The SFFaudio Podcast #609 – READALONG: Anarchaos by Donald E. Westlake

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #609 – Jesse, Scott Danielson, Evan Lampe, Maissa Bessada, and Will Emmons talk about Anarchaos by Donald E. Westlake

Talked about on today’s show:
Curt Clark, Jesse’s favourite writer?, talkin bout Westlake, Lawrence Block, 1967 ACE paperback, less than a finger thick, Paul’s reaction, the audiobook is much abridged, that’s what they did back then, Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, the Columbia House, the Science Fiction Book Club, Scott’s origins (YouTube), night and day, all the anarchist stuff is not in the audiobook, the CBR, how vast a difference, about 70% of the book is cut out, the history, an experiment in anarchism, this is really bad anarchism, into two cassettes, Tomorrow’s Crimes by Donald E. Westlake, when Westlake quit science fiction, it could have been half of an Ace double, a super-interesting guy, Chuck Wendig, Under An English Heaven, a weird writer, peripheral writings, characterization and crime, Xero, I’m not sitting around bragging, no place for it?, I cannot sell good science fiction, John W. Campbell, gatekeepers, science fiction’s lost is crime’s gain, Analog, a side bit character, $450, the economics of writing science ficton, a go fund me, one of the most popular science fiction writers, a kickstarter to make ends meet, how good this book is, subjective reactions, rafts of stuff, the anarchy and the philosophical, the butchery is surgical, a very good abridgement, Stefan Rudnicki, decisions being made, only a few characters, this guy just gave up, rewriting the book, Westlake doesn’t waste words, parsimoniously, Westlake’s trademark: the movement of hands, the whole tell, Richard Stark, a fast writer, Man Of Action, December 1960, supplementary homework, Or Give Me Death, Patrick Henry, 270 years old, an editor getting pitched, in 1823 he almost died, November of 1954, a highly political story, it makes a point, Who are the heirs of Patrick Henry?, Robert A. Heinlein, a libertarian, the founding fathers, it is a good book, he’s fudging a little bit, another version of The Call Of The Wild, he think he’s the toughest dog around, over the horizon, the uninhabitable zone, John Thornton, men are dangerous and dogs are subservient to men, the king of the slaves, Buck doesn’t talk or think in words, Buck did not read the newspapers, the house slave, the top dog, his true nature, the man is a man, Rolf Malone, he basically murders a dude, so shocking, our main character is an evil murderer, his real reason for coming to the planet, the society, he kills dozens and dozens of people, he wants to kill the planet, Lybia, would people be like this?, Newton’s first law, Malone was the external force, that one strangling hand, Cloak Of Anarchy by Larry Niven, the origins, Mikhail Bakunin, an insurrectionary anarchist, Peter Kropotkin, how cooperative systems can exist, post-scarcity, the conquest of bread, an anarchist utopia, corporations came, anarcho-capitalism, slavery without a state, marriage without states, a meta-element, a whole series of novels, Cockaigne, a prison planet where the natives cant leave, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World‘s reservation, the U.C. is interfering with the running, the immigration official, a very unwise priest, Dracula, Jonathan Harker, The Woman In Black, repossess a computer, being sent to be killed, these are my people, the corporations run this planet, an economic shit zone, the offworlders moved in, in the hands of profit-seekers, anarchism sounds really great its gonna get co-opted by corporations, no government that can hold the corporations accountable, pirates eating into their slavery business, the polities, guns, who is a slave in a west African society, state making taking place, more laws that lead to more people being criminals to make them slaves, definitely the political, extracting the resources from Anarchaos, Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries, get the pronouns right, a big multi-national corporation and a nation, a body, it has arms, if this was a completely cut-off planet, its supposed to be a failed utopia, how Westlake cheats, the star is Hell, the names of the cities, Ulich and Nigh, Cockaigne is middle ages fantasy of young monks, Valhalla, afterlife places, tidally locked, the temperature, 29 Celsius, how the ecosystem can work, The City In The Middle Of The Night by Charlie Jane Anders, a drug that can take away his responsibility, we can trust what he’s saying or what he’s doing, the femme fatale, time itself, usual rituals, Will should have some thoughts about this book, the hard science is not what this novel is about, an anthropological big think, soft science, Vietnam after they win the war, the Chinese path, the worker state welcomed investment back in, how can this little socialist utopia exist?, purposely isolated, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), self-reliance, The Green Odyssey by Philip Jose Farmer, how respectful of physical space, Texas with no rangers, a comedy, the products of the authors, a long time ago this planet had some sort of galactic relationship with the other planets, Atlanta, an airport hub, a straight-up planetary romance, not a fun adventure planet with cool creatures, the hovels, this tradition, Kirinyaga by Mike Resnick, a fix-up novel, an asteroid terraformed into ancient Kenya, the mundumugu witch-doctor, the Transmetropolitan reservations, the Coventry reservation, the Westlake Review, Westlake was interested in SF, Nackles, anti-Santa Claus, Xmas, it’s not me it’s you, what this book is an indicator of, we withdraw our society from you, society and individual and crime, how Jesse wants to frame this story, John Savage, the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning, a kind of similar relationship, that savage lifestyle, she’s non-functional, nice food, a soft bed, new clothes, a shower, to be drugged up and not be, might makes right, colours in this book, the red light of Hell, a single name, Ice or Sledge, a Disneyland Chenzen special economic zone, an Alaska, a free extraction zone, cesspools and tailings, where the animals went, no mention of race, the state of nature argument, a raw canvas, an anarcho-syndicalist utopia for about 15 minutes, big offshore corporations, what anarchism is, in what circumstances could it work, that premise, the post-apocalyptic works, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The Walking Dead, big walls, in a context, a rich network with other groups, a different kind of slavery, the kind of slavery that parents have to children or to family, the relationship between marriage and slavery, the Roman Empire, Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber, go to the neighbouring community and get some girls, the caveman cartoon, the carrying over the threshold, the collar around the neck kind of slavery, women can be slaves but not men, he’s a bad dude, go wherever you want, exporting troublemakers, exporting their worst corporations, Jerry Pournelle’s CoDominium books, hello Australia, the west, Evan kinda likes this model, where all the wild ones are, The Many-Colored Land by Julian May, exporting of excess population, the Greeks were doing it with their colonies, an alternative to prisons, Siberia!, an open-air prison, Escape From New York, how shocked were you all when Malone gets his hand cut-off early in the book?, The Dark Tower, unless it gets infected…, he gets his brother’s college ring back, the ring finger of his left hand, some guy chewing on his hand, the limited contact we have with the natives, youre my slave now (cuz I found you in a ditch), you’re my brother or you’re my son, their aren’t teams and syndicates other than corporations, who is keeping the stuff like that?, the slum-dwellers from being unionized, doubly abridged, so heavy and dark, slightly higher gravity, the gravity thing, a subversion of a traditional planetary romance, subversion, confederate veteran, John Carter, weighted down morose lethargic, mentally and physically, the Colonel’s secretary, A Princess Of Anarchaos, the planet killed Gar, and two women, his mind flex, give me a planetary romance exploring an idea, a sixties slim paperback, full of SF ideas, Humans by Donald E. Westlake, angels are real, a very experimental writer, Smoke by Donald E. Westlake, The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, crime books, very philosophical, those crime books can be very philosophical, what makes crime bad?, killing’s just something you do, fearful for my own life, an imposition on their liberty, a pure goal oriented…, Parker is deluding himself, he wants to kill vs. he wants the action, why we’re reading it, find his brother’s killer, he didn’t have the stomach for it, feeling sorry for himself, now I have to kill the whole planet, essentially a villain, there is no hero, Jesse loves the ending, eighteen hours and twenty three minutes, oh shit, kill a whole lot of people, Morogeth, revenge on the actual people who killed his brother, the heart of the monetary system, rot in its own juices, absurd anarchy with some protective colony, how the story started, the boredom of travel by shuttle, Rolf I’m going to have a second chance, the only real relationship he has, the only person he respected, the only person he admired, a reverse inversion of this, from the other side, Fight Club, another political book, man’s relationship to himself, how’m I spossed to live now in this modern world with Ikeas, Fight Club 2, the comic book sequel, tear it all down, Phail and Gar, met across a loaded gun, Phail -> veil?, the names are weird, the veil of rule of law, pull the veil away, the naked relationship, the look in Colonel Whistler’s eyes, Anarchaos was a cancer, thus the suitcases, that promise, voyages to seven planets, the other planets in the UC system, Jack Vance, The Moon Moth, a planet full of people wearing masks all the time, The Lego Movie (2014), Cloud Cuckoo Land, framings and levels, interpreting what’s going on, a popular genre in the middle ages, young monks, writing poems, satirizing their lives,Land of Cokaygne

There is another abbey nearby,
a great nunnery in fact,
up a river of sweet milk,
where there is great plenty of silk.
When the summer’s day is hot,
the young nuns take a boat,
and go forth on that river
rowing with oars and steering.
When they are far from the abbey,
they undress to play,
and jump into the water
and swim secretly.
The young monks who see them
get ready and start out
and come to the nuns immediately,
and each monk takes one for himself
and carries his prey away quickly
to the great grey abbey,
and teaches the nuns a prayer
with their legs up and down in the air
The monk that can be a good stallion
and knows where to put his hood
he can easily have
twelve wives each year.

the power of translation, the power of writing, the power of reading, goddamn it I’m a monk, the nuns in that nearby abbey are quite sexy, it rains cheese from the sky, a comedy reaction to the difficulty, the place where they took his weapons away, richness that went into this, he loved the process of creation, Planet Of Adventure by Jack Vance.

Ace F-421 - Anarchaos by Donald E. Westlake
Ace F-421 Anarchaos by Donald E. Westlake

Donald Westlake's Anarchaos - illustration by Patrick Dean

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The SFFaudio Podcast #558 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Horror At Martin’s Beach by Sonia Greene and H.P. Lovecraft

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #558 – The Horror At Martin’s Beach by Sonia Greene and H.P. Lovecraft; read by Martin Reyto (for Legamus.eu). This is an unabridged reading of the short story (18 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Marissa VU, Wayne June, and Terrence Blake

Talked about on today’s show:
Sonia H. Greene, The Invisible Monster, Weird Tales, prenuptial contract, courtship, the sea is New York, drugged to New York, interesting, Lovecraft components, Lovecraft skeleton, originally titled, a much last apt title, you never find invisible things, Lovecraft’s commonplace book, [entry 51: Enchanted garden where moon casts shadow of object or ghost invisible to the human eye.], The Moon Bog, The Dreamquest Of Unknown Kadath, the Moon as a giant egg, “I have never heard an even approximately adequate explanation of the horror at Martin’s Beach.”, the baby, the mother, a single eye, another invisible something, my fancy conjured up still another eye, the eye is the Moon, everybody is assuming its the mom, where does it say it in the story, deep grief, Iron Shadows In The Moon, the father, how do they know its a baby, it had its baby teeth, the layering, small for a cosmic being, demi-cosmic, that new baby smell, not very scientific, the most amazing discrepancies, Captain Orne, if Eric [Rabkin] was here, it rained for forty nights, taxidermied, P.T. Barnum, a mermaid is a seal grafted on to a baby, DC horror comics from the 1970s, I want comics god-damn it, True Ghost Tales, Minnesota, bigfoot displayed in a van, a monkey suit with modifications, “The object was some fifty feet in length, of roughly cylindrical shape, and about ten feet in diameter. It was unmistakably a gilled fish in its major affiliations; but with certain curious modifications, such as rudimentary forelegs and six-toed feet in place of pectoral fins, which prompted the widest speculation.” selling hokum,

The naturalists had shown plainly that it radically differed from the similarly immense fish caught off the Florida coast; that, while it was obviously an inhabitant of almost incredible depths, perhaps thousands of feet, its brain and principal organs indicated a development startlingly vast, and out of all proportion to anything hitherto associated with the fish tribe.

John Lilly‘s communications with dolphins, sons of Poseidon, a species, cyclops kitten, a half-god, his out, his wife wrote that part, the depths of the oceans being unexplored they harbour life-forms that have one eye, bioluminescence, otherworldly, monster ideas from the depths of the sea, symmetry is for weaklings, scientific men are people who work for Orne, fakes, but not this time, revenge mom, The Beast (1996), William Petersen, Beast by Peter Benchley, no mothering instinct, projection by the readers and Sonia Greene, the evil men who stole the baby, Captain Orne as Ulysses, a mythological interpretation, the old one version of Poseidon, we’re bringing the female idea to it, a trope, throughout nature, bear cubs, the daddy bear gives no shits, dads don’t care, human vs. animal, dads do care, almost nothing happens, stylistic preparation, a real life event, a simple horror story, a cosmic dimension, a moralistic dimension, two different readings, Ridley Scott thought Deckard was a replicant, eternal revenge, a purpose so revolting to my brain, revenge isn’t revolting, collateral damage, all humanity was guilty, a species wide revenge, humans all look alike, my fifty foot baby, what humans do, all the wolves are killed for the crime of one wolf, a storm came twice, wrapping up his business, he’s ornery, “get revenge”, its planned all this out, set aside your propensity for disbelief, here she/he/it comes, make the presence known, grieving and scheming, you killed my baby and now you’re throwing shit at me?, an inordinate indication of intelligence, an article by Professor Alton about hypnotic powers not being confined to recognized humanity, there trickled upon my ears the faint and sinister echoes of a laugh, only humans and hyenas, they laugh at anything, a sad laugh, read it with skepticism, what is the horror?, is it the thing?, or was it that people were frozen?, electricity explains it, hacksaw to the hempen line, there is no hempen line, that’s their interpretation, a proposed theory, what if there was never a line to begin with, physically hooking on to people, less about the specific thing in the water, the way the Moon plays on the water, everybody is turned into frogs, the Moon was about a foot above the water, a coin at arms length, from what angle?, phenomenological vs. actual, what’s that over there?, the moon looks gigantic, its about the hypnotism theory, why the people fail to act, that’s the horror, a huge part of the horror, if we read it that way the invisible monster is us, retire to your room, the narrator’s perspective, death march, resigned to fate, so real and creepy, not calling for help, not struggling, looking back over their shoulders in fear, a perfect description of this universe,

And as I gazed out beyond the heads, my fancy conjured up still another eye; a single eye, equally alight, yet with a purpose so revolting to my brain that the vision soon passed. Held in the clutches of an unknown vise, the line of the damned dragged on; their silent screams and unuttered prayers known only to the demons of the black waves and the night-wind.

a cluster of religious stuff, the voice of heaven resounded with the blasphemies of hell, ventriloquism, a cyclopean din, her pallid beams, a whirlpool, the narrator laughing, that interpretation, the hyena is laughing because its sad, even creepier, gallows humour, forelegs, one big eye, a laugh?, angler-fish, glowing eyes, feet on the chest, what it’s all for?, sure you did, bub, they know about the fishy tribes, Martin’s Beach has hills with cabins, veranda, a vacation spot, the rich above, the poorer below, above and below,

It was in the twilight, when grey sea-birds hovered low near the shore and a rising moon began to make a glittering path across the waters. The scene is important to remember, for every impression counts. On the beach were several strollers and a few late bathers; stragglers from the distant cottage colony that rose modestly on a green hill to the north, or from the adjacent cliff-perched Inn whose imposing towers proclaimed its allegiance to wealth and grandeur.

the horror is is the coverup by the hotel, the same dynamic you see in Jaws, the corporate is the horror, Aha, I got the formula now!, community vs. the individual, what the fuck happened, everybody’s involved, Fair Game by Philip K. Dick, Professor Anthony Douglas, numerous grunts, his ample middle, a nuclear scientist in Colorado, gold bars on the side of the road, this is the weirdest thing, he’s in his easy chair, an eye the size of the entire sky, any giant sky monsters over Colorado?, Fair Game on SickMyDuck.narod.ru:

Shapes. Two enormous shapes squatting down. Two incredibly huge figures bending over. One was drawing in the net. The other watched, holding something in its hand. A landscape. Dim forms too vast for Douglas to comprehend.

At last, a thought came. What a struggle.

It was worth it, thought the other creature.

Their thoughts roared through him. Powerful thoughts, from immense minds.

I was right. The biggest yet. What a catch!

Must weigh all of twenty-four ragets!

At last!

Suddenly Douglas’s composure left him. A chill of horror flashed through his mind. What were they talking about? What did they mean?

But then he was being dumped from the net. He was falling. Something was coming up at him. A flat, shiny surface. What was it?

Oddly, it looked almost like a frying pan.

it doesn’t make any sense as science fiction, what’s funny is the set-up, how he’s fat, this is the sea’s revenge for fishing, it isn’t specifically about this one animal, the sea doing what we do to it, look at the tuna cans, line and pole tuna, industrialized fishing, still another reading, the Moon in relation to its proximity to the water, the gravitational pull of the Moon, The Other Gods, a lot going on, its not as crappy as it looks, William Shakespeare, as flies to wanton boys as are we to the gods, the line is flypaper, why are they pulling, someone needed rescuing, insidious, human instinct in propensity to rubberneck, cheap houses near the sea, at least some of the people came from the rich area, Weird Talers: Essays On Robert E. Howard And Others by Bobby Derie, a blog post with a letter from Sonia Greene, he was never kissed by any woman, The Private Life Of H.P. Lovecraft, Carol Weld, happily ever after (sort of), its all right there in the setup, a little softer than Lovecraft’s usual, 15 adjectives about how horrible everything is, the rest doesn’t take that statement seriously, its lacking that indifference, there’s definitely some bellows, very humanish, the easy reading is that it’s a revenge tale, my Twitter friend Jason Thompson’s illustrations, a couple on the beach, the moon low in the sky next to the fish monster, there’s some sort of massive connection, a big round thing in the sky that YOU can see, it is an eye, paranoia, ‘And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you’, human history’s relationship without the Moon, telescope, when you look at the moon, you can see mountains, it is another place, another world, comforting and horrifying, how important the universe is as a reality, profits, dancing, cottages, cars, a speck in the sea of black infinity, its hard to understate, the cosmic layer, the moon as a character, the Moon is the mother, opening a path, a way, a lane, calling down to the depths, opening the people to an influence from another reality, the bridge of moonbeams in The White Ship, I am Basil Elton,

I am Basil Elton, keeper of the North Point light that my father and grandfather kept before me. Far from the shore stands the grey lighthouse, above sunken slimy rocks that are seen when the tide is low, but unseen when the tide is high. Past that beacon for a century have swept the majestic barques of the seven seas. In the days of my grandfather there were many; in the days of my father not so many; and now there are so few that I sometimes feel strangely alone, as though I were the last man on our planet. … Very brightly did the moon shine on the night I answered the call, and I walked out over the waters to the White Ship on a bridge of moonbeams. The man who had beckoned now spoke a welcome to me in a soft language I seemed to know well, and the hours were filled with soft songs of the oarsmen as we glided away into a mysterious South, golden with the glow of that full, mellow moon.

the opening, Sonia writing in the mom part, Lovecraft writing the Moon part, layers, cynical thing, clusters of adjectives, satanic and demonic, the more religious cosmology, regular folks, weird letters received, all recapitulated in the Peter Benchley, conferences, inspiring of, A Tropical Horror by William Hope Hodgson, architeuthis, giant squid, the title, self reference, your average bear does’t have a Lovecraftian world-view, the most amazing discrepancies, no common bond, differing reports, a widely witnessed phenomenon, a tremendous difference, everybody’s unreliable, what the hell did they see?, weirder stuff happens under the Moon, Slavoj Žižek, conceiving and Žižek, Lovecraft was the terrible thing, and vice versa, a problem of habituation, kinda sick, this is going to be better for you, Virginia, he could’ve moved with her, I got all my friends and my (podcasting club), the Kalem Club, unrecorded podcasts, an anthology of just Moon stories, power of the moon, the Moon doing a ton of heavy lifting, imagine that line goes all the way out to the Moon, we can get there its just incredibly hard, gravitons are definitely a real thing, it has phases, without the Moon, what would you even look at, its so important, it looms large (especially when near the horizon), we hide from it in our cities and our houses.

Jason Thompson's (MOCKMAN) illustration of The Horror At Martin's Beach by Sonia Greene and H.P. Lovecraft

Jason Thompson sketch for The Horror At Martin's Beach

Posted by Jesse Willis

Reading, Short And Deep #183 – The Cask Of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe

Podcast

Reading, Short And DeepReading, Short And Deep #183

Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss The Cask Of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe

The Cask Of Amontillado was first published in Godey’s Lady’s Book, November 1846.

Here’s a link to a PDF of the story.

Podcast feed https://sffaudio.herokuapp.com/rsd/rss

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

The SFFaudio Podcast #327 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Moon-Bog by H.P. Lovecraft

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #327 – The Moon-Bog by H.P. Lovecraft; read by Martin Reyto courtesy of Legamus. This is an unabridged reading of the short story (24 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse Willis, Seth Wilson, Jim Moon, and Juan Luis Pérez.

Talked about in this episode:
Title has a hyphen; published in Weird Tales in June 1926, but written for a St. Patrick’s Day event; most critics dismiss the story; most characters are nameless; no Cthulhu mythos; Greek ties to Lovecraft’s The Tree; H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast; thematic similarities to The Rats in the Walls and Hypnos; conflict between the bog goddess and her servants; frogs; moonbeams; Greek Pan pipes, not Celtic pipes; on the story’s un-Irishness; competing models of colonization; Protestant work ethic; Pied Piper of Hamelin; surviving narrator motif similar to Ishmael in Moby Dick; departure from the traditional Lovecraftian narrator; the poetry of Lovecraft’s prose, alliteration, etc.; Lovecraft’s Supernatural Horror in Literature; spoiler in Weird Tales art; the joys of reading aloud; Lovecraft’s Dunsanian story The Festival; architecture; Tolkien’s Dead Marshes and the gothic symbolism of bogs, etc.; Lovecraft’s descriptionn of cities in The Mountains of Madness and landscapes in The Dunwich HorrorThe Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and similar impressionism in film; The Quest of Iranon; unreliable narrators à la Edgar Allan Poe, especially The Fall of the House of Usher; laughing; bog draining and the curse of the Tiddy Mun; the city of Bath and the intersection of Roman and Celtic cultures; John Buchan’s The Grove of Ashtaroth; this is actually a happy Lovecraft story!; Robin Hood and the defense of the land; humans destroy megafauna; Lovecraft’s The Hound; American horror trope of the Indian burial ground; the lack of Celtic mythology; will-o’-the-wisps; how does one drain a bog? Ask the Dutch; disappointment in scientific explanation for stories; the ruins and the Gothic tradition.

The Moon-Bog by H.P. Lovecraft

The Moon Bog by H.P. Lovecraft - illustrated by Jesse

Providence, Issue 10, The Moon-Bog by H.P. Lovecraft - illustrated by Raulo Cáceres

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

SFFaudio Review

Cover of Steelheart by Brandon SandersonSteelheart
By Brandon Sanderson; Read by Macleod Andrews
Audible Download – 12 Hours 14 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible Frontiers
Published: 2013
Themes: / Dystopia / Apocalypse / Superheroes / Revenge

Brandon Sanderson, best-known for putting the finishing touches on Robert Jordan’s sprawling Wheel of Time series, has also crafted several fantasy epics of his own, including the Mistborn trilogy, Warbreaker, and the ambitious Stormlight Archive saga. Now, with Steelheart, he tries his hand at near-future dystopian fiction for young adults. Begin customary blurb. I don’t normally post the entire synopsis for a novel, but I feel this one encapsulates the themes and tone of the book rather neatly.

From the number-one New York Times best-selling author of the Mistborn Trilogy, Brandon Sanderson, comes the first book in a new, action-packed thrill ride of a series – Steelheart. Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.

But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.
Nobody fights the Epics…nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart – the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning – and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He’s seen Steelheart bleed.

And he wants revenge.

How well does Sanderson make the transition from fantasy to science fiction? Unsurprisingly, spectacularly well. This is for several reasons. First, Sanderson is a professional writer par excellence. I may not like everything he writes, but I can’t deny that it’s all of the highest quality. Second, his elaborate, sometimes byzantine magic systems, with their complex rules, exceptions, and counter-exceptions, are more akin to science. To invert Arthur C. Clarke’s axiom, any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology. Likewise, Sanderson’s complex magic systems are distinguishable from the impressive technologies of Steelheart in name only. The novel’s villains, the superhuman Epics, would be at home in many of his worlds. Finally, Sanderson has experience writing for a younger audience, so he knows how to shape a story to the tastes of youth.

But don’t let the YA moniker fool you; Steelheart is a deeply emotional, nuanced, and grown-up book. Only its pared-down vocabulary, simple structure, and quick pacing belie its target audience. The stakes are high. I would compare the book’s overall feel to the last few Harry Potter books. Both feature a rag-tag group of misfits fighting against unimaginable power, impossible odds, and the darkest corners of human nature. Yes, the supervillainous Epics, like most supervillains, are a cipher for the worst human qualities: arroagance, anger, deception, and hate.Any young reader who thoughtfully finishes this book will be forced to confront very grown-up questions of right and wrong, friendship, loyalty, faith, and revenge. These themes might be more boldly drawn than they would be in a work for adults, but they’re not so boldly drawn as to stray into the dangerous realm of caricature or didactic.

I have only one minor but frequently recurring complaint about Steelheart. As a disciple of Robert Jordan, Sanderson likes to use elements from the world as curses and expletives. So, the characters are frequently heard to exclaim “Calamity!” after the red comet hovering in the sky. “Sparks!” is another oft-repeated expletive. In my view, Battlestar Galactica‘s “frak” is the only expletive to pull the effect off convincingly. In Sanderson’s works, as in Jordan’s, the device feels contrived, and jolts me right out of the narrative. The only thing that makes this offense remotely excusable is that the book is intended for the innocent eyes and ears of younger readers, but I still think Sanderson could have found a better way.

Macleod Andrews makes Steelheart a joy to listen to. He flows effortlessly from the youthful voice of protagonist David, to the gruff voice of the Prof, leader of the Reckoners, to the booming voice of Steelheart himself. Some audiobook connoisseurs might find his narration a tad melodramatic, but I can imagine younger readers reveling in Anderson’s adrenaline-fueled rendition of the action scenes. He also lends a light air of levity where it’s appropriate, counterbalancing the novel’s dark themes and bleak setting.

Steelheart is the first novel in a projected series, but Brandon Sanderson’s a busy guy with about a dozen anvil-sized irons in the fire at any given point in time. So I don’t know when a sequel will be forthcoming. While Steelheart neatly wraps up the main questions raised in the book’s early chapters, it still leaves plenty of room for exploration. What is Calamity? Was it really responsible for the rise of the Epics? What’s happening elsewhere in this wide, newly-devastated world. I can’t wait to find out.

Posted by Seth Wilson

Review of Carrie by Stephen King

SFFaudio Review

carrieCarrie
By Stephen King; Narrated by Sissy Spacek
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (now only available through Audible.com)
Publication Date: 24 August 2012
[Unabridged] – 7 hours; 20 minutes

Themes: / telekinesis / adolescent bullying / religious fervor / hog slaughter / revenge / horror /

Publisher summary:

An unpopular teenage girl, whose mother is a religious fanatic, is tormented and teased to the breaking point by her more popular schoolmates. She uses her hidden telekinetic powers to inflict a terrifying revenge.

I’ve wanted to read Carrie for a while now.  It’s one of those iconic works that you’re compelled to read, more out of a sense of obligation to the author’s craft than a product of individual literary desire.  I’m not one of those Stephen King aficionados that could play King Trivia and know every answer.  I’ve read some of his books, and most of those have been fantastic.  Some weren’t.  Truthfully, I’d love to sit down and just talk shop with King.  Just to be able to shoot the breeze about writing, the shape of a story, how to switch tense to make something pop, and a load of other stuff that most likely doesn’t blow the hair back for that many folks.

Stephen King has a knack for drawing a character that evokes empathy from the reader.  I can’t say I enjoyed the question and answer portions, the jagged breakaways from the main narrative flow, or the investigation that lies at the far end of this story.  But I love how King slows down a scene, making time stretch beyond normal, beyond the pocketful of seconds, far past the internal clockwork of mind can account for in a passing moment.  I also really appreciated some of King’s choice of language.  And I’m giving King bonus points for quoting Dylan lyrics, thanks Stevie!

I don’t believe it’s a secret that there’s blood in this story.  There’s also murder and violence.  What most surprised me was my reaction to the scene with the pigs.  I won’t go into detail here, but this scene evoked the most emotional reaction for me, and I found this interesting.  I had and felt compassion for Carrie, but the part with the pigs and potato chips stood out like broken glass under a bright moon.

Sissy Spacek as narrator does a solid job.  Her delivery is dependable, and she does not try to act the story.  She does not insert herself as a character in her reading.  I was able to hear a slight amount of audible feedback in this audio rendition, and am disappointed that the sound engineers didn’t clean the tracks up before distribution.  This audiobook is prefaced with a few words from Stephen King.  He gives a little background to how Carrie was saved from the dustbin, and how its publication came just in time.  I for one am a fan of Stephen King speaking about his history and life, and so I enjoyed this little introduction.  I find King’s voice pleasant and easy to listen to.

 Posted by Casey Hampton.