The SFFaudio Podcast #003

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastGenerally, this is our third podcast. Furthermore, it is a podcast of deep functionality. It’s universal really. Long story short, we talked about stuff. Join us in our secret society [book readers] where I (Jesse) say things like: Dune shot Science Fiction in the head.” and “Why I don’t like Science Fiction movies anymore.” and “You don’t name a king Augustus.” and “I hope the Earth explodes.”

In other words, the podcast’s length is commensurate with a function of your desire to listen to it.

Topics discussed include:

Crazy Dog Audio Theatre, The Zombies Of Dr. Krell, Roger Gregg, The Sonic Society, Radio Drama Revival, Whipping Star, Frank Herbert, Tantor Media, Dune, The Road To Dune, Children Of Dune, Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, MP3 to iPod Audiobook Converter, iTunes 8.0, zombies, StarShipSofa, SFSignal.com, Ian McDonald, The River Of Gods, Lawrence Block, Donald E. Westlake, Stephen King, John Scalzi, Old Man’s War, Anathem, Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash, BBC Audiobooks America, Hard Case Crime, Ed McBain, The Lies Of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch, Dragon Page: Cover To Cover, Roger Zelazny, Locus, The Dead Man’s Brother, Robert McGinnis, Glen Orbik, Behind The Black Mask: Mystery Writers Revealed, Christa Faust, Money Shot, public libraries, secret societies, Podiobooks.com, Evo Terra, The Book Of The New Sun, Gene Wolfe, Grifter’s Game, Random House Audio, The Colorado Kid, Aural Noir, Sunshine, 28 Days Later, I, Robot, I Am Legend, 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, Fortress Draconis (a book with a king named Augustus), Robert Capa, John Searle, Brian Cox (physicist), IMDB.com

Posted by Jesse Willis

Call Of The Wild by Jack London FREE @ SimplyAudiobooks.com (too bad it sucks)

SFFaudio Online Audio

Simply AudiobooksSeptember’s Free Download over on Simply Audiobooks website is Jack London’s The Call Of The Wild.

The Call of the Wild – Jack London’s classic 1903 story of Buck, a courageous dog fighting for survival in the Alaskan wilderness, is widely considered to be his masterpiece. Sometimes wrongly considered simply a children’s novel, this epic vividly evokes the harsh and frozen Yukon during the Gold Rush. As Buck is ripped from his pampered surroundings and shipped to Alaska to be a sled dog, his primitive, wolflike nature begins to emerge. Savage struggles and timeless bonds between man, dog, and wilderness are played to their heartrending extremes, as Buck undertakes a mystic journey that transforms him into the legendary “Ghost Dog” of the Klondike.

Call OF The Wild
By Jack London; Read by Michael Scott
WMD – [ABRIDGED]
Provider: SimplyAudiobooks.com / ThoughtAudio.com
Available: September 2008

Unfortunately, after a simple entry of a name and email address the download comes in a WMD file (Windows Media Download) making it virtually unusable. The MP3 files are in there, but they are very hard to get at. Unless you want to fiddle with it for more than an hour (that’s how long it took me) you’ll have to play it using a windows media device (a Zune presumably) or in a windows media player (sitting in front of your computer).
It’s absolutely not worth it. It turns out the audiobook pictured is not the audiobook you get. Simply Audiobooks displays the free audiobook as the UNABRIDGED Tantor Media version, as read by Patrick Lawlor, but instead what you actually download is the ThoughtAudio.com version (which is ABRIDGED and read by Michael Scott).

So, here’s my suggestion, download the public domain LibriVox version. That version of Call Of The Wild is UNABRIDGED, and is available in naked MP3s, a Zipped MP3 bundle, by torrent and as a podcast :

LibriVox Audiobook - Call Of The Wild by Jack LondonCall OF The Wild
By Jack London; Read by various readers
Zipped MP3s or Podcast – Approx. 3.25 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: October 2005

http://librivox.org/bookfeeds/call-of-the-wild-by-jack-london.xml

The downside is that it is read by multiple readers, which is annoying, but at least it’s not going to suck up your valuable time.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov

SFFaudio Review

The Naked Sun by Isaac AsimovThe Naked Sun
By Isaac Asimov; Read by William Dufris
7 CDs or 1 MP3-CD – 8 Hours 30 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Published: 2007
ISBN: 140010422X (CDs), 1400154227 (MP3-CD)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mystery / Robots / Artificial Intelligence / Sociology / Alien World

On the beautiful Outer World planet of Solaria, a handful of human colonists lead a hermit-like existence, their every need attended to by their faithful robot servants. To this strange and provocative planet comes Detective Elijah Baley, sent from the streets of New York with his positronic partner, the robot R. Daneel Olivaw, to solve an incredible murder that has rocked Solaria to its foundations.

[disclaimer- As an audiobook publisher (www.wonderaudio.com), I have a working relationship with the narrator, William Dufris. I have no other professional associations with this title. Although I’ve kept the paragraph about the narration on this title brief, reader’s may question the objectiveness of the review in such cases. On the other hand, just because I have an association with an author or narrator doesn’t negate my reason or enthusiasm for that artist.]

The Naked Sun is a sequel to The Caves of Steel. It can be read or listened to without first acquainting yourself the first title, but it’s recommended that they be read in order…(The Caves of Steel was also designated an SFFaudio Essential by a different reviewer).

Like the first book, the main character is Earthman detective Elijah Baley. And he is reunited with robot and assistant Daneel Olivaw. He is sent to Solaria, which is hostile to Earth, to investigate a murder. Asimov takes the setting of The Caves of Steel and flips is on it’s head. In that first book the setting was of a vastly overpopulated Earth living in the confines of gigantic city/buildings. The mere thought of being outside is frightening to Earth’s inhabitants.

In The Naked Sun, Elijah Bailey, is sent to the planet Solaria to investigate a murder. Solaria’s inhabitants live on vast estates alone or with their spouses. They communicate with one another via holographic telepresence. They call this “viewing” versus “seeing.” “Seeing” is when they are in one another’s physical presence. They have a natural aversion to “seeing” and consider it a social taboo. This has additional relevance to our own society, or should I say to our social media networked world. Socially, we have moved closer to the virtual aspects of a world like Solaria than the world of 1956 when the novel was first published in Astounding Stories.

Asimov’s writing style is very clean, sparse and not very stylistic in a literary way. He’s fond of moving the story along with one-on-one dialogue. This is not untypical of the mystery genre and serves the Robot Novels very well. One of William Dufris’ strengths is handling dialogue. And he’s perfect for these novels. His voice characterization are distinctive, and he’s got a gift for pacing a conversation.

The murder mystery is very satisfying and there’s a much larger implication between the future of Earth and the Spacers giving the novel a larger feel than just a murder mystery with a SF setting. I find The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun to be the best of Asimov’s novels and should be on every SF enthusiast’s list of must listens.

There is another sequel with Elijah Baley and Daneel Olivaw called The Robots of Dawn. This title was written much later in Asimov’s career and is also published by Tantor with William Dufris as narrator.

Posted by The Time Traveler of the Time Traveler Show

Review of The Caves Of Steel by Isaac Asimov

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - The Caves of Steeel by Isaac AsimovThe Caves of Steel
By Isaac Asimov; Read by William Dufris
6 CDs – 7.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 9781400104215
SAMPLE |MP3|
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mystery / Robots / Artificial Intelligence / Sociology / New York /

A millennium into the future, two advancements have altered the course of human history: the colonization of the galaxy and the creation of the positronic brain. Isaac Asimov’s Robot novels chronicle the unlikely partnership between a New York City detective and a humanoid robot who must learn to work together.

Elijah Baley and his wife and son live in an overcrowded New York city (the titular Caves Of Steel) in our distant future. Outside the insular Earth, humans have colonized many planets with their robot servants to assist them. These “Spacer” worlds are rich, have small populations, and high standards of living. The Earthers all live in vast city complexes and never venture outside. The Spacers maintain an embassy, from which they seek to help their backward progenitors – but this help is both resented and rebuffed. The latest incident is revealed when Elijah Bailey, a New York detective, is called into his superior’s office and tasked with solving a murder in the “spacer” enclave. But his boss has one more demand of him. Elijah must partner up with a robot named R. Daneel Olivaw for the duration of the case.

Asimov’s vision of New York in The Caves Of Steel fits neatly somewhere in between the well envisioned arcologies like “Todos Santos” (Larry Niven and Steve Barnes’ Oath Of Fealty), future cities like “Mega-City One” (Judge Dredd) and that of “Diaspar” (found in Arthur C. Clarke’s The City And The Stars). As such it is an experience not to be missed. The mixture of politics, psychology and sociology that’s found in Asimov’s Foundation novels is also present. But central to the experience of The Caves Of Steel is Mystery. It is a Mystery in a Science Fiction setting and not the other-way round. The well realized economy, culture, and characters (this latter in a surprisingly good turn for Asimov) are all carefully explained so as to set up the mystery – even the red-herrings are important to the plot.

Isaac Asimov basically invented the small sub-genre of the Science Fiction Mystery, and this was the novel that started it all. I’ve read lots of other books of his, including one straight Mystery that was set at a Science Fiction convention (starring a detective modeled on Harlan Ellison). And like that novel, this one keeps you guessing right up until the very end. That’s a good thing too – Asimov doesn’t cheat. We’ve got a city full of suspects, but the motive – when it’s ultimately revealed – is as logical as the deduction is sound.

It isn’t an insult to say that William Dufris sounds like a robot. He sounds like a robot when it’s a robot speaking, and sounds like a man when it’s a man speaking. He can also inflect his voice to sound more feminine – which is handy for females (and female robots too). Suffice it to say William Dufris reads Asimov’s spare and unadorned prose with alacrity. I’m excited to say the sequel, The Naked Sun is also available from Tantor!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Thirteen by Richard K. Morgan

SFFaudio Review

Tantor Audio - Thirteen by Richard K. Morgan

Thirteen
By Richard K. Morgan; Read by Simon Vance
18 CDs or 3 MP3-CDs – Approx. 23 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Published: July 2007
ISBN: 1400104319 (CDs), 1400154316 (MP3-CDs)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Noir / Mystery / Hard Boiled / Genetic Engineering /

Carl Marsalis is a traitor, a bringer of death, a genetic freak and an unwelcome reminder of all that is dark in the human psyche – he in every sense of the word a Black Man. And right at the moment he’s beyond the UN’s jurisdiction, banged up in a Florida jail for financing an illegal abortion. So when the US police call, Carl cuts a deal. The 13s are genetically engineered alpha males, designed to fight the century’s last conflicts. But men bred and designed to fight are dangerous to have around in peacetime. Many of them have left for Mars, but one has returned. Somehow he survived the journey to Earth, and now a series of brutal slayings has erupted across America. Only Carl can stop him. And so begins a frenetic man hunt and a battle for survival. And a search for the truth about what was really done with the world’s last soldiers.

