NPR’s Weekend Edition did a little piece on the tu…

SFFaudio News

NPR Weekend EditionNPR’s Weekend Edition did a little piece on the tumultuous history of the adaption of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot with comments from those who think the film is a disappointment, like SF authors Geoffrey Landis and Harlan Ellison, and from the film’s supporters, including Asimov’s widow Janet Jeppson and the film’s director Alex Proyas.

Click here for the show.

NPR has also posted a couple of neat sound clips by Harlan Ellison, one on his unfilmed screenplay of I, Robot and the other on why it didn’t get made.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of I, Robot By Isaac Asimov

Science Fiction Audiobooks - I, Robot by Isaac AsimovI, Robot
By Isaac Asimov; Read by Scott Brick
7 CDs – Approx. 8 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 2004
ISBN: 0739312707
Themes: / Science Fiction / Robots / Mystery /

The debate rages on. Most don’t know how much the film I, Robot (to be released in July) resembles Isaac Asimov’s original work. A badge-toting Will Smith gracing the cover of this audiobook suggests that the resemblence will be tenuous at best… many say that it doesn’t matter. Whatever your opinion, the result for audiobook listeners is an excellent unabridged version of some classic SF.

I, Robot is a collection of 9 short stories, connected by an ongoing discussion between a reporter and 75 year-old Susan Calvin, robo-psychologist. She is talking to the reporter about the history of robots, or the history of U.S. Robot and Mechanical Men, Inc, the company which produces the world’s robots, and for which she works. The stories she relates to the reporter are:

“Robbie”
A small girl enjoys the family robot – a bit too much, according to her mother, who arranges its disappearance.

“Runaround”
On a manned expedition to Mercury, a robot named Speedy doesn’t return from an important mission. Unfortunately, Speedy’s mission is vital to the survival of the human crew.

“Reason”
A robot believes the unbelievable – is it possible?

“Catch That Rabbit”
A robot used for asteroid mining goes wrong, and U.S. Robots representative Gregory Powell is sent to make it right.

“Liar!”
Could be subtitled: The Mystery of the Mind-reading Robot.

“Little Lost Robot”
Susan Calvin is called in to solve a problem with a collection of robots – which one is lying and why?

“Escape!”
A supercomputer called “The Brain” is asked a question, and it answers.

“Evidence”
A prominent politician is accused of being a robot.

“The Evitable Conflict”
The Machines take an even greater role in the affairs of humanity.

The behavior of all of Asimov’s robots are governed by his famous Three Laws of Robotics (see them below), and the stories themselves are all about the effects of robots on humanity on both the personal and societal levels. These stories are excellent, intelligent, classic science fiction – some of the finest work by one of the finest science fiction writers ever – Isaac Asimov.

Scott Brick, a narrator I always look forward to hearing, performs. He is engaging throughout and reads as if he truly enjoyed doing it. He’s one of the best.

And here, as promised, are the Three Laws:
The Three Laws of Robotics
1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2) A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

NOTE: For more unabridged Asimov, check out Books on Tape, where Scott Brick has narrated more of his titles. Asimov’s robot novels, the first two of which are The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun have not been produced as audiobooks, as far as I know. A glaring omission! The BBC has produced an audio drama of The Caves of Steel, however.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Sci-Fi Private Eye edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Sci-Fi Private Eye edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. GreenbergSci-Fi Private Eye
Edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin Greenberg; Read by Bill Fantini and Nelson Runger
4 cassettes – 6 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Dercum Audio
Published: August 1997
ISBN: 155656273X
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mystery / Utopia / Dystpoia / Sherlock Holmes / Mars / Berzerker / Time Travel / Artificial Intelligence / Covert Warfare /

Decades ago, SF grandmaster Isaac Asimov noted the similarity between detective “whodunit” stories and science fiction “puzzle” stories. Avoiding some of the obvious pitfalls, he began to write stories that contain elements of both of these popular genres. Later as an anthologist, Asimov teamed up with Martin H. Greenberg to collect the best of this subgenre. Sci-Fi Private Eye was the happy result. Though obviously not recorded under perfect conditions, you can literally hear the pages turning, I was flabbergasted by the love and care that went into the recording of this audiobook. It starts off with a haunting original musical score, then, instead of simply reading the first story, as is typical with nearly every audiobook, it introduces the anthology with a brief but well composed essay on the subject of mystery science fiction! The packaging is not as good, while in a sturdy enough case, the original cover art falls into a category I call “computer designed abstract boring”. Even worse, they spelled Asimov’s name wrong. The cassettes themselves also lack important details (what story starts where and ends where). The stories though are so good that I’ve got to summarize and review them individually:

Stories Included:
Introduction written and read by Isaac Asimov
“Getting Across” by Robert Silverberg
“The Martian Crown Jewels” by Poul Anderson
“Of The Metal Murderer” by Fred Saberhagen
“Mouthpiece” by Edward Wellen
“War Game” by Philip K. Dick

Robert Silverberg’s “Getting Across” is a terrific SF short story told in the first person. It was originally published in the anthology entitled Future City (1973). A future society is in danger. To house the engorged human race, the Earth is entirely covered by one large metropolis. But it isn’t one big city so much as it is a million city-states abutting one another. Each district has its own government, its own customs and industries, and it’s own way of life. Contact between districts is restricted and often dangerous to those who attempt it. All districts rely on a master computer program for the smooth operation of these automated communities. So when Ganfield’s master computer program is stolen, things start to deteriorate quickly. Garbage starts piling up uncollected, food stops being delivered, the climate control system stops working, and the deactivated robotic police force cannot prevent the cannibalism that is only weeks away. The man whose “month-wife” stole the program is sent to find her and bring it back. His task is nearly impossible because even if he can get out of his district getting across will only be the first hurdle. Typical of Silverberg’s great work in the 1970s.

Poul Anderson’s “The Martian Crown Jewels” was first published in A Treasury of Great Science Fiction, Vol. 1 (1959). The Martian Crown Jewels have been stolen! The theft threatens to destroy diplomatic relations between Mars and Earth. Inspector Gregg, of the Earth police force stationed on Mars, is stumped. Who can solve the baffling locked spaceship mystery and avert a galactic catastrophe of cataclysmic proportions? None other than Mars’ greatest consulting detective, Syaloch, a seven-foot feathered Martian who lives at 221B “Street of Those who Prepare Nourishment in Ovens.” Most entertaining.

Edward Wellen’s “Mouthpiece” first saw print in the pages of Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine’s February 1974’s issue. Most of the stories I’ve read by Edward Wellen tend to be focused on the workings of the human mind, and this one is no exception. This one fictionalizes a fascinating historical curiosity regarding the final hours of “Dutch” Schultz and takes it just that bit farther – into artificial intelligence – leaving us pondering the nature of personality, memory and thought. It’s also a great little mystery to boot!

Fred Saberhagen’s “The Adventure Of The Metal Murderer” was first published in Omni Magazine’s January 1980 issue, and is another in Saberhagen’s long running series of Berzerker short stories. It’s a time travel story that starts in the distant future and then goes back to 19th century London, England. A clever tale that will remind you of Michael Moorcock’s “Behold The Man”.

Philip K. Dick’s “War Game” was first published in Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine’s December 1959 issue. Earth’s traditional enemy, Ganymede, is at it again. They are trying to subvert and soften up the good people of Earth by selling potentially dangerous toys and games as a prelude to invasion. One toy appears to assemble itself over time into a nuclear weapon, another convinces the user that the virtual reality he or she is in is actual reality, and a third is a harmless variation on the board game Monopoly. But the market demand for the inventive Ganymedian games is pressuring the Earth customs to clear the toys for stocking in time for Christmas. If they follow the rules only one will get through to the store shelves. Typically Dickian and thus very entertaining.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy Volume 1

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy Volume 1Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy Volume 1
By Isaac Asimov, Ben Bova, and Kristine K. Rusch; Read by Arte Johnson
Publisher: Dove Audio, 75 minutes [Unabridged]
Date Published: 1991
ISBN: 0787103543
Themes: Science Fiction / Computers / Circus Performers / Space Travel

Arte Johnson should perform more audio books. I guess I should check to see how many he’s done, but this is the first time I’ve heard him narrate, and I found him excellent. His talent lends much to all three of these stories.

The first is Isaac Asimov’s “Someday”, about two kids and an obsolete computer. Their discussions about what people used to do, like actually write things down, was hilarious.

Second is “The Man Who Hated Gravity” by Ben Bova, about a trapeze artist who falls and spends the rest of his life fighting gravity.

Last, Kristine K. Rusch tells a story of a very special little girl who visits a future hospital in “Story Child”.

Great stories. Dove Audio no longer exists, but their content is owned by Audio Literature, who has made these stories available on Audible.com. You can find it under the name Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy (Unabridged), which includes the other volumes in this series.