The SFFaudio Podcast #618 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Risk Profession by Donald E. Westlake

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #618 – The Risk Profession by Donald E. Westlake; read by Gregg Margarite (for LibriVox.org). This is an unabridged reading of the short story (1 hour 4 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Paul Weimer, and Maissa Bessada, and Will Emmons

Talked about on today’s show:
authors like Westlake, seeing the ending coming, Amazing, March 1961, which ending?, a cynical person, when you’re a lawyer…, lawyer brain, ruining your enjoyment?, you feel smart, reading mysteries, ahead of the curve, forgetting the ending every time, a double twist ending, Westlake is amazing, his most Amazing story, he doesn’t like his boss but he puts up with him, fire and theft in New York, space missions, a meta-story, Westlake’s career, a crime story, a locked room mystery, a series, he could easily lose all the money, a triple twist ending, there could have been!, planned all along, contingency plans for everything, he was planning this forever, cleverer than they knew, the worldbuilding, this could have been published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, they don’t seem to have the internet, real last name, Ab and Jafe and Ged, an Expanse story, space stations around Earth, a colony on Luna, a gold rush story, The Expanse, what’s driving this?, brilliant people going out to make their money, Jesse can explain it all, they shrivel up, not mostly Australians, mostly Americans, obsessed with the country in which he lives, The Spy In The Elevator, the theme about government, a hands-off government, the Double RP deal, uninsurables, very rapacious capitalism, definitely his signature, handwriting analysis is not as robust as people want it to be, a part of our toolkit, he actually did sign it, this retirement plan, cash return form, well…there’s a law, they wouldn’t give money if they didn’t have to, the corruption somehow didn’t work that day, the insurance lobby, an insurance investigator, a hidden theme, Evan Lampe’s podcast on Philip K. Dick, Philip K. Dick is obsessed with the frontier, Lovecraft: forgetting and the sea, Westlake is obsessed with insurance, Somebody Owes Me Money, a nephew novel, this weird phenomenon, characterization, the best insurance policy, it seems like if I go with this plan…, why is this in here?, calling Paul Westlake up, his first published story as a professional, government is insurance, helping me not worry about stuff, what taxes are insurance payments, health care, car insurance, the army, in tight alliance with our neighbours, what the RCMP is for, thinking of government as insurance, we have to defend this, Corona virus, starving to death, that payment is insurance, keeping the system stable, an evil universe, anybody who cheats on their CERB is going to be investigated, UBI, telling the company being afraid of its boss, an insight into a terrible, who is the government an insurance policy for?, insurance for the employers, the primary beneficiaries are the stock owners, the WE fake charity, speaking fees, a $14,000 vacation for a minister, if the stockholders are not the general public then they are working for a subset of them, the cynicism is not the focus, an Agatha Christie style locked-room mystery, if it was the government…, the last book, Anarchaos, the absence of insurance companies, a possibility of taking your crime with you, government ideas, ethics, if he wasn’t so greedy, he wouldn’t have gotten away with it, that Scooby Doo ending, alive and in France, they all look exactly the same, Atronics, Chemisant, Ludlum, they sound like things we would get, company towns, how it worked in Anarchaos, Vicco, Kentucky, a ghost town called IOCO (Imperial Oil Company), all the way from Trinidad?, Alcan, through the panama canal, that’s where the power is, if the company goes out of business, those fly-over states, bringing mining back, northern Minnesota, Westlake is incredibly subtle, if you look for the signs, standout lines, there he is, he’s kind of a ghost, the description of the boss and his hands, always smooth, skepticism, the spaceship west of Cairo, the good ship Demeter, g-sickness pills, I was as sick as a dog, as depressing as Turkish bath with all the lights on, a welder’s practice range, a transparent dome would have been more fun, cheap iron, polishing his own spacesuit’s inside, debris, shit orbiting earth, paint chips, some physics problems, jollier, scooters and tuggers, industry troopers, capitalism, the winners of capitalism, square corners painted olive drab, International Atronics Incorporated, high wages, how do you make a vacuum tube?, the tech of the now, he’s putting it in your hand, dribbled down the elevator, the opening of Anarchaos, a milk run, other adventures, Martians, alien insurrections, you don’t even notice, Westlake has opted out, high school, air-force, a Snow top, a white helmeted MP, a set of background for his writing career, hints as to what was striking him, The Man With The Getaway Face by Richard Stark, plastic surgery, Will needs to read that book, falling in love with the author, the driver was an ex-communist party enforcer, Parker was in WWII, be a thief, Westlake started in law enforcement, healthcare, hunger, being in the army is being in a socialist state, he’s a cop in a socialist state, your health insurance, your housing, most people never think about it, Westlake is some kind of weird intellectual, his only way to make a living is to tell people lies, the more interesting your lies are the better your living, my god this is good!, psycho-analyzing his own thing, there’s some substance to it, Tomorrow’s Crimes, the closest to a crime story, a philosopher of crime, he got a lot of letters from prison, prisoners loved his crime books, rats, pulling the perfect job is amazing, once you can’t turn to the cops for help you’re always on his own, he can’t trust his partners, he murders the taxi-man, he’s here to enact his power fantasy in a libertarian state, yay!, a funny way of thinking of what he’s doing, how do you survive in the 20th century?, why would he leave SF?, not financially viable, series is where the money is, science fiction is kind of the opposite of series, its finished, Melinda Snodgrass, fulfilling a role were; not supposed to have, science fiction can be applied to any literary genre, Isaac Asimov, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, we know him from his SF, movies, a tonne of crime, a mystery set in a science fiction universe, I can make the rules, The Caves Of Steel, people don’t go outside, The Hole Man by Larry Niven, Paul’s theory of mysteries, a fair mystery, there’s two suits sitting there, he red-herring’d it, polished his silvered faceplate visor, where the whole thing started, built the whole story around the image, gold in the NASA suits, gold vs. silver, 30 pieces of silver, a different Adams, a lot of domes, the scooters are domes, the asteroid city dome, Finder by Suzanne Palmer, an Apollo Program, understatement, its egg shaped body, green, very army, “the windshield” translucency, floating forever, foreshadowing, we’re him, our hero Jed, he took so long to come home, Will’s a little acquisitive, really empathizing with this story, giant pile of metal, an intellectual exercise, you’re feeling like the guy, Will’s a little bit different than Jesse, an office job, petty bourgeois technician, a life of quiet desperation, Fight Club, breaking his own identity, identity switching, A Bullet For Cinderella, the cultural universe it comes out of, John D. MacDonald, we should eventually do all of the Westlake novels, The Green Eagle Score, the titles run in streaks, Parker robs an air force base, army guys, that rock concert sure is loud, think of all the money from the concessions, scores, a couple of decades between books, see the pattern?, he’s just being playful, he’s a hunter, then he becomes a shark, eventually he gets married, just keep me in flowers and champagne, they start getting silly, he’s got a real sense of humour, cuz sharks don’t laugh at jokes, funny doings, isnights into a person’s character by reading essentially throwaway stories, different from making a movie or a TV show, one person generally, a sense of through-line, wouldn’t you rather know what H. Rider Haggard was thinking than some adaptation of his novel?, too ponderous, Edgar Rice Burroughs, limited success, the way Frankenstein movies gets Frankenstein so wrong, the smartest man who ever lived, I Tarzan you Jane, “Fire bad” vs. soliloquy, learned to speak and read through a crack in a wall, you can’t see those hand gestures, those wry lines, all these flavours of cocktails, bitter but also delicious, rye, very fluffy, it feels so fluffy, so good!, reading Lester Del Rey, so hamfistedly bad, he’ll get you drunk you don’t even know you’re drinking, terribly clunky, For I Am A Jealous People by Lester Del Rey, he’s good at lifting, The Faithful, Reading, Short And Deep, uplifted dogs, dog pilots with surgically altered hands, the last man has died, a very Will story, uplifted gorillas, so badly written, that’s kinda super-racist right there, so hamfisted, a green and lovely world, Man’s creation, worship the memory, Who Can Replace A Man by Brian Aldiss, The Island Of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells, WWI, Lester Del Rey is making moves, here’s four more 10 hour novels, Planet Of The Apes by Pierre Boulle, City by Clifford Simak, Desertion by Clifford Simak, Cemetery World, animal stuff, we go sideways, this is a dog man, James Powell, 130 stories, A Dirge For Clowntown, Inspector Bozo, a world worry down on his luck aging clown detective, a clown police procedural in a clown universe, his clown wife, the clowns are the white people, the other race is the mimes, mime on mine violence, Discworld novels, not a fantasist in a normal sense, its just so weird, its its own literary thing, The Code Of The Poodles, episode 81, humorous fantasy crime, The Friends Of Hector Jouvet, A Pocketful Of Noses, a unique voice, Ed Wood, pre-everybody.

The Risk Profession by Donald E. Westlake

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The SFFaudio Podcast #462 – READALONG: Sandkings by George R.R. Martin

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #462 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, and Scott talk about Sandkings by George R.R. Martin

Talked about on today’s show:
1979, out of the ether, one of Scott’s favourite stories, excellent short fiction, what does that say about Scott?, it hits you differently, playing out, horror and science fiction, the 1995 The Outer Limits adaptation, Beauty And The Beast, tuf voyaging series, the thousands worlds, Jack Vance-y, the magic shop trope, Wo and Shade, The Reel Stuff, short stories and novelettes turned into movies and TV shows, trading one shope for another, military, Melinda Snodgrass, a very different beast, a family of Bridges, who Shade is, Wo vs. woe, Salem’s Lot, Gremlins (1984), piranhas, goldfish, Simon Kress, Martian soil, a story of obsession vs. comeuppance, one of the best endings, it breathed, the others, orange children, all of them had his face, hitting the horror note, this isn’t the Frankenstein story, let there be light, playing god, being worshiped, when can I turn on the hologram, Microcosmic God by Theodore Sturgeon, a cruel god, neoterics, patents, a “business man”, rakes in money, exotic pets, the poor shambler, leaving his pets, his “friends”, gambling, cruelty, Edgar Allan Poe, The Cask Of Amontillado and The Masque Of The Red Death, George R.R. Martin grew up poor, New Jersey, every G.I. Joe that’s ever been made, how can people live in such luxury, “spoiling” children, JUSTICE, a horror, where’s Wo?, “We got another one.”, an open thread, good advice, no malice, Wo is very polite, the Wo family, some Maw, Baldur, the reflection of the workers (the mobiles), you can live in harmony with these creatures, all on the surface, Jesse’s mind goes crazy, totally science fiction without much science, horror in a science fictional setting, a horror story set on a Vancian planet, it won all the awards, Nightflyers, the weakest?, The Way Of Cross And Dragon, The Ice Dragon, Harlan Ellison, Grail, I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream, everywhere, Nancy Kress?, The Shambler From The Stars by Robert Bloch, H.P. Lovecraft, J.R.R. Tolkien, Stephen King, the clarity, “he wasn’t interested in that”, “Insects.”, hmmmm, eating up GRRM’s text, A Song For Lya, Robin Of Sherwood, space punk, goth punk?, dark humour, always hard to swallow, easily digestible pieces, Poe-like, the comic book adaptation, faithful, DC Comics Science Fiction Graphic Novel 7, 1987, Wo is female, incredibly faithful, emptying the refrigerator and the freezer, calling his friends, Fitcher’s Bird, Bluebeard, dilettantes, collective punishment, working on the level of a folk tale, the macabre, staring into the abyss and liking what you see, are they just animals?, psionics, seeing his soul, Populous, For I Am A Jealous People! by Lester Del Rey, Sim City, Civilization, victory conditions, the goal of the game, perversity in Jesse’s (and everybody’s) nature, a delight in smashing your own sandcastles, we resonate with it, wanting to see destruction, a house of cards, The Conqueror Worm, the sound of the cosmos, “invisible wo”, the mimes are humans, the children have his face, by a crowd that seize it not, in human gore imbued, almost a science fiction story, there’s no one answer, Hellboy, BPRD, a relatively shallow story, the experience is the experience of it, the Dreamsongs Volumes I, II, and III audiobooks, the name of the monster, maw gives pap, the Pit of Sarlacc, back to his doom, not an easy trick to pull off, super affective, the sword stabbing scene, then to a restaurant, contamination, bribery, a personal disaster, flee the planet, a sprawling manor house, The Fall Of The House Of Usher, an indictment of the pet ownership process, don’t leave your baby in the car (or your German Shepherd), Lloyd Bridges handing a boy a puppy, how badly aged the show is, I saw him in the window and couldn’t resist, Cowboy, a lovely father-son dynamic, where does he go wrong exactly?, where does Frankenstein go wrong?, to stop death, rampage, a lack of love and care and attention, the carrion hawk, what happened to the original cowboy?, very iconic, dealing with something real, horror stories only work when they’re dealing with something real, we’re operating on that level, mimesis, a genuine feeling, yes! of course!,

Sandkings by George R.R. Martin illustrated by Ernst Fuchs from Omni, August 1979

Sandkings by George R.R. Martin

Science Fiction Graphic Novel, SF7 - George R.R. Martin's SANDKINGS

Science Fiction Graphic Novel, SF7 - George R.R. Martin's SANDKINGS

Science Fiction Graphic Novel, SF7 - George R.R. Martin's SANDKINGS

George R.R. Martin's SANDKINGS

SANDKINGS by George R.R. Martin

The Outer Limits - Sandkings

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #297 – NEW RELEASES/RECENT ARRIVALS

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #297 – Jesse, Jenny, and Tamahome talk about NEW RELEASES and RECENT ARRIVALS.

Talked about on today’s show:

Lowball : A Wild Cards Novel edited by George R. R. Martin and Melinda Snodgrass, The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft edited by Leslie S. Klinger, a reference book readalong?, Marked: Servants Of Fate, Book 1 by Sarah Fine, conflict of interest, Until The End Of The World by Sarah Lyons Fleming, Until The End Of The World (movie), The Dark Thorn by Shawn Speakman, the Seattle underground, Entangled: The Eater of Souls by Graham Hancock, lots of research, Half-Off Ragnarok (InCrytpID Book #3) by Seanan McGuire, V Wars: Blood and Fire: New Stories of the Vampire Wars edited by Jonathan Maberry, a dime a dozen, Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova, At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft, didn’t Southpark adapt this?, annotations, pdf of original story with illustrations hosted by SffaudioKaiju Rising: Age of Monsters (editor?)not inspired by Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson, similar short story overdose, The Playground and Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, killer baby, Tam remembers the Good Story Episode (#21) on Something Wicked, Ray Bradbury storytelling festival, Something Wicked vs The Night Circus, or maybe Good Omens (which is a BBC radio audiodrama now), “@DirkMaggs:  we are thrilled that the series has been so enjoyed. The CD/Download version released in January runs nearly 50mins longer in all” (RT’d by @SDDanielson), British tests, Hypnobobs podcast on Christmas AnnualsThe Strange Library by Haruki Murakami, The Maker Of Moons by Robert W. Chambers, The True Detective tv series, The Last American Vampire by Seth Grahame-Smith, the picture of the navy guy kissing the woman, ATLAS by Peter Berkrot, Mech Warrior game, The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu and translated by Ken Liu, the three-body problem explained, (Ken Liu is a lawyer and programmer, Jenny), David Brin gave it 5 stars on GoodreadsThe Jesus Incident by Frank Herbert and Bill Ransom, Carbide Tipped Pens: Seventeen Tales Of Hard Science Fiction edited by Ben Bova and Eric Choi, that’s hard!, The Year’s Top Ten Tales Of Science Fiction 6 edited by Allan Kaster, The Cosmic Puppets by Philip K. Dick, Lock In by John Scalzi, why two audio versions??, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, |Listen to our readalong|, Proxima by Stephen Baxter, but Jenny wants to know the plot, Fahrenheit 451 (narrated by Tim Robbins), Plague Year by Jeff Carlson, The Long Dark game, two more quickly, WHITE PLAGUE: A Joe Rush Novel by James Abel, and Near Enemy: A Spademan Novel by Adam Sternbergh

thelastamericanvampire

Posted by Tamahome

Review of Dangerous Women

SFFaudio Review

Dangerous Women Dangerous Women: Stories
Edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
Narrated by Scott Brick, Jonathan Frakes, Janis Ian, Stana Katic, Lee Meriwether, Emily Rankin, Harriet Walter, Jake Weber
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 3 December 2013[UNABRIDGED] – 32 hours, 49 minutes
Listen to an excerpt: | MP3 |

Themes: / short stories / fantasy / women /

Publisher summary:

All new and original to this volume, the 21 stories in Dangerous Women include work by twelve New York Times bestsellers, and seven stories set in the authors’ bestselling continuities—including a new “Outlander” story by Diana Gabaldon, a  tale of Harry Dresden’s world by Jim Butcher, a story from Lev Grossman set in the world of The Magicians, and a 35,000-word novella by George R. R. Martin about the Dance of the Dragons, the vast civil war that tore Westeros apart nearly two centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones.

Also included are original stories of dangerous women–heroines and villains alike–by Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, Sherilynn Kenyon, Lawrence Block, Carrie Vaughn,  S. M. Stirling, Sharon Kay Penman, and many others.
 
Writes Gardner Dozois in his Introduction, “Here you’ll find no hapless victims who stand by whimpering in dread while the male hero fights the monster or clashes swords with the villain, and if you want to tie these women to the railroad tracks, you’ll find you have a real fight on your hands.  Instead, you will find sword-wielding women warriors, intrepid women fighter pilots and far-ranging spacewomen, deadly female serial killers, formidable female superheroes, sly and seductive femmes fatale, female wizards, hard-living Bad Girls, female bandits and rebels, embattled survivors in Post-Apocalyptic futures, female Private Investigators, stern female hanging judges, haughty queens who rule nations and whose jealousies and ambitions send thousands to grisly deaths, daring dragonriders, and many more.”

Stories and Narrators (in order of appearance):
“Some Desperado” by Joe Abercrombie; Read by Stana Katic
“My Heart Is Either Broken” by Megan Abbott; Read by Jake Weber
“Nora’s Song” by Cecelia Holland; Read by Harriet Walter
“The Hands That Are Not There” by Melinda Snodgrass; Read by Jonathan Frakes
“Bombshells” by Jim Butcher; Read by Emily Rankin
“Raisa Stepanova” by Carrie Vaughn; Read by Inna Korobkina
“Wrestling Jesus” by Joe R. Lansdale; Read by Scott Brick
“Neighbors” by Megan Lindholm; Read by Lee Meriwether
“I Know How to Pick ’Em” by Lawrence Block; Read by Jake Weber
“Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell” by Brandon Sanderson; Read by Claudia Black
“A Queen in Exile” by Sharon Kay Penman; Read by Harriet Walter
“The Girl in the Mirror” by Lev Grossman; Read by Sophie Turner
“Second Arabesque, Very Slowly” by Nancy Kress; Read by Janis Ian
“City Lazarus” by Diana Rowland; Read by Scott Brick
“Virgins” by Diana Gabaldon; Read by Allan Scott-Douglas
“Pronouncing Doom” by S.M. Stirling; Read by Stana Katic
“Name the Beast” by Sam Sykes; Read by Claudia Black
“Caregivers” by Pat Cadigan; Read by Janis Ian
“Lies My Mother Told Me” by Caroline Spector; Read by Maggi-Meg Reed
“Hell Hath No Fury” by Sherilynn Kenyon; Read by Jenna Lamia
“The Princess and the Queen” by George R. R. Martin; Read by Iain Glen

It took me a really long time to make it through this book, even with skipping stories, and that was a big sign that it wasn’t working for me. I love and read a lot of anthologies, and Dangerous Women was odd in that it only paid lip service to the theme. Most of these stories had nothing to do with women, dangerous or otherwise, instead focusing on men talking about women. Overall, while I was disappointed in this anthology, and would not recommend it, here are my spoiler thoughts on some of the best and worst individual stories (scroll to the end for a link to more!):

“The Hands That Are Not There” by Melinda Snodgrass
Jonathan Frakes from Star Trek: the Next Generation is the narrator!!! Fortune 500? Strip club? OK, I’m missing the dangerous women portion of this story at the beginning, and am a little confused overall. The main character doesn’t seem to have a great opinion of women in general. Suppose that’s not surprising considering this takes place during a bachelor party. “Sassy little buttocks”? I giggled when he shouted “blackout’. Genetic manipulation? What am I listening to?

Holy. Hell.

Aside from the novelty of the narrator, this was just bad. The characterization of women left a bad taste in my mouth. The prose was an unfortunate shade of purple. The plot twist was silly. So. Bad.

“Bombshells” by Jim Butcher – A Harry Dresden story
I’ve never read any of the Dresden books, although I’m vaguely familiar with the story, and this was a sorely needed palette cleanser after the last story. Except for the leg-shaving bit. Wut? That came across as trying a bit too hard. Bit more telling than showing than is to my taste. And hearing the phrase ‘soul gaze’ spoken out loud just pointed out how silly it is. Holy infodump on how magic works, but overall both the narrator and writing was A+.

“Raisa Stepanova” by Carrie Vaughn
Eeeeeee! Night witches! I love female pilots!

The writing is concise and easy to follow, but full of effective details that really conveyed the feeling of a fire fight. The plot was just heartbreaking. And a lovely relationship between siblings is the focus, rather than a romantic one. Such a nice change! This was an excellent portrayal of female non-competitive friendship. So good. One of the highlights of the anthology.

Narrator had a distinctive, lovely voice.

“I Know How to Pick ’Em” by Lawrence Block
Noir up the wazoo! This was a man’s man kind of a story, I guess. Wow. I had to skip this after he started fantasizing about beating the woman he was with. He had so much hate for women. I felt a little sick just listening.

Narrator has great, gritty voice.

“Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell” by Brandon Sanderson
This was a great story. Silence was amazing, and the world had just enough detail for you to believe and fill in the rest of the blanks. Her background as a bounty hunter was inventive, and I loved seeing the people people who crossed her get their eventual comeuppance.

Narrator had just enough weariness in her voice to be pleasing and appropriate to the story.

“The Girl in the Mirror” by Lev Grossman – A Magicians story
Fabulous characterization of mischievous girls at a magical school. Their talk is real, and the details are well delineated. Think Harry Potter but darker and meaner. Adorable short story. Just lovely.

As an added bonus, Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark on Games of Thrones, was the narrator. She hit the perfect tone, and I would definitely listen to her narration again.

“Second Arabesque, Very Slowly” by Nancy Kress
This was a very quiet, intense, and bleak story. The women are essentially kept for breeding in a post-apocalyptic setting, but during a young girl’s ‘budding’ ceremony, one woman voices her desire to be more. The narrator is the nurse, in charge of the health of the other women. There’s an undertone of packs and the urban forest in this story, like I was waiting for them to turn into werewolves. Women have dressed codes to avoid tempting men, but are somewhat in charge of deciding who they have sex with. The group finds a TV and get it to work. They watch a ballet. Now one of the beta males wants to learn how to dance to entertain the pack. They find a moment of beauty, but lose it just as quickly.

The narrator has an understated style that worked really well for this.

“Pronouncing Doom” by S.M. Stirling – An Emberverse story
This was the most unpleasant part of this whole experience.

At first I was interested, as there was a main character traveling with a baby and some practical discussion of how life with children after the apocalypse works. There were disabled characters, and the women seemed to have some autonomy in the society.

However, the story then turned into a rape trial. The victim recounts escalating abuse from one man, and how the other women blamed her for his actions. Then she describes his violent sexual assault of her, and I turned it off. I had no motivation to finish this story.

The narrator was very pleasant, and her deadpan accounting of the assault was chilling.

“Caretakers” by Pat Cadigan
It starts out with an innocent question about female serial killers. These two sisters live together and while one is obsessed with Red Dawn (Go Wolverines!) the other loves to watch shows about serial killers. There was a lot of realistic characterization driving the story, and rising tension as you begin to wonder exactly how much the sister likes serial killers.

Narrator did a fantastic job, fading back to let the story stand on its strengths.

“Lies My Mother Told Me” by Caroline Spector – A Wild Cards story
I felt a little behind by the abrupt entrance of the first scene, but loved the discussion of prettiness in relation to society. Parades and zombies and consumerism. Mothers and daughters and self-esteem. Fat and bubbles as defense. The villain was such a dick, and such a stereotype of gamer dudes. Overall amazing!

Fantastic narrator.

“The Princess and the Queen” by George R.R. Martin – A Song of Ice and Fire story
Finally. this is the whole reason I was interested in the first place. I’ve read a couple of the ASOIAF books, so I was interested in what Martin would do with two super-powerful women. Not much, it turns out.

Sooooo – everyone in Westeros has always been terrible and power-hungry? OK then. First Night rites? Really? Ahhhh I am so bored. Never has anything with dragons in it bored me as much as this has. It’s about queens, yes, but it’s still the men who do almost everything.

Good narrator, though.

Sarah reviewed each and every story, which you can see on her GoodReads review.

Posted by Sarah R.

Review of Wild Cards edited by George R. R. Martin

SFFaudio Review

Wild Cards edited by George R. R. MartinWild Cards (Wild Cards #1)
Edited by George R. R. Martin; Read by Luke Daniels
19 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: November 2011
ISBN: 9781455833009
Themes: / alternate history / superpowers / alien virus / superhero / urban fantasy / science fiction / horror /

Publisher Summary:

In the aftermath of WWII, an alien virus struck the Earth, endowing a handful of survivors with extraordinary powers. Originally published in 1987, the newly expanded saga contains additional original stories by eminent writers.

The stories contained in the audiobook are:
“Prologue” by George R. R. Martin
“Thirty Minutes Over Broadway!” by Howard Waldrop
“The Sleeper” by Roger Zelazny
“Witness” by Walter Jon Williams
“Degradation Rites” by Melinda Snodgrass
“Captain Cathode and the Secret Ace” by Michael Cassutt
“Powers” by David D. Levine
“Shell Games” by George R. R. Martin
“The Long, Dark Night of Fortunato” by Lewis Shiner
“Transfigurations” by Victor Milán
“Down Deep” by Edward Bryant and Leanne C. Harper
“Strings” by Stephen Leigh
“Ghost Girl Takes Manhattan” by Carrie Vaughn
“Comes a Hunter” by John J. Miller

There are also a variety of “Interludes” in between the stories, which are short bits mostly written in the form of newspaper or magazine articles or first-hand witness accounts. These interludes are often used to bridge the narrative with real events from US history, to provide the reader with insight as to the feelings in this “alternate history” type world.

Generally, this is a story of the effects of an alien virus on humanity between the time shortly following World War II through the late 70’s/early 80’s. The virus was brought to earth by aliens from a planet called Takis. It was developed as a device to give Takisians superpowers to be used as a part of large-scale family wars on Takis. The aliens wanted to test it, so sought to release it on Earth, as humans are genetically very similar to Takisians. “Prologue” introduces us to an alien who is called (by the humans, as his name is not well-suited to human speech) Dr. Tachyon and the “Wild Cards” virus. Dr. Tachyon is also a Takisian, but tried to prevent the release of the virus on Earth. “Prologue” sets the scene and tone for the world of the book. It also provides an insight into Dr. Tachyon’s values: he doesn’t ask first for the President of the US, he instead asks for the top scientists and thinkers. This is an obvious nod by George R. R. Martin to those who have true powers in the US.

“Thirty Minutes Over Broadway!” tells the story of Jet Boy, an American superhero, and the release of the Wild Cards virus over Manhattan in September, 1946. Jet Boy is a true hero, an all-American kid who came back from fighting in World War II with a superhero story of his ace flying abilities. He is the only superhero in the book who wasn’t a superhero because of the virus, but because of his innate abilities and selflessness. In a theme that becomes common through the book, the reader is reminded that a hero is a hero because of what they do, not because of their skills. Jet Boy tries—and fails—to stop the virus from being released.

The virus is brutal. It only impacts humans, with no effects on other species. It kills most of its victims, but those who survive (only about a tenth of those exposed to the virus) are not left unscathed. Through the rest of the book, the reader is introduced to various people impacted by the virus. The first stories tell mainly of “Aces,” those who get super powers from the virus (usually in the form of telekinesis and/or greatly enhanced physical abilities. Later, the reader is introduced to the concept of “Jokers,” who become horribly deformed due to the virus. The first interlude presents the concept of “Deuces,” those who get an “ace-like” ability that is not particularly useful, like “Mr. Rainbow,” whose ability is to change the color of his skin.

The narrative takes the reader through time: each story is a snapshot of a period in US history and provides a sort of “alternate history” of how that time may have been different if there had been these Aces and Jokers were around. Some of the early stories, taking place during the era of HUAC and McCarthyism, show how the aces became subjects of witch hunts and were forced into service in the US military or intelligence agencies. Jokers are looked upon as second-class beings, a theme that plays a large role during the stories set in the 60’s and 70’s, mirroring the US Civil Rights Movement. Some of the stories are sad, such as “The Sleeper” and “Witness.” Some are a bit more uplifting and triumphant, such as “Shell Games.” A lot of the stories, especially the later ones, become a bit creepy, with people using their powers for selfish reasons, as in “Strings.”

All in all, Wild Cards serves as an interesting statement on humanity through the guise of a “what if” scenario. All of the stories are eminently believable—at no time did anything that happened seem overwhelmingly unlikely. To some extent, that’s a bit of a sad statement on humanity—as the book goes on, aces and jokers alike seem to be only interested in helping themselves, looking out for their own (often misguided) interests.

The narration, done by Luke Daniels, was pretty good in the audiobook. He had a good speed and good intonation for most of the characters, and it was easy to tell each character apart. As often happens with male narrators trying to do female voices, some of the females sounded whiny, but it wasn’t so over the top so as to be unlistenable. After listening to this narration, I’ll be keeping Luke Daniels on my radar when looking at audiobooks.

Personally, I preferred the stories in the first half of the book to those in the second half. In the second half, the stories got quite a bit darker, more creepy and violent. After the strong lead-in with the Prologue and “Thirty Minutes Over Broadway,” I quite enjoyed the origin stories and the weaving-in of events in US history. As the book progressed, the stories didn’t seem quite as engaging—for one, I actually repeatedly fell asleep while listening, and ended up having rewind and re-listen to some of the others. There was also one story that was too graphic both in terms of sex and violence for me, “The Long, Dark Night of Fortunato” by Lewis Shiner. By the end, I wasn’t interested in more stories of people serving their own interests. There are other books in the series, which I have heard are more like the stories at the end of the book—I’m not sure that they’ll be for me. But I enjoyed this anthology well enough and would recommend it to others interested in a cross of science fiction, general fiction, and horror genres.

Review by terpkristin