The SFFaudio Podcast #475 – READALONG: Dragon’s Egg by Robert L. Forward

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #475 – Jesse, Paul Weimer and Maissa Bessada talk about Dragon’s Egg by Robert L. Forward

Talked about on today’s show:
1980, hard science fiction, Mission Of Gravity by Hal Clement, first contact, the surface of a neutron star, moving the idea Forward, 2016, Tantor Media, this is a terrific book, a Jesse book, big ideas, the human characters, the ideas of this book, how do you do biology on a neutron star, a civilization running much faster, the writing brought it down, the TV Tropes page, minor details like plot and character, very heavily written, really different aliens, a culture, a society, an arc of civilization, from the Stone Age to the Space Age, the religious subplot, forgive them they know not what they do, the Wikipedia entry, this isn’t a metaphor for us, I’m doing a little thing here, the sex scenes are hilariously interesting, all of my egg sacs, body-stiffening, touching all the sensitive parts, under their eyes, I haven’t drooled that way since I was an eggling, made of neutronium, the opposite of Star Trek, The Orville, Star Trek: Voyager, they surpass us, the way the cheela deal with the humans, a slow robot for fast humans, early culture and early problems, visiting H.G. Wells’ writing career, the hominids, cave man society, cave cheela, inventing math, seeing how you can get from there to here, agrarian farming, the tasting plates, knots, the 2001: A Space Odyssey moment, Thus Spake Zarathustra, putting on a book like a new pair of pants, in the constellation of Draco, 30au, more poignant now, giving up on the space program, set in 2020-2050, the Soviet Union, neither government is willing to spend the money, a spacefaring civilization, an old relic of a book, a big dumb object, how the cheela perceive reality, this is amazing!, magnetic lines, the hard direction, bootstrapping that, seeds, full of idea science fiction, what I want from my science fiction, slowing down, let it wash over you, hard to understand, carrying a slide-rule around while you listen, problems that need solving, trusting Forward’s math, getting the gist, loving science, not about bullshitting, why they would visit the neutron star, mechanically putting the plot together, delivering the ideas, “a textbook on neutron star physics disguised as a novel”, monopole technology, a theoretical concept, handy for Larry Niven novels, Infocom’s Starcross, mining monopoles, what are monopoles?, regular matter, 80s novels, generating monopoles from monopoles, nuclear fusion, if we had a hammer…, a bonanza of hard science fiction and medium soft medium hard sf boiling around in the 1980s, space opera, napoleonic war in space, technologies, math is a kind of technology, James Burke’s Connections, the creation and invention of tools, how the airplane got made, streamline the parts, a made up rhyming history of our technology, dismissing new tech that is unuseful now (is a mistake), blockchain technology, valuable properties, cryptocurrency, inventing or discovering an element or a property, wait 50 years, when you’re zipping through time, million times faster, turns, a guy with a sword, Maissa got knocked out, knocky, no leftover sexism, predominantly female, failed tyrant queen, immortality by vegetation, barracks emperors, megalomaniac, kill all the scientists if they fail, eating their dead, they’re not humans, Soother separating her eggs from the others, Pink Eyes, a religious conversion, out in the desert for 40 turns, laugh out loud moments, the antics of these tiny cute weird creatures, nobody’s getting married, their culture is based on their biology, their biology is based on their chemistry, their chemistry is based on their physics, minimal ecosystem, Flatland: A Roamance Of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbot, afraid of math, written by A Square, invasion, straight lines are females, invasion literature, a Cosmos episode, The Orville, our world is shaped like an egg, having a ball, real worldbuilding, long rectangular lines, big and sticky, Eric Rabkin, thousand, why is the world named mescaline?, a math book, what beings would have to be like at the surface level, a thousand times faster, slow as in stupid, turning up the speed, 1.5 times speed, gear up (with a lot of coffee) operating at a higher speed, certain countries, the day seems to go longer, we are able to operate at a higher speed, Luke Burrage’s Science Fiction Book Review Podcast, getting certain things done, running around naked, crystalline vegetable matter, they don’t have oral communication at all, tremor sense, marching up the hill, give your peace cry, don’t get punctured by a woman, how would this work?, no wheels, a game of Civilization, many barbarians to conquer, sad news, curing breast cancer, flood her with x-rays, Robert L. Forward died of cancer, you don’t need a sequel, we didn’t need that, planting little clues, “here read this!”, no Prime Directive, Machiavelli, Napoleon, just a phase, Larry Niven, Lucifer’s Hammer, Lester Del Rey, Isaac Asimov, Charles Sheffield, John Campbell would have loved it, Frank Herbert, more interested in ideas than anything else, let’s go on another adventure with the serial numbers filed off, the same but different, psychological thrillers, the fan of real science will love a book like this, narrator Todd McClaren, funny and hilarious, very sexy grains of sand that want to be sandwiched, Downpour.com, I really like Dragon’s Egg, take a book and pass it to your friend and they like it, the joys of an author and their work, I need more rubles for computer time, a good mix of people, pretty cute tuckerizing, more messed up, if a neutron star entered the solar system, robot space probes, no Hoffmann transfer orbits, all Greek?, anecdotal scenes, superconductivity, this is a vacuum, aerospace physicists, extracting electrical energy from the vacuum by cohesion of charged foliated conductors, Hendrik Casimir, the Casimir effect, quantum vacuum fluctuations, getting energy from nothing, free energy from reality, as we go…, spending money, dropping more dumb bombs, never look forward, seeing more clearly when you look backwards, why were we so obsessed with that thing at that time, what’s this like?, kind of silly, energy levels, regenerating, wish fulfillment, seeing changes in its society, Olaf Stapledon, blowing along through geologic time, struggling against, they’re vegetables?!, god hand-wavy world creation, how to get the kind of brains we have, advancing when going in the hard direction, we have overcome to advance, I’m not getting this, cuneiform accounting a brilliant book.

Dragon's Egg by Robert L. Forward, 1980

Tantor Media - Dragon's Egg by Robert L. Forward

Figure 1 - Dragon's Egg

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #466 – READALONG: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #466 – Jesse, Paul, and Marissa, talk about Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer.

Talked about on today’s show:
clones, doppelgangers, eidolons, 2014, the 2018 movie, gifting the book, Finch, City Of Saints And Madmen, new weirdness, The New Weird, The Weird, appreciating the book, appreciating the movie, understanding why people talk about the book and the movie the way they do, justifying their ratings, framing it wrong, the Wikipedia entry, The New Yorker, Area X as a hyperobject, Paul would know, big dumb object, Ringworld, Rama, going into it and experiencing it, the original and the interpretation, what?!!?, better experienced as audiobook, the cool thing about the audio version (it is ephemeral), you can’t skip or skim sex scenes, a dream like quality to the words, pronunciation, how things read on the page, The Man Who Japed, juveniles = Juvenal(s), fucking with the reader by changing the text in a kind of fungal growth, experimental, fairly successful, not easily digestible, the book is a manifestation of Area X itself, screwing with the readers’ heads, Alex Garland, seeing the movie first and then reading the book, Blade Runner: 2049, the theater experience, the painful trauma of childbirth, Sunshine, a science fiction movie that doesn’t care about science at all, Ex Machina, nuking the sun back into starting?, the metaphor for Sunshine, not a good idea for a movie, Solar Crisis (1990), Hard Sun, doing good things with bad ideas, not a perfect movie, interpretation, we can’t do that, narrator, from an internal point of view, a kind of version, inspired by, the book is all about words, no big piles of documents to read, The Man In the High Castle show, pointing to something without saying what it is, an art film for a mainstream audience, Andrei Tarkovsky, expectations, characters with names, outside of Area X, setting expectations, imagine its a different expedition, the tower the tunnel, Steen, what do you remember about it?, it’s “this kind of book”, no proper nouns in the whole book, signposts on your journey, taking down all the signposts, a sign there’s no signposts, an initial “S”, Ghostbird, Area 51, a word you use in place of a word, Operation Overlord, H-Hour, D-Day, designed to prevent you from knowing, in the mode, shift gears, losing your spot, so dreamlike, hypnotic, hypnosis, as a trope, hypnosis was huge in Science Fiction for decades, not a Science Fiction book, who likes this book, literary fiction, very lit-fic, horror elements, weird fiction, a reworking of The Willows, inspired by Algernon Blackwood’s The Willows, H.P. Lovecraft, Arthur Conan Doyle, Supernatural Horror In Literature, something more than secret murder and bloody bones, a certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer unknown forces, the assaults of chaos and the demons of unplumbed space, an attack on the fixed laws of nature, a wrinkle in reality, what’s it like to experience that, if you squint a little bit, a metaphor for the scientific process, scientists, AR-15 or M-16s, a nod back to the book, everybody has one, the same uniform, a military expedition but twisted in a certain sense, the second and third books, cancer as a motivation, the disintegrating marriage, having an affair, pathetic and sad, set a little bit into the future, any evidence that it is set into the future, everything in the book is completely without specificity, he went through it with a comb and took away information, the word Lovecraft loves to use “certain”, a great adjective, the pig creature is a bear in the movie, Vietnam War upside down and inside out, the biologist is in love with the swimming pool, the characters in the film are cannon fodder, the conversation in the boat, taking away the centrality of character, a framing story, Benedict Wong, the tie-up scene, her fingerprints are moving, a lift from The Thing (1982), paranoia and suspicion, really bullshit, they’re all on Xanax, passion about biology and ecosystems, we only see the Xanaxed version on the characters in the film, we don’t see what the love, sympathy isn’t enough, evoking place, the black pine forest, a derelict lighthouse, untroubled landscape, Florida or the Georgia coast, filmed in England, cool ideas, Southern Reach, SR, an institution, two things that don’t tell you what they are, the same time zone, a lack of specificity,

“After leaving Vienna, and long before you come to Budapest, the Danube enters a region of singular loneliness and desolation, where its waters spread away on all sides regardless of a main channel, and the country becomes a swamp for miles upon miles, covered by a vast sea of low willow-bushes. On the big maps this deserted area is painted in a fluffy blue, growing fainter in color as it leaves the banks, and across it may be seen in large straggling letters the word Sumpfe, meaning marshes.”

the crawler, the thing without the name, the Swede, the narrator’s name, as if he is in the room, utterly transformed, just that, I am not returning home,

“See,” he said quietly, “the victim that made our escape possible!”

