Review of Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Enders Game by Orson Scott CardEnder’s Game
By Orson Scott Card; Read by Stefan Rudnicki, Gabrielle De Cuir, David Birney and others
10 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Fantastic Audio
Published: 2002
ISBN: 1574535145 (Cassette) – 1574535366 (Audio CD)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Military / Space / Youth / Politics / Aliens /

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Enders Game by Orson Scott CardSpeaker for the Dead
By Orson Scott Card; Read by Stefan Rudnicki, Gabrielle De Cuir, David Birney, Scott Brick, and others
14 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Fantastic Audio
Published: 2002
ISBN: 1574535153 (Cassette) – 1574535609 (Audio CD)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Military / Space / Politics / Alien races / Religion /

Orson Scott Card wrote a pair of novels in the 1980’s that swept both the Hugo and Nebula Best Novel awards two years in a row (1986 and 1987 Hugo, 1985 and 1986 Nebula). These two novels are Ender’s Game and its sequel, Speaker for the Dead.

These books were released previously in abridged editions, which can still be found out there, but these Fantastic Audio unabridged editions completely eclipse those in both quality and content. They are multi-voice recordings, but not of the type where several actors take parts and speak for certain characters. Instead, the narrator changes with point-of-view changes in the novel, which occur chapter to chapter. I found this extremely effective with these novels. These unabridged editions also contain material read by Orson Scott Card, explaining the origins of the novels.

Ender’s Game takes place after a war between Earth and a race of aliens called “The Buggers” by most of humanity. Earth was saved during that war by the decisions of a brilliant military man named Mazer Rackham. The powers that be on Earth decide that the Buggers are definitely going to return, and immediately start searching for the next military genius. Ender Wiggin, 6 years old, is a boy they think might be the one.

Speaker for the Dead is a completely different kind of novel, both in subject matter and tone. Ender Wiggin is now a bit older, but still reeling from events in the previous novel. He visits a planet named Lusitania, where mysteries abound among the indigenous alien race on the planet and one particular family that studies them.

Both of these audiobooks are first-rate. The narrators do an excellent job telling the stories, which translate very well into unabridged audio. Though tastes certainly vary, Ender’s Game is consistently mentioned as one of the finest works of science fiction, and this audio version is an excellent way to experience it, or re-experience it.

Both of these audiobooks are available on audio cassette, audio CD, or for download at Audible.com.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein

SFFaudio Review

Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
Themes: Science Fiction / Politics / War / Military / Spaceships

“The historians can’t seem to settle whether to call this one ‘The Third Space War’ (or the fourth), or whether ‘The First Interstellar War’ fits better. We just call it ‘The Bug War.’ Everything up to then and still later were ‘incidents,’ ‘patrols’ or ‘police actions.’ However, you are just as dead if you buy the farm in an ‘incident’ as you are if you buy it in a declared war…”
-excerpt from Starship Troopers

Written fewer than 15 years after the end of World War II, Starship Troopers (originally titled “Starship Soldier” for its first incarnation in Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine’s Oct & Nov issues of 1959) was to have been another of Heinlein’s beloved juvenile novels. Its content and far-reaching exploration of the society made it instead into the classic of hard science fiction it has become.

Starship Troopers won of the Hugo Award for 1959. It is the story of Juan “Johnny” Rico, recent high school graduate and new recruit to the Mobile Infantry, a futuristic paratrooper force which only takes the best. Just as Juan is ready to wash-out in shame, war is declared, and it’s up to Rico and the Roughnecks to mop up a little bug problem. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings inspired hundreds of novels and revitalized modern fantasy storytelling. Similarly, Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers probably influenced more Science Fiction readers than any other novel of the last half of the 20th century. Spawning more imitators than was probably wise and even inspiring a whole sub genre of Science Fiction called “Military SF”. As with The Lord of the Rings the original inspired so many imitators for a good reason. It was a REALLY REALLY GOOD READ! Starship Troopers is spectacular SF. Semper mobilius.

The Recorded Books version.
Read by George Wilson
7 Cassettes – 9.75 hours, UNABRIDGED
Publisher: Recorded Books
Date Published: 1998

Its cover features original commisioned art, the library binding, available for additional cost, is of the durable vinyl clamshell type which makes for attractive and secure storage of tapes. Unlike the Blackstone Audiobooks version, there is very little extra material in the introduction and this is a disappointment. But, in its favor, it does include every word of the text and for that I am very pleased. In comparison to the superb Blackstone Audiobooks narration read by the gifted Lloyd James, George Wilson stacks up quite well, reading with obvious gusto. But if you were to twist my arm I’d still have to say in this case the Recorded Books edition is the lesser of the two.

The Blackstone Audiobooks version.
Read by Lloyd James
7 Cassettes – 9.75 hours, UNABRIDGED

Like all of Blackstone’s productions this one comes in a library style clamshell binding, which makes for attractive and secure storage of tapes. Its cover features the handsome art from 1987 ACE paperback release (the signature cover). And this superb production includes every single word in the book, including the teaser back cover, something I regard as akin to a necessary extra.

Lloyd James is terrific as the narrator, able to infuse his voice with the wide-eyed innocence of Rico and gruffness of Sgt. Zim. James’ is a voice you can count on, and this is an absolutely fabulous audiobook, and to my ears, the definitive version. So come on you apes pop a tape in and get listnin’.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Bonus:

Starship Troopers #LEGOized by me

LEGO Starship Troopers

Review of Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein

SFFaudio Review

Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein; Read by Lloyd James
5 Cassettes – 7.5 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Blackstone Audiobooks
Date Published: 1999
List Price: USD $39.95 – IN PRINT
ISBN: 0786117451
Themes: Science Fiction / Sci-Fi / Fantasy / Mystery / Pulp / Politics / Mars / Spaceships / Acting / Theatre / Shakespeare

One minute, down and out actor Lorenzo Smythe was – as usual – in a bar, drinking away his troubles as he watched his career go down the tubes. Then a space pilot bought him a drink, and the next thing Smythe knew, he was shanghaied to Mars. Suddenly he found himself agreeing to the most difficult role of his career: impersonating an important politician who had been kidnapped. Peace with the Martians was at stake – failure to pull off the act could result in interplanetary war. And Smythe’s own life was on the line – for if he wasn’t assassinated, there was always the possibility that he might be trapped in his new role forever!

Some Heinlein readers believe that the philosophy in Starship Troopers was Heinlein’s personal philosophy. They’re wrong. Heinlein’s primary philosophy was to provoke thought by explicating political consequences of certain philosophies… and to be entertaining doing it. Double Star proves this emphatically, presenting a completely different political system than Starship Troopers. The plot is a well known one. As old as the fairy tale The Prince and The Pauper, The Prisoner of Zenda or The Man In The Iron Mask; As new as the Hollywood movie Dave (1994) starring Kevin Kline.

This unabridged audiobook has so much more: Interplanetary space travel, alien contact and political upheaval. But it also has a fully realized political system, political campaigns, theory of government, theory of acting, kidnapping, murder, dirty tricks and its a mystery! There really is no better science fiction writer than Robert A. Heinlein. There are other great books by other great writers but none is as great as the dean of science fiction RAH. The reason? Simply put, he tells damn fine stories and does so constantly. This novel is a great example of just that. With a wild premise and a somewhat divergent plot (from Heinlein’s various themes) it tells an implausible story plausibly with emotional impact. This book won a Hugo award for 1956 (Heinlein’s first) and deserved it. It’s a fun ride and highly enjoyable. Pop it in your cassette deck and enter a different world.

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