” Fly spread her arms wide. “Hair big as trees. When spang bitch want in, she call Louise. ‘Louise, Louise, let down buzzy hair.’ Then spang bitch climb it up.”

In the future women will come in all shapes and sizes but men will still be pigs. This is especially true about a philandering homewrecker named Bernardo. Bernardo left 3 years ago, leaving poor Louise alone with no one to talk to… until a young girl named “Fly” arrived. James Patrick Kelly’s hilarious stories never fail to bring a smile to my face and “Bernardo’s House” is no exception. Kelly tends to write very funny personal stories, charged with human and sometimes alien emotions – his recurring themes include biological problems and ethical dilemmas. Kelly also has a great fondness for inventing new words; he is in fact a raving neologist. But all these traits are completely in service to his stories, and in the case of “Bernardo’s House”, the comedic situation and the main character’s apprehension of it is truly tempered by our own baggage that we bring to the experience, turning a story that starts out as fluff into a bittersweet morality tale. “Bernardo’s House” was first published in Asimov’s Science Fiction, June 2003 issue, and at this writing is a finalist for the Hugo Award.

Sound quality and production values are excellent. Kelly is a real performer! He infuses his reading with a bouncy upbeat tone that makes the funny scenes even funnier. But the very best part about “Bernardo’s House” is that its available for FREE! Kelly only asks that if you enjoyed hearing this tale you consider making a donation to his PayPal account, donations encourage future recordings so it’s a real positive feedback loop!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Asimov Science Fiction Tales

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Science Fiction Tales by Isaac AsimovAsimov Science Fiction Tales
By Isaac Asimov; Read by Isaac Asimov
2 Cassettes – 117 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Listening Library
Published: 1985 – Out Of Print
ISBN: 0807234184
Themes: / Science Fiction / Poetry / Storytelling / Artificial Intelligence / Robots / Mathematics / Parallel Worlds /

Written and read by Isaac Asimov, Asimov Science Fiction Tales is a collection of four short stories and one poem, all from Asimov’s golden era, the 1950s. Though cover art is non-existent, the audiobook comes packaged in a heavy duty vinyl case that is extremely durable. This two cassette production from Listening Library is a repackaged selection of tales written and read by Asimov from the 1975 collection entitled Science Fiction Favorties: Isaac Asimov (ISBN 0807229288), which includes at least five other stories that are not included here.

Listening to Asimov Science Fiction Tales is like spending some quality time with the man himself. Asimov’s reading is informal. He introduces and comments on each of the tales both before and after the reading, placing them in context and revealing their origins. His comments are insightful and sometimes quite humourous. The stories themselves are some of his best, featuring familiar Asimov themes, some serious, others funny, all great listening.

Stories Included:
Introduction – Asimov extemperaneously expounds on the wonderfulness of good old fashioned reading.

I Just Make Them Up, See – A infamous Asimov limerick, this one attempts to answer the question “Where do you get the ideas for your stories?” It’s a silly poem and but it left me smiling.

Someday – The first of two stories in this collection that deals with “lost arts”. In a society that has forgotten the written word, two young boys upgrade an antique automated audiobook machine called a “bard” – giving it a new vocabulary so that it can tell modern stories. This is one of Asimov’s most perfectly constructed stories, a real winner.

The Feeling of Power – A far future society that has become completely dependent upon computers rediscovers the lost art of doing math by hand. Very clever and well concieved, this story has more to say about our own society than it did about the time in which it was written.

Satisfaction Guaranteed – Housewife Claire Belmont is startled to find her husband’s most recent aquistion, a human looking robot named “Tony”, is the latest gimmick in the ceaseless battle to keep up with the Joneses.

Living Space – The discovery of easy access to parallel universe Earths, ones where life never evolved, means that the ever expanding human population of the future needn’t worry about running out of living space. In fact, every family can have a whole planet to themselves! But some unforseen consequences of this discovery have got a few of the new homeowners worried. This is one of the best executed science fiction short stories ever written. Its premise entails a non-obvious problem that becomes clear only near the end of the tale. Highly recommended.

