Review of Vortex Blaster by E.E. "Doc" Smith

SFFaudio Audiobook Review

Audiobook - Vortex Blaster by Doc E E SmithVortex Blaster
By E.E. “Doc” Smith; Read by Reed McColm
1 MP3-CD or 6 CDs – Approx. 7.5 hrs [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Books in Motion
Published: 2007
ISBN: 159607793X (MP3-CD); 1596077921 (CDs)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Aliens / Atomic Power / Galactic Civilizations /

I was pleasantly surprised listening to this new audiobook. My past experience with Smith’s books has been less than stellar. On more than one occasion, I’ve cast his novels down unfinished in favor of something else. E. E. “Doc” Smith is one of the most revered names in SF. So I’ve always thought I must be missing something. Anybody who knows my tastes or my podcast knows that I love old SF (as well as new). I’ve always found his overly heroic heroes and his wimpy, fainting females hard to care about. So when I received this new title, my expectations were not the highest.

Neil “Storm” Cloud is the main protagonist and the “Vortex Blaster” of the title. Uncontrolled atomic vortexes have been appearing on planets throughout the galaxy. The vortexes contain radiation and wildly incalescent temperatures. They only grow larger over time and threaten to destroy any worlds they appear upon. Think of them as nuclear tornadoes that never dissipate. Luckily, Cloud has a unique gift—a computational mind that is capable of astonishingly complex mathematics. As the novel opens we find out that he’s been working, without results, on a project to figure out how to stop the vortexes. He has just lost his wife and kids to one of these atomic infernos. Nearly suicidal and distraught, he leaves the project when he has a sudden inspiration on how to stop the phenomena. He has to be in the center of the vortex and has to set off a duodec explosion equal to the energy of the nuclear storm. And because of his unique computational mind, he’s the only man that can do it—and thus becomes the Vortex Blaster. Cloud’s new ability makes him very much in demand. He’s soon traveling across the galaxy to put out the worst vortexes until he finds himself set upon by space pirates, warring aliens, and a mad scientist.

If this all sounds rather pulpy and fun— it is. Vortex Blaster mixes ripsnorting adventure with a jaw-dropping sense of wonder. No one would accuse “Doc” Smith of being a great prose stylist. But if you’re picking up an audiobook called Vortex Blaster, you’re probably not reading it for the style. Actually, Smith is a much better writer than I’d previously thought. “Storm” Cloud is a seasoned, sometimes cynical protagonist. In the second half of the novel he meets Joan, a telepathic genius, and romance ensues. Joan is resourceful and smart – no young, thin beauty. Each of his aliens have unique characteristics too. The entire novel is leavened with wit and humor to contrapose the serious tone.

You may wonder if this title is part of his famous “Lensman” series. It is definitely a stand-alone novel but it is set in the same universe as the Lensman stories. Vortex Blaster is tangentially related, but can be enjoyed without reading any of the other books in the series.

As narrator for this title, Reed McColm handles the vast array of human and especially alien characters with unerring deftness. He nails the aliens individual eccentricities through voice and accents. He handles the narration for several “Doc” Smith’s audiobooks that are published by Books in Motion. Mr. McColm’s talents are a perfect fit to E.E. “Doc” Smith’s super science space epics.

New Arrivals – Doc Smith, Octavia Butler, Robert A. Heinlein

Science Fiction Audiobook Recent Arrivals

Three new titles from three different publishers.

Audiobook - Vortex Blaster by Doc E E SmithVortex Blaster
By E.E. “Doc” Smith; Read by Reed McColm
1 MP3 Disc or 6 CDs, Approx. 7.5 hrs – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Books In Motion
Published: 2007
ISBN: 159607793X (MP3 disc); 1596077921 (CDs)

From the back cover:
One man against the basic energy of the universe, unleashed in ravening fury that was “Storm” Cloud. Unique was the only way to describe him, yet alone in his single-handed battle. The appalling destructiveness of a loose atomic vortex could be cancelled out only by destroying the vortex itself. While not even the most massive and modern of electronic computers could figure out how to destroy a loose vortex, “Storm” Cloud could and did.

To Galactic Civilization, the loose vortices were just one menace among many. It was “Storm’s” unique brain, itself a computer with fantastic powers that enabled him to select and direct a duodecaplylatomate bomb with exactly the right energy to snuff each vortex out of existence. The day a runaway vortex exploded in his home was the day “Storm” Cloud became the Vortex Blaster!

Science Fiction Audiobook - Fledgling by Octavia Butler read by Tracey LeighFledgling
By Octavia E. Butler; Read by Tracey Leigh
10 CDs, Appox. 12.5 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America
Published: 2007
ISBN: 9780792746713

From the back cover:
Fledgling, the late Octavia E. Butler’s final novel, is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly un-human needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: she is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must at the same time learn who wanted–and still wants–to destroy her and those she cares for, and how she can save herself. Fledgling is a captivating novel that tests the limits of “otherness” and questions what it means to be truly human.

Science Fiction Audiobook - Rocket Ship Galileo by Robert A. HeinleinRocket Ship Galileo
By Robert A. Heinlein; Read by Spider Robinson
5 CDs, 4 Cassettes or 1 MP3 disc – 5.5 hrs [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 9780786162765 (CDs); 9780786147892 (cassettes); 9780786172092(MP3 disc)

From the back cover:
Ross Jenkins, Art Mueller, and Morris Abrams are not your average high-schools students. While other kids are cruising around in their cars or playing ball, this trio, known as the Galileo Club, is experimenting with rocket fuels, preparing for their future education at technical colleges.

Art’s uncle, the nuclear physicist Dr. Donald Cargraves, offers them the opportunity of a lifetime: to construct and crew a rocket that will take them to the moon. Cargraves believes their combined ingenuity and enthusiasm can actually make this dream come true. But there are those who don’t share their dream and who will stop at nothing to keep their rocket grounded.

The Time Traveler of the Time Traveler Show podcast.

SFFaudio Challenger working on The Skylark Of Space by E.E. "Doc" Smith

SFFaudio News

Meta SFFaudio - SFFaudio Contest - Make audiobook win an audiobookMore “Challenge” news…

Mark P. Steele, wrote in to say:

“Hi there. I ran across your challenge late, but decided to try anyway.”

The book Mark P. is interested in is the The Skylark Of Space by E.E. “Doc” Smith. Very cool, say I.

As you well know, Bob, The Skylark of Space is one of the earliest novels of interstellar travel. First published in 1928. It is oft considered the first literary Space Opera.

Frederick Pohl said of it:

“With the exception of the works of H.G. Wells, possibly those of Jules Verne it has inspired more imitators and done more to change the nature of all the Science Fiction written after it than almost any other single work.”

According to Mark P.’s research, BOTH the original 1928 and the later 1958 revision are in the public domain, and Mark P. is planning on recording the 1958 version.

Mark asks: “Is anyone else working on this?”

Well Mark, no, I know of no-one else who is working on that title. So far, we’ve got only three audiobooks in various stages of completeness in “The SFFaudio Challenge”:


-Mark Nelson has COMPLETED & RELEASED (awaiting verification) an unabridged recording of The Green Odyssey by Philip Jose Farmer.

-Steven H. Wilson has has finished the recording of Badge Of Infamy by Lester del Rey
– and we expect a release of it relatively soon.

-Mark P. Steele is preparing to record The Skylark Of Space (1958) by E.E. “Doc” Smith.

Would anyone else like to publicly stake a claim from the titles on the challenge list?

Also, it seems Mark P. Steel wouldn’t mind some technical assistance – as he writes…

“The main problem that I have is the static on the recording. I’m using Audacity, and filtered the static, but it sounds somewhat hollow and metallic, thus making me skeptical of the usability,of the recording. My next step is to try and move the mike away from the computer, on the possibility that it’s the fan hum I’m getting.”

Hmmm, I’m tech-challenged myself, but I can offer a custom bit of cover art to get Mr. Steele inspired:

The Skylark Of Space by E.E. Doc Smith

Can anyone else give Mark P. some advice on how to get the static out of his recording?

Recent arrivals

Science Fiction Audiobook Recent Arrivals

Science Fiction Audiobook - Triplanetary by Doc E. E. SmithTriplanetary
Lensman Series #1
By E.E. “DOC” SMITH; Read by Reed McComb
CDs and MP3 editions- Aprox. 10 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Books in Motion
Published: 2006
ISBN: MP3 – 1596074507/CDs – 1596074493

By the father of the Space Opera genre.

From the back cover:

From the atomic age in Atlantis to a world remote in space and time, two incredible ancient races, the Arisians and the Eddorians, are in the midst of an interstellar war with Earth as the prize. The Arisians, using advanced mental technology, have foreseen the invasion of their galaxy by the corrupt and evil Eddorians, so they begin a breeding program on every planet in their universe. Their goal…to produce super warriors who can hold off the invading Eddorians.

Science Fiction Audiobook - Guardians of the West by David EddingsGuardians of the West
Book #1 of the Malloreon
By David Eddings; Read by Cameron Beierle
CDs and MP3 editions- Aprox. 15 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Books in Motion
Published: 2006
ISBN: MP3 – 1596072377/CDs – 1596072369

From the back cover:

Garion has slain the evil God Torak and been crowned King of Riva. The Prophecy has been fulfilled–or so it seems. While the strange child Errand was growing up in the Vale of Aldur with Polgara and Durnick, showing only occasional flashes of inexplicable knowledge and power, Garion is learning to rule and be a husband to his fiery little Queen, Ce’Nedra.

The Time Traveler