Review of The Caves Of Steel by Isaac Asimov

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - The Caves of Steeel by Isaac AsimovThe Caves of Steel
By Isaac Asimov; Read by William Dufris
6 CDs – 7.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 9781400104215
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mystery / Robots / Artificial Intelligence / Sociology / New York /

A millennium into the future, two advancements have altered the course of human history: the colonization of the galaxy and the creation of the positronic brain. Isaac Asimov’s Robot novels chronicle the unlikely partnership between a New York City detective and a humanoid robot who must learn to work together.

Elijah Baley and his wife and son live in an overcrowded New York city (the titular Caves Of Steel) in our distant future. Outside the insular Earth, humans have colonized many planets with their robot servants to assist them. These “Spacer” worlds are rich, have small populations, and high standards of living. The Earthers all live in vast city complexes and never venture outside. The Spacers maintain an embassy, from which they seek to help their backward progenitors – but this help is both resented and rebuffed. The latest incident is revealed when Elijah Bailey, a New York detective, is called into his superior’s office and tasked with solving a murder in the “spacer” enclave. But his boss has one more demand of him. Elijah must partner up with a robot named R. Daneel Olivaw for the duration of the case.

Asimov’s vision of New York in The Caves Of Steel fits neatly somewhere in between the well envisioned arcologies like “Todos Santos” (Larry Niven and Steve Barnes’ Oath Of Fealty), future cities like “Mega-City One” (Judge Dredd) and that of “Diaspar” (found in Arthur C. Clarke’s The City And The Stars). As such it is an experience not to be missed. The mixture of politics, psychology and sociology that’s found in Asimov’s Foundation novels is also present. But central to the experience of The Caves Of Steel is Mystery. It is a Mystery in a Science Fiction setting and not the other-way round. The well realized economy, culture, and characters (this latter in a surprisingly good turn for Asimov) are all carefully explained so as to set up the mystery – even the red-herrings are important to the plot.

Isaac Asimov basically invented the small sub-genre of the Science Fiction Mystery, and this was the novel that started it all. I’ve read lots of other books of his, including one straight Mystery that was set at a Science Fiction convention (starring a detective modeled on Harlan Ellison). And like that novel, this one keeps you guessing right up until the very end. That’s a good thing too – Asimov doesn’t cheat. We’ve got a city full of suspects, but the motive – when it’s ultimately revealed – is as logical as the deduction is sound.

It isn’t an insult to say that William Dufris sounds like a robot. He sounds like a robot when it’s a robot speaking, and sounds like a man when it’s a man speaking. He can also inflect his voice to sound more feminine – which is handy for females (and female robots too). Suffice it to say William Dufris reads Asimov’s spare and unadorned prose with alacrity. I’m excited to say the sequel, The Naked Sun is also available from Tantor!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Fangland by John Marks

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Fangland by John MarksFangland
By John Marks; Read by Ellen Archer and others
10 CDs – Approx. 12.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 1400103592
Themes: / Horror / Fantasy / Vampires / Romania / New York / Television /

In the annals of business trips gone horribly wrong, Evangeline Harker’s journey to Romania on behalf of her employer, the popular television newsmagazine The Hour, deserves pride of place. Sent to Transylvania to scout out a possible story on a notorious Eastern European crime boss named Ion Torgu, she has found the true nature of Torgu’s activities to be far more monstrous than anything her young journalist’s mind could have imagined. The fact that her employer clearly won’t get the segment it was hoping for is soon the very least of her concerns.

Authors are supposed to write what they know. If John Marks is writing what he knows there’s one hell of a story that 60 Minutes never aired. As a former producer for that show Marks brings what feels like a pure authenticity to all the scenes revolving around the New York office politics and what it takes to make a show like 60 Minutes. Those office characters really do feel like those craggy faced reporters we’ve seen on 60 Minutes all these decades. And if for nothing nothing else, this makes Fangland a unique experience.

The plot should be very familiar to most, it’s a fairly faithful retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Differences being that Fangland is set in the modern day, a post-9/11 New York and a post-Soviet Romania. Like the original novel Fangland is told in epistolary form. That is, its chapters are entire emails, letters or notes, written by witnesses recalling recent events. But, at the novels culmination Marks breaks out of letter writing. The transition isn’t too jarring. Making the Jonathan Harker character female adds a new flavor to the flow. I can’t say as how the paperbook was received, but with this audio version, we get four terrific readers. This is a well selected cast of familiar Tantor voices. Ellen Archer predominates, as she voices Evangeline. She’s sympathetic, a little naive, but a confident modern woman confronted by a terror from Transylvania’s ancient past. Todd McLaren, Michael Prichard, and Simon Vance then take turns playing her 60 Minutes The Hour producers, other on-air reporters, a concerned father, the fiance and more. The novel runs a little too long, mostly in the middle. In terms of pay-offs though, the only thing this novel didn’t deliver on was an Andy Rooney (or equivilent) column at the end. I kept expecting Andy to show up and start telling us what bugs him about ‘being undead’ or some such.

This is not a classic, but if you dig vampires, Stoker’s Dracula, or Horror fiction that doesn’t come out of a modern horror tradition, you’ll quite dig Fangland. I’d stake my reputation in it.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Merian C. Cooper’s King Kong by Joe DeVito and Brad Stickland

Horror Audiobook - Merian C. Cooper's King KongMerian C. Cooper’s King Kong
By Joe DeVito and Brad Stickland; Read by a Full Cast
6 CDs – 6.75 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Full Cast Audio
Published: 2005
ISBN: 1933322497
Themes: / Science Fiction / Horror / Movie making / Gorillas / Dinosaurs /

Full Cast Audio has really perfected their style. The first audio I listened to by them was back in 2002 – I reviewed it for SFSite, and you can find it here. Their Full Cast style of audiobook narration was new to me, I was a little put off by it, though I enjoyed the book (as did my son).

Here we are in 2006, and Full Cast Audio presents Merian C. Cooper’s King Kong, during which I marveled at the expert production. The skillful acting, the flawless editing, and the classic story make this a title not to be missed. Nobody does Full Cast Unabridged narration better than Full Cast Audio.

The story is familiar to nearly all of us. Carl Denham is a recklessly ambitious filmmaker in 1930’s New York City. He gathers a crew and an actress (Ann Darrow) to sail to a secret destination where he can film his masterpiece. The crew finds the mysterious island, where they find King Kong in an adventure that turns dangerous in a big hurry.

I haven’t seen the original King Kong film for many years, and it didn’t have the effect on me that it did on so many others, including Peter Jackson. I have seen Peter Jackson’s version, though. This version of the story is not a novelization of the Peter Jackson script. It is an expansion of the original novelization of Cooper’s original Kong story.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Most of My Friends Are Two-Thirds Water by Kelly Link

Science Fiction Audiobook - Most of My Friends Are Two-Thirds Water by Kelly LinkMost of My Friends Are Two-Thirds Water
By Kelly Link; Read by Alex Wilson
FREE MP3 Download – Click here for link to file at
– 27 minutes, 20 seconds [UNABRIDGED]
Published: 2005
Themes: / Science Fiction / Alien Invasion / New York / Metafiction / Writing /

Jak calls me with the first line of a story. Most of my friends are two-thirds water, he says, and I say that this doesn’t surprise me. He says, no, that this is the first line. There’s a Philip K. Dick novel, I tell him, that has a first line like that, but not exactly and I can’t remember the name of the novel. I am listening to him while I clean out my father’s refrigerator. The name of the Philip K. Dick novel is Confessions of a Crap Artist, I tell Jak. What novel, he says.

Another FREE tale from author Kelly Link’s short story collection Stranger Things Happen. Link is a Nebula, World Fantasy, and James Tiptree Jr. Award-winning author. Her urbane speculative fiction always compares well to Nalo Hopkinson and Walter Mosley – but Link takes that post-modern mentality, rotates it 90 degrees, and adds more of a sense of play. I’m ambivalent about metafiction, which this most certainly is. Sometimes it works wonderfully, but it’s harder with short stories, as they tend to be fairly crowded with concepts already. Most of My Friends Are Two-Thirds Water comes away decently. Narrator Alexander Wilson reads well, but since the narrative voice is that of a female this is not the
perfect match of voice to story. Still, how can I complain when the reading is letter perfect and the price is 100% FREE! Downloadable here.

Posted by Jesse Willis