The Penguin Podcast, the new podcasting arm of …

The Penguin Podcast, the new podcasting arm of Penguin Books UK and has decided to give a Christmas gift to everyone! They’ve started posting Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the unabridged audiobook as podiobook-like podcast instalments! The first of five episodes presenting the classic Christmas ghost story starts today. They will only be available until January 3rd 2005 so start grabbing it now for FREE now!

A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story Of Christmas
By Charles Dickens; Read by Geoffrey Palmer
5 MP3s – Approx. 3 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: The Penguin Podcast
Podcast: Dec 15th 2005 to January 3rd 2006
Themes: / Fantasy / Christmas / Ghosts / Victorian /

Ebenezer Scrooge, whose name is now synonymous with greed and parsimony, believes Christmas to be ‘humbug’. Refusing to donate any of his fortune to the poor, he comforts himself by saying, ‘I don’t make merry myself at Christmas, and I can’t afford to make idle people merry.’ But then the ghost of his old partner, Jacob Marley, returns from the grave to haunt him. Dragging a long and heavy chain, representing his many sins, Marley sends down the three spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future to warn Scrooge against a similar fate…

Jesse Willis

Review of Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

Fantasy Audiobooks - Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. TolkienLetters From Father Christmas
By J. R. R. Tolkien; Read by Sir Derek Jacobi, John Moffat and Christian Rodska
2 cassettes – 120 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio
Published: 2000
ISBN: 0618087842
Themes: / Fantasy / Christmas /

“Can you imagine writing to Father Christmas and actually getting a reply? For over twenty years, the children of J.R.R. Tolkien received letters from the North Pole – from Father Christmas himself! They told wonderful stories, of mischief and disaster, adventures and battles. Now, for the first time, these letters are brought to life on tape.”

While most of Tolkien’s work was published to great acclaim by ‘Tolkien the fantasy author’ or even ‘Tolkien professor of linguistics’, Letters From Father Christmas was never intended for publication at all, it was simply a collection of letters written over a twenty year period by ‘Tolkien the father’ to his own children. This makes it all the more special. There is no refinement of theme, or distinguishment of plot. Only the fanciful adventures of Father Christmas (that’s Santa Claus for most people) and the other residents of the North Pole. Sir Derek Jacobi along with John Moffat and Christian Rodska read the letters by performing in the voices of the letter writers. Accented with jingling bells in between letters. This is a skillfully adapted audiobook that transmutes the words of the original letters into audio gold. Unfortunately the letters also had wonderful colour illustrations referred to in the letters themselves. I’ve seen them – they were drawn and coloured by Tolkien himself, beautiful and funny images that can’t be adapted to audio. This is a case where the paperbook actually has something over a perfect audiobook translation of a paperbook. Harper Audio should have included a companion insert or something. But for those who already own a copy Letters From Father Christmas makes for perfect listening on the days leading up to Christmas!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Best Christmas Ever by James Patrick Kelly

Science Fiction Audiobook - The Best Christmas Ever by James Patrick KellyThe Best Christmas Ever
By James Patrick Kelly; Read by James Patrick Kelly
FREE MP3 DOWNLOAD – 38 minutes, 19 secs [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: James Patrick Kelly
Published: 2005
Themes: / Science Fiction / Christmas / Nostalgia /

Albert Paul Hopkins was the last man. The biops were determined to see to his every need. It had only been eight months since the last Christmas so it was definitely time for another one, the man needed another one. And if this wasn’t the best Christmas ever it might be his last!

