Review of The Colors of Space by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Please welcome another new reviewer, Tom Schreck. Tom heard about the call for reviews from another new reviewer that you will hear from shortly.

SFFaudio Review

The Colors of SpaceThe Colors of Space
By Marion Zimmer Bradley; Read by Jim Roberts
Publisher: Speculative! via Brilliance Audio
ISBN: 978-1-4692-5948-2
5 discs – 5 hours [UNABRIDGED]

Themes: / space / aliens / science fiction / interstellar travel /

Publisher summary:

Young Bart Steele, Space Academy graduate, is waiting in a spaceport for a ship to take him home when something happens that suddenly thrusts him into the center of a quest for the secret of interstellar travel. The method of faster than light travel, called “warp drive” in later Sci-Fi stories, is a tightly kept secret of an alien race known as the “Lhari.” Some humans feel that they should not have to depend on the Lhari to get to far away planets and enlist Bart to help them wrest the secret from the Lhari by undertaking a perilous mission. Bart’s survival and the freedom of the human race suddenly depend on his courage and wits.

The Colors of Space is one of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s earliest books and is a solid enjoyable book. It’s short, the pace keeps moving, and overall comes to a satisfying conclusion.

Mankind has expanded throughout the solar system and nearby star systems but it takes years to travel those distances with their current technology. Sometime in their exploration they met an alien race called the Llari who have the capability of faster-than-light travel. The Llari are happy to supply such transport to humans but won’t share the secrets of their technology with humans. The humans and Llari entered into a mutually beneficial relationship for interstellar travel, but some parts of humanity have become disgruntled of the monopoly the Llari hold. Our protagonist Bart Steele gets involved in a human plot to discover this secret in this story.

The book is fairly simple so don’t expect any deep/intricate character development, but it explores interesting social issues like relating to people different from yourself, friendship, and loyalty.

Jim Roberts has a great voice but his performance comes off kind of stiff and dry. As I got further into the book, I either got more used to his reading style or he relaxed a bit in his reading. If trying to decide between the print or audio version, the audio book version is pretty good but I don’t think it adds anything to the enjoyment of the book.

Posted by Tom Schreck

Review of Methuselah’s Children by Robert A. Heinlein

SFFaudio Review

Methuselah's ChildrenMethuselah’s Children
By Robert Heinlein; Read by MacLeod Andrews
6 CDs – 7 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: July 2012
ISBN: 9781455878987
Themes: / space / genetic engineering / genetic modification / aging / death / interstellar travel / aliens /

Publisher Summary:

After the fall of the American Ayatollahs as foretold in Stranger in a Strange Land and chronicled in Revolt in 2100, the United States of America at last fulfills the promise inherent in its first Revolution: for the first time in human history there is a nation with Liberty and Justice for All.

No one may seize or harm the person or property of another, or invade his privacy, or force him to do his bidding. Americans are fiercely proud of their re-won liberties and the blood it cost them; nothing could make them forswear those truths they hold self-evident. Nothing except the promise of immortality….

This 1941 novel by Robert Heinlein is a short but epic space adventure about the Howard Families, a population of people who can live very long lives thanks to a history of selective breeding. Over the centuries, they took on different identities to hide their long-life nature from “short-lifers,” but eventually some of them decided to share their scientific achievement with the public.

However, instead of celebrating the Howard Families’ scientific achievement, the short-lifers suspect them of concealing the true secret to long life. This is where the story starts: when the government and the public begin to persecute the Howard Families, Lazarus Long (the kilt-wearing leader of the group who is more than 200 years old and who always has a knife strapped to his thigh) hijacks a city-sized starship so the families can flee Earth and go in search of a new home.

Despite its short size, this book covers a long length of time, is packed with ideas, and manages to explore deep themes such as aging, death, human genetic modification, and individualism, among others. There’s bound to be something in here for everyone, although personally I struggled with the first half because of the lengthy democratic meetings and the seemingly endless strategizing about what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. I also thought the discussions about the technicalities of interstellar travel or alien biology were a little tedious, but I’m sure hard-SF fans will love every moment.

I really got into the story later, when the families started arriving on other planets and things got weird. The alien cultures, worlds and philosophies were brilliant and often eerie. How can you not love aliens who say things like, “My people will like to see you and smell your skin.”

The human characters, on the other hand, were less lovable for me. They lacked depth and tended to speak literally and directly, without subtext. The narration on the audiobook didn’t help warm the dialog up either, because in the reading the characters sometimes sounded like they were barking lines at each other, and at other times odd words in the dialog were emphasized that I don’t think should have been.

The narrator McLeod Andrews did give a very clear reading though, and once I got used to his style the odd emphases were less noticeable. He did an awesome job of embodying the voice of grumpy but optimistic Lazarus Long, who was the most developed and interesting character.

Ultimately, even though not everything might be to your taste, there are just so many great ideas and themes squished into this book that you’re bound to find a ton to enjoy, despite its short length.