And when I peered across his shoulder I saw that his stick rested on the body of a man. He turned it over. It was the corpse of a peasant, and the face was hidden in the sand. Clearly the man had been drowned, but a few hours before, and his body must have been swept down upon our island somewhere about the hour of the dawn—at the very time the fit had passed.

“We must give it a decent burial, you know.”

“I suppose so,” I replied. I shuddered a little in spite of myself, for there was something about the appearance of that poor drowned man that turned me cold.

The Swede glanced up sharply at me, an undecipherable expression on his face, and began clambering down the bank. I followed him more leisurely. The current, I noticed, had torn away much of the clothing from the body, so that the neck and part of the chest lay bare.

Halfway down the bank my companion suddenly stopped and held up his hand in warning; but either my foot slipped, or I had gained too much momentum to bring myself quickly to a halt, for I bumped into him and sent him forward with a sort of leap to save himself. We tumbled together on to the hard sand so that our feet splashed into the water. And, before anything could be done, we had collided a little heavily against the corpse.

The Swede uttered a sharp cry. And I sprang back as if I had been shot.

At the moment we touched the body there rose from its surface the loud sound of humming—the sound of several hummings—which passed with a vast commotion as of winged things in the air about us and disappeared upwards into the sky, growing fainter and fainter till they finally ceased in the distance. It was exactly as though we had disturbed some living yet invisible creatures at work.

My companion clutched me, and I think I clutched him, but before either of us had time properly to recover from the unexpected shock, we saw that a movement of the current was turning the corpse round so that it became released from the grip of the willow roots. A moment later it had turned completely over, the dead face uppermost, staring at the sky. It lay on the edge of the main stream. In another moment it would be swept away.

The Swede started to save it, shouting again something I did not catch about a “proper burial”—and then abruptly dropped upon his knees on the sand and covered his eyes with his hands. I was beside him in an instant.

I saw what he had seen.

For just as the body swung round to the current the face and the exposed chest turned full towards us, and showed plainly how the skin and flesh were indented with small hollows, beautifully formed, and exactly similar in shape and kind to the sand-funnels that we had found all over the island.

“Their mark!” I heard my companion mutter under his breath. “Their awful mark!”

And when I turned my eyes again from his ghastly face to the river, the current had done its work, and the body had been swept away into mid-stream and was already beyond our reach and almost out of sight, turning over and over on the waves like an otter.

all the evidence is gone, the explanation in the movie is as much The Colour Out Of Space as it is the novel Annihilation, 12 expeditions, the shimmer is gone, possibilities, the asteroid, something extraterrestrial struck the lighthouse, the “S” word, he’s not her husband, he’s the duplicate, the shimmer in the eyes, more subtle, the thing he’s doing, a comet, meteorite, dwarf planets and planets, Ceres, a meteorite vs. comet, the object is white, aiming at something, the earth is a giant egg and the comet is a sperm, a tunnel and tower, slipping into Eric Rabkin mode, designed to be seen in the unconsciousness (if not the consciousnesses), a tunnel and a tower, becoming a being, fungus all over the walls is white, cell division, an egg developing into a person, cancer, ovarian cancer, the all women cast!, what is it like to have a being growing inside of you that is a mutation of you, the childless relationship, off to fight in Pakistan again, reunited, the happy ending is a new beginning, isn’t pregnancy scary, the real immortality cells can have, cancer vs. a baby, kinds of immortality, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the film works at what it’s doing, the movie is a prism for the book, a very filmic version of the book, it couldn’t be an audio drama, very very very metaphorical, a comic book version, in the backgrounds, Alex Garland’s story, the words scrawled in the tower/tunnel,

“Where lies the strangling fruit that came from the hand of the sinner I shall bring forth the seeds of the dead to share with the worms that gather in the darkness and surround the world with the power of their lives while from the dimlit halls of other places forms that never were and never could be writhe for the impatience of the few who never saw what could have been. In the black water with the sun shining at midnight, those fruit shall come ripe and in the darkness of that which is golden shall split open to reveal the revelation of the fatal softness in the earth. The shadows of the abyss are like the petals of a monstrous flower that shall blossom within the skull and expand the mind beyond what any man can bear, but whether it decays under the earth or above on green fields, or out to sea or in the very air, all shall come to revelation, and to revel, in the knowledge of the strangling fruit—and the hand of the sinner shall rejoice, for there is no sin in shadow or in light that the seeds of the dead cannot forgive. And there shall be in the planting in the shadows a grace and a mercy from which shall blossom dark flowers, and their teeth shall devour and sustain and herald the passing of an age. That which dies shall still know life in death for all that decays is not forgotten and reanimated it shall walk the world in the bliss of not-knowing. And then there shall be a fire that knows the naming of you, and in the presence of the strangling fruit, its dark flame shall acquire every part of you that remains.”

dreamlike biblical word salad, going to that church, its just weird, negative reviews of the book, you’re never going to get an explanation, very meta, the narration is unreliable, or the universe is unreliable, she’s in a coma, none of this is happening, The Dreamquest Of Unknown Kadath, Providence, seeing sexuality in everything, Rapunzel is only a sex story, hair growth like plant growth, a retelling of the Garden of Eden, underneath a lot of stuff is sex, about the cosmic, makes Jesse sad, Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows, a big stream of white cats up to the Moon, a sex dream, once you start looking, what it makes us different from rocks, the formation of rocks, we can’t compare ourselves to electrons, not mammal sex, why that weird world salad sentence, a tunnel, spiraling, a helix, just words, words are magic in the same way that genes are magic, let’s write some words, what does it mean?, certain coding, creating and casting a spell, speech-writing, amino acids into creatures who build and use firetrucks, this is literally Marissa’s job, where the spell is breaking, a piece of tape, seeing the book as a text in reference to texts and weird fiction, the word “thing”, that’s why the word shows up in so many weird fiction stories, uncanny horror, between fantasy and science fiction, body horror, Re-Animator, coming back to life as parts, seeing those fruiting bodies on the dead corpses, let’s take some samples, guts fall out, the more Marissa learns about biology the more grossed out she gets, designed to, very very movie, intestines, fear, scary gross out scene, Aliens (1986), the perfect film movie for what it is, taking certain aspects of Alien and amps them up, Terminator 2 is a remake of Terminator, Hudson becomes the hero, switching over to science mode, horror mode, you’re allowed to switch around as much as you want, why so many love it and hate it, contamination story, pregnancy story, creeping dread, taking all that potential out, taking it as it is, watch the movies first, preferring the text, reading the subtitles, as a film the characters are Xanaxed humans, placing themselves in our reality, are you polishing your Pashtun?, grounding, the Southern Reach is a metaphor for the continual war on terror?, 17 years in, he should have made it a real art film, unrelatable, are we all 12 years old?, being talked down to, people on CNN, everything that isn’t set in the shimmer hurts the film, the environmental disaster, a military screw up, Stephen King (The Mist), angry at the movie, a slow creeping dread, so disappointing, the plants that look like people, the twinned dears with flower antlers, very excellent language, the hints about the journals, this is all in a journal, that’s the moment they knew the most, are they losing information, we start with more information, if you re-edited the film, we all lost time, this is the afterlife, this is dream state, if I was religious I would read everything that way, the pool, the pond, tower tunnel, how her husband was traumatized by something in childhood and it was a film, the shownotes for the Altered Carbon show, how memory works, how important childhood memory is for laying your personality down, what memories are even real, that was a different person, the crisis actor thing, misremembered, .005% error margin, interrupting an attempted murder, strangling and cover in blood, missing limbs, the screaming thing in the bushes, self-reinforcing, the spiral of words, in 10 or 20 years, Authority by Jeff VanderMeer, an agency in dysfunction, Kafkaesque, so mundane, The Castle, in second person, sudden jarring cries, dripping out, the, the movie poster’s tagline “fear what’s inside”, psychological head-space fear, flowers sprouting from her arms, the better parts of the film, filmic explanation, the anthropologist in the tunnel/tower, the psychologist, did she lie?, that’s a story, the story doesn’t make sense as a straight up story, hypnosis as used in Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, very science fictional, The Parasite by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, [Jesse has already done a show on it], a decent movie and an even more interesting book, Marissa wants Jesse to read the sequels, a marketing gimmick, readings for podcasts, revisiting as a concept, three big pieces of a puzzle, what’s wrong with the word “spoiler” is the word has the opposite meaning (for Jesse), knowing more makes Jesse more interested, the lady goes off in a boat (maybe), and leave her journal behind (maybe), it would be much better as a found footage movie shot on videotape, shaky-cam, The Ritual (2017), four guys go out for a hike in the woods, a psychological haunting that happens, not being able to act, the psychology works amazingly better, Norse mythology, a hike movie (!) Marissa’s in!, Swedish mountains, we’ve been completely destroyed, why is called Annihilation?, special pleading, “nihil” means nothing and “a” means not – annihilation is a nothing of a nothing, titles are important, the trigger word, The Slithering Shadow by Robert A. Howard, something to talk about over beers, having something to do is really important in a world with no meaning, Jesse has nothing in common with his students, the only thing we really share is the text, before and after class, having that ritual of three interesting things, Matchstick Men, there’s no heaven, try to get through it until the cancer comes, less Xanax more coffee, The Voice In The Night by William Hope Hodgson, a becalment, do you have any food, a ship covered in fungus, an island covered in fungus, eating the fungus, becoming the fungus, the pool body,

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #417 – READALONG: The Gripping Hand by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #417 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, and Maissa discuss The Gripping Hand by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Talked about on today’s show:
1993, a sequel to a 1974 novel, a long digression, Protector, where does Larry Niven end and Jerry Pournelle begin?, Larry Niven is the aliens, Jerry Pournelle was the humans and the military, what’s happening?, too many battles, a secret tramline, plot beats, The Mote In Gods Eye is more muscular, a second first contact, the empire is slipping, privileges vs. responsibilities, doing duty, they were shinier, WWII, the least interesting duty ever, graft, echo, the circular spiral of the Moties and the parallels with the human empire, the only difference between the Moties and the men is the differences, codicil to Horace Bury’s will, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, too many space battles, a spacesuit full of watchmakers, kill them with fire, snow ghost, space Mormons, Reflex, A Spaceship For King David by Jerry Pournelle, the Langston field, read the Wikipedia entries before reading the books, a quasi-magic force-field, handwavium, wormhole subways gets stuff done, Babylon 5, He Fell Into A Dark Hole, kinda-sorta, feel and see the Niven Pournelle overlaps, the Janissaries novels, they’re gonna run out bullets soon, murderous centaurs, Inferno, Lucifer’s Hammer, it is interesting, a 70s disaster novel, Oath Of Fealty, Footfall, Legacy Of Herot, Fallen Angels, the Prometheus Award, anti-environmentalist, The Burning City, the Magic Goes Away universe, hit by the Niven and Pournelle hammer, Escape From Hell, sequels,

Jesse’s laws of sequels: The First Law: The second law is a sequel, and thus unneeded.

health problems, who named a planet Sauron?, too obvious, super-soldiers, military SF, war porn with laser guns, it doesn’t change the battlefield, first person shooter games, the whole point of technology is it changes things, dinosaurs, having done The Lord Of The Rings, a 2 cassette abridgement of The Gripping Hand, coffee, mispronunciations, pooping all over this book, Julie Davis, ruined the first book?, a visit to Mote Prime was missing, asteroid civilizations, the midshipman are a dead end, that’s cool!, birth control pills, the guy who invented a condom, Crazy Eddie, lifespan, tragic fatalism, bottled up, the explanation for super-conservative people, I got mine jack, it’s a fools errand…, all boondoggle, many such, 18 different levels of policing, the weed police (bylaw enforcement), just make a new agency after every crisis, anti-Greenpeace books, Cloak Of Anarchy, libertarianism is completely nuts, green crunchy granola, into that basket of deplorables, we don’t need roads, gold extraction as a proven technology, dude what are you doing?, greeners, let’s go the other way, nothing Ayn Rand ever wrote was wrong, Bury didn’t leave the bathtub, poor Kevin Renner, culinary adventure, he was the Errol Flynn of space, a girl in every port, breeding Blaines, motie rats, more Niven less Pournelle, the UK title: The Moat Around Murcheson’s Eye, mote vs. moat, more planets, helmsman full speed ahead, Sparta, the geology and topology, no map, good touches, unfair to Dr Pournelle, agricultural land reserve, mountains and islands and mountains, the Okanagan, reserving land for agricultural, the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Coruscant is just the city world (and complete bullshit), the Fleet Of Worlds has four farming planets, almost worth reading just for such touches, why I read Science Fiction, The Mote In God’s Eye was great, the Xindi from Star Trek: Enterprise, everything in TV and movies has to be simpler, the specificity of it, totally cool, you just abstain, progress since the 1970s, lying liars, abandon all orders, in comparison to Protector, it’s all about fate, there’s very little of free will in a motie, an inescapable cycle, going crazy eddy, less well expressed, where’s our stuffed space-marine in the museum?, publisher’s deadline?, they were hot shit in the 1980s, all space battles, families taking over the legacy of their parent’s writings, firmly make this commitment, one and done Dune, use The Gripping Hand of the Protector, focus on the family, free will, Ringworld and The Ringworld Engineers, the Puppeteers, what does this mean when we maximize it?, a second stage, vs., please do not write this book Paul, seeing the world from the master’s perspective, seeing inside their brain, the x-ray laser, the time machine element, the whole idea of crazy eddy is a great idea, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, amazing, or a crazy Bernie, fairy-duster, you must allow the bloat of the military continuously.

The Mote System
Trans-Coal Sack Sector Of The Empire Of Man

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Change Agent by Daniel Suarez

SFFaudio Review

PENGUIN AUDIO - Change Agent by Daniel SuarezChange Agent
By Daniel Suarez; Read by Jeff Gurner
Audiobook Download – 14.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Published: Apr 18, 2017

In 2045 Kenneth Durand leads Interpol’s most effective team against genetic crime, hunting down black market labs that perform “vanity edits” on human embryos for a price. These illegal procedures augment embryos in ways that are rapidly accelerating human evolution—preying on human-trafficking victims to experiment and advance their technology.

Executive Summary: Despite a bit of a bumpy start, I think this is my favorite book by Mr. Suarez since Daemon.

Audiobook: Jeff Gurner continues to be a good fit for Daniel Suarez books. He reads well, and does a few voices to add that little extra something to the audiobook. These are exactly the kind of books I think are well suited to doing in audio.

Full Review
I picked up Daemon a few years back on the recommendation of a co-worker. It was kind of remarkable that I hadn’t found it on my own earlier. That book was totally in my wheelhouse. A near-future sci-fi thriller about a computer program gone crazy? Yes please. However unlike many people I found the sequel Freedom™ to just be too over the top for me to read it without constantly rolling my eyes.

In fact, I’ve found most of his work after Daemon just a little too ridiculous at times for me, but always good for a fun quick listen. I’d say this book is no different, except I found myself enjoying this one a lot more by the end than the last few.

Bioengineering seems to be a pretty popular topic for near-future science fiction recently, but I found Mr. Suarez’s take on things to be pretty interesting and unique. I did struggle a bit in the beginning with the whole “Wrongfully accused Fugitive” trope. It felt too generic for me, and I found myself starting to grow bored.

However once things got past the setup, I found that the sci-fi elements that Mr. Suarez added in made his spin on the story unique enough to be quite enjoyable. As with most of his books, things start of in the realm of believability and end up veering into the realm of ridiculousness at times.

I sometimes struggled with Kenneth Durand as a protagonist, but overall I thought his story does a good job of posing interesting questions about how much of who we are is biology vs. our upbringing. The whole nurture vs. nature debate. The book as a whole brings up some interesting ideas of what should be allowed and what should be illegal in terms of biological engineering.

I don’t pretend to have the same level of comprehension about biology and what’s possible in that field as I do in computers, but some parts of the story were just a bit too much for me to not to roll my eyes. I’d be curious to find out if Biology folks will have the same kinds of issues with this book that I had with Freedom™. Maybe they’ll tell me that Mr. Suarez isn’t too ridiculous after all. I sure hope not, because it would be pretty terrifying.

Like all of his books, he takes interesting science, extrapolates on what might be, and uses that to frame an over the top thriller story. It was a fun book, and I’ll be eager to pick up his next book when that comes out as well.

Review by Rob Zak

The SFFaudio Podcast #415 – READALONG: Speech Sounds by Octavia E. Butler

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #415 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, Maissa, and Jenny Colvin discuss Speech Sounds by Octavia Butler

Talked about on today’s show:
Asimov’s Science Fiction, Mid-December 1983, longer forms, the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, Bloodchild by Octavia Butler, the Patternist novels, the scene on the bus, Parable Of The Sower, Parable Of The Talents, Kindred, Sisters Of The Revolution, The Evening And The Morning And the Night, disease, bio Science Fiction, the virology labs, Xenogenesis trilogy, aliens, breeding humans, public transportation science fiction stories, Philip K. Dick, Los Angeles, The Commuter, Ray Bradbury, The Pedestrian, interacting with the public, The Chrysalids, The Day Of The Triffids, The Walking Dead, how this world got to be how it is, slowly interrogate, her central thesis: civilization = communication, how does the bus driver get paid?, what percentage of the population died?, a normal route, one guy is the bus system, how does Obsidian get paid?, paid in sex?, post-apocalypse reveling Jenny, the creepy smelly wordless cult leader, how many women could speak?, right handed men, feminism, creepy men creeping on women, play dumb and pack a gun, our zombies are different, unique special snowflake zombies, body language, was it the Soviets?, you think you’re better than me?, a perfect nightmare of Hell, the law of the jungle, Obsidian is mentally impaired, if there ever was going to be a TV adaptation they’d call it “The Silence”, au contraire, standing spear-carrier, a swapped languages Vietnam War movie [subsequent research turns up no evidence that this film exists], everyone else is an alien to everbody else in this world, romance as opposed to SF, not certain of her own impairment, memory, they just needed audiobooks, jibber-jabber speech sounds, it just meant nothing, dah dah dah, could you still speak?, when the deaf speak, if you can’t speak can you understand your own thoughts, strokes, aphasia, communication by singing, Oliver Sacks, the afterword, visiting her dying friend, popular science of the 1980s, a science fiction epidemic, being a lefty or a righty, the rage, so primal, primal instincts, you’re all hairless chimpanzees, pre-human, the one element of humanity is your name, book-cart or book-truck, books as fuel, cake or oven, a teacher and protector, Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, it was language that turned her around, savouring the words, society in general, The Scarlet Plague by Jack London, The Iron Heel not the Iron Fist, limited intellect and language, the Red Death, life before the plague, the breakdown of society, pandemics empowering the lower classes, a liberation from the burden of history, chauffeur, taking on a harem, reconstructing the low being brought up, The Walking Dead, scavenging silently, a Garden Of Eden, so messy, blow it up and start fresh, divine retribution, like the Tower of Babel, bulldoze 2017 and start again, the toddlers are immune, the story is unfinished and we have to finish it for ourselves, the Rosetta Stone, deciphering Linear B (the language of the Minoans), how important illustrations are, Aztec and Mayan hieroglyphs, The Riddle Of The Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code by , talking to other book people, Reading Envy isn’t Reading Rage, transcribing music without the western music notation system, what happens next?, the music analogy, a hopeful story, a hopeful ending, book people are focused on the reading, burned abandoned buildings, sex in public, highly depopulated, women seeking protectors, maybe he’d meet someone else, sadness, if this was a TV show, how would deaf people be affected?, isn’t sign-language simply another language, H.G. Wells’ The Kingdom Of The Blind, is the gesturing center the same as the speech center?, fMRI, Letters To [Octavia] Butler, Letters To Triptree, bias and prejudice, how can people think like this?, using words in ways they can’t be used, using words as gestures, Twitter as the aggressive gesture, big ideas in a short space, a conspiracy that’s happening (long names on Twitter), seeing metaphors everywhere.

Speech Sounds by Octavia E. Butler

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #410 – READALONG: Protector by Larry Niven

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #410 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, and Maissa discuss Protector by Larry Niven

Talked about on today’s show:
1973, Galaxy, June 1967, The Adults by Larry Niven, Phssthpok, the name of the ship, the cherubim, Lion, Ox, Human, and Eagle, baby angels, beaked, going deeper, the seraphim, Cherubism

Unhappy is he to whom the memories of childhood bring only fear and sadness. Wretched is he who looks back upon lone hours in vast and dismal chambers with brown hangings and maddening rows of antique books, or upon awed watches in twilight groves of grotesque, gigantic, and vine-encumbered trees that silently wave twisted branches far aloft. Such a lot the gods gave to me—to me, the dazed, the disappointed; the barren, the broken. And yet I am strangely content, and cling desperately to those sere memories, when my mind momentarily threatens to reach beyond to the other.

the end

For although nepenthe has calmed me, I know always that I am an outsider; a stranger in this century and among those who are still men. This I have known ever since I stretched out my fingers to the abomination within that great gilded frame; stretched out my fingers and touched a cold and unyielding surface of polished glass.

how the aliens are described, aliens, The Outsider by H.P. Lovecraft, previous encounters with Larry Niven, channeling all sorts of things, what did Maissa think?, a softer spot for Larry Niven, not sexist at all, Larry Niven’s best book, an abrupt ending, incomplete pieces, more Kobold, the artificial planetoid, Eden II, the first paperback release of Protector, a donut shaped planet with a tibit (Tim Horton’s), the belly button of the donut, donut holes, a monster or a fairy, Friday by Robert A. Heinlein, by all the Lords of Kobol, clicks, Battlestar Galactica, going Old Testament, going Mormon, a masterful novel, The Ringworld Engineers as a reprise of Protector, Ringworld as the light fun novel, the ending is so good, the horror, genocide, fighting for humanity, Roy Truesdale, tricking the nurses, fake cities, WWII, inflatable tanks, a page break, it seems only reasonable to novelize this report, that was fun, check the duplicate Stonehenge, the final three paragraphs, just behind this laser pulse, “I love you”, the novel is wrong, the Beowulf Shaeffer stories, Betrayer Of Worlds, Protector has enough space battle to kill actual space battle novel (barring crappy space opera space battles), space seeds, biological bullshit, a highly motivated character, deeply reasoned, a quasi relative, the opposite of X-Wings and Tie fighters banking in outer space, we love it anyway, exactly the opposite, cool vs. functional, steel jacketed, magnetic field, the thinking behind the space battles wipes out everyone (writer’s) abilities to write any more, a galactic chess game vs. high-stakes poker, sub-light relativistic space battles, positional effects, Rules Of Engagement (or maybe Master of Orion ?, C.S. Forester, broadsides in space, a Frederick Pohl editorial from 1963, Spacewar! (literally mentioned in this book), Asteroids, a right turn in space, that’s why Larry Niven’s the best, playing with the laws of physics and he doesn’t cheat, the Hal Clement essay, honest poker, the panspermia aspect, World Of Ptavvs, the slavers, Homo habilis from the stars, dna based, the Slavers did it, the Sea Statue, a dissertation of free will, two divergent visions of Creation, when god stays or leaves, no progress, still animals, the image of the Eye and the Garden of Eden, the Eye In The Sky, I can see you – I can see through bushes, no art, Brennan can see, a sense of whimsy, a fun character, was Brennan a fake?, Truesdale’s protector, motivation, take me to you leader, so playful, he is their leader, amazing, paying fees, Oldavai, Crete, still in the breeding stage, a good book, bunches of questions and points, building the Ringworld, a different library, an expedition to Earth, an expedition to star X, their achilles’ heel, Ringworld Engineers is all echoes, we needed this book, Alice as in Alice In Wonderland, she left pregnant, play in the fields, but do not touch…, tell her about the Bluebeard myth (aka The Castle Of Murder), an egg, a chicken is an egg’s way of making another egg, you do not want to open that door, you do not want to eat of those Trees, the solution to the mystery of the novel, everyone has been kidnapped is a descendant of Brennan, farming and cultivating descendants, Brennan monster is playful in his play, Vandervecken, making a myth he can enjoy, consciousness before being changed, the vampires get consciousness in Ringworld Engineers, does it help you to have whimsy, the jury is out, a message of despair, the Pak is coming, the Kzinti, The Mote In God’s Eye, hard lessons, genocide, moties, motivation by need, Brennan painting his spacesuit, biding his time, a medieval castle, progeny, deep down the point is art is good, if you’re smart enough there is very little free choice, Teela Brown’s luck, the same subject, the root is perpetuated by a virus, colonizing the pak, what is smartness except efficiency, crossing a continent, struggling with money, why do people want it, what is money anyway?, money is food, keeping your food safe with food, why does Trump need more money, operating as a logical creature it is to make his progeny better off, it worked for Genghis, inheritance, straight out the genes, what motivates people, biological determinism, everyone needs motivation, stop eating, grasping after fake visions of punishment (or reward), a “death wish”, like Phssthpok I’ve made all human children my beneficiaries, the Public Domain PDF Page, a hip street, channeling Frank Sinatra, taking photographs, not sanguine, Larry Niven’s own financial circumstances, writing SF for a long period of time, Greg Bear, Halo novels, Blood Music don’t put money on the table, Niven’s work is playful, the reason for Niven’s renown, making the piece the best piece it can be, Gregory Benford, Bowl Of Heaven, collaborations, there are no spoilers,

Larry Niven proves a point here. Most other authors would be tempted to tell a story of this magnitude in a trilogy consisting of thousands of pages. Niven does it in a little over 200 pages. Granted, he keeps the featuring cast down to only a few individuals. But still…
-Dirk Grobbelaar

Among Others by Jo Walton, all his human characters blur together, Walton has a point, psychoanalyzing, SF isn’t a costume drama, John W. Campbell’s challenge: write me an alien that thinks as well as a man but unlike a man, Isaac Asimov’s The Gods Themselves, Arrival, the story and the movie, Understand by Ted Chiang, Limitless (2011), and the rightly cancelled Limitless TV series, like the Minority Report TV show, from the sub-conscious to uplift and unconscious and conscious, Flowers For Algernon, flourishing and protected, seeing the manipulation happening, Sherlock Holmes, seeing the pattern no one else can see, intelligence, politics and the failures of politics, intelligence vs. manipulation, a smart person doesn’t gamble unless they know it isn’t a gamble, a war longer than the quagmire of the Vietnam War, all of that struggle, that’s the opposite of intelligence, Niven is right about intelligence and options, Brennan is not as bound, the golf course, did Brennan ever play the golf course that he built?, this would be good, having thought those through, how we see Brenna when he interacts with his Adam and Eve, he runs, the next thing that needs to be done, the efficiency we gain as adults, pretending to play dolls, the exigencies of adulthood, being a smart adult, I put away childish things, playing with LEGO, an angle to attack, LEGO as a awards, appreciating the enjoyment of play, having consciousness of his childhood, creations for a purpose, sharing vs. hoarding, pondering deep things, the mother vs. the father, Brennan’s modified suit with the Mother and Child, a savior figure, he’s the Madonna, their garden, playthings for the children, the Sol system is Brennan’s garden, have you noticed you haven’t had war?, exterminating the Martians, The Organleggers, capital crimes, China, the horror of rationality, organ transplantation, the RNA sequence, wiping your whole mind, the premise of Philip K. Dick’s Paycheck, Rammer by Larry Niven, A World Out Of Time, greater than human intelligence, we were manipulated into it, The Draco Tavern, playful comedic pieces, here’s a problem of science and here’s my solution, jokes, a whole subgenre of bar stories, The Callahan books by Spider Robinson, Lord Dunsany’s The Jorkens Stories, Arthur C. Clarke’s Tales Of The White Hart, chirality, thalidomide, an iceberg, Known Space, just one of Niven’s playgrounds, Hard Fantasy, The Magic Goes Away, as you use magic you deplete a natural resource, magic carpet, a dead spot, and back in these days amoeba were the size of whales, that’s how little magic is left, a Niven disc, a sense of sadness, set in the time of Atlantis, The Goblin Reservation by Clifford D. Simak, Niven as an efficient writer, jarring transitions, needing an editor, better than Clement, sex, a vitality, the weather is a little to clement in Clement’s world, Harry Stubbs, revisiting Protector, given Tree Of Life now Paul would… stop eating? wiping out half of humanity for reasons known only to him… in the New World Order, remaining human, being a mom, maternal feelings, a screaming red thing that came out of your body, are Protectors more like moms than dads?, genderless, oh sweetie, killing off all the creatures that threaten her children, warlike, a mother wouldn’t do that, is Niven right?, if you’re smart enough are their fewer and fewer courses of action?, the Teela monster, pretty sure Niven was never a mom, fierce viking grandparents, no free will, different motivation and different results, why does Brennan wait to convert Truesdale, poor Brennan, too much talking baby-talk, gender as an honorific, Protector Mom (please don’t write this as a sequel), something really original, a creation so original it is like a dragon or an elf, seeing the cat vs. monkey you’ve always wanted, the super-strong hominid vs. the intelligent tiger, Speaker vs. Teela, as Douglas Adams put it “Humans are not proud of their ancestors, and rarely invite them round to dinner.”, we got our own stuff going, the Traveller universe, most excellent.

Virgil Finlay's illustrations for PROTECTOR by Larry Niven (aka The Adults) Galaxy June 1967

Virgil Finlay's illustrations for PROTECTOR by Larry Niven (aka The Adults) Galaxy June 1967

Virgil Finlay's illustrations for PROTECTOR by Larry Niven (aka The Adults) Galaxy June 1967

Virgil Finlay's illustrations for PROTECTOR by Larry Niven (aka The Adults) Galaxy June 1967

Ballantine Books (1973) Protector by Larry Niven

Protector by Larry Niven - illustration by H.R. Von Dongen

Posted by Jesse Willis