Review of Bloodfever by Karen Marie Moning

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audiobook - Bloodfever by Karen Marie MoningBloodfever
By Karen Marie Moning; Read by Joyce Bean
8 CDs – 9 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: 2008
ISBN: 9781423341932
Themes: / Fantasy / Supernatural romance / Fairies / Fae / Sex /

I first encountered Moning’s Fever series when the first book, Darkfever, was made available on Podiobooks.com. Tales about the realms of fairies, from Midsummer Nights Dream to Butcher’s Summer Knight, always fascinate me. Particularly their darker, inhuman nature. These are not Elves, nor are they little diaphanous dragonflies at the bottom of the garden. They are something entirely much less human.

The series is told from the point of view of MacKayla Lane. Mac. The younger of two sisters that have grown up in the south. She describes herself as a modern southern belle. Her life is uncomplicated until her sister is murdered while studying on Dublin, Ireland. Mac had found a strange message on her cell phone from her sister, and travels to Dublin herself to put pressure on the police to solve the case.

Once there she finds that this isn’t something that the police are going to be able to deal with. In a pub she encounters a Fae which seduces a young woman, feeding upon her youth and vitality. Many of the Fae weave very attractive illusions around themselves to hide their true nature. Mac learns that she is a sidhe seer, one of the few who can see the Fae as they really are. With the help of Jericho Barrens, a mysterious figure who has his own agenda, she is searching for the ancient book Sinsar Dubh, that contains the most foul black magic. Capable of granting power over both our world and that of the Fae. Mac and Barrens really don’t get on, but are forced to rely upon each other, with Barrens saving Mac’s life several times. Mac has also drawn the attention of a death-by-sex Fae, Vlane-an. Ancient and inhuman, his interest and motives aren’t clear. Even to Mac’s sidhe seer sight, Vlane-an is hard to resist, and she has already found herself stripping naked in public under the influence of his powers.

Mac has managed to identified her sister’s killer, The Lord Master, and has partially thwarted some of his plans. But now, the Fae are coming through into our world in greater and greater numbers. Murders and disappearances are on the increase as a consequence. The other sidhe seers don’t know if they can trust Mac, and nor does she know if she can trust them. Yet they could answer many of the questions she has about who she is, and where her powers came from. Now Mac and Barrens must find the Sinsar Dubh, before the Lord Master.

Bloodfever is the second book in the series and starts with a good, in-character, recap of events from Mac herself. Her need for revenge against her sister’s killer is growing as she learns more. Mac’s focus on her situation is more intense as she becomes more self-aware of her own failings and how she must change to survive in the world with the Fae. Mac’s narration of often humorous and irreverent, but always in keeping with her character.

The same narrator carries on from book one, Audie Award winner Joyce Bean. Joyce captures Mac’s personality with it’s lingering threads of naivety and growing ruthlessness. An excellent performance. The sexy southern accent doesn’t hurt either.

Moning has matured Mac a little more throughout this book, as she is forced to change by her experiences. She is still petulant, indignant, naive, and stubborn at times, but she is also introspective and sees that she has changed, and must continue to do so to survive. Mac still hasn’t achieved her independence yet, but she is becoming stronger. From the perspective of a strong female character, Mac isn’t quite there yet. She had power and can and will use it, but she is growing into one. The journey towards becoming the Hero is more interesting than simply being one. Mac is faced with temptations and other hard decisions that make that journey harder.

Have a listen to the first book for free over at Podiobooks.com, and then dive into this one.

Posted by Paul [W] Campbell

Review of Blood Noir by Laurell K. Hamilton

SFFaudio Review

Blood Noir by Laurell K. HamiltonBlood Noir
By Laurell K. Hamilton; Read by Cynthia Holloway
11 CDs –
13 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
ISBN:  1-59737-895-6
Published: 2008
Themes: / paranormal romance / vampires / shapeshifters / mystery / sex / BDSM / urban fantasy

Blood Noir is the sixteenth installment in Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series. Thats an impressive track record for any writer–and somehow Hamilton has found time to work on several other series as well. This particular Anita Blake novel is heavy on the romance and emotional development of its characters. It’s fairly light on the “paranormal” or “supernatural” element until it nears its conclusion. While a fun emotional and sexual romp, Blood Noir lacks the intellectual teeth to be called “fantasy” in any meaningful sense of the word.

The book opens with a bang of the Jenna Jameson variety, as Anita Blake comforts her grieving werewolf friend Jason in the most intimate way possible, while her more regular lover Nathaniel looks on and later joins in. Libido calmed, for the moment at least, the story then commences in earnest, and Blood Noir actually presents an intriguing premise. Jason’s estranged father is dying of cancer, and Jason wants to patch up the relationship while he still can. Jason’s father, despite much evidence to the contrary, labors under the delusion that Jason is gay. To dispel this misperception, Jason brings Anita to his home in North Carolina to present as his girlfriend, a front that is only half a lie. The plot thickens further when Jason is mistaken by hometown residents for the son of the state governor.

You might be wondering how the supernatural fits into all this. So was I. While the story is well-told and the characters are emotionally complex, the fantastic elements of Anita Blake’s world don’t really manifest themselves for the first two-thirds of the novel. Sure, we’re told that Jason is a werewolf and that Nathaniel her lover is a were-leopard, and we witness several telephone conversations between Anita and her protector Jean-Claude, one of the vampire masters of St. Louis. But Hamilton is breaking the writer’s axiom of “show, don’t tell.” The early parts of the novel play out like any romance-cum-mystery, with only the barest of supernatural trappings.

Once “the metaphysical shit”, as Blake utters several times, does finally hit the fan, the action ramps up and Blood Noir becomes a thriller on par with other urban fantasy, replete with shapeshifting, vampire charms, and a bit of old-fashioned gun play. The payoff is worth waiting for. The novel draws its title from Marmee Noir, an ancient vampire who, despite slumbering somewhere in Europe, manages to wreak havoc in the lives of characters halfway around the world. The book advances the larger Vampire Hunter story arc, and promises an intriguing direction for future books in the series.

There’s no getting around it, Blood Noir is about sex. Anita Blake is possessed by the ardeur, an urge that requires her to “feed” periodically through sexual acts. Yes, Anita’s come a long way since her celibate days of the first few novels. She openly maintains several serious sexual partners, and she engages in sadomasochism and other “non-standard” sexual practices. The emphasis on eroticism feels mostly in line with the plot, and seldom ranges into the realm of over-indulgence. What saves Blood Noir from devolving into a wholly superficial sexual dog pile is Anita’s self-awareness. Anita is mostly comfortable with her open lifestyle, but she occasionally expresses misgivings about its potential negative impact on herself and others. Her external sensual and erotic lust is also complimented by a fine-tuned emotional sensitivity.

Brilliance Audio has made a modest effort to put some production shine on its audio version of Blood Noir, with some minimal distortion effects when characters speak on the phone or overhear a television news report. Cynthia Holloway’s narration tackles the novel’s sexuality head-on; she doesn’t flinch at even the most graphic scenes. Holloway especially succeeds in capturing Anita Blake’s wide expressive range, from her angry outbursts to her few moments of vulnerability.

Long-time readers of the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series will doubtless wish to follow the heroine’s latest adventures, and fans of paranormal romance who have somehow missed Hamilton’s work will probably want to jump into the series as well. Other readers of fantasy, even of urban fantasy, should approach Blood Noir with caution. The book provides a solid plot and well-rounded characters, but Hamilton’s hit-and-miss writing fails to conjure up the magic that fantasy, even dark fantasy, should.

DISCLAIMER: Any sexual puns or double-entendres contained in this review were purely inadvertent.

Posted by Seth Wilson

Spider Robinson’s podcast: Thirteen O’Clock by David Gerrold

SFFaudio Online Audio

Spider On The Web - Spider Robinson’s podcast The latest Spider On The Web podcast features Thirteen O’Clock by David Gerrold. It’s a first-person, stream of consciousness singularity story (I think). It’s also a down and gritty story of life, death, true love, sex, war, sex, gay sex, drugs, sex, and thousand light-year stares. Robinson performance is tour-de-force! It reminded me very much of John Varley‘s Persistence Of Vision (Spider podcast it previously). Also on board in the latest podcast is Spider Robinson’s introduction to the David Gerrold collection called The Involuntary Human – which is where the paper version of Thirteen O’Clock can be found.

