Review of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz By L. Frank Baum

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz by L. Frank BaumThe Wonderful Wizard Of Oz
By L. Frank Baum; Read by James Spencer
MP3, OGG or AAC files download – 3 hours, 36 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: 2005
Themes: / Fantasy / Young Adult / Adventure / Magic /

Modern education includes morality; therefore the modern child seeks only entertainment in its wonder tales and gladly dispenses with all disagreeable incident. Having this thought in mind, the story of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” was written solely to please children of today. It aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heartaches and nightmares are left out.

And that, taken from the introduction, is exactly what author L. Frank Baum and narrator James Spenser deliver. The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz is a delightful and thoroughly wholesome romp through a safe fantasy landscape who’s denizens are, with the exception of the title character, all exactly what they appear to be. A refreshing and satisfying listen, it is sure to please children of a certain age and the adults who listen along with them. I especially liked the repetitive ritualistic scenes that happened about once a chapter. Dorothy, the Tin Woodsman, Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion each and always decry their bad luck whenever an obstacle blocks their journey along the yellow brick road or proclaim with delight their renewed hope at acheiving their respective goals. One curious point, the Tin Woodsman, who is very prone to tears, keeps rusting up when he cries. In point of fact tin does not rust when exposed to salt water.

Narrator James Spencer brings this classic to life, making about a dozen distinct voices for the many characters. His Scarecrow is thoughtful, his Cowardly Lion loveably fierce, his Tin Woodsman empathetic, his Dorothy girlish, and his Oz is truly a humbug! Sound quality is superb and there was no compression degredation in the MP3 edition I listened to. Priced at $6.00, you are looking less than $0.03 per minute. This is the best audio edition of The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz in existence.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobooks - The Time Machine by H.G. WellsThe Time Machine
By H.G. Wells; Read by James Spencer
MP3, OGG or AAC files download – 3 hours, 2 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: 2004
Themes: / Science Fiction / Time Travel / Math Fiction /

I felt assured that the Time Machine was only to be recovered by boldly penetrating these underground mysteries. Yet I could not face the mystery. If only I had had a companion it would have been different.

Sounds suspiciously like the plot of every Doctor Who episode doesn’t it? But The Time Machine isn’t just about exciting time-travel adventures, it’s also about the class struggle in Great Britain in the late 19th century, the widening gap between rich and poor, what Humans have control over and what they don’t. Doctor Who has been known to tackle these ideas too, one of it’s serials even has H.G. Wells as a character, but the fact that The Time Machine did it first, and so well, speaks volumes.

Scientifically explained SF stories of time travel take their cue for explanation, when they do it at all, from this novel. Prior to its publication stories of travel in time went unexplained, the Connecticut Yankee, of Mark Twain’s comedic time-travel novel got a knock on his head that sent him back to Middle Ages England – and that was explanation enough in its way. But The Time Machine isn’t played for comedy, Wells’ futures are allegories for his worries about capitalism and communism, for his notation about gender blurring in the industrial age and his realization that not only are all men mortal, but so in fact is Mankind itself!

In just three hours Wells posits two futures: 1. A relative near term future humanity which has bifurcated into two distinct species (Eloi and Morlock) – they stand as the evitable result of aristocrat and proletariat class calcification present in the political theory at the time of it’s writing. 2. A vision of a far future Earth, showing the inevitable and unavoidable physical reality of the universe. Were this not a public domain text, and were not the plot so familiar to us we’d have to think ourselves blessed by this excellent reading. As it is, and as cheap as it is this classic of science fiction can be judged only by it’s audiobook. Thankfully the reading keeps pace with the text.

Sound quality is excellent, but the reader, James Spenser, doesn’t have much to do in the way of voices. He does however a marvelous job engendering anticipation, fear, disgust and sympathy through pacing. Spencer’s lack of an English accent for this Englishman’s tale doesn’t really matter, only one character in the novel is named, she couldn’t sensibly be called English and she doesn’t even have a speaking part. Much of the difficulty in this story comes from the stilted way it is rendered. Told in first person by an unnamed witness to the recounting of the main events, we are regaled second hand with the time traveler’s adventures in time. I can charitably call it “quaint.” Arthur C. Clarke later took up this kind of storytelling with his “Tales Of The White Heart” series of short stories, likely I think in homage to Wells. I’ve heard several audiobook renditions of The Time Machine now, of the non British reader’s Spencer’s is “the definitive edition.” And at just $5.00 it’s a deal.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Primordial Chili by Tom Gerencer

Science Fiction Audiobook - Primordial Chili by Tom GerencerPrimordial Chili
By Tom Gerencer; Read by Tom Gerencer
MP3 Download -14 Minutes 58 Seconds [UNABRIDGED]
Published: 2004
Themes: / Science Fiction / Humor / Food /

Have you ever had one of those days when everything just seems to go right? Even when it’s wrong? Primordial Chili is a laugh-out-loud thrill-ride of culinary perfection, taken to cosmic proportions. The planets align, the gods speak, and supper turns out pretty good, too.

A substantially superlative and surpassingly silly short story about chili. Gerencer’s tale of the creation of the greatest chili ever made easily passes through the awkward Carrot Top kind of silly, bypasses altogether the elegantly silly Douglas Adams kind of silly, and heads straight towards the very silly indeed kind of silly, the Monty Python silly. The prose is ground to a fine consistency and layered with silliness atop silliness that climbs over itself to new heights of silliness. Gerencer’s narration doesn’t do too much here other than straight read it. I don’t know if Gerencer’s humor would work in novel length, it’d be worth trying, but the more I hear of his short stories the more I’m finding I wouldn’t much care about the novels just as long as his short stories continue to be this good – oh and of course keep coming. Primordial Chili was first published in Science Fiction Age magazine’s November 1999 issue. Did I mention this was the first audiobook to make me really hungry?

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Trailer Trash Savior by Tom Gerencer

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Trailer Trash Savior by Tom GerencerTrailer Trash Savior
By Tom Gerencer; Read by Tom Gerencer
MP3 Download – 10 Minutes 9 Seconds [UNABRIDGED]
Published: 2004
Themes: / Fantasy / Humor / Demons /

So the millennia have passed, and the time of the reckoning is once more nigh … not to mention that you’ve got a busted velvet-Elvis and the oil heat isn’t working. Find out what happens when the owner of a mullet and a used AMC Gremlin becomes “the chosen one,” and has to battle demons, various and sundry. First published in Brutarian magazine. Read by the author.

An underpaid trailer park resident is all that stands between the Earth and its total obliteration. Told in first person perspective, this odd clash of superhero style violence and the trailer park aesthetic works surprisingly well in this short story. The denizens of hell and worse planes of existence always seem to spring up during mealtime and if that isn’t bad enough our hero is forced to fight the unnamable forces of evil in a tackily decorated mobile home. This reading, by the author Tom Gerencer, isn’t bad at all – there is some backround hiss in the mp3 and the misnaming of a trailer park vehicle are all that mar the experience. Gerencer’s narration works pretty well here, and I think that has to do with it being a first person perspective tale – he isn’t forced to do different character’s voices – something best left to professional readers. This is the kind of story you recommend to a friend who’s in need of a really good laugh. Trailer Trash Savior is a full 4.6 Megabytes of downloadable MP3 for just four bits ($0.50 USD)! If you liked Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but maybe thought it was a little unrealistic for a teenage cheerleader to be the chosen one, and that say Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys would have made a better choice, have no fear the Trailer Trash Savior is here.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Demo Mode by Tom Gerencer

Demo Mode
by Tom Gerencer; Read by Tom Gerencer
14 minutes, 31 seconds [UNABRIDGED]Publisher: Telltale Weekly
Published: April 2004
Themes: Science Fiction / Humor / Identity / Viruses /

In the future, knowledge will be grafted straight into our brains, no learning required! Just make sure they configure the innoculotron correctly, or you might wind up contracting Esperanto by mistake. First published in Science Fiction Age Magazine’s May 2000 issue, “Demo Mode” is a humourous short story about a schlub in the future who thinks a simple bit of viral-software will improve his personality. The plot is very similar to the NFB animated film “Personality Software.” Tom Gerencer’s reading is quick, perhaps too quick, but sound quality is great and his “rich and lilting yet somehow phoney sounding stereotypic Scottish accent” is absolutely spot on. Available online at for only $.75 USD, “Demo Mode” is a good value and a good laugh!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of A Taste Of Damsel By Tom Gerencer

A Taste Of Damsel
By Tom Gerencer; Read by Tom Gerencer
MP3 DOWNLOAD – 14 minutes, 56 seconds [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Telltale Weekly
Published: 2004
Themes: Fantasy / Humor / Dragons /

Anyone can slay a dragon. Well, provided they are dragonslayers, which Colson isn’t. But even clerks from copy shops can have heroic qualities and even the very, very old can learn new tricks.

First published in the August 2002 issue of Realms of Fantasy magazine, “A Taste Of Damsel” is mirthful look into the epicurian philosophy of dragons. It is read by the author, Tom Gerencer, who narrates at too fast a clip. The range in voices is minimal and unfortunately a slight background hiss marrs the recording. Despite all that, this audio download is a good value and at $0.75 USD. “A Taste Of Damsel” is fine, if lightweight, fantasy fare. Available online at Telltale Weekly.

Posted by Jesse Willis