Joe Mahoney digs out some old WORLDCON gold: Larry Niven, John Scalzi and Frank Wu

Online Audio

Assorted NonsenseJoe Mahoney, CBC Radio Producer, has posted three interesting MP3 interviews that he recorded at Torcon in 2003 to his blog (AssortedNonsense.com). Joe writes “I happen to have some tape of some of this year’s Hugo winners [and Larry Niven]. I thought, well, I could let it rot on my bookshelf or give it to the world. So I roused myself from my usual lethargy and blew the dust off some of the material I recorded back at the 61st World Science Fiction Convention in Toronto in 2003.”

Larry Niven interview |MP3|
“A Science Fiction convention is something like heaven to me.”

John Scalzi interview |MP3|
“I wrote a novel called Old Man’s War …”

Frank Wu interview |MP3|
“I’d really like to do a lot more spaceships, robots and aliens.”

Joe also says: “As you might already know (especially if you read this blog), Robert Charles Wilson just won a much deserved Hugo for his novel Spin. We just had the man in the studio a few minutes ago and I interviewed him about Spin and winning the Hugo, and he’ll be on The Arts Tonight [a CBC Radio One show] within the next couple of weeks.” you can look for the link HERE some time this coming week.

Review of Saturn’s Race by Larry Niven and Steve Barnes

SFFaudio Audiobook Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Saturn's Game by Larry Niven and Steve BarnesSaturn’s Race
By Larry Niven and Steve Barnes; Read by Scott Brick
10 Cassettes or 12 CDs – 13 Hours 54 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Books On Tape, Inc.
Published: 2000
ISBN: 0736659374 (cassette), 0736671366 (cd)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Artifical Intelligence / Consciousness Uploading / Cyborgs / Politics / Population Control / Life Extension /

Chaz Koto is a citizen of Xanadu, a near future perfect society hosting the wealthiest men and women on Earth. Along with his fellow citizens, he bears the burden of a dark secret that the outside world would be shocked to hear. Lenore Myles is a student who travels to Xanadu and becomes involved with Koto. When Koto unwittingly lends her his access codes, Lenore stumbles upon the grisly truth behind Xanadu’s glittering facade.

The title is deceptive. The planet Saturn plays no role in the plot and nobody in the book is racing anywhere. This is an earth-bound adventure set in the near future. I figured out what the title meant near the end of the book, but the rest of the novel was relatively predictable. For instance, there is a revelation that happens within the first couple of chapters but it was so broadly telegraphed in the first scene the involved character shows up in that I was bored by the revelation rather than surprised by it. Ultimately Saturn’s Race is one of those novels that just fails to gel. There’s a plot, plenty of interesting ideas and a resolution, but frankly the plot is mediocre, the ideas relatively minor, and the resolution comes through only on the most basic level.

For me, the most memorable concept used in Saturn’s Race is that of “metaphors.” Basically Niven and Barnes illustrate that metaphors, like computer languages or a computer graphic interface, are used as handy tools to leverage work. It’s why poetry can say so much with so few words – the words are densely packed, brimming with meaning. It is also why a little pointer dragging a few color pixels across a screen can unmake or move a file in ways far quciker and easier than by command line interface. In other words computer programs are really elaborate metaphors for the manipulation of data. This is brought to life in the novel when a character runs an artifical intelligence program that simulates Rex Stout’s corpulent detective Nero Wolfe. It’s a neat idea. But ultimately the novel didn’t move me as I had hoped it might. Overall, this is passable faire, but I doubt I’d need to listen to it again anytime soon.

The cover art for Saturn’s Race is almost incomprehensible. Is that a seahorse on there? I can’t tell. The paperback version has a painting of two genetically-modified sharks on the cover. That would have been more apropos. Reading the book is the ubiquitous Scott Brick. Scott does his very best to bring energy to the lackadaisical pace. For the most part it works, since the novel doesn’t bore in the listening, though I’m sure I’d have stopped reading were I experiencing the paper edition. Saturn’s Race is still available to be purchased from the Books On Tape website. But who knows how long that will be for? BOT was forced to dump a good chunk of its older science fiction titles when it got purchased by the aptly titled Random House a couple years ago and this fact has made many of its excellent unabridged titles quite valuable on the secondary market. The same loss may happen again soon to the remaining BOT library. I don’t think out of print copies of Saturn’s Race will be selling for thousands any time soon, but if you think you ever might want a copy acting sooner rather than later may save you some money.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Gripping Hand by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

SFFaudio Radio Drama Review

Science Fiction Audio Book - The Gripping Hand by Larry Niven and Jerry PournelleThe Gripping Hand
By Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle; Read by Jay O. Sanders
2 Cassettes – Approx. 3 Hours [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Published: 1993
ISBN: 0671791109
Themes: / Science Fiction / Hard SF / Biology / Politics / Economics /Galactic Civilization / Galactic Empire / Mormonism /

Twenty-five years have passed since the second Empire of man quarantined the mysterious aliens known only as Moties within the confines of their own solar system – afraid of the threat these aliens may pose to man kind. But the wall seperating man from the Moties is beginning to crumble…

The Gripping Hand is set in a the “CoDominium” universe originated by Jerry Pournelle. This is the sequel to their first novel together, The Mote In God’s Eye (not available on audio). The setting is that of a future interstellar empire in which humanity has only one major rival for complete dominance. The so-called “Moties” are an intelligent species that is so war-like, so very dangerous, that an enitre human naval task force sits blockading the Motie system’s only exit. The Moties are a species divided into distinct biological forms, each serving a different function. Master. Mediator. Engineer. Warrior. Each type is supremely adapted to its task, and only constant civil war has kept their population in check. Combined with the specialization is a terrible burden; if Moties don’t breed they die agonzing deaths.

For those who haven’t already read The Mote In God’s Eye, you may want to stop reading now as spoilers must follow. At the end of The Mote In God’s Eye, Sir Kevin Renner and His Excellency Horace Bury were secretly enlisted into Imperial Naval Intelligence. For the twenty-five years since then, they’ve acted as unpaid spies, keeping a watchful eye for “outies” (human raiders) in order that the empire might focus its meager resources on the overwhelming Motie threat. Bury is a merchant prince whose dealings allow him access to the underworld of many border worlds. Renner, a former naval officer, now acts as a field agent in the employ of Bury. When a botched Mormon kidnapping plot appears to involve a Motie phrase “the gripping hand”, Bury demands to inspect the fleet blockading the Motie system. His journey leads him to several surprises.

There’s a bit of bad news about this audiobook. If the abridgement had been longer there would still be some question as to whether or not we’d know what is going on in this book. I’ve listened about three times now and I’m pretty impressed at how much sense I’ve managed to make of it in spite of what little of the novel is there. It almost works. It has the barest framework of the plot left, lots of interesting characters, some very good dialogue, and a few simply brilliant SF ideas – but the final feeling I was left with at the end is great disappointment. We would really could have had a special audiobook here, if Simon & Schuster hadn’t knocked out so much in their drive to release 2-cassette abridgments as they did back in the early 1990s. This all is especially upseting because narrator Jay O. Sanders does a fantastic job with the accents and character voices. I think it is safe to say that the fad of abridging the snot out of every novel that comes down the pipe is over. That’s a good thing. It came to late for this audiobook. Some publisher out there should get a hold of The Mote In God’s Eye and record it, complete and unabridged, and while they’re at it they should get Jay O. Sanders to do the reading. We know he’ll do a good job.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Ringworld by Larry Niven

Science Fiction Audiobook - Ringworld by Larry NivenRingworld
By Larry Niven; Read by Tom Parker
Audible Download – 11 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 1999
ISBN:
Themes: / Science Fiction / Hard science fiction / Physics / Space travel / Aliens /

I’ve started this review several times. I’m honestly not sure what to say about this classic novel. In a word, it’s wonderful. What else can I say? It was originally published in 1970, and won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel. Of course, the awards and all the accolades since were well deserved.

Blackstone Audio published this unabridged version in 1999, and I found it on Audible. Tom Parker does a fine job with this straight narration of the material. Not fantastic, but better than adequate. Once I eased into his flow, I had no problem maintaining attention, but I think a bit more could be asked in the characterization department.

The main character in Ringworld is a 200 year old human named Louis Wu, who is approached by a Puppeteer (one of an alien race) who in turn is building a team to visit a star system that has an fabricated ring around it. The complete team includes Louis Wu, the Puppeteer, a Kzin, and a human female. The reasons for all these choices become clear during the novel.

Niven’s style is such that you can be awed then amused on the same page. His characters are very comfortable with life. They talk physics like we discuss where to have dinner. After more than thirty years, the story remains interesting and the ideas fascinating.

I highly recommend this audiobook, whether you’ve experienced Ringworld already or not.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Hey kids, Dragon Page Cover To Cover, the weekly…

Online Audio

Dragon Page Cover To Cover LogoHey kids, Dragon Page Cover To Cover, the weekly podcast that talks to Science Fiction and Fantasy authors has an AWESOME guest this week! Hosts Michael and Evo are talking with Grandmaster of Science Fiction Larry Niven who’s got a new book out, The Draco Tavern, also up for discussion are Lucifer’s Hammer, the Ringworld series and plenty more! Click HERE to download Show #207 directly. Or subscribe to the show’s XML feed:

http://www.dragonpage.com/podcastC2C.xml

New Releases: A Century of Science Fiction, an unabridged narrat…

New Releases

A Century of Science Fiction, an unabridged narrated history of science fiction film and television, Request Audiobooks
This looks interesting… from the description: “Here are the details of some of the most well known science fiction films and television series ever created: A Trip To The Moon, The Day The Earth Stood Still, The War of The Worlds, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes, Aliens, Star Wars, Star Trek, and many more. Listen to the recapitulations of sci-fi voyages from the men and women who realized these fantasies. With interviews and sound bites from their films, William Shatner, Samuel L. Jackson, Stephen Spielberg, and Kevin Costner, along with Liam Neeson, Denzel Washington, Raquel Welch, Orson Welles, just to name a few, speak of their excursions into strange, new worlds…”

Eye for Eye by Orson Scott Card, read by Stefan Rudnicki, Unabridged, Request Audiobooks
Here’s an audio version of Orson Scott Card’s Hugo Award-winning novella Eye for Eye.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, read by Christopher Hurt, Unabridged, Blackstone Audio
Ray Bradbury’s classic novel about a fireman whose job it is to burn books. Click here for an audio sample.

A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin, read by John Lee, Unabridged, Random House Audio
Book 4 in the A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series by George R.R. Martin. Been waiting for this one… It’s also available at Books on Tape in library binding. Yay! Listen to excerpt oneListen to excerpt two.

The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells, read by Jonathan Kent, Unabridged, Tantor Media
A classic H.G. Wells novel from Tantor Media, the fine folks who brought us Edgar Rice Burroughs on audio.

King Kong by Edgar Wallace and Merian C. Cooper, read by Stefan Rudnicki, Unabridged, Blackstone Audio
This is a novelization of the original King Kong script, and includes commentary by Ray Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen, Orson Scott Card, Harlan Ellison, Larry Niven, Catherine Asaro, Jack Williamson, and Marc Zicree. Click here for an audio sample.

March Upcountry by David Weber and John Ringo, read by Stefan Rudnicki, Unabridged, Blackstone Audio
A novel by two masters of military SF – click here for an audio sample.

Master of Dragons by Margaret Weis, read by Suzanne Toren, Unabridged, Audio Renaissance
This is the third novel in a trilogy written by Margaret Weis, who is half of the Weis-Hickman team that wrote many popular epic fantasy novels in the Dragonlance series. Click here for an audio sample.

Run for the Stars by Harlan Ellison, read by the Author, Unabridged, Request Audiobooks
A new (to audio) story by Harlan Ellison. That alone makes it a must-have!

Star Wars: Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader by James Luceno, read by Jonathan Davis, Abridged, Random House Audio
Star Wars! I continue to be impressed with the richness of the Star Wars line of audio novels. Jonathan Davis is the perfect reader, and the production quality is first rate.

The Unnameable: Four Tales by H.P. Lovecraft by H.P. Lovecraft, Read by David Cade, with music by Paolo Barzini, Unabridged, Tales of Orpheus
Contains: “The Book”, “The Music of Erich Zann”, “The Cats of Ulthar”, and “The Unnameable”

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, read by Maxwell Caulfield, Unabridged, Request Audiobooks
The original War of the Worlds novel.

And from Escape Pod in the past month:
“The Death Trap of Dr. Nefario” by Benjamin Rosenbaum, read by Chris Miller with Stephen Eley
“The Great Old Pumpkin” by John Aegard, read by Stephen Eley
“Iron Bars and the Glass Jaw” by Jeffrey R. DeRego, read by Jonathan Sullivan
“The Ludes” by Lisa M. Bradley, read by Stephen Eley
“Mount Dragon” by Vera Nazarian, read by Stephen Eley

Posted by Scott D. Danielson