Review of Mind Slash Matter by Edward Wellen

Mind Slash Matter
By Edward Wellen; Read by René Auberjonois
2 cassettes – 3 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Durkin Hayes Inc. [Audio Exclusive]
Published: 1995
ISBN: 0886463890
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mystery / Computers / Artificial Intelligence / Hollywood / Disability /

[His mother] should have died then, at that moment, but she lasted five terrible downhill years longer. Doctors were small help, they couldn’t cure or even treat Alzheimer’s. But they could tell him it seemed to run in families. So during those years, in between looking after her and meeting his deadlines, he put his mind to the matter of insuring that he would not end up mindless and helpless. That he would end up in the middle of a slasher case was farthest from his mind

Depending how you look at it, there are either one or two people named Rush Lightbody. The first Rush was an award winning screenwriter, who is respected in Hollywood. The second Rush is in physically the same body, but this Rush has a terrible secret. He suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive and irreversible brain disorder with no known cure. The effects upon him include extreme memory loss, disorientation, and impaired judgment. But he is able to cope because he anticipated it. Rush saw his own mother disabled by this horrendous disease and knowing that it can run in families he wrote a complex computer program to manage his daily activities for him. It can respond to questions and give instructions to the housekeeper. But most importantly it can help Rush with his daily routine; the program does everything from reminding him who he is and what he’s accomplished to telling him where the bathroom is. It can even answer the phone in Rush’s voice! The program provides constant reminders, telling Rush, “P.J. Katz called Rush, he’s your agent.”

P.J. Katz, like everyone else Rush knew has been fooled into thinking Rush is normal, so he’s isn’t reluctant to call with a new writing assignment – the biography of an aging film star. The biography of Iris Cameron will require Rush to physically visit her and his agent and thus to venture outside the bounds of his home and routine. So the computer program gives Rush a pager with a digital display readout and calls a cab. Disoriented and out of sorts Rush somehow manages not to screw up either the meeting with his agent or Iris Cameron, but when he returns home, Rush’s computer has recorded a death threat from an anonymous caller – if Rush doesn’t stop writing the biography of Iris Cameron, he’s a “dead man.” This threat eventually leads to something the first Rush Lightbody, the young man who wrote the computer program, could never have expected – Rush becoming the prime suspect in serial killer murder investigation! Its now up to a dementia suffering screenwriter and a few lines of code in a PC to both keep Rush alive and discover the real killer.

The plot as detailed above may remind you of a combination of Christopher Nolan’s independent film Memento (2000), and Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd. (1950). But while Mind Slash Matter is certainly inspired by the latter, it precedes the former by a good five years. And as a big fan of both those films I am pleased to announce the resemblance in plots is also duplicated in the quality. Mind Slash Matter is one of the most riveting audiobooks I’ve ever heard! Upon finishing it I immediately attempted to track down more audiobooks by Edward Wellen, but unfortunately he wrote only two novels, and only one other story has been recorded as an audiobook – a short story I highly recommend you track down called “Mouthpiece”. But back to Mind Slash Matter, this is suspenseful, unpredictable, thought provoking and even funny novel with a mentally disabled detective solving a murder mystery. And frankly this story amazes me. Wellen has done the impossible. He’s written something completely and undeniably original. Wellen’s portrayal of what it’s like to live with Alzheimer’s disease is insightful and frightening, and his ideas as presented are almost a meditation on the boundaries of the human mind, a recurrent theme in Wellen’s fiction. The sum is a very powerful tale – and an unforgettable audio experience.

René Auberjonois, the reader, will have a familiar voice to many listeners since he played Odo on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. His performance here is excellent, using different voices for each character and particularly able to inject emotion into Rush’s thoughts – fear, anger, frustration, and confusion. For a straight reading – no music, no voice effects – this is perfect. Cover art is a little hard to decipher but is adequate. To top it all off, Mind Slash Matter was, until recently, only available only as an audiobook. Such an amazing story and straight to audio!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Reel Stuff edited by Brian Thomsen and Martin H. Greenberg

The Reel Stuff
Edited by Brian Thomsen and Martin H. Greenberg
Read by Various
6 Cassettes – 9 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
ISBN: 0886465745
Publisher: dhAudio
Published: 2000 [OUT OF PRINT]
Themes: / Science Fiction / Horror / Computers / Memory / Aliens / Urban Legend / Space Travel / Time Travel /

The Reel Stuff is a collection of stories that have been adapted into films. They are all great stories, and this collection has the added attraction of comparing these stories to the films. dhAudio really did a fabulous job with this one. The stories:

Johnny Mnemonic by William Gibson, read by Christopher Graybill
FILM: Johnny Mnemonic (1995)
Johnny Mnemonic was published in 1981, a few years before Gibson’s Hugo and Nebula-award winning Neuromancer hit the scene, illuminating the whole Cyberpunk sub-genre. This story is a clear view of that sub-genre as it has all the elements; human/computer interfaces, plenty of violence, and quick-witted characters. In this story, the title character holds a piece of data in his brain that is wanted by some powerful folks who are willing to do plenty to get it. Christopher Graybill does a great job with it.

Amanda and the Alien by Robert Silverberg, read by Colleen Delany
FILM: Amanda and the Alien (1995 – TV)
This tale, by the great Robert Silverberg, is humourous and sexy. The main character is a ditzy teenage girl named Amanda who takes an alien who can morph into anyone it eats under her wing. Definitely a B-movie kind of story, but purposefully so. Colleen Delany performs well, capturing the Amanda character perfectly.

Mimic by Donald A. Wollheim, read by Terence Aselford
FILM: Mimic (1997)
Mimic is a very short tale that reads almost like a documentary about the peculiar ways in which animals hide from other animals. This is then extrapolated in a very spooky way to humans. Terence Aselford didn’t have a heck of a lot to work with here, but he kept it interesting.

The Forbidden by Clive Barker, read by Vanessa Maroney
FILM: Candyman (1992)
Clive Barker drums up some modern mythology here as a female professor explores urban legend among the lower class in London. The story is effective and chilling in the hands of Vanessa Maroney, who navigates Barker’s weirdness as if it were really happening.

We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick, read by Terence Aselford
FILM: Total Recall (1990)
Terence Aselford gets another chance in this collection, reading this reality-bender by Philip K. Dick. The main character wants to go to Mars in the worst way, but can’t afford it. The solution? Take a virtual vacation! Have memories implanted so you can “have gone” to Mars. But here, things get complicated when the implantee’s supressed memories surface during the procedure. Dick again manages to leave me wondering what the heck is really real – where exactly is the immovable bedrock? Nothing is sacred in Philip K. Dick’s hands.

Nightflyers by George R.R. Martin, read by Christopher Graybill
FILM: Nightflyers (1987)
Martin here spins a science fiction horror story. Think Psycho meets Lost in Space and maybe you’ll have a feel… a group of people ride on a ship that is controlled by a mystery man who never leaves the cockpit. Christopher Graybill again is impressive in his reading.

Air Raid John Varley, read by Nannette Savard
FILM: Millenium (1989)
Nannette Savard reads a very strange, very affecting story about Earth’s future. In it, humans have evolved just a bit, but the Earth’s biosphere has been destroyed, its people diseased. Varley’s descriptions are vivid and graphic – these people are in a bad way. To keep the species going, they go back in time to retrieve healthy airline passengers, mid-flight, since history shows they are on the verge of fiery death. These passengers become humanity’s hope. Varley is a very affecting writer, and through the main character we experience much. Savard does a great job conveying this to the listener.

Sandkings by George R.R. Martin, read by Richard Rohan
FILM: The Outer Limits: Sandkings (1995)
Simon Kress wants a pet, but something interesting… something out of the ordinary. He finds what he’s looking for when he purchases a group or creatures called sandkings which live in a large terrarium with plenty of sand lining the bottom. They build castles and fight battles. They even worship. And they are endlessly fascinating. Well, they were. Perhaps a little prodding from Kress will end the monotony… This one is my favorite of this excellent collection. Sandkings is original and fascinating, both as a character study of a man with too much comfort and as an exploration of an alien animal species.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Snow Crash by Neal StephensonSnow Crash
by Neal Stephenson; Read by Jonathan Davis
12 Cassettes, 18 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Time Warner Audio
Date Published: August 2001
ISBN: 158211137
Themes: / Science Fiction / Computers / Virtual Reality / Religion / Mythology / Cyberpunk /

Snow Crash is one of those rare novels; one of those that stand out, tall and unique, amongst all the novels I’ve read in my life. I know of nothing with which to compare it, but I can say that it ranks amongst my favourite novels. Neal Stephenson impressed me both with his fearless, irreverent tone and with the astonishing range of subjects touched by his characters.

Snow Crash reveals a picture of the not-too-distant future, where the only things the USA is good at are “music, movies, microcode (software), and high-speed pizza delivery.” It’s a world where people spend part of their lives in the Metaverse, a highly developed yet realistic virtual world where they use avatars of their own design to interact with each other. It’s a world divided into burbclaves, or city-states, each with its own identity, laws, and law-enforcement. In stark contrast to this future society, the main character finds himself entangled in a mystery that requires him to explore ancient Sumerian mythology and the roots of biblical religion.

All of this in an extremely fast-paced adventure story. Remarkable. This is an exciting, impressive novel.

For the audio version, Time-Warner selected a first rate reader in Jonathan Davis. I never tired of his effortless inflection changes as different characters spoke — very important in a quick moving story like this one. The production quality was excellent; I found the sounds used to mark breaks in the text to be particularly effective.

And with that, my current list of all-time favorites is complete! See the whole list here!

Review of Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy Volume 1

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy Volume 1Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy Volume 1
By Isaac Asimov, Ben Bova, and Kristine K. Rusch; Read by Arte Johnson
Publisher: Dove Audio, 75 minutes [Unabridged]
Date Published: 1991
ISBN: 0787103543
Themes: Science Fiction / Computers / Circus Performers / Space Travel

Arte Johnson should perform more audio books. I guess I should check to see how many he’s done, but this is the first time I’ve heard him narrate, and I found him excellent. His talent lends much to all three of these stories.

The first is Isaac Asimov’s “Someday”, about two kids and an obsolete computer. Their discussions about what people used to do, like actually write things down, was hilarious.

Second is “The Man Who Hated Gravity” by Ben Bova, about a trapeze artist who falls and spends the rest of his life fighting gravity.

Last, Kristine K. Rusch tells a story of a very special little girl who visits a future hospital in “Story Child”.

Great stories. Dove Audio no longer exists, but their content is owned by Audio Literature, who has made these stories available on Audible.com. You can find it under the name Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy (Unabridged), which includes the other volumes in this series.