Two exclusive interviews with George R. R. Martin, 1 Free, 1 FREE Free

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iTunes Audiobook Store - FREE Exclusive Interview With George R.R. MartinThe Apple iTunes Audiobook Store has a banner ad featuring a FREE “Exclusive Interview With George R.R. Martin.”
The interview appears to have been recorded by Books On Tape (the audiobook company releasing Martin’s Song Of Ice And Fire fantasy series), and was provided to iTunes by Audible.com. The interview runs 38 minutes and talks about the Song Of Ice And Fire series as well as the audiobook versions of them. And like the title of it sez, this is an exclusive, it isn’t on Audible.com or on the Books On Tape website. iTunes will ask for your iTunes account which requires a credit card even though the item your getting is free.

One reviewer of the interview mentions the Geeks On podcast, and that they have interview a superior interview with Martin recorded at last year’s ComicCon. Judge for yourself |MP3|.

You can subscribe to the Geeks On using their podcast feed:

http://www.geekson.com/GeeksOn

CBC Radio One’s Saturday Morning program North…

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CBC

CBC Radio One
‘s Saturday Morning program North by Northwest had a cool treat for us this morning with their Studio One Book Club. The guest was fantasy author George R.R. Martin who talked with host Sheryl MacKay and the audience about his latest in the Song Of Ice And Fire series of novels: A Feast For Crows. Part two of this two part book club meeting will air next Saturday, February 4th 2006. You can listen to the first part via RealAudio HERE.

UPDATE: The RealAudio link is not working yet, but I’ve left a message on the NXNW answering machine to let them know, hopefully it’ll be working later today.

posted by Jesse

Review of Legends II: Volume One

Legends II: Volume 1Legends II: Volume One
Edited by Robert Silverberg; Stories by George R.R. Martin & Anne McCaffrey
Read by Graeme Malcolm & Alyssa Bresnahan
3 Cassettes – 5.25 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 2004
ISBN: 0739310828
Themes: / Fantasy / Series / Collection / Dragons / Knights / Royalty /

The tag line to this audio book is “New short novels by the masters of modern fantasy”. Would it have knocked out any teeth to use the word “novella?” It’s like calling a pack of number 2 pencils “a pallet of light-duty lumber.” A novella is not merely a novel that was born sickly or abstained from performance-enhancing drugs; it is a distinct literary form with a tighter focus in theme, setting, character, and time. Has the novella become such a bane to publishers that they seek to disguise it with a new name, as politicians have disguised the apocalypse of global warming with the ambivalence of climate change? I hope not. The literary form of Goethe, Conrad, Silverberg and Leiber still has a lot to offer us today. Its name should be spoken with pride, and its name-bearers sold, bought and read (or listened to) without shame.

A great place to start is George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire: The Sworn Sword”, which is a fine example of a fantasy novella. It is tightly focused on a single, weighty event in time: The final clash between the proud, nearly-extinguished ser Eustace, and the desperately aggressive Lady Webber. Caught in the middle are our protagonists: Dunk, the simple knight with a sense of right and wrong that supersedes his own pride and safety, and Egg, whose compassion for even the lowest grows every time we see him. Heraclitus proposed that character determines destiny, and this is certainly true here. Everything that occurs within Martin’s tough, gritty, complex tale feels like an inevitable result of the characters and their choices. For those looking for lots of sword-banging, spell-casting action, this isn’t the place to find it. This story deals more in verbal confrontation, shades of revealed truth, and the nature of honor and treachery. My only quibble is that the ending, hard-won as it is, is a little pat, especially after the moral ambiguity of Dunk and Egg’s first story “The Hedge Knight” and the foregoing mass of this one. But given everything else about this absorbing tale, hewn from the same wood as the rest of the Song of Ice and Fire, this is a very minor point.

Martin’s pacing is slow and deliberate, shining a light into all the crevices of the personal, moral and physical terrain covered here. Graeme Malcolm’s reading is fittingly unhurried and considered. A British accent is a must for high fantasy like this (in my opinion), and Malcolm’s is dignified and readily intelligible to the American ear. There is even a compelling, extensive introduction to tune your ear to it. I think you’ll enjoy Malcolm’s voice characterizations, as well, as they are subtle, yet distinct, and seem well matched to the characters. Some music is present, mostly as punctuation between the book title, the introductory material, and the story itself, which is helpful. It also accompanies the brief prologue and epilogue to the story, which is not helpful, but also not too distracting.

Anne McCaffrey’s story “Pern: Beyond Between” is much less successful. It seems less a novella (let alone a wee novel) than a doughy short story that got rolled out a little too thin. The main ingredient is the disappearance of Lessa and Hoth into the great unknown of Between, but sifted in are travels in space, time, and Between; a few changes in viewpoint; and even a digression into a different genre. Sadly, the result never quite rises off the page. You will never quite taste the wistful loss and the painful discovery this story hints at, nor feel the fullness of the characters in your belly. It will leave you hungry for the Pern you remember from the original novels. And should you have missed these rightfully revered classics, I highly recommend skipping the appetizer-sized review of it which precedes the story. It gives a little too much away.

As with the first story, the reading of this one is wonderful. If Alyssa Bresnahan’s voice isn’t the voice I heard in my head while reading the original Pern series, no one’s is. It is the perfect complement to McCaffrey’s prose, flawed as that may be. Again, music is used to separate the introductory material from the story, and this time it is kept sensibly out of the narration.

The sound and production quality of both these stories are exceptional; however, they make an oddly matched pair. McCaffrey’s story could be safely given to your emotionally stable ten-year-old niece, but some of the language and themes of Martin’s would blister the poor child’s ears. And the packaging? Even calling it bland would imply an effervescence it sorely lacks. And of the 11 authors represented in the hardback version of this book (which lists only a tiny bit more than this audio book), only two are represented here. How much would you have to shell out to hear the novellas from all these distinguished authors? I shudder to imagine it. In short, while one of these stories is outstanding and the narrations excellent, this audio book does little to attract a new audience to the novella, and it certainly does not provide great value for the money.

Posted by Kurt Dietz

Review of A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

Fantasy Audiobooks - A Clash of Kings by George R.R. MartinA Clash of Kings
By George R.R. Martin; Read by Roy Dotrice
21 Cassettes – 37 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 2004
ISBN: 073930870X
Themes: / Fantasy / Medieval setting / Power struggle / Dragons /

A Clash of Kings continues the saga started by George R.R. Martin in A Game of Thrones. There are six projected volumes in this series. The first three novels are currently in print, and all three of them are now available on unabridged audio from Random House Audio or Books on Tape. A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings are also available on Audible.com.

This volume is frankly more of the same kind of thing experienced in A Game of Thrones. (See the SFFAudio review of A Game of Thrones here). In this case, that’s a good thing. A Clash of Kings is a direct continuation of the first volume with the addition of several new characters. The stories of members House Stark and House Lannister were again the center of the plot – their struggle for power in the land of Westeros continues, while the supernatural threat from the North continues to gather, and Daenerys Targaryen, with her dragons, gains power. Tension runs high throughout the book, and resolution is left for future volumes.

George R.R. Martin has created a medieval world filled with interesting characters that I continue to care about. The plot is complex, and each time I felt a question was answered, a new mystery unfolded.

The myriad of characters created a challenge for narrator Roy Dotrice, but again he does a fabulous job. With captivating skill and range he charges on, unfolding the story chapter by chapter, character by character, event by event. The book is certainly a marathon for the listener, but by the end, after 37 hours, I was (and am) still eager to continue listening to this truly excellent fantasy series.

Review of A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Fantasy Audiobooks - A Game of Thrones by George R.R. MartinA Game of Thrones
By George R.R. Martin; Read by Roy Dotrice
19 Cassettes – 34 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 2004
ISBN: 0739308688
Themes: / Fantasy / Medieval setting / Power struggle / Dragons /

A Game of Thrones is the first of six projected volumes of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series. It was published in 1997, where it joined a host of other fat fantasy series, including Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series and Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. With many fully realized characters and subplots that don’t fail to surprise, Martin’s series stands tall above the rest in the genre. This particular volume won the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel (1997) and was nominated for the Best Novel Nebula Award.

