Edgar Allan Poe all over BBC7 this week

SFFaudio Online Audio

BBC Radio 7 - BBC7 It’s a busy week over on BBC7 with FIVE whole Poe programs playing! All this is in celebration of Poe’s 200th birthday. If Poe were alive today he’d be a rich man, not because any of his writings are still in copyright, but rather because he’d be able to rake in dough just by doing dramatic readings of his own work. But, since he isn’t still alive [as far as YOU know] we’ll just make do with these…

The Strange Case of Edgar Allan Poe
In this imaginative and mysterious drama by Christopher Cook, one of Poe’s own early creations, the detective C. Auguste Dupin investigates the bizarre and strange death of the writer. First broadcast in 1988, it stars John Moffatt and Kerry Shale and is directed by John Powell.
Sunday at 10am and 8pm

The Pit and the Pendulum
Edgar Allan Poe’s chilling short story was first published in 1842. Read by David Horovitch, it is the tale of the torments endured by a prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition. The story was abridged by Richard Hamilton and directed by Emma Harding.
Sunday at 11am and 9pm

The Tell-tale Heart
In another of Poe’s atmospheric short stories, a man coldly calculates and commits what he believes is the perfect murder. When he is confronted by members of the constabulary, will his own heart incriminate him? Directed and produced by Clive Stanhope for CSA Word, this classic example of Gothic fiction is read by Richard Pasco.
Sunday at 11.15am and 9.15am

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Gold Bug
Set in 1838, this is Poe’s story of piracy, slavery and a treasure hunt. It was dramatised by Gregory Evans and first broadcast in 2001. Starring Clarke Peters, John Sharlan, Rhashan Stone and William Hootkins, it is directed by Ned Chaillet.
Saturday at 6pm and Midnight

The Fall of the House of Usher
Our final Edgar Allan Poe offering is read by Sean Barrett. A man’s descent into madness seems bound to the house of his ancestors. It is a Radio 7 commission and was first broadcast in 2003.
Thursday and Friday at 6.30pm and 12.30pm

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Great Secret by L. Ron Hubbard

SFFaudio Review

The Great Secret by L. Ron HubbardThe Great Secret
By L. Ron Hubbard; Read by various
2 CDs – Approx. 2 Hours 20 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Galaxy Press
Published: 2008
ISBN: 1592122493
Themes: / Science Fiction / Pulp / Spaceship / Navy / Venus / Slavery /
Fanner Marston was raised as a slave as a child, became a petty street thief as a teen, and now masters his own craft and crew as a grown man. He’s also gone completely mad. Driven by privation, with a vicious greed and slavering lust for power, Marston alone of forty men has survived the perilous trek through a blistering desert to the magical city of Parva, where legend says a secret awaits which will give him absolute control over the Universe. However, Marston finds the key to all power is not at all what he expected…”

Galaxy Press has given a deluxe treatment to these very pulpy pulp tales. The handsome cover art dates from 1949. Inside the package there is a 37 page, fully illustrated, booklet that includes a 6 page essay by Kevin J. Anderson and a 15 page biography of Hubbard. There are four stories included in this collection:

The Great Secret (Approx. 17 Minutes) – Narrated by Bruce Boxleitner, this is a fairly compelling, and quite strong story. The tale of an utterly driven man, searching for the alien tech rosetta stone that will make him the master of the universe. It could be interpreted as a Buddhist, Confucian or even Nietzschean parable. It also reminded me of the old “The Rip Van Winkle Caper” episode from the original Twilight Zone TV series. Boxleitner does good work.

Space Can (Approx. 35 Minutes) – A tale written in a bombastic puff that is so pulpy as to feel like it’s a pure pastiche. It’s the tale of a space navy ship “Menace” on patrol against superior aliens from Saturn. The action feels like a WWI-era naval battle, or earlier, complete with iron plated battleships, brstling with cannons, all pounding away at each other. There’s a lot in this short story, a breif setup, a few fights, a steely-eyed captain and crew, not to mention the fun sword-wielding ship boarding scenes. Space Can has multiple readers, though they only show up when the sparse dialogue appears.

3. The Beast (Approx. 43 Minutes) – On swampy Venus a mysterious Beast must be killed. Ginger Cranston, a “great white hunter” from Earth. Despite all the action this may be the most thoughtful tale in this collection, I quite liked where it went, though the getting there could have been a lot clearer. It’s almost like the movie Predator, except with an inversion of the alien and the man. Running water, grunts, and punching sounds all make the nifty action the narrator is giving out, hard to hear. It’s like a white noise, interfering with story.

4. The Slaver (Approx. 42 Minutes) – The weakest tale in this set, hardly memorable. Captured by slave traders, our hero, Kree Lorin the young hawk of Falcon’s Nest, outwits his captors, frees Dana, the “peasant girl of Palmerton” girl, and regains his spaceship. It’s got some very hokey dialogue and even hokier descriptions. I ended up not caring about it, and had to go back and listen again to recall any of the details.

Overall, the entire audiobook all feels over-produced. These Hubbard tales don’t really require multiple readers as they are very dialogue sparse. Also, the spartan use of sound effects and atmospheric sound doesn’t add anything substantial – in fact, in poor listening conditions, like while listening on the road, makes the varied voice types harder to hear. I can recommend The Beast and The Great Secret, these are solid pulp stories.

Posted by Jesse Willis

2 Classic Frederik Pohl tales narrated by Spider Robinson

SFFaudio Online Audio

Spider On The Web - Spider Robinson’s podcastSpider On The Web has some amazing content for us this month. Disappointed at the number of short stories available in audio form Spider Robinson has a plan to solve this. He’s sought out and received permission to read some of his favorite SF short stories. Stories from some of the most influential SF writers of all time! The first is what Spider Robinson describes as “what very well may be the ultimate science fiction short story.” Folks, he ain’t just blowing smoke with that line. Frederick Pohl’s 1966 short story Day Million is a real contender for that accolade! Influential as hell, short, amazing, stunningly futuristic and still modern (except in addressing its audience). A tale will blow your mind! The second story by Pohl, We Purchased People, first published in 1973, has even more taboos broken in it. In fact, far more taboos in are broken in We Purchased People than you can shake any unmentionable body part at. This one was entirely new to me, but upon reflection I think it may be just as powerful. Frankly, it’s more frightening than hell. Science Fiction as Horror.

Day Million and We Purchased People by Frederik PohlDay Million and We Purchased People
By Frederik Pohl; Read by Spider Robinson
1 |MP3| – Approx. 67 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcast: Spider On The Web
Podcaster: August 2008

Here’s the podcast feed:

http://www.spiderrobinson.com/iTunes_feed.xml

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Stonehenge Gate by Jack Williamson

SFFaudio Audiobook Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - The Stonehenge Gate by Jack Williamson, read by Harlan EllisonThe Stonehenge Gate
By Jack Williamson; Read by Harlan Ellison
7 CDs – 8.5 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2006
ISBN: 9780786146550 (Cassette), 9780786174119 (MP3-CD), 9780786167784 (CD)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Stargate / Journey / Slavery / Evolution / Aliens /

Click here for audio sample.

This is Jack Williamson’s last book, at least it’s the last book published in his lifetime. The man has had a long career, a very long career. Jack’s first story was published in the fairly new Amazing Stories in 1928. Jack has been able to adapt his fiction to the changing and maturing literature that we call Science Fiction, again and again.

One admirable quality of Jack’s work that remained consistent over the nine decades in which he wrote, was his ability to tell a good yarn. His stories can always hold your attention, and he never forgot to have a beginning, middle and an end. This may sound like a trait that all writers should have, but it is really not the case. This always kept Jack’s works above the average SF writer.

In The Stonehenge Gate, we have four poker buddies that find a gateway into other worlds. The four characters are academics who are excavating a site under the sands of the Sahara. Will is an English Professor who narrates the story. Ram is an African professor who has a strange birthmark that mimics the shape of the Stonehenge Gate that they find. Stranger still is that the birthmark seems to be hereditary.

They soon pass into many new worlds throughout this novel. The majority of the novel takes place in a world inhabited by a preindustrial society with institutionalized black slavery. The characters have to grapple with functioning in this world while supporting abolishinest causes. There’s a dark quality to this part of the journey that has more than a passing nod to Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness.

Harlan Ellison’s narration is spectacular. This is likely the only audiobook that is written by one SF Grand Master and read by another. Of course, there aren’t any SF Grandmaster’s that have also won an Audie award like Harlan has. Harlan throws himself into his acting. He’s energized and seems to be convincingly living the parts he’s portraying to a greater degree than can be said of most voice actors.

How does this book stack up against the rest of the Williamson cannon? I don’t believe this is one of Jack’s best books nor one of his lesser efforts. Placing it somewhere in the middle. But in the case of Jack, that’s a pretty damn good book.

Review of Taken Liberty by Steven H. Wilson

SFFaudio Review

Taken LibertyTaken Liberty – A Tale From The Artiber Chronicles
By Steven H. Wilson; Read by Steven H. Wilson
Podcast Novel – Approx. 8 Hours [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Podiobooks.com
Published: September 2006
Themes: / Science Fiction / Drama / Action / Slavery /

“I don’t believe you’ve convinced me of her crime.”
“She posed as a human!”
Atal raised an eyebrow. “Is that a crime?”

So begins the intriguing, sad, yet hopeful and inspiring story of a girl who only wanted her freedom. This is the story of Aer’La, a Varthan Feral raised strictly to be a sexual slave. She escapes, and, dying her blue skin and posing as a human, becomes a high-ranking officer on board one of the most esteemed ships in the Confederate Navy- the Arbiter. Only after a routine medical check-up is the truth of what she is discovered. It is ultimately reported to authorities, and then to the media. Aer’La then has no choice but to tell her story to her Captain, Jan Atal. It then becomes a clash of doing what is right, vs. doing what the law states. Aer’La also learns who her allies and her enemies are, as well as a few life lessons about trust and friendship.

Taken Liberty is a tale of truth, friendship, comradery, love, loss, and above all the right to be free. It covers so many genres, you tend to forget that you’re listening to Science Fiction. This is a very key thing for me to say here, because I am not the biggest Science Fiction fan. I know, I know, yet here I am writing reviews for SFFaudio. Let’s just say I’m… picky.

Steven Wilson also does an excellent job with the reading. He gives each character a unique voice, and thanks to his voice acting background, it pays off. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Wilson. The well-driven plot causes you to feel yourself being sucked into the tension of the situation, and really questioning how this poor girl will remain free, instead of being returned to a life of slavery.

If you are a fan of Prometheus Radio Theatre and their Arbiter Chronicles, you will enjoy this book because it goes more in-depth into the characters you know all ready. If you have never heard of the Arbiter Chronicles before, you will still enjoy this book. The story remains separate enough that you are still able to connect and follow the characters and the story without feeling lost. As a matter of fact, my bet will be if you listen to this podiobook, you will want to move on to hear more about the Arbiter and its crew- which can be found via podcast at http://prometheus.libsyn.com/

If a “semi” Science Fiction fan is impressed and enjoyed this podiobook, imagine what a huge science-fiction fan will think!

Review of Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Falling Free by Lois McMaster BujoldFalling Free
By Lois McMaster Bujold; Read by Michael Hanson and Carol Cowan
7 Cassettes – 9 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: The Reader’s Chair
Published: 1996
ISBN: 0962401099
Themes: / Science Fiction / Genetic Engineering / Space Travel / Space Stations / Slavery / Corporations /

When I heard about The Reader’s Chair going out of business, I couldn’t help but to revisit this book. I first started writing about audiobooks back in 2001, and one of the first columns I wrote for SFSite was about The Reader’s Chair. In that column, I said:

The audio versions are first-rate. Hanson and Cowan read the books with enthusiasm, providing different characters with different inflections. Great care was taken to make these novels a listening pleasure.

Upon listening to this Nebula-winning novel, and after hearing I have no clue how many audiobooks since, I can still say that the Reader’s Chair titles are amongst the finest out there. Michael Hanson has a deep sonorous voice that demands attention, and Carol Cowan is a warm yet feisty counterbalance.

Falling Free is a novel that fits into Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, but the events occur 200 years before the birth of the famous Miles Vorkosigan. The story involves a corporation that genetically engineers a new race of humans (called Quaddies) that are uniquely adapted for work in zero-gravity. Enter Leo Graf, an engineer hired to teach zero-g welding techniques to this new race of slave labor. When he sees how the Quaddies are treated, he becomes very uneasy. Think you know where this is heading? Bujold pulls it off brilliantly.

This one is now officially out of print, but well worth finding. The Reader’s Chair productions are top notch, from the high quality production value to the sturdy and fine-looking packaging. I’m very sorry to see them go.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson