The SFFaudio Podcast #685 – READALONG: The Star Beast by Robert A. Heinlein

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #685 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, Maissa Bessada, Trish E. Matson, and Will Emmons talk about The Star Beast by Robert A. Heinlein

Talked about on today’s show:
1954, serialized in The Magazine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction, Star Lummox, what a lummox, a very 1950s word, clumsy stupid person, Google NGram, 1825 East Anglian slang, lumbering ox, lummoxes, knocks things over, breaks things, Maissa liked it, so simple, a girl with some brains and some power?, uncharacteristic, no female presence at all, Betty is a plot driver, one of six sexes, she as a matter of convenience, a meaningless spectrum, in the context of the Hroshii, what feels like a massive coincidence, she’s on Earth, two plotlines, the UN guys having meetings and firing and quitting, the fun stuff, Lummox on the run, Lummox on trial, the major drama, puts the focus on the coincidence, a microscale and a macroscale, still great Heinlein, simplistic, interesting themes, utopia, they’re trying, Kiku the diplomat is in charge of everything, elected represented is undermined by the deep state, bureaucracy, comedy of errors, contradictions and complexities, Sergei Greenberg, the Watson, tell not show, Farmer In The Sky, boy goes to planet and farms, threats can come out of nowhere, a central government, tiny hints, a WWIV anti-tank gun, the 2nd century, double focus, boy, pet and friend, escaping in the wilderness, galactic maneuverings, immigration, pushing people off Earth, which is dumber?, coincidence and conveniences, there’s a Star Beast with lotsa legs, 4 generations, from any other boy’s point of view, good Heinlein, a boy raised by aliens, the reversal at the end, Lummox has been raising John Thomases, a science fiction idea, the relationships between humans and their pets, sentient aliens (should?) have hands, who can buy who?, if these we are putting the juveniles in reading order (younger to older), Citizen Of The Galaxy, Have Space Suit, Will Travel, diplomatic maneuverings and court stuff, thinking with the brain of an adult, the Godzilla aspect, Clifford The Big Red Star Beast, what kids will like about something, a big purple dinosaur, Barney, conflating for comic effect, I hate all this stuff about the negotiations, they’ll eat it, that reunification scene, all the ashtrays and the smoking, furiously smoking, popping pills on the reg, eat your roughage, a dragon lookin thing with a big smile on its four eyed face, old man sitting around his pool with his lawyers for 18,000 pages, Red Planet, Willis is kinda Lummox, galactic diplomacy and politics, democracy, we’re a republic not a democracy, his elected superior, we are the leading nation, senators from all over the planet, the United States of North And South America, probably set in Colorado or thereabouts, freeways are overgrown, flying cars, a depopulated North America, smoke filled rooms in small towns, not enough worldbuilding, atomic weapons, weird adventures, how the world worked, all the Heinlein haters, hating Heinlein for the wrong reasons, Mr. Kiku is pictured and not a black man, the original serial is slightly abridged (at least), wooly haired, racism?, often times the artist is told what the book is about, that’s capitalism not racism, Lummox is also not pictured, a kids book with no-star beast on the cover?, Johnny and Slugger and flying, two legs and half of a side, a bizarre choice, a commercial production, smiling dinosaur beagle, a train, spindly arms, diplodocus, the voice, the baby girl voice in the Full Cast Audio production, all the other Heinlein girls and boys, John Thomas oblivious to her plans, these gender fashions flip, the girls chasing after boys, Sadie Hawkins dystopia, on leap years girls are allowed to propose to men, Data at Sadie Hawkins dance, Star Trek: 90210, phone rigged up in his attic fort, a box of books boys somehow always get, a box of pornography, Heinlein doesn’t shy away, very strange and weird, the macro/micro, a princess of earth, a reverse of A Princess Of Mars, a Kwisatz Haderach to make the perfect space beast, the breeding of John Thomases, wrestling around, did I ever tell you why I divorced my parents, lean in closer to the book, what the parents did that was so wrong, parental abuse, molestation, those woolen socks, the mother character, how one note she was, very manipulative, not a straw person, selfish, controlling and manipulative, parallels between John’s mom and Betty, make more John Thomases, what did you assume about Betty living in a dorm, Heinlein manipulating us, weirdly controlling, they’re both minors, very skillfully done, she’s studying law, you don’t have to obey police officers unless they have a warrant, the police come to the school and teach a class and then search your locker, the antics in the courtroom, the Rittenhouse trial, bamboozles the court, manipulation and tactics, she’s parallel with Kiku, she was her own lawyer, the police chief, Johnny gets on with the police chief, makin toast and eggs and coffee, don’t get in bed with the cops, Johnny’s a little bit dim, he’s gonna go to college, drag racing and hanging out with his pet, the pet of three females, what did she whisper into Johnny’s ear?, “I wanna get the pill”, “never, “we’re religious!”, argue our way to the truth, to such dark places, mentally beyond them, parochial, leaps and bounds ahead, more sinister, poor tactics, I divorced my parents because I was too smart for them, subversive ideas, “I’m transgender”, the flipping of the gender quite late in the book, Kiku and Greenberg are really dumb, its the same creature, kinda fun for kids, kids can figure it out, they’re looking for a girl and Lummox is a boy, Willis is a girl, “I’m a boy”, not going to be able to breed John Thomases very easily, he always calls her Slugger, she hits people, was she on the baseball team?, he insults her looks, she hits the softball real hard, a term of respect, no hidden agenda inside of Johnny, Johnny just gets stubborn for a while, Farah Mendelson’s The Pleasant Profession Of Robert A. Heinlein, Star Wars, he likes his backpack helicopter, when Mr. Ito’s greenhouse, space skateboards, hoverboards, his horse ate his car, Paul is triggered by Lummox voices, a touchy subject, great to hand to a kid whose parents are divorcing, everybody is independent, she came to him, she emancipated herself, some yummy metal and self-heating cans, entanglements, the star federation, why don’t you just leave everybody alone, the inescapable bureaucracy of civilization, Betty’s parents didn’t stand a chance, leaning into the deep and dark and secret and terrible, a little song that starts, it will burn the ears of the editors, pornography and gays and blacks exist, he wants to share it, the tone, whatever the deep dark secret is it wouldn’t hurt johnny, Sorensen, Heinlein’s always been interested in gender, why he shootin blanks, the most plausible thing, maybe John Thomas knew this, Christine Jorgensen, sex-reassignment surgery, deflates the breeding program, Podkayne Of Mars, birthing machines, ovafusion (lesbian babies), circumstantial, all the flipping and the six genders lummox, Gore Vidal, Myra Breckenridge, Raquel Welch and Mae West and John Huston and Farrah Fawcett, what genders means, gender as a spectrum, best to think of her as a male, we don’t have the acronym for it yet, derailing the story, she has arms, she’s getting boobs!, we’re really lucky dogs don’t have hands, dogs would be so handsy, cats, the human breeding program will result in the ultimate John Thomas in about 10,000 years, high fashion to have human pets, invites a sequel, The Star Beasts are humans, furry animals, Space Lummox, is a komodo dragon a beast?, scorpions aren’t beasts, developing the arms, what is that thing?, a tumor, its normal because its normal, 150 years to learn English, the test for intelligence, Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper, Illegal Alien by Robert J. Sawyer, legally a human, the introduction, the Houyhnhnms section of Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, William H. Patterson, a fantasy disguised as J. Francis McComas, my first beast, the best one, not wholesome like this, good for adults too, less corny than The Rolling Stones, one little conversation, civilization is in crisis because of all these aliens, keeping these Republican norms, the Sorenson whisper, the bureaucrats have to run the machine, cynical vs. optimistic views of democracy, Heinlein’s views on communism, Heinlein’s views on nuclear testing, deep stuff, adults who would like a charming read about a talking animal, Heinlein doing his diversity thing here, Jesse is Maissa’s Betty, the spunky protagonist?, overcoming the fear of the Medusa, the Medusan is also transgender, the passive protagonist?, the makeup thing, unusual patterns, everything is transgender, another gender swap, the deep fear of the snakehead, testes turned into ovaries, hypnotherapy as a crutch, Starship Troopers, hypnosis, an excuse to help you quit smoking, Heinlein is regressive in his pushing of hypnosis, more like Dianetics than it is like rocketry, how you relate to another so different from you, Lummox’s speech, assuming an Italian is illiterate, how can people say Heinlein is turgid?, he’s anti-racist, a slur, a smear, not an awkward bone in this book, two [amicus] groups, the Friends Of Lummox, Keep Earth For Humans, one is adults, one is kids, we like breakfast cereal, Murgatroyd, the Russian edition on ebay, PiggWiggy, having adventures eating cereal, preaching race tolerance, I will not sit down with that puppet, anti-puppet, brinksmanship shit, luckily your Heinlein and writing both sides of the conversation, Heinlein’s worst instinct, c’mon mom, be partisan and be right, we’re on Lummox’s side, nobody complains about the missing dog, deciding not to eat Mr. Ito, this book is really about power, lummox has hands, wipe your own butt or get your own cup, disability, the relationship of power to power, relations between the species for the rest of time, a book about power, a hereditary monarchy