Review of The Rock Rats by Ben Bova

Science Fiction Audiobook - The Rock Rats by Ben BovaThe Rock Rats
By Ben Bova; Read by Ira Claffey, Amanda Karr, and Cast
9 CDs – 10 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Renaissance
Published: 2005
ISBN: 1593974922
Themes: / Science Fiction / Space Travel / Asteroids / The Moon / Environment /

The asteroid belt is a fascinating area because it does represent the gold mine of the 21st century. Gold, silver, iron, platinum, any material you want is out there, and out there in enormous tonnages. Hundreds of thousands of billions of tons of all the mineral and metal wealth you can imagine… …the struggle in The Asteroid Wars is over who is going to control this wealth.
–Ben Bova in the Introduction to The Rock Rats

This is the second volume of Bova’s Asteroid Wars, a series which in turn is part of the larger group of novels called The Grand Tour. The first book, The Precipice, detailed the initial trip out to the asteroid belt, but this novel stands on it’s own and can be easily read and understood without reading the first.

Two of the people that were on that first ship to the asteroid belt, Lars and Amanda Fuchs, have returned to the belt along with many others. These pioneer miners call themselves “Rock Rats”, and form a loose society reminiscent of America’s Old West. You can’t call the police from the frontier, so justice is handled vigilante-style, and the laws of Earth no longer apply.

The rich and greedy Martin Humphries is still part of the equation, and he’s able, from his comfortable office on the Moon, to direct some of his people to stake claims on asteroids. The fact that they had already been claimed didn’t matter much to him. And thus, the war over control of those resources begins.

Bova covers a lot of territory in this book. There are scenes from the frontier, including a realistic battle between two ships with make-shift weapons that work like weapons would in space. Then there are scenes from the board room back on the Moon, where discussions are takng place about how to profitably get material back to Earth and how the stuff is going to affect the global economy. At opposing sides are those who are cognizant about the environment and those who solely want cash and power.

Scott Brick and cast did a fine job with the book. The narrator switches as point of view switches in the text, and I’m fining that technique more agreeable each time I listen. All the narrators were strong storytellers, and I’m left anxious to hear the third book, which luckily is on my shelf.

Audio Renaissance has published several of Ben Bova’s Grand Tour books in unabridged format.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of The Precipice by Ben Bova

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Precipice by Ben BovaThe Precipice
By Ben Bova; Read by Scott Brick, Amanda Karr, and Cast
10 CD’s – 12 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Renaissance
Published: 2005
ISBN: 1593974906
Themes: / Science Fiction / Asteroids / Environment / Nanotechnology / Space Travel / Moon / Corporations /

The Precipice is first book in Ben Bova’s Asteroid War series, which itself is part of the larger group of novels called The Grand Tour. All of the Grand Tour novels appear on audio, the earliest ones abridged, and the later ones unabridged. Of all the Bova novels I’ve heard on audio (Mars, Return to Mars, and Venus), this is the best, possibly because it’s the first unabridged one I’ve heard, more likely because the novel was fine, traditional science fiction peopled with complex characters. The plot was interesting, and the details more so. I really enjoyed this book.

The driving force of the novel is the adversarial relationship between Dan Randolph and Martin Humphries, who are both extremely successful corporate CEO’s. The world is in environmental disarray because the “Greenhouse Cliff” has been reached – the point at which environmental change becomes rapid and unstoppable. The reaction to this by Randolph is to find a way to help. Humphries’ reaction is to find profit opportunities. They both look toward the asteroid belt, whose mineral wealth Randolph sees as mankind’s savior, and Humphries sees as a giant dollar sign. They both struggle for the upper hand as they prepare mankind’s first trip to the asteroid belt.

The novel has another character well worth mentioning. Her name is Pancho Lane, and the first time we meet her in the novel, she is on a space station conning five fellow workers out of a month’s salary. She’s a smart-mouthed, independent, strong female astronaut that plays a huge role in the plot, and is one of those characters that you miss when a novel is done.

