The SFFaudio Podcast #488 – READALONG: Dune (Book III of III) by Frank Herbert

August 27, 2018 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #488 – Jesse, Paul, Marissa, Bryan Alexander, and Will talk about Dune: Book III “The Prophet” by Frank Herbert aka the third third of Dune.

Talked about on today’s show:
1965, The Santaroga Barrier, El Santos!, Luke Burrage, the worst part of the book, good stuff in here, amazing, stupendous, and really good, not spectacular, the most spectacular, man to man, a knife fight, the sparkling knife fights of conversation, reading the books for the action, an idea person, heavy on the ideas, the setup, the culmination, splayed out, family atomics, Paul’s analysis, which baby to never see again, it isn’t a Dune problem it’s an every book problem, who wants answers?, Herbert’s answers, it can’t exist without the other two, the only movie we should ever talk about, the scenes, the dialogue is all there, what’s missing, there’s a gun that doesn’t go off, very strange, the gun of Count Fenring, denouement, a friend of an emperor, Fenring vs. Paul, “Count Fenring: A Profile”, within his capabilities, not about Paul, this is Count Fenring’s book, this guy’s the one guy that’s never been in my vision, a lot of promise, what kind of power is it going to be?, the power of invisibility, Kwisatz Haderach, Jesse’s twitter profile, who Jesse modeled himself after, I don’t want that mantle, about the accretion of power, why Dune Messiah is such a fantastic book, private language, they did seduce Feyd, the Imperium beyond the Harkonnens, Russian Czar’s abdication, even if Fenring could defeat and kill Paul it wouldn’t stop anything, tapping into the collective consciousness, a Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Handerson quadrology, no attempt has ever been completed, walking wounded, sterile, a could-have-been, a powerless eunuch, forty or fifty pages where Paul isn’t mentioned, worldbuilding, Leto II, Alia lives, seeing all ends, the surfer on the wave, a lot of smart folks anticipating, the flags, C.H.O.A.M. or U.N., does that mean the bombs don’t hurt?, cover, saves the emperor’s life, a beautiful cruel joke, to reign in Hell, soft and wonderful, straight from the Iliad, too comfortable, from their decadence, a callback to the Trojan War, rest and pay taxes, Ottoman Janissaries, going crazy without a purpose, all the what ifs, suppose Paul dies, kill the rest of the universe, a tyrannical genocide, let’s go conquer the galaxy, destroy the spice, galactic civilization collapses, interstellar society, the best possible outcome, a Boethian decision, Book II, parallel structure, ooh I’m smart, happy birthday, it makes you feel like a supergenius, plans within plans feints within feints, combat to the death, another parallel, Feyd tries to take the Baron’s position, Thufir’s blindside, the Baron is so lovably evil (and competent), make Arrakis great again?, gluttonous lust, the slaveboy with a posion stinger in his thigh, let Feyd think that I saw it myself, actually I’m the smart one, Nefud, you still need me, I’m going to show you still need me, I’m going to remember this, the next scene that we never see, killing his harem, to take his punishment, Alia sting, Stilgar’s challenge for Paul’s leadership, should I cut off my right arm, so well highlighted, a fear-power relationship vs. a love-power relationship, the Baron hates truthsayers, the Bush administration, it could be true that’s good enough, truth means nothing, for the sake of tradition, ride the maker, this idea of history or necessity, bought a Bene Gesserit, you pay for that Amazon Echo dot but Amazon should be paying you, you know my tastes, I’m totally gay, the straight up interpretation, I don’t want them spying on me and manipulating me, on the Kinsey scale, other ways of getting semen, one would be valuable for…, advice, I trust them not, changing the subject, when Thufir has a fight with the Baron, there are things that you don’t need to know, Salusa Secundus, that tiny little fact (that the Baron wanted to turn the Arrakis into a prison planet), you fucked up, Rabban has to be cut off, the whole of the missing years, at least three years, the toddler, to save himself from the emperor, how the sardaukar are created, a spare heir, acting instinctually smartly, a political calculation that saves the Emperor’s life, to tame Thufir Hawat, making all the right chess moves, the Baron’s fate is not as forseeable, Baron Harkonnen did nothing wrong!, shall I dispatch her now Emperor, a victory for her brother, the revenge, kills her own grandfather, justice, this poor Baron, still ends up dead, a brilliance to this, easy to dismiss, everybody here is a monster, you should be afraid of Paul, Gurney gets an Earldom, and every surviving Atredies gets a title, Baronets all over the place, massive reward, this victory, the prophet Mohamed, all the Muslim lands, satrapys, Alexander the Great, Leopold II, plundering Africa, squeezing and squeezing, always a touch of the calculated, not from the heart, wanting everyone loyal, I NEED him, he’s a tool, forget the equipment, we need men now, like in the first book, shortly thereafter, not what the old Atredies would have done, regretting the loss of the equipment, the men vs. the equipment, nicely balanced parallel, the appeal of Paul, one of many many games, a fantastic power fantasy, Slan, the X-Men, Kyle MacLachlan, master of the universe, age 14, Achilles was 17 in the Iliad, cheeks too full for the desert, seductive, quietly undermining, if Aragorn was the main character in The Lord Of The Rings, Voltaire, tend your own garden, Irulan, how cruel Paul is to Irulan, I’m gonna treat her so bad baby!, Irulan plotting to kill Paul, the ultimate internal question, religion and politics in the same cart, the ultimate power fantasy for Paul, this quote is fantastic, treating Herbert as non-fiction, the Amish, that orthodox effort, that moment of peace for Paul and Chani, quiet hypocrisy, “terrible purpose” is repeated 23 times, another change, feeling it, a nice lady who has a little test for a little boy, the heat and pain pile, an iconic scene for all of science fiction, I see the truth of it, explosion of realization in the mental sphere, a drug book, Gaius Helen Mohiam appears like a witch, kind of kind, wench poured my water, her apprentice, you disobeyed your orders, until she shows up here at the end, how is she depicted, this child is an abomination!, is it TP? telepathy?, just like when I was getting consciousness uploaded when I was a girl, is she wrong?, mom shouldn’t do drugs when she is pregnant, making the sacrifice, child genius, leading a regiment at age 3, she’s meant to be the bad guy, we’re supposed to recoil, the coming jihad, only a glimpse, the dark future, this desert power, addicted to oil, solar power, Dune solved, when they go too far, only spice powered, no solar, no wind, cutting-off avenues of caught, Jesse is not Elon Musk’s team, artificial intelligence, AI as a weapon, hippy dippy engineering sociologist anthropology guy, terraforming, this is about O.P.E.C., the Hudson’s Bay Company or the East India Company, his stock in CHOAM is forfeit, brutal indignity, title rich and money poor, the role of oil, Butlerian Jihad as a useful phrase, techlash, jihad is not a word that sells well today, biased data, accentuating inequalities, dreadful flavour, future history, Isaac Asimov’s future history, tinkering back towards that, cast away AIs, the decline of Empire, science as priesthoods, that last Cold War, Giving Up The Gun by Noel Perrin, banning crossbows, giving up nuclear stockpiles, blew their noses off, high technology and its opposite, star spanning starcraft and medieval style politics, how Marissa’s games match her audiobooks, Horizon Zero Dawn, a robot safari, retreating from technology, ruins are computer screens, going back to the Amish, Mennonites, weird policy, no electricity, airpower, blenders running on compressed air, technological policies, what are the ramifications of this technology, landline telephones, cellphone technology, Africa’s wired cellular wallets, digital currency based on cellphone credits, what technology will be useful, Canada’s participation in NORAD, Cheyenne Mountain, WarGames (1983), nukes, we took the missiles but not the nuclear tips, Defense Minister and Prime Minster of Canada, advice on top secret stuff, managing treaties, political cost, being in NORAD, Iceland’s invasion during WWII, you can have your country back, a giant bully south of the border, obey the will of the giant country, John Diefenbaker, John F. Kennedy, what Syria is all about, the White Helmets, no giant surprise, an actual machine out there doing work, get on board or find a path through, the Bomarc Missile Crisis, the joint strike fighter debacle, if you look at the history of Canada in the right way, a positive force, Pierre Eliot Trudeau was paling around with Castro, a true image, Cuban doctors, plot machinations in the book mirroring a reality happening in the nows, mushrooms, more Marissa territory, hanging out with that worm, a coma for three weeks, some trip, time opening up, a sniff of a new drug, Feyd’s knife’s poison is transmuted, “poison” appears 117 times in Dune, chief poisoner, the Russian doping epidemic, bend over comrade, early on in book three, she took the coffee and sipped it, Frank Herbert’s at a rock concert, tripping out on the floor is transmuting, hot and delicious, room service, heaven for Jessica, she had thought of coffee and it had appeared, Tau, the subtle poison of the spice diet, enlightenment, their minds rejected what they could not encompass, more Slan, the guide, guided through the trip, Joe Rogan, taking the arrogance out of it, training, the etymology of psychedelic, psyche = soul/mind, delos = clarity/manifest, no mischaracterization, pattern recognition enhancement, seeming like a truth, the way the birds fly, “truth” is in the book 90 times, “pattern” comes up 48 times, the pre-spice mass, gathering up the magic mushrooms, a convenience, metaphorical, the power to destroy a thing is the power to control it, heavy shit, super-dark, science fiction genre history, partaking in jaspers, not the full-dune effect, amphetamines or coffee, town awareness, telepathy, drugs as a huge theme, stimulants, barefoot in the head, Robert Silverberg, Norman Spinrad, 1980, super-anti drugs, an exponent of coffee, Neuromancer, case is strung out all the time, reflecting what was happening in the culture, his case officer, Armitage implants a drug neutralizer, the ultimate solution for Reagan, The Hellgramite Method, how Keith Moon of The Who died, suicide, how science fiction shifts, innerspace going from biological to cyberspace, dated in interesting ways, the role of gender, Planet Of The Apes (1963), where Paul rides the sandworm, making the models feel realistic and big, the worm as a dragon, the Conqueror Worm by Edgar Allan Poe, much of madness more of sin, coffin worm of a dead world, a man making a steed out of a giant god, Reading, Short And Deep, Strange Exodus, gutted cosmic carcass, primal lust, humanity becomes a parasite, the image of man conquering death, it looks like a shot from Dune, a flea on a dog, the ecology, threatening a chain reaction, destroying all the oil like Saddam Huessein during the first Gulf War, not an atomic model, oil and drugs, Jessica’s power to transmute, a superhero story, Doc Savage stuff, if you’re anxious about your body, why Bryan doesn’t like the Lynch movie, minute operations, a weirding module defense in The Appendix show, that interior way, the women dare not look in that place, a place that women can’t go, the balance of the force, controlling the gender of their babies, controlling ovulation, super-yoga, a superpower, ultradiscipline, she didn’t seem to have an inner life, the women in here have huge inner lives, we spend a ton of time in Jessica’s mind, what’s going on in Paul’s mind, he becomes an enigma, the way Jordan Peterson talks about male and female minds, Jessica is a mom then she’s a reverend mom, Paul you do what’s good for you, is her mind expansion there a reflection, if men don’t have father figures, being raised by mothers alone, mothers want to protect their children, toughening, only giving into one instinct, having been tested, why the kwisatz haderach has to be male, the Y chromosome, how midwives are always women, midwives dudes, are male obstetricians uncool?, a caste based thing, training schools, Gurney even went to some school, the Suk school, training academies, he’s a mentat, who is the emperor’s mentat?, male domains and female domains, women’s roles and men’s roles, anthropological science fiction, traditional societies, strict gender roles, a remix of a medieval society, historical framework, Paul as the white savior, a male who solves a female problem, sexism, too easy, how powerful the role of Jessica is, Chani and Jessica and Alia, the brilliant one, the wise one, here too, there has to be a pattern, a version of Dune with Paula Atredies, Leta who bears a daughter, Grass by Sheri S. Tepper, if one was doing a university course on science fiction, one semester for each of Dune’s three books, an amazingly rich text, he’s the baddie, the subversion, from the fourteen year-old’s point of view, a wonderful adventure that makes you feel smart, over and over, a war book, a drug book, history, the Folio Society edition, Scott Lynch, Dracula, Bram Stoker, non of his other books are Dune level, The Dosadi Experiment, Whipping Star, Herbert is playing games of complexity and depth, Gene Wolfe, mind stretching, Samuel Delaney, a mental workout, an emotional workout, The White Plague, The Children Of Men, emotional destruction, taking story into all kinds of places, 159

The Sandworm Strikes - illustration by Ed J. Hannigan

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

April 19, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - The Ghost Brigades by John ScalziThe Ghost Brigades
By John Scalzi; Read by William Dufris
Audible Download – 10 Hours 28 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Macmillan Audio / Audible.com
Published: March 2008
Themes: / Science Fiction / Military SF / War / Telepathy / Space Travel / Galactic Civilization / Consciousness Uploading / Colonization /

The Ghost Brigades are the Special Forces of the Colonial Defense Forces, elite troops created from the DNA of the dead and turned into the perfect soldiers for the CDF’s toughest operations. They’re young, they’re fast and strong, and they’re totally without normal human qualms. For the universe is a dangerous place for humanity – and it’s about to become far more dangerous. Three races that humans have clashed with before have allied to halt our expansion into space. Their linchpin: the turncoat military scientist Charles Boutin, who knows the CDF’s biggest military secrets. To prevail, the CDF most find out why Boutin did what he did.

The Colonial Defense Forces brass have stumbled upon a device containing a copy of the consciousness of one of their foremost research scientists. In order to find out what he knows they’ll embody him in a genetically modified clone body – and name that being Jared Dirac. But when the transfer happens Dirac doesn’t seem to have the memories he’s supposed to – and so Dirac is enlisted in the Special Forces (AKA the “Ghost Brigades”) only to eventually become involved in a search for his missing progenitor.

The Ghost Brigades is a thoughtful extension of the ideas created in Old Man’s War. I’m of two minds on series books, I understand the appeal – you get more of what you liked – but the drawbacks are usually the exact same thing – you get more of the same and thus fewer new ideas! But, on the other hand you do get more of the same feeling. Scalzi’s writing style is streamlined, efficient and good humored. I really zipped through The Ghost Brigades too, it took the space of three days or so. One thing that lessened my enthusiasm was the perspectival change. In Old Man’s War we follow one character’s first person POV from beginning to end. Whereas in The Ghost Brigades the closest we get to a central character is Jared Dirac, who occupies about three fifths of the POV. The rest is either Jean Sagan (a memorable character from OMW) or various minor characters. Still, there are plenty of interesting curly-cues coming off of the ideas established in OMW. The Gameron’s (a group of purpose built space-faring soldiers) and the various aliens and villains all have interesting things to say. Also welcome are the speculations on the nature of consciousness and memory as well as more on everybody’s favorite piece of future tech – the “BrainPal”! The BrainPal, I am certain, is something Scalzi will be forever remembered for. Beyond the central plot, which involves two BrainPal researchers, one human, one not, there is the classic ‘galactic human empire at constant war’ motif. It’s cool.

During the listening I was reminded of a pen and paper RPG in the space adventures game I made after reading Starship Troopers and The Forever War in the 1980s. The missions the CDF-SF soldiers undertook in The Ghost Brigades could have come from one of the “modules” I made (I was pretty proud of that stuff so think of it as a serious compliment). As the novel progressed I came to like the ideas of The Ghost Brigades more and more, especially those espoused by a traitor to humanity – giving a very noir spin to the common thread connecting the universes of Starship Troopers, The Forever War and Old Man’s War. If you loved Old Man’s War you’ll definitely like The Ghost Brigades.

One of the coolest parts of the book came in a speech about one of the alien species – Scalzi takes the David Brin “uplift” idea and mixes in a little Daniel Dennett – namely Dennet’s brilliant reply to John Searle’s Chinese Room Argument (a thought experiment on artificial intelligence) – to terrificly thoughtful effect. Scalzi’s philosophy degree pays off yet again!