This is the first James Patrick Kelly short story MP3 available through Fictionwise, but it was actually available along with several other short stories on James Patrick Kelly’s own FREE READS website back in 2004. First published on SciFiction, the online fiction wing of the sci-fi channel, The Best Christmas Ever has been nominated for a 2004 Hugo in the best short story category. As the story progresses facts about what has happened to the world start to slip out, and it seems that something has made mankind all but exitnct. In its place are creatures called “biops” which are able to morph into any living thing. This is a very pogniant tale of a man who duitfully continues to exist when he clearly doesn’t want to and how his continued existence effects those around him. You might think of it as a James Patrick Kelly version of I Am Legend. Kelly is great at incorporating narrative information into his plots and his reading is as always excellent. There are a couple time he stumbles over a word or two and I could here pages turning but none of that really harms the production. Available for FREE on the Fictionwise site and JPK’s FREE READS site. It’s like an early Christmas present, now go unwrap it!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Fruitcake Theory By James Patrick Kelly

Fruitcake Theory by James Patrick KellyFruitcake Theory
By James Patrick Kelly; Read by James Patrick Kelly
FREE MP3 DOWNLOAD (link to jimkelly.net) – 30 Minutes (14.33 MB) [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: www.jimkelly.net
Published: March 2004
Themes: / Science Fiction / Aliens / First Contact / Christmas / Immortality /

“This one hears much of the information of fruitcake.”

Maggie is a tour guide. Her job is to escort an alien that looks like a rooster, and acts as dumb as one, during the yuletide season. The rooster is just one of two kinds of aliens from a bifurcated species visiting Earth. This is a story that posits some very interesting aliens, something Kelly is good at, but the heart of the story is the Christmas theme. It’s a bit silly, but I liked it that way. Told in the first person, Kelly does a great muppetish voice for the alien rooster that creates some great mental images to go along with the description. The reading concludes with a very appropriate Christmas music. It was great!

First published in the December 1998 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, “Fruitcake Theory” and this great recording of it will certainly get you in the mood for Christmas. As with the all the other audio stories of Jim Patrick Kelly’s we’ve reviewed, “Fruitcake Theory” is available for download on Kelly’s website for FREE – you’d have to be as nutty as a fruitcake not to try a deal like that! Kelly only asks that if you enjoyed hearing the tale you consider making a donation to his PayPal account. Donate as little or as much as you like, but seeing as the Christmas spirit is fast approaching be generous.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Soundings by Jeff Green

Review

Audio drama - Soundings by Jeff GreenSoundings
Radio drama by Jeff Green
1 MP3-CD – 7.75 hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
ISBN: 0788763334
Date Published: 1998
Themes: / Science Fiction / Fantasy / Radio drama / Private Investigator / Atlantis / Christmas / Vigilante / Psychiatry / Plague / Sound /

Jeff Green has really created something special here. Included in Soundings are eleven full cast radio dramas. The stories are very good, and the sound? Fantastic. Green really knows how to tell stories in this medium. Sound is used to excellent effect – it is not there to enhance the story in many cases, it is a vital part of the story itself. In “Somebody Talking To You”, voices heard through the media have effects on people. The sound of those voices stays with me. In “Spaxterback”, a computer creates an image of a person known only through the machine’s memory of past media (comic books, television, etc.). The conversations between computer and Spaxter sound both powerful and intimate. In “Vigilante”, a TV obsessed psychic kills people he’s sees on the news – the sound of him flipping through the channels in search of a victim is disturbing indeed. And in “Flash”, the sound of the characters being shown visions of what might be past lives is mesmerizing.

I enjoyed the stories as well. “Plague”, the story of the survivors of a plague that forces them to live under domes, was a particularly excellent example, though I would have preferred less exposition in the form of news stories (though they were riveting) and a longer drama to tell the story instead. I enjoyed “Spaxterback” which I mentioned earlier, for its dialogue between creator and created. “Psychotherapy” was a twisted pretzel of a horror story made even more enjoyable if you are a fan of Edgar Allen Poe. “Xmas is Coming to the District of Drudge” is an atypical Christmas story that reminds us all to live a little.

The actors did a great job at keeping everything believable, and the music was first-rate. This is some fine storytelling. I really enjoyed it.

Check out Jeff Green’s Stranger Media website for a rich multimedia experience.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson