Review of State Of Fear By Michael Crichton

Science Fiction Audiobook - State of Fear by Michael CrichtonState Of Fear
By Michael Crichton; Read by George Wilson
Audible.com DOWNLOAD – 18 hours and 7 min [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio
Published: 2004
Themes: / Science Fiction / Techno-thriller / Global Warming / Ecology / Tsunami / Ice-Age / Eco-Terrorism /

A review by Guest Reviewer Barry

In Paris, a physicist dies after performing a laboratory experiment for a beautiful visitor. In the jungles of Malaysia, a mysterious buyer purchases deadly cavitation technology, built to his specifications. In Vancouver, a small research submarine is leased for use in the waters off New Guinea. And in Tokyo, an intelligence agent tries to understand what it all means.

I listened to Crichton’s State of Fear mainly because of a nicely done
interview with Crichton by Beth Anderson, available for free on Audible.com.

I’ve always been a bit of a Crichton fan since his first book The Andromeda Strain. The last book I heard of his, Timeline, seemed kind of silly and cartoonish and I was eager to get it over with. But Beth’s interview with Crichton was interesting and I expected something a little more mature. Boy was I wrong.

This is in many, many ways a very childish and often boring book. The characters aren’t even fleshed out enough to call them thin. Thin implies some dimensionality. Their parts in the story, which is no story, are contrived to enable them to give speeches explaining Crichton’s views while fending off killers and eco-terrorists, poisoners, lawyers and interesting dialog.

Crichton is convinced that the ecology movement has been overtaken by greedy lawyers
and that we’re being sold a bill of goods about global warming. While I can’t help but agree that the scenario he paints would be scary if it were real I don’t see much sign of it being real in the world I live in.

He makes some very good points about studies by universities and foundations being as biased as those of industry. But he seems to think that we the people are all firmly convinced that global warming is a reality because of the PR campaigns of these money-seeking foundations and a press who is always willing to jump on any bandwagon that attracts an audience. And while both of those things are easy to believe, I don’t see any sign that everyone believes that global warming is a fact and I don’t think I’ve seen attempts by the media to convince me of that.

Yes there have been pro shows on TV and articles treating global warming as a fact but the majority of those I’ve seen treat it as an open question; as a possibility.

His major point seems to be that we have a lot of questions and not many answers and that we should be asking more questions and studying and learning more before we try to insist on answers. I agree with that and I agree that it often doesn’t happen that way in
life. But it often does happen that way.

The book has almost no story of interest; no characters of interest at all; very little suspense with the exception of a couple of very surprising and tense and exciting scenes; and very little to offer.

To add injury to insult, this is a very badly made audiobook. It’s read by George Wilson, who I’ve heard and liked in other books, and it’s done badly. He doesn’t give us any way to distinguish the characters in a dialog and it’s often not possible to figure out who is
saying what. If there had been a story this would have hindered it terribly.

He sometimes reads a line badly and then reads it over. I guess that’s the editor’s fault, not the narrator’s; but it makes for bad narration from the listener’s point of view.

And, just to make sure the insult and injury were painful, Audible put their section markers right before chapter headings, which consist of the date and time, so that when you lose your place and are trying to find it, if you don’t remember the exact date and time of the section you were in, traversing the sections makes them all sound the same. That made finding my place after drifting off to sleep; a serious problem in this book; very difficult.

Everyone who got their hands on this book seemed to screw it up a little more. I probably even downloaded it badly. For all you Crichton fans, I suggest hearing Airframe if you haven’t already. It’s one of his best.

For you who want to be up in arms about a problem and don’t care if it’s a real problem or not, listen to Rush Limbaugh or something. This book is just too boring.

Here are the New Releases for December! AUDIO R…

New Releases

Here are the New Releases for December!

AUDIO RENAISSANCE

The Dragon Reborn, Book Three of The Wheel of Time

By Robert Jordan, Read by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer

Unabridged

The Shadow Rising, Book Four of The Wheel of Time

By Robert Jordan, Read by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer

Unabridged

I’ve listened to Book 2 of this massive (and massively popular) epic fantasy. I enjoyed it, but not so much that I would be eager for all ten (currently) volumes. I do know that Kate Reading and Michael Kramer did a wonderful job with the material, and can be expected to do so again.

Jesse:

Absolutely, Michael Kramer is a truly excellent reader.

Crystal City, Book Six of Alvin Maker

By Orson Scott Card, Read by Stefan Rudnicki, M.E. Willis, and cast

Unabridged

Ender’s Game: Special 20th Anniversary Edition

By Orson Scott Card, Read by Stefan Rudnicki, Harlan Ellison, and cast

Unabridged

Ah, Orson Scott Card. Audio Renaissance is re-releasing some of Fantastic Audio’s old titles, and this version of Ender’s Game is one of the most heard in my collection. I read Crystal City in print and enjoyed it, so the place your bets that the audio is going to be good too, since it’s in the safe hands of Stefan Rudnicki and cast.

Jesse:

That 20th anniversary one may actually make me read an Orson Scott Card novel. I like his short stories but I somehow never read Ender’s Game back in the 1980s.

———————————

BLACKSTONE AUDIO

Citizen of the Galaxy

By Robert A. Heinlein, Read by Lloyd James

Click here for a sample

Unabridged

Who is this Heinlein guy, anyway? :)

Jesse:

Blackstone has made my wish come true! Lloyd James is the definitive voice of Heinlein on Audio and Citizen of the Galaxy is one of Heinlein’s best juvenile novels (juvenile as in starring a teenager not juvenile as in peurile)and the story concept is so fresh and new as to be singularily unreproduced to this day. I remember enjoying the heck out of it when I read it in paperback I expect it will be as good if not better on audio. The original cover art on this one looks amazing too by the way. This will surely be among the best audiobooks released in 2005. Thanks so much Blackstone!

Magic Time: Angelfire

By Marc Scott Zicree and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, Read by a full cast

Click here for a sample

Unabridged

This is volume 2 of a new fantasy series that I don’t have a full grasp on yet. I just starting listening to this volume last night, and am hoping it makes sense without hearing volume one, which is also available from Blackstone Audio.

———————————-

BOOKS ON TAPE

Fahrenheit 451

By Ray Bradbury, Read by Scott Brick

Unabridged

Fahrenheit 451 read by Scott Brick? Gotta get my hands on a copy of that. Books on Tape is still going through come changes over there – their website says that they won’t be resuming comsumer sales until January 3rd, 2005. I checked Audible.com for this title and it wasn’t there.

Jesse:

I believe BOT has released this title previously with a different narrator but I copuld be wrong. I think this Scott Brick version probably become the definitive edition. I thought that Harper Audio’s version from a couple of years ago, with Ray Bradbury narrating would be it, but I was disappointed in Bradbury’s reading. He’s an excellent author, and 451 is his most enduring novel but his performance didnt

enhance it at all. Scott Brick may bring a freshness that Bradbury couldnt muster.

The Runes of the Earth

By Stephen R. Donaldson, Read by Scott Brick

Unabridged

The return of Thomas Covenant! I have not read any of Stephen Donaldson’s books, so I can’t say anything there, but Scott Brick is a top narrator.

Jesse:

Nice title! Donaldson is almost as merciless with his tortured characters as is George R.R. Martin but I wish they’d release the original novel in the series first. I hate starting in the middle.

———————————–

CRAZY DOG AUDIO THEATRE

Diabolic Playhouse

By Roger Gregg, Performed by a full cast

Audio Drama

Roger Gregg and all the lunatics at Crazy Dog Audio Theatre have released a very nice looking MP3-CD containing all 6 episodes of their Diabolic Playhouse drama series, which broadcast on Ireland’s RTE Radio 1 earlier this year. The product is available at their site (based in Ireland) or at the ZBS website if you’re in the USA.

————————————

HARPER AUDIO

The Wee Free Men

By Terry Pratchett, Read by Stephen Briggs

Unabridged

Another Discworld novel from Terry Pratchett!

————————————

PAPERBACK DIGITAL

Reflex

By Steven Gould, Read by Christine Marshall and William Dufris

Unabridged

Nightmares on Congress Street – Part 4

By Rocky Coast Radio Theatre

Audio drama

Paperback Digital cruises along, with two more new releases. Their products are available for download on their own site or on Fictionwise. Hardcopies are available at Amazon.com or at Paperback Digital itself.

Jesse:

I’ve never heard of Gould nor his novel but with the Marshall and Dufris team working together it might be worth a blind buy.

————————————-

RECORDED BOOKS

State of Fear

By Michael Crichton, Read by George Wilson

Unabridged

Michael Crichton has stirring up some scientific controversy with this one. If I understand correctly, the environmentalists in this one are the bad guys.

Jesse:

I’ve liked Crichton’s early work, but have been tuning out since Jurassic Park.

————————————-

Happy Holidays, everyone! And thanks for reading SFFAudio.

Review of The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Andromeda Strain by Michael CrichtonThe Andromeda Strain
By Michael Crichton; Read by Chris Noth
2 Cassettes – 3 Hours [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 1993
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mystery / Disease / Disaster / Scientist / Medical /

A top secret research satellite falls to Earth near a small town in Arizona. Hours later a recovery team discovers that something  has killed off the town’s entire population except for an old man and a new-born baby, statistically the most likely age groups to succumb to any normal disease. In anticipation of such an event a team of microbiologists assembles in a top-secret, underground laboratory in the Nevada desert. This laboratory was designed to handle an accidental introduction of virulent organisms into Earth’s atmosphere and ecological systems. The team begins to study the survivors and the “toxic” satellite and discovers several black/green patches of deadly bacteria that they have code-named: The Andromeda Strain.

First Published in 1969, The Andromeda Strain is one of Crichton’s best science fiction tales and a terrific scientific mystery story! As the microbiology team races against the clock, trying to figure out the toxic effect of the alien infection, the US government contemplates a nuclear cauterization of the infected crash site. But when The Andromeda Strain mutates it begins to eat through plastic lab suits and rubber gaskets protecting the scientists and the population from escaping toxins. Its a real thriller of a story, and was successfully turned into a great feature film directed by Crichton himself.

This fine novel is only available as an abridgement, and this is unfortunate. The missing portions actually improve the novel to a very large degree because the novel is written in the style of a non-fiction report of events. The original text includes, images, citations, timelines and references, their absence is a disservice to the remaining story. Chris Noth, most famous for his role on the NBC television series Law And Order, reads with a rich and compelling voice. But Noth does merely a satisfactory reading, he makes good attempts with the scientific jargon replete throughout the novel, but they are often mispronounced. Added to this is his lack of range for the voices. Given more audiobook experience Noth will probably become a good reader, in this audiobook however, his performance is merely satisfactory. All in all well worth a listen, but I sincerely hope an unabridged edition is released.

Review of Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton

Fantasy Audiobooks - Eaters of the Dead by Michael CrichtonEaters of The Dead
By Michael Crichton; Read by Victor Garber and Michael Crichton
2 cassettes – 3 hours [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audiobooks
Published: 1998
ISBN: 0679460330
Themes: / Fantasy / Historical Fiction / Alternate History / Vikings / Arabs / Mythology / Neanderthals / Epic /

In the year A.D. 922, Ibn Fadlan, a devout Muslim nobleman, left his home in Baghdad on a mission to the King of the Bulgars. During his journey, he met various groups of “barbarians” who he reported as having varying degrees of bad hygiene and alcoholism. It was a classic clash of cultures story that revealed more about both societies than any other type of narrative could. Whilst encamped in a Norseman trading village word came of a request for warriors to return to Scandinavia to battle an unnamed foe. Because the Norsemen were so superstitious, Fadlan was shanghaied as the “13th warrior”, a necessary foreigner, and forced to accompany the war party. Under the leadership of Buliwyf, Fadlan and eleven other Norsemen journeyed far to the North, to a land where the nights last only a few minutes, where sea monsters abound in the oceans and where shimmering lights in the sky are a nightly occurrence. Once there he and his companions must fight a battle against the Eaters Of The Dead.

If the premise is familiar it may be because you’ve seen the movie “The 13th Warrior,” which is based upon this novel. Supposedly this is a true story taken from the journals of an Arab courtier named Ahmad Ibn Fadlan. In reality it is only partially based on those writings. Crichton wrote Eaters Of The Dead based on a bet. He argued that Beowulf, the oldest surviving epic in British literature, could be successfully turned into a satisfying adventure story. In the real life writings of Ibn Fadlan Crichton found a viewpoint chracater who’d be able to witness the adventure of Beowulf and his fight against Grendel first hand. Starting with actual journal entries from Ibn Fadlan, Eaters Of The Dead begins as non-fiction. About a third of the way into the reading, Crichton stops using Fadlan’s journals, starts writing in the style of Fadlan, and begins telling his version of Beowulf. Sounds simple, but because Crichton doesn’t tell us any of this in his introduction, it isnt.

Confusing things further, Victor Garber’s reading of the story is interupted every so often by commentary by Michael Crichton! Crichton doing commentary on Crichton confuses things to a high degree, and yet somehow it works! This is a compelling story, likely because it draws so heavily from the deeply rooted mythology including snippets of ideas from everything from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit to modern anthropological theories regarding the extinction of the Neanderthals.

Victor Garber does a good job reading, his only flaw is that his Arbaic accent sounds a bit to much like a Punjabi accent. Crichton too reads his commentaries well. As with many abridgments this one leaves the listener wanting more of the story, though thankfully it doesn’t suffer from the equally common failing of being incomprehensible.

As with all Michael Crichton novels, this turns into a Frankestienian morality tale in the vein of “there are some things men wernt meant to know”. For the most part it works, but what bothers me most about Eaters Of The Dead is its fence sitting nature. Not strictly fiction nor strictly non-fiction, Crichton has chosen to deliberately blend the reality and the fantasy without any disclaimer of even the most generous “based on a true story” or even the weaker “inspired by true events”. Instead he deliberately tricks us into thinking this is a true story by interspersing his own commentaries about the translation! True stories are inherently more interesting than fiction, no doubt Crichton chose to capitalize on this by deliberately obscuring the fact that he basically made up the whole last 2/3rds of the book! Had there been a disclaimer about this at the beginning of the book I’d have been much happier with it. That said, the story is fun, an interesting ride, and certainly one of Crichton’s best novels, but it isn’t even in the same class as say Robert Silverberg’s terrific A Hero Of The Empire, which also deals with historical figures in ancient Arabia.. If you absolutely insist on reading Michael Crichton novels I’d recommend you actually NOT read his Science Fiction! Read his fantasy, read Eaters of The Dead and then if you want a non-SFF treat try Crichton’s admirable The Great Train Robbery (also based on a true story), which is far better than his constant rehashing of Frankensteinian plots about cloning, time travel, etc.