Fantasy & Science Fiction, February 2006 - Thirteen O’Clock by David GerroldThirteen O’Clock
By David Gerrold; Read by Spider Robinson
1 |MP3| – Approx. 83 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Spider On The Web
Podcast: February 7th, 2009
Collected in The Involuntary Human. First published in Fantasy & Science Fiction, February 2006. A first-person, tale of a lonely wanderer told in a stream of consciousness manner. Our hero is a Vietnam vet who’s finally comfortable with his homosexuality. After years on the road, he comes across a young and pretty gang of gaybashing college kids. After he teaches the kids a lesson he takes one of them out on a date and tells his story. That “pinging” sensation he’s been feeling all these years just draws blank stares from everyone he meets. It must mean something tho’ right?

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Ida by Tim Callahan

SFFaudio Audiobook Review

ed.’s note: New reviewer Stephen Uitti and his review come to us via his blog, predelusional.

Ida by Tim CallahanIda
By Tim Callahan; Read by Tim Callahan
32 MP3 Files – Approx. 12 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Podiobooks.com
Published: 2006
Themes: / Science Fiction / Hard SF / Space Travel / Asteroid Mining / Economics / Politics / Sex /

Each of the 32 mp3 audio files of this podcast novel has an introduction and epilogue. There are few introductions and epilogues that I’ll actually listen to. But Timothy’s is particularly annoying. He apologizes for his Philadelphia accent before you even get to hear him read. Guys – if you’re presenting a show, let the audience decide if they like it themselves. Don’t make us pity you for being too stupid to get someone else to read your book. Don’t go the other way either. Don’t hype it up. It is OK to promote some other work.

After the first chapter, the introductions also have a summary of what has gone on before. Maybe some people couldn’t remember what happened last month in the original serial. But now the entire book is available. I don’t have patience for the repetition so I skipped most of the introductions and epilogues. The guts of the each new chapter starts after a bit of music, and my iPod Shuffle was able to get me there via fast forward most of the time. Skipping epilogues is easy enough, since Callahan says that’s the end. Just skip to the next track. Since I skipped all that material, there was much less than twelve hours of material. There’s a bonus. After the novel is finished, Callahan offers in a short story entitled Balance. Balance takes place well after the events in Ida. Really, Ida is a prequel. It’s the backing story to Balance. Like his introduction to Ida, Timothy apologizes for his short story. Jeez. For the record, I liked Balance more. As a short story it has much faster pacing. Remember that reading a book to yourself is something like three times faster than hearing it aloud. So, short stories with very fast pacing work better in audio format. And yet, Balance is long enough to give you the idea that several events take place. The events in the story are believable. And no laws of physics are broken in the building of the plot.

That reminds me. The worst parts of Ida have to do with laws of physics. They aren’t broken like faster than light travel. It’s more like having a character survive an acceleration of ten or twenty thousand miles per hour in a few seconds time. That’s a minimum of 50 gravities. Ouch. A little more explanation could salvage the suspension of disbelief, and therefore the plot. This means a lot to me. But maybe you don’t care. Ida is real hard Science Fiction. It’d be nice to have someone check the science and do some math here and here. It wouldn’t take much. Really.

The work had sufficient interest to make it worthwhile. Rich characters, character growth, character interaction, believable responses and plot development. You can identify with the characters. Pick favorites and root for them. Suspense. And the end of the story is not simply telegraphed. There are plenty of surprises in the middle. And the flaws – mostly physics gaffs – are not nearly as bad as those in typical Hollywood movies. And they’re all fixable.

Is there sex? Yes. Is there violence? Yes. Is there swearing? Yes. Is the swearing pointless? Yes. This story would have been consumable by my ten year old, but because of pointless swearing, it isn’t. Will you like it? It depends on how much you like the good parts, and how tolerant you are to the flaws. It has lots of both.