New Year? New Releases!

Audiobook New Releases

Audio Renaissance starts a bold new series, and at 30 hours long so will you be…

Audio Renaissance - Off Armageddon Reef by David WeberOff Armageddon Reef
By David Weber; Read by Oliver Wyman
25 CDs – 30 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Renaissance
Published: January 2007
ISBN: 1427200653
Humanity pushed its way to the stars—and encountered the Gbaba, a ruthless alien race that nearly wiped us out. Earth and her colonies are now smoldering ruins, and the few survivors have fled to distant, Earth-like Safehold, to try to rebuild. But the Gbaba can detect the emissions of an industrial civilization, so the human rulers of Safehold have taken extraordinary measures: with mind control and hidden high technology, they’ve built a religion in which every Safeholdian believes, a religion designed to keep Safehold society medieval forever.

What’s next for Michael Crichton? Yes…

Harper Audio - Next by Michael CrichtonNext
By Michael Crichton; Read by Dylan Baker
CDs – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio
Published: November 2006
ISBN: 006087306X
Is a loved one missing some body parts? Are blondes becoming extinct? Is everyone at your dinner table of the same species? Humans and chimpanzees differ in only 400 genes; is that why an adult human being resembles a chimp fetus? And should that worry us? There’s a new genetic cure for drug addiction—is it worse than the disease?The audiobook also includes an interview with Crichton!

Written by a 15 year old, who sold it to the movies! Now here’s the true test of his success, the audiobook…

Random House Audio - Eragon by Christopher PaoliniEragon
By Christopher Paolini; Read by Gerard Doyle
CDs – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: October 2006
ISBN: 0739330942
Fifteen-year-old Eragon believes that he is merely a poor farm boy—until his destiny as a Dragon Rider is revealed. Gifted with only an ancient sword, a loyal dragon, and sage advice from an old storyteller, Eragon is soon swept into a dangerous tapestry of magic, glory, and power. Now his choices could save—or destroy—the Empire.

Now this sounds very, very interesting…

Tantor Media - The Sky People by S.M. StirlingThe Sky People
By S.M. Stirling; Read by Todd McLaren
12 CDs or 2 MP3-CDs – 15 hours[UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Published: January 2007
ISBN: 1400103452 (CDs), 1400153458 (MP3-CDs)
The first of a series of alternate-history tales based on a brashly entertaining premise: that in the 1960s, Russian and American space probes to Mars and Venus revealed not the arid worlds of our reality, but the colorful Mars and Venus of old pulp Science Fiction adventure. In The Sky People, it’s 1988, the Cold War is still raging, and Marc Vitrac has been assigned to Jamestown, the US Commonwealth base on Venus, near the great Venusian city of Kartahown. But all is not well. There is also a Russian base on Venus. Outside the bases is a wilderness swarming with sabertooths and dinosaurs—and lost races of people who seem to be human. An even greater mystery than lost races awaits Marc—as well as a danger that may well threaten the entire human race.

It is always a good day when you see a new Infinivox title…

Audiobook - The Chief Designer by Andy DuncanThe Chief Designer
By Andy Duncan; Read by Jared Doreck
2 CDs – 132 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Infinivox
Published: 2006
ISBN: 1884612547
An Alternate history novella that won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. This story, an alternate history masterpiece, as told from the point of view of Korolev, the “Chief” who managed the most crucial years of the secret Soviet space program, and his assistant and eventual successor, Aksyonov. The story spans from World War II, when Korolev was released from a prison camp to design rockets, to 1997 and the Mir space station.

Long promised and now released…

Dandelion Wine by Ray BradburyDandelion Wine
By Ray Bradbury; FULL CAST
MP3-CD, Cassettes or CDs -[RADIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Colonial Radio Theatre / Blackstone Audio
Published: January 2007
ISBN: 9780786173501 (MP3-CD), 978-0786147144 (Cassettes), 9780786165827 (CDs)
Twelve-year-old Douglas Spaulding knows Green Town, Illinois, is as vast and deep as the whole world that lies beyond. It is a pair of new tennis shoes, the first harvest of dandelions for Grandfather’s renowned intoxicant, the distant clang of the trolley bell on a hazy afternoon.

Blackstone continues their release of Heinlein classics! this time with narration by Spider Robinson…

Blackstone Audio - Rocket Ship Galileo Rocket Ship Galileo
By Robert A. Heinlein; Read by Spider Robinson
Cassettes, CDs or MP3-CD – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: January 2007

Ross Jenkins, Art Mueller, and Morris Abrams are not your average high-schools students. While other kids are cruising around in their cars or playing ball, this trio, known as the Galileo Club, is experimenting with rocket fuels, preparing for their future education at technical colleges. Art’s uncle, the nuclear physicist Dr. Donald Cargraves, offers them the opportunity of a lifetime: to construct and crew a rocket that will take them to the moon. Cargraves believes their combined ingenuity and enthusiasm can actually make this dream come true. But there are those who don’t share their dream and who will stop at nothing to keep their rocket grounded.

Plug plug! I’m reliably informed this novel will be complete very shortly, download the first 2/3rds immediately and for free thanks to podiobooks.com…

Badge Of Infamy
By Lester del Rey; Read by Steven H. Wilson
15 MP3s – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Podiobooks.com
Published: December 2006 – January 2007
Status: In Progress
Daniel Feldman was a doctor once. He made the mistake of saving a friend’s life in violation of Medical Lobby rules. Now, he’s a pariah, shunned by all, forbidden to touch another patient. But things are more loose on Mars. There, Doc Feldman is welcomed by the colonists, even as he’s hunted by the authorities. But, when he discovers a Martian plague may soon wipe out humanity on two planets, the authorities begin hunting him for a different reason altogether.

Already reviewed, but a new release nonetheless – is it the first audiobook created on a dare (?)…

Librivox Audiobook - The Green Odyssey by Philip Jose FarmerThe Green Odyssey
By Philip Jose Farmer; Read by Mark Nelson
10 MP3s or 10 OGG Vorbis files – 6 Hours 6 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: December 2006
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Alan Green is a space traveler stranded on a barbaric planet. He’s been taken as a slave and made a consort to an insipid and smelly queen. His slave-wife, though beautiful and smart, nags him constantly. He’s given up hope of ever returning to Earth when he hears of two astronauts who have been captured in a kingdom on the other side of the planet, and sets out on an action-packed journey on a ship sailing across vast grasslands on rolling pin-like wheels in a desperate scheme to save them and return home.

posted by Jesse Willis

Tantor offers Nightmares for 30% off + Free Shipping

News

Tantor Halloween Sale

Tantor Media, is having a sale and there are two ghoulishly good audio drama sets included (both of which we’ve reviewed)…

Nightmares On Congress Street Part 5Nightmares V
By Various; FULL CAST
2 CDs or 1 MP3 CD – 2 Hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
|LINK TO PURCHASE|
They’re baaaaaaaaaaaaacckkkkk!!! Rocky Coast Radio Theatre returns with yet another copious cornucopia of classic concoctions, crafted and compiled for the captive congregation (gotta love that thesaurus!). Nightmares on Congress Street, Part V offers dramatized adaptations (complete with music and sound effects) of chilling stories penned by Edgar Allan Poe, Hugh B. Cave, and H.P. Lovecraft, as well as a few additional treats. So douse the lights, snuggle up with your favorite corpse…(oops) “life-challenged” person, and prepare to be thoroughly goosebumped.

Nightmares On Congress Street Part 4Nightmares IV
By Various; FULL CAST
2 CDs or 1 MP3 CD- 2 Hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
|LINK TO PURCHASE|

Year four of the Rocky Coast Radio Theatre’s spooky radio performances includes theatrical interpretations of works by W.W. Jacobs, Edgar Allan Poe, and Robert W. Service—sure to send shivers down your spine!

Review of Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

Science Fiction Audiobook Review

Science Fiction Audiobook – Pattern Recognition by William GibsonPattern Recognition
By William Gibson; Read by Shelley Frasier
9 CDs – 10.5 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Published: 2004
ISBN: 140010095X
Themes: / Science Fiction / Internet / 9-11 / Crime /

“Cool Hunter.” How about that for a dream job? Companies pay you (and ply you with the latest technological goodies) to identify trends and fashions that spring up at street level so that they can commodify them and turn a buck. As far as I know, William Gibson (the man responsible for the term “cyberspace”) didn’t coin “cool hunting,” but he makes good use of the idea in “Pattern Recognition.” Cayce Pollard is Gibson’s heroine and the consummate cool hunter. Cayce can spend an afternoon walking through the teenagers clogging the streets of London when school lets out and identify at least three of tomorrow’s money-making fashion trends. She can look at two potential logos for a company and immediately know which of them will connect better with the targeted demographic. Like any other talent, though, being able to tell what works and what doesn’t has its downside. Cayce has an almost allergic reaction to most brand names; she’s got to have the labels removed from and the words filed off of the rivets on her black 501’s, her Casio G-Shock has got to be logo-free, and don’t even think about coming near her with a picture of the Michelin Man. Cayce is also deeply obsessed with a captivating film that has been mysteriously released, bit-by-bit, over the Internet, an obsession that opens the door for Gibson’s intricate plot.

Pattern Recognition was written soon after 9-11 (the events of which it references regularly), and is set in a very realistic 2002. The book probably doesn’t even technically qualify as science fiction, but Gibson keeps his ear so close to the tech-development ground that the story gives the impression of being futuristic. In fact, the book can be used as a sort of barometer to gauge your level of tech-geekiness. Are image-based search engines and vintage calculator fetishes old-hat to you? Congratulations, you’re ready to tackle Doctorow and Stross. Is the idea of a “render farm” unknown to you, and do you still double-take when you hear “google” used as a verb? Better stick to Card and Haldeman.

Having said that, this is probably the most accessible of all of Gibson’s books. His embrace of a post-cash economy era heroine and his tangential explorations of Internet forum social hierarchies and information-age Russian Mafia thugs will satisfy sci-fi vets (and provides solid evidence of Gibson’s place as a powerful influence on the new wave of cyber-post-punk writers), but the realness of Cayce’s femininity, the lack of one-dimensional characters, and, particularly, the overall attractive melancholy mood of the book make it one that you can safely recommend to your sci-fi avoidant spouse and friends.

I read the text version of Pattern Recognition soon after it came out, and was pleasantly surprised at how much enjoyment the audio book added to my experience. Shelley Frasier’s pleasantly dry narration, able handling of accents, and especially the sexy innocence she gives Cayce’s voice had me popping discs in one after another. I have a very pleasant memory of taking a break from a late-night Fawlty Towers marathon to get some Burger King, and staying in my garage five extra minutes just to finish listening to Shelley describe a British noodle bar called “Charlie Don’t Surf”.

The text version of the book includes a drawing of an object that is vital to the plot, and I was worried that the audio book might get awkward at that point, but truth be told, I didn’t even notice the absence of the drawing.

So, hats off to Gibson, Frasier, and the folks at Tantor Media for putting together an excellent reading of a great science fiction novel (that isn’t even really science fiction). As wonderful as Gibson’s more speculative work is, if Pattern Recognition is what it looks like when both of his feet touch ground, then I wouldn’t mind if he came down to earth more often.

Review of Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Market Forces by Richard K. MorganMarket Forces
By Richard K. Morgan; Read by Simon Vance
13 CDs – 16 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Published: 2005
ISBN: 1400101395 (Retail CD), 1400131395 (Library CD), 1400151392 (MP3-CD)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Dystopia / Economics / Satire /

“Human beings have been fighting wars as long as history recalls. It is in our nature, … last century the peacemakers, the governments of this world, did not end war. They simply managed it, and they managed it badly. They poured money without thought of return into conflicts and guerrilla armies abroad, and then into tortuous peace processes that more often than not left the situation no better. They were partisan, dogmatic, and inefficient. Billions wasted in poorly assessed wars that no sane investor would have looked at twice. Huge, unwieldy national armies and clumsy international alliances in short a huge public sector drain on our economic systems. Hundreds of thousands of young people killed in parts of the world they could not even pronounce properly. Decisions based on political dogma and doctrine alone. Well, this model is no more.”

In an interview with Rick Kleffel of The Agony Column Richard K. Morgan describes the motivaton behind Market Forces – ‘there’s a scene’ he said, ‘in the movie Lethal Weapon‘ a scene in which the suicidal cop Martin Riggs (played by Mel Gibson) is atop a roof, ironically, trying to talk down an suicidal citizen who claims he’s going to jump. Frustrated at the indecision that grips them both Riggs snaps – he handcuffs the citizen to his own wrist and then asks him “Do you really wan’t to jump? Do you wanna?” – then dragging the citizen with him Riggs jumps off the roof. It’s a scene designed to show the inner demons that haunt Riggs, who is, after all, the “Lethal Weapon” of the film’s title. So what does that have to do with Market Forces? This novel is Richard Morgan’s response to the right-wing think tanks which have for years been constantly murmuring in the media soundbites of “let the market decide,” “government is in the way of business,” “the invisible hand can regulate better.” Morgan’s frustration with these ideologues is answered by dystopian satire, a kind of Wall Street meets Mad Max. This is an England in which the gap between the rich and poor has widened. At the top are an elite, an upper-class of executives, driving armoured cars and carrying firearms in their briefcases. At the bottom are the unemployed, disenfranchized and living in deserted slums without access to public transportation, their only escape is to join the police or Special Air Service, both privatized and in mercenary service of the executive class. The commodited investment houses have morphed into “Conflict Investment” houses. It’s a powerful setting, a critical look at where we are now, as 1984 and Farenheit 451 were critical looks at where we used to be – a place we must still fight from going. In essence Morgan says ‘This is what happens when you look at what we’re doing now and then project ahead. This is what happens if you listen to the right-wing think tanks. This is what happens when you jump.’

As a primer let me explain how “conflict investment” works. You find a country, one torn by civil war or revolution. You decide who, amongst the many factions within that country could win, given the right resources and then you back them. In return for providing the arms, equipment and intelligence to win a “small war” the faction must commit to give you a cut of their country’s gross domesitc product for a quarter century or so. Our viewpoint character, Chris Faulkner, has recently been hired on as a junior associate by one of the top conflict investment firms, Shorn Associates – this happened in large part because of Chris’ reputation for savage road duelling. Meanwhile, Chris’ wife, a mechanic from Sweden, (a country with one of the last socialist governments around) is encouraging him to seek more peaceful pastures by defecting to a struggling international peace movement. With rebels in Guatemala to support and a growing record of auto-duel kills Chris is a hot number, but it increasingly seems like someone is setting him up for a fall. It’s up to Chris to decide whether he’s going to be the person his wife wants him to be or if he’s going to continue on his road to corporate partnership.

I ended up really liking Market Forces. There was a time there when I wasn’t sure, the first third of the novel is quite depressing, Morgan’s world has gone to shit and the people in it smell, and smell bad. Part of my problem was with how the world got to be this way. A corporate world full of scum? I can understand that, but a corprate world full of armed scum? It seemed a bit proposterous. Then it came to me, between discs 4 and 5 I realized, “this is a satire”. Like American Pyshco or that corporate raiders sequence in Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life. Eventually Morgan does give an explanation of how we got from where we are now to the fifty or so years from now setting of Market Forces and that explanation works in a ‘give me an inch and I’ll give you a novel’ sort of way. The real explanation however is that to be the story it needed to be actual market forces really had to play into every human transaction. The brutal reality of competitive of an unregulated capitalism working at full force would likely still be insulated by an old boys network, an oligarchy that said it wanted unrestricted competition, but really just wanted power. In arming and glorifying the auto duels Morgan has made Chris Faulkner confront the reality of the world he is making. Ultimately the decision he faces is as terrible as those made by Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four and Guy Montag in Fahrenheit 451. It remains to be seen whether Market Forces will be as enduring as those dystopian novels, but it stands among them, bare face in the portrayal of a brutal tommorow based on the unchecked trends of today.

This is a gloomy book marked by several scenes of jagged action and carnal sex, it is a good thing Tantor Media chose a versatile reader. Narrator Simon Vance used his precise English accents to portray the undertones of resentment many of the characters didn’t even realize they had – it carried me through the gloomy bits to the dramatic conclusion. Tantor issued us another of the library retail bound CD editions, though it had identical packaging to Altered Carbon (recently reviewed) two of the indivudal pages came loose in this one while I was pawing through. UPDATE: The good folks at Tantor have informed me that they actually sent the retail edition to us. The library edition is higher priced and comes in a white box with a metal ring binder (as well as a free lifetime CD replacement guarantee).

In researching for the review I found out that Market Forces is based on an unpublished seedling of a short story, entitled Some Serious Driving. Apparently it was originally submitted to Interzone magazine, they rejected it as full of ‘unlikable characters’ – something the novel has too. In an ideal world I’d have liked to see Some Serious Driving bundled in as an extra, perhaps Tantor Media can gather together all of the Richard K. Morgan unpublished shorts to tide us over until the 5th RKM novel comes out?

One last thing, given my description of the plot you might think Market Forces a standalone novel and indeed it does stand nicely on its own- the thing is I found strong evidence that Market Forces is set in the same universe as that of the Takeshi Kovach novels, the books Richard Morgan is best known for. There’s a number of references to conflict investment in general and the Shorn corporation in particular in Broken Angels, the second Takeshi Kovach novel. Cool huh?

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Altered Carbon by Richard K. MorganAltered Carbon
By Richard K. Morgan; Read by Todd McLaren
14 CDs or 2 MP3-CDs – 14 Hours 54 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Published: 2005
ISBN: 1400101379 (Retail CDs), 1400131375 (Library CDs), 1400151376 MP3-CDs
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mystery / Cyberpunk / Immortality / Artificial Intelligence / Galactic Civilization / Conciousness Uploading / Hardboiled Fiction / Noir Fiction /

“Fuelled by every crime noir novel I’d ever read, plus swabs of French and Japanese cinema, the work of William Gibson and M. John Harrison, early Poul Anderson and Bob Shaw, and last but not least the colossal impact of Bladerunner, this was my take on future noir. Fast forward to middle of the new millenium, and down where it counts, nothing has changed, because neither have we. Enter Takeshi Kovacs.”
–Richard K. Morgan

Altered Carbon is a stunning debut novel. A near classic, it boils over with solid SF ideas all encased in violent and vivid prose as told in a hardboiled first person narration. Set a few hundred years in the future, humanity has started colonizing the galaxy under the supervision of the United Nations. From one such world comes Takeshi Kovacs, an ex-U.N. Envoy (interplanetary special forces) who’s been brought to Earth in order to work as a private detective for a murdered “Meth”. Meths are the ultra rich, able to afford new cloned bodies so that they can live forever. This is achieved by means of the “cortical stack” technology, a backup harddrive for one’s mind, implanted in the skull shortly after birth. Most people can’t afford to be “re-sleeved” after they die, and so languish in storage for centuries. Convicted criminals have their bodies sold out from under them.

Interplanetary travel is done by way of “needlecast”, a form of faster than light transmission of data. No bodies are transported – visitors from distant planets are re-sleeved in a local body. With these technologies many of society’s values have changed. “Real death” is rare, “organic damage” is far more common. And even real death, the destruction of a cortical stack, isn’t necessarily the end since the ultra rich keep backups. Needlecast transmission of stack’s data on a regular basis makes one virtually immortal. Like working with any fallible system though you just have to remember to backup, and frequently.

Laurens Bancroft, a centuries old tycoon brought Kovacs to Earth in order to investigate his apparent suicide, something the Meth thinks was really a murder – though he can’t say for sure as he was backed up 48 hours before his death. The investigation leads Kovacs into a tangled web of politics, prostitution and power games with stakes as high as an immortal lifespan can offer. Thrown into the mix is a dirty cop, his driven parter, an artifically intelligent hotel, and a whole lot of bloodshed.

Though at first blush this appears to be a straight out neo-cyberpunk novel, it has more depth. The mystery and hardboiled elements are a direct homage to Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep with Kovacs in the Philip Marlowe role. Like The Big Sleep, Altered Carbon is complicated and hard to follow, with many characters double and triple-crossing each other. SF elements, like the conciousness uploading, are not particularily new, but Morgan’s take is, and it is well integrated into the plot. One scene which has Kovacs “cross-sleeved” into a female body for investigative purposes illustrates just how wild the concept of this kind of mind swapping can be.

There are several lengthy sex scenes and even more combat scenes. I liked the way they were handled (some of the descriptions were positively Gibsonian) but I grew fatigued at their numerousness and frequency. Another problem was the over-use of “neuro chem” as a cure all for crisis situations. UN Envoy training allows envoys to battle harder and smarter than anyone without such training, so whenever things get rough for Takeshi, and they get rough frequently, he falls back on his “neuro chem.” The problem there is it ends up working like an inexaustible turbo boost – he’s too powerful, too skilled for sustained anxiety on the part of the reader. Like Neo in the second and third Matrix movies, we stop caring. On the other hand, the plot twists delightfully defy expectation and are cleverly rendered. The way the story is told is reminiscent of the best kinds of noir fiction. It is as solid a modern science fiction novel that reads better than any first novel has any right to be.

Tantor sent us the Library bound CD edition, which came in a clamshell stlye plastic case. Durable and easily accessed. Sound quality is near flawless with high recording levels. Narrator Todd McLaren is Takeshi Kovacs, and his reading is cool and smooth like the confident interstellar hard-case he’s portraying. There are at least a half dozen female roles he’s equally adroit with, some of which required breathy libidinousness, some irate rage. I look forward to an encore performances in the sequel, Broken Angels.

Incidentally, Tantor Media snapped up all four of the Richard K. Morgan novels released so far, you can check them out HERE along with more than a dozen other Science Fiction and Fantasy titles available so far. Tantor is becoming a solid source for SF&F audio goodness.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice BurroughsA Princess of Mars
By Edgar Rice Burroughs; Read by John Bolen
6 CD’s – 6 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Media
Published: 2001
ISBN: 1400100186
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mars / Aliens / Swordplay / Classic /

There are few classic novels with as much influence as Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars. First published in 1912 (serialized in All-Story magazine with the title Under the Moons of Mars), Burroughs sparked the imagination of many of science fiction’s golden age writers, including Ray Bradbury and his Martian Chronicles. The audiobook cover is a detail from the 1919 Grosset & Dunlap cover.

A Princess of Mars is an imaginative adventure novel in which John Carter, a Virginian military man who starts the story running from Indians in the Arizona desert, is magically transported to Mars. Burroughs does not go into detail on the mechanics of the transportation, but does go into great detail about the inhabitants of Mars, called “Barsoom” by its natives.

There are two races on Mars – a four-armed green warrior race, and a red human-like race. The princess of the title is Dejah Thoris of Helium, whose beauty captures John Carter when he sees her taken by him in chains by some four-armed Barsoomians.

The novel is filled with damsel-in-distress/derring-do-male-hero sensibility that is laughable at times, but still the story holds up as a classic of the genre. Burroughs’ description of an alien culture is a forerunner of an entire category of science fiction, and I found it entertaining on that level. I also felt a great deal of nostalgia, because I read this book a few times as a early teen, along with the other ten Mars volumes, and a Tarzan or three.

John Bolen performs the whole book as John Carter, with a southern gentlemanly manner that the character demands. This means not only Carter’s attitude, but his southern accent, which took me a few minutes to settle into.

Check out Tantor’s science fiction and fantasy section for more Edgar Rice Burroughs titles.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson