The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #205 – Jesse, Tamahome, and Jenny talk about NEW RELEASES and RECENT ARRIVALS.

Talked about on today’s show:
Oz Reimagined, Orson Scott Card, John Joseph Adams, Marissa Vu, The Mad Scientist’s Guide To World Domination, Daniel H. Wilson, Alan Dean Foster, Seanan McGuire, Scott loves lists!!, Microcosmic God by Theodore Sturgeon, the cruel god, about Science Fiction, mad scientists, steampunk, urban fantasy, superheroes, supervillians, Lex Luthor, Infinivox, Steampunk Specs, Cherie Preist, Cat Rambo, Margaret Ronald, Sean McMullen, do stage actors make the best narrators?, themed anthologies, Extinction Point (Book 1) by Paul Anthony Jones, Emily Beresford, Chuck Wendig, Mockingbird, Blackbird, post-apocalyptic novels, Swan Song by Robert McCammon, Six Heirs (The Secret of Ji) by Pierre Grimbert, “Les editions Mnemos”, Bolinda Audio, the distorting effect of podcasts, are audiobooks taking over reading?, Luke Burrage, busy lifestyles, Gone Girl, Beautiful Ruins, archaeologist werewolf vampire oracles, “being a librarian is awesome”, is being a paramedic fun? Or is it full of paperwork?, Bones, forensic anthropology, Kathy Reichs, sorry no time traveling, high fantasy (aka epic fantasy), The Hobbit, The Lord Of The Rings, The Worm Ouroboros, Neil Gaiman, the Neverwhere BBC audio drama, the TV show, the audiobook, Neverwhere as an allegory of homelessness, urban fantasy, Neil Gaiman can do no wrong, “I accept that”, Harry Potter is not high fantasy, Tolkienesque, George R.R. Martin, Harlan Ellison, Deadhouse Gates (A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen) by Steven Erikson, Malazan is hot on GoodReads, Terpkristin, Mongoliad Book 3, Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, Nicole Galland, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey, Copper Moo, comic crossovers, The Beast of Calatrava (A Foreworld SideQuest, Mongoliad) by Mark Teppo, Area 51: The Truth by Bob Mayer, Casey, Zero Dark Thirty, torturefest, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Among Others by Jo Walton, Between Two Thorns (The Split Worlds #1) by Emma Newman, Cornish accents please, Jumper by Steven Gould, Jumper vs. Looper, Reflex by Steven Gould, The Stars My Destination, teleportation, Impulse by Steven Gould, snowboarding, Sarah vs. Bryce, Angelopolis (Angelology #2) by Danielle Trussoni, Penguin Audio, Fabergé eggs, The Da Vinci Code, nightmare car trips, nightmare cruises, Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, stolkholm syndrome, Seth Grahame-Smith, zombies, Redemption Alley (Jill Kismet Series) by Lilith Saintcrow, The Free Lunch by Spider Robinson, Spider Robinson is the humane hippie Heinleinian, theme park fantasy, the Callahan’s series, fascistic junky pro-war movies are ameliorated by reading Robinson, Heinlein and the sexual revolution, Michael Flynn, Falling Stars (Firestar Saga #4) by Michael Flynn, Footfall, the Russian meteor, what would have happened if it had happened over Ohio, instead of Siberia, Dan Carlin, Neil deGrasse Tyson, suspension of habeas corpus, an external vs an autoimmune threat, Farside by Ben Bova, Stefan Rudnicki, soap opera or space opera?, archaic characters, vintage SF, Jack Williamson, Omni magazine, Aftermath (Supernova Alpha Series #1) by Charles Sheffield, Black Feathers (The Black Dawn #1) by Joseph D’Lacey, Simon Vance, futuristic fantasy?, apocalyptic fantasy?, History Vikings, Jenny is 1/4 viking, Steen Hansen, the quasi historical saga dude, The Tudors, The Borgias, The Thrall’s Tale by Judith Lindbergh, Ireland, Triggers by Robert J. Sawyer, “real science fiction”, technothriller, Red Mars Blues, Morlock Night by K.W. Jeter, Connie Willis, steampunk, Tim Powers, The Age Atomic (sequel to Empire State) by Adam Christopher, Phil Gigante, Seven Wonders, superhero noir, intricately beautiful, The Stainless Steel Rat, Phil Gigante is the new narrator of Galactic Pot-Healer, Julie Davis, Robert Sheckley, suicidal characters, a comedic version of Neuromancer with the Wintermute role being played by Cthulhu, Tor, Imager’s Battalion by L.E. Modesitt, Jr., A Natural History Of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan, Naomi Novik, Trinity Rising by Elspeth Cooper, The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi, Finland, Tam books vs. Jenny books, The Hermetic Millennia by John C. Wright, The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman, 500 Essential Cult Books: The Ultimate Guide by Gina McKinnon, 500 Essential Cult Movies: The Ultimate Guide by Jennifer Eiss, Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson, Dreamscape Media, Toronto, conjoined twins, Brown Girl In The Ring, Midnight Robber, mojo vs. voodoo, Karen Lord, Cat Valente style fantasy, The White Woman On The Green Bicycle, Inherit The Stars by James P. Hogan, “a shimmering arpeggio”, Downpour’s new pricing is $12.99 per month, DRM FREE audiobooks are awesome, Identity Theft by Robert J. Sawyer, LibriVox,, Robert E. Howard’s Conan, The Devil In Iron by Robert E. Howard, The Hour Of The Dragon by Robert E. Howard, Mark Nelson, Bill Hollweg, what would a Robert J. Sawyer Conan story look like?

A Natural History Of Dragons by Marie Brennan

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Blood of Ambrose by James Enge

SFFaudio Review

Blood of Ambrose by James EngeBlood of Ambrose
By James Enge; Read by Jay Snyder
Audible Download – 14 hours 29 mins [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible Frontiers
Published: 2009
Themes: / Fantasy / High Fantasy / Arthurian Legend / Sword and Sorcery / Necromancy / Regency / Immortality /

In his introduction to the Audible Frontiers recording of Blood of Ambrose, James Enge places his debut novel in the “swords and sorcery” fantasy sub-genre. While the work certainly fulfills the expectations established by that label–it’s replete with feats of arms, dark conjurings, and roguish characters–it also owes debts to the Arthurian tradition and to humorous fantasy in the vein of David Eddings and Joe Abercrombie. The resulting mélange of tropes and styles sometimes clashes, but in the end it leaves the reader with a varied and satisfying reading experience.

The blurb from Pyr, who publishes the hardcopy edition, reads as follows:

Centuries after the death of Uthar the Great, the throne of the Ontilian Empire lies vacant. The late emperor’s brother-in-law and murderer, Lord Urdhven, appoints himself Protector to his nephew, young King Lathmar VII and sets out to kill anyone who stands between himself and mastery of the empire, including (if he can manage it) the king himself and his ancient but still formidable ancestress, Ambrosia Viviana.

When Ambrosia is accused of witchcraft and put to trial by combat, she is forced to play her trump card and call on her brother, Morlock Ambrosius—stateless person, master of all magical makers, deadly swordsman, and hopeless drunk.

As ministers of the king, they carry on the battle, magical and mundane, against the Protector and his shadowy patron. But all their struggles will be wasted unless the young king finds the strength to rule in his own right and his own name.

With names like Uthar and Viviana, even the most casual scholar of Arthuriana will recognize several connections to that illustrious tradition. Even the book’s title, Blood of Ambrose, is an allusion to Arthur, since in some medieval texts King Arthur is sometimes conflated with the late Roman British official Ambrosius Aurelianus. Though the novel is set in a seemingly fictional realm, tantalizing connections to our own world fleetingly appear, including overt references to the Latin tongue and to Britain itself. The relationship between the Ontilian Empire and our own past, however, is never fully explored. While Enge asserts that Blood of Ambrose serves up a completely self-contained story, he certainly leaves room for future world-building.

King Lathmar VII, as the above blurb suggests, is ostensibly the novel’s protagonist. Seen in this light, Blood of Ambrose is a coming-of-age story, and in this capacity it succeeds beautifully. In the book’s early hours, Lathmar is tossed around “like a sack of beans,” as he says, but by book’s end he’s making his own decisions and asserting his rightful authority. His relationship with the other characters are fraught with ambivalence and ambiguity.

The novel’s shining star, though, is the almost-immortal Morlock, who epitomizes the paradoxical swords-and-sorcery antihero. On the one hand, he’s valiant, protective, and very kind to Lathmar. Yet at times he is prone to violent outbursts or spells of depression. In a unique twist, we’re also told that he’s had a drinking problem in the past, and his refusal to let spirits pass his lips recurs as a frequent talking point among the other characters.

Unfortunately, the novel’s plot isn’t on par with its vibrant characters. Blood of Ambrose certainly tells some thrilling, engaging, and poignant stories, but they work better as standalone adventures rather than building a unified edifice. Characters like Lathmar, Morlock, and the arch-villain poisoner Steng serve as unifying threads,  but the plot simply lacked the momentous drive to keep me interested in what would happen next. Luckily, the character development was strong enough to provide me with that forward impetus.

Jay Snyder’s reading of Blood of Ambrose is mostly run-of-the-mill, with one significant exception. His resonant, laconic, intentionally dead-pan portrayal as Morlock transcends mere performance. This is how a flesh-and-blood Morlock really would speak. Seldom in my experience listening to audiobooks has a character been so indelibly linked to the narrator who gives him voice. Snyder’s depiction of Lathmar also deserves note; the transition from tremulous stuttering to firm command mirrors the development of the young king. His rendition of the tempermental Ambrosia is less flattering, and her outbursts can grate on the listener’s ears like claws. Of course, that may well be intentional.

Though it tells a rather lackluster story, Blood of Ambrose introduces a fascinating settting populated by a host of multi-faceted characters. It’s my hope that James Enge will continue to work and play with this colorful palette.

Posted by Seth Wilson

Review of Academ’s Fury by Jim Butcher

SFFaudio Review

Academ's Fury by Jim ButcherAcadem’s Fury
By Jim Butcher; Read by Kate Reading
17 CDs – 21 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Published: 2008
ISBN:  0143143772
Themes: / Fantasy / High Fantasy / Elementals / Battle / Primitive Culture / Rome /

Having been a fan of Jim Butcher’s urban fantasy Dresden Files series for some time, as well as a consummate reader of traditional fantasy, I recently decided to delve into the author’s Codex Alera series. I found the series opener, Furies of Calderon, to be a solid entry for Butcher into the epic fantasy genre, but my recent review also pointed to some room for improvement. After devouring its sequel, Academ’s Fury, I’m happy to report that Butcher has found his voice and set the tone for the series.

A brief refresher: the Codex Alera series takes place in the land of, you guessed it, Alera, whose inhabitants possess the ability to control elemental powers called furies. The lone exception is the series’s prime protagonist, Tavi, who has come of age without developing any apparent skill in furycrafting.

Academ’s Fury skips ahead two years from the conclusion of the previous book, and finds Tavi studying at the Academy of Alera Imperia, the land’s capitol city. The novel thus adopts many tropes of the “school novel”: bullies, arrogant teachers, and mischievous rule-breaking. Tavi also gains a window into the realm’s politics by serving as page to First Lord Gaius Sextus. Further raising the stakes, an isolated adventure in Furies of Calderon turns out to have disastrous implications both for the valley of Calderon and for the imperial city itself. The result is a novel that weaves these plot treads together into a rich, satisfying tapestry.

Like its predecessor, Academ’s Fury follows the viewpoints of several characters, although Tavi is clearly the linchpin. The Cursor Amara, siblings Bernard and Isana, and the treacherous Fidelias all reprise their roles, and all these develop in significant and sometimes surprising ways. The Marat wolf tribe, which played a pivotal part in Furies of Calderon, also returns under the capable leadership of Chieftain Doroga. The chieftain’s spirited daughter Kitai also figures heavily in the story. Several new characters join these veterans in the tale’s events. The only notable standout from among them, for me, is Antillar Maximus, Tavi’s fiercely loyal friend at the Academy.

More importantly, Academ’s Fury expands the scope of the world of Codex Alera by introducing two new races: the wolf-like canim and the insectile Vord. Both races possess serious martial prowess and present a serious threat to Alera. Unlike the Canim, however, the cold, calculating Vord cannot be reasoned with. By means of worm-like parasitic scouts, the Vord take possession of humans, preserving their physical stature and mental abilities but blotting out their souls. This dynamic makes for a few horrific scenes of which Stephen King might be proud, and the Vord warriors and queens ooze vileness and evil both literally and metaphorically. The battle scenes in Academ’s Fury resemble those of R. A. Salvatore or early Terry Brooks in their invention and frenetic pace.

Jim Butcher utilizes the novel’s setting in the Academy at Alera Imperia to disseminate information about the world without resorting to mere “info-dump” modalities. Through Tavi’s readings, dialogues, and examinations, the book takes a deeper look into the history of Alera, including its tenuous connections to the Rome of our world. We also get a brief glimpse under the hood at the mechanics of furycrafting.

The novel’s greater breadth of scope and its focus on Romanesque political intrigues address the major complaints I had with the first book, but Academ’s Fury still isn’t perfect. For one thing, the pacing flags somewhat near the end. A bigger defect, to my mind, has to do with the character development. Most of the characters do develop in interesting and believable ways, but a few of them come off as flat. Sadly, this is true in some ways of Tavi, who always seems to get the better of his rage, his fear, or his other negative traits. He’s a fascinating character, but his lack of internal conflict and teenage angst diminishes his believability. Similarly Doroga, the Marat chieftain, fits too perfectly the archetype of the “noble savage”. He’s a lovable character, but he exists in a hundred other variations in a hundred other fantasy books.

Kate Reading’s performance once again brings the Codex Alera series to life. Each character receives full articulation, so that even without dialogue tags it’s clear who’s doing the talking. The Latin scholar in me occasionally winces at her non-classical pronunciation of certain words (she renders princeps “prin-SEPS” instead of “prin-KEPS”), most listeners probably won’t take issue with  such minor details.

Minor qualms aside, Academ’s Fury improves on the first novel of the Codex Alera and continues to promise great things for the series.

Posted by Seth Wilson

Review of Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher

SFFaudio Review

Furies of Calderon by Jim ButcherFuries of Calderon
By Jim Butcher; Read by Kate Reading
Audible Download – 20 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher:  Penguin Audiobooks
Published:  2008
Themes: / high fantasy / Roman / elementals / barbarians / farm boy

Best-known for his urban fantasy Dresden Files series, Jim Butcher has also penned a relatively unsung series of high fantasy novels called the Codex Alera, of which Furies of Calderon is the first. In several interviews, Jim Butcher has stated that his Codex Alera series grew out of a writing challenge–to take bad or cringeworthy themes and transform them into a good story. Brave soul that he is, Butcher chose to tackle the banal trope of the Lost Roman Legion and, of all things, Pokémon. Before you run for the hills screaming, let me assure you that he has succeeded in his task, crafting a rousing adventure that sets the tone for what promises to be an exciting series.

First, let’s deal with the elephant, er, Pokémon, in the room. Rather than the cute furry monsters that emerge from pocket-sized balls tossed into the air, as in the Japanese juggernaut, Butcher’s interpretation of Pokémon takes the form of elemental beings called furies, which humans can summon at need to perform various magical tasks, including combat, flight, scrying, and healing. Furies feel so natural to the world of the Codex Alera that if I hadn’t mentioned the Pokémon allusion you probably wouldn’t have noticed it.

The other defining feature of the Codex Alera is its Romanesque setting. The land of Alera, a rough equivalent to the Roman Empire, is populated by folks with Latinate names like Gaius, Fidelius, and Amara, and terms like princeps and cursor will be familiar to even a casual student of Classical history.

Despite these two gimmicks, however, Furies of Calderon is fairly standard high fantasy fare. Several characters and storylines play out, but the book’s real protagonist and character of interest is Tavi, a fifteen-year-old farm boy in the valley of Calderon which, because of its strategic geographical location, becomes the site for an impending battle between the lords of Alera and the neighboring barbarian Marat tribes. Tavi lives with his aunt and uncle on their steadholt, the basic administrative unit in the fertile valley, but dreams of joining the Academy in the empire’s capitol city. Say it with me, people, Star Wars. The fascinating thing about Tavi, though, is that, unlike all other Alerans we meet, he lacks even the slightest furycrafting abilities. His uncle Bernard and aunt Isana are no Owen and Beru, and when the threat of invasion looms they both take decisive action to defend their beloved valley of Calderon. Meanwhile the cursor Amara speeds to the valley to try to warn its citizens of their impending fate, pursued by her traitorous ex-tutor Fidelias, whose name ironically stems from the Latin root fides, meaning “faith”.

These adventures are fun and engaging, to be sure, but the real strength of Furies of Calderon rests with its character interaction and development. Tavi is an archetypical hero in the sense described by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, but he’s also a fifteen-year-old boy with raging hormones and conflicting loyalties. Tavi’s lack of furycrafting remains a mystery throughout the novel, as does the question of his parentage, leaving plenty of room for further development in future novels. Bernard and Isana both possess a fierce integrity and loyalty to land and family. In some ways, the stand-out characters are the villains. Fidelius is crafty and treacherous, true, but like any good fictional villain he believes he’s fighting for the good of the land of Alera. The motives of the enigmatic Odiana, a water-crafter in the service of Fidelius, defy easy articulation. Al the characters in Furies of Calderon whether “good” or “bad”, act according to their own personal compass of principles. The one exception is the bloodthirsty and barbarous Kord, a farmer in the valley who dabbles in the slave trade. He alone seems to be one of those cardboard villains whose sole purpose is to be knocked down.

Because its events are mostly centered around the valley of Calderon, which feels more like an early medieval territory than a Roman province, Furies of Calderon will largely disappoint readers expecting the political intrigues and machinations of TV dramas about the Classical world like Robert Graves’s I, Claudius or HBO’s Rome. If anything, the setting most closely resembles the late Roman Empire, when Europe was in transition from Roman rule into the tumultuous Medieval period. Calderon is ruled by a count, and there’s even a province called Aquitaine, which is a clear allusion to Roman Gaul. Some pivotal scenes in the book’s opening and closing pages hint that the series will move in this direction, though, so Classicists should not lose heart.

Given that my only exposure to Butcher’s writing thus far had been his gritty, cynical depiction of modern-day Chicago through the eyes of wizard Harry Dresden, I harbored fears that he wouldn’t be able to write in the more elevated style required by High Fantasy. My fears were unfounded. Butcher’s writing is competent throughout, and easily matches the style of other authors in the genre, although it lacks the lyricism and resonance of the genre’s best.

For some reason, dramatic portrayals of the Roman world in English always employ British actors, with Emperors and Senators speaking the Queen’s English and slaves speaking a Cockney dialect. Because of this trend, the British accent Kate Reading adopts for her reading of Furies of Calderon feels right and natural. She conveys particularly well the emotional depth of the teenage Tavi as he battles with internal and external forces throughout the novel, and she also brings the complex Odiana to vivid life.

Furies of Calderon is an imperfect novel laden with fantasy clichés, but it holds enough originality and depth to warrant a thorough listen. Those who happen to enjoy those fantasy clichés, as I do, will find it a rewarding experience. Furthermore, the novel holds promise that the rest of the Codex Alera series will capitolize on the underplayed features that make Furies of Calderon so noteworthy.

Posted by Seth Wilson

Maria Lectrix: The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison

SFFaudio Online Audio

Scott A. Cupp called The Worm Ouroboros “a fantasy that is as fascinating as Tolkien and much more brilliant.” Tolkien himself had read The Worm Ouroboros before writing The Lord Of The Rings. Tolkien’s Middle Earth books use a more grounded prose style than Eddison. Bear in mind that Eddison’s archaic language makes his High Fantasy far less accessible than Tolkien. Maureen Obrien has released her reading of it under a Creative Commons license.

The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. EddisonThe Worm Ouroboros
By E.R. Eddison; Read by Maureen O’Brien
56 MP3 Files – Approx. 22 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Maria Lectrix
Podcast: May 2007 – May 2008
Provider: Internet Archive
This classic 1922 fantasy novel brings you to a strange and lovely world where a young lord wrestles King Gorice for his land’s freedom, where unscalable mountains can only be conquered by stubbornness and hippogriffs, where the great explorer Lord Gro finds himself continually driven to betrayal, where sweet young women occasionally fall for evil wizards, and where the heroes actually win their hearts’ desire.

Ouroboros Map by David Bedell

Posted by Jesse Willis

Book Lust podcast delivers Connie Willis & Guy Gavriel Kay

SFFaudio Online Audio

Book LustThe Book Lust podcast has two half-hour interviews you’ll want to hear. with SF writer Connie Willis and Fantasy author Guy Gavriel Kay. Connie talks about her novels, Doomsday Book, Bellwether, her first story Firewatch and the origins of her love of Science Fiction and lots more. Guy talks about his Fionavar Tapestry, his latest novel, his involvement with editing J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion and the nature of High Fantasy fiction. These are two terrific interviews conducted by a real fan of the two authors.

Connie Willis interview |MP3|
Guy Gavriel Kay interview|MP3|

You can subscribe to the podcast via this feed:

posted by Jesse Willis