The SFFaudio Podcast #634 – READALONG: A Fall Of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #634 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, Maissa Bessada, Evan Lampe, and Will Emmons talk about A Fall Of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke

Talked about on today’s show:
1961, the worst Arthur C. Clarke thing Jesse has ever read, co-writing, Frederich Pohl, comin back to the well for a load of cash, sequel Rama books, Maissa liked it, it grew on Evan, Childhood’s End, 2001: A Space Odyssey, he’s no Olaf Stapledon, sui generis, he wanted to be Olaf Stapledon, he doesn’t have the same ethos, Doris Lessing, on a more cosmic scale, August Derleth really liked H.P. Lovecraft, they’re not novels, THIS is a novel, the very first reader’s Digest condensed science fiction novel, a very thin volume, break out, be commercial, what’s in everybody’s mind, space race, we’re going to the moon, everybody on this boat is pretty boring, the society is fascinating, his basic conception is wrong, afraid of sinking into dust, just like Saddam Hussein’s WMDS, a construction of our own minds, kinda like a powder, the great sand dunes in Colorado, a giant pile of sand, a weird quirk of weird geology, a 1970s disaster movie, a long disaster movie, the audio drama, took some liberties, how wrong he is about society in the future, post-scarcity future, everybody gets an education, barbaric orphanages, he didn’t have the courage to think through all the implications of this post scarcity society, the pull quote, to keep the system going, not everybody is on board the train, we need all the brainpower we can to keep it going, off the rails, moonbus!, very weak, a tourist in the solar system, sea of dust, interesting world-building, those 90s songs, a book about the media, so interesting, completely wrong, still ahead of us, 2000whatever and 1960s, these people were young in the 1990s, Walter Cronkite, nothing changed, geostationary satellites, he’s just wrong about how media worked in such a spectacular way, the first disaster movie that’s THE DISASTER MOVIE, the western, Airport (1970), Deluge, a giant tidal wave that hits New York, there was a movie adaptation (yes), The Big Bus, a nuclear powered bus, Ned Beatty, Airplane! (1980), Airplane II, a steep decline, set on the moon with a space shuttle, The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure, its the template, probably a lot of dust up there, experiments, where the plot came from, novels are what sell, there’s nothing wrong with the book, its exactly what its supposed to be, Scott Danielson, “I’m ruined for stuff happens books”, that’s most series, most books, yo, the tone of the narrator, gelignite not, WWII era C4, this wasn’t going to work for out people, after the commercial break, totally competent, at his best he’s beautiful, masterful at short stories, Reading, Short And Deep, go about your business, any reaction, a negative reaction, really boring, a combination of it being boring and really didactic, ultimately it was good your ancestors…, has the opinion that Arthur C. Clarke has, shocking, with the voice of an aborigine, we’re all space faring folks now, we’re all white men now, 2017, the Down Under Fan Fund, Captain Cook National Park, how his ancestors were treated, this park doesn’t show the aboriginal POV, he’s got a fucking point, lived this experience, a forceful personality, a new and different point of view, in terms of cancellation, cancelling Clarke, nobody reads his stuff anymore, Jesse finds a beautiful illustration, dealing with a problem on the moon, so many whiny boomers on a bus, a lot of people on that bus, in terms of media, a media book, The Orange And The Apple, Isaac Newtown having sex with some lady, kind of a celebrity, media contacts, brainfarts on CNN, all the bluecheks start tweeting about it, it shoots up on the charts, moonbus at the bottom of the sea, doing an audiobook, those raunchy sex scenes in the king’s house, a great idea, The Martian by Andy Weir is a much better book and much better movie, the swearing quotient, shitty real-life disaster movies, a leak of oil into the Gulf Of Mexico, BP did it, Deepwater Horizon, the junk shot, in the popular consciousness, a phenomenon, fairly accurate except its not as cynically corrupt as it is in reality, much more cynical and modern, the Walter Cronkite era was probably more corrupt than many people know, in particular now, wars get started over this stuff, the whole Spanish–American War, the occupation of the Philippines 1895-1949?, Clark Ashton Smith, colony, a nice cute disaster, the puppy fell down the well stories, way to long, stuff happens, they’re making their own culture, the playing cards, filler, Heinlein engineer story, a rescue story, realistic, realism, disaster porn, why Airplane! works so well, his WWII fear, the whole commodore captain thing, him becoming a man, choosing to settle down, the sexual politics, the sex scene, the pill, it’s coming, miniskirts!, everybody’s still repressed, a weird line, Saturday Night Theatre, she doesn’t want to take the sleeping drug, you’ll take advantage of her, me neither, why is that funny?, why is that supposed to be funny?, they’re all boomers so it doesn’t matter, the stewardess, she’s jealous, him saying I’ll never have sex with you, take advantage of means “rape”, how could you think I could do that, the intended, that line from Churchill, “If you were my husband I’d poison you tea. Madam, if you were wife I’d drink it.”, a cultural change, he can’t anticipate, writing for a 1960s audience, not very science fictiony, the science fiction elements are hard SF, that’s all true I just don’t care, the Mountains of Inaccessibility, as a social SF book its both good and bad, as a hard SF book its interesting, very popcorn, how common space travel, divert a rocket casually, High Frontier, interesting stuff outside of this room at the bottom of the sea, how much stuff happens, why it was successful, Monica Hughes’ Crisis On Conshelf Ten, a Heinlein juvenile, sorry kid we’re living here now, go swim with your friends, Red Planet except on the moon, Nancy Drew on the Moon, The Deep Range, Earthdark aka “Crisis on Conshelf Ten 2”, Ian McDonald, the Luna series, corporate intrigue, tensions, Heinlein’s moon book, The Menace From Earth, Kepler Masterman, his girlfriend’s father had disappeared, kids on the moon solving mysteries, the Moon from the 1970s, 1890s moon, no boomers in buses, 2053, 2023, Keith David should narrate The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Thing (1982), Greenleaf, They Live (1988), if the laws don’t change, Biden’s gonna try and fuck up our copyright laws, might be all Paul’s job, great content, real grown up stuff, entertaining the boomers, reading the condensed books, just a bunch of rich people, not everybody can go to the Moon, miner’s stuck in a coal mine need entertainment, tryin’ to make some cash, he’s English so, two other bus people for stuff happens, the fraudster, credit card fraud, gold card or black card, the UFO guy, he’s Will on the bus, UFO talk, rightly so, Joe Rogan, NASA, the lid’s off, the tic tac, its not a fuckn alien, rightly dismissing, he poison’s the well, not in tears and muted, snake oil salesmen, one of Will’s mutuals, a story about a relative who is into UFO stuff, Ancient Aliens, a picture of his penis, taking advantage of something very real, its spiritual, there are conspiracies, the word now means alien spaceship, people conflate the two, center of attention, he shows this guy , that whole conversation is sunk, a detective also on the bus, on his own merits, not a post-scarcity satellite, too sympathetic to prosecute, ex-drug addict, a whole plane load of people that’s supposed to represent society, there’s no children (until the very end), moon babies, calm down get ahold of yourself, a nun with a baseball bat, 100% mockable, a parody book (just make it shorter), a good audio drama, READER’S DIGEST CONDENSED BOOKS people aren’t idiots?, I don’t want anyone abridging my Mark Twain, much punchier, a condensation, 347 – 404, 50 pages, Earthlight, Ray Bradbury, farming whales, a generation ship, not much of a plot, Apollo 15, a specific homage to Skylark III, Stanley G. Weinbaum’s The Red Peri, set on Pluto, its going to be short.

A Fall Of Moondust READER'S DIGEST

A Fall Of Moondust READER'S DIGEST

A Fall Of Moondust READER'S DIGEST

A Fall Of Moondust READER'S DIGEST

A Fall Of Moondust READER'S DIGEST

A Fall Of Moondust READER'S DIGEST

A Fall Of Moondust READER'S DIGEST

A Fall Of Moondust READER'S DIGEST

Posted by Jesse WillisBecome a Patron!

Review of Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

SFFaudio Review

Seveneves by Neal StephensonSeveneves  
By Neal Stephenson; Read by Mary Robinette Kowal and Will Damron
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 19 May 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 31 hours 55 minutes

Themes: / science fiction / apocalypse / space station / humanity / disaster /

Publisher summary:

What would happen if the world were ending?

A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.

But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain….

Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown…to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.

Executive Summary: Another interesting book from Mr. Stephenson, that was somehow a bit too short for me despite its 32 hour duration. This one won’t be for everyone, but I’d put it on par with many of his previous books.

Audio book: This was my first time listening to a book narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal. She’s really excellent. So excellent, that I was pretty disappointed when it changed to Will Damron for Part 3. I’m not sure why they did this. Was Ms. Kowal too busy to finish recording? Was it intentional?

That isn’t to say Mr. Damron is a bad narrator. I just didn’t like him as much as Ms. Kowal, and the change in narration was jarring. If there was any place in the book it was appropriate to change, it was with Part 3, but I think it would have been better suited if they had just stuck with Ms. Kowal.

Full Review
I’ve been a fan of Mr. Stephenson ever since picking up Snow Crash back in college. I haven’t read all of his books, but I’ve enjoyed all but one of those that I have.

I had no idea what this book was about when I volunteered to review it. Much like most of his work, it’s long. The start is a bit slow, and as usual it goes off on tangents and into way more detail than is necessary on things. In some of his books, I’ve enjoyed those tangents and the excess of detail. In others, less so. This one was somewhere in the middle for me.

This is the kind of thing that will turn many readers away early on. I was never bored myself, but I wasn’t really engaged in the book until nearly halfway. In a book this long, that will be too much of a commitment for many. However, I suspect if you enjoy the detail and tangents, you’ll be engaged much sooner.

This book is split into three parts. The first part is essentially a present day disaster story. The second is largely a space opera, and the third is a bit of a post apocalyptic tale.

Many authors might have focused on one aspect of this story. Instead of giving us bits of history that help shaped the world of part 3, we live many of the details in parts 1 and 2. For me personally, I would have liked part 1 to be shorter with more time spent on part 3. Part 2 was my favorite of the book, but that may be because I felt despite being a third of the book, part 3 ended too soon.

I have questions still. A lot of them. Is Mr. Stephenson planning a sequel that will contain some of these answers? I hope so.

This isn’t a case of a long book that abruptly ends though. For me the issue is that Mr. Stephenson did such a good job with the world building that I want more. I felt like there wasn’t enough. I would have happily sacrificed much of the present day (which I found slower anyways), for more time in the future story with the world he created.

Mr. Stephenson doesn’t spend all the time on world building either. He develops several interesting characters that are used to make most of the story character-driven. We have a largely female cast, and somewhat diverse background for most of them.

Overall, while this isn’t my favorite Neal Stephenson book, I really enjoyed it, and I hope we get another book set in the same world that he built in part 3.

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of Plague Year by Jeff Carlson

SFFaudio Review

Plague YearPlague Year (Plague #1)
By Jeff Carlson; Performed by Jeffrey Kafer
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 9 hours
Themes: / plague / disaster / nanotechnology / survivalists /

The nanotechnology was designed to fight cancer. Instead, it evolved into the machine plague, killing nearly five billion people and changing life on Earth forever.The nanotech has one weakness: it self-destructs at altitudes above ten thousand feet. Those few who’ve managed to escape the plague struggle to stay alive on the highest mountains, but time is running out. There is famine and war, and the environment is crashing worldwide. Humanity’s last hope lies with a top nanotech researcher aboard the International Space Station—and with a small group of survivors in California who risk a daring journey below the death line.

The first half of Plague Year grabbed my attention thoroughly. The plight of scattered survivors, barely eking out an existence on mountaintops after a plague has wiped out 99% of human civilization, fascinated me. Carlson described material and psychological conditions with great clarity.

It was also a very disturbing, sometimes horrific first half of a book. The first line welcomes us to cannibalism, and we move on to a variety of privations, torments, and deaths. Shifting perspective from a California mountaintop to a clutch of astronauts in orbit only heightened the sense of agony. This is no cozy catastrophe.

The setting alone would have been compelling, but Carlson adds hefty plot drivers to haul us along with even greater assurance. Our peak survivors learn of another group, and have to work out how to respond. The astronauts might be able to solve the plague, if only they could descend. And one survivor seems to know an awful lot about the end of the world.

The second half advances these plots, yes, and knits them together. But then Plague Year becomes a different book. Things shade from horror into action, from survival to small unit tactics. A political plot arises, but never really receives its due. And then we have a series of gunfights, standoffs, and problem-solving scenes which end up far too optimistically for what I expected. I did enjoy the expansion of the science plot, verging into hard science. But I missed the initial horror, and even the ongoing torment of one character, Sawyer the nano co-instigator, didn’t slake my awful appetite. Heck, I like playing The Long Dark for pleasure.

I listened to this book instead of reading it, and commend the reading by Jeffrey Kafer. He read the novel with mordant intensity, a splendid voice for bitter action. I’d be happy to hear Kafer read noir fiction or, well, anything bleak.

