Review of Maps In A Mirror: The Short Fiction Of Orson Scott Card

SFFaudio Review

Maps In A Mirror: The Short Fiction Of Orson Scott CardMaps In A Mirror: The Short Fiction Of Orson Scott Card
By Orson Scott Card; Read by Various
4 Cassettes – Approx. 6 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Dove Audio
Published: 1999
ISBN: 0787121770
Themes: / Science Fiction / Fantasy / Crime / Elephants / Music / Art Theory / Utopia / Dystopia / War / Death /

Four cassettes, six hours, eight stories of Orson Scott Card’s polished prose. Included in this collection are some truly crackerjack stories and a couple that aren’t so hot:

The Elephants Of Posnan appeared in English for the first time in this collection. Originally published in Poland for a Polish Science Fiction magazine it is the tale of a human global die-off caused by an infertility crisis. This is something we’ve seen before in Science Fiction to be sure, but the addition of an elephantine theme and a Polish setting makes this one totally unpredictable. Card reads this himself and gives it an interesting introduction too.

Unaccompanied Sonata is perhaps the most fantastic story here. Set in a bizzare dystopia in which the purity of music can only be assured by the ignorance of its makers. This is a world that could have been inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s theory of art – a world in which imitation ensures art to be a failure. I have no idea if OSC had that in mind when he wrote it but it certainly fits. Read with passion by Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

Freeway Games is the least SFFaudio related story in this set. It was first published in Novemeber 1979 in the Gallery magazine which at the time was competing with Playboy for quality short fiction. The original published title was “Hard Driver.” This is basically the story of perverted serial killer who while keeping his hands clean is actually as guilty as sin. It ranks in well alongside Lawrence Block’s late 1970s early 1980s slick magazine tales of demented psychos. Read to perfection by the incomparable Robert Forster.

Lost Boys is interesting in that the main character is someone named Orson Scott Card. My research indicates it is “semi-autobiographical” story, hopefully the fantastic elements are the “semi” part! Stefan Rudnicki, the producer of this audiobook read this tale with a heartfelt flush of sadness. This short story was later expanded into a full length novel which went on to great acclaim.

Quietus, was virtually opaque to me. The plot was something to do with our need to reconcile with death. I am given to understand it incorporates several Mormon themes. The style is surrealistic but even knowing this I couldn’t easily follow it let alone understand its thesis. First published in Omni’s August 1979 issue.

The Best Day was written under the pseudonym Dinah Kirkham. Card’s rumination of the elusive search for happiness. This story fled my brain as soon as it was finished. Read by William Windom.

Fat Farm is perhaps my favorite OSC short story. It isn’t the characters, I hate them. Instead it is the riveting plot that is the star here – this story deals with the philosophy of personal identity in the context of two science fictional technologies: 1. Cloning. 2. Memory uploading. If you can replace your imperfect body with a perfect one and keep on living what would give you pause? OSC’s Fat Farm will do the job. It also compares nicely to Robert J. Sawyer’s Shed Skin. Roddy McDowell’s reading is grumbly, growling and totalitarian. You’ll beleive he is all the characters in this one.

Ender’s Game. The original short story from 1977 shows the sparkling promise that would lead to the unquestionably great novel of the same name. This tale isn’t just an shorter version of the novel, there are a number of differences between the two texts. Reader Michael Gross does a fine job with it.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Answer by Philip Wylie

SFFaudio Audiobook Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - The Answer by Philip WylieThe Answer
By Philip Wylie; Read by Joel Grey
1 Cassette – Approx. 90 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Dove Audio
Published: 1996
ISBN: 0787105139
Themes: / / / / / / /

“What egotism, what stupid vanity, to suppose that a thing could not happen because you could not conceive it!”
– Philip Wylie & Edwin Balmer from When Worlds Collide

This audiobook of The Answer (subtitled A Parable For Our Times), was produced by Stefan Rudnicki. You should care because whenever Rudnicki gets involved with a project you’re pretty much guaranteed of two things: 1. A quality story. 2. A quality production. Rudnicki is himself a talented narrator, he’s been involved with some of the best short story collections on audio, won two big fistfuls of Audie awards and even a Grammy. Most impresive of all he was the mastermind behind the SFFaudio essential audiobook edition of Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card! I was only vaguely familiar with Philip Wylie’s work prior to this novellette, I’d heard his dystopian novel The End Of The Dream and known that he had co-written the novel that became the feature film When Worlds Collide. So I did some research, The Answer was originally published in “The Saturday Evening Post” in 1955, adapted to television the same year and then republished several times in paper-book form since. The story was written in the shadow of the cold war the context for which the unstated question is asked – with that shadow faded the story still has power, but I suspect that it has been somewhat diminished.