with a breeding program, we can’t judge their culture, The [Men] In The Walls by William Tenn, the psychology of the mice, like parents, manipulator, the translator is manipulating both sides, interpreter for hire, Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, the fair witness, somebody said somebody was a bad person, we can fix our shoddy eyewitness testimony by fixing the sentences we put in our own heads, the truth meter, played for laughs, testifying about her feelings, technology our way out of stuff, the human mind’s way of storing data and making judgements, telepathy transmitters, a visual translation, eyes are wildly fluctuating, John Thomas will say: “Me too”, Star Trek’s computer is judging Captain Kirk, a huge mental mistake, Planet Of The Apes, Heinlein’s not fulfilling Campbell’s request, a Weinbaum story, hang out and get pet for a century, our relationship to puppies, a very compressed youth, an immortal being, petting my John Thomases, Lummox gets bored, what kind of patience, a very human thing to do, tigers just eat smaller animals, arsenic makes them grow, all symbolic, why does she go on a diet at the end?, she’s gotta get hot for her wedding, stop eating candy, stop eating cars, a short lived pet, precious babies or property or chattel, they’re out friends, a lady in Quesnel, BC got her leg licked by a bear, we wanna nuke your planet, give us our queen’s corgi, War Of The Worlds but just combing the Earth, implicit mirroring, whether Lummox can testify or not, wandering princess, hostage negotiation, we don’t engage philosophically with dogs, sufficiently alien aliens, an adult reading a kid’s book, Lummox indulged Johnny, you want have me sit a yard for a year?, after 150 years, there are no Buicks today?, Motortrend, brands are things you sell to other companies, a Toyota that’s a Ford, the Packard’s coming back, a branding exercise, the Lincoln Navigator, imprints survive as IP, all the young men love the classic Buicks, a flight harness, when he takes Johnny to the vet, corgis for everybody, an exclusive brand, a great opening for the surprise sequel, spaceships are disappearing, humans are being disappeared, very cute puppies, a deeply pet book, you’re going to wear this outdoor socky thing on your feets, a single dad, a single mom, the controlling mother, Suddenly (1954), parallels, media with controlling mothers, Philip K. Dick’s mom, people having relationships in the 20th century, shameful but possible, a trope character, off-screen, trip to Hawaii, 17 pickle dishes, Heinlein’s joke, Heinlein is very stupid in hypnotism, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, slim volume hardcovers, Harry Potter, Rick Riordan, no Heinlein boxed set with decent covers, what the fuck is wrong with their brains?, 8 Heinlein juveniles in a boxed set, youthful reading, why is that?, Heinlein is not a giant name, Roald Dahl, James And The Giant Peach, Predestination, there should be boxed sets of Heinlein every generation, broken minded, a legacy organization, it will do material good to minds, the entire Heinlein fiction is the Virginia edition $1,400, riddled with typos, a luxury good, mass market paperback for $9.99, sell like the wheatcakes, I love TITS (Tunnel In The Sky), Jesse was dissing Heinlein and looking at TITS online, pitch for TITS, something goes wrong, Hunger Games style, really good, Paul loves TITS, Lummox triggered, Hi I’m Trish, Boxing Day, put TITS on the schedule, excommunicated from the island, Lord Of The Flies by William Golding, Rite Of Passage by Alexei Panshin, othering Jesse, privileging academics, don’t slur me, 10 degrees is warm (and cold), alien words, actual turban vs. snakes for hair who needs a turban, get him outta bed, not a very good movie, the self-lighting cigarette, trying to quit smoking, maybe a pipe, a serious smoker without a light, H. Beam Piper was a smoking machine, British is weird, a really interesting podcast about those puppies, Rite Gud, solid heads on shoulders despite being modern authors, squeecore, new wave, cyberpunk, The Painful Threshold, “hells yeah”, maudlin mawkish or glib, Whedonesque quips, the character that represents feminism pegs the character that represents the patriarchy, this is what we’re exploring right now, remixing the public domain with vampires or zombies, 10 Years A Slave To The Robot Queen, Ace Galaksi, very Betty of you, so Betty, Betty is a great character, Stranger In A Strange Land, so horrible, pizza, of course it was, raw frozen chicken wings, dog minds, dog diets, a beagle pomeranian, parvo virus, little bag, little mask, little vaccination sticker, too many puppy blogs, why Fauci might get canceled, beagle faces, funding dog torture, when we find out what the aliens sound like in their native language, rethink your whole life, a never ending parent, be your pet’s advocate, catering to dog needs, siri needs to speak dog, a smart telepathic collar, What Is Horror?, Klim’s Journey Under The Ground by Baron Ludvig Holberg, The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, Children Of The Damned (1964), John Carpenter (1995).

