Review of Emperor Mollusk versus The Sinister Brain by A. Lee Martinez

SFFaudio Review

emperorEmperor Mollusk versus The Sinister Brain
By A. Lee Martinez; Performed by Scott Aiello
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 6 CDs, 7 hours 18 minutes

Themes: / evil genius / world domination / humor /

Publisher summary:

“Intergalactic Menace. Destroyer of Worlds. Conqueror of Other Worlds. Mad Genius. Ex-Warlord of Earth. Not bad for a guy without a spine. But what’s a villain to do after he’s done . . . everything. With no new ambitions, he’s happy to pitch in and solve the energy crisis or repel alien invaders should the need arise, but if he had his way, he’d prefer to be left alone to explore the boundaries of dangerous science. Just as a hobby, of course. Retirement isn’t easy though. If the boredom doesn’t get him, there’s always the Venusians. Or the Saturnites. Or the Mercurials. Or . . . well, you get the idea. If that wasn’t bad enough, there are also the assassins of a legendary death cult and an up-and-coming megalomaniac (as brilliant as he is bodiless) who have marked Emperor for their own nefarious purposes. But Mollusk isn’t about to let the Earth slip out of his own tentacles and into the less capable clutches of another. So it’s time to dust off the old death ray and come out of retirement. Except this time, he’s not out to rule the world. He’s out to save it from the peril of…THE SINISTER BRAIN!”

“But, history is written by the winners. Especially winners with access to global mind control devices.”

This line toward the beginning of the book is just one of the many lines from Emperor Mollusk versus The Sinister Brain that had me chuckling to myself.

Emperor Mollusk is a Neptunan who has done it all when it comes to defeating and subjugating races, ruling in tyranny and oppression, and downright being evil. Neptunans are the most intelligent of the solar system, at least according to them (and that’s really all that matters right?), but kind of all look the same, in fact they can barely tell each other apart, let alone who their clones are, and they are mollusks (think octopus for those like me who didn’t love biology classes).

Of course it gets boring after a while being the mad genius and having everyone around you worship the ground you allow your mechanical suit to walk on. That is until someone tries to assassinate you. I guess that’s not all true because one of the things I found hilarious was how Emperor Mollusk keeps walking into dangerous situations because he actually thinks there’s no way for anyone to outsmart him.

Then there are the different societies based on which planet they are from. Minor spoiler warning for this sentence: Those from essentially Earth are highly litigious (of course) and there’s a great scene where they save the day and in going to help one of the wounded, a law suit is threatened.

This was a really fun book and my first by the author, I will definitely be going back to A. Lee Martinez in the future. There are some authors who can just go from one line to the next and keep you not only amused but chucking from time to time. A few I can think of are Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams and I’m in awe of their talent. Martinez may not be quite to their level, but he’s right up there.

Here’s another where Mollusk is attacked by a group of Venusians who are a highly honor-bound society who won’t give up no matter how difficult the task or how much they are injured:

“The female did give me a kick. Considering she could barely breath that’s probably worth a commendation or something. ‘Bravery in the face of foolish short-sightedness’ or something. I assume there’s such an award on Venus though it probably has a less accurate name.”

I think these lines were even better because of the great job Scott Aiello does in this audiobook. He’s got Mollusk’s sharp, but oblivious character down pat. One of the signs of a great narrator is when you stop noticing he’s even there and that’s Aiello all the way.

Emperor Mollusk is a hilarious character, this book kept reminding me of the movie Megamind with Will Farrell and I’m sure you can guess why if you’ve seen it (highly recommended btw!). Again, this will not be my last Martinez book, I’m looking forward to jumping into the rest.

4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)

Posted by Bryce L.

Review of Dear Girls Above Me by Charlie McDowell

SFFaudio Review

Dear Girls Above MeDear Girls Above Me
By Charlie McDowell; Read by Kirby Heyborne
Publisher: Random House Audio
ISBN: 9780804164207
Published: 4 June 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 hours, 6 minutes
Excerpt: | MP3 |

Themes: / neighbors / twitter / apartments / memoir / humor /

Publisher summary:

When Charlie McDowell began sharing his open letters to his noisy upstairs neighbors—two impossibly ditzy female roommates in their mid-twenties—on Twitter, his feed quickly went viral. His followers multiplied and he got the attention of everyone from celebrities to production studios to major media outlets such as Time and Glamour.  Now Dear Girls breaks out of the 140-character limit as Charlie imagines what would happen if he put the wisdom of the girls to the test.
After being unceremoniously dumped by the girl he was certain was “the one,” Charlie realized his neighbors’ conversations were not only amusing, but also offered him access to a completely uncensored woman’s perspective on the world. From the importance of effectively Facebook-stalking potential girlfriends and effortlessly pulling off pastel, to learning when in the early stages of dating is too presumptuous to bring a condom and how to turn food poisoning into a dieting advantage, the girls get Charlie into trouble, but they also get him out of it—without ever having a clue of their impact on him.

I admit that I procrastinated for a while over writing this review. Not because I didn’t like the book, which I did in a weird way, but more because I’m not quite sure what I thought of it.  I found out about the Dear Girls Above Me Twitter meme some time ago and I was always amused by the dry-witted observations of the author’s upstairs neighbors, two 20-something girls who say really stupid things.

“Dear Girls Above Me, ‘Like why isn’t the 4th of July on the 2nd of July? Who makes up when these holidays are gonna be anyway?’ Will Smith.”

“Dear GAM, ‘Mom, how are you not hearing me?! I forgot to send dad flowers because THERE’S A NEW KARDASHIAN!’ Happy Father’s Day, Kanye.”

A lot is said in less than 140 characters. Anyone who has ever had to live in close proximity to other people in an apartment complex can certainly relate. Goodness knows I can! This might explain why the meme became popular in the first place.

Does that make for a compelling book?  I’m not entirely sure.

I hesitated to try this book because I wondered how on earth the author was going to make a linear and compelling storyline out of the 140-character observations of his upstairs neighbors. The original meme had no linear storyline to begin with and seemed to serve as an outlet for Charlie’s frustrations at how inane his neighbors could be. So how was this going to be turned into a book?

By creating a small bit of a plot.

You have this mid-20-something who lives in Los Angeles with a longtime roommate who may or may not be gay (a constant source of speculation on the part of the author) named Charlie. Charlie and his longtime girlfriend break up. As he is getting over the pain of his breakup, he notices that he has some new upstairs neighbors, two very loud and very bubble-headed early-20 something girls named Cathy and Claire. Charlie can hear them in his apartment but they, for some odd reason, cannot hear him. So he is forced to hear every inane topic of conversation they have and he turns his rage at their loud conversations into Twitter gold. Eventually he gets to know them a little bit more after he goes upstairs to talk to them and gets sucked into a loud party the girls are hosting, and the girls never seem to remember who he is.

The rest of the story meanders through his fledgling love life, such as his trying to reconnect with the former hot girl from his high school graduating class, and his other observations about apartment life (the neighbor who tries to get her dog to have playdates with Charlie’s dog) and his family, since his mother is apparently an Oscar-winning actress, and punctuating his observations with quotes from the girls above him. Each chapter ends with some of Twitter quotes from the girls.

While his observations are written in that dry style that I like, I kept wondering when an actual story was going to come in. The entire book felt more like the stream-of-consciousness journal of a 20-something guy and I felt myself tuning out sometimes as he went on and on about trying to look on Facebook for the former hot girl he crushed on in high school or having to see as a thirteen-year-old his best friend become aroused at seeing his partially naked mother on a late night movie channel.

I prefer books that have a clear plot to them that leads to a good conclusion and there was nothing like that in this book. There was no story to really drive the book along, so when the end finally did come, it left me feeling more like “wow, that’s it?” It felt so abrupt.

In short, if you enjoy reading rambling books that don’t really have much of a plot to follow, then this would be for you. Do be aware that there is some language and sexual situations, none of which bothered me, but I know some people are sensitive about those things.

As for the audiobook itself, I thoroughly enjoyed the person who read the book. Even if the meanderings of this book left me a little bored at times, I was certainly not bored by the audio reading. I thought that was the best part. Not only did his voice fit the character of the author very well, but also his impressions of Cathy and Claire, the girls who live above Charlie, were hilarious. I found myself cracking up often at hearing his otherwise serious voice speak their dialogue in such a dim-witted Valley Girl voice. It really made the characters in this story come to life.

Review by Cecilee Linke.

Review of Redshirts by John Scalzi

SFFaudio Review

Redshirts by John ScalziRedshirts
By John Scalzi; Performed by Wil Wheaton
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: 11 June 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 hours

Themes: / Star Trek / humor / space /

Publisher summary:

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is even more thrilled to be assigned to the ship’s xenobiology laboratory, with the chance to serve on “Away Missions” alongside the starship’s famous senior officers. Life couldn’t be better . . . until Andrew begins to realize that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) sadly, at least one low-ranked crew member is invariably killed. Unsurprisingly, the savvier members belowdecks avoid Away Missions at all costs. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is . . . and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

A John Scalzi book making fun of Star Trek? Read by Wil Wheaton? YES PLEASE! I had heard some mixed things about this book (and the audio in particular coming in). That didn’t really deter me, I just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Things sort of converged where I got the chance to review it for this site and it was the alternate July pick for the Sword & Laser book club.

This book really cracked me up. I found myself going between chuckling to myself and bursting out into embarrassing fits of laughter. Thank goodness no one was around to see it. And you won’t tell people about it, will you internet?

In the book, Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union. Oh so he’s an Ensign in Starfleet on the Enterprise? Got it. The book extrapolates on the ridiculousness of sending Kirk, Spock, Mccoy and Ensign Timmy, in his bright red shirt, down to the dangerous planet on an away mission. One of them dies. Guess which one?

The original series was before my time (I’m a Next Gen/DS9 Trekker), and I’ve only really watched the movies and very few episodes, but the meme of being the Redshirt on an away mission is well known to just about everyone at this point. The book gets pretty Meta, but I found it to be an enjoyable book, even if it loses a bit of steam as it goes along. The main story was very enjoyable and the three Codas were alright. I liked the first one the most. The second two were OK, but I don’t think either added too much to the story.

This is the second audio book I’ve listened to that is Narrated by Wil Wheaton (The other being Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.) I really enjoy him as a narrator, especially for a book like this. I couldn’t think of a more perfect reader for a Star Trek Parody book.

That said, this book does suffer what I like to call “Unabridgedness”. That’s where the author does something that in print would likely be ignored or read differently (like an image, or specially printed text) that is a bit painful to listen to.

I won’t say the particular issue with this book so as not to plant it in your head (like it had been in mine before listening). Maybe you won’t notice :)

Despite that, I think this is great to listen to in an audiobook, and I especially enjoy the way Mr. Wheaton reads sarcastic statements (of which this book has many). Oh, and he does a great drunk voice!

It’s a quick read (~8 hours for the normal speed audiobook), and the perfect summer/vacation book.

Review by Rob Zak.

Christmas Eve by Guy de Maupassant

SFFaudio Online Audio

Christmas Eve by Guy de Maupassant
Guy de Maupassant’s Christmas Eve, first published in Le Gaulois, December 25, 1882, is an 8 minute gem of comic horror.

I think of it as kind of a French version of A Christmas Carol. But unlike Scrooge, who is a “man of business,” our protagonist is a writer. He isn’t too busy with economy to appreciate the holiday, oh no, he is a generous fellow and he doesn’t have anyone to share his Christmas Eve feast with!

I think you’ll agree that narrator John Feaster’s roller-coaster reading of this great story will mold the merry Xmas spirit into a jolly July.


And here’s the |PDF|

Posted by Jesse Willis

The Destiny Of Special Agent Ace Galaksi

SFFaudio Online Audio

The Destiny Of Special Agent Ace GalaksiMaissa Bessada’s The Destiny Of Special Agent Ace Galaksi is very hard to tell you about. It’d be easy to say the show is just bonkers, but that’d give you the idea that it doesn’t work on a certain level that it really does. The plot is nonsensical, in the way that some of Philip K. Dick’s are. But If I said it was like a Philip K. Dick plot that’d give you absolutely the wrong idea. The Destiny Of Special Agent Ace Galaksi is far more like the Goon Show than PKD.

The Destiny Of Special Agent Ace Galaksi is naive, sharp, amateurish, polished, bizarre, insightful, childish, wise, ridiculous, and hilarious. I’ve been listening to the six half hour episodes over and over for the last three weeks and I still honestly don’t know exactly what to make of it or how even to really describe it – other than to say I like it a whole lot and I want Maissa Bessada to be my friend.

We may have to look at The Destiny Of Special Agent Ace Galaksi as a kind of work of genius, something to marvel at, something to experience. There’s a kind of damn the torpedoes specificity to the details of this show that make it an impossible project to imagine got made. And yet here it is, like a very weird dream come alive, The Destiny Of Special Agent Ace Galaksi seems to have come from an alternative universe.

But I don’t want to scare you off, it a weird experimental audio drama, in fact it’s pretty conventional, and first and foremost it’s a comedy. So let me invite you in.

Think of the great comedic audio dramas: The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, The Scarifyers, Steve, The First or Dick Dynamo: The Fifth Dimensional Man.

You’d say yeah, it’s a comedy like those. But then I’d say to you that, unlike Hitchhiker’s, this one’s really zany! Zany on multiple levels. And that, unlike Scarifyers, this one’s a Science Fiction comedy, that it’s really not very much interested in how things are, as much as how they could be! There’s no periodicity to it. And that, unlike Steve, this one, though totally and utterly Canadian, is full of international flavouring! And unlike Dynamo, the titular character is the straight-man to the off-the-rails flowing crazy funny world.

The Destiny Of Special Agent Ace Galaksi is crazier than a patchwork quilt of all of those shows gliding through puffs of time and space.

And although they are really completely and wholly different in every possible way The Destiny Of Special Agent Ace Galaksi reminded me most of was The Adventures of Sexton Blake. It’s not the word play, nor the lunatic pacing, it’s more the characters. And yet, the comparison still falls completely apart.

Indeed, the ears you need to appreciate The Destiny Of Special Agent Ace Galaksi require you to throw out your basic assumptions. They require a paradigmatic shift within you, an unencumbered embrace of the unfamiliar and hilarious, a removal of expectations, an open mind.

The Destiny Of Special Agent Ace Galaksi is an audio drama that cares most about the weird story that it is weirdly telling. It’s really, really fun.

Here’s the official premise:

After a comet of unknown origin crashes through one of God’s recycling piles, a new planet, Traa Laa Laa, forms in the aftermath. Created from a little bit of this and a little bit of that, the beings on that planet have the ability to change shape. It is CSIS special agent Ace Galaksi’s destiny to discover that those shape-changing extraterrestrials have been visiting Earth since time immemorial – and that some of those visitors left artifacts behind. One of those artifacts is as small as a seventy million year old tennis ball, another as big as the great pyramid of Giza. Certain peculiarities about the artifacts lead Ace to some startling discoveries about the very nature of existence. Unfortunately Ace Galaksi’s destiny is unclear as to whether or not he’ll be able to stay ahead of world government plots to ensure he keeps his findings to himself – permanently.

Sez scripter Maissa Bessada:

“After completing the novel version of Ace Galaksi, I realized the work had great potential as an audio play. I re-wrote it as a series of scripts, hired several talented, highly versatile actors and a Juno award winning, retired CBC producer. The show was complete. Fantastic! For about a split – or as those of us with a sci-fi bent would have it – nano-second. Then I realized that having an entertaining, thought-provoking show online wasn’t the end of my work, it was only the beginning. The next challenge was finding an audience for it.

A few weeks ago I was introduced to your podcast. In one episode Scott said in passing, ‘The best audio drama is better than a movie.’ I stopped in my tracks. (I was listening while walking the dog) and told the dog and whatever squirrels and trees that would pay attention, ‘The best audio drama is better than a movie – I couldn’t agree more!’

I’d love for you guys to listen to my show. People that choose to enjoy sci-fi in an audio format – I feel like a stranger in a strange land who has finally found home.”

Teaser |MP3|

Part 1 |MP3| Part 2 |MP3| Part 3 |MP3| Part 4 |MP3| Part 5 |MP3| Part 6 |MP3|

Podcast feed:

Leave a comment, tell me what you think of this show.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Space Casey by Christiana Ellis

SFFaudio Review

Space Casey audio drama Space Casey
By Christiana Ellis; Performed by a full cast
10 Episode Podcast Series – [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcast: 2007
Themes: / Science Fiction / Humor /

Some heroines will steal your heart… This one will steal your wallet.”

Space Casey is a 10-part audiodrama miniseries which won the Gold Mark Time Award for Best Science Fiction Audio Production by the American Society for Science Fiction Audio and the 2008 Parsec Award for Best Science Fiction Audio Drama.

Pure nostalgia took me back to this really fun little audio drama. Listening to Mur Lafferty read The Shambling Guide to New York City made me recall the other Podiobooks I discovered with such pleasure.

The story follows con artist Casey as she boosts a spaceship from a greenhorn. Problem is, the spaceship was programmed to take off for uncharted territories. Uncharted to humans that is. I won’t say more about the plot other than we see Casey rise to new heights as she struggles to return to human space with all the odds against her. Never was her ability to con people (and aliens and robots and spaceships) more necessary for her survival.

This is a lot of fun and I found myself laughing aloud several times. I absolutely love Christiana Ellis’s sense of humor and narration. She also got a lot of voice talent assistance from other well-known Podiobooks and podcasting talent. I had fun seeing if I could identify them before the credits at the end.

Perfect summer fun, or actually fun for whenever you’re listening.

Podiobooks link

Christiana Ellis’ link

Posted by Julie D.