Aboard a United States aircraft carrier in the South Pacific a distinguished team of nuclear scientists, politicians, naval and air-force officers await the impending test of an atomic bomb. The test, code named Operation Bugaboo, makes one officer question the very fabric of his belief, or rather his lack thereof. Major General Marcus Scott is an agnostic and skeptic, a veteran of WWII with a long and distinguished career behind him. But after the test is conducted and a single unforseen casualty is reported Scott’s entire worldview is shaken to its foundations. Discovered, as an apparent casualty of the tremendous hydrogen bomb blast is a winged figure, one even his ubelieving eyes can only describe as an angel.

While at first very satisfing on a level of sheer storytelling I noticed upon repeated listening Wylie’s writing scaffolding, the somehat forced structure upon which the story relies for power. For believability’s sake there are really too many coincidences. The scientifically testable circumstances, which are what you are buying when you listening to science fiction – are flushed away into circumstances no easier to swallow than ‘historical’ reports of angels, as the subtitle suggests “a parable for our times?”. Is it really meant to be a parrallel with historical reports of angels? Or is the structure simply in place to give narrative meaning to the story? I don’t know. But no matter how it was made, the story is only going to be offering comforting evidence to a believer, and however well meaning the point of the story, “the answer” of the title is at very best, in my opinion, only a wishful maxim. Flavour me unconvinced while still having been emotionaly involved by the tale.

An added music consists of a pipe organ, woodwind and stringed instruments. These are used to subtly underscore the emotions of the two viewpoints shown. Varied music gives ethereal holiness, timelessness or thoughtful reflection to specific scenes and to underscore others with their absence. Though generally I prefer unaccompanied readings it isn’t overwhelming here. Reader Joel Grey shines, by packing an emotional wallop witout doing much in the way of characterization. He’s able to confer the general mood of frustrated sadness that the story requires given the limited role the characters have. This audiobook is now out of print but you can still get it through Audible.com.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of City of Darkness by Ben Bova

SFFaudio Review

ed. – Here is a fine example of Harlan Ellison as narrator.

City of Darkness by Ben BovaCity of Darkness
By Ben Bova; Read by Harlan Ellison
2 Cassettes – 3 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Dove Audio
Published: 1998
ISBN: 0787117269
Themes: / Science Fiction / City / Gangs / Environment /

This is a story about a teenager who feels New York City calling to him – “live here, live here, whatever it is, it’s here, and nowhere else”. No, this isn’t Fame. In fact, it’s much closer to John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, because Ben Bova’s Manhattan has been covered by a dome, and only opens for tourists in the summer, because of several issues, including the quality of the environment (not fit for people) and the mood of the citizens (you can’t move around in the city without being shot at).

The teenager, Ron Morgan, receives his results on tests that determine his entire future. He scores very well (extremely well), but New York beckons. His father be damned, he sneaks off to get in one last visit before giving his life to the machine. Mayhem ensues, and when the gates close for the summer, Ron finds himself locked on the wrong side. He finds the city sparsely populated by interesting characters, many of whom are young people who have split up in a way that would have made William Golding nod. Gangs rule the day, and Ron finds himself in an extremely difficult spot, with nothing to rely on other than his mechanical aptitude.

This may be my favorite Ben Bova work. He crams many of his recurring themes into this story, but social and environmental concerns rule the day here. His picture of future New York is dismal, and very much an if-this-goes-on warning. The citizens who decide to stay in the city choose to because they don’t see life in mainstream society (i.e., a lifetime in pursuit of dollars) as a better option – another thing Bova makes us consider.

Now, the story is quite good. But, what makes the audiobook great (and it is great) is the way it was read. Harlan Ellison performs the novel, and won an Audie Award for it. Ellison’s style of narration is unique in my experience. He can keep up with the best narrators in the business when it comes to accents and character creation, and then adds a story-telling touch that makes it all the more personal. His emotion isn’t limited to dialogue. He stammers when a character stammers. He’s excited when the action is intense. He is fully present while he’s narrating, and he lets himself feel and convey those feelings without waiting for dialogue to do it. It spills over, right out the earphones, and makes the story much more vivid and intense. This is a superior piece of narration – one that professionals should hear.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of The Greatest Horror Stories of the 20th Century

Horror Audiobooks - The Greatest Horror StoriesThe Greatest Horror Stories Of The 20th Century
Edited by Martin Greenberg; Read by Various Readers
4 Cassettes – Approx. 6 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Dove Audio
Published: 1998
ISBN: 0787117234
Themes: / Horror / Fantasy / Science Fiction / Urban Fantasy / Magic / Curses / Telepathy / Childhood / Demons /

“Featuring some of the masters of the genre, past and present, The Greatest Horror Stories Of The 20th Century are as remarkable for their literary value as for their scream factor. Whether you are a passionate horror lover or a devotee in the making, you will find much to entertain. Listen for screams as ancient and unspeakable evil meets the modern psyche.”

Judicious use of musical cues are the only enhancement to these horror stories. Twelve horrific short stories, to be sure, but are they truly the greatest of the 20th century? Read on, MacDuff….

“The Graveyard Rats” by Henry Kuttner
Read by Michael Gross
A creepy Lovecraftian tale that almost could have been written by H.P. Lovecraft himself. It was first published in Weird Tales’ March 1936 issue. A worthy addition to the list of The Greatest Horror Stories Of The 20th Century list and Michael Gross does a good job with it. And by the way, the R.O.U.S.’s probably don’t really exist.

“Calling Card” by Ramsey Campbell
Read by Juliet Mills
First published in 1982, Ramsey Campbell’s entry in this anthology is more confusing than scary. Juliet Mills is fine but she couldn’t help unravel what we’re supposed to be afraid of. Something about a nice old lady and her mailman delivering a 60-year-old Christmas card?

“Something Had To Be Done” by David Drake
Read by John Aprea
First published in Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine’s February 1975 issue, this is an excellent Vietnam War era is a freakshow of the ‘coming home in a bodybag story’. It combines the friendly fire and frag stories of that war with the accelerating fear of the supernatural – the tension builds until the closing moment – very similar in tone and quality to Robert R. McCammon’s Nightcrawlers. Reader John Aprea does good work with good material!

“The Viaduct” by Brian Lumley
Read by Roger Rees
“The Viaduct” is a Stephen King-ish tale without the supernatural element – two boys make an enemy of another and come to a sticky end. This is the longest tale in the collection, overly long in my estimation. I was amazed how little content this story has, especially for its length, none of the characters are sympathetic and by the end I was almost rooting for them all to be killed- just as long as it was done soon. Ineffectual because of its length and exploitative and I don’t mean that as an insult, it plays, if it plays at all, on fear without telling us anything about ourselves or anything else. On the other hand Roger Rees’ reading was just fine. “The Viaduct” is in my opinion not up to the standards of some of the stories in this collection.

“Smoke Ghost” by Fritz Leiber
Read by Beverly Garland
An early Fritz Leiber yarn, “Smoke Ghost” posits what a ghost from an urban industrial society would be like, as opposed rattling chains, old bed sheets and creaky haunted houses of the pre-industrial age. Frighteningly well written and very well read. First published in Unknown Magazine’s October 1941 issue.

“Passengers” by Robert Silverberg
Read by William Atherton
William Atherton did a very nice reading of this Hugo Award nominated and Nebula winning short story (1969). “Passengers” is more SF than horror but it is 100% worthy of inclusion. It is about the uninvited guests who wouldn’t leave. These evil aliens have invaded the Earth telepathically and at unpredictable times, seize control of a human mind and force a person to do… things(!). Society has adjusted, but not every individual person will go along with all the conventions humanity has adopted to deal with the “Passengers”. Silverberg’s story examines a relatively small SF theme, stories involving involuntary control of one’s body… think the character of Molly in Neuromancer or the Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth’s short story Sitting Around the Pool, Soaking Up Some Rays or Robert A. Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters – it is a horror story because it speaks to such a violation of one’s body. Also interesting is the counterfactual raised by the premise – illustrating how difficult it is to determine exactly where the boundary line between free-will and determinism lies.

“Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner
Read by Patrick MacNee
Set in 1942, “Sticks” is a World Fantasy Award nominated story (1974) that is decidedly Lovecraftian in content and execution. Think Blair Witch Project meets pulp magazine illustrations and you’ll get the idea. Narrator Patrick MacNee does fine work with it too. With all this inspired by Lovecraft storytelling I only wish they’d included some of H.P.’s original prose, but in lieu of that “Sticks” is a good substitute.

“Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper” by Robert Bloch
Read by Robert Forster
First published in Weird Tales’ July 1943 issue “Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper” is actually a better story than it reads now. What seems a mite cliched today was quite fresh in 1943 and this tale was one of the earliest works of fiction to use ‘the ripper redjack’ – something that is relatively common today. Some narrators have a voice that grabs you and won’t let go, Robert Forster is one of them, his range is good, he does a great English accent on this one too – but its his cadence and his gravelly voice that pull me into his orbit every time. Well read and a good yarn.

“The Small Assassin” by Ray Bradbury
Read by Alyssa Bresnahan
Alyssa Bresnahan, professional full time narrator and AudioFile Magazine Golden Voice, does a very good reading of Bradbury’s short story. “The Small Assassin” is about a young couple and their first child; everything would be okay if only the newborn would only accept the world outside the womb. Horror as parenthood – who’d of thunk it? Newly minted parents probably. This tale was previously recorded by Ray Bradbury himself by pioneering audiobooks publisher Caedmon.

“The Words Of Guru” by C.M. Kornbluth
Read by Susan Anspach
Originally published under Kornbluth’s “Kenneth Falconer” pseudonym, in Stirring Science Stories’ June 1941 issue. Well regarded despite its pulpy exposition, “The Words Of Guru” is a genre-crosser full of cosmic demonism and full-tilt weirdness that comes to a thundering crash just minutes after it starts.

“Casting The Runes” by M.R. James
Read by David Warner
I was quite lost listening to this one. I couldn’t tell who was speaking much of the time, this has to do with the fact that many of the characters aren’t given names and the fact that the way this tale was written it would flow far easier on the printed page than it does aurally. In the paper version some names are blanked out (as if censored), David Warner does his best to fill in these gaps which are unreproducable in audio, but ultimately his efforts are unsuccessful. Magic and curses. First published in 1911!

“Coin Of The Realm” by Charles L. Grant
Read by Louise Sorel
Reminiscent in theme of Neil Gaiman’s style of urban fantasy, “Coin Of The Realm” is an interesting tale of the employees of a toll booth on a lonely highway who occasionally collect some very odd coins from the drivers on their road. First published in a 1981 Arkham House collection entitled Tales from the Nightside.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Here are this month’s new releases: AUDIO RENAI…

New Releases

Here are this month’s new releases:

AUDIO RENAISSANCE

There and Back Again: An Actor’s Tale by Sean Astin with Joe Layden, read by Sean Astin

I’m looking forward to this memoir of Astin’s experience working on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’m one of the folks who watched every extra goodie on the massive Extended LOTR DVD’s.

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BLACKSTONE AUDIO

Callahan’s Con by Spider Robinson, read by Barrett Whitener

Barrett Whitener read Spider Robinson’s The Callahan Chronicals, which we reviewed on SFFAudio a while back. The Callahan stories are among the most empathic high-quality stories you’ll find in the world of science fiction, and this title is likely no different. The description says that Death himself walks into the bar this time…

Jesse:

I just finished listening to Callahan’s Key, also read by Barrett Whitener. Where you’ve described Robinson’s work as “empathic high-quality stories” I would describe it as “high-functioning fan-fiction”. That isn’t a bad thing, I like the stuff myself, but it certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste.

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HARPER AUDIO

A Coyote In The House by Elmore Leonard

This is a kids book in the tradition of “Call of The Wild” – told from the animal’s perspective.

Jesse:

If nothing else, crime and western writer Elmore Leonard has a great ear for dialogue, so this should be a fun tale with respect to that. But he’s never written juvenile fiction before, so its also unknown territory in some respects.

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PAPERBACK DIGITAL

Cally’s War by John Ringo and Julie Cochrane, read by William Dufris and Christine Marshall

A novel by military SF writer and Baen author John Ringo and Julie Cochrane. Cally had been fighting for the future of the human race, but now she is in a war for survival: the survival of her soul…

Paperback Digital has also released several OTR audio dramas on Fictionwise.com: “The Green Hills of Earth” by Robert A. Heinlein, “Drop Dead” by Clifford D. Simak, “Destination: Moon” by Robert A. Heinlein, and “With Folded Hands” by Jack Williamson.

And look for Charlaine Harris’ Vampire Mystery novel Dead Until Dark, which will be released on Halloween. Paperback Digital titles can be purchased on their site (http://www.paperbackdigital.com) or on Fictionwise.

Jesse:

It should also be noted that Paperback Digital has remastered and cleaned up these 1950s era radio dramas. Something which they sorely needed.

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RANDOM HOUSE AUDIO

Legends II: New Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy, Volume III, edited by Robert Silverberg

This volume of the Legends II series contains stories by two of my favorites: “The Monarch of the Glen” by Neil Gaiman and “The Yazoo Queen” by Orson Scott Card. I’m a fan of the short novel length – there is so much treasure out there in the novella and novelette size. While I’m talking about these, Legends II, Vol. 1 contains “The Sworn Sword” by George R.R. Martin and “Beyond Between” by Anne McCaffrey, and Legends II, Vol 2 contains “Lord John and the Succubus” by Diana Gabaldon and “Indomitable” by Terry Brooks.

Jesse:

I look forward to hearing these! The first Legends anthologies were released by HarperAudio last time. Hopefully Random House Audio will do as good a job.

Star Wars: Jedi Trial by David Sherman and Dan Cragg, read by Jonathan Davis

Random House’s Star Wars titles rival Simon and Schuster’s Star Trek titles in production value and style. If you enjoy Star Wars stories, these books are quite good. Also quite good is Jonathan Davis, who I first heard when he read Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash.

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RECORDED BOOKS

Raketty Tam by Brian Jacques, read by Brian Jacques

A title in the Redwall fantasy series!

Another note from Recorded Books – they have a rental program that looks a lot like Netflix. Unlimited audiobook rentals for $29.99/month. Check it out here.

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SIMON AND SCHUSTER AUDIO

Night of the Living Dead by John Russo and George Romero

An audio drama featuring the original cast!

Dark Tower VII by Stephen King, read by George Guidall

The final volume of Stephen King’s epic series. Stephen King read by George Guidall? Yeah, baby. I’m a Stephen King fan, but have not kept up with this series. I’ve heard “The Gunslinger” and “The Drawing of the Three“, and enjoyed them both – time to start on the rest of them.

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COMING SOON!

Wil Wheaton, of wilwheaton.net, has published a book called Just a Geek (which is excellent) and I’m thrilled to report that he’s recording an audio version. Wil says the audiobook has some extra asides, and that it’s more like a performance, or director’s cut, than a straight-forward reading. Look for it on his website in the coming weeks! In the meantime, ITConversations has posted audio of Wil’s recent performance at Gnomedex, where he read excerpts from the book.

Jesse:

This sounds like a terrific idea! Wheaton experimented a little with audio blogging a while back – posting to his website by telephone. He’s also read at least one audiobook short story that I know of. It can be found in Dove Audio’s The Greatest Science Fiction Stories of the 20th Century (which is available on Audible.com). The story is called “Why I left Harry’s All Night Hamburgers” by Lawrence Watt-Evans.

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If you’ve got something you’d like to show up on our monthly New Releases post, write me and let me know. Enjoy, everybody!

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Hollywood Fantasies: Ten Surreal Visions of Tinsel Town

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Hollywood FantasiesHollywood Fantasies – Ten Surreal Visions of Tinsel Town
By Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison, Ed Gorman, John Jakes, David Morrell, Michael Reaves, David Schow, Robert Sheckley, Robert Silverberg and Henry Slesar; Read by Susan Anspach, David Birney, Harlan Ellison, Jamie Farr, Laini Kazan, Steve Kmetko, Harley Jane Kozak, Favid Madden and John Rubinstein
4 cassettes – Approx 6 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Dove Audio
Published: 1997 – hardcopy out of print (available for download at Audible)
ISBN: 0787109460
Themes: Fantasy / Hollywood / Movies / Television / Westerns / Witchcraft / Virtual Reality / Magic /

Learn the truth behind the mask of Hollywood in these ten bizarre tales of dreams and dream weavers, movies and movie-makers, by some of the most respected fantasy writers of our time.

This disappointing collection has a few redeeming tales, but few must-listen gems. The majority of the stories feel like filler – many feature tacked on twist endings that are less than stellar. Apparently Harlan Ellison’s reading of his own story, “Laugh Track,” has been modified in the performance – with the addition of a few lines here and there – if anybody’s gonna mess with a story it best be the author. The cover art is utilitarian but colorful, packaging for this audiobook is however very poor, most examples of these 4 cassette plastic cases with cardboard covers have become unbound as the glue holding the two together was not up to its task. Another minor annoyance, the mislabeling of cassette 4, Ed Gorman’s story “Gunslinger” is said to run through all of side 7 and onto 8, when it is the reverse. “Dead Image” starts on side 7 and runs through all of side 8.

Stories Included:

“The Never-Ending Western Movie” by Robert Sheckley
Jamie Farr’s gruff cowboy voice successfully narrates this 1976 short story, which posits an alternate world in which the old-fashioned movie serial westerns and reality television have merged. This is hard enough on the actors, who now have to do their own stunts, but when the prop guns fire real bullets acting scared isn’t too tough.

“One For The Horrors” by David Schow
A run-down movie theater shows prints of lost movie masterpieces like The Man Who Would Be King starring Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable? The only thing that could top that is what’s playing tomorrow night! This one really is fantasy! Strictly for film connoisseurs – it held my interest but could have exited the stage a little more interestingly. Author David Schow must have done some fascinatingly fun research for this one. Reader Steve Kmetko works some magic of his own in the theater of the ear.

“The Man Who Wanted To Be In The Movies” by John Jakes
George wants to be in movies, so he visits his local licensed witch to cast a spell that’ll do the job. Harley Jane Kozak, the narrator, is fine – but the story itself is absolutely pointless and uninteresting.

“Laugh Track” by Harlan Ellison
Have you ever wondered where the laugh tracks from television sitcoms come from? Meet Wally Modisett, the Phantom Sweetener. Originally appearing in “Weird Tales” Magazine in 1984, this overly lengthy tale is almost made up for in part by Ellison’s enthusiastic performance, told in first person.

“Reality Unlimited’ by Robert Silverberg
Virtual Reality movies. Neat idea, but that’s all it is, the idea is there but the story is M.I.A.. When this tale was written in 1957 it might have had some point to it, today it’s barely a curiosity. A disappointing story by the usually reliable Silverberg. But on the other hand Susan Anspach reading of it was fine.

“The Movie People” by Robert Bloch
Movie extras have been in Hollywood films since the silent era, but just because they have no lines doesn’t mean we can’t read between them. Adequate and with a modicum of originality this tale would have benefited from a few more drafts before publication – it wanted to be a better story. John Rubenstein takes his time with the telling – a laconic voice that doesn’t detract from the story.

“Werewind” by Michael Reaves
A serial killer and a lonely howling wind may be connected. The only question is how. Marginally listenable, Michael Reaves’ story isn’t predictable, but neither is it comprehensible. It feels like a refugee from a Danielle Steele novelization of A Nightmare on Elm Street – and that doesn’t make any sense to me either! David Madden’s reading is far better than this short deserves.

“The Movie Makers” by Henry Slesar
Henry Slesar’s ode to 1950’s science fiction b-movies succeeds – in disappointing the same way those bad movies do – minus the cheesy special visual effect. The twist ending is also predictable. Lainie Kazan’s serviceable reading is adequate to the story’s requirements – though consider the predominant male characterization a female narrator is a questionable choice.

“Gunslinger” by Ed Gorman
In the early Twentieth century cowboys were heading away from the range and towards Hollywood, where they’d take on roles in the burgeoning western film frenzy. One man however is has a score to settle with one of these cowboys turned film actors, and its gonna be real bullets that’ll fly. “Gunslinger is illogically placed in this collection – it is not fantasy. It is set in Hollywood, but isn’t particularly fanciful. David Birney doesn’t have much to do here, but neither does he fail to achieve what’s required – to tell the story.

“Dead Image” by David Morrell
A thinly veiled tale about movie rebel James Dean, that asks the question: If Dean had a second chance at life would he do things any different? This very interesting tale depends upon a listener’s knowledge of James Dean’s life and death – also neat was the appearance of a Dennis Hopper type. Morrell’s tale isn’t likely to be turned into a film itself, but it’s full of neat ruminations on destiny and fame. Jamie Farr’s deep voice makes a second, and very welcome, appearance in this collection. He’s becoming one of my favorite celebrity narrators.

Posted by Jesse Willis