The Star Beast by Robert A. Heinlein

Fantasy And Science Fiction - Star Lummox 05

Fantasy And Science Fiction - Star Lummox 49

Fantasy And Science Fiction - Star Lummox COVER

Fantasy And Science Fiction - Star Lummox 101

Fantasy And Science Fiction - Star Lummox 113

Star Lummox

Darrell K. Sweet - The Star Beast

Posted by Jesse WillisBecome a Patron!

The SFFaudio Podcast #661 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: Mr. Adam by Pat Frank

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #661 – Mr. Adam by Pat Frank – read by Evan Lampe. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the novel (5 hours 41 Minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants include Jesse, Evan Lampe and Will Emmons.

Talked about on today’s show:
1946, a serious problem with your narration, obstetrician, editing, who was what voice, Alas, Babylon, dulcet tones, well suited for Evan, like a pervert, the attitude of the newspaperman, an affinity between Mr. Smith and Mr. Lampe, hitting the humour notes right, say something bad, an amateur narration, speed of narration, garbled here and there, was it LibriVox quality?, a very fine job, Evan’s nexty, Prince Alberic And the Snake Lady by Vernon Lee, teaching from home, a short and serious lockdown in China, the extended Spring Festival, you seem to be good at talking, how big Pat Frank was, a supposition, he’s talking about stuff happening in 1946, their field rank being swapped back to original rank, Eisenhower was a Colonel before being a 5 star general, this new civilian period, the U.S. war effort, as soon as the war is over they’re bickering again, an armed forces services edition, a cool collectible book, shirt flap, Lovecraft in armed services edition, donate books to soldiers and sailors, what you really need is a book, most people didn’t come home right away, a mid-20th century author, speaking to the baby boomer producers, how horny they are, I’m gonna plow my wife so hard I’m going to make fifty babies, a funny book, what happens after WWII is a huge boom in paperbacks, by the 1960s publishers have cottoned on the paperbacks, they don’t have USO shows every day, why we don’t have as much interest in paperbacks today, this legacy of shoving a book in your pocket and clip of ammo for your M1 Garand, Jeeps, Wrigley’s Chewing Gum, the ration pack, chocolate bars, American cheese, WWI, Spam for Korea, a delicacy in Korea, creating whole industries, how theaters survive today, “gold rush”, the new bureaucracy, a pressing governmental concern, New Deal programs, NRP, AI Day, D-Day, a satire but realistic, a tragi-comedy, a tragedy of bureaucracy, a happy ending, he sterilizes himself, I didn’t see that coming, the pickles and the eggs, Marge, seaweed, so funny, a big joke, what happens to Homer Adam is pretty dark, he didn’t castrate himself, JC’s ideology, some importance, dose your husband, the events of the story are very compressed, on the slugline, the dateline, the placeline, you have to be on this committee, its all a metaphor, the Soviets have two Mongolians, heady stuff, he’s a subversion, the last virile man is shy and gangly, loyal to his wife, interested in archaeology, neat and tidy ending, not a very science fictiony thing, they did this book wrong, he needed to continue the incompetence and stupidity, the Arthur Jermyn / White Ape way, the H.P. Lovecraft story, She by H. Rider Haggard, Allan’s Wife, strategic gorilla reserve, monkeys mating with their wives, a pipesmoking silverback gorilla with his great grandmother in the room, Planet Of The Apes, an under-explored element, the racial component, Genghis Khan, Yellow Peril, the blacks don’t want to be excluded, the settlement, are the women are willing to have Mongolian babies, female perspectives in the novel, all the women want is babies, untermenschen, a sexist book, Marissa’s or Maissa’s take on the book, everybody is really comical, farce, a child named after Eleanor Roosevelt, P. Schuyler Miller’s review from Astounding, May 1948, just another dirty book, a joyous satire, just plain fun, where’s the breeding?, I kept expecting the breeding to start, it doesn’t dwell in the place Science Fiction dwells, siblings or half siblings, a lot of older women, you better hurry, half brothers and half sisters, Homer Adam’s kid is a girl, a problem for the plot and the planet, its dealt with as premise to show off the idea of bureaucracy being incompetent in peacetime, the execution is not science fiction, speculative fiction, this is not really Science Fiction, a reddit thread, a super-dated commentary on the baby boom, it doesn’t go anywhere, a timely book whose time has passed, Catch-22, bureaucracy