Review of Super Pal and Jewels of the 11th Generation

SFFaudio Review

Great Northern Audio - Super PalThe Saving of the World: Super Pal (Includes Jewels of the 11th Generation)
By Great Northern Audio Theatre; Performed by a FULL CAST
1 CD – Approx. 70 minutes [LIVE AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Great Northern Audio
Published: 2005/2006
Themes: / Fantasy / Comedy / Superheroes / Meteors / Jewels / Space Travel / Children / Squeak Toys / Computers

A comet is heading towards Big City, but is it a job for Super Pal?

Great Northern Audio brings you the tale of the blue-glowing superhero, as told from those closest to him. The nurse who helped birth him, the girlfriend who likes the cape (nudge-nudge), his best friend growing up, even the crooks he brought down.

Meanwhile, the comet comes closer, and Super Pal is nowhere to be found. The mayor begins to look at other superheroes, but no help is available. One kinked their back while lugging an oil rig across the desert, and another is expecting a baby and is on light duty. You know, bank robbers.

What to do? Well, Super Pal does have a weakness for cats in trees….

The CD also includes The Jewels of the 11th Generation, a story of two zany treasure-hunters looking for the ultimate treasure. They certainly find more than that! Children, pirates- and… squeak toys? But where are the jewels? This is also a lot of fun and well-written. Mix that with excellent acting, including the talents of David Ossman of Firesign Theatre, and you know exactly why I enjoyed it so much.

These performances were a lot of fun. I loved the documentary-style interviews in telling the tale of Super Pal, and the jokes in Jewels made me laugh out loud a couple of times! Very witty, and hearing the audience respond now and then in the background really made it all the more enjoyable. For a live performance, it has a better sound than a lot of in-studio performances. A very enjoyable hour!

Both SuperPal and Jewels of the 11th Generation were part of live Great Northern Audio performances in 2005 and 2006. Definitely worth going over to Great Northern’s website and getting a copy today!

SFFaudio Challenge MET with an unabridged reading of Badge Of Infamy by Lester Del Rey!

SFFaudio Online Audio

Meta SFFaudio - SFFaudio Contest - Make audiobook win an audiobookPodiobooks.com has just posted the now completed audiobook of Badge Of Infamy by Lester Del Rey. This means that this reading by Steven H. Wilson of Prometheus Radio Theatre is our 2nd place winner in our FIRST “Make and Audiobook, Win An Audiobook Challenge.” Steven will be contacted by email and asked which of the remaining two incentive prizes he’d liked delivered to him by mail.

In a related matter, looking over at the forums on LibriVox I note that The Cosmic Computer by H. Beam Piper also appears to be aiming at a release in the very near future!

Steven has also informed me that Badge Of Infamy will also be uploaded to LibriVox sometime in the near future. And perhaps most exciting of all Steven writes:

“I also have some more good news on the public domain SF front: Four of my cast — Marty Gear, Cindy Woods, June Swords and Paul Balze — have all stated their intent to record an audio book for Prometheus to release in the coming year. You and I know that this is easier said than done, but I’m thrilled that there’s so much interest in my group alone, and we do have a record for finishing projects, albeit slowly sometimes. So I’m hoping to have a modest increase in freely available SF audio on the horizon.”

WOW! Let me be the first to say it then – Marty, Cindy, June, Paul, you folks ROCK!

Steven, congratulations and let me offer you a big thanks from everyone who will be enjoying Badge Of Infamy now and in perpetuity.

Badge Of Infamy
By Lester del Rey; Read by Steven H. Wilson
15 MP3s – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Podiobooks.com
Status: RELEASED (January 14th 2006)

Daniel Feldman was a doctor once. He made the mistake of saving a friend’s life in violation of Medical Lobby rules. Now, he’s a pariah, shunned by all, forbidden to touch another patient. But things are more loose on Mars. There, Doc Feldman is welcomed by the colonists, even as he’s hunted by the authorities. But, when he discovers a Martian plague may soon wipe out humanity on two planets, the authorities begin hunting him for a different reason altogether.

Review of Caedmon’s Science Fiction Soundbook

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Caedmon Science Fiction SoundbookScience Fiction Soundbook
By Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Robert A. Heinlein
Read By Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner
4 hours – 4 Cassettes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Caedmon
Published: 1977
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mars / Edgar Allan Poe / Computers / Mathematics / Sociology / Space Travel /

This out-of-print Caedmon set was a wonderful find (thanks, Esther!) because it contains two cassettes (four stories) that are amongst the earliest science fiction audio I ever heard. The stories are “The Green Hills of Earth” and “Gentlemen, Be Seated” by Robert A. Heinlein, and “There Come Soft Rains” and “Usher II” by Ray Bradbury, all read by Leonard Nimoy. Also included here is “The Psychohistorians” by Isaac Asimov and “Mimsy Are the Borogroves” by Henry Kuttner, both read by William Shatner. The audio was originally published in 1977.

I found Leonard Nimoy’s readings to be excellent. In Bradbury’s “Usher II”, he delivers a passionate speech about the evils of book burning with perfection. In “Gentlemen, Be Seated” and “The Green Hills of Earth” he portrays working class spacemen with complete success.

William Shatner, though, was disappointing. I’ve heard him read some Star Trek titles, and felt his delivery was pretty good, but here, on both cassettes, he reads as if he needs to be across town in fifteen minutes. He zips through the text, sometimes fast enough to affect my comprehension.

The stories are all bona-fide 5-star classics:

“There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury, read by Leonard Nimoy
This famous story is about a house. That’s it, just a house. An automatic, programmed house that keeps running and running… but where are its inhabitants? Bradbury manages to tell a very human tale without any actual people.

“Usher II” by Ray Bradbury, read by Leonard Nimoy
A fantastic story, passionately read, about a man who builds Poe’s House of Usher on Mars. Because of the social climate on Earth, it would be illegal to build such a fantastic structure, because stories of fantasy are simply no longer allowed. If you agree with that policy, this fellow would be happy to show you around, and he does get that opportunity. As I mentioned earlier, a highlight is a speech on censorship that was an obvious precursor to Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

“The Psychohistorians” by Isaac Asimov, read by William Shatner
This is the first novelette in the first book of Asimov’s Foundation trilogy. In it, you meet Hari Seldon and Gaal Dornick in an introduction to some of the key elements of the Foundation story, including the Empire in decline and the mathematics of psychohistory. However, I did have difficulty get into Shatner’s narration.

“The Green Hills of Earth” by Robert A. Heinlein, read by Leonard Nimoy
Rhysling is a Spacer who lost his eyesight in a reactor pile accident. Now, he’s a famous bard, and this is his story. The story is an excellent portrayal of what spaceflight might be like from the working stiff’s point of view, once flight becomes common. At least from the perspective of a science fiction writer in 1948. No NASA engineers here.

“Gentlemen, Be Seated” by Robert A. Heinlein, read by Leonard Nimoy
This story is similar to “Green Hills” in that the characters are working class spacemen. One agrees to take a reporter through some new buildings on the moon (yes, he does get overtime pay for it), but an accident occurs during the tour. Another story from the late 1940’s, which is the part of Heinlein’s long career that I enjoy most.

“Mimsy Were the Borogroves” by Henry Kuttner, read by William Shatner
This story fared better under Shatner’s cadence than did “The Psychohistorians”. I was captured by it within 5 minutes or so of concentrated listening, and Kuttner’s story held my attention even when Shatner didn’t. The story involves some toys that were sent back in time by a far-future scientist with too much time on his hands. The toys are found by some kids, who play with them, and are changed by them. The story plays with the ideas of how people think – how kids think, how adults think, and how it could possibly be different. I found it a well-written and entertaining exploration of these ideas. Great science fiction.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of How to Survive a Robot Uprising by Daniel H. Wilson

Science Audiobook - How To Survive a Robot Uprising by Daniel H. WilsonHow to Survive a Robot Uprising: Tips on Defending Yourself Against the Coming Rebellion
By Daniel H. Wilson; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
1 MP3-CD – 3 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2006
ISBN: 0786177128
Themes: / Science Fiction / Science Fact / Humor / Robots / Computers /

Today, scientists are working hard to bring these artificial creations to life. In Japan, fuzzy little real robots are delivering much appreciated hug therapy to the elderly. Children are frolicking with smiling robot toys. It all seems so innocuous… and yet, how can so many Hollywood scripts be wrong? How could millions of dollars of special effects lead us astray? So take no chances. Arm yourself with expert knowledge for the sake of humanity. Listen to serious advice from real robotics experts. How else will you survive the inevitable future in which robots rebel against their human masters?
— Daniel H. Wilson

If you’ve been sitting up nights, concerned about this dangerous uprising of robots and other computerized gadgets against the human race, then this book is for you. In here, you’ll find tips on how to outrun a two-legged robot and how to survive a high speed chase involving a robot car. The tools you’ll learn to use will allow you to confuse, distract, and escape from all kinds of robots, from “toaster to Terminator”.

Daniel H. Wilson, the author, is a Ph.D. candidate at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. He’s written a fabulous, funny book that is both entertaining and informative. “Every scenario in these pages,” he says, “is either possible or already being realized.” In each section, Wilson describes the current state of a certain type of robotics, then, by describing how a human can defeat the technology, he reveals the limitations.

I loved this audiobook. Stefan Rudnicki did an excellent job capturing the mock-seriousness of the subject matter. How To Survive a Robot Uprising is both a primer on the current state of robotics science, and a hilarious send-up of science fiction involving robot rebellions. Rarely has science fact been mixed with science fiction to providing such an entertaining book. I’m eager to hear it again, and will as soon as I’m done typing.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of ENGLISH 3020 Studies In Narrative: Science Fiction & Fantasy

SFFaudio Review

Science FictionIndependent and Distance Learning – ENGLISH 3020 Studies In Narrative: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Lectures by P.C. Hodgell and Michael Levy
20 MP3 Lectures
LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/Engl3020.htm
Approx 19 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: University Of Minnesota
Published: 2002 (But recorded over several years)
Themes: / Non-Fiction / Science Fiction / Fantasy / Horror / Time Travel / Gothic Horror / Utopias / Dystopias / Religion / Vampires / Urban Fantasy / High Fantasy / Sword and Sorcery / Cyberpunk / Messiah / Apocalypse / Future War / Supermen / Robots / Feminism / Computers / Robots / Androids / Cyborgs / Dungeons & Dragons / Aliens /

Pat Hodgell and Mike Levy discuss the details of SF&F’s history in under 20 hours – no mean feat. Though in amongst the broad academic strokes there are many nice discussions listeners should note. These are academic university lectures, and not an entertainment talk show so the evidentiary schema is the primary focus.

The lectures are vaguely sequential to the history of science fiction and fantasy. The first lectures by Levy discusses the origins of Science Fiction, tackling the progenitive triumverate of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, H.G.Wells, and Jules Verne. The second lecture explores the early and mid twentieth century figures in the field: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Hugo Gernsback, John W. Campbell, Robert A. Heinlein. For the third and fourth lectures Fantasy author Pat Hodgell and the course’s instructor presents the origins of modern Fantasy from its roots in gothic novels and romanticism and then the various 19th century fantastic writings.

Levy’s turn on the fifth lecture covers the early Utopian and Dystopian stories with particular attention to the novels We, 1984 and Brave New World. His insightful commentary continues into the sixth lecture and covers post World War II SF with Astounding Vs. Galaxy Science Fiction Magazines, and the novels Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants, Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano and John Brunner’s Shockwave Rider. For lectures seven and eight Hodgell investigates English Fantasy authors Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Handing off to Levy again for lectures nine and ten covering the general theme of Religion and the specific themes of Messiah and Apocalypse with the novel examples of James Blish’s A Case Of Conscience, Walter M. Miller Jr.’s A Canticle For Leibowitz, Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End and Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger In A Strange Land.

Lecture eleven covers the theme of evolutionary Supermen – homo superior in his early fictional incarnations and where the strange motivation to write about them comes from. Lecture twelve is similar to eleven except its focus is on the manufactured heirs to humanity in the form of Computers, Robots, Androids and Cyborgs. This is also the first lecture to include a guest, SF author William F. Wu! Lectures thirteen and fourteen cover the ever popular Time Travel theme, including Connie Willis’ Firewatch, Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court, Michael Moorcock’s Behold The Man and two of Heinlein’s excellent SF short stories All You Zombies and By His Bootstraps.

Lectures fifteen and sixteen investigate fantasy fiction after Tolkien’s influence covering the various themes of Horror, Vampires, Urban Fantasy, High Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery and the influence of the role playing game Dungeons & Dragons. Among the stories specifically discussed are Fritz Leiber’s Smoke Ghost, Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Earthsea” novels, Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld” novels and Robert E. Howard’s “Conan” stories. Lectures seventeen and eighteen examine women’s role in science fiction, with the themes of Utopias and Feminism, discussion of the novels Venus Plus X by Theodore Sturgeon and The Left Hand Of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, as well as discussion of it’s authors, the likes of Joanna Russ, Ursula K. Le Guin, James Triptree Jr. and Octavia Butler.

Lecture nineteen breaks from the lecturing professor mold with Pat Hodgell doing an interview in the home of Minnesota SF author Gordon R. Dickson. He talks about how he writes, where he gets his ideas (from history dontcha know) and about the writing process – and this is a very valuable interview as Dickson is now deceased. Dickson novels discussed include among others Dorsai! and Soldier Ask Not. Pat Hodgell concludes the lecture series with a roundtable discussion with herself, Levy and SF author Elanor Arnason. Together they talk about Cyberpunk, William Gibson’s Neuromancer and the film Blade Runner, the use of Aliens in SF and some final thoughts about where they thing SF and F is going.

The sound quality of these lectures isn’t great. There are many background noises, people whispering, lecturers too close and too far from the mic, Gordon R. Dickson coughs a bit and various other aural annoyances are legion. But, it was recorded at a good level and I don’t think I missed one word that was above a whisper – these are lectures and they are free so don’t complain! The funny thing is after hearing these lectures I feel a very strange urge… to learn more about Minnesota. I’ve never had that urge before but Pat Hodgell and Mike Levy manage to include so many Minnesota references and connections into their lectures they sold me on the whole ‘10,000 Lakes to Explore’ deal! Hmmm, maybe these lectures are being given away for free because their underwritten by the Minnesota Tourism Bureau? In any case I heartily recommend you give one or some of these lectures a try they are good listening and good edjamacation.

Here’s a breakdown of the lectures::

Lecture 1 – 29 Minutes 6 Seconds – SF FOUNDATIONS
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_1A.MP3)

Lecture 2 – 27 Minutes 8 Seconds – SF FOUNDATIONS
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_1B.MP3)

Lecture 3 – 26 Minutes 46 Seconds – FANTASY
FOUNDATIONS
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_2A.MP3)

Lecture 4 – 27 Minutes 10 Seconds – FANTASY
FOUNDATIONS
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_2B.MP3)

Lecture 5 – 26 Minutes 7 Seconds – THE FUTURE
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_3A.MP3)

Lecture 6 – 26 Minutes 3 Seconds- THE FUTURE
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_3B.MP3)

Lecture 7 – 28 Minutes 2 Seconds- HOBBITS AND INKLINGS
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_4A.MP3)

Lecture 8 – 27 Minutes 9 Seconds- HOBBITS AND INKLINGS
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_4B.MP3)

Lecture 9 – 27 Minutes 18 Seconds- SCIENCE FICTION AND
RELIGION
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_5A.MP3)

Lecture 10 – 26 Minutes 57Seconds – SCIENCE FICTION
AND RELIGION
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_5B.MP3)

Lecture 11 – 27 Minutes 18 Seconds – SUPERMEN
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_6A.MP3)

Lecture 12 – 28 Minutes 11Seconds – ROBOTS, ANDROIDS
AND CYBORGS
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_6B.MP3)

Lecture 13 – 26 Minutes 7 Seconds- TIME TRAVEL
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_7A.MP3)

Lecture 14 – 27 Minutes 11 Seconds – TIME TRAVEL
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_7B.MP3)

Lecture 15 – 28 Minutes 2 Seconds – MODERN FANTASY AND
HORROR
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_8A.MP3)

Lecture 16 – 43 Minutes 47 Seconds – MODERN FANTASY
AFTER TOLKIEN
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_8B.MP3)

Lecture 17 – 27 Minutes 30 Seconds -WOMEN IN SCIENCE
FICTION
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_9A.MP3)

Lecture 18 – 27 Minutes 57 Seconds -WOMEN IN SCIENCE
FICTION
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_9B.MP3)

Lecture 19 – 44 Minutes 16 Seconds – AN INTERVIEW WITH
GORDON R. DICKSON
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_10A.MP3)

Lecture 20 – 43 Minutes 46 Seconds – CYBERPUNK AND
ALIENS
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_10B.MP3)

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Death Match By Lincoln Child

SFF Audio Review

Death Match by Lincoln ChildDeath Match
By Lincoln Child; Read by Barrett Whitener
10 Cassettes – Approx 15 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2004
ISBN: 0786128119
Themes: / Science Fiction / Technothriller / Mystery / Computers / Artificial Intelligence / Love /

What was it, exactly, she found so intimidating about the Thorpes? The fact they didn’t seem to need her friendship? They were well educated, but Maureen had her own cum laude degree in English. They had lots of money, but so did half the neighborhood. Maybe it was how perfect they seemed together, how ideally suited to each other. It was almost uncanny. That one time they’d come over, Maureen had noticed how they unconsciously held hands; how they frequently completed each other’s sentences; how they’d shared countless glances that, though brief, seemed pregnant with meaning. “Disgustingly happy” was how Maureen’s husband termed them, but Maureen didn’t think it disgusting at all. In fact, she’d found herself feeling envious.

From the title you might guess that Death Match is a novel set in the world of first person shooter computer games, and while that isn’t a bad idea in itself, this one has a premise even more unusual. Frankly, I’m amazed that no one else came up with this tale before now. It is so fundamental a science fiction idea – and so obviously possible in the near future, if not now – that it should have been explored in science fiction long before this. The premise goes something like… “What if you could use advanced computer technology and deep psychological testing to create a computer avatar of your own psyche – and then, using high speed data matching, run millions of pair bonding scenarios with other people’s avatars?” The purpose is to find the perfect match for a REAL life together. Once the two avatars are matched, each person associated with that avatar is given each other’s real life phone number and the knowledge that they are already perfectly matched! But this core idea isn’t on center stage, instead this is a mystery novel that reads like a technothriller in the tradition of Michael Crichton’s recent novels.

Christopher Lash, an ex-FBI forensic psychologist is hired by Eden Incorporated, the worlds premier couple matching service, to solve a mysterious double suicide of one of the company’s customers, the first “supercouple” created by avatar matching. To do the job properly Lash is familiarized with Eden’s patented software, going through the process of avatar creation himself, and then begins his “psychological autopsy” of the couple, which involves investigating what could have caused the world’s happiest couple to kill themselves. Just as his investigation gets into full swing – another couple dies! This can only mean that either something is wrong with Eden’s process or someone is murdering the world’s happiest people!

A few years ago I realized that eventually computer technology will solve a big pile of interesting problems. For instance, isn’t it a shame that Sean Connery couldn’t have done all of the James Bond films? Well, with computer technology it will be possible…. current celebrities and dead ones too will someday be reanimated, and recast in new movies. Imagine Humphrey Bogart paired with Harrison Ford for The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre: The Next Generation(hey it might be good). We’re practically ready to do it with their physical images now, the big hurdle is voice mimicry – computer software is still very primitive when it comes to recreating someone’s voice. But mark my words it’ll happen… But I’d never thought of Lincoln Child’s use for computer technology, though it’s an obvious one, and certainly one that is starting to be developed. Websites like www.hotornot.com are using both physical images and keywords to match couples. Isn’t it reasonable to assume that the traditional matchmakers of old – and willy-nilly dating (like we have now) are going to be subsumed by computer matches that will find the best possible spouse given our personalities?

The idea of finding that special someone you were always destined to marry is alluring. Myself, Normally I’m someone who believes that the idea of finding your “one and only” is pure fantasy. Just given the sheer numbers of people we’ll never meet during our lifetimes it clearly can’t be that there is only one special someone in the world for everyone. But on the other hand Lincoln Child’s idea here might make that dream a reality. Because, not only does it allow you to select from every person alive, it also runs a lifetime’s worth of lives with each and every possible match in order to find the best match among all good matches. It truly would be heaven, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately we are not given the metaphysical run down on the consequences to this proposition, Lincoln Child’s novel isn’t deep, instead it is merely summer beach reading and ultimately unthoughtful. Myself I’d have much preferred a few fewer plot turns, I figured out whodunit quite early. An idea this good really deserves a truckload of metaphysical explorations: Whatever happened to the idea that marriage is about making an imperfect fit, fit anyway? Now that you mention it what makes people attracted to each other? What is love anyway? And hey, if we can brain map an avatar and run complete life scenarios using artificial intelligence in a computer do we have the right to delete that avatar? If computer programs can run our lives better than we can, what do we do with our time? Yikes! That last one has some truly scary implications.

Now perhaps I’m being to hard on this novel, its has some reasonably interesting discussions about artificial intelligence in it, it all makes sense, there are no leaps of logic and the characters, while a little flat, aren’t altogether unlikable. Child has obviously done some research and the including of such nuggets of detail are good, but I guess I just needed more fire and more thinking. The narrator, Barrett Whitener, does a nice job with the voices, but the essentially humorless nature of the novel doesn’t play to his strengths. Blackstone has used a slight variation on the original hardcover’s cover art, and as plain as it seems, that’s it there pictured above, it is an improvement over the bland layout used in the paper version. This is only Lincoln Child’s second novel written without his writing partner Douglas Preston. Together they wrote the novel The Relic, which was adapted into a decent horror movie of the same name. I can easily see Death Match being made into a TV movie, but honestly I don’t think it’d be one I’d set the VCR to record. Hopefully Child’s third solo novel will concentrate its focus on the science fiction elements rather than the technothriller/mainstream that he went for with this one.

Posted by Jesse Willis