I was very much looking forward to the audio version of this novel, and followed some of the discussion on George R.R. Martin’s website concerning it. He apparently rejected an offer to make a 9-hour abridged version of the book, which he felt would be more of a summary than a novel. He was right – this unabridged version is 34 hours long, and I for one am delighted that he waited.

A Game of Thrones is not fantasy in the style of Tolkien. In fact, it has much more in common with Herbert’s Dune than Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The book is a chess game played by various Houses in a quest for power in a land called Westeros. The setting is medieval, with kings, knights, lords, and ladies. At the beginning of the novel, we’re introduced to House Stark, led by Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell. He and his family live in a castle in the northern country, and are reminded often that winter is coming… in more ways than one. Eddard’s wife is Catelyn, formerly of House Tully, and their children are Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon. Eddard also fathered a bastard named Jon Snow – his mother is a mystery to all but Eddard.

The struggle around which everything revolves is between House Stark and House Lannister. Cersei, the king’s wife, is of that house, as is Jaime, her twin brother, and Tyrion, a dwarf. Every one of the characters mentioned play important roles in the story, and because they are so realistically portrayed, they are not difficult to tell apart, nor are they hard to remember as they love, fight, promise, and betray.

What makes this novel fantasy? Magic plays a very small role in the story. The characters in this novel are all grey, unlike the black and white good/evil of typical fantasy characters. But there is a growing supernatural threat in the north, introduced in the Prologue. And there is also Danerys Targaryen, of the house that held the throne years before the events in this novel, who is coming of age… and Targaryens are known for their dragons.

George R.R. Martin’s writing style is very easy to follow, and translates beautifully to the spoken word. Roy Dotrice does an excellent job. In my opinion, his performance is on par with Jim Dale’s reading of the Harry Potter novels. Many, many characters present themselves here, just as in the Potter novels, yet Dotrice, like Dale, manages to keep them all separated and gives them all distinct mannerisms and voices that keep the story flowing. I caught a few mispronunciations in the book, all names where Dotrice gets caught up in the moment and calls Prince Joffrey “Jeffrey”, for example, or pronounces the name “Varys” two different ways. This did cause me pause, but it happened only a few times in the 34 hour performance.

This was one of my favorite novels before I listened to this audiobook. Martin has created a realistic world peopled with authentic characters that are not difficult to care about. The book runs me through a huge range of emotions as the complex plot runs its course. This audiobook enhanced the experience – listening to Dotrice’s performance was like reading it again for the first time.

Review of The Hedge Knight by George R.R. Martin

Science Fiction Audiobook - Legends 4The Hedge Knight
Contained in: Legends: Stories by the Masters of Fantasy, Volume 4
by George R.R. Martin; Read by Frank Muller
4 Cassettes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio
Date Published: 1996
ISBN: 0694521132
Themes: / Fantasy / Knights / Jousting / Court Intrigue /

I’m not a big epic fantasy fan. I have nothing at all against them – it’s just that I enjoy good science fiction more than I enjoy good epic fantasy. I’ve read and enjoyed Tolkien, then the first three books in Terry Brook’s Shannara series… with that my appetite for epic fantasy novels was sated.

But then came George R.R. Martin. Several people told me to read the first book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Game of Thrones. I finally picked up the thousand-pager, and am now hooked, impatiently waiting for Martin to finish the fourth book (of six!) in the series.

The Hedge Knight is a short novel set in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, but well before the events in the first novel. We follow the travels of Dunc, a squire to an aged hedge knight. When this hedge knight dies in the middle of nowhere, Dunc takes on the role of knight himself and gets into trouble when he crosses a prince at a tournament.

Like the the larger series, The Hedge Knight is filled with interesting, realistic characters, none of which are all good or all bad. There is plenty of intrigue and political maneuvering along with the medieval action.

The story is ably performed by Frank Muller, who’s considerable skill along with Martin’s excellent prose makes this recording one I return to again and again.

The Legends 4 audiobook also contains a Pern story by Anne McCaffrey and a Riftwar story by Raymond Feist.