Review of A Galaxy Trilogy: Volume 1 by Poul Anderson, George H. Smith and Stanton A. Coblentz

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - A Galaxy Trilogy by Poul Anderson, George H. Smith and Stanton A. CoblentzA Galaxy Trilogy: Volume 1
By Poul Anderson, George H. Smith and Stanton A. Coblentz; Read by Tom Weiner
12 CDs – 13.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks
Published: 2007
ISBN: 9781433202255
Themes: / Science Fiction / Politics / War / Aliens / Space Travel / Galactic Civilization / Telepathy /

“Long before Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, or Isaac Asimov, there was an earlier generation of dreamers and writers who defined the science-fiction genre, in what today is affectionately known as the pulp era. Heralding back to the early television days of Flash Gordon and the earlier tales of Jules Verne, Bram Stoker, and H. G. Wells, these great science-fiction writers of the 1950s and 1960s included among their ranks such icons as Poul Anderson and the prolific Robert Silverberg, who would write some of the hippest genre literature of its era. Now you can experience this unique moment in genre literature with three exciting, imaginative short novellas from some of the pioneers of pulp science fiction.”

In Star Ways a mysterious plot my be behind the disappearance of a number of ships in the Terran sphere. This is the best of the three short novels in a fun collection. Star Ways posits a familiar ‘nomads in space’ idea and chucks in a plot about some truly totalitarian aliens. This short Science Fiction novel allows us to tag along on an interstellar nomad ship, with fascinating folkways. Also on board thanks to Poul Anderson’s magnetic writing are your regulation intergalactic troubleshooter, a wily space captain, a rustic crew of wanderers, an alien with telepathic powers and even a bit of romance. The tale’s end doesn’t go exactly where you’d expect, and that makes it all the more interesting.

In Druid’s World Adam MacBride is the stiff backbone of a sprawling empire, his Empress is smart but acts dumb, her lover scorns MacBride openly. When the novel begins MacBride has set his mine to retiring home to his fjords and his three wives and only an imminent threat to his beloved fleet and his unwarranted loyalty to his Empire keep him from returning home immediately. This novel is jammed to the rafters with swashbuckling action, ship-to-ship broadsides, many volleys of grapeshot, at least two rebellions and sickle wielding druids. What’s not to love? All these elements swirl about in a swift but realtively simple plot. I love the way this book was written, it’s small but denser than a neutron star. My guess, George H. Smith had just finished reading a stack of history books before sitting down to write this rollicking hodge-podge of science fiction, pre-Roman religion, and 18th century Imperialism. Druid’s World is a scattered but worthy listen – the kind of pulpy material you can crave on dark winter evenings. Druid’s World could happily sit on your audiobook shelf between The Green Odyssey and Star Surgeon. Druid’s World was the first book in Smith’s “Annwn” series and was first published in 1967.

The Day The World Stopped is set in 2020. In it the United States and “Red China” are deep into a new cold war when the testing of some super-weapons that can automate human destruction on an unprecedented scale are nearing the cusp of completion. This tale feels like a combination of The Manchurian Cantidate and The Day The Earth Stood Still. Clearly the worst of the three tales collected in A Galaxy Trilogy I’m sad to say The Day The World Stopped is weighed down by too much hokey dialogue, not enough thought given to pacing or plotting and a “deus ex-machina” ending that makes it feel like a bad Hollywood version of itself. First published in 1968 it was written at the beginning of the tail end of Coblentz’s writing career.

Narrator Tom Weiner lends a gravitas to all three novels, The Day The World Stopped needed it the most, given its weighty dialogue and scene after scene of back-room politics there was dozens of voices to work. The “Omegriconians” especially spoke English with a strange accent, Weiner does his best with it, to little avail. In Druid’s World the admiral MacBride character predominates the thoughts and dialogue of most of the novel. This works out well, Weiner’s got range but his natural growl fits just this kind of character. Star Ways has several strong characters all of which are distinctly rendered. Overall Weiner’s narrative authority elevates what really are three unremarkable pulp adventures into a worthy package.

Posted by Jesse Willis

2nd Completed SFFaudio Challenge title: The Queen Of The Black Coast by Robert E. Howard

SFFaudio Online Audio

SFFaudio’s Make An Audiobook Win An Audiobook Challenge #2Bill Hollweg of Broken Sea Audio Productions is the second challenger to complete a title in the Second Annual SFFaudio Challenge! Available now is a complete and unabridged reading of Robert E. Howard’s Queen Of The Black Coast read by Bill Hollweg!

This is a significant achievment as Queen Of The Black Coast is one of the world’s most important novelettes:

-There is a hefty page on Wikipedia detailing much about this influential tale.

-It took a stunning 40 issues of Conan: The Barbarian (the Marvel comic) to string out just a few lines in this tale.

-In the original Conan movie, which was not faithful to any particular Conan story, there was one clear aspect that was certainly taken from the end of Queen Of The Black Coast.

Broken Sea Audio Productions is “doing a full cast audio drama of this and other tales of Conan” – look for the audio drama version in early 2008.

Also, the good folks over at Broken Sea Audio Productions have fenced off a separate page for what they are calling “Hooligan Audiobooks”, there you’ll find all the BSAP single voiced narration tales. If you’ve never tried a Howard story, or never read a Conan tale, have a listen to this unabridged beauty:

Queen Of The Black Coast by Robert E. HowardQueen Of The Black Coast
By Robert E. Howard; Read by Bill Hollweg
Podcast – [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Broken Sea Audio Thursday
Podcast: November – December 2007
In the seacoast kingdom of Argos, after a brush with the Hyborian legal system, Conan hops aboard a southward bound ship. Off the coasts of Kush the ship is boarded by black corsairs under the Shemitish she-devil, Bêlit. Conan joins her crew, becomes her consort, and for a long time they harry the Hyborian and Stygian ports. During this stage of his career, Conan gains the name of Amra, the Lion, which is to follow him throughout his later life.

Chapter 1 |MP3| Chapter 2 |MP3| Chapter 3 |MP3|Chapters 4 & 5 |MP3|

Subscribe to the podcast feed:

Posted by Jesse Willis

U.K. Audio Drama Podcast: Estalvin’s Legacy

SFFaudio Online Audio

SFFaudio Challenge entrant Paul Campbell (he’s working on Rebels Of The Red Planet) has been podcasting his Science Fiction audio drama series Estalvin’s Legacy since early this summer. This promising series features “Mystery, Adventure, Romance, Disaster and War across Alternate Realities” – all that and a cast of a dozen U.K voice actors! There are three episodes out so far. I’ve listened to the first, it drops you straight into the middle of a cast of complex characters with a backstory that begins to be revealed – very promising! And Estalvin’s Legacy has possibly the best tagline for an audio drama series I’ve ever heard:

“The universe exists – for now.”

Have a listen to the slick promo |MP3| and then check out the series itself…

Estalvin’s Legacy - A Science Fiction Podcast Audio DramaEstalvin’s Legacy
By Paul W. Campbell; Performed by a full cast
Podcast – [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcaster: Cossmass Productions
Podcast: Started June 2007
Ranging across the many parallel, and not so parallel, alternate realities of the Cossmass. Things aren’t right in the greater reality know as the Cossmass. It encompasses thousands upon thousands of alternate realities. The stability of the Cossmass has been weakening. The collapse of an entire reality stream is no longer a mere theory. The Kalsorin have an uneasy truce with the La’Shareti. Both have influence across several Reality Clusters. But the Kalsorin are keeping a secret from the La’Shareti that would bring a war that they could not win. In a remote Cluster: Nicolas is older than he looks, and his memory is fading fast. Sarah and Peter have only known each other a short time when Liam appears. Liam has travelled the Cossmass for many years, always keeping out of sight of the Kalsorin. Until now.

Subscribe to the podcast via this feed:

Posted by Jesse Willis

Challenger begins podcasting: Queen Of The Black Coast by Robert E. Howard

SFFaudio Online Audio

Are you ready to hear the first ever podcast of a Conan tale? Are you ready for some furious freebooting? What about serious corsairage? Would it bother you if it were buccaneering? Are you truly ready for the blazing prose of the undisputed master of pulp fiction in one of his best loved tales? If the answer is yes to all of these questions then prepare yourself for the first chapter in…

Queen Of The Black Coast by Robert E. HowardQueen Of The Black Coast
By Robert E. Howard; Read by Bill Hollweg
Podcast – [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Broken Sea Audio Thursday
Podcast: Started November 29th
In the seacoast kingdom of Argos, after a brush with the Hyborian legal system, Conan hops aboard a southward bound ship. Off the coasts of Kush the ship is boarded by black corsairs under the Shemitish she-devil, Bêlit. Conan joins her crew, becomes her consort, and for a long time they harry the Hyborian and Stygian ports. During this stage of his career, Conan gains the name of Amra, the Lion, which is to follow him throughout his later life.
Chapter 1 |MP3|

Subscribe to the podcast feed:

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Local Custom by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

SFFaudio Audiobook Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Local Custom by Sharon Lee & Steve MillerLocal Custom
By Sharon Lee and Steve Miller; Read by Michael Shanks
1 MP3-CD or 8 CDs – Approx. 10.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Buzzy Multimedia
Published: 2005
ISBN: 0979074916 (MP3-CD); 096572557X (CDs)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Romance / Space Opera / Galactic Civilization / Love /

“Each person shall provide his Clan of origin with a child of his blood, who will be raised by the Clan and belong to the Clan, despite whatever may later occur to place the parent beyond the Clan’s authority. And this shall be Law for every person of every Clan.”

So far there are seven novels set in the Liaden Universe, though this one isn’t the first published it is chronologically the first to happen. Local Custom is a simple story, a Romeo And Juliet, tale, except with a happy ending and a few more spaceships. Master trader Er Thom yos’Galan is from the planet Liaden, an honour based society of humans. His family, and especially his mother are demanding an heir from Er Thom, as is only right and proper. But Er Thom cannot think of the traditional contract-marriage to some Liaden clan daughter when his true love is back on Terra. Anne Davis, a professor of Liaden studies on Terra had a brief affair with Er Thom years ago. When Er Thom shows up on her doorstep her secret and his duty will embroil them in a galaxy spanning scandal which threatens the honour of clan Korval.

Much of the interest here is in the worldbuilding, Liaden culture is richly imagined and the idea of “melant’i” is fodder for lots of drama. Melant’i, is a conveyed honour, not dissimilar from that created by Jack Vance for The Moon Moth. While the resolution of complex culture clashes makes for good drama, the effect here also makes many long dialogue scenes.This was coupled with a general lack of description – I didn’t know what anybody or anything looked like. The plot, centering around Er Thom’s marital fate, is spread thinly – while the novel never actually bores I kept wondering when something meaty was going to happen – very little did, this is a personal family drama set in a science fiction setting. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have obviously built themselves an interesting universe here, and I think it’d be one worth visiting again, especially if there is a story in it with a wider-ranging plot. Fans of the series are vehement in their ardor for it.

Some of the exposition is placed at chapter or scene beginnings, mostly notes on Liaden history and cultural norms. This helped the general flow of the telling. Also helpful was Buzzy Multimedia’s engagement of screen actor Michael Shanks for the narration. Shanks appears as Dr. Daniel Jackson on Stargate SG1, but he’s a capable narrator, giving distinction to male and female character alike. There were a few times where I thought I heard Shanks stumble over a word, but generally these were in dialogue, and they may have been deliberate – they certainly didn’t detract from the production. The first three chapters are available for FREE MP3 download on the Buzzy website.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Quantum Rose by Catherine AsaroThe Quantum Rose
By Catherine Asaro, read by Anna Fields
1 CD (MP3) – 13 ½ hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks
Published: 2004
ISBN: 0786186232
Themes: / Science fiction / Fantasy / Romance / Space opera / Telepathy /

I’ve always been a big fan of math. I like the chumminess of commuting, associating, and distributing; the edginess of integrating by parts; and the sharp antiseptic sting of differentiating exponentials. In The Quantum Rose, Catherine Asaro brings the robust methodology of a table of cosines to romantic space opera. Like a seasoned mathematics professor, she begins by defining the variables: A fantastically beautiful heroine; her strong, handsome but brutish betrothed; and a mysterious stranger who takes a sudden interest in the heroine. She then lays out the equations for us: fear, mutual need, and strange loyalty between her and the betrothed; fear, mistrust, sexual attraction, and a hidden wound that must be healed between her and the stranger. From there, she manipulates the terms using standard algebraic operations such as nudity, well-meaning ignorance, revenge, treachery, self-sacrifice for the greater good, declarations of undying love, and first time sex so amazing it humbles those of us with decades of experience.

Asaro’s story-solving skills are honed to such an atom-splitting edge that only halfway through the book, she derives the main quantity of interest: True love. Not satisfied with so straightforward a proof, however, she dashes diligently on to lead us through a desperate, if leisurely (and admirably bloodless), rescue of an exiled royal family halfway across the galaxy. It’s all quite rigorous.

Never does Asaro skip a step. In fact, for the elucidation of the reader, she will often review a step several times to ensure we’ve understood each point before moving on to the next. She also provides enlightening chapter headings, which contain both a plain English title and a subtitle composed from quasi-quantum mechanical terms (for those hopelessly muddled by such clever cryptology, I’ll provide a clue: Substitute the word “person” for “particle” in these subtitles, and you’ll crack the code for over half of them). Thus, we are duly apprised of all developments well before they occur in the text. As a final touch, Asaro has defined most of the significant variables to be empaths or telepaths, which means we are never in doubt of what anyone in the story is thinking or feeling unless some misunderstanding is required by the plot.

Anna Fields adds to the proceedings by reading the text out loud for us. As an intriguing counterpoint to Asaro’s linear clarity, Fields adds a note of mystery by using female character voices that are quite similar to one another and by occasionally using the voice of one lead male to deliver the dialog spoken by another. The drunken mutter she maintains for the most prominent male throughout the entire length of the book also tends to soften the hard edges of understanding that sometimes seem too prominent for comfort.

The most exciting aspect of this audio book, however, is the medium it is recorded on. That MP3 technology allows nearly 14 hours of spoken text to be recorded on a single, handy CD is like a divine response to listeners’ prayers. There is only one nicely packaged jewel box to open–no snarling tapes nor floppy CD sleeves that produce obligingly but accept only grudgingly, the sound quality is excellent, and the production is clean. Maybe someday I will have the opportunity to actually enjoy an audio book in this format.

Posted by Kurt Dietz