The cover of the audiobook lists the readers as “Scott Brick, Amanda Karr, and cast”. Brick and Karr are very strong readers, and have the largest parts in the book. Amanda Karr read the portions of the novel from Pancho Lane’s point of view, and gave the character just the right amount of attitude.

The other readers also performed well. I recall in an earlier post on this site, I mentioned that I wasn’t too fond of multiple-reader audiobooks, and that I preferred single narrators. I did mention Ender’s Game as an exception, which was produced by Stefan Rudnicki, as this one was. Since then, I’ve heard enough of these multiple-reader audiobooks (all produced by Rudnicki) to realize that if an audiobook is edited properly and you have capable performers all around, then the multiple-narrator technique employed here is preferable to single-narrator audiobooks for the simple fact that I immediately know whose POV the story is coming from at any time, which makes listening a more immersive experience. The voices drew me in faster as I picked up the book after putting it down between listens, as if the characters themselves were doing the reading.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

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

Audio Renaissance (http://www.audiorenaissance.com…

New Releases

Audio Renaissance (http://www.audiorenaissance.com) has announced its new releases for Winter 2005, and it looks like they are taking over some of the Fantastic Audio titles. These are all CD only releases, no cassettes at all, and every single one is completely unabridged. The titles announced include the three “Asteroids Wars” novels by Ben Bova with what appears to be dual narration. In either case, its great to see unabridged novels becoming the new accepted standard. Personally I’m not too upset at the limited format release, if it comes down to a choice between CDs and cassettes, these days I’d choose CDs, as they are more portable to the increasingly populare MP3 audiobook format.

The titles announced include the three “Asteroids Wars” novels by Ben Bova (a subset of the Grand Tour series):

The Precipice
By Ben Bova – Read by Scott Brick and Amanda Karr
10 CDs – Approx. 12 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Renaissance
Published: February 2005
ISBN: 1593974906
The first novel of the Asteroid Wars. Once, Dan Randolph was one of the richest men on Earth. Now the planet is spiraling into environmental disaster, with floods and earthquakes destroying the lives of millions. Martin Humphries, fabulously wealthy heir of the Humphries Trust, also knows that space-based industry is the way of the future. But unlike Randolph he does not care if Earth perishes in the process. As Randolph-accompanied by two brilliant women astronauts-flies out to the Asteroid Belt aboard a fusion-propelled spacecraft, Humphries makes his move. The future of mankind lies in Randolph’s hands.

The Rock Rats
By Ben Bova – Read by Ira Klaffey and Amanda Karr
9 CDs – Approx. 10 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Renaissance
Published: February 2005
ISBN: 1593974922
The second novel of the Asteroid Wars. Visionary space industrialist Dan Randolph is dead-but his protégé, pilot Pancho Barnes, now sits on the board of his conglomerate. She has her work cut out for her-for Randolph’s rival, Martin Humphries, still wants to control Astro and still wants to drive independent asteroid miners like Lars Fuchs out of business. Humphries wants revenge against Pancho-and, most of all, he wants his old flame, Amanda, who has become Lars Fuchs’s wife. Before it ends, many will die-and many will achieve more than they ever dreamed was possible.

The Silent War
By Ben Bova – Read by Christian Noble and Amanda Karr
11 CDs – Approx. 13 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Renaissance
Published: February 2005
ISBN: 159397504X
The third novel of the Asteroid Wars. When corporations go to war, standard business practice goes out the window. Astro Corporation is led by indomitable Texan Pancho Lane, Humphries Space Systems by the rich and ruthless Martin Humphries, and their fight is over nothing less than resources of the Asteroid Belt itself. Fighting escalates and the lines between commerce and politics, boardroom and bedroom, blur-and the keys to victory will include physics, nanotechnology, and cold hard cash. It’s a breakneck finale that can end only in earth’s salvation-or the annihilation of all that humankind has ever accomplished in space.

And the newest volume in the ongoing Ender Wiggin Saga:

Shadow Of The Giant
By Orson Scott Card; Read by TBA (To Be Announced)
9 CDs – Approx. 11 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Renaissance
Published: March 2005
ISBN: 1593974965
Bean, once the smallest student at the Battle School, and Ender Wiggins’ right hand, has grown to be a power on Earth. He served the Hegemon as strategist and general in the terrible wars that followed Ender’s defeat of the alien empire attacking Earth. Now he wishes for a safe place to build a family-something he has never known-but there is nowhere on Earth that does not harbor his enemies-old enemies from the days in Ender’s Jeesh, new enemies from the wars on Earth. To find security, Bean and Petra must once again follow in Ender’s footsteps. They must leave Earth behind, in the control of the Hegemon, and look to the stars.

Also forthcoming, book five in The Wheel Of Time series:

The Fires Of Heaven
By Robert Jordan; Read by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer
32 CDs – Approx. 39 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Renaissance
Published: April 2005
ISBN: 1559276062
Robert Jordan again plunges us into his extraordinarily rich, totally unforgettable world: …Into the forbidden city of Rhuidean, where Rand al’Thor, now the Dragon Reborn, must conceal his present endeavor from all about him, even Egwene and Moiraine….Into the Amyrlin’s study in the White Tower, where Amyrlin, Flaida do Avriny a ‘Roihan, is weaving new plans. …Into the luxurious hidden chamber where the Forsaken Rahvin is meeting withthree of his fellows to ensure their ultimate victory over the Dragon….Into the Queen’s court in Caemlyn, where Morgase is curiously in thrall to the handsome Lord Gaebril. For once the Dragon walks the land, the fires of Heaven fall where they will, until all men’s lives are ablaze. And in Shayol Ghul, the Dark One stirs…

Any listeners interested in pre-ordering any of these titles can join the SFFAUDIO Yahoo! Group where an exclusive 25% discount will be offered to members in early November 2004!

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

New Releases

New Releases

Audio Renaissance

Saucer: The Conquest by Stephen Coonts in both abridged and unabridged versions. This is a sequel to a novel about the discovery of a 140,000 year-old spacecraft. I missed the first one, but would like to hear if it exists on audio – Audio Renaissance does not carry it if it does. Kirkus calls Saucer “a comic, feel-good SF adventure.”

First Meetings in the Enderverse by Orson Scott Card, read by Gabrielle de Cuir, Amanda Karr, and Stefan Rudnicki

I’m a fan of Orson Scott Card’s Ender novels, so this was a real treat. It contains 4 stories, one of which is the original Ender’s Game novella, the others stories from various places on the Ender timeline. All of Card’s unabridged Ender novels are being re-released by Audio Renaissance.

Saturn by Ben Bova, read by Amanda Karr and Stefan Rudnicki and others

Here’s the latest of Ben Bova’s Solar System novels. I’ve heard Mars and Return to Mars, but I’m not sure how these novels are related to this one, Venus and Jupiter.

Blackstone Audio

Ringworld’s Children by Larry Niven

I talked a bit about this last month, but it was really released in September, so here it is again.

Adventures in Time and Space with Max Merriwell by Pat Murphy

I’ve got this one in my to-be-heard pile and I’m eager to get to it. I know very little about Pat Murphy, but I see she won a Nebula Award for the novel The Falling Woman, which I don’t think is available on audio.

Jesse: Pat Murphy won a hugo and a nebula for a short story called “Rachel In Love”, which is a love story from the point of view of a chimpanzee. It’s been recorded a couple of times. There was also a single cassette collection of her short stories published by Durkin Hayes called “Points Of Departure”.

Brilliance Audio

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, read by Jim Dale

I’m starting to see this one everywhere, but haven’t received any feedback from anyone on it. It’s aimed at the YA market – 9-12 year-olds – and is a prequel to Peter Pan. I may have to listen just to hear another Jim Dale performance. There’s an audio sample on Brilliance’s website.

Free Reads

James Patrick Kelly adds three more stories to Free Reads, a section of his site where you can download free audiobooks (MP3 format) of his stories. Included now are “Faith”, “The Best Christmas Ever”, and “Serpent”.

Jesse: This is an awesome value – cool and funny stories read by James Patrick Kelly and all it costs you is guilt if you don’t donate something to his future recording fund.

Harper Audio

The Neil Gaiman Audio Collection by Neil Gaiman, read by Neil Gaiman

This is an hour-long CD that contains readings of some children’s books by Neil Gaiman. Included are: The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, Wolves in the Walls, Cinnamon, and Crazy Hair.

Jesse: Looking forward to this collection. I was worried this was just another repackaging of Coraline and the two Seeing Ear pieces. Glad to see it is all new to audio!

Paperback Digital

As reported here early this month, Paperback Digital is online with two new MP3 format audiobooks for sale: Spirits in the Wires by Charles de Lint and 1634: The Galileo Affair by Eric Flint and Andrew Dennis. I haven’t heard either of them, but they appear to be professionally done with William Dufris and Christine Marshall narrating. These books are available as downloads or on MP3-CDs.

Also from Paperback Digital is the X Minus One episode “Drop Dead” by Clifford D. Simak, which is available on Fictionwise.com, a site well-known for eBook sales. Paperback Digital is editing out commercials and doing what they can to improve the sound quality of several old radio shows. Next week they will be releasing these episodes:

The Green Hills of Earth and Destination: Moon by Robert A. Heinlein

The Orson Welles/Mercury Theatre Halloween broadcast of The War of the Worlds

The Orson Welles/Mercury Theatre broadcast of Bram Stoker’s Dracula

With Folded Hands by Jack Williamson

Colony by Philip K. Dick

The Coffin Cure and Prime Difference by Alan E. Nourse

Protective Mimicry by Algis Budrys

The Merchants of Venus by A.H. Phelps, Jr.

Jesse: Coming out of the blue as it did, Paperback Digital is the most exciting and surprising news in Science Fiction and Fantasy audiobooks so far this year!

Recorded Books

Swords of Night and Day, a science fantasy by David Gemmell and narrated by Christopher Kay. I’m unfamiliar with this, but it’s part of a something called the Drenai series.

Last, but certainly not least, here’s what Audible.com has added in the last month, many of which were mentioned above:

An updated edition of First Meetings by Orson Scott Card

Saucer: The Conquest by Stephen Coonts

Saturn by Ben Bova

High Druid of Shannara: Tanequil by Terry Brooks

Dune: The Battle of Corrin by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Ringworld’s Children by Larry Niven

Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card

The Dragon’s Son by Margaret Weis

Stalking Darkness (Nightrunner #2) by Lynn Flewelling

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke

Several titles from Brian Jacques’ Redwall series

Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool by Sharyn McCrumb

Titles from the Wingman series by Mack Maloney

Golem’s Eye by Jonathan Stroud

Titles from the Deathstalker collection by Simon R. Green

Collections of Arthur C. Clarke’s stories (The Nine Billion Names of God, The Songs of Distant Earth, etc.)

Wow! An excellent month for science fiction audio. Happy listening!

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy Volume 1

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy Volume 1Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy Volume 1
By Isaac Asimov, Ben Bova, and Kristine K. Rusch; Read by Arte Johnson
Publisher: Dove Audio, 75 minutes [Unabridged]
Date Published: 1991
ISBN: 0787103543
Themes: Science Fiction / Computers / Circus Performers / Space Travel

Arte Johnson should perform more audio books. I guess I should check to see how many he’s done, but this is the first time I’ve heard him narrate, and I found him excellent. His talent lends much to all three of these stories.

The first is Isaac Asimov’s “Someday”, about two kids and an obsolete computer. Their discussions about what people used to do, like actually write things down, was hilarious.

Second is “The Man Who Hated Gravity” by Ben Bova, about a trapeze artist who falls and spends the rest of his life fighting gravity.

Last, Kristine K. Rusch tells a story of a very special little girl who visits a future hospital in “Story Child”.

Great stories. Dove Audio no longer exists, but their content is owned by Audio Literature, who has made these stories available on Audible.com. You can find it under the name Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy (Unabridged), which includes the other volumes in this series.