Review of the BFG by Roald Dahl

SFFaudio Review

The BFG by Roald DahlThe BFG
By Roald Dahl; Read by David Walliams
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 24 June 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 4 hours, 25 minutes

Themes: / fantasy / giants / children /

Publisher summary:

The BFG is no ordinary bone-crunching giant. He is far too nice and jumbly. It’s lucky for Sophie that he is. Had she been carried off in the middle of the night by the Bloodbottler, or any of the other giants – rather than the BFG – she would have soon become breakfast. When Sophie hears that the giants are flush-bunking off to England to swollomp a few nice little chiddlers, she decides she must stop them once and for all. And the BFG is going to help her!

The BFG is classic Roald Dahl: a blend of lighthearted playfulness and bone-crunching, child-munching wickedness.

The story is about a gentle 20-foot-tall giant who lives in Giant Country with a bunch of other giants. The BFG taught himself English by reading Charles Dickens, and he mangles language in beautiful ways: “What I mean and what I say is two different things.”

The other giants, who have adorable names like Bloodbottler, Meatdripper, Childchewer, and Bonecruncher, are all much bigger than the BFG (“at least two times my wideness and double my royal highness!”) and bully him for being vegetarian. While they eat humans of various nationalities (like people from Turkey, who apparently taste like turkey, or people from Jersey, who taste of cardigans), the BFG eats only a disgusting vegetable called a snozzcumber. As he says, “I squoggle it! I mispise it! I dispunge it! But because I is refusing to gobble up human beans like the other giants, I must spend my life guzzling up icky-poo snozzcumbers instead! If I don’t, I will be nothing but skin and groans.”

The story starts when the BFG befriends a little human girl named Sophie, who he takes home with him to Giant Country, where he must hide her from the meaner giants who would eat her on sight. Together, the BFG and Sophie decide to try putting a stop to the terrible child-guzzling that’s been going on.

The narrator David Walliams did such an awesome job with the voices, from Sophie’s soft feminine inflections to the BFG’s indignant horror and naive befuddlement with humankind’s weird ways. It must have been difficult to perform the BFG’s dialogue with all the backwards idioms and inside-out clichés and weird pronunciations, but somehow Williams makes it all flow seamlessly and naturally.

The audio production is also something special, with all kinds of sound effects in the background: bubbling and burping and scraping and gurgling. These special effects didn’t seem intrusive to me at all (despite preferring straight readings usually), and seem to fit perfectly with Roald Dahl’s storytelling style.

Everything else aside, the BFG character alone makes this story worth listening to. How can you not love a creature whose ears are so sensitive he can hear the faraway music of the stars, and who desperately wants to learn how to “make an elephant” so he can ride it around, picking peachy fruits off the trees all day long!

Posted by Marissa van Uden

Review of Matilda by Roald Dahl

SFFaudio Review

Matilda by Roald DahlMatilda
By Roald Dahl; Read by Kate Winslet
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 3 July 2013
ISBN: 9781611761849
[UNABRIDGED] – 5 hours

Themes: / fantasy / telekinesis / children / school / libraries / bullies /

Publisher summary:

Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she’s just a nuisance. She expects school to be different but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back. It’ll take a superhuman genius to give Miss Trunchbull what she deserves and Matilda may be just the one to do it!

This book made me so nostalgic for childhood, mostly because Roald Dahl is a wizard who can see through a child’s eyes but also because he was such a huge influence on me when I was a kid. Matilda was one of my favorite Roald Dahl stories, and hearing it narrated by Kate Winslet was amazing—probably the best narration I’ve heard. She colors every single character a fully realized personality, from syrupy sweet to hilariously grotesque. I think Kate Winslet is doing in narration what Quentin Blake did for Roald Dahl in illustration.

The story is Roald Dahl at his best: it is sarcastic and dark (featuring a bingo-obsessed mother, a dishonest father, and a headmistress who throws children out windows for eating in class) but it’s also hilarious, magical, and hopeful.

Matilda Wormwood is a very small, sensitive, and brilliant girl who has the misfortune of being born to gormless idiots. Mr. Wormwood is a rat-faced used-car salesman who’s really only interested in people who boost his ego. He seems allergic to his daughter, mainly because she is much cleverer than him. Mrs. Wormwood, when she’s not off playing bingo, sits around watching American soaps and thinks “Looks is more important than books!”

Matilda’s good morals and quick wits unsettle her parents, which makes them even more dismissive and neglectful of her. Her only escape is to visit the local library where she devours the whole children’s section in no time. The amazed librarian than helps guide the little girls through all the classics, from Charles Dickens and Jane Austen to George Orwell and HG Wells.

 “The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.”

Reading all this literature awakens something in Matilda.  She realizes that she now has a view on life that her parents have not experienced and never will, and that there’s far more to life than cheating people and watching television.

But she’s only four, so she’s stuck with them, “no matter how asinine.”  To stop herself from going crazy, she beings to play mischievous pranks on them to punish them for every wrong they do. And when she starts school and meets even nastier bullies, she must use her brain power to develop new techniques for helping good people and punishing rotten ones.

I love the honesty Roald Dahl puts into his children’s stories. Children are often taught they must respect and obey their parents and teachers no matter what, as if we live in some utopia where all adults are intelligent, caring protectors. But Roald Dahl is not afraid to tell children the truth: sometimes monsters are real, and sometimes they look just like the people who have the most power over you or are supposed to care about you. People should earn trust and respect through their actions, not get it automatically because of their authority, age, or status.

Roald Dahl also teaches the other great wisdom: the world is full of idiots and oversized egos, and the best way to survive them is to keep your wits sharp and find the humor in every situation.

Posted by Marissa van Uden

 

Review of Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

SFFaudio Review

Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Vampires in the Lemon Grove
By Karen Russell; Read by Multiple (see list below)
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 12 February 2013
ISBN: 9780449013717
[UNABRIDGED] 9 hours, 15 minutes

Themes: / short stories / vampires / veterans / farmers / children / reincarnation / silkworms /

Sample of title story: | MP3 |

Publisher summary:

In the collection’s marvelous title story, two aging vampires in a sun-drenched Italian lemon grove find their hundred-year marriage tested when one of them develops a fear of flying. In “The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979,” a dejected teenager discovers that the universe is communicating with him through talismanic objects left in a seagull’s nest. “Proving Up” and “The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis”–stories of children left to fend for themselves in dire predicaments–find Russell veering into more sinister territory, and ultimately crossing the line into full-scale horror. In “The New Veterans,” a massage therapist working with a tattooed war veteran discovers she has the power to heal by manipulating the images on his body. In all, these wondrous new pieces display a young writer of superlative originality and invention coming into the full range and scale of her powers.

I had been looking forward to this book coming out, because I loved Karen Russell’s first book of short stories, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. She is also the author of the much-acclaimed Swamplandia! which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. These stories did not disappoint! I was curious to see if there would be more set in Florida, but these span from Italy to New Jersey, from the plains to Antarctica. And just as I would have expected, the stories are at times startling, amusing, and sad. I will just say a few words about each, but this is a must-read.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove – two ancient vampires try to satiate their desires by eating lemons

Reeling for the Empire – human silkworms, vivid and terrifying.

The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979 – maybe the seagulls are the only ones really paying attention

Proving Up – starts as a struggling farm family story, ends in a … i can’t even…. *shiver*

The Barn at the End of Our Term – dead presidents alive in horses’ bodies
(actual presidents, not the band)… this one made me laugh more than any of the others.

Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules of Antarctic Tailgating – Sometimes you’re the whale, but you’re probably usually the krill.

The New Veterans – PTSD, massage, tattoos, and what is healing, exactly?

The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis – I couldn’t decide what I thought of this one.  It is either about bullying or children who can turn into other things. Maybe both. Maybe neither.

The audio version is great, because each story has its own reader, really allowing for the differences in voice and feeling.

List of readers:

Vampires in the Lemon Grove read by Arthur Morey
Reeling for the Empire read by Joy Osmanski
The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979 read by Kaleo Griffith
Proving Up read by Jesse Bernstein (his accent is perfect for this story!)
The Barn at the End of Our Term read by Mark Bramhall
Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules of Antarctic Tailgating read by Michael Bybee
The New Veterans read by Romy Rosemont
The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis read by Robbie Daymond

Posted by Jenny Colvin

The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

SFFaudio Online Audio

Here’s a nice surprise! The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis! The Listener, who runs the ever admirable Free Listens blog, sez this:

Rating: 10/10

I’m absolutely amazed that Ancient Faith was able to get permission from HarperCollins and the Lewis estate to podcast this novel. Hart has a pleasing British accent and the confidence of someone who is comfortable in front of a microphone. She makes a couple of repetition errors, but is otherwise flawless. The recording quality is very good, as is befitting such a professionally produced podcast. The other books in The Chronicles of Narnia series are also available for free through the same website, so head on over to collect all seven books.

And, for my part I’ve HuffDuffed all eight files.

The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe by C.S. LewisThe Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe
By C.S. Lewis; Read by Dr. Chrissi Hart
8 Podcast MP3 Files – Approx. 4.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Ancient Faith Radio / Under The Grapevine
Podcast: March – May 2009
A fantasy novel for children by published in 1950 and set circa 1940. It is the first-published book of The Chronicles of Narnia series and is the best known book of the series. Although it was written and published first, it is second in the series’ internal chronological order, after The Magician’s Nephew.

Podcast feed: http://huffduffer.com/jessewillis/tags/c.s._lewis/rss

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

Character list:
Lucy Pevensie, the youngest Pevensie child
Edmund Pevensie, the third of the Pevensie children.
Susan Pevensie, the second oldest of Pevensie children
Peter Pevensie, the oldest of the Pevensie siblings
Aslan, a lion
The White Witch
Tumnus, a faun
Professor Digory Kirke, takes the Pevensie children in when they are evacuated from London
Mr. Beaver, a friend of Tumnus
Mrs. Beaver, Mr. Beaver’s wife
The Dwarf, the White Witch’s right hand man (hench-dwarf)
Maugrim (aka Fenris Ulf), a wolf
Father Christmas
Mrs. Macready, the housekeeper for Professor Kirke
Giant Rumblebuffin

[via Free Listens!!!!!]

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #072 – READALONG: Assam And Darjeeling by T.M. Camp

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #072 – Jesse and Scott talk with Julie Davis, of the Forgotten Classics podcast about Assam And Darjeeling by T.M. Camp |READ OUR REVIEW|.

Talked about on today’s show:
Assam & Darjeeling by T.M. Camp, Podiobooks.com, iTunes, serialized fiction, entertaining copyright notices, where do you do your podcast listening?, I’ve got my hands full of car, the volume on Assam And Darjeeling is way too low!, remastering Assam And Darjeeling for audiobook, listening to podcasts at double speed (only on iTouch and iPhone), the premise of Assam And Darjeeling, Hades, the underworld, Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle |READ OUR REVIEW|, Escape From Hell by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle , The Divine Comedy: The Inferno by Dante Alighieri, Virgil’s The Aeneid, Ovid, the Brothers Grimm, witches, Greek Mythology, Edgar, no one can be as cruel as a kid, Joss Whedon, in the hands of a skillful author, Matters Of Mortology by T.M. Camp, Kij Johnson‘s The Fox Woman, the Black Gate blog, foxes in mythology, Aesop’s Fable The Fox And The Grapes, Cernunnos, Herne the Hunter, making the switch from comedy to horror and horror to comedy, the Shaggy Man (in the Oz series), Tom Bombadil, he has psychic powers too?, page 18, masterly dialogue put into the mouths of young children, the PDF version of Assam And Darjeeling, What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson, life after death, Inception, Edgar Alan Poe should go into the underworld to get his wife Virginia, The Memory Palace episode about Edgar Allan Poe’s death (Episode 20 strong>This Ungainly Fowl), This American Life is really bleak, WNYC’s Radiolab isn’t, general fiction is generally bleak, A Good Man Is Hard To Find by Flannery O’Connor, Science Fiction vs. general fiction, Social Science Fiction, Science Fiction has a second layer, it’s not all style, The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin, Staggerford by Jon Hassler, there are ways to tell powerful stories, A Man In Full by Tom Wolfe, Bangsian Fantasy, Fantasy, re-reading The Lord Of The Rings, the more I think about it the more I think I don’t like Fantasy, SFSite.com, derivative Fantasy, romance novels, Jane Austen, John Thorne, The Long Walk by Stephen King (Richard Bachman), The Stand, It, Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Under The Dome, Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, long vs. short, The Cell by Stephen King, 28 Days Later, Desperation by Stephen King, The Rapture, if you were a character in this book who would you be?, the rule that makes any book better: talk about food, Lawrence Block, the economy of the afterworld, lampshading, I’m done with sequels, Mike Resnick’s Starship series, Jim Butcher’s Dresden series, The Fall Of Hyperion by Dan Simmons, Make Room, Make Room by Harry Harrison, Soylent Green, Adventures by Mike Resnick, mammoths vs. mastodons, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, The Star Beast by Robert A. Heinlein, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

SFFaudio Review

Here’s a review of The Veldt, story #20 in our 7th Anniversary Review Spree!

The Illustrated Man by Ray BradburyThe Veldt
Contained in The Illustrated Man
By Ray Bradbury; Read by Paul Michael Garcia
8 CDs – 9 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2009
ISBN: 9781433297199
Themes: / Science Fiction / Automated House / Computers / Children / Simulation /

In a house that cost them “thirty thousand dollars installed”, George and Lydia Hadley and their two children lived happily. Their shoes were tied with automatic shoe-tyers, their bacon was automatically fried, and, most importantly, their children were kept entertained. Life was good in their soundproof Happylife(tm) Home. Of course, things go terribly wrong. In the nursery, the kids seem to be spending a lot of time in Africa. With the lions.

The story was published in 1950, and though nobody’s tying my shoes, here in 2010 I can identify strongly with some of what Bradbury says here. At one point, George gets so upset that he decides to shut the house down:

“Lydia, it’s off, and it stays off. And the whole damn house dies as of here and now. The more I see of the mess we’ve put ourselves in, the more it sickens me. We’ve been contemplating our mechanical, electronic navels for too long. My God, how we need a breath of honest air!”

And he marched about the house turning off the voice clocks, the stoves, the heaters, the shoe shiners, the shoe lacers, the body scrubbers and swabbers and massagers, and every other machine he could put his hand to.

The house was full of dead bodies, it seemed. It felt like a mechanical cemetery. So silent. None of the humming hidden energy of machines waiting to function at the tap of a button.

Every so often I experience the same kind of angst and run around shutting things down. Things don’t end up so well for George, though. Maybe I better just leave it all on… and let the kids play with the lions. moohoowahahaha!

I’ve heard this story many many times, but I don’t know that I’ve actually heard an audiobook version before now. They’ve always been radio dramas, and this story has appeared several times: It was a Dimension X episode (1951), an X Minus One episode (1955), and Episode 11 of Bradbury 13. It was also televised as an episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater in the 1980’s.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson