Review of The Reel Stuff edited by Brian Thomsen and Martin H. Greenberg

The Reel Stuff
Edited by Brian Thomsen and Martin H. Greenberg
Read by Various
6 Cassettes – 9 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
ISBN: 0886465745
Publisher: dhAudio
Published: 2000 [OUT OF PRINT]
Themes: / Science Fiction / Horror / Computers / Memory / Aliens / Urban Legend / Space Travel / Time Travel /

The Reel Stuff is a collection of stories that have been adapted into films. They are all great stories, and this collection has the added attraction of comparing these stories to the films. dhAudio really did a fabulous job with this one. The stories:

Johnny Mnemonic by William Gibson, read by Christopher Graybill
FILM: Johnny Mnemonic (1995)
Johnny Mnemonic was published in 1981, a few years before Gibson’s Hugo and Nebula-award winning Neuromancer hit the scene, illuminating the whole Cyberpunk sub-genre. This story is a clear view of that sub-genre as it has all the elements; human/computer interfaces, plenty of violence, and quick-witted characters. In this story, the title character holds a piece of data in his brain that is wanted by some powerful folks who are willing to do plenty to get it. Christopher Graybill does a great job with it.

Amanda and the Alien by Robert Silverberg, read by Colleen Delany
FILM: Amanda and the Alien (1995 – TV)
This tale, by the great Robert Silverberg, is humourous and sexy. The main character is a ditzy teenage girl named Amanda who takes an alien who can morph into anyone it eats under her wing. Definitely a B-movie kind of story, but purposefully so. Colleen Delany performs well, capturing the Amanda character perfectly.

Mimic by Donald A. Wollheim, read by Terence Aselford
FILM: Mimic (1997)
Mimic is a very short tale that reads almost like a documentary about the peculiar ways in which animals hide from other animals. This is then extrapolated in a very spooky way to humans. Terence Aselford didn’t have a heck of a lot to work with here, but he kept it interesting.

The Forbidden by Clive Barker, read by Vanessa Maroney
FILM: Candyman (1992)
Clive Barker drums up some modern mythology here as a female professor explores urban legend among the lower class in London. The story is effective and chilling in the hands of Vanessa Maroney, who navigates Barker’s weirdness as if it were really happening.

We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick, read by Terence Aselford
FILM: Total Recall (1990)
Terence Aselford gets another chance in this collection, reading this reality-bender by Philip K. Dick. The main character wants to go to Mars in the worst way, but can’t afford it. The solution? Take a virtual vacation! Have memories implanted so you can “have gone” to Mars. But here, things get complicated when the implantee’s supressed memories surface during the procedure. Dick again manages to leave me wondering what the heck is really real – where exactly is the immovable bedrock? Nothing is sacred in Philip K. Dick’s hands.

Nightflyers by George R.R. Martin, read by Christopher Graybill
FILM: Nightflyers (1987)
Martin here spins a science fiction horror story. Think Psycho meets Lost in Space and maybe you’ll have a feel… a group of people ride on a ship that is controlled by a mystery man who never leaves the cockpit. Christopher Graybill again is impressive in his reading.

Air Raid John Varley, read by Nannette Savard
FILM: Millenium (1989)
Nannette Savard reads a very strange, very affecting story about Earth’s future. In it, humans have evolved just a bit, but the Earth’s biosphere has been destroyed, its people diseased. Varley’s descriptions are vivid and graphic – these people are in a bad way. To keep the species going, they go back in time to retrieve healthy airline passengers, mid-flight, since history shows they are on the verge of fiery death. These passengers become humanity’s hope. Varley is a very affecting writer, and through the main character we experience much. Savard does a great job conveying this to the listener.

Sandkings by George R.R. Martin, read by Richard Rohan
FILM: The Outer Limits: Sandkings (1995)
Simon Kress wants a pet, but something interesting… something out of the ordinary. He finds what he’s looking for when he purchases a group or creatures called sandkings which live in a large terrarium with plenty of sand lining the bottom. They build castles and fight battles. They even worship. And they are endlessly fascinating. Well, they were. Perhaps a little prodding from Kress will end the monotony… This one is my favorite of this excellent collection. Sandkings is original and fascinating, both as a character study of a man with too much comfort and as an exploration of an alien animal species.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Koko By Peter Straub

Fantasy Audiobooks - Koko by Peter StraubKoko
By Peter Straub; Read by James Woods
2 Cassettes – Approx. 3 hours [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Published: November 1988 – Out Of Print
ISBN: 0671652397
Themes: Fantasy / Horror / Mystery / Vietnam / Serial Killer /

“Koko…” Only four men knew what it meant… Vietnam vets. One was a doctor. One was a lawyer. One was a working stiff. One was a writer. All were as different as men could be – yet all were bound eternally together by a single shattering secret.

A group of Vietnam vets flies back to Asia in search of a former member of their old unit, someone who they think may have become a serial killer, someone calling himself “Koko”. Koko’s motivation and identity are inextricably linked to their tour in ‘Nam, and specifically to one experience they all shared in a Vietnamese village. But in order to discover Koko’s true nature, a few of them may have to die.

Simon & Schuster Audio have used the same cool cover art from the paperback for this audiobook, which is great, but they’ve heavily abridged the novel, which isn’t. Thankfully, the story still works despite the abridgement, and the reader, James Woods, has the chops to become a full time narrator if that Hollywood thing doesn’t work out. Also added to the production is suitably accented music, which works well despite happening at seemingly random intervals. Peter Straub is really able to carve the words into your mind in such a way as to freak you right out of your skin. But it’s not just the words themselves; it’s the characters and the thoughts they have, and the motivations that drive them. It’s certainly a horror novel, but more in the tradition of Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness than Stephen King’s It. What’s really weird though is that Koko won the World Fantasy Award for best novel. Despite lacking any fantastic elements, Koko is more mystery than fantasy and more horror than fantasy. But don’t get me wrong, Koko deserved the award. It’s just that it is so far outside the boundaries of typical fantasy fiction that only a phrase like “speculative fiction” can capture it at all. Were the work not so impressive nobody would bother debating whether it was fantasy or not. It’s definitely worth the debate.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Tales with a Twist by Jerald Fine

Fantasy Audiobook - Tales With A Twist by Jerald FineTales With a Twist
By Jerald Fine; Read by Jerald Fine
2 CD’s – 2 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tales with a Twist
Published: 2004
Themes: / Fantasy / Horror / Short Stories / Alamo / The Mob / Nature / Aging / Ghosts /

This audiobook by Jerald Fine delivers what it promises: five tales in the tradition of The Twilight Zone. The tales:

“Twilight of Youth”: A man who loathes old people gets his.
“The Hit”: A cautionary tale for any future employee of organized crime.
“The Wave”: The world’s greatest surfer tries a tidal wave.
“Return to the Alamo”: Could modern paratroopers make a difference at the Alamo?
“Fog Encounter”: A headless phantom stalks a community.

The stories capture the feel of the old Twilight Zone series, and each tale, as the title promises, ends with a twist. The audio is narrated by the author, who has a great dramatic voice. That voice in combination with some of the underlying music creates a few points that are TOO dramatic, but overall the balance is very good. There are places in the book where Fine is joined by a female voice, and I was heartened to see that the he saids/she saids were removed, and the actors were allowed to act where appropriate.

The result is a very good audiobook by Jerald Fine. Tales with a Twist is five stories with a classic feel read with good tone and energy. This book can be purchase on the author’s site at: www.taleswithatwist.com.

A note on packaging: I do not have in my hands the final package – the author informs me that the final package will include “a completed cover with barcodes in a double jewel box case.”

Review of War of the Worlds, Mercury Theater of the Air

SFFaudio Review

War of the Worlds, Mercury Theater of the Air, 1938

Orson Welles’ radio adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic War of the Worlds is itself a classic. The program is legendary for the panic it caused in some audience members when it originally aired on October 30, 1938. Welles played the first half of the story as realistic newscasts – “regular programming” is interrupted with convincing news of invading aliens. The drama then switches point of view to Welles’ main character, who wanders about the rubble-strewn streets looking for answers.

The story of the controversy caused by the broadcast is as interesting as the broadcast itself. A national debate ensued about whether or not to regulate radio drama in all sorts of different ways. It’s main effect was to illustrate that people can’t believe everything they hear, not unlike today’s graphics technology has proved that we can’t believe everything we see.

The quality of the script and the convincing performances of Orson Welles and the actor who, as a newscaster, described the emergence of the Martians from a crater left when they landed in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey, make this one of my all-time favorite audio dramas.

This recording is available from many different sources – my copy was published by Radio Spirits.

This year’s Stoker nominees have been announced. …

SFFaudio News

This year’s Stoker nominees have been announced. (The Stoker Awards are given by the Horror Writer’s Association for works published in the previous year.) In the “Alternative Forms” category, two audio dramas and one multimedia CD have been nominated:

Buckeye Jim in Egypt (audio script based on the Mort Castle story) by Mort Castle (Lone Wolf Publications)

The Tree is My Hat (audio script based on the Gene Wolfe story) by Larry Santoro (Listen to this one free here.)

Imagination Box (multimedia CD) by Steve and Melanie Tem (Lone Wolf Publications)

See all the Stoker Award nominees here. The awards will be presented at the HWA Annual Conference and Bram Stoker Awards banquet in New York City at the Park Central Hotel on the evening of June 8th 2003.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of I Am Legend / The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson

SFFaudio Review

I Am Legend / The Shrinking Man
by Richard Matheson
Read by Walter Lawrence
9 Cassettes – Approx. 12 hours UNABRIDGED
List Price: USD $72.00 – CURRENTLY OOP (out of print)
BOOKS ON TAPE INC.
(February 26, 1992)
ISBN: 0736621474

Read by Walter Lawrence, this double audiobook features two novels by Richard Matheson. Lawrence does a fine job in narrating both, Matheson’s prose is clear and powerful. I highly recommend this audiobook. Unfortunately, finding a copy to listen to may be rather difficult, this unabridged audiobook is out of print, you can try ADDALL.com or eBay, even better check the shelves of your local library.

I Am Legend
“From out of the night came the living dead with one purpose: destroy Robert Neville, the last man on earth. A mysterious plague has swept the planet leaving in its wake this one survivor. But there is still life of a sort–vampires, the strengthless half-dead who press on Neville from every side. He is almost tempted to join them in I AM LEGEND.”


I Am Legend is a vampire story and a psychological story, the hero, Neville, is the last man on Earth. Every night undead and living vampires pelt his suburban Los Angeles home with rocks. Every day he repairs the night’s damage, restocks his supplies, finds ways to keep himself from going mad, and – oh yes – hunts down the vampires and drives wooden stakes through their hearts. The novel jumps back and forth in Neville’s history, between when the plague first hits, killing his wife, to a few months after he the last man alive, to three years later when Neville is resigned to his new life as the last man on Earth. Neville is an everyman with a scientific disposition, when he isn’t killing vampires he’s studying the disease that causes it in the local library. He develops theories, tries to iron out the inconsistencies in it and performs gruesome tests on the vampires. He lives in hopes that maybe he’ll find someone else still alive, or be able to cure one of the still living vampires.

Richard Matheson has a pretty low profile for such a well known writer. I’d heard his name, but never read any of his books before this one. I knew that he been involved with the original “The Twilight Zone” (1959-1965) television series, had written the book that had been turned into the movie The Omega Man (1971) starring Charlton Heston, but had no idea what a great writer he was until I listened to this double audiobook. First let me tell you this, I think I Am Legend is one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to, and I’ve heard hundreds. I won’t spoil the ending, but I’ll tell you this, its revolutionary, thought provoking and satisfying – and as I would find out after listening to The Shrinking Man, its one of Matheson’s on-going ideas.

The Shrinking Man

“It started simply enough in THE SHRINKING MAN. One moment Scott Carey was in the sunlight, the next he was being soaked by a warm, glittering spray. His skin tingled, and soon he began to change, to grow smaller and smaller, until his mere existence was at stake.”

The Shrinking Man is a good story, not a good science fiction story, but a good fable. In fact you probably heard the plot before, or saw the movie based on it, The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). Scott Carey is shrinking, everyday he loses 1/7th of an inch in height. The doctors don’t know what to make of it, the press loves the story and his family life is falling apart. Everyday Scott keeps shrinking, nothing can stop it, soon he can’t sit in chairs anymore, people on the street mistake him for a child, treat him as a child. He becomes a resentful, unable to do anything for himself he must depend upon his wife, his brother and eventually his own daughter, who now towers over him, for everything. At one point his own cat becomes dangerous to him. Scott is utterly alone and overtime he begins to cope with his diminutive height a new danger confronts him.

There are many frightening scenes in this novel, most notably a battle with a black widow spider that towers over our hero. There are poignant scenes, a visit to Mrs. Tom Thumb at the circus, a woman as short as he who lives in a doll house and to who being tiny is the only thing she’s ever known. There are also disturbing scenes, teenage toughs beat up and tease what they assume to be a child, and in perhaps the most disturbing scene Scott becomes the target of a drunken pedophile! But the novel is only surfically a science fiction story, and Matheson seems resigned only to the barest of explanations for what is happening to Scott. We’re told that it must have been an exposure to a concentrated insecticide that is causing the shrinkage, that the nitrogen is going out of Scott’s body at a regular rate. But as any student of subtraction knows a constant loss of 1/7th of an inch a day will eventually result in no height at all.

Pulp Cover images:
I Am Legend By Richard Matheson © 1954 Gold Medal Books
The Shrinking Man By Richard Matheson © 1956 Gold Medal Books