Review of Wild Magic (The Immortals, Book 1) by Tamora Pierce

Fantasy Audiobooks - Wild Magic by Tamora PierceWild Magic (The Immortals, Book 1)
by Tamora Pierce, read by Full Cast Audio
8 CDs – 8 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Full Cast Audio
Published: 2005
ISBN: 1932076832
Themes: / Fantasy / Magic / Wizardry / Youth / Magical Creatures / Horses /

In Wild Magic’s Book One: The Immortals, Tamora Pierce has created a cast of strong women and made a world in which they fit naturally. The whole book takes place from the point of view of Diane (Carmen Viviano-Crafts), a young girl escaping from a dark secret in the highlands. Daine hires on with a horsetrader, Ouna (Raquel Starace) How delightful to meet a female horsetrader in a fantasy novel. Too often, such strong female characters overplay their roles but each of the characters in Wild Magic seems balanced and very real. So it troubles me that I felt like Ms. Pierce was playing games by withholding information that Daine surely knew, especially because she does such a delightful job at inviting me into Daine’s thoughts.

I do not mind the tension she tried to create by keeping Daine’s “dark secret” from me at the beginning, but after a time, it began to wear on me. I spent chapters hearing Daine’s thoughts about how she had to escape her past, without ever knowing what that past was. I finally discovered that she had gone mad and was afraid that it would happen again. Once I knew that, I was able to really worry with Daine. But poor Daine wouldn’t tell her friends what was bothering her. While I can understand her reluctance, as the book continued she was given no reason to continue hiding her secret and plenty of reasons to ask for help. When she finally does reveal her past in all its gory detail, Numair the Mage, basically says, “Oh, well I can fix that.” And does, in two sentences.

So, after all of that build up, Daine’s problem is solved with, almost literally, the wave of a magic wand.

In a similar vein, I listened to paragraphs of buildup as something was attacking the band of travellers over the water without having a clue about what it was. I knew everyone was preparing for an attack. I knew people were frightened, but I had no idea why. It turned out to be a gryphon that Daine was able to befriend.

With that said, the world of Wild Magic is fascinating. I am curious about which of the threads in this volume will carry over to the next books. Many of the scenes were resonant with emotion, I just wish I hadn’t had to guess what was happening in so many of the others.

Full Cast Audio does a fantastic job of bringing Ms. Pierce’s book to audio life. In particular, I need to note Daniel Bostick who played Numair the Mage. His voice built pictures in my head every time his character spoke.

Posted by Mary Robinette Kowal

Review of The Rolling Stones by Robert A. Heinlein

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Rolling Stones by Robert A. HeinleinThe Rolling Stones
By Robert A. Heinlein; Performed By A Full Cast
8 CDs – 7 Hours 9 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Full Cast Audio
Published: 2005
ISBN: 1932076808
Themes: / Science Fiction / Young Adult / Space Travel / Newtonian Physics / The Moon / Mars / The Asteroid Belt /

When the Stone twins made up their minds to leave Luna City in a secondhand spaceship, they hadn’t planned on having their whole family accompany them. But the Stones are not your ordinary Lunar family – no way! – and their voyage through the solar system sure proves it.

Not long ago FULL CAST AUDIO contacted us, and gave us a heads-up – a new Robert A. Heinlein novel was coming. I was blown away by their first Heinlein adaptation so I tried to keep my expectations reasonable. “Lightning can’t strike twice”, I told myself. “Just be happy that it is being released. That’s what you asked for and that’s what you got. Don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t live up to your expectations.” I needn’t have worried. The Rolling Stones is as good as the superb full cast reading of Have Space Suit, Will Travel – maybe even a little better!

It is a Heinlein juvenile, written and first published in 1952, full of Heinleinian economics, politics, and family values, which all combine with a travelogue of interplanetary adventure. Dialogue moves the surprisingly light plot along, and the narrator provides the cultural and technological backdrop.

The Stone family is made up of father Roger, mother Edith, grandmother Hazel, the eldest child Meade, the youngest Buster, and the middle identical twins Castor and Pollux. The twins are natural born inventors and entrepreneurs, so when they go looking through the used spaceship yards on Luna they’ve got a scheme in mind. When Roger finds out about their plans he manages to turn the whole thing into a family venture. And off they go into the solar system.

If you like Heinlein you’ll love this novel but it’s a little different from most juvies in that it is more a series of smaller adventures. What I like best about the book is that it ably envisions a wonderful future of interplanetary travel in a completely scientifically accurate way. The economic model that would allow a family to buy a spaceship, fuel it and use it as their personal yacht may be unrealistic, but that won’t dampen your enthusiasm. It didn’t mine.

Most of the actors are new but Bill Molesky is back playing another father and Cynthia Bishop plays another mother figure. Peter Moller plays another small role, and FULL CAST AUDIO founder Bruce Coville makes another cameo too. Another plus – Daniel Bostick again directs. If I had my druthers, Daniel Bostick will direct all the future FULL CAST AUDIO Heinlein releases too (on the principle you don’t mess with success). The new actors are all perfect in their roles. There isn’t a false performance in the bunch.

A potential stumbling block was avoided. This is a third person perspective novel, as opposed to the first person of Have Space, Suit Will Travel, so they needed a narrator. Veteran voice over actor David Baker took the reins there and together with this full cast read another faithful adaptation of a Heinlein “juvenile” novel.

What’s really interesting though is that this is a straight reading with multiple readers, something I didn’t fully realize in Have Space Suit, Will Travel. There are no sound effects. There are just actors reading the text and a little accenting music at chapter openings. This was another excellent choice, a straight reading works well. You don’t need to paint in sound effects when the words evoke a mental image.

As is becoming the rule, the attention to detail found in the audio production extends to the fit and finish of the packaging. Jerry Russel’s original cover art is absolutely beautiful to behold. The CD case is the identical design to the Have Spacesuit, Will Travel case. A thick DVD style case, with the CDs stacked and secured by two plastic clamps. Perfect! Please FULL CAST AUDIO keep recording these Heinlein juvenile novels. I’d like to say I deserve it, but even if I don’t the novels sure do!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Have Spacesuit Will Travel by Robert A. HeinleinHave Spacesuit, Will Travel
By Robert A. Heinlein; Performed By A Full Cast
8 CDs – 8 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Published by Full Cast Audio
Published: 2003
ISBN: 1932076417
Themes: / Science Fiction / Young Adult / The Moon / Galactic Civilization /

One minute Kip Russell was walking about in his backyard, testing out an old space suit and dreaming about going to the Moon — and the next he was out cold, the captive of an insidious space pirate. The whole thing seemed like a bad dream until Kip discovered there were other prisoners on board, and they were all on their way to the Moon — and a fate worse than death!

When Kip Russell wins a runner’s up prize in a soap jingle contest, an intergalactic journey to decide the fate of humanity results. Kip goes from soda jerk to spacesuit winner to alien abductee. Along the way Kip is joined by a pint-sized genius named PeeWee and an empathetic alien known as “the Mother Thing” who together must overcome the alien invaders who want to colonize the Earth. A far-fetched Hard Science Fiction story chock full of pathos and fun! First published in 1958, Have Spacesuit, Will Travel was nominated for a Hugo Award and has steadily remained in print for over 45 years. Though originally marketed as a book for teenage boys, it has found legions of admirers in many other age groups since then. I personally know of a high school English teacher who still uses it to get his students interested in reading! And like most science fiction fans, Robert Heinlein’s juvenile novels hold a special place in my own pantheon of SF novels. They speak to the excitable youth in us like few other books do.

When I heard about this particular adaptation I was skeptical. It uses multiple actors, music, and sound effects – this all sounded more like a radio dramatization to me than a straight reading. I’ve been disappointed by many audio dramatizations, I’ve found they often try to “improve” the text and end up cutting it to shreds. I figure you don’t mess with perfection, its just asking for trouble. Well the folks at FULL CAST AUDIO have messed with perfection and come away like heroes! This is a faithful adaptation. The only differences between a straight unabridged reading and this production are a few attributives, the “he said” and “she saids” that are redundant with either a versatile single performer or a full cast of actors. The acting is uniformly excellent, the original music and special voice effects enhance their performance. In short, this production truly shines. But that’s not all. The attention to detail found in the audio production extends to the fit and finish of the packaging. The original cover art is really great, rivaling the superb Del Rey paperback cover art. The CD case too is remarkable… it’s a new design and I’d never seen anything like it before. It resembles a thick DVD style case, with the CDs stacked and held in place by two durable plastic clamps – a space saving and efficient design that also pleases the eye. This audiobook is pure unpasteurized goodness and I truly hope FULL CAST AUDIO does some more Heinlein juvenile novels just like it. Have FULL CAST AUDIO, will listen!