Review by Marissa VU

New Releases: Six NEW Philip K. Dick Audiobooks

New Releases

Brilliance Audio has released five new Philip K. Dick audiobooks, none ever audiobooked before, all novels, all available now!

BRILLIANCE AUDIO - The Divine Invasion by Philip K. DickThe Divine Invasion
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Dick Hill
8 CDs – Approx. 9 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: October 18, 2011
ISBN: 9781455814497
God is not dead: he has merely been exiled to an extraterrestrial planet. And it is on this planet that God meets Herb Asher and persuades him to help retake Earth from the demonic Belial. Featuring virtual reality, parallel worlds, and interstellar travel, The Divine Invasion blends philosophy and adventure in a way few authors can achieve. As the middle novel of Dick’s VALIS trilogy, The Divine Invasion plays a pivotal role in answering the questions raised by the first novel, expanding that world while exploring just how much anyone can really know — even God himself.

BRILLIANCE AUDIO - Lies, Inc. by Philip K. DickLies, Inc.
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Luke Daniels
6 CDs – Approx. 7 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: October 18, 2011
ISBN: 9781455814381
When catastrophic overpopulation threatens Earth, one company offers to teleport citizens to Whale’s Mouth, an allegedly pristine new home for happy and industrious émigrés. But there is one problem: the teleportation machine works in only one direction. When Rachmael ben Applebaum discovers that some of the footage of happy settlers may have been faked, he sets out on an eighteen-year journey to see if anyone wants to come back. Lies, Inc. is one of Philip K. Dick’s final novels, which he expanded from his novella The Unteleported Man shortly before his death. In its examination of totalitarianism, reality, and hallucination, it encompasses everything that Dick’s fans love about his oeuvre.

BRILLIANCE AUDIO - Now Wait For Last Year by Philip K. DickNow Wait For Last Year
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Luke Daniels
7 CDs – Approx. 8 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: October 18, 2011
ISBN: 9781455814428
Earth is trapped in the crossfire of an unwinnable war between two alien civilizations. Its leader is perpetually on the verge of death. And on top of that, a new drug has just entered circulation — a drug that haphazardly sends its users traveling through time. In an attempt to escape his doomed marriage, Dr. Eric Sweetscent becomes caught up in all of it. But he has questions: Is Earth on the right side of the war? Is he supposed to heal Earth’s leader or keep him sick? And can he change the harrowing future that the drug has shown him?

BRILLIANCE AUDIO - The Simulacra by Philip K. DickThe Simulacra
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Dick Hill
7 CDs – Approx. 9 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: October 18, 2011
ISBN: 9781455814541
On a ravaged Earth, fate and circumstances bring together a disparate group of characters, including a fascist with dreams of a coup, a composer who plays his instrument with his mind, a First Lady who calls all the shots, and the world’s last practicing therapist. And they all must contend with an underclass that is beginning to ask a few too many questions, aided by a man called Loony Luke and his very persuasive pet alien. In classic Philip K. Dick fashion, The Simulacra combines time travel, psychotherapy, telekinesis, androids, and Neanderthal-like mutants to create a rousing, mind-bending story where there are conspiracies within conspiracies and nothing is ever what it seems.

BRILLIANCE AUDIO - The Transmigration Of Timothy Archer by Philip K. DickThe Transmigration of Timothy Archer
By Philip K. Dick; Read by Joyce Bean
7 CDs – Approx. 9 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: October 18, 2011
ISBN: 9781455814558
The final book in Philip K. Dick’s VALIS trilogy, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer brings the author’s search for the identity and nature of God to a close. The novel follows Bishop Timothy Archer as he travels to Israel, ostensibly to examine ancient scrolls bearing the words of Christ. But more importantly, this leads him to examine the decisions he made during his life and how they may have contributed to the suicides of his mistress and son. This introspective book is one of Dick’s most philosophical and literary, delving into the mysteries of religion and of faith itself. As one of Dick’s final works, it also provides unique insight into the mind of a genius, whose work was still in the process of maturing at the time of his death.

Each of the above is currently available through too.They’ve also got Dick’s non-fiction/memoir that’s been called “The Exegesis.” This comes as a kind of a surprise, even though we knew the paperbook was coming, this thing is massive, even edited, and may make for some very strange road trips. Here it is:

BRILLIANCE AUDIO - The Exegesis Of Philip K. Dick edited by Pamela Jackson and Jonathan LethemThe Exegesis Of Philip K. Dick
Edited by Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem; Read by Fred Stella
36 CDs – 44 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: November 7, 2011
ISBN: 9781455814626
Based on thousands of pages of typed and handwritten notes, journal entries, letters, and story sketches, The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick is the magnificent and imaginative final work of an author who dedicated his life to questioning the nature of reality and perception, the malleability of space and time, and the relationship between the human and the divine. Edited and introduced by Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem, this is the definitive presentation of Dick’s brilliant, and epic, work. In the Exegesis, Dick documents his eight-year attempt to fathom what he called “2-3-74,” a postmodern visionary experience of the entire universe “transformed into information.” In entries that sometimes ran to hundreds of pages, in a freewheeling voice that ranges through personal confession, esoteric scholarship, dream accounts, and fictional fugues, Dick tried to write his way into the heart of a cosmic mystery that tested his powers of imagination and invention to the limit. This volume, the culmination of many years of transcription and archival research, has been annotated by the editors and by a unique group of writers and scholars chosen to offer a range of views into one of the most improbable and mind-altering manuscripts ever brought to light.

Posted by Jesse Willis

LibriVox: The Skylark Of Space by E.E. Smith

SFFaudio Online Audio

LIBRIVOX - The Skylark Of Space by E.E. SmithThe Skylark Of Space
By E.E. Smith; Read by Richard Kilmer
19 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 9 Hours 22 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: December 16, 2010
The novel begins with the accidental discovery, in a Government laboratory in Washington D. C., of a form of clean nuclear power. Our hero, Dr. Richard Seaton, uses this power to build first a flying belt and then an interstellar spaceship. He later discovers that the process operates by generation and manipulation of gravity fields. When his government coworkers do not believe him, Seaton acquires rights to his discovery from the government and commercializes it with the aid of his friend, millionaire inventor Martin Crane. A former colleague, Dr. Marc DuQuesne, joins with the unscrupulous World Steel Corporation to try to steal Seaton’s invention. The resulting conflict escalates, as Seaton and Duquesne develop greater and greater technical capabilities and enlist more and more powerful alien races as allies.

Podcast feed:

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

[Thanks also to mim@can and Barry Eads]

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Rocannon’s World by Ursula K. Le Guin

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Rocannon's World by Ursula K. Le GuinRocannon’s World
By Ursula K. Le Guin; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
5 CDs, 5 hrs – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 9781433210822
Themes: / Science Fiction / Anthropology / Interstellar travel / Aliens / Telepathy /
Listen to sample

Against a cold war subtext of a well-meaning interstellar civilization trampling other cultures in its blind panic to defend itself against a nebulous enemy from beyond the galaxy, Ursula Le Guin kicks off her vaunted Hainish novels with a tale that blends elements of high fantasy, space opera, anthropology, and political commentary. It’s got a little bit of everything: a quest for revenge across two continents and an ocean by boat, by foot, and flying cat-horse back; a main character immersed in adventure, yet torn by guilt for his own decisions and those of his government; a classic “god gambit” featuring an invincible, invisible suit of armor, a sword, and a trial by fire; and not one, not two, not three, but five species of intelligent hominids on the same planet.

Okay, so not all of it flies as plausible science fiction. But it is compelling, as a ripping good adventure yarn, as an examination of how legends are created, and as a thought-provoking examination of our own cultural chauvinism. The complexity of emotions that roil in Rocannon’s soul as he moves into and through this world are so believable, the implausibility of some of the story elements evaporates from our notice. And even the multiplicity of intelligences works on a symbolic level. The subterranean clay-folk, the laughing Fiann, and the lords and mid-men of the North all function like the multiple poles of human nature, offering a mirror of our own nobility and baseness.
Is it LeGuin’s best? Not by a longshot. She’s still developing her craft here, still conforming to a male-dominated genre, and still working on making characters that live and breathe. But the focus on anthropology, the nobility of the small being ground beneath the powerful, and the truth that lies beneath layers of language made for falsity that will permeate so much of her later work are all there.

This is a work of solid storytelling that carefully juxtaposes just the right elements at just the right angles to produce not cold logic but warm emotion. As such, Stefan Rudnicki’s muscular, antiseptic voice is the perfect vehicle to deliver this tale. His tone is impeccable, his pronunciation exact, yet within moments all you hear is rushing wind, blaring static, crackling flames, and shocking silence, the sounds of exhilaration, heartbreak, fear, and guilt. It’s well worth your time.

Posted by Kurt Dietz

BBC7 presents: Down and Safe (Blake’s 7)

SFFaudio Online Audio

BBC Radio 7 - BBC7

Down and Safe: A Celebration of Blake’s 7
Presented by fan Mitch Benn.
Airdate: August 25, 2008 (aired 3 times).

Holy moly, I was busy and away and almost missed this excellent radio retrospective of Blake’s 7. (Fortunately for all of us, it is still available to listen to -see below.) Clocking in at three hours, Down and Safe covers the whole shebang, from the groundbreaking and influential late 70’s television series to the latest version reimagined and presented as audio drama, with clips and snippets and informed commentary and…

…And, speaking of audio drama, well, check out the BBC7 blurb: The BBC 7 bank holiday rebellion starts with the history and rebirth of a sci-fi classic, with episodes including The Syndleton Experiment (1999), Liberator (2007) and When Vila Met Gan (2008).

Yep, you heard right. Three complete full cast audio plays -they form the bulk of the show; three different and very entertaining takes on the Blake’s 7 universe that you shouldn’t miss (unless you have a very good excuse like, say, hives). So, space science fiction luvvers everywhere, be sure to check out Down and Safe here, here, here (RealPlayer required) or here (webpage – RealPlayer required) through Sunday, August 31!

Posted by RC of RTSF