Narrator William Dufris reprises his SFFaudio Essential reading duties with this, the second Scalzi novel to be audiobook’d. Dufris has a secret weapon, he’ll sneak up on you – delivering simple lines in ways you might not have if you picked up in the paperbook and read it aloud for a friend. He’s reading all the words, but he’s performing the characters. His experience in the reading OMW contributes to the continuity of pronunciation and line delivery. I hope Macmillan Audio will consider Dufris when audiobooking some of Scalzi’s non-series novels too.

*And remember folks, after listening to The Ghost Brigades you can pick up the FREE AUDIOBOOK of The Sagan Diary HERE.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Saturn’s Race by Larry Niven and Steve Barnes

May 10, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Audiobook Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Saturn's Game by Larry Niven and Steve BarnesSaturn’s Race
By Larry Niven and Steve Barnes; Read by Scott Brick
10 Cassettes or 12 CDs – 13 Hours 54 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Books On Tape, Inc.
Published: 2000
ISBN: 0736659374 (cassette), 0736671366 (cd)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Artifical Intelligence / Consciousness Uploading / Cyborgs / Politics / Population Control / Life Extension /

Chaz Koto is a citizen of Xanadu, a near future perfect society hosting the wealthiest men and women on Earth. Along with his fellow citizens, he bears the burden of a dark secret that the outside world would be shocked to hear. Lenore Myles is a student who travels to Xanadu and becomes involved with Koto. When Koto unwittingly lends her his access codes, Lenore stumbles upon the grisly truth behind Xanadu’s glittering facade.

The title is deceptive. The planet Saturn plays no role in the plot and nobody in the book is racing anywhere. This is an earth-bound adventure set in the near future. I figured out what the title meant near the end of the book, but the rest of the novel was relatively predictable. For instance, there is a revelation that happens within the first couple of chapters but it was so broadly telegraphed in the first scene the involved character shows up in that I was bored by the revelation rather than surprised by it. Ultimately Saturn’s Race is one of those novels that just fails to gel. There’s a plot, plenty of interesting ideas and a resolution, but frankly the plot is mediocre, the ideas relatively minor, and the resolution comes through only on the most basic level.

For me, the most memorable concept used in Saturn’s Race is that of “metaphors.” Basically Niven and Barnes illustrate that metaphors, like computer languages or a computer graphic interface, are used as handy tools to leverage work. It’s why poetry can say so much with so few words – the words are densely packed, brimming with meaning. It is also why a little pointer dragging a few color pixels across a screen can unmake or move a file in ways far quciker and easier than by command line interface. In other words computer programs are really elaborate metaphors for the manipulation of data. This is brought to life in the novel when a character runs an artifical intelligence program that simulates Rex Stout’s corpulent detective Nero Wolfe. It’s a neat idea. But ultimately the novel didn’t move me as I had hoped it might. Overall, this is passable faire, but I doubt I’d need to listen to it again anytime soon.

The cover art for Saturn’s Race is almost incomprehensible. Is that a seahorse on there? I can’t tell. The paperback version has a painting of two genetically-modified sharks on the cover. That would have been more apropos. Reading the book is the ubiquitous Scott Brick. Scott does his very best to bring energy to the lackadaisical pace. For the most part it works, since the novel doesn’t bore in the listening, though I’m sure I’d have stopped reading were I experiencing the paper edition. Saturn’s Race is still available to be purchased from the Books On Tape website. But who knows how long that will be for? BOT was forced to dump a good chunk of its older science fiction titles when it got purchased by the aptly titled Random House a couple years ago and this fact has made many of its excellent unabridged titles quite valuable on the secondary market. The same loss may happen again soon to the remaining BOT library. I don’t think out of print copies of Saturn’s Race will be selling for thousands any time soon, but if you think you ever might want a copy acting sooner rather than later may save you some money.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

February 21, 2006 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Altered Carbon by Richard K. MorganAltered Carbon
By Richard K. Morgan; Read by Todd McLaren
14 CDs or 2 MP3-CDs – 14 Hours 54 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Published: 2005
ISBN: 1400101379 (Retail CDs), 1400131375 (Library CDs), 1400151376 MP3-CDs
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mystery / Cyberpunk / Immortality / Artificial Intelligence / Galactic Civilization / Conciousness Uploading / Hardboiled Fiction / Noir Fiction /

“Fuelled by every crime noir novel I’d ever read, plus swabs of French and Japanese cinema, the work of William Gibson and M. John Harrison, early Poul Anderson and Bob Shaw, and last but not least the colossal impact of Bladerunner, this was my take on future noir. Fast forward to middle of the new millenium, and down where it counts, nothing has changed, because neither have we. Enter Takeshi Kovacs.”
–Richard K. Morgan

Altered Carbon is a stunning debut novel. A near classic, it boils over with solid SF ideas all encased in violent and vivid prose as told in a hardboiled first person narration. Set a few hundred years in the future, humanity has started colonizing the galaxy under the supervision of the United Nations. From one such world comes Takeshi Kovacs, an ex-U.N. Envoy (interplanetary special forces) who’s been brought to Earth in order to work as a private detective for a murdered “Meth”. Meths are the ultra rich, able to afford new cloned bodies so that they can live forever. This is achieved by means of the “cortical stack” technology, a backup harddrive for one’s mind, implanted in the skull shortly after birth. Most people can’t afford to be “re-sleeved” after they die, and so languish in storage for centuries. Convicted criminals have their bodies sold out from under them.

Interplanetary travel is done by way of “needlecast”, a form of faster than light transmission of data. No bodies are transported – visitors from distant planets are re-sleeved in a local body. With these technologies many of society’s values have changed. “Real death” is rare, “organic damage” is far more common. And even real death, the destruction of a cortical stack, isn’t necessarily the end since the ultra rich keep backups. Needlecast transmission of stack’s data on a regular basis makes one virtually immortal. Like working with any fallible system though you just have to remember to backup, and frequently.

Laurens Bancroft, a centuries old tycoon brought Kovacs to Earth in order to investigate his apparent suicide, something the Meth thinks was really a murder – though he can’t say for sure as he was backed up 48 hours before his death. The investigation leads Kovacs into a tangled web of politics, prostitution and power games with stakes as high as an immortal lifespan can offer. Thrown into the mix is a dirty cop, his driven parter, an artifically intelligent hotel, and a whole lot of bloodshed.

Though at first blush this appears to be a straight out neo-cyberpunk novel, it has more depth. The mystery and hardboiled elements are a direct homage to Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep with Kovacs in the Philip Marlowe role. Like The Big Sleep, Altered Carbon is complicated and hard to follow, with many characters double and triple-crossing each other. SF elements, like the conciousness uploading, are not particularily new, but Morgan’s take is, and it is well integrated into the plot. One scene which has Kovacs “cross-sleeved” into a female body for investigative purposes illustrates just how wild the concept of this kind of mind swapping can be.

There are several lengthy sex scenes and even more combat scenes. I liked the way they were handled (some of the descriptions were positively Gibsonian) but I grew fatigued at their numerousness and frequency. Another problem was the over-use of “neuro chem” as a cure all for crisis situations. UN Envoy training allows envoys to battle harder and smarter than anyone without such training, so whenever things get rough for Takeshi, and they get rough frequently, he falls back on his “neuro chem.” The problem there is it ends up working like an inexaustible turbo boost – he’s too powerful, too skilled for sustained anxiety on the part of the reader. Like Neo in the second and third Matrix movies, we stop caring. On the other hand, the plot twists delightfully defy expectation and are cleverly rendered. The way the story is told is reminiscent of the best kinds of noir fiction. It is as solid a modern science fiction novel that reads better than any first novel has any right to be.

Tantor sent us the Library bound CD edition, which came in a clamshell stlye plastic case. Durable and easily accessed. Sound quality is near flawless with high recording levels. Narrator Todd McLaren is Takeshi Kovacs, and his reading is cool and smooth like the confident interstellar hard-case he’s portraying. There are at least a half dozen female roles he’s equally adroit with, some of which required breathy libidinousness, some irate rage. I look forward to an encore performances in the sequel, Broken Angels.

Incidentally, Tantor Media snapped up all four of the Richard K. Morgan novels released so far, you can check them out HERE along with more than a dozen other Science Fiction and Fantasy titles available so far. Tantor is becoming a solid source for SF&F audio goodness.

Posted by Jesse Willis