Review of To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer

SFFaudio Review

To Your Scattered Bodies Go
by Philip Jose Farmer; Read by Richard Clarke
2 cassettes – 2 hours [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Waldentapes (1985)
Suggested Retail: $14.95 USD
ISBN: 0681327731
Status: Out of Print – RARE
Themes: / Science Fiction / Sci-Fi / Fantasy / Mystery / The Afterlife / History / Series

My biggest problem with this audiobook is that it is over much too quickly. Like most early science fiction audiobooks, this is an abridgement of a novel, in this case a great novel. Philip José Farmer’s To Your Scattered Bodies Go is a Hugo Award winner (for 1972), and this alone makes it worth a look. But the story is intiguing enough to make you wish for more, a lot more.

Set on the huge and mysterious Riverworld, a planet whose central river is the new home to every last soul who ever lived on Earth – from prehistoric apemen to moon-dwelling future civilizations (and even an alien visitor to Earth). Our protagonist is the reborn Sir Richard Francis Burton, famed translator of The Arabian Nights, explorer, brawler, scholar, womanizer and adventurer. His quest? To discover the end of the river, the meaning of this world’s strange existence, where death is a mere inconvenience and food is magically delivered. With such nasty foes like a youthful Hermann Göring and some super evolved aliens called “Ethicals” to deal with, you know its going to be fun. Burton himself is fascinating to follow and I’d like to see if there is a good audiobook biography of him out there. The story itself runs two hours, read by some fellow named Richard Clarke, with a familiar but hard to place English accent. Clarke is backed up by a nicely accenting musical score.

The package is unique to Waldentapes (a line I’m sure we’ll be looking at again) a clear soft plastic case that opens in a very convoluted manner designed for quick sales and low cost it nevertheless has an interesting cover depicting actual events of the novel. While it is long out of print it is not impossible to find, copies turn up on a semi-regular basis on eBay, selling for very reasonable amounts. Since I wished this book was longer, I was happy to find an unabridged version from Recorded Books. Hopefully we will be able to post a review of that version here soon. All in all this is a good find and a valuable addition to any science fiction audiobook collector.

Review of Green Hills of Earth / Gentlemen, Be Seated by Robert A. Heinlein

SFFaudio Review

Green Hills of Earth/Gentlemen Be Seated by Robert A. Heinlein, read by Leonard Nimoy, Caedmon, 1977

Let me pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave me birth
Let me rest my eyes
On the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.

–Robert A. Heinlein’s Rhysling

I type that from memory, hearing Leonard Nimoy’s voice in my mind’s ear. These two stories make my favorites list probably for nostalgic reasons, though Leonard Nimoy is an excellent narrator. This was one of the first audiobooks I listened to as a youth – it was one of the tapes in my local library’s small collection. I found it one day while looking through the few old time radio cassettes. This was also my first exposure to Robert A. Heinlein, and I was hooked. I was struck (and still am) by Heinlein’s ability to make his future so normal to all the people in it.

The story of Rhysling, blind singer of the spaceways, was on one side of the cassette, and the story of a reporter’s dangerous lunar adventure was on the other. A top-notch performance from Nimoy made this a gem that I’ve enjoyed many many times. I have no idea where to find copies of this now. If anyone does, please let me know.

Review of Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein

SFFaudio Review

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

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

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

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

Search for this title on eBay

Review of War of the Worlds, Mercury Theater of the Air

SFFaudio Review

War of the Worlds, Mercury Theater of the Air, 1938

Orson Welles’ radio adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic War of the Worlds is itself a classic. The program is legendary for the panic it caused in some audience members when it originally aired on October 30, 1938. Welles played the first half of the story as realistic newscasts – “regular programming” is interrupted with convincing news of invading aliens. The drama then switches point of view to Welles’ main character, who wanders about the rubble-strewn streets looking for answers.

The story of the controversy caused by the broadcast is as interesting as the broadcast itself. A national debate ensued about whether or not to regulate radio drama in all sorts of different ways. It’s main effect was to illustrate that people can’t believe everything they hear, not unlike today’s graphics technology has proved that we can’t believe everything we see.

The quality of the script and the convincing performances of Orson Welles and the actor who, as a newscaster, described the emergence of the Martians from a crater left when they landed in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey, make this one of my all-time favorite audio dramas.

This recording is available from many different sources – my copy was published by Radio Spirits.