Review of Rocket Ship Galileo by Robert A. Heinlein

SFFaudio Audiobook Review

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-CD – 5.5 hrs [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 9780786162765 (CDs), 9780786147892 (cassettes), 9780786172092(MP3-CD)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Young Adult / Space Travel / Rocket Science / Espionage / Moon /

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

Robert Heinlein created something new when he started writing his “juvenile” SF novels. He wasn’t the first person to write what publishers would categorize as Young Adult SF but he was the first respected SF author to do so. Not only did it not harm his reputation, it actually enhanced it. Some of these, like Citizen of the Galaxy, The Star Beast, and The Rolling Stones still stand as some of his best books and are considered classics.

His first juvenile, from 1947, was Rocketship Galileo. It’s a tale of three young fellows that have their own amateur rocketry club. When one of their rocket experiments go awry with an explosion, they find that one of the boys’ uncles was injured on the grounds. The injured man is Doctor Donald Morris Cargraves. He’s a scientist with his own background in atomic propulsion. With true do-it-yourself ethos, Cargraves recruits the boys to build their own rocket to the moon. There are incidents of sabotage, which creates the mystery of who is responsible for the sabotage.

Eventually the boys with Cargraves in tow head to the moon. On occasion the story seems to stop for a science lesson. Once they reach the moon, they learn they are not alone. I’ll leave the nature of the co-habitants to the listener. I will say the answer that lies behind the sabotage attempts are less than satisfactory. What seems dated and implausible today was likely just as implausible in 1947 when the book was written. Although this novel is not the best of Heinlein’s juveniles, it is still an enjoyable ride with an optimistic future for mankind.

The book is narrated by SF author Spider Robinson. Spider is a gifted narrator with a flair for voice characterizations. His natural narrator’s voice seems a bit nasally at times, but he still conveys ease, and his pacing is unhurried.

This is not the first paring of Robert Heinlein with Spider Robinson. Spider recently coauthored a book with Mr. Heinlein called Variable Star. Using notes and an unfinished outline, Spider Robinson was chosen by Heinlein’s estate to complete it. The story is said to be reminiscent of one of the master’s juvenile novels circa 1955. The good news doesn’t end there. Robinson was tapped by Blackstone Audio to narrate the audiobook for Variable Star, which has just been released.

Review of The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Vor Game by Lois McMaster BujoldThe Vor Game
By Lois McMaster Bujold; Read by Grover Gardner
9 CDs – Approx. 10 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2005
ISBN: 9780786178308
Themes: / Science Fiction / Space Opera / Military / Espionage /

I’ve listened to several space operas lately. Sometimes it works out that way when reviewing science fiction audio, no matter how eclectic I try to be in my listening. So, I approached this with a bit of a sigh, expecting more of the same. I should have known better, though, because Lois McMaster Bujold is one heck of a fine storyteller, and Grover Gardner is a fine reader, too. The Vor Game showed me how good space opera can be. It doesn’t take itself seriously, the characters are people you’d like to meet, the situations (and their resolutions) are plausible, and, only because you care enough about the characters, exciting.

The Vor Game is one of a series of books collectively called The Vorkosigan Saga. Technically, this Hugo Award-winning book is the fourth in the series, but each stands alone. It starts with Miles Vorkosigan, the son of the famous Count Vorkosigan and subject of most of the Vorkosigan novels, graduating from the Barrayaran military academy. He’s anticipating an assignment in all sorts of interesting places, but he lands a spot as a weatherman in a frozen northern training base. An infantry training base no less – something for which his short stature (from genetic damage suffered by his mother while pregnant with Miles) is simply not built. And it all goes downhill from there in a story that spans this frozen tundra to the depths of space, and includes ensigns and emperors. The characters are very witty, especially Miles.

Grover Gardner is an excellent reader. He is not a flamboyant dramatic reader, but a precise steady reader with a very pleasant voice. I enjoy his performances, like I did this one.

Blackstone Audio is going to publish more of the Vorkosigan titles – the next in line is The Warrior’s Apprentice. Looking forward to it!

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Reflex by Steven Gould

Science Fiction Audiobook - Reflex by Stephen GouldReflex
By Steven Gould; Read by Christine Marshall and William Dufris
1 MP3-CD – 14 Hours 12 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Paperback Digital
Published: 2004
ISBN: 1584390042
Themes: / Science Fiction / Operant Conditioning /
Teleporation / Espionage / Marriage /

Davy thinks he’s alone…but what if he isn’t? When Davy was a young teen, he discovered that he was capable of teleportation. At first, it was only when he was terrified and in horrible danger. Later, he learned to control his ability and went to work for a secret government agency. Now, a mysterious group of people has taken Davy captive. They don’t want to hire him, and they don’t have any hope of appealing to him to help them. What they want is to own him. They want to use his abilities for their own purposes, whether Davy agrees to it or not. And so they set about brainwashing him and conditioning him, and they have found a way to keep a teleport captive. But there’s one thing that they don’t know. No one knows it, not even Davy. The secret is that experiencing teleportation, over and over again, can teach a person how to do it. Davy’s wife Millie is the only person on Earth who has teleported nearly as often as he has. She discovered her new talent the same way Davy did — in mortal danger, facing imminent death, she suddenly found herself in her own apartment. Now, if she can learn to control this ability, and fast, she may be able to rescue Davy.

Standalone novels are almost becoming a thing of the past in science fiction these days. So I wasn’t too surprised to learn that Reflex was the second novel in a series. But what did surprise me was that there was twelve year gap between them! I haven’t read the first novel, Jumper, but based on this solid adventure science fiction novel, I’m betting I’d love it too. Apparently it is classified as a YA (a Young Adult novel), which is interesting as Reflex has some fairly gritty adult situations.

As I started listening to Reflex I wasn’t at all sure this was a science fiction novel. The method of teleportation used seemed to involve no science, it was some sort of innate ability – one that would logically have to defy the laws of physics – so I was thinking this would have to be a fantasy novel. Except this was the only “magic” in the story and as I would come to realize there was another more interesting scientific fiction that was very plausible and amazingly original! The plot as mentioned in the teaser above involves the capture of a teleporter. What was so original here is the way that capture is maintained. Now I don’t want to give too much away but I’ll give you a hint, think of The Manchurian Candidate but instead of brainwashing, think B.F. Skinner.

This is a really good novel. Not only is the writing clear and clean, but also the characters are genuinely compelling and the situation original. Husband and wife Davy and Millie are thoughtful sympathetic characters who could be quite jaded given their knowledge of what’s going on, but they choose not to be. I found myself genuinely rooting for them. There’s actually a nice theme about the bonds of marriage in here too, it isn’t often in science fiction we meet married characters who both play a major role in the plot and it was refreshing to hear that perspective.

The villains in Reflex are suitably villainous, and have realistic motivations for their villainy. The novel is set in our contemporary time, with many references to current events, but because most of the characters are the equivalent of the jet-set of our era their access to the high-tech toys is a little better than ours. The action never flags and the cat and mouse games are intense and engaging. The more I think about it the more I am impressed with Reflex.

Christine Marshall plays all the female characters, and reads the chapters from Millie’s perspective. William Dufris plays all the male characters and reads all the chapters from Davy’s perspective. Together they interweave the story synergistically giving a vital energy to the text. This is another bang-up job by this energetic narrating tag team. I hope Paperback Digital keeps sending them stuff to read.

Sound quality as usual from Paperback Digital’s line of MP3-CDs is wonderful. These are high bit-rate tracks, spaced approx ten minutes apart. And PD uses a light introductory music at the beginning of the audiobook. It’s great! I’ve mentioned it in a previous review but I’ve just got to do it again, Paperback Digital has really got some cool original cover art. Jason B. Parker has done six covers so far – if he does another six my personal Paperback Digital collection will have to grow by six too. You can also take a peek at the original sketches done for the PD covers on Jason’s website.

Reflex is also available via download from both Fictionwise.com and the Paperback Digital website.

The hardcopy, the MP3-CD, comes in DVD style cases with insert paper cover and the CD-Rom comes with disc art. Downloads are slightly less expensive but nearly as easy to load onto an MP3 player.

If you’re feeling spontaneous check out Reflex. And if you like it as much as I did let me know.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Adventures of Red Cloud

Science Fiction Audio Drama - The Adventures of Red Cloud starring Traci Elizabeth LordsThe Adventures of Red Cloud
By Larry Weiner; performed by a full cast
2 CDs – 2 hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Radio Repertory Company of America
Published: 2004
ISBN: 0966039297
Themes: / Science Fiction / Audio Drama / Espionage / Piracy / Prostitution / Humor /

The Adventures of Red Cloud is an audio drama starring Traci Elizabeth Lords, Brinke Stevens, and James C. Leary, along with a full cast and crew. Traci Elizabeth Lords is mesmerizing as the sexy Wendy McCloud, who trades professions – from hooker to spy – in order to find her father’s killer. Lords is both funny and sultry as her character fights anger management problems and uses her feminine wiles to infiltrate the inner circle of a group of pirates and achieve her vengeful goals.

The script is witty, and all of the actors turn in nice performances. The score works well, and the effects professionally done. What’s not to like? I found this audio drama very entertaining and am looking forward to more from the Radio Repertory Company of America.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson