The SFFaudio Podcast #737 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Cosmic Computer by H. Beam Piper

The SFFaudio Podcast #737 – The Cosmic Computer by H. Beam Piper – read by Mark Nelson for LibriVox. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the novel (7 hours 18 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants include Jesse, Paul Weimer, Trish E. Matson, and Tony DeSimone.

Talked about on today’s show:
Junkyard Planet, a precursor, Graveyard Of Dreams, Galaxy, 1958, the H. Beam Piper’s Federation, Space Viking, a little earlier, the Federation is doom, ruinous, more meat, this book sucks, Klatooine, trash compactor planet, crashed star destroyer planet, the throughline, fun title, graveyard of empires, Poul Anderson, a larger space future history, Dominic Flandry, the clock is ticking for humanity, influenced from other SF, Helen O’Loy by Lester Del Rey, the positronic brain is Asimov, Star Trek, a Foundation book, the situation with Merlin, a lot of ideological stuff, bogged down in the wrong things, recounting the growth of one major idea, about making companies, management, not interesting, space manager, Michael Whelan, battle armour, wreck, that has nothing to do with computers, all of the battle set pieces, pirate infested, a landspeeder flying across a landscape, the carbon dioxide planet, pollution, the best cover is the Valigursky cover, the cosmic robot, the mcguffin, a con job, the audience hates you, rather clever, the sexy mermaid movie is full of office managers, an old manatee, writers and moviemakers are interested in sales, if he had called it Junkyard Planet, great ideas, civil war stuff, Fox Travis, an Alamo guy named Travis, finding and marketing war surplus, matter converters, post scarcity, power units, Universe by Robert A. Heinlein, a Heinlein lift, replicator, a very tired replicator, sad and melted, a living being like a shoggoth, the growth and management of new businesses, marriage stuff, compared to his mystery novel, not very mysterious, not bounded by genre lines, a space opera, a sociological novel, ship battles, space battle management simulator, soccer, England, Premiere League manager simulator, advertising for products, Master Of Orion, MOO2, space fleet management, a startup company, revitalizing the economy, character names, an interesting idea book bogged down in details we are not interested in, dry discourse, here’s some news, Asimov does it better, the background and the ideas, the world, faith in this one supercomputer that’s going to solve all their problems, more melon farming, an interesting review on, historical themes, the Pacific island cargo cults, temporary prosperity, larger war themes, cargos that came, influences on the RPG Traveler, Space Viking is even more of a template for Traveler, lost technology, Merlin is a higher TL (tech level), a poison chalice, a subrace, the stellar trigger, build up a whole little polity, nothing lasts, there’s junk all around, the ideological stuff with regard to all the capital is lying around, the laws are designed to do things, for us too, setting up the game for the market of that good, you can fuck up an economy by having bad laws, who is making the laws and for what purpose, hiding the truth to improve the economy by lying, the theme of the book is: should you lie for people’s good, what happened?, Merlin knew their society was going to collapse, but he told them to lie about it, not an AI, offering falsehoods as suggestions, Arthur C. Clarke’s Space Odyssey series, a sign of true sentience and intelligence, R2-D2 clearly has free will, deceiving Luke, a plot to trick a human, Jawas or Princess Leia?, its the other way around?, where are we going Batman?, he/it’s long association, Jesse’s favourite scene in the book:

He climbed out of bed, knuckled the sleep-sand out of his eyes, threw his robe around him, and started across the room to the bath cubicle.

They had decided to have breakfast together his first morning home. The party had broken up late, and then there had been the excitement of opening the presents he had brought back from Terra. Nobody had had a chance to talk about Merlin, or about what he was going to do, now that he was home. That, and his career of mendacity, would start at breakfast. He wanted to let his father get to the table first, to run interference for him; he took his time with his toilet and dressed carefully and slowly. Finally, he zipped up the short waist-length jacket and went out.

His father and mother and Flora were at the table, and the serving-robot was floating around a few inches off the floor, steam trailing from its coffee urn and its tray lid up to offer food. He greeted everybody and sat down at his place, and the robot came around to him. His mother had selected all the things he’d been most fond of six years ago: shovel-snout bacon, hotcakes, starberry jam, things he hadn’t tasted since he had gone away. He filled his plate and poured a cup of coffee.

shovel snout bacon!, starberry jam!, we gotta sell our wine, Omnitrend’s Universe 2 is up on Archive,org, stop calling it spoilers!, call it enhancers!, Larry Niven, Neutron Star, Binary Systems’ Starflight and Starflight 2: Trade Routes Of The Cloud Nebula, Star Trek, Star Trek economics manager, analogous characters, a whole universe to explore, pirates, a mystery, the old ones, Babylon 5 sort of stuff, the fuel you’ve been using is ancient aliens that are still alive, Endurium is made of people, Robin Hobb’s The Liveship Traders series, Frontier Elite, a new Mario game: labyrinth manager, hire a bunch of turtles, grow a bunch of mushrooms, how else are you gonna keep the princess safe from rescuers?, padded out, pirate battle scenes, the construction of his merchant fleet, a High Crusade situation, overtures in that direction, undercooked things, a whole third class group of people, dealing with the unemployed, women can press buttons too, cardboard characters, I’m in hospital because I’m so shocked, Sylvie, a go-getter, a marriage but hardly any romance or dialogue, romancing little fuzzies, he ends up with a different girl, fixups or expansions, Time Pawn vs. Doctor Futurity by Philip K. Dick, shares, you’re a stockholder, he doesn’t care, ships carrying old CRTs to the Philippines, the junkyard stuff, military surplus planet, PBY aircraft tuned into luxury homes for rich people, a downed pilot in the Sulu Sea, there’s no junk, too expensive, space travel is really expensive, an analogy for carpet bagging, Firefly, these guys are the losers of the civil war, ex-browncoats, border states, what happened to this great economy we had, overblown, wicker aircraft, the Seabees, what the hell are you doing, shit out cargo, chewing gum, reconcile the values, sending their kids to university in the states, let’s fake a reason, if we just believe hard enough, faith, McDonnell Douglas, hilarious, in eight months when this comes out, a weird time on twitter, Lockheed-Martini, calling themselves real, faith and rule-sets, creating whole classes of people, the vague idea of the book, David Drake and S.M. Stirling, dark age of magic, evil demonic empire, having a computer in your back pocket, interested in the wrong things, what we want, if he had written it differently, people make mistakes, Tony’s reaction, Jesse wanted to like this book, obsessed with smoking, a lot of smoking and gun polishing, a very interesting intelligent man, not a powerful man, a working class guy who was able to write, a lot of self-taughtness, he could do great things if he was in such a position, is this helping the story?, inside this book there are good ideas and such, more focused on a theme, its not objectively true, he might have thought this is my best work ever, an objective star rating, a thesis for why it sucks in the way that it does, run a Traveler campaign, stand around and tell us about what’s happening elsewhere, Little Fuzzy, a trial, heart and humour, folksy, forgettable characters, Calvin Morris, Omnilingual, a modest focus, doing something like this, what estate agents do, how to make money off of an abandoned resource, informative to his life, The Best Years Of Our Lives (1946), warplane graveyard, his nightwatchman job, Jesse is not a big character guy, Murder In The Gunroom, a lady, a good mystery, a solid book, Graveyard Of Dreams should be public domain, virtually everything of his is public domain, John J. McGuire, A Planet For Texans, Cowboy Range In Heaven, Lone Star Planet, the “wild west”, everyone was very polite, when and wear you can carry firearms, Broken Arrow (1950), Jimmy Stewart, emancipated!, New Mexico, Cochise, Indian culture, Jay Silverheels, seal the peace, they refrigerated her, Gregory Peck, The Bravados (1958), Joan Collins, Lee Van Cleef and Henry Silva, sounds like a western, a catholic vibe, killing em off one by one, has a wife and kid, you killed my wife!, you raped my wife!, a really good ending, we thought he was a good guy, western media, the Dark Tower books by Stephen King, cinemascope!, Gregory Peck is not a nerdy, Jimmy Stewart is nerdier, they don’t laugh out loud very long, there’s this giant class of amazing culture, the fans of the westerns made all those movies happen, submarine movies, prison movies, WWII movies, exhausted all the genres, The Big Country (1958), sounds like a western, treat him like a dude, a wild bronco, he won’t play their games, big musical score!, 90 minute movies, 2 hours 46 minutes, Charlton Heston, House Of Wax (1953), The War Of The Roses (1989), Danny Devito, a spiritual sequel, the romancing the Stone cast back together, a cynical movie, Michael Douglas, Death To Smoochy (2002), that wont offend people, What Is A Woman (2002), My Son Hunter (2022), 2000 Mules (2022), Dinesh D’Souza, God King Trump, that’s what piracy is for, Allen Anderson, credits for movie posters, Memory (2022), Guy Pearce, The Time Machine (2002), The Rover (2014), a guy driving around Australia, living in his car, not an action movie, a different kind of fun movie, Ravenous (1999), a western black comedy, The Count Of Monte Cristo (2002), BC (Before Cavil), Jim Caviezel, poor rich actors, not flourishing, also goes with Tom Cruise, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (2022), UHF (1989) is one of the best movies, people loved it, Earth Girls Are Easy (1988), that kind of movie, Adam Sandler mixed with Mel Brooks, has heart, make you root for the characters, we’re a family, very 80s, fake ads, Robocop (1987), Conan The Librarian, Ghandi II, The Moon Maid by Edgar Rice Burroughs, in 7 to 8 months you will hear about Blaze, The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper, a Conan story, heavy on the action, they all have virtue, At The Earth’s Core, Tarzan, The Land That Time Forgot, The Monster Men, Beyond Thirty, rewilded, The Mucker, The Efficiency Expert, The Mad King, anti-communist centaurs, heat from the left and heat from the right, a good writer not a brilliant thinker, sequels, avoided politics, the last election, center is the worst, Jesse is not in the center, Evan Lampe gets very salty in DMs, cranky on twitter, pleasant in real-life, if the Dems are proBLM…, they oppose all working class movements, not left wing, co-opted, flawed leaders, foreign forces of corruption and evil, visiting politicians in the states, Justin does what they say, he’s a bad person, tangled up about being left or right, meet somewhere in the middle, conversations about fascism on twitter, minor differences, antagonistic towards what?, a Trump supporter who criticizes Trump, WWIII with Russia, Ukraine related, not good at his job is a positive, too incompetent to get things done, he has the right enemies, he hates the media, Biden is much better for what?, based on the effects they actually had, surprising strides, trying to make peace with North Korea, if we’re grading on a curve, every time they say they’re going to do something, codify Roe V. Wade, a way to keep people voting, when Paul and Trish are worried about Jesse watching What Is A Woman (2022), Jesse’s fragile mind, have issues with the movie, Joe Rogan, [Graham Hancock], interesting guests, Robert E. Howard was right!, Ancient Apocalypse, criticism, ground penetrating radar, more stuff in the earth to find out, ancient aliens is a stage, less rewarding as you investigate, paranormal people are full of it, most interviews suck, gay marriage, asking the question, coming at it from a Christian pov, Orson Scott Card, gays kissin’, pretty antigay, why is gay marriage wrong?, the best of the bad choices, the federal vs. provincial parties, Paul and Trish couldn’t be seen to watch this movie because it is from a right wing website, we’re all in the poors class together, all pro-big business, that would never happen to me because I’m so corrupt, $80,000 a month for a no show job in a country they coup’d, they banned it, all the earmarks of Russian disinformation, this is something I don’t need to look at, corruption alleged, the evil ghoul Giuliani, America’s mayor for a minute, the laptop was real and the corruption was real, vote for the right team, there’s no reason to votes for these Democrats, just do it as a personal favor for me, provide legitimacy to the farce, more people on the team: let’s not do this anymore, robot’s platform, there wasn’t inflation under Trump (like there is now), super-right wing, can’t allow the plebs to talk amongst themselves, makes sure they know there are two camps: right wing and left wing, shaking things up, sowing chaos, the Marx Brothers, what the politicians say to the people who really matter, that’s what you can believe, they tell the truth, “nothing will fundamentally change”, don’t worry I won’t rock the boat, nothing good happened for regular people, imposing their morality on our bodies, lied about it for 50 years, is it true that?, Justin Trudeau is stealing people’s bank accounts, $2000 a month for a long time, $90 a month for car insurance, smaller government, what really needs to happen is more universal programs, the “socialist” party, universal dentalcare, phase it in, they care a little more, there’s a feedback, let’s fix this, you fucked up our healthcare system you get fired, pharmacare is almost completely covered too, good positions, before Justin, an oligarchy, when the government and the big corporations get in bed together, you don’t need armbands together, Italy and Germany, developing as nations later, late in the game, it’s our turn too, Italy taking Ethiopia, Germany trying to colonize Russia, almost all of Canada used to belong to the Hudson’s Bay Company all of western Canada, being mean to gay people, we’re gonna censor this, I like music, I like my pets, mutual aid, conspiracy theory, the farther down you dig for the truth the more you realize you’re not going to find it, Bigfoot isn’t in the woods he’s in your heads, like ghosts, a multidimensional being, Michio Kaku’s whole life is a lie, their theory sucks, dark matter and dark energy, an invisible black ball we can’t detect, not testable, we’re going to add another dimension, he says “long distance communication was yelling out the window”, because he’s got a PHD and he’s Japanese and he wears a suit, he’s a fuckin scammer, Neil Degrasse Tyson, big fish in a small pond, Newt Gingrich has a wife that looks like an owl, evil Republican, he’s read some books, he thinks he’s super-genius, he’s a dimwit, finally Oksana Boyko, kaku means shit, Stanton [T.] Friedman, debunk UFO stuff, evidence to the contrary, physical mechanical things (rather than multidimensional), people like to be fulfilled, we will be like gods?, in the year 1900, technically correct, your parents weren’t alive 100 years ago, Napoleon had long distance communication, yelling at your neighbor, life in 1900, they had letters in the Roman era, sell his book, how to become a god, Biden is demented right?, he looks pretty out of it, literally dementia, is Trump demented?, morally, yes, Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego, Biden dementia updates, FDR, Reagan’s wife was running things, they don’t want to make him look weak, is that a right wing talking point?, is it over-fixating when the man with power over nukes has dementia?, Kamala Harris is so incompetent but not from dementia, she does not do homework, pay more attention to the opposition, don’t support people who don’t support you, the way that they want us to be, withdrawing your consent, you can’t make me party to it, if you vote for someone you can be in a sense responsible for everything he did, if you voted for George W. Bush you’re in part responsible for a million kids dying, from 2 wars to 7 wars, Paul would get mad at Jesse, world socialist website, Citigroup Chose Obama’s 2008 Cabinet, being on the team makes you left wing, sure to solve things, its time to not giving your support to shit, a risky thing to do, that’s the concern, you can’t let them win because Roe V. Wade might be overturned, they might export all the jobs to China, inflation might get bad, third party candidates, Al Gore, John Kerry, manufacturing consent, I’ll go with the less shitty choice, things are bad, mutual aid, a local group, these are the people in the community doing this, “leadership classes”, manufacturing politicians and flunkies for politicians, management and leadership, bossing people around, giving out favours, if you giving them what they want, a tough situation, have nothing to do with it, most people don’t vote, the material conditions worsen under both teams, all the great things the Democrats have done, the EPA is Nixon, the DHS, we need more cops and spies, that will solve things, the social programs, building hospitals and universities and bridges and highways and trains, we don’t need that stuff, giving money to their friends, Costa Rica, Evan is in Taiwan, your country is experiencing emigration, pro-capitalist, defense about capitalism leading to progress, dependence on money and the oil industry, serving the power that is, the South was against universal healthcare, insurance is a huge industry drugs is a huge industry, work three jobs, there are solutions to power problems, we can do a lot of things we choose not to, its not a conspiracy theory if it is true, one third of Syria is occupied, the Nordstream pipeline, putting it all in the hands of people who give it to each other seems wrong, the lower class doesn’t deserve good healthcare, working too hard, on the spectrum, easily stressed out, just because you know why your leg is hurting doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, why we need comedy so bad, a dying art form, all the wokeness, like a religion, like puritanism, comedy is tied to culture and youth, irreverence, older comedians, those jokes are old now, not new stuff, outdated opinions, weak jokes, “offensive”, we’ve all heard those jokes before, Richard Pryor [LIVE IN CONCERT (1979)], Blazing Saddles (1974), we’re talking about the Ghostbusters (2016) movie, very charitable, the jokes were not character based, look he’s dumb, lowball, vocab jokes, simple, fart jokes, Adam Sandler movies are starting at the baby level, fart jokes, unusual for mainstream American films to portray flatulence in any way, eating beans all the time, a cowboy movie therefore farting, inherently funny, Eric S. Rabkin wrote a book called It’s A Gas, a serious academic book on farting, Terry Gilliam, pumping his colon up with gas in order to perform, a spectrum of jokes available to us, we’ve descended to the farting level.

Graveyard Of Dreams

Graveyard Of Dreams

Graveyard Of Dreams

Junkyard Planet by H. Beam Piper

Junkyard Planet by H. Beam Piper

The Cosmic Computer - art by Valigursky

The Cosmic Computer - art by Michael Whelan

Posted by Jesse WillisBecome a Patron!

Review of Assassin’s Fate (The Fitz and the Fool, #3) by Robin Hobb

SFFaudio Review

Penguin Random House - Assassin's Fate by Robin HobbAssassin’s Fate (The Fitz and the Fool, #3)
By Robin Hobb; read by Elliot Hill
Digital Download – 39 hours, 15 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Published: May 9, 2017

More than twenty years ago, the first epic fantasy novel featuring FitzChivalry Farseer and his mysterious, often maddening friend the Fool struck like a bolt of brilliant lightning. Now New York Times bestselling author Robin Hobb brings to a momentous close the third trilogy featuring these beloved characters in a novel of unsurpassed artistry that is sure to endure as one of the great masterworks of the genre.

Executive Summary:
There is not much I can say about this book without getting into spoilers, or making statements that may lead people to guess at their meaning. What I can say is much like Ms. Hobb’s previous works, this book made me feel. A lot.

Elliot Hill is a pretty good narrator. He can be a bit soft spoken however. And he’s not great at female voices. I rather wish he didn’t try. Still it’s more good than bad, and I do think he adds something to the narration that makes the audio worthwhile. If you liked him in the previous books, you should like him here.

Full Review:
This book was difficult for me to rate. I don’t give out 5 stars easily, and normally when I do it’s a no-brainer. This one not so much. The book has some pacing issues, especially early on. I have no idea of the final page count, but in audio it’s nearly 40 hours long. Ms. Hobb’s books have always been on the slower side, but there were points in this book where it was a bit too much. That’s only a minor gripe though.

FitzChivarly Farseer is one of the most real characters I ever read. When this series was announced I was both excited and nervous to get to spend more time with him. What terrible things would Ms. Hobb do to him this time? She has really put him through the ringer over the years. However my desire to spend time with him again outweighed my fear.

When the series started, I was not happy about the addition of Bee’s chapters. At its conclusion, I’m still a bit torn on them, but I think the story could not have been told otherwise. I think part of me was just irritated to have to spend any time in the book away from Fitz. In addition to Fitz, it was really great to see some old friends again, some of whom I never expected to see.

This book like Fool’s Quest before it, rewards those who have read the entire Elderlings series, not just the Fitz books. If you haven’t read Liveship Traders and Rainwild Chronicles, I highly recommend you do so first. There is so much that’ll you be missing if you don’t.

There isn’t much else I can say without getting into spoilers beyond this: Ms. Hobb has an incredible ability to make feel strong emotions for fictional characters. Joy, anger, love, hate, cheer, sorrow. I feel so much that I’m drained. Few books do that to me, but hers seem to do it all the time, especially the Fitz books. It is for this reason I decided to give this 5 stars instead of 4.

Prepare yourself for an emotional journey. I hope you’ll find it as worth it as I did.

Review by Rob Zak

Review of Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb

SFFaudio Review

Fool's Quest by Robin HobbFool’s Quest (Fitz and the Fool #2)
By Robin Hobb; read by Elliot Hill
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 11 August 2015
[UNABRIDGED] – 33 hours, 13 minutes

Themes: / epic fantasy / magic /

Publisher summary:

The harrowing adventures of FitzChivalry Farseer and his enigmatic friend the Fool continue in Robin Hobb’s triumphant follow-up to Fool’s Assassin. But Fool’s Quest is more than just a sequel. With the artistry and imagination her fans have come to expect, Hobb builds masterfully on all that has gone before, revealing devastating secrets and shocking conspiracies that cast a dark shadow over the history of Fitz and his world—a shadow that now stretches to darken all future hope.

Long ago, Fitz and the Fool changed the world, bringing back the magic of dragons and securing both the Farseer succession and the stability of the kingdom. Or so they thought. But now the Fool is near death, maimed by mysterious pale-skinned figures whose plans for world domination hinge upon the powers the Fool may share with Fitz’s own daughter. 

Distracted by the Fool’s perilous health, and swept up against his will in the intrigues of the royal court, Fitz lets down his guard . . . and in a horrible instant, his world is undone and his beloved daughter stolen away by those who would use her as they had once sought to use the Fool—as a weapon.

But FitzChivalry Farseer is not without weapons of his own. An ancient magic still lives in his veins. And though he may have let his skills as royal assassin diminish over the years, such things, once learned, are not so easily forgotten.

Now enemies and friends alike are about to learn that nothing is more dangerous than a man who has nothing left to lose.

Executive Summary: I loved this book. It’s everything I had hoped Fool’s Assassin would have been. There are a things I didn’t like, that will understandably be much more off putting for some than they were for me.

Audio book: Elliot Hill once again does an excellent job. He does a variety of voices and inflections that make doing this book in audio a good option.

Full Review
I absolutely loved Fool’s Fate. I’d have been perfectly content if the series ended there. Last year’s Fool’s Assassin was enjoyable, but not as much as I’d have liked. It left me apprehensive for this book. I shouldn’t have been. That isn’t to say bad things don’t happen to our beloved Fitz. Any fan of the Ederling books won’t be surprised by that. Ms. Hobb sure loves to torment Fitz, though probably not as much as he torments himself.

This book grabbed me from the start, and never let me go. I hated every time I had to stop listening. In fact once my hardcover copy arrived, I augmented my audio time by reading the print as well.

For reasons I can’t fathom, many people seem to skip the excellent Liveship Traders series and more have skipped the quite enjoyable Rainwild Chronicles. While I wouldn’t call it a prerequisites for this book, I would highly recommend reading those books first. There are so many great rewards in the book for people who have. If you haven’t, I doubt you’ll be lost, but you won’t get the same enjoyment in my opinion.

It’s pretty much impossible for me to get into why I loved this book more than the last one without massive spoilers, however I suspect most longtime fans will share my excitement.

That said, despite getting one of my rare 5 star ratings (this is only the second book by Ms. Hobb I’ve given that to), there are some complaints. Or maybe not complaints so much as things I wish weren’t in this book. I found them very upsetting. I’d have preferred some kind of alternative reason used to drive the plot forward. I suspect some people may be more upset than I was, and others may be more indifferent.

Overall though, those were very minor things to me in an absolutely fantastic book. I will warn that if you hate cliffhangers, you may wish to avoid reading this book until we’re much closer to the release of the next book. It is a pretty big one. With it being the second book of a trilogy, and how the first book ended, I can’t say I’m very surprised.

Much like the last one, I am both nervous and excited to read the next one and see what Ms. Hobb has in store.

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of Fool’s Fate by Robin Hobb

SFFaudio Review

Fools FateFool’s Fate (Tawny Man Trilogy #3)
By Robin Hobb; Performed by James Langton
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 35 hours
Themes:  / fantasy / Farseer / assassin / dragon /
Publisher summary:

FitzChivalry Farseer has become firmly ensconced in the queen’s court. Along with his mentor, Chade, and the simpleminded yet strongly Skilled Thick, Fitz strives to aid Prince Dutiful on a quest that could secure peace with the Outislands—and win Dutiful the hand of the Narcheska Elliania.The Narcheska has set the prince an unfathomable task: to behead a dragon trapped in ice on the isle of Aslevjal. Yet not all the clans of the Outislands support their effort. Are there darker forces at work behind Elliana’s demand? Knowing that the Fool has foretold he will die on the island of ice, Fitz plots to leave his dearest friend behind. But fate cannot so easily be defied.

Disclaimer: This is a review of the third book in a trilogy and the review will likely include spoilers from preceding books. I’d strongly recommend starting with the first book in the trilogy (Fool’s Errand) or better yet, Assassin’s Apprentice since the Farseer trilogy is very good and all these books are related.

Fool’s Fate is the last book of the Tawny Man trilogy. The story picks up immediately where Golden Fool left off as the Farseers are preparing to travel to the island Aslevjal to kill the dragon Icefire. The Fool has also told FitzChivalry that they must save Icefire to put the world on a better path. Which will Fitz decide: his oath of loyalty and allegiance to the Farseer throne or his role as the Catalyst of the White Prophet? I’ve really enjoyed all of the books in this trilogy leading but this book stands out as something special.

The whole premise of the book is based on a challenge Prince Dutiful was goaded into and that the adults don’t particularly want to do. It’s pretty obvious that something else is at play with the Outislanders in making this challenge and the result is a fantastic conclusion to the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies. As already stated, FitzChivalry’s struggle with his role as the Catalyst while also serving his realm have you wondering what will happen all the way up to the climax.

As I listened to this story, I really felt like a full story was being told in which I couldn’t see the seams. I normally can’t help my mind picking a story apart into its elements to determine what’s going to be important later in the story but things weren’t so obvious here. There are so many things going on that it just feels like an active world as opposed to having just a few conveniently introduced devices to be used later (for instance, you know when Harry Potter learns a new spell that it will almost certainly be the sole thing that gets him out of trouble later. Expecto Patronum!). What will be important here? New understandings of the Wit from Webb? The newly forming Skill coterie? Chade’s blasting powder? Something old Elderling tools? Hobb does a great job working everything together into a good ride.

If there is one weakness in this book, it’s that it wraps things up too well. When I say too well, I mean that the falling action and conclusion of the book feel like the resolution to both the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogy as so much of what happens even concludes questions you may not even realize you had. The falling action and conclusion also take up about 1/3 of the book which kind of threw me. I was avidly consuming the story through the climax but then felt like things dragged out a bit afterward. Don’t get me wrong – I loved all of it, I just thought it was worth mentioning.

As with the previous installments of this trilogy, James Langton does a fantastic job with his narration of this book. There were times I forgot I was even listening to an audio book because I was just so into it. If I had one gripe it would be that some voices sound quite similar but those that do rarely have scenes together (Hap, Dutiful, Swift). I would definitely look for Langton reading other books.

Posted by Tom Schreck

Review of Golden Fool by Robin Hobb

SFFaudio Review

Golden FoolGolden Fool (The Tawny Man, Book 2)
By Robin Hobb, Narrated by James Langton
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 25 July 2014[UNABRIDGED] – 25 hours, 56 minutes

Themes: / fantasy / Farseer / assassin /

Publisher Summary:

Prince Dutiful has been rescued from his Piebald kidnappers and the court has resumed its normal rhythms. There FitzChivalry Farseer, gutted by the loss of his wolf bondmate, must take up residence at Buckkeep as a journeyman assassin.

Posing as a bodyguard, Fitz becomes the eyes and ears behind the walls, guiding a kingdom straying closer to civil strife each day. Amid a multitude of problems, Fitz must ensure that no one betrays the Prince’s secret – one that could topple the throne: that he, like Fitz, possesses the dread “beast magic.” Only Fitz’s friendship with the Fool brings him solace. But even that is shattered when devastating revelations from the Fool’s past are exposed. Bereft of support and adrift in intrigue, Fitz finds that his biggest challenge may be simply to survive.

Golden Fool picks up directly where Fool’s Errand leaves off. Dutiful needs someone to teach him how to use his magics and Fitz (aka Tom) gets caught up further in the intrigues of the court at Buckkeep. Dutiful’s betrothal ceremony with his future bride from the OutIslands is set to go off and there are also Piebalds somewhere out in the Six Dutchies…what could possibly go wrong? Fitz needs to figure out what is going on by any means possible to prevent problems for the farseer reign.

Golden Fool‘s plot didn’t really feel like a normal plot to me – it feels like a middle book in a trilogy that covers the events after the initial setup but before the epic conclusion of the trilogy. That doesn’t mean the book is any less enjoyable, just that it doesn’t have as many peaks and valleys with tension and the climax of the book. The book ends in such a way that you have to go on to the third book afterwards.

Hobb’s ability to write compelling prose continues on in this novel and her characters are great. FitzChivalry really gets to be at odds with just about everyone in this book and there were times I felt like I was listening to a fantasy version of the Jerry Springer show. It’s kind of amazing how the best of intentions and misunderstandings can extend gulfs between people and Hobb does a great job exploring there.

Hobb also brings up questions of prejudices and how “normal” is defined. The main overarching prejudice is of course the hate people have for the “Old Blood” people who have beast magic but there are also other instances involving intellectual disabilities and sexual identity too. It’s interesting to see how characters from outside those groups relate but especially interesting to see how those within the same group relate to each other and how some prejudices are overcome while other are….well you’ll see.

As for the audio side of things, James Langton continues to do a great job in Golden Fool. His voices are still great except I don’t understand why it sounds like the queen (from the mountain kingdom) has what sounds like a French accent while the people from the out islands also have what sounds like a French accent. The Bingtown traders sound Italian so I’m not sure why the out islanders wouldn’t have some other accent. Some word pronunciations also bother me but overall, Langton’s performance drew me in so well that all of these were minor gripes by comparison.

Posted by Tom Schreck

Review of Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb

SFFaudio Review

Fool's Errand by Robin HobbFool’s Errand (Tawny Man Book 1)
By Robin Hobb; Narrated by James Langton
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 15 July 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 24 hours, 47 minutes

Themes: / fantasy / Farseer / assassin / witch /

Publisher summary:

For fifteen years FitzChivalry Farseer has lived in self-imposed exile, assumed to be dead by almost all who once cared about him. But now, into his isolated life, visitors begin to arrive: Fitz’s mentor from his assassin days; a hedge-witch who foresees the return of a long-lost love; and the Fool, the former White Prophet, who beckons Fitz to fulfill his destiny.

Then comes the summons he cannot ignore. Prince Dutiful, the young heir to the Farseer throne, has vanished. Fitz, possessed of magical skills both royal and profane, is the only one who can retrieve him in time for his betrothal ceremony, thus sparing the Six Duchies profound political embarrassment – or worse. But even Fitz does not suspect the web of treachery that awaits him – or how his loyalties will be tested to the breaking point.

Fool’s Errand takes place years after the events of Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy and does not disappoint. The story is as well written as Hobb’s previous works and is great from beginning to end. The story kind of fills the gap between the trilogies and explains in greater detail the events concluding the Farseer trilogy while also building into this new adventure.

The story is kind of broken into a summation of past events and then embarking on something new. The summation works great as a device to those of us who read the Farseer trilogy to remind us where things left off and gives some greater closure to the events concluding that trilogy. The summation would also work well for those new to the Farseers to introduce the world and explain a bit of the back story that defines FitzChivalry’s motives. That said, if you haven’t read the Farseer trilogy and don’t like spoilers, definitely read that trilogy before Tawny Man.

Robin Hobb’s writing flows so well that even seemingly mundane tasks and everyday things are a joy to experience. She really knows how to make you care about the characters and builds a plot that pushes those characters. There are some truly great and terrible moments in this book that I just can’t say without ruining so much of the story. There were a few times that I didn’t think things made total sense but the story is just so enjoyable it really didn’t matter.

On the audio side of things, James Langton did a great job. It was really hard going from Paul Boehmer’s performance in the Farseer Trilogy to James Langton in this trilogy. I loved Boehmer’s performance and his voice became the characters’ voices to me. Even though it was jarring at first, Langton’s voices and narration became natural to my ear after only a few hours. He does a great job doing voices that fit the different characters and his sulky/sullen cat voice has to be one of the most fitting voices I could imagine. Some of his pronunciations threw me a bit too but overall I enjoyed his performance.

Everything together makes a story that really takes you places. By the end of this story you’ll be back in the intrigue of the court at Buckkeep and want to go on to Golden Fool.

Posted by Tom Schreck