Infinivox New Release – A Dry, Quiet War by Tony Daniel

New Releases

Science Fiction Audiobook - A Dry Quiet War by Tony DanielIt’s been a while since we mentioned Infinivox. Since they produce one of my favorite lines of audiobooks, I’ll take this new release as a chance to talk about them. Infinivox publishes excellent unabridged short science fiction on CD. The story selection and quality of the productions leaves me eager for their next release every time.

This new release is a story called “A Dry, Quiet War” by Tony Daniel. In addition to that, check out Infinivox’s author line-up: Charles Stross, Connie Willis, Stephen Baxter, Greg Egan, George Alec Effinger, Nancy Kress – and that’s just naming a few! Infinivox has great stories, they are very well produced, and are priced just right. You simply can’t go wrong here. Check them out!

I’ve just discovered, better late than never, th…

I’ve just discovered, better late than never, that CBC Radio One‘s Between The Covers program is broadcasting a Connie Willis Christmas story. It airs between December 19th and December 23rd 2005. Details follow…

Miracle
By Connie Willis; Read by Veena Sood
Streaming Audio – Estimated 70 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Broadcaster: CBC Radio One
Broadcast: Dec 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd 2005

An office worker hopes her handsome colleague will finally notice her at the office Christmas party. Willis takes on consumerism, seasonal movies, office celebrations and matchmaking in this whimsical romp through the North American Christmas season.

Fast Forward: Contemporary Science Fiction

SFFaudio Online Audio

I just stumbled across a very nice resource – Fast Forward: Contemporary Science Fiction is a television show based in Arlington, VA. They have interviewed a number of science fiction authors, and they have archives going back to 2003 so you can listen to (or watch – each interview is available in MP3 audio format or compressed video format) at your leisure.

The following interviews are currently available: Orson Scott Card, Lois McMaster Bujold, Connie Willis, Neil Gaiman, Patricia Wrede, Elizabeth Massie, Laura Anne Gilman, Susanna Clarke, Jasper Fforde, China Miéville, Cortney Skinner, Kim Stanley Robinson, Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, Tamora Pierce, Nalo Hopkinson, Jack Williamson, Terry Pratchett, Karl Kofoed, Margaret Weis, Laurell K. Hamilton, Garth Nix, Roger MacBride Allen, Donna Andrews, Catherine Asaro, Robert Jordan, Will Ludwigsen, and Mindy Klasky.

Click here for their archives!

Review of To Say Nothing Of The Dog by Connie Willis

Science Fiction Audiobooks - To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie WillisTo Say Nothing Of The Dog – Or How We Found The Bishop’s Birdstump At Last
By Connie Willis; Read by Steven Crossley
15 cassettes – 21.25 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Published: 2000
ISBN 0788755498
Themes: Science Fiction / Time-travel / Comedy / Romance / Mystery / 19th Century /England / Near Future /

The story involves Coventry Cathedral (old, new and burned down), pen wipers, a breach in the space-time continuum, boating on the Thames, evolution, and bulldogs.
– Connie Willis in a Science Fiction Weekly Interview

For such a stunningly popular Science Fiction author Connie Willis has some very unusual obsessions: Churches, England, a neurotic lead character and cats. But then again if you take away the churches and the England all you’ve got left is Robert A. Heinlein, so don’t complain. Now before I get all reviewing let me first say that the Science Fiction elements in this novel are truly paper thin. The closest we come to real SF meat is the many characters thinking about time travel paradoxes and how to prevent them. The plot resolution, without giving anything away, centers around the reason time travel works the way it does in these Connie Willis time travel books and that revelation felt not just un-science fictiony but also down-right un-scientific. But on the other hand it has a neatly tied up happy ending, and we all need a nice happy ending now and then.