Review of Sci-Fi Private Eye edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Sci-Fi Private Eye edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. GreenbergSci-Fi Private Eye
Edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin Greenberg; Read by Bill Fantini and Nelson Runger
4 cassettes – 6 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Dercum Audio
Published: August 1997
ISBN: 155656273X
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mystery / Utopia / Dystpoia / Sherlock Holmes / Mars / Berzerker / Time Travel / Artificial Intelligence / Covert Warfare /

Decades ago, SF grandmaster Isaac Asimov noted the similarity between detective “whodunit” stories and science fiction “puzzle” stories. Avoiding some of the obvious pitfalls, he began to write stories that contain elements of both of these popular genres. Later as an anthologist, Asimov teamed up with Martin H. Greenberg to collect the best of this subgenre. Sci-Fi Private Eye was the happy result. Though obviously not recorded under perfect conditions, you can literally hear the pages turning, I was flabbergasted by the love and care that went into the recording of this audiobook. It starts off with a haunting original musical score, then, instead of simply reading the first story, as is typical with nearly every audiobook, it introduces the anthology with a brief but well composed essay on the subject of mystery science fiction! The packaging is not as good, while in a sturdy enough case, the original cover art falls into a category I call “computer designed abstract boring”. Even worse, they spelled Asimov’s name wrong. The cassettes themselves also lack important details (what story starts where and ends where). The stories though are so good that I’ve got to summarize and review them individually:

Stories Included:
Introduction written and read by Isaac Asimov
“Getting Across” by Robert Silverberg
“The Martian Crown Jewels” by Poul Anderson
“Of The Metal Murderer” by Fred Saberhagen
“Mouthpiece” by Edward Wellen
“War Game” by Philip K. Dick

Robert Silverberg’s “Getting Across” is a terrific SF short story told in the first person. It was originally published in the anthology entitled Future City (1973). A future society is in danger. To house the engorged human race, the Earth is entirely covered by one large metropolis. But it isn’t one big city so much as it is a million city-states abutting one another. Each district has its own government, its own customs and industries, and it’s own way of life. Contact between districts is restricted and often dangerous to those who attempt it. All districts rely on a master computer program for the smooth operation of these automated communities. So when Ganfield’s master computer program is stolen, things start to deteriorate quickly. Garbage starts piling up uncollected, food stops being delivered, the climate control system stops working, and the deactivated robotic police force cannot prevent the cannibalism that is only weeks away. The man whose “month-wife” stole the program is sent to find her and bring it back. His task is nearly impossible because even if he can get out of his district getting across will only be the first hurdle. Typical of Silverberg’s great work in the 1970s.

Poul Anderson’s “The Martian Crown Jewels” was first published in A Treasury of Great Science Fiction, Vol. 1 (1959). The Martian Crown Jewels have been stolen! The theft threatens to destroy diplomatic relations between Mars and Earth. Inspector Gregg, of the Earth police force stationed on Mars, is stumped. Who can solve the baffling locked spaceship mystery and avert a galactic catastrophe of cataclysmic proportions? None other than Mars’ greatest consulting detective, Syaloch, a seven-foot feathered Martian who lives at 221B “Street of Those who Prepare Nourishment in Ovens.” Most entertaining.

Edward Wellen’s “Mouthpiece” first saw print in the pages of Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine’s February 1974’s issue. Most of the stories I’ve read by Edward Wellen tend to be focused on the workings of the human mind, and this one is no exception. This one fictionalizes a fascinating historical curiosity regarding the final hours of “Dutch” Schultz and takes it just that bit farther – into artificial intelligence – leaving us pondering the nature of personality, memory and thought. It’s also a great little mystery to boot!

Fred Saberhagen’s “The Adventure Of The Metal Murderer” was first published in Omni Magazine’s January 1980 issue, and is another in Saberhagen’s long running series of Berzerker short stories. It’s a time travel story that starts in the distant future and then goes back to 19th century London, England. A clever tale that will remind you of Michael Moorcock’s “Behold The Man”.

Philip K. Dick’s “War Game” was first published in Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine’s December 1959 issue. Earth’s traditional enemy, Ganymede, is at it again. They are trying to subvert and soften up the good people of Earth by selling potentially dangerous toys and games as a prelude to invasion. One toy appears to assemble itself over time into a nuclear weapon, another convinces the user that the virtual reality he or she is in is actual reality, and a third is a harmless variation on the board game Monopoly. But the market demand for the inventive Ganymedian games is pressuring the Earth customs to clear the toys for stocking in time for Christmas. If they follow the rules only one will get through to the store shelves. Typically Dickian and thus very entertaining.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Neuromancer by William Gibson

SFFaudio Review

TIME WARNER AUDIO - Neuromancer by William GibsonNeuromancer
By William Gibson; Read by William Gibson
4 Cassettes – Approx. 6 hours [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Time Warner AudioBooks
Published: August 1994
ISBN: 1570420599
Themes: / Science Fiction / Cyberpunk / Dystopia / Artificial Intelligence /

Neuromancer sent massive shockwaves though science fiction and popular culture upon its release in 1984. Those shockwaves can still be felt after 20 years. Neuromancer is the tale of Case, a console cowboy, otherwise known as a computer hacker who goes on a futuristic Odyssey spanning a nihilistic near-future Earth and slightly beyond. A rich background, experimentalist prose, cuttingly future-modern dialogue and a prophetic dystopian vision combine with a heist plot reminiscent of Elmore Leonard to make a novel that will undoubtedly win William Gibson an eventual title of GRANDMASTER.

Created for the 10th anniversary of the publication of William Gibson’s first and best novel, this audiobook is a SFFaudio listener’s delight! A careful abridgment and a masterfully executed production, this is perhaps the best version of Neuromancer in any form. While Gibson is by no means a trained actor or even a professional narrator, his voice is uniquely suited to this novel and his characters. Supplementing the terrific reading is a unique soundtrack made up of two U2 remixes, which really does amazing things. Now normally I’d say that the combination of accenting music, a non-professional narrator and an abridgment of the novel all would be a recipe for disaster. But this version of Neuromancer defies all my expectations, and makes this my candidate for perhaps THE BEST ABRIDGED AUDIOBOOK EVER PRODUCED!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Voice from the Edge Vol 1: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Voice from the Edge Vol 1 by Harlan EllisonThe Voice from the Edge Vol 1: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
By Harlan Ellison; Read by Harlan Ellison
5 CD’s – 6 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Fantastic Audio
Published: 2002
Themes: / Science Fiction / Fantasy / Short Stories / Artificial Intelligence / Time / Demons /

This is a collection of Harlan Ellison’s best (well… most popular) stories. The most oft-reprinted tales are here, among them: “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”, “‘Repent, Harlequin,’ Said the Ticktockman”, “Paladin of the Lost Hour”, and “A Boy and His Dog”. The stories are read by the author, who himself is a first-rate reader, lending an infectious energy to every story in the collection.

I personally know of no other author’s stories with which to compare Harlan Ellison’s. He’s arguably the finest writer of short fiction on the planet, building stories of great impact in such a short space. In “‘Repent, Harlequin'”, he gives us a parable of society’s dependence on the clock, making schedules look ridiculous enough to make one wonder what the heck we’re all doing. And this was written in the 1960’s! In “Paladin of the Lost Hour”, a man is given responsibility over the world’s last hour. The characters in “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” are trapped by a malevolent computer. These are great stories, every one. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection.

Stories included in the collection: “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”, “Laugh Track”, “Grail”, “‘Repent, Harlequin,’ Said the Ticktockman”, The Very Last Day of a Good Woman”, “Paladin of the Lost Hour”, “The Time of the Eye”, “The Lingering Scent of Woodsmoke”, and “A Boy and His Dog”.

Review of Queen of Angels by Greg Bear

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Queen of Angels by Greg BearQueen of Angels
by Greg Bear; Read by George Guidall
14 Cassettes – 19.75 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Date Published: 1991
ISBN: 0788763482
Themes: / Science Fiction / Nanotechnology / Artificial Intelligence / Near Future /

Emanuel Goldsmith, a famous poet, murdered eight people, then disappeared. Three people want to find him: an aspiring writer, an embittered scientist who wants to use him, and a policewoman who needs to put him in custody before the Selectors, a vigilante organization, get to him first.

What if human consciousness were just an algorithm resembling a computer program? In Queen Of Angels, Greg Bear shows us, and more. It is a future where someone changing his mind means “reprogramming” it to get rid of the mental flaws. A future in which nanotechnology enables people to radically change their physical appearance. A future where a criminal has his mind “debugged” instead serving a sentence in prison. And a future in which artificial intelligences strive to become self aware.

Queen of Angels is absolutely chock full of fresh and interesting Science Fiction ideas, but it can be quite confusing due to its six separate story threads. This clarity problem is compounded by a complete lack of explicit transitions. A listener attempting this audiobook must be prepared to pay very close attention. The story stagnates somewhat in the middle but it is ultimately worth the time because two of the narratives end in disturbing original ways.

Prejudice is a central theme in this novel. Nanotechnology and mental reporgramming technology has completely restructured society’s class system into the unaltered and the altered human camps. And the consequences meted out by these technologies make for a world where only the perfect “therapied” job seekers get high paying jobs and promotions.

Having previously enjoyed Greg Bear’s breathtaking novel Blood Music and his admirable short fiction collection entitled The Wind from a Burning Woman, I’d only recommend Queen of Angels to fans of those books who thought them easy reading.