Review of The Aftermath by Ben Bova

SFFaudio Review

The Aftermath by Ben BovaThe Aftermath: Book Four of The Asteroid Wars
By Ben Bova; Read by Emily Janice Card, Gabrielle de Cuir, Stephen Hoye, and Stefan Rudnicki
10 CDs – 12 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Renaissance
Published: 2007
ISBN: 1427201064
Themes: / Science Fiction / Space Travel / Asteroid Belt / Politics / War / Survival /

I really enjoy Ben Bova’s vision of humanity’s future in space. That vision is contained in all of his Grand Tour books, and the Asteroid Wars books are part of that larger series. The Aftermath is the fourth, and possibly the last, Asteroid Wars novel. Bova’s future is well considered, and that’s part of the fun of reading his books. To get artificial gravity, a part of the ship needs to spin. Resources are limited. Problems arise – frustrating ones, like when you’ve climbed a ladder to do a job and realize that you’ve forgotten the tool you need to do that job. Only in space, you can’t climb down and get that tool. You have to figure something else.

The Zacharias family finds this out the hard way, because the four of them, who run a merchant vessel as a family business, find themselves ready to dock at what turns out to be a military target during the Asteroid War. When they discover their mistake, Victor Zacharias, the father, leaves the ship in a pod in an attempt to lure attackers away, and the rest of the family gets out of there, but not before their ship is damaged, and not before committing to a trajectory that will keep them away from civilization for years.

Victor then finds himself on the attacked habitat in a state of near-slavery while his family does what it can to stabilize their ship and ride out the years in solitude. The story focuses on both of those situations – Victor’s, who never really loses hope, and the family’s, who struggle. In this way, Bova gives us a story of peripheral damage in war.

The audiobook is read by multiple narrators, switching as the point of view of the story shifts. All of the narrators are top-notch, and the style works well with the book. I was particularly enamored with the opening of the book, as the family is introduced, then tossed into peril. Bova’s characters are well-drawn, and the narrators took full advantage in their effective story-telling.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

SFFaudio Review

Princess Academy by Shannon HalePrincess Academy
By Shannon Hale; Read by a Full Cast
8 CDs – 8 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Full Cast Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 1933322772
Themes: / Fantasy / Young Adult / Magic / Culture / Royalty / Boarding School / Economics /

Earlier this year (2007), the unabridged Full Cast Audio production of Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl won an Audie Award for Achievement in Production. Now, Full Cast Audio offers another Shannon Hale novel in a production that may be even better. Princess Academy is a wonderful YA fantasy novel that is a sure bet to enthrall readers (and now listeners) of all ages.

It’s become cliché to say that this or that YA novel has wider appeal than their target audience but Shannon Hale’s, without question, fit that description. They are appropriate for young listeners (the box says “ages 10 to adult”) and at the same time are smart enough and, most importantly, true enough for older readers. This novel is entertaining, but the characters live realistic and difficult lives. Through them, Hale helps us understand that there’s nothing more important in life than love.

The main character of the novel is Miri, a fourteen year old girl who is small for her age. She lives in a mountain village, where most of the residents work in the nearby quarry. One day, a herald arrives and announces that priests have determined that the bride of the prince, who lives in a bustling city, will come from the tiny region that Miri lives in, and that all girls 14-18 years old must report to an academy so that they might be educated for the prince’s visit one year later, when he will make his choice. The girls are collected and brought to the academy, some of them willingly, and some of them not.

Miri is not happy about it, and her feelings of inadequacy due to the overprotective way her father treats her are compounded and confused by the fact that he does not put up much of a fight to keep her from going. But once she gets to the academy and learns to read, she realizes the benefit and takes full advantage of the experience, which is made all the more difficult by a very hard headmistress. Throughout the story, Miri learns of a magic called “quarryspeak”, which is a method of psychic communication that seems to work only between quarry workers while in the quarry. She finds that there’s more to it than that, and she finds out there’s a lot more to everything else, too.

The Full Cast Audio team has mastered their unique method of unabridged audiobook production. There is no other company that produces audiobooks the way they do it, and every book they come out with is technically better than the last. Actors are used for all the dialogue, and a narrator reads everything else. An 8 hour production like this would lose its appeal if any of the roles were cast with questionable talent, but that’s not a problem here. Particularly good were Jo D’Aloisio, the young girl who played Miri, Laura Credidio, the narrator, and Alice Morigi, who played Tutor Olana, the icy headmistress. The entire cast deserves kudos. Skilled acting and directing along with perfect music and editing make this production a wondrous experience. Simply excellent, all around.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

1900 SF tale audiobooked :The Moon Metal by Garret P. Serviss

SFFaudio Online Audio

Garret P. Serviss‘ first audiobook has just been posted to LibriVox. Serviss was a popularizer of astronomy and late 19th and early 20th century SF author. His writing is stiff and strangely formal. Still, you may find yourself reminded of Heinlein here and there while listening. The audiobook, completely narrated by the admirable Betsie Bush is 100% free and available for download by several methods. Get a Zipped Folder full of MP3s, each chapter singly in MP3 or OGG Vorbis formats or grab the podcast version.

LibriVox audiobook - The Moon Metal by Garret P. ServissThe Moon Metal
By Garret P. Serviss; Read by Betsie Bush
14 zipped MP3 Files or podcast – 2 Hours 38 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: July 31st 2007
The discovery of a vast quantity of gold in Antarctica undermines the world’s economy. This leads to a need for a new precious metal standard – – enter a mysterious scientist, his proposal, and new invention.

You can get the entire novel in podcast form, via this handy url:

Review of Ida by Tim Callahan

SFFaudio Audiobook Review

ed.’s note: New reviewer Stephen Uitti and his review come to us via his blog, predelusional.

Ida by Tim CallahanIda
By Tim Callahan; Read by Tim Callahan
32 MP3 Files – Approx. 12 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Published: 2006
Themes: / Science Fiction / Hard SF / Space Travel / Asteroid Mining / Economics / Politics / Sex /

Each of the 32 mp3 audio files of this podcast novel has an introduction and epilogue. There are few introductions and epilogues that I’ll actually listen to. But Timothy’s is particularly annoying. He apologizes for his Philadelphia accent before you even get to hear him read. Guys – if you’re presenting a show, let the audience decide if they like it themselves. Don’t make us pity you for being too stupid to get someone else to read your book. Don’t go the other way either. Don’t hype it up. It is OK to promote some other work.

After the first chapter, the introductions also have a summary of what has gone on before. Maybe some people couldn’t remember what happened last month in the original serial. But now the entire book is available. I don’t have patience for the repetition so I skipped most of the introductions and epilogues. The guts of the each new chapter starts after a bit of music, and my iPod Shuffle was able to get me there via fast forward most of the time. Skipping epilogues is easy enough, since Callahan says that’s the end. Just skip to the next track. Since I skipped all that material, there was much less than twelve hours of material. There’s a bonus. After the novel is finished, Callahan offers in a short story entitled Balance. Balance takes place well after the events in Ida. Really, Ida is a prequel. It’s the backing story to Balance. Like his introduction to Ida, Timothy apologizes for his short story. Jeez. For the record, I liked Balance more. As a short story it has much faster pacing. Remember that reading a book to yourself is something like three times faster than hearing it aloud. So, short stories with very fast pacing work better in audio format. And yet, Balance is long enough to give you the idea that several events take place. The events in the story are believable. And no laws of physics are broken in the building of the plot.

That reminds me. The worst parts of Ida have to do with laws of physics. They aren’t broken like faster than light travel. It’s more like having a character survive an acceleration of ten or twenty thousand miles per hour in a few seconds time. That’s a minimum of 50 gravities. Ouch. A little more explanation could salvage the suspension of disbelief, and therefore the plot. This means a lot to me. But maybe you don’t care. Ida is real hard Science Fiction. It’d be nice to have someone check the science and do some math here and here. It wouldn’t take much. Really.

The work had sufficient interest to make it worthwhile. Rich characters, character growth, character interaction, believable responses and plot development. You can identify with the characters. Pick favorites and root for them. Suspense. And the end of the story is not simply telegraphed. There are plenty of surprises in the middle. And the flaws – mostly physics gaffs – are not nearly as bad as those in typical Hollywood movies. And they’re all fixable.

Is there sex? Yes. Is there violence? Yes. Is there swearing? Yes. Is the swearing pointless? Yes. This story would have been consumable by my ten year old, but because of pointless swearing, it isn’t. Will you like it? It depends on how much you like the good parts, and how tolerant you are to the flaws. It has lots of both.

NPR covers the emerging subgenre Economic Science Fiction

Online Audio

NPR Weekend EditionRick Kleffell, NPR correspondent and podcaster had a fascinating 7 minute piece on the NPR’s Weekend Edition. The topic? The theme is Economics in Science Fiction:

During the Cold War, science-fiction tales of alien invasion mirrored society’s fear of Communism, and monsters from Frankenstein to Godzilla have tapped into our unease about the boundaries of science. But a new type of genre fiction has plots centering around business and economics. A book by T. C. Boyle takes the subject of identity theft and treats it like a horror story. Several other writers are also turning their attention to our preoccupation with finances and business, and finding fertile ground.

Listen via RealAudio or WindowsMedia HERE.

Review of The Gripping Hand by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

SFFaudio Radio Drama Review

Science Fiction Audio Book - The Gripping Hand by Larry Niven and Jerry PournelleThe Gripping Hand
By Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle; Read by Jay O. Sanders
2 Cassettes – Approx. 3 Hours [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Published: 1993
ISBN: 0671791109
Themes: / Science Fiction / Hard SF / Biology / Politics / Economics /Galactic Civilization / Galactic Empire / Mormonism /

Twenty-five years have passed since the second Empire of man quarantined the mysterious aliens known only as Moties within the confines of their own solar system – afraid of the threat these aliens may pose to man kind. But the wall seperating man from the Moties is beginning to crumble…

The Gripping Hand is set in a the “CoDominium” universe originated by Jerry Pournelle. This is the sequel to their first novel together, The Mote In God’s Eye (not available on audio). The setting is that of a future interstellar empire in which humanity has only one major rival for complete dominance. The so-called “Moties” are an intelligent species that is so war-like, so very dangerous, that an enitre human naval task force sits blockading the Motie system’s only exit. The Moties are a species divided into distinct biological forms, each serving a different function. Master. Mediator. Engineer. Warrior. Each type is supremely adapted to its task, and only constant civil war has kept their population in check. Combined with the specialization is a terrible burden; if Moties don’t breed they die agonzing deaths.

For those who haven’t already read The Mote In God’s Eye, you may want to stop reading now as spoilers must follow. At the end of The Mote In God’s Eye, Sir Kevin Renner and His Excellency Horace Bury were secretly enlisted into Imperial Naval Intelligence. For the twenty-five years since then, they’ve acted as unpaid spies, keeping a watchful eye for “outies” (human raiders) in order that the empire might focus its meager resources on the overwhelming Motie threat. Bury is a merchant prince whose dealings allow him access to the underworld of many border worlds. Renner, a former naval officer, now acts as a field agent in the employ of Bury. When a botched Mormon kidnapping plot appears to involve a Motie phrase “the gripping hand”, Bury demands to inspect the fleet blockading the Motie system. His journey leads him to several surprises.

There’s a bit of bad news about this audiobook. If the abridgement had been longer there would still be some question as to whether or not we’d know what is going on in this book. I’ve listened about three times now and I’m pretty impressed at how much sense I’ve managed to make of it in spite of what little of the novel is there. It almost works. It has the barest framework of the plot left, lots of interesting characters, some very good dialogue, and a few simply brilliant SF ideas – but the final feeling I was left with at the end is great disappointment. We would really could have had a special audiobook here, if Simon & Schuster hadn’t knocked out so much in their drive to release 2-cassette abridgments as they did back in the early 1990s. This all is especially upseting because narrator Jay O. Sanders does a fantastic job with the accents and character voices. I think it is safe to say that the fad of abridging the snot out of every novel that comes down the pipe is over. That’s a good thing. It came to late for this audiobook. Some publisher out there should get a hold of The Mote In God’s Eye and record it, complete and unabridged, and while they’re at it they should get Jay O. Sanders to do the reading. We know he’ll do a good job.

Posted by Jesse Willis