nightmare, bombing raids, the disincentive to keep going is to get killed, daylight bombing raids, if the crew has solidarity, changing the rules mid-stream, longer legs, the Vietnam War, a second tour, the legacy of WWII’s draft service, 1973, Nixon’s second term, endless wars now, victory gardens, a volunteer force allows permanent war, pre-modern wars, summer wars with tiny armies, unified front during the war, social groups, labour unions, a strikewave, securities collapsed, the CIO and AFofL, a wholly capitalistic world, Greece’s long record of service to mankind, special pleading, international affairs, a new world order, given to the U.N., Mr. Adam is a metaphor for the atomic bomb (MR. ATOM), the USA has an A-BOMB, the BOMARC missile crisis, medium range ballistic missiles without the nukes, too efficient in killing people, before the novel started there’d already been a nuclear accident before Mississippi, no fallout except for actual fallout, getting rid of nukes, How To Survive The H-Bomb And Why by Pat Frank, a reporter, the Office of War Information (aka propaganda), cynicism and absurdity, his science is terrible, radiation traveled at the speed of light across the planet except for one guy in one mine?, other apocalyptic novels, he doesn’t really care about the science, not a tear is shed, a scarce resource being seized by the government, a funny little thing about reproduction, his characterization of women is hilarious, his charity towards men, not a dirty book, “Mr. Adam was wanted by every woman in the world”, women don’t care who the father is, women need to be more careful about their men, women have to hold a tighter rein over their men, what male or female motivation is, women like babies and men want to be fathers, cuckolding the entire planet, I’m a proud father of 6 red headed boys, a caricature of humans, in this zone of comedy, such a breezy fun book, Smith Field is mentioned 20 times, the narrator’s fantasy bed, built for lazy living, a refrigerator and bar, things happen on Smith field, the radio, boogie-woogie, weird geography in Smith Field, domestic geography, stay in bed all day gambling, when Mr Adam is lying in his new residence, his feet hang off the edge, if I were in his position I would want to do something about it, why don’t we have a refrigerator next to our bed?, Transylvania, a contemporary news thing, England asks for aid, traditional American sportsmanship, a final solution to the question of Transylvania, when Marge is preggers, the Transylvania question, Trump or Covid, the domestic issues, more than just seaweed, of too vital of importance , the secret of Thompson’s Tonic, dynamite is nukes, Gregg Margarite, during the ’80s he built giant surrogate penises for Ronald Reagan, stuff that could be happening today, if a lot of new hospitals had been built, a very skilled writer, fighting in Palestine, China, Burma, Syria, the setup for the whole book, literally in the news this week, the long legs of his wife, a serious problem you shouldn’t take too seriously, pretty funny stuff, a really funny book, Alas, Babylon, a military presence in Lebanon, space supremacy, food from third world countries, Playhouse 90, Burt Reynolds, Stephen King’s The Stand, trusting S.T. Joshi, great book, had it more science fiction ideas…, who doesn’t want to be a James Bond?, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy: The Ultimate Collection edited by Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer, pre-Tolkien fantasy was goofier, E.T.A. Hoffman, The Nose by Nikolai Gogol.

POCKET BOOKS - Mr. Adam by Pat Frank

Mr. Adam by Pat Frank

Posted by Jesse WillisBecome a Patron!

Review of A New Beginning by Craig Brummer

SFFaudio Review

A New BeginningA New Beginning
By Craig Brummer; Narrated by Jack Nolan
Publisher: C&S Press
Publication Date: August 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 7 hours, 32 minutes

Themes: / slavery / space / bureaucracy / mega-corporations / politics /

Publisher summary:

A New Beginning is the story of a young woman who is ordered by the courts of Earth to serve as an indentured slave to the corporation that held her college debt. Life as a slave brings her to the brink of suicide and an attempt to kill her tormentor. She is sold to Spacers, who are themselves rebelling against the corrupt control of Earth’s mega-corporations. In space she finds a chance at a new life, a chance to maybe help her sister avoid the same fate, but only if Spacers succeed in gaining their freedom. The course of her life will be determined by the outcome of politics far outside of her control… but she has a chance, however slim, to save her sister and start a new life herself.

