Review of Eifelheim by Michael Flynn

SFFaudio Review

Eifelheim by Michael FlynnEifelheim
By Michael Flynn; Read by Anthony Heald
2 MP3-CDs – 17.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 1433206129
Themes: / Science Fiction / Philosophy / Religion / Catholicism / Aliens / Physics / First Contact / Black Death /

“Eifelheim” is a novel that’s not in a hurry. It’s a multiple course meal that offers helpings of philosophy, science, and religion at a leisurely pace that’s refreshing in today’s hurry-up climate. It was also a Hugo nominee for Best Novel of 2007.

The novel takes place in two times. In “Now”, two live-in scientists discuss and compare their findings on seemingly different subjects. One of them is investigating the absence of people in Eifelheim, a German town whose population disappeared during the 14th century. According to calculations of population patterns, this is a mathematical anomaly. The other scientist, a physicist, is trying to figure out why the speed of light is slowing down. That these two things are related is part of the story.

In the 14th century, a parish priest named Father Deitrich, who is dealing with the beginnings of the Black Death in his area, experiences first contact with an alien race that appears in his town of Eifelheim. Father Deitrich is a smart, compassionate priest, and, as he considers the aliens God’s children, he befriends them and cares for them as he can.

The focus occasionally switches back to the two scientists from “now”, who have conversations that shed light on the happenings in Eifelheim in the past. The main charm of this novel for me was the realistic portrayal of this honorable priest, and his culture. It portrays a medieval religion that was considered the source of all knowledge, and as such, the priest’s logical reasoning makes for compelling listening. To readers who enjoy philosophy and speculative science, and the history of both, it would be hard to find a modern novel more interesting.

Author Michael Flynn provides historical and physics notes at the end of the novel, and thanks should go out to Blackstone Audio for including them here in the audiobook. Narrator Anthony Heald does a tremendous job with the narration. He’s an excellent match with the material, handling accents and characters with unobtrusive skill. Choices he made with the alien voices were particularly effective.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Voyagers by Ben Bova

 SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Voyagers by Ben BovaVoyagers
By Ben Bova; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
12 CDs -13 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Sample: Click here
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2006
ISBN: 0786167424
Themes: / Science Fiction / Alien Contact / Space Program / Politics / Religion /

Voyagers is a superior first contact novel. It was originally published in 1981, but it holds up extremely well, especially since our space program has not changed all that much in the past 26 years. But the novel’s setting is the now that was then, which means the United States and USSR are the two superpowers and the only two countries with space programs.

The book starts off in a similar way to Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama. An alien craft has been detected, and it’s in the solar system. Those in the know have no clue what the ship wants – are the aliens hostile or friendly? What does this mean for humanity?

From there the story takes a tack similar to another Clarke novel – 2010: Odyssey Two, but Clarke’s book was published a year after Bova’s. The United States and the USSR decide to cooperate rather than fight. The underlings (i.e. the folks doing the actual work) are ready and willing to do so, but the politicians spend their time pulling the other way. Other internal arguments include everything from “when should we tell the public” to “who gets to go”.

Throughout the novel, Bova takes the time to look around at the world’s reaction as they are informed. Rumors fly and some factions of humanity take action based on those rumors. In short, Bova gives us a fascinating and plausible account of the world’s reaction to first contact. Widespread panic? Don’t think so.

All of this builds up to a truly powerful conclusion. The final two CDs of this audiobook contain the most affecting first contact narrative I’ve ever heard or read. I couldn’t help but to play them both again immediately upon finishing, and I’ve resolved myself to keeping them on my iPod indefinitely so that I’m sure to have them with me next time I find myself in a quiet moment under a starry sky.

Stefan Rudnicki continues to impress with this narration, in which he performs many different voices with many different accents, all effective. Though Bova’s story is Clarke-like, there is much more to work with in the character department than in Clarke’s stories, and this allows Rudnicki the opportunity to shine. Also effective in the audiobook are the chapter breaks, each of which is read by a different narrator and each of which contain thought-provoking stuff, from quotes of real-life scientists to news stories that are part of the fiction. I greatly appreciate this kind of thing in an audiobook because it provides a true break as effective as a new chapter in text. All too often, audiobooks don’t create this break for the listener, resulting in a few moments of disorientation as the listener mentally moves to a new setting and/or POV. No such problem here – the prominent breaks are much appreciated.

AUDIBLE Sponsored Conversation with Orson Scott Card, Stefan Rudnicki and Ben Bova

Online Audio

Audible.comAudible.com has posted a new FREE audio interview/conversation between audiobook narrator Stefan Rudnicki and SF authors Orson Scott Card and Ben Bova. The talk is predominately about the role and value of audiobooks in the greater reading environment. Also covered is Card’s love of audiobooks (he’s a big big fan), Bova’s role in the creation of the Ender franchise and place of religion is science and Science Fiction. You can get the audio for it right HERE (but of course you’ll need to have an audible account).

Audible also tells us that: “Bova’s new book, The Aftermath (Book Four of The Asteroid Wars), is now available in audio at Audible.” That’s one of the many titles produced by Rudnicki for Audio Renaissance. OSC’s next “Ender” novel, A War of Gifts, will be released through Audio Renaissance and Audble October 30th 2007.

BBC Radio 3 talks about Life, But Not As We Know It

SFFaudio Online Audio

Online Audio BBC Radio 3BBC Radio 3 has an intriguing program available through their Listen Again service. A three part series about the consequences of the existence of alien life…

The Essay – Life, But Not As We Know It
3 Radio Broadcasts – Approx. 45 Minutes [DOCUMENTARY]
BROADCASTER: BBC Radio 3
BROADCAST: July 16th, 18th and 19th 2007
A biologist, a writer and a philosopher each explore their fascination with the notion of extraterrestrial intelligence and what such a discovery could mean for the future of humanity.

Part 1 – “Biologist Jack Cohen on why the discovery of aliens would change our view of biology, evolution and organised religion.”

Part 2 – “Writer Andrew Crumey delves into our literary past to discover a fascination with alien life dating back to the middle ages and beyond.”

Part 3 – “Philosopher Nick Bostrom explains why he believes that the discovery of aliens would be a disaster for the future of humanity and lead to the end of civilisation as we know it.”

All three parts are available HERE via the BBC Radio 3 Listen Again service for the next few days or so.

Review of Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler

SFFaudio Science Fiction Audiobook Review

Recorded Books Science Fiction Audiobook - Parable Of The Talents by Octavia E. ButlerParable Of The Talents
By Octavia E. Butler; Read by Patricia Floyd, Sisi Johnson, and Peter Jay Fernandez
11 Cassettes – 16 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books LLC
Published: 2001
ISBN: 0788749900
Themes: / Science fiction / Dystopia / Post-apocalyptic / Religion /

A good novel is not about one thing, but many. Octavia Butler’s jarring and beautiful Parable Of The Talents affirms this assertion. In terms of plot, it is the story of a religious sect preaching change and space travel; of how that sect develops an idyllic rural settlement in an economically gutted Northern California; of how a powerful group of Christian fanatics crush that settlement; and of how the leader of that sect survives to search for the children stolen in that attack and sew the seeds of her own growing religion. But it is also the story of a mother’s search for her daughter, of a man’s betrayal of his own flesh, and of a woman broken by furtive hostility and shattered trust. It is a story of hope in the face of implacable evil, of freedom amid slavery, perseverance through poverty, and love grappling with hate. It is a story of authentic people–husbands, wives, daughters, and friends–shredded by the power that be in an America gone mad.

What makes this book so terrifying is the plausibility of that madness. America implodes not from external forces such as war and disease, but from her own economic polarization and religious zealotry. Butler’s extrapolations are not wild hyperbole, but a subtle tweak on the headlines you will read in tomorrow’s paper. The effect will leave you awake at night when the rest of your family is blissfully asleep.

The voices that narrate this minor masterpiece are mostly amazing. Patricia Floyd’s portrayal of Lauren Olamina is warm and powerful. Her husband, as read by Peter Jay Fenandez sounds wise and loving, and his interpretation of her brother reveals both his humanity and the frozen center of his heart. The weakest voice is that of Olamina’s daughter, Larkin, whose childish breathiness doesn’t span the full emotional range of her character.

The text has its imperfections, as well. There is a point at which a freakish intervention of nature provides such a perfect solution to such an impossible predicament that my belief crumbled. And after spending so much effort explaining how the America of our experience is dead forever, it seems to revive just fine at the end, without a compellingly plausible cause. As serious as these issues sound, they leave intact a story that will still be shaping your thoughts months after you finish it.

I discovered after listening that this novel is the second in a series, but it stands so well on its own, you won’t have to hear Parable Of The Sower to appreciate it. However, if that book is as sensitive and unsettling as this one, it should be well worth your time.

The Sci Phi Show podcast talks Asimov’s Nightfall

The Sci Phi Show, has podcast that uses the recent 100th episode of Escape Pod and its podcast of Isaac Asimov’s short story Nightfall |MP3| to talk about the philosophies of science and religion. Have a listen to it, then listen to Episode #36: |MP3| (22 minutes 17 seconds) then click on over to The Sci Phi Show forums and post your own thoughts.

Subscribers to the Sci Phi Show’s podcast can use this feed:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/TheSciPhiShow