I find Richard K. Morgan, in his rare interviews, offers deep insights into his work. In regards to Thirteen (called Black Man in the U.K.), he describes it as: “An accidentally lengthy meditation on elements of the human condition that the Kovacs books [Altered Carbon etc.] always had the capacity to sidestep – namely, the prison of our own flesh, and the inevitable doom of our own mortality.” And its true, Morgan delivers action and cogitation on action. The setting, a grimly-futuristic Earth and the characters play out the consequences of a well thought out backstory. In Thirteen it seems that various experiments in genetic engineering have lead to at least thirteen strains of humanity. Like all good hard-boiled mysteries it has a fully realized backstory that predominates the main-stage machinations. Carl Marsalis is our anti-hero. He’s one of a small group of genetically engineered super-soldiers who were created by the British government for military use. In Thirteen, Morgan has created a grim future – one that is different from his detailed Altered Carbon and Market Forces worlds – but no less vivid. Years ago, in our future, a new arms race ran rampant, every nation with super-power ambitions started making genetic super-soldiers, others side stepped into crossbreeding bonobos sexual appetites and attitudes into humans. Add in a new racism bound to genetics, the old racism based on skin tone, the potential return of Jesus Christ, a dissolved United States of America, and international intrigue plays out from South America to Asia Minor and Mars – and you get a very rich premise. Carl Marsalis is a dour, taciturn anti-hero, but he’s pretty compassionate for a sociopath. His genes and something called “mesh” (another Richard K. Morgan edge-giver like “neuro chem” from Altered Carbon) and martial arts from Mars make him one bad-ass Brit. If there’s a weakness with the story, it’s the intricacy, there’s almost too much backstory – this leads to too many scenes where little bits of information get doled out. The addition of well more than a dozen characters for Marsalis to tangle with make the whole novel feel long. Thankfully, there’s a perfect ending capping this thoughtfully Noir Science Fiction novel.

Tantor Audio tapped Simon Vance to voice Thirteen, he also narrated Morgan’s Market Forces. Vance brings his a growing body of experience to work with him, and manages to nail a lot of accents in this continent bounding tale. The only point I was shaken from the narrative came when Vance used what sounded like a Charlie Chan impression for a female Chinese character. So far Tantor’s had a lock on the Richard K. Morgan audiobook market so I’m hoping they’re planning on recording The Steel Remains, his forthcoming novel too.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Ascent by Jed Mercurio

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Ascent by Jed MercurioAscent
By Jed Mercurio; Read by Todd McLaren
6 CDs – 7.5 7.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 9781400103683
Themes: / Science Fiction / Alternate History / War / Cold War / The Moon /

The sun swings behind the world. Night engulfs him. The dull metal craft plunges through space, its portholes pale beacons containing the silhouette of a man, and the only other lights are the stars themselves.

This alternate history novel is a faithful depiction of the Soviet Union’s race against the United States to put a man on the Moon. The sad reality is that it never happened this way, but that doesn’t nullify a tremendously magnetic story of how it very well could have done. The viewpoint character is Yefgeni Yeremin an orphan of WWII, a fighter pilot and a Korean air-war ace. His story is as compelling a depiction of a quasi-Nitzchean overman as I’ve seen in fiction. Yeremnin is a more human, more plausible kind of Ayn Randian character – but he’s also hard to empathize with. He’s a man who can’t quite break free of his upbringing, his colleagues, his country, but who despite this achieves what must be viewed as the ultimate in overcoming. The Ascent of the title is not just that of a man from the surface of the Earth, but of mankind from Earth and that which came before. Just as birth is the obvious, but arbitrary line in the moral sand of personhood, so too is the actual landing of a human being on the surface of the moon.

Ascent starts with a shock, builds brilliantly during the Korean War scenes and then plateaus. Mercurio tells a powerful story – the first half of the audiobook absolutely riveted the headphones to my head. That which follows is engaging, but not as impactful. Perhaps the tale could have been told in another manner. Perhaps part of the problem is in the novel form itself. I wonder if it might not have been better, shorter – as a novella say. Yeremnin too is hard to take at this length – he is a hard man, from a hard world, with little in him other than will. The technical jargon that predominates his space voyage, while I’m certain accurate, is burdensome, and the problems that face the protagonist are less thrilling than those in the first half of the book. The end, when it comes, simply…. is. It isn’t wrong for the book, but it isn’t right either. It may be that this kind of tale, with this kind of character, is not actually tellable another way. Todd McLaren helps, he does Russian accented English but doesn’t overplay it – this is a matter of fact delivery. I hope Mercurio can find another topic within Science Fiction with as much passion as that which he put into Ascent, this was a tremendously compelling listen.

Posted by Jesse Willis