This is the third time travel story set in a near future where an Oxford history don named Dunworthy sends his undergraduates back in time to visit historical English churches. But unlike Fire Watch and Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog is also a romantic comedy and a mystery. Instead of sending his students to WWII London (as in Fire Watch), or Middle Ages England (as in Doomsday Book), Dunworthy sends them to 19th century Oxford for a little R&R, and while they are there would they “mind finding the bishop’s birdstump?” – whatever that is. Now don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoyed this novel, quite a lot in fact! It’s just that Willis is such a very strange writer…. her characters, for example, they think a lot, no strike that. They think way too much. They are always overthinking every possibility of what could go wrong and then thinking it again just for luck, which is truly infuriating. Thankfully, this characteristic is slightly less apparent in this novel than it was in Doomsday Book and this book benefits from that slight reduction. No doubt this was due in part to the first person perspective. Keep writing first person Connie!

The mystery element is also rather weak. Are we really supposed to care what happened to the bishop’s birdstump? We don’t even find out what the damn thing is until about two thirds of the way through the book! What really saves this novel from becoming utterly unlistenable is the author’s attention to light humor and the characters. These are nice people, and the situations they are in are for the most part quite cute. The romantic angle is also sweet, and the text is rife with evidence that Willis really researches the heck out of the settings she writes about. I don’t recall ever laughing out loud, though many sections were quite amusing, or ever being so caught up in the romance that I couldn’t stop listening if I needed to, though I did like the way that all played out – it snuck up on me. What I liked most about To Say Nothing Of The Dog – Or How We Found The Bishop’s Birdstump At Last was the literary references included. There are characters who act like they’re in a P.G. Wodehouse Jeeves and Wooster story, the mystery element is obviously quite Dorothy L. Sayers inspired and Willis even named the novel after the biggest influence, Jerome K. Jerome’s Victorian comic novel Three Men In A Boat – To Say Nothing Of The Dog! Narrator Steven Crossley has the prototypical English accent you associate with Masterpiece Theater and costume drama. He’s called upon to stretch only a little with this one, playing mostly upper and middle class English gentlefolk from the 21st and 19th centuries. Nicely done too. Recorded Books has chosen some neat art for the cover, depicting an hourglass and a bulldog. As usual the packaging is absolutely top notch, you won’t find a more durable or attractive case for an audiobook from another publisher.

So with such a mixed review can I recommend this book? Absolutely I can, for of all Connie Willis’ weirdness, she is as gosh darned friendly and smart as you and me, just maybe a little smarter and definitely a little weirder, and I would never ever hesitate to recommend a novel that can trace its origins back to one line in Robert A. Heinlein’s Have Space Suit, Will Travel. To Say Nothing Of The Dog – Or How We Found The Bishop’s Birdstump At Last is recommended as a tonic for the weary traveler, or just as a lighthearted vacation from Hard SF.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Cibola by Connie Willis

Cibola by Connie WillisCibola
By Connie Willis; Read by Amy Bruce
1 Cassette – 50 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
ISBN: 1884612156
Publisher: Infinivox
Published: 1996
Themes: Fantasy / History / Time Travel

Carla Johnson from the Denver Record was used to covering nuttos such as a time machine inventor who sent people to the future with his washing machine and a psychic dentist who extracted teeth in another plane of reality. Her new assignment was to cover Rosa Turcorillio, the great-granddaughter of Coronado. Rosa claimed to know where the Seven Cities Of Gold were. Coronado trekked through the Southwest looking for the Seven Cities of Cibola in the 1540s, which poked a big hole in Rosa’s story, since any great-granddaughter of his would have to be at least three hundred years old. But before long, Carla sets out to find the Seven Cities of Gold for herself.

This novella is set in Connie Willis’ home turf of Colorado. My first thought on finishing this story was that it was that Infinivox had erred; they placed this tale in their “Great Science Fiction Stories” series and it isn’t science fiction. It’d fit far better into the fantasy category. Overall, I was disappointed, but don’t get me wrong – Connie Willis is a good writer. Her text is clear and her subjects are original. But like her Hugo and Nebula award-winning novel Doomsday Book, Cibola is way too long for the plot. Scenes are drawn out and character’s thoughts and words are often repeated over and over. The good news is that she is an amusing writer. Cibola offers no out-and-out belly laughs, but it did induce a smile or two. Personally I’m very surprised at Connie Willis’ immense and enduring popularity. Even Cibola, one of her less honored stories, was nominated for a Hugo! Willis is a decent yarn-spinner but her work is not that of an exceptional author.

Amy Bruce has a great voice. Her range isn’t tested by this particular tale, but that doesn’t stop her from having some fun with it. Her voicing of the Rosa Turcorillo character deserves special praise. Infinivox has looped in a drum beat in-between several scenes of the story – and this helps keep the pace up and show progression – something this story really needed. This drum addition could have come off sounding cheesy but it works well and helps the story’s repetition not seem so… repetitive. Also nice is the original cover art and the introductory Infinivox music. I really wish this company was still producing new titles – it’s a crying shame they don’t get the attention they deserve.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Doomsday Book by Connie WillisDoomsday Book
By Connie Willis; Read by Jenny Sterlin
18 cassettes – 26.5 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Published: 2000
ISBN: 0788744151
Themes: / Science Fiction / Time-travel / England / Middle Ages / 14th Century / Near Future / Religion /

For Oxford student Kivrin, traveling back to the 14th century is more than the culmination of her studies—it’s the chance for a wonderful adventure. For Dunworthy, her mentor, it is cause for intense worry about the thousands of things that could go wrong. When an accident leaves Kivrin trapped in one of the deadliest eras in human history, the two find themselves in equally gripping—and oddly connected—struggles to survive.

Connie Willis’ The Doomsday Book is a believable time-travel story, which is ridiculous. Time-travel isn’t possible except as fiction, but the time travel in this story immerses the listener enough so that you don’t mind how you got there. Though soft science fiction, this novel relies on solid storytelling without inconsistencies, it also avoids violence and gadgets in favor of verisimilitude and thorough research. The novel follows two threads, one extremely compelling the other far less so. The first and more interesting thread follows our heroine, Kivrin, a historian sent back into the 14th century to get a first hand account of life in a village close to “Oxenford”. What she discovers there is extremely interesting. Willis dispels the ‘back in the good old days’ mentality with a gritty look at a deeply religious society and thoroughly stratified society with freezing peasants. The characterization here is superb; I actually cared what happened to these fictional medieval characters!

The shorter, secondary thread follows the characters in our near future. Unfortunately this part of the story, like the Harry Potter novels, describes a world where most adults are ignorant and need a youngster to save the day. Also here, apparently, time-travel is no big deal. It generally goes on unsupervised in the universities and without government supervision. It seems any time travel that would cause a paradox cannot occur, thus carefully avoiding the bread and butter of typical time-travel adventures. This is not a story so much about the process, the physics or paradoxes inherent in time-travel as much as it is about something else entirely: Disease and the devastating effects it has when it’s rampant and 90% lethal. Sterile modern hospitals are contrasted with the complete ignorance of infections to good effect, demonstrating just how lucky we are! It’s striking to hear how death was an everyday commonplace occurrence, unlike today when a single death is considered a tragedy. Here’s to tragedy.

The narration, by Jenny Sterlin, was very effective; she made the thoughts and words of Kivrin just like being there. Jenny effectively makes good use of the numerous British expressions in the dialogue. The title is a play on the historical ‘Domesday Book,’ which was an attempt to survey England’s land, people and wealth in the Middle Ages. Without spoiling the plot, I’ll tell you this much, it is an apt title.

Without time-travel this would not be a Science Fiction story, but rather a historical piece. Even though there are no spaceships, robots or groundbreaking or new scientific ideas I would recommend this audiobook for its suspense, mystery, and realism. That said, I still wouldn’t classify this Hugo and Nebula award winner in the same class Neuromancer or Dune, but then that’s a hell of a lot to live up to.

The cover art captures the subject matter perfectly, the compact cassette box is of high quality, but the tapes themselves had a continuous hiss. The introduction should have been an afterword since it didn’t have any impact until I re-listened to it after the novel finished. In the introduction Brother John Clinn, an actual historical figure, invites someone to continue his chronicles before his death in his manuscript. The fictional historian Kivrin, in a sense, fulfills his wishes.

Posted by Jesse Willis