So I recommend listening to this, if possible. If your tastes are as Grand Guignol as mine, focus on the first half. If you are gentler than I, dear reader, rest assured that things do get better.

Posted by Bryan A.

Review of Metro 2033

SFFaudio Review

metroMetro 2033
By Dmitry Glukhovsky; Performed by Rupert Degas
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 19 November 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 21 hours

Themes: / disaster / nuclear / post-apocalypse / underground tunnels / survival /

Publisher summary:

The year is 2033. The world has been reduced to rubble. Humanity is nearly extinct and the half-destroyed cities have become uninhabitable through radiation. Beyond their boundaries, they say, lie endless burned-out deserts and the remains of splintered forests. Survivors still remember the past greatness of humankind, but the last remains of civilisation have already become a distant memory. Man has handed over stewardship of the Earth to new life-forms. Mutated by radiation, they are better adapted to the new world. A few score thousand survivors live on, not knowing whether they are the only ones left on Earth, living in the Moscow Metro—the biggest air-raid shelter ever built. Stations have become mini-statelets, their people uniting around ideas, religions, water-filters, or the need to repulse enemy incursion. VDNKh is the northernmost inhabited station on its line, one of the Metro’s best stations and secure. But a new and terrible threat has appeared. Artyom, a young man living in VDNKh, is given the task of penetrating to the heart of the Metro to alert everyone to the danger and to get help. He holds the future of his station in his hands, the whole Metro—and maybe the whole of humanity.

Without question, I would recommend this book. I strongly suggest you listen to the audiobook. You might feel a little bummed at the end, but the writing is strong enough to support its fumbled conclusion.

Dmitry Glukhovsky’s Metro 2033, book 1 in the Metro Series, offers an interesting take on the travel/road narrative. Draw your own academic conclusions, but for the most part, humans yet blindly stumble in the dark, face self-inflicted nuclear/biological disaster, and unseen things are hungry. But worry not; man yet possesses fire, fear, weapons, and hatred. What we do not possess appears to be an accurate map, foresight, or the ability to think outside our own skull.

I reveled in the atmosphere. A bunch of people crammed into underground tunnels, forced to keep watch by firelight, eating mushrooms, pork, and rodents, became nearly a corporeal experience. Different metro stations setting up their own community, the need for passports for those wishing to travel between stations, and the various creation/destruction myths surrounding each group, delivers a strong sense of fractured and desperate realism.

The story is okay, but for me, the writing is what shined brightest. The only character I felt remotely invested with was a man named Hunter. The other players in this tale, while multifaceted to a degree, lacked a depth and drive that I feel is paramount for memorable characters worth investing in. I loved the library excursion. So good! Really wished there’d been more story in this setting. The scene with the librarian playing with the flashlight was surprisingly moving.

As the narrator, Rupert Degas is amazing. His rhythm and talents for infusing mood into speech takes flight in this reading. I can’t speak for the accent accuracy, but I can tell you that Degas’s delivery drew me in and made me feel the darkness.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

Out Of The Storm by William Hope Hodgson

SFFaudio Online Audio

Out Of The Storm by William Hope Hodgson

Here’s a terrific unabridged ten minute short story that’s the subject of an upcoming podcast. It was first published in Putnam’s Monthly, February 1909. Never before audiobooked, it is a William Hope Hodgson gem, a sketch that allows for two different readings (naturalistic and supernaturalistic – and both horrific).

Out Of The Storm is read for us by Brian Murphy.

|MP3|

And here’s a |PDF| version.

Posted by Jesse Willis

X Minus One: A Pail Of Air based on the short story by Fritz Leiber

SFFaudio Online Audio

Here’s an adaptation of a science filled Science Fiction story (about climate change) that I’ve posted about previously – I’m quite fond of it. Check out the wonderful original magazine illustrations to go with it!

X-Minus OneA Pail Of Air
Based on the short story by Fritz Leiber; Adapted by George Lefferts; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 30 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: NBC
Broadcast: March 28, 1956
Provider: Internet Archive
|ETEXT|
The dark star passed, bringing with it eternal night and turning history into incredible myth in a single generation! First published in the December 1951 issue of Galaxy magazine.

Illustrations by Ed Alexander:

A Pail Of Air by illustrated by Ed Alexander

A Pail Of Air by illustrated by Ed Alexander

Posted by Jesse Willis