Reading, Short And Deep #187 – Eternity Orbit by Francis Leslie Ashton

Podcast

Reading, Short And DeepReading, Short And Deep #187

Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss Eternity Orbit by Francis Leslie Ashton

Here’s a link to a PDF of the story.

Eternity Orbit was first published in Super Science Stories, January 1951.

Podcast feed https://sffaudio.herokuapp.com/rsd/rss

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

The Risk Profession by Donald E. Westlake

SFFaudio Online Audio

One of my favourite writers, Donald E. Westlake, mostly left the SFF field for the greener pastures of crime fiction after the 1960s. He was very successful there.

The Risk Profession, first published in 1961, is a fun SF novelette and one well worthy of our continued attention.

Another guy who appreciated Westlake was my friend, Gregg Margarite, who narrated it for LibriVox back in 2010.

The plot, a murder mystery, concerns an insurance investigator who makes a trip to the asteroid belt to investigate the death of an asteroid miner.

The Risk Profession by Donald E. Westlake - illustrated by Ivie

LibriVoxThe Risk Profession
By Donald E. Westlake; Read by Gregg Margarite
1 |MP3| – Approx. 1 Hour 4 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: January 17, 2010
“The men who did dangerous work had a special kind of insurance policy. But when somebody wanted to collect on that policy the claims investigator suddenly became a member of… The Risk Profession.” First published in Amazing Stories, March 1961.

Here’s a |PDF| made from the publication in Amazing.

[Thanks also to Wendel Topper and Lucy Burgoyne]

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Aftermath by Ben Bova

SFFaudio Review

The Aftermath by Ben BovaThe Aftermath: Book Four of The Asteroid Wars
By Ben Bova; Read by Emily Janice Card, Gabrielle de Cuir, Stephen Hoye, and Stefan Rudnicki
10 CDs – 12 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Renaissance
Published: 2007
ISBN: 1427201064
Themes: / Science Fiction / Space Travel / Asteroid Belt / Politics / War / Survival /

I really enjoy Ben Bova’s vision of humanity’s future in space. That vision is contained in all of his Grand Tour books, and the Asteroid Wars books are part of that larger series. The Aftermath is the fourth, and possibly the last, Asteroid Wars novel. Bova’s future is well considered, and that’s part of the fun of reading his books. To get artificial gravity, a part of the ship needs to spin. Resources are limited. Problems arise – frustrating ones, like when you’ve climbed a ladder to do a job and realize that you’ve forgotten the tool you need to do that job. Only in space, you can’t climb down and get that tool. You have to figure something else.

The Zacharias family finds this out the hard way, because the four of them, who run a merchant vessel as a family business, find themselves ready to dock at what turns out to be a military target during the Asteroid War. When they discover their mistake, Victor Zacharias, the father, leaves the ship in a pod in an attempt to lure attackers away, and the rest of the family gets out of there, but not before their ship is damaged, and not before committing to a trajectory that will keep them away from civilization for years.

Victor then finds himself on the attacked habitat in a state of near-slavery while his family does what it can to stabilize their ship and ride out the years in solitude. The story focuses on both of those situations – Victor’s, who never really loses hope, and the family’s, who struggle. In this way, Bova gives us a story of peripheral damage in war.

The audiobook is read by multiple narrators, switching as the point of view of the story shifts. All of the narrators are top-notch, and the style works well with the book. I was particularly enamored with the opening of the book, as the family is introduced, then tossed into peril. Bova’s characters are well-drawn, and the narrators took full advantage in their effective story-telling.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of The Rolling Stones by Robert A. Heinlein

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Rolling Stones by Robert A. HeinleinThe Rolling Stones
By Robert A. Heinlein; Performed By A Full Cast
8 CDs – 7 Hours 9 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Full Cast Audio
Published: 2005
ISBN: 1932076808
Themes: / Science Fiction / Young Adult / Space Travel / Newtonian Physics / The Moon / Mars / The Asteroid Belt /

When the Stone twins made up their minds to leave Luna City in a secondhand spaceship, they hadn’t planned on having their whole family accompany them. But the Stones are not your ordinary Lunar family – no way! – and their voyage through the solar system sure proves it.