In some way, this was a really odd book for me to read. The main character is named Kristin. She works on a space ship as a systems engineer. I work on satellites as a systems engineer. And, honestly, her description is really similar to mine when I was in my early 20’s. So it was seriously trippy to read this at times.

A New Beginning is set in the near future, a future where space travel is common place, as is living in space aboard ships or other space stations. On Earth, it’s a rather bleaker picture of the world today. Corporations have taken over the world, bought out most of the politicians. It’s a society, world-wide, where the class gap is as wide is it can be and only those born into or who marry into privilege have assurance of a “normal” life. The rest are sold into indentured service to pay of their debts, whatever they are; for main character Kristin, this is the price of her college education. It’s also a future where faster-than-light travel has been made possible, but communication–visual and audio (in the form of communiques between spacecraft)–is limited to light speed. I’m not quite sure how that is possible, to be honest, but it sets up some interesting potential so I decided not to worry about it.

As the story starts, a newly formed “Federation,” comprised of those living and working on the ships and stations, those without ties to Earth, decide to break ties with Earth and form their own…well, federation. Think of it like Star Trek. Where once they were tied to Earth, they now consider themselves independent entities, willing and happy to trade with Earth, but not bound by any of their laws–or taxes. This has important ramifications for Kristin Hayes, whose indentured service was just sold from an Earth corporation to a ship in the Federation. She left behind a life of debt and slavery (including sexual slavery) on Earth and, upon joining the ship, was freed. The Federation, her ship The Valiant Lad, bought her indenture contract (along with that of others) and gave her the option to return to Earth as a free woman or to join the Federation, join the ship’s crew. Kristin decided to join the ship’s crew and for the first time in her life, have a real job, earn real wages, and be allowed to be a “normal” person.

Kristin’s story comprises most of the book. There are two story lines (that are sort of broken into 3 in places), one of the Federation officers who are actually coordinating the secession from Earth, and Kristin’s story line, telling of her life, both on and off the ship. Kristin’s story is about 2/3 of this book, though I suspect that this is the first in a series and provides decent setup for the rest of the series. Kristin acclimates to life on the ship slowly, but without much adversity. If anything, it seems that everything is just too easy. She finds friends, support, a job she can do…which is interesting, given the description of how the space-ers grow up and are educated compared with how Earth-ers are raised. Growing up in space seems a lot more intense, it seems that anybody from Earth would be at a significant disadvantage. When the Federation makes new laws, allowing families to be on ships and for crew to “fraternize,” she enters into a relationship with a crew mate fairly easily, despite her emotional scars. Kristin decides that she should use this opportunity to earn money (and save it) so that she can get her sister and her father off Earth, to help them avoid the troubles she had. One way she earns money is by selling her journal as a book; the journal she wrote of what her life was like on Earth as a child and then as an indentured servant for one of the corporations. It became an overnight success (almost literally) and made her into a celebrity. As I said, the only “trouble” I really had with this part of the book is how easy everything was. Kristin had a few small stumbling blocks to overcome, but the narrative made it sound like they were easily triumphed over, so overall she didn’t face much adversity.

Similarly, the second story line–comprising a third or less of the book–seemed….easy. The main thrust is told from two viewpoints, one of the ship captain (Marshall?) who announced the secession, and one of another ship captain (Matthews? A woman, in either event, which was nice) who oversaw some of the battles between the Earth ships and the Federation ships. This is where I think the book truly had a miss. It was odd enough that it was all too easy–the battles were short, sweet, and rarely with any Federation losses–but there was an opportunity for Brummer to capitalize on some interesting tactics, an opportunity lost in this book. As I mentioned earlier in the review, technology has evolved to a point where faster-than-light travel is possible (and used) but faster-than-light communication is not. This means that when battling on a large scale, your information is only as good as your distance (in light years/hours) from the source. This was touched on briefly in Kristin’s narrative. One of her co-workers mentioned that for spare money, he makes games to teach kids about battle tactics and the math used in FTL travel and war. He mentioned that all kids who grow up in space have to learn this, and have to use it…but then, nobody did. In all of the battles, it seemed like the information at hand was “good enough” and that the Federation mostly won without issue. While the battle scenes were mercifully short (nothing drives me up a wall than too much detail on weaponry or super-detailed tactics), they were almost too dry. It seemed, once again, too easy.

Some of the issues with the battle scenes might have been owed to the narration. The narration, while mostly fine, was just that, fine. Nolan didn’t add much excitement or change in tone for any of the scenes. He didn’t use different voices for the characters (except maybe some of the characters on the primary Federation ship–the Freedom?–they sounded like they were lifted from the scenes in Star Trek). The recording itself occasionally echoed or sounded like it was recorded with an unfiltered microphone. It often sounded like there was a low-level hiss in the background, or air flowing. This was noticeable when I used earphones and in my car audio and was occasionally distracting.

All in all, the book wasn’t a bad entry novel for a first-time author, though the science fiction elements were more window dressing than actual story components. I suspect some of the audio issues were due to it not being one of the larger publication houses, and that’s okay. I would recommend this book to someone looking for some light science fiction that frankly isn’t much of a downer (because let’s be honest, a lot of it can be extremely depressing). It will be interesting to see where Brummer goes with this universe. If all the novels end up having this same tone/lack of adversity, it could get boring, but for a first-in-a-series by a new author, it was pretty alright.

Posted by terpkristin.

Review of We Can Build You by Philip K. Dick

SFFaudio Review

We Can Build You by Philip K. DickWe Can Build You
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Dan John Miller
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
ISBN: 978-1-4558-1461-9
Published: August 14, 2012
[UNABRIDGED] – 7 discs; 8 hours

Themes: / androids / healthcare / future / bureaucracy /

Publisher summary:

In this lyrical and moving novel, Philip K. Dick intertwines the story of a toxic love affair with one about sentient robots, and unflinchingly views it all through the prism of mental illness — which spares neither human nor robot. The end result is one of Dick’s most quietly powerful works.

When Louis Rosen’s electronic-organ company builds a pitch-perfect robotic replica of Abraham Lincoln, the firm is pulled into the orbit of a shady businessman, who is looking to use Lincoln for his own profit. Meanwhile, Rosen seeks Lincoln’s advice as he woos a woman incapable of understanding human emotions — someone who may be even more robotic than Lincoln’s replica.

Published in 1972, Dick uses the premise of a “future” (the book takes place in Dick’s imagined 1982) where programming is advanced enough to allow programming the appearance of sentience into androids to provide a treatise on mental health and mental healthcare.

In short, Louie Rosen and his partner Maury run a business making and selling electronic organs. One day, however, Maury decides to make an android of Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s Secretary of War. When he reveals it to Louie, he also reveals that his schizophrenic daughter, Priss, played a large role in developing the personality for it. The Stanton simulacrum is quite successful, and they make another, this time of Abraham Lincoln. They get the idea to pitch it to an investor, Barrows, to capitulate on Americans’ love for the Civil War (which at the time it was written, was nearing its centennial). Unfortunately, as Barrows and the crew spend more time with the Lincoln, they find that it is moody and seems manic. While this may be historically accurate, it could also be a projection of Priss’s beliefs about Lincoln into the programming. Where the Stanton android is personable, logical, and “normal,” the Lincoln is anything but. Eventually, Barrows decides to pass on the investment and instead make his own (which he will use as first settlers for a moon colony–an idea I would have preferred to read about). Priss ends up infatuated with Barrows and follows him back to Seattle. Louie, while talking to the Lincoln, seems to have also developed mental instability and runs to Seattle to bring Priss back. She shoots him down and he ends up committed. The story ends when Louie “gets over” his issues and is discharged to go about his normal life.

This was a book about ideas. Dick obviously had feelings about the state (and stigma) of mental health issues in the 60’s, both with regards to diagnosis and treatment. He almost seems to imply that we’re all mentally unstable/have our moments of instability…but he takes it to another level as to suggest that the state-run facilities do nothing to help people. Rather, the state-run facilities can actually make people worse.

In the end, this was a book of a lot of thoughts, not a lot of actions. There was a lot more dialogue an “thinking” than there was stuff actually happening; it was quite cerebral. This isn’t the kind of book I’m normally into…and in fact, as the book wore on, I found it hard to want to listen and hard to keep focused. I liked the idea of sentient androids, of “souls” built from research into real people…but it’s not for me. And probably not for everybody. But if you like “ideas” books, then it may be for you.

The narration itself was…interesting. Miller’s voice is somewhat flat, which can be good in an audiobook like this; he certainly didn’t try to project too much character into most of the voices. However, he did use different tones for female voices as compared to male voices. In that respect, it was somewhat grating; his female voice was almost pandering and was somewhat creepy. It made some “sexual” scenes between Priss and Louie extra-creepy. That said, it also helped to make me really believe that Priss was mentally ill…

It’s hard to believe, but this is the first PKD I’ve ever read. I’ve also never watched Bladerunner in its entirety. I don’t know if the rest of his stories are like this, so cerebral. If they are, I may skip them. I was lured in by the robots…and kind of turned off by everything else.

Review by terpkristin.

SFBRP #152: Time Travel Special, part 2 – Isaac Asimov’s – The End Of Eternity

SFFaudio Online Audio

The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast Episode #152 of The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast is a discussion of Isaac Asimov’s The End Of Eternity. It’s also a follow-up to the previous time travel episode (#151). Luke and I discuss the book and related time travel tales.

|MP3|

Podcast feed: http://www.sfbrp.com/?feed=podcast

Discussed on the show:
A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain, a flexible chronology, Luke’s first Isaac Asimov review for SFBRP, Robert A. Heinlein, Nightfall by Isaac Asimov (and Robert Silverberg) is bad, Isaac Asimov has ideas to spare, the Wikipedia entry for The End Of Eternity, “what clever idea can I use, in time travel, that hasn’t been used before”, time loops, time barriers, “are you your own grandpa?”, Poul Anderson’s time corps, bureaucracy, how does time travel work?, time travel is discovered, eternity is a place outside of time, powering a time travel technology is easy if you can time travel, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, the “kettle”, Ray Bradbury’s A Sound Of Thunder, A Gun For Dinosaur by L. Sprague de Camp, time lords?, Adjustment Team by Philip K. Dick, Back To The Future, remembering the works of culture and developments in realities that no longer exist, 13 different versions of the complete works of William Shakespeare, the academic background of professorial jockeying, are there two different endings for The End Of Eternity?, being outside of time, “the outside of the inside of eternity”, the malleability of reality through time travel, a limited butterfly effect, the inertia of history, killing Hitler, William The Conqueror vs. King Harold Godwinson, Genghis Kahn’s descendants, computers (the vocation) vs. computers (the devices), technicians don’t get any respect, “They feel an unspoken collective guilt which causes them to scapegoat the ‘Technicians’, the experts who actually execute Reality Changes by doing something that will alter the flow of events.”, a caste system, Minding Tomorrow by Luke Burrage, making changes by setting your mind to it, Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Harlan is a bit of a dim bulb, Demolition Man, time travel as a secret (paralleling magic as a secret), The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman, mutable realities, the grandfather paradox, unmanipulated reality, alternate history, Sidewise In Time by Murray Leinster, later Heinlein novels, unrestricted freedom in multiple realities can be extremely disheartening, Groundhog Day, infinite universes are boring, By His Bootstraps by Robert A. Heinlein, All You Zombies by Robert A. Heinlein, making a knot out of your own timeline, giving a young William Shakespeare a copy of The Complete Works Of Shakespeare, motherless objects and motherless ideas, giving your younger self an object (or advice), multiple timelines, “if that’s possible then that’s not possible”, time traveller’s convention, BoingBoing’s time travelers (I and II), European Juggling Convention 2003, Time Travel #2 Advanced Time Travel Techniques, Paradoxes For Beginners, Harlan Ellison, Murder At The ABA by Isaac Asimov, Darius Dust (dry as dust), Tales Of The Black Widowers, sexism, women are not suitable time travelers, an apocryphal tale of the Obamas, energy bodies, sending a message from the past to the future, you have an energy body but paper magazines?, a future vs. the future, The Door Into Summer, Escape Pod’s recording of All You Zombies, Asimovian characters, The End Of Eternity is about Earth, House Of Suns by Alastair Reynolds, something so big and so mind bogglingly complex, SFFaudio Podcast #073 George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides, “Gregg Margarite and that other guy (Jesse) are losers”, batshit theories, Eric S. Rabkin, Adam and Eve, fairy tales, sex, “the unconscious does exist”, Luke’s original fiction, “we do these podcasts for ourselves”, interesting bullshit, Luke’s Creative Podcast (with Gregg Margarite), “make your own podcast if you don’t like one.”

Ed Emshwiller cover illustration of Isaac Asimov's The End Of Eternity

FAWCETT The End Of Eternity by Isaac Asimov

Posted by Jesse Willis