Review of 84.2 Minutes with Algis Budrys

84.2 Minutes with Algis Budrys84.2 Minutes Of Algis Budrys
By Algis Budrys, Read by Algis Budrys
1 Cassette – 84.2 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Unifont Company
Published: 1995
ISBN: 1886211019
Themes: Science Fiction / Interstellar Travel / War / Immortality / Post Apocalypse / Fairy Tales / Alternate History / Parallel Worlds /

The four stories in this rare collection are densely packed with terrific science fiction ideas and all four share a haunted bittersweet quality. Algis Budrys lets the power of his text completely rule over his performance. Budrys barely distinguishes between the characters; he reads it in an almost conspiratorial style saying, “If you don’t like them, there’s very little more I can say. But I secretly think you will like them, in which case there’s nothing much more I need to say”. His philosophy has extended into the production as well, this is a very utilitarian audiobook, pages can be heard turning in the background while he reads, the cover art is completely non-existent and the title is hardly evocative of much at all, but despite it all 84.2 Minutes Of Algis Budrys is a worthy addition to any science fiction audio fan’s library. The only hard part may be getting a hold of one!

Stories Included:

“The Distant Sound Of Engines”
Severely maimed in an automotive accident, a patient recovering in hospital listens as his roommate, a dying man spouts formulas for faster than light travel, the alloy specifications for ultra strong spacecraft hulls and everything else necessary to make humans an interstellar species. First published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s March 1959 issue.

On a distant water-world that was long ago colonized by humans, a pirate king comes up with a plan to unify the many islands of his planet, and do it by force. “Explosions!” was written under the pseudonym William Scarff and first appeared in Tomorrow Speculative Fiction’s April 1993 issue.

“The Price”
The Earth’s civilizations have been destroyed, fewer than 100 people survive, mankind’s last hope is an enigmatic hunchback who’s been imprisoned for more than 150 years. He’d been chained in various dungeons or enslaved in forced labour camps, but when Europe was annihilated in a global war, and every person there was destroyed, he alone walked out. First published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s February 1960 issue

“Never Meet Again”
England surrendered in 1940, by 1941 German U-boats ruled the Atlantic, by 1942 the Russian’s had surrendered at Stalingrad. Now fifteen years later a respected researcher in the Greater German Reich has finished his life’s work, a machine that can access alternate worlds. “Never Meet Again” was first published in the 1958 anthology The Unexpected Dimension.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Unique Visitors By James Patrick Kelly

Unique Visitors
By James Patrick Kelly; Read by James Patrick Kelly
FREE MP3 DOWNLOAD (link to – 15 Minutes (7.11 MB) [UNABRIDGED]
Published: April 2004
Themes: / Science Fiction / Time Travel / Immortality / Internet / Personality Uploading /

Submit query. There are currently 842 unique visitors monitoring this session. The average attention quotient is 27 percent. Twenty-seven percent! Don’t you people realize that you’ve got an eyewitness to history here?

Afraid to die? Want to watch reruns of The Beverly Hillbillies for all eternity? All you have to do is give up your body. Even better you can visit the future throught the miracle of forward time travel, just set your alarm clock for a million or so years and turn yourself off.

First published in the hardcover anthology Redshift: Extreme Visions of Speculative Fiction (2001), the short story “Unique Vistors” takes its name from the term for webpage hits and posits a future where you are you can become your own webpage! Full of wry humor, nostalgia, philisophical insight, and internet savvy, this the prototypical James Patrick Kelly tale.