Not long ago FULL CAST AUDIO contacted us, and gave us a heads-up – a new Robert A. Heinlein novel was coming. I was blown away by their first Heinlein adaptation so I tried to keep my expectations reasonable. “Lightning can’t strike twice”, I told myself. “Just be happy that it is being released. That’s what you asked for and that’s what you got. Don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t live up to your expectations.” I needn’t have worried. The Rolling Stones is as good as the superb full cast reading of Have Space Suit, Will Travel – maybe even a little better!

It is a Heinlein juvenile, written and first published in 1952, full of Heinleinian economics, politics, and family values, which all combine with a travelogue of interplanetary adventure. Dialogue moves the surprisingly light plot along, and the narrator provides the cultural and technological backdrop.

The Stone family is made up of father Roger, mother Edith, grandmother Hazel, the eldest child Meade, the youngest Buster, and the middle identical twins Castor and Pollux. The twins are natural born inventors and entrepreneurs, so when they go looking through the used spaceship yards on Luna they’ve got a scheme in mind. When Roger finds out about their plans he manages to turn the whole thing into a family venture. And off they go into the solar system.

If you like Heinlein you’ll love this novel but it’s a little different from most juvies in that it is more a series of smaller adventures. What I like best about the book is that it ably envisions a wonderful future of interplanetary travel in a completely scientifically accurate way. The economic model that would allow a family to buy a spaceship, fuel it and use it as their personal yacht may be unrealistic, but that won’t dampen your enthusiasm. It didn’t mine.

Most of the actors are new but Bill Molesky is back playing another father and Cynthia Bishop plays another mother figure. Peter Moller plays another small role, and FULL CAST AUDIO founder Bruce Coville makes another cameo too. Another plus – Daniel Bostick again directs. If I had my druthers, Daniel Bostick will direct all the future FULL CAST AUDIO Heinlein releases too (on the principle you don’t mess with success). The new actors are all perfect in their roles. There isn’t a false performance in the bunch.

A potential stumbling block was avoided. This is a third person perspective novel, as opposed to the first person of Have Space, Suit Will Travel, so they needed a narrator. Veteran voice over actor David Baker took the reins there and together with this full cast read another faithful adaptation of a Heinlein “juvenile” novel.

What’s really interesting though is that this is a straight reading with multiple readers, something I didn’t fully realize in Have Space Suit, Will Travel. There are no sound effects. There are just actors reading the text and a little accenting music at chapter openings. This was another excellent choice, a straight reading works well. You don’t need to paint in sound effects when the words evoke a mental image.

As is becoming the rule, the attention to detail found in the audio production extends to the fit and finish of the packaging. Jerry Russel’s original cover art is absolutely beautiful to behold. The CD case is the identical design to the Have Spacesuit, Will Travel case. A thick DVD style case, with the CDs stacked and secured by two plastic clamps. Perfect! Please FULL CAST AUDIO keep recording these Heinlein juvenile novels. I’d like to say I deserve it, but even if I don’t the novels sure do!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Venus by Ben Bova

Venus by Ben BovaVenus
By Ben Bova; Read by Arte Johnson
4 Cassettes – Approx. 6 Hours [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Fantastic Audio
Published: 2002
ISBN: 1574534750
Themes: / Science Fiction / Space Travel / Venus / Asteroids /

Venus is one of Ben Bova’s Grand Tour novels, written after both Mars and Return to Mars. The story begins on the Moon as a man named Van Humphries hustles to a meeting with his dad. There, he finds out that his rich estranged father has offered $10 billion to the first person who can journey to Venus and retrieve the remains of Van’s older brother, who was lost in a landing attempt on the inhospitable planet. Van himself takes up the challenge, building a ship and collecting a crew. They compete in a Great Race of sorts with another ship.

The book is filled with interesting details of space travel, or what space travel might someday be like if mankind starts devoting it’s energy to greater things. Bova portrays an active solar system with colonies on the Moon and miners swarming throughout the asteroid belt. There is also much of interest when the crews reach Venus and enter the planet’s atmosphere. The ships navigate the thick cloud layers with much difficulty, encountering much that they didn’t expect.

So far, the novel I’ve described sounds like it could have been written by Arthur C. Clarke, but the greatest difference between the two writers is that Bova tells a very personal human story against the backdrop of the hectic trip to Venus. Van Humphries discovers things about his brother, about his father and mother, and ultimately about himself. He confronts the fact that things are not what they seemed to be his whole life, and he finds this out while battling for survival in the planet’s extreme environment. The humanity and the science provide a stark contrast that worked for me, and increased my interest in the next volume of The Grand Tour.

Arte Johnson narrates and does a terrific job. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy another title that he narrates. I enjoyed his pace and tone, and, of course, his timing is out of this world.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Protector By Larry Niven

Science Fiction Audiobook - Protector by Larry NivenProtector
By Larry Niven; read by Mark Sherman
5 cassettes – 7.5 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2003
ISBN: 0786123907
Themes: / Science Fiction / Aliens / Interplanetary Travel / Solar-System Civilization / Asteroid Belt / Mars / Evolution / Genetics / Biology / Ballistic Physics /

Phssthpok the Pak had been traveling for most of his thirty-two thousand years. His mission was to save, develop, and protect the group of Pak breeders sent out into space some two and a half million years before. Brennan was a Belter, the product of a fiercely independent, somewhat anarchic society living in, on, and around an outer asteroid belt. The Belters were rebels, one and all, and Brennan was a smuggler. The Belt worlds had been tracking the Pak ship for days, and Brennan figured to meet that ship first. He was never seen again, at least not by those alive at the time.

Humanity has become an interplanetary species; Luna, Mars, Mercury, the Asteroid Belt and the gas giants of Sol are the playground of mankind. But it wasn’t meant to be that way… an alien race from near the galactic core has set its sights on Earth and the cargo it brings will bear some really strange fruit.

Protector is absolutely bursting with awesome SF ideas, and the twists on them, everything from a precursor to Richard Dawkin’s “Selfish Gene Theory”, to realistic spaceship ballistics and sexual politics. Niven himself has been a giant in the SF field since the early 1970s, of the many living authors who still haven’t been bestowed with the honorific “Grand Master,” Niven is the most deserving. Protector was first published in 1973, and is a part of Niven’s ongoing “Known Space” series, one of the foremost continuing visions of the future by an SF author. Like Robert A. Heinlein’s Future History series, the Known Space novels and stories follow the expansion of humans into the galaxy. And Protector is perhaps the best of the Known Space novels, it offers some of the hardest of the Hard SF ever written, something Larry Niven has a particular talent for, and it’s a great story, both unpredictable and fun! But I can’t stress enough just how good this novel is, the plot is unpredictable but relentlessly logical and enthralling at the same time, even better this novel like Richard Matheson’s classic I Am Legend, has a deep psychological and philosophical impact on the reader, and it also has a similar twist ending. It’s simply fantastic!

Reader Mark Sherman appears to have prepared well for what really could have been a very difficult reading. Larry Niven gave the alien names a real alien sound – I had no idea how to pronounce names like “Phssthpok”, but Mark Sherman does a great job in putting voice to it and numerous other unpronounceable words. Blackstone Audiobooks’s production is super smooth, sound quality is terrific, the cassettes come packaged in the awesome library style clamshell case and the original cover art is simply amazing to behold. For those who prefer other formats, Blackstone has also released Protector in two other media types, a 6 CD set or a single MP3-CD. Whatever format you choose you must choose one as this production of Larry Niven’s Protector is nigh unto perfect.

Posted by Jesse Willis