Review of Singularity by Bill DeSmedt

Podibook Review

Podcast - The SingularitySingularity
By Bill DeSmedt; Read by Bill DeSmedt
47 MP3 Files – 20 Hours 24 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Podiobooks.com
Published: 2006
Themes: / Science Fiction / Hard SF / Tunguska Event / Black Holes / Time Travel / Near Future/ Cloak & Dagger / Quantum Physics / Soviet Union /

June 30th, 1908 – In the remote Tunguska region of Siberia, the most violent cosmic collision in recorded history flattened ancient forests over an area half the size of Rhode Island. Yet after a hundred years of international scientific research the cause of this impact remains a mystery.

Several people told me Singularity was worth listening to. But of course I figured they we’re probably wrong, I’m not easy to please. But because it was FREE I told myself to give it a chance. I have to say I was astounded! After a longish introduction, more of a history lesson, the real story takes off. And boy, does it! Like a Nelson DeMille novel with Saturn V booster strapped to it! This is incisive Hard SF set in a near future with plenty of action, some very cool ideas and even a bit of romance. The plot orbits around the mystery of the 1908 Tunguska Event. The action intertwines cloak and dagger with quantum physics in a tidal dance. I’m no physics major, but the scientific explanations were clear and compelling. You know a story’s good when you end up looking up some of the ideas. The tale is fleshed out through a large cast of central characters: Jonathan Knox, a consultant to elite government agencies, is the engaging lead protagonist. Knox has a knack with finding patterns in giant fields of data – a trait attributable to a voyage his mind went on once. Marianna Bonaventure, his soon to be lover, is a federal government agent on the trail of a missing materials scientist. Physicist Jack Adler is on the same trail as Knox and Marianna, but he doesn’t know it yet. Together, and apart they are in a race that may have been predetermined as unwinnable before it started, only the laws of causality know. Opposing them is a set of rationally motivated villains – with the weight of an multi-billion dollar corporate empire behind them. Leading them is, Arkady Grigoriyevich, who spends most of his time aboard a converted mega-yacht, that is now a floating laboratory. DeSmedt packs about a dozen terrific SF ideas into his tale. Also included in the podcast feed is an informative question and answer bonus MP3 file with the author himself. I am eagerly awaiting the follow-up novel, cleverly titled, Duality.

I tend to enjoy audiobooks narrated by authors, as they know exactly when and where to pause, what words to accentuate and how to pronounce the character names. But DeSmedt was not a perfect narrator, in fact at the start he sounded nervous. I was worried, but gradually as the chapters flowed the anxiety faded, and by the end I he was reading like a professional. Maybe his female voices need a bit more practice, but I swear, all those Russian accents were perfect.

I downloaded Singularity from Podiobooks.com for free, but when I did I could only get the first half of the novel. It was being released piecemeal, chapter by chapter, as podcasts. I have heard many people enjoy this delivery style; and it probably works for serial adventures or short story collections but I don’t like it for novels. I quickly listened to the first 20 chapters of the book in quick succession only to then have to wait for a whole month to finish it. Next time I visit podiobooks.com I’ll be making sure the serialization is completed before starting another novel. Another issue, selecting the next podcast once a chapter was finished was a real bitch. I drive a standard transmission automobile and my iPod is stuck into a faraway cigarette lighter. Every time a chapter of Singularity ended I would be made to reach over to rip my iPod out of the transmitter/charger and then hold on to it and the steering wheel while trying to navigate the menu to figure out which chapter was next. The podcasts delivery system would have been far better if I could have started and the ended the story in the same file, in other words what I needed was one big podcast, the novel in one file.

Bill DeSmedt’s Singularity

Podcast - The SingularityI got the honor of meeting Bill DeSmedt author of the podiobook Singularity, at WorldCon! Bill just wrote in and said: “I promised to get back to you once I’d gotten the schedule for the final few episodes of the Singularity podcast worked out. The final ‘episode’ of the podcast will be a Q&A session with the author (me), hosted by Paul Fisher. Questions must be submitted before Oct 28th, and the best one wins an autographed copy of Singularity.” Thanks Bill!

Here’s the schedule:

Episode 41 (Ch 40: Project Report) — 09/25 (Monday)
Episode 42 (Ch 41: The Singularity) — 09/30 (Saturday)
Episode 43 (Ch 42: A Stitch in Time) — 10/05 (Thursday)
Episode 44 (Ch 43: Le Mot Juste) — 10/10 (Tuesday)
Episode 45 (Ch 44: Last Row on the Chessboard) — 10/15 (Sunday)
Episode 46 (Ch 45: Mopping up) — 10/20 (Friday)
Episode 47 (Epilog: The Bridge) — 10/25 (Wednesday)
Q&A Episode — 10/31 (Tuesday)

And you can check out Paul Fischer’s new MP3 promo for Singularity HERE!

posted by Jesse Willis

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

Review of Ringworld by Larry Niven

Science Fiction Audiobook - Ringworld by Larry NivenRingworld
By Larry Niven; Read by Tom Parker
Audible Download – 11 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 1999
ISBN:
Themes: / Science Fiction / Hard science fiction / Physics / Space travel / Aliens /

I’ve started this review several times. I’m honestly not sure what to say about this classic novel. In a word, it’s wonderful. What else can I say? It was originally published in 1970, and won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel. Of course, the awards and all the accolades since were well deserved.

Blackstone Audio published this unabridged version in 1999, and I found it on Audible. Tom Parker does a fine job with this straight narration of the material. Not fantastic, but better than adequate. Once I eased into his flow, I had no problem maintaining attention, but I think a bit more could be asked in the characterization department.

The main character in Ringworld is a 200 year old human named Louis Wu, who is approached by a Puppeteer (one of an alien race) who in turn is building a team to visit a star system that has an fabricated ring around it. The complete team includes Louis Wu, the Puppeteer, a Kzin, and a human female. The reasons for all these choices become clear during the novel.

Niven’s style is such that you can be awed then amused on the same page. His characters are very comfortable with life. They talk physics like we discuss where to have dinner. After more than thirty years, the story remains interesting and the ideas fascinating.

I highly recommend this audiobook, whether you’ve experienced Ringworld already or not.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Technical Error by Arthur C. Clarke

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Technical Error by Arthur C. ClarkeTechnical Error
By Arthur C. Clarke; Read by David Zinn
37 Minutes – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: 2005
Themes: / Science Fiction / Hard SF / Parallel Worlds
/ Math Fiction /

Another FREE streaming audio short story by Arthur C.
Clarke from Assistive Media. An ingenious concept for a story, Technical Error shows why Arthur C. Clarke is who he is – excellent ideas executed intelligently. The premise is too good to spoil but I’ll give you a hint – imagine a world in which 90% of people are left handed.

This streaming audio story also includes a little introduction written by Clarke. Unfortunately David Zinn doesn’t pause between the introduction and the story’s start – making it slightly confusing. The reading is adequate; Zinn doesn’t have too much to work with given the dialogue and characters, since both are rather flatish. One more minor quibble, it sounds as if someone forgot to turn off the air conditioning in the recording studio.
Available at AssistiveMedia.org.

REALAUDIO LINK: http://www.assistivemedia.org/amrams/TechnicalError.ram

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Travel by Wire by Arthur C. Clarke

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Travel by Wire by Arthur C. ClarkeTravel By Wire
By Arthur C. Clarke; Read by David Zinn
11 minutes – [UNABRIDGED]
Published: 2005
Themes: / Science Fiction / Hard SF / Teleportation / Humor /

Arthur C. Clarke’s early stories all seem to reflect some shade of his particularly British sense of humor – something which is almost completely absent from his later work. It is as if he was a “playful writer” in his youth and then a “serious writer” later on. This one is particularly playful, and has some good science fiction content too. Also nice is a brief introduction to the story written by Clarke, taken from the The Best Of Arthur C. Clarke 1937-1955. This story, Clarke’s first, was originally published in “Amateur Science Fiction Stories” magazine in December 1937. Reader David Zinn doesn’t sport an English accent but his reading is otherwise
appropriate. Available, for free, on the excellent AssistiveMedia.org website.

REALAUDIO LINK:
http://www.assistivemedia.org/amrams/TravelByWire.ram

Posted by Jesse Willis