Told in the first person, what would have been an otherwise straightforward performance by Kelly is accented and enhanced with electronica music, echoing voice effects and canned laughter. I’m not sure the canned laughter or the echoing voice work – but I liked the techno music and the sound quality and production values were good. As with the all the other audio stories of Kelly’s we’ve reviewed, “Unique Visitors” is available for download on Kelly’s website for FREE – become a unique visitor, try it yourself! Kelly only asks that if you enjoyed hearing the tale you consider making a donation to his PayPal account. Donate as little or as much as you like, but seriously consider giving him a little something – after all, its in our own interest – because if we do he’ll give us more stories like this!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Vitals By Greg Bear

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Vitals by Greg BearVitals
By Greg Bear; Read by Jeff Woodman
3 Cassettes – 5 hours 16 minutes [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: January 2002
ISBN: 0553714953
THEMES: / Science Fiction / Genetic Engineering / Immortality /

The edge of immortality is the deadliest place of all…Hal Cousins is one of a handful of scientists nearing the most sought after discovery in human history: the key to short-circuiting the aging process. Fueled by a wealth of research, an overdose of self-confidence, and the money of influential patrons to whom he makes outrageous promises, Hal experiments with organisms living in the hot thermal plumes in the ocean depths. But as he journeys beneath the sea, his other world is falling apart.

I like Greg Bear’s work, I really do. Or at least I did before listening to Vitals. I truly savored previous Greg Bear audiobooks, the novels Blood Music and Queen Of Angels and the collection of his short work entitled The Wind From A Burning Woman are all really great listens even though somewhat difficult to follow. Unfortunately Vitals sounds more intriguing in theory than it is in execution. I really cannot think of a single good thing to say about the novel’s construction. It takes the interesting ideas from Blood Music and then ineffectually recycles them into an aimless plodding story. The central conceit, that bacteria are taking over the world in an unpredictable way, is blatantly stolen from Blood Music, Bear’s best work. But Bear doesn’t refine his ideas, instead he adds in a completely bizarre character viewpoint switch in the middle of the story, and later another non-sequitor changes the time period for even more exposition, backing and filling to detrimental effect.

What’s worse, Bear decides to eliminate what few interesting characters there are and finally puts us out of our misery with an unresolved ending. Vitals is like a bad action movie jumping from one scene to another without rhyme or reason. It’s one big train wreck of a novel. Bear has truly fallen and he can’t get up!

This is an abridgement and surely we could argue that a bad abridgement can really hurt an audiobook, but somehow I doubt adding more words to this mess could have helped. Jeff Woodman did his best with what he was given; his narration was very good and clear, with distinct characterization of voices. The cover art falls into the category of “bland non-specific” which so pervades novels these days.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny

Fantasy Audiobooks - Nine Princes in Amber by Roger ZelaznyNine Princes in Amber
By Roger Zelazny; Read by the author
4 Cassettes – 6 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Sunset Productions
Published: 1998
ISBN: 759433069046
Themes: / Fantasy / Magic / Parallel Worlds / Immortality /

At the beginning of this book, Corwin, an immortal prince of Amber, wakes up in a hospital bed without his memory. He slowly figures things out – who he is, where he is, and most interesting, who’s on his side and who isn’t. As he goes through this process, so does the listener, discovering the world through Corwin’s eyes.

But Corwin is not just human. He’s a member of the royal family of Amber, which is the only true world there is. All other worlds in the universe, including the one in which you and I sit, are but shadows of Amber. One gets to Amber only if one remembers exactly what Amber looks like, and if one has the power to subtly change the environment until it matches the one true world.

The royal family of Amber is dysfunctional, to say the least. Corwin has many brothers, among them Eric, Random, Bleys, and Caine. They all want the throne, and some are willing to kill for it. As Corwin becomes more aware, he too faces that decision – how far is he willing to go to gain the throne himself?

Roger Zelazny narrates this unabridged novel. He has a deep voice that I’ve heard compared to Bogart’s – takes a little getting used to, but the result is personal and satisfying.

The novel is wonderful – vintage Zelazny. I was delighted when I first found this (and the other four Amber novels) on unabridged audio. It was published by Sunset Productions in both unabridged and abridged formats. The abridged version is “enhanced” with sound effects, and features changes to Zelazny’s voice to indicate that the narrator is in a library or underwater, etc… that version is an example of an audiobook that has been overwhelmed with sound effects at the cost of the material. I much prefer this unabridged version, not only because it’s unabridged, but also because it is Zelazny’s reading without distortion.

Americana Publishing now owns the rights to the Sunset Productions, and has re-released the Amber novels, unfortunately only in the abridged format.