Review of Misery and Pity by C. J. Henderson

Horror Audiobooks - Misery and Pity by C.J. HendersonMisery and Pity
By C. J. Henderson, read by Jeffery West, Bob Barr and C.J. Henderson
1 CD/ 55 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Realms
Published: ??
ISBN: 0973159634
Themes: / Horror / Damnation / Possession / Vampires / Fantasy / Suicide / Charity

On the back cover of this audio book, C. J. Henderson is given the unblushing accolade “The Master of Modern Horror”, but I found the stories in this collection to be charming throwbacks. The stories often have classic arrangements, such as two old friends meeting at a restaurant to swap tales and compare their fates, or dark, Poe-like trips into hells of a character’s own making. They juxtapose the familiar with the impossible, the ominous with the disarmingly reassuring, and make for a tasty light lunch of dark imaginings.

The title story, read by Jeffrey West borrows, I assume, from Chinese myth, but in a way that doesn’t seem the least bit Chinese. Two old friends meet in an exotic Hong Kong Dim Sum where the diners bring their birds with them and let them roost in the rafters while they eat. A simple comment about one’s latest doings and destiny leads to a story of Chinese soul-vampires and a fiery confrontation with a monster that is the last of its kind. West’s narration is modern and seamless, almost invisible for its perfect attention to the story.

Bob Barr, on the other hand, narrates “Hope” with visible and sensational style. Somehow, he brings the narrative force of a tent revival and a fireside ghost story together, occasionally slowing the story to such a languid pace that you feel not only the weight of each syllable, but of their attack and decay as well. It’s very effective for a tale dealing with sin, damnation, and unutterable evil wearing the most insidious disguise.

But that’s where the professional narration ends, and where the quality of the material begins to dip, too. C.J. Henderson’s readings sound nerdy and occasionally belabored. And if he brings any authorial insight to the pieces, it is to point out that they are artificial and clattery. “The Buzzing of Flies” seems especially overwrought, as well as dull and predictable. “That’s the One” makes no real sense, being an illustration of life imitating a random thought about a specific work of art, but it has a loose freedom that seems to float where the previous story falls. Perhaps the finest of the final three is “Sacrifice”, which seems to be a wicked, wicked satire of the bizarre and pointless reactions we have to the injustices of the world.

All in all, Misery and Pity isn’t a bad way to kill almost an hour. The whole package has a likeable simplicity to it, and an unselfconscious lightness that makes it frivolously fun. Groundbreaking? Life-changing? Nah, but it is enjoyable.

Posted by Kurt Dietz

Review of ENGLISH 3020 Studies In Narrative: Science Fiction & Fantasy

SFFaudio Review

Science FictionIndependent and Distance Learning – ENGLISH 3020 Studies In Narrative: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Lectures by P.C. Hodgell and Michael Levy
20 MP3 Lectures
LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/Engl3020.htm
Approx 19 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: University Of Minnesota
Published: 2002 (But recorded over several years)
Themes: / Non-Fiction / Science Fiction / Fantasy / Horror / Time Travel / Gothic Horror / Utopias / Dystopias / Religion / Vampires / Urban Fantasy / High Fantasy / Sword and Sorcery / Cyberpunk / Messiah / Apocalypse / Future War / Supermen / Robots / Feminism / Computers / Robots / Androids / Cyborgs / Dungeons & Dragons / Aliens /

Pat Hodgell and Mike Levy discuss the details of SF&F’s history in under 20 hours – no mean feat. Though in amongst the broad academic strokes there are many nice discussions listeners should note. These are academic university lectures, and not an entertainment talk show so the evidentiary schema is the primary focus.

The lectures are vaguely sequential to the history of science fiction and fantasy. The first lectures by Levy discusses the origins of Science Fiction, tackling the progenitive triumverate of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, H.G.Wells, and Jules Verne. The second lecture explores the early and mid twentieth century figures in the field: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Hugo Gernsback, John W. Campbell, Robert A. Heinlein. For the third and fourth lectures Fantasy author Pat Hodgell and the course’s instructor presents the origins of modern Fantasy from its roots in gothic novels and romanticism and then the various 19th century fantastic writings.

Levy’s turn on the fifth lecture covers the early Utopian and Dystopian stories with particular attention to the novels We, 1984 and Brave New World. His insightful commentary continues into the sixth lecture and covers post World War II SF with Astounding Vs. Galaxy Science Fiction Magazines, and the novels Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants, Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano and John Brunner’s Shockwave Rider. For lectures seven and eight Hodgell investigates English Fantasy authors Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Handing off to Levy again for lectures nine and ten covering the general theme of Religion and the specific themes of Messiah and Apocalypse with the novel examples of James Blish’s A Case Of Conscience, Walter M. Miller Jr.’s A Canticle For Leibowitz, Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End and Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger In A Strange Land.

Lecture eleven covers the theme of evolutionary Supermen – homo superior in his early fictional incarnations and where the strange motivation to write about them comes from. Lecture twelve is similar to eleven except its focus is on the manufactured heirs to humanity in the form of Computers, Robots, Androids and Cyborgs. This is also the first lecture to include a guest, SF author William F. Wu! Lectures thirteen and fourteen cover the ever popular Time Travel theme, including Connie Willis’ Firewatch, Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court, Michael Moorcock’s Behold The Man and two of Heinlein’s excellent SF short stories All You Zombies and By His Bootstraps.

Lectures fifteen and sixteen investigate fantasy fiction after Tolkien’s influence covering the various themes of Horror, Vampires, Urban Fantasy, High Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery and the influence of the role playing game Dungeons & Dragons. Among the stories specifically discussed are Fritz Leiber’s Smoke Ghost, Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Earthsea” novels, Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld” novels and Robert E. Howard’s “Conan” stories. Lectures seventeen and eighteen examine women’s role in science fiction, with the themes of Utopias and Feminism, discussion of the novels Venus Plus X by Theodore Sturgeon and The Left Hand Of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, as well as discussion of it’s authors, the likes of Joanna Russ, Ursula K. Le Guin, James Triptree Jr. and Octavia Butler.

Lecture nineteen breaks from the lecturing professor mold with Pat Hodgell doing an interview in the home of Minnesota SF author Gordon R. Dickson. He talks about how he writes, where he gets his ideas (from history dontcha know) and about the writing process – and this is a very valuable interview as Dickson is now deceased. Dickson novels discussed include among others Dorsai! and Soldier Ask Not. Pat Hodgell concludes the lecture series with a roundtable discussion with herself, Levy and SF author Elanor Arnason. Together they talk about Cyberpunk, William Gibson’s Neuromancer and the film Blade Runner, the use of Aliens in SF and some final thoughts about where they thing SF and F is going.

The sound quality of these lectures isn’t great. There are many background noises, people whispering, lecturers too close and too far from the mic, Gordon R. Dickson coughs a bit and various other aural annoyances are legion. But, it was recorded at a good level and I don’t think I missed one word that was above a whisper – these are lectures and they are free so don’t complain! The funny thing is after hearing these lectures I feel a very strange urge… to learn more about Minnesota. I’ve never had that urge before but Pat Hodgell and Mike Levy manage to include so many Minnesota references and connections into their lectures they sold me on the whole ‘10,000 Lakes to Explore’ deal! Hmmm, maybe these lectures are being given away for free because their underwritten by the Minnesota Tourism Bureau? In any case I heartily recommend you give one or some of these lectures a try they are good listening and good edjamacation.

Here’s a breakdown of the lectures::

Lecture 1 – 29 Minutes 6 Seconds – SF FOUNDATIONS
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_1A.MP3)

Lecture 2 – 27 Minutes 8 Seconds – SF FOUNDATIONS
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_1B.MP3)

Lecture 3 – 26 Minutes 46 Seconds – FANTASY
FOUNDATIONS
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_2A.MP3)

Lecture 4 – 27 Minutes 10 Seconds – FANTASY
FOUNDATIONS
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_2B.MP3)

Lecture 5 – 26 Minutes 7 Seconds – THE FUTURE
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_3A.MP3)

Lecture 6 – 26 Minutes 3 Seconds- THE FUTURE
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_3B.MP3)

Lecture 7 – 28 Minutes 2 Seconds- HOBBITS AND INKLINGS
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_4A.MP3)

Lecture 8 – 27 Minutes 9 Seconds- HOBBITS AND INKLINGS
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_4B.MP3)

Lecture 9 – 27 Minutes 18 Seconds- SCIENCE FICTION AND
RELIGION
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_5A.MP3)

Lecture 10 – 26 Minutes 57Seconds – SCIENCE FICTION
AND RELIGION
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_5B.MP3)

Lecture 11 – 27 Minutes 18 Seconds – SUPERMEN
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_6A.MP3)

Lecture 12 – 28 Minutes 11Seconds – ROBOTS, ANDROIDS
AND CYBORGS
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_6B.MP3)

Lecture 13 – 26 Minutes 7 Seconds- TIME TRAVEL
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_7A.MP3)

Lecture 14 – 27 Minutes 11 Seconds – TIME TRAVEL
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_7B.MP3)

Lecture 15 – 28 Minutes 2 Seconds – MODERN FANTASY AND
HORROR
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_8A.MP3)

Lecture 16 – 43 Minutes 47 Seconds – MODERN FANTASY
AFTER TOLKIEN
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_8B.MP3)

Lecture 17 – 27 Minutes 30 Seconds -WOMEN IN SCIENCE
FICTION
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_9A.MP3)

Lecture 18 – 27 Minutes 57 Seconds -WOMEN IN SCIENCE
FICTION
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_9B.MP3)

Lecture 19 – 44 Minutes 16 Seconds – AN INTERVIEW WITH
GORDON R. DICKSON
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_10A.MP3)

Lecture 20 – 43 Minutes 46 Seconds – CYBERPUNK AND
ALIENS
(LINK: http://lrc.lib.umn.edu/dai/P131_10B.MP3)

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Two Plays For Voices by Neil Gaiman

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audio Drama - Neil GaimanTwo Plays For Voices
By Neil Gaiman; Performed by two Full Casts
2 CDs – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio / Seeing Ear Theater
Published: 2002
ISBN: 0060012560
Themes: / Fantasy / Angels / Vampires / Fairy Tales /

Stories included:
Snow Glass Apples
Once upon a time there lived a young princess with skin as white as snow, with hair as black as coal, with lips as red as blood. Most people think they know what happens to this young unfortunate girl. Most people are wrong. Tony-award winning actress Bebe Neuwirth stars as a wise Queen who wants nothing more than to reign over her kingdom peacefully but is forced to match wits with an inhuman child who has an unnatural taste for blood.

Full Cast List:
Bebe Neuwirth as the Queen ; Martin Carey as the Huntsman; Mark Evans as the Prince; Merwin Goldsmith as the Lord of the Fair; J.R. Horne as the Archbishop & Friar; Alissa Hunnicutt as the Maidservant; Randy Maggiore as a Soldier; Kate Simses as the Princess; Nick Wyman as the King

Murder Mysteries
In this mystery noir set in heaven’s City of Angels before the fall, the first crime has been committed. It is an awful one. While the angelic hosts labor to create the world and its workings, one of their number is mysteriously slain by one of their own. Raguel, Angel of Vengeance, is mandated by Lucifer to discover both motive and murderer in this holy dominion that had so recently known no sin. Golden Globe award winning Brian Dennehy stars as Vengeance.

Full Cast List:
Brian Dennehy as Raguel ; Anne Bobby as Tink’s Friend; Christopher Burns as Saraquael ; Thom Christopher as Lucifer ; Ed Dennehy as Zephkiel ; Michael Emerson as Narrator ; Traci Godfrey as Tinkerbell Richmond ; Evan Pappas as Phanuel

I find audio dramatizations to be generally inferior to straight unabridged readings. There are certainly exceptions; it is just my personal general experience. But every once in a while an exception is so forcefully good, so sweet and so right, it makes me question my general preference in total. And no audio drama thus far has shaken this conviction better than these two “plays for voices”.

I of course heard them both back when they first turned up on the Seeing Ear Theater website, and I was blown away then. I told everyone to go check it out, and I still send people to the site every now and then, but after hearing them on crystal clear CD I’ve decided that even though the website is free, the CD set is the preferred way to listen. The sound is exquisite, the packaging elegantly designed, and when they do decide to remove the wonderful collection of audio dramatizations that makes up the Seeing Ear Theater website collection I’d be kicking myself for not owning a hard copy of both of these amazing dramatizations. I should also note that like much of Neil Gaiman’s adult fantasy, both of these stories feature explicit sexual scenes.

So what makes this collection so great? Well, Gaiman’s unique storytelling gift has something to do with it – probably most to do with it if truth be told. But where Gaiman’s writing leaves off the adaptors pick up with the same skill level – and fail to spoil it.

My main complaint with audio dramatizations in general is that they tend to be “improvements” of the text rather than adaptations. Countless stories have been ruined by incautious adaptors who failed to respect, and in many cases even understand, the story they are adapting. This is most emphatically not the case with these two dramas. The cast and crew of both have achieved that same level of artisanship as Neil Gaiman himself. The casting is brilliant! Bebe Neuwirth, who most people would recognize from her film and television work, is a stage trained actress with two Tony awards to her credit. I can think of no one better than she for the role of the unfairly maligned queen in Snow Glass Apples. In Murder Mysteries, a bit more of an ensemble piece, two actors stand out as achieving similar greatness. Brian Dennehy in the lead role, and Michael Emmerson as the British accented narrator. But in lauding all three of these perfectly cast actors I must be careful to note that several uniformly talented players in their own right support them. Their parts may be small but they do them exceedingly well.

Much praise also must be given to sound designer John Colluci, who had a hand in nearly every Seeing Ear Theater production. The music, foley work and stereo effects are perfect. And of course the producer and director of both these dramatizations, Brian Smith deserves the highest praise. Without him neither would have been possible. Everything has come together in both these productions. There was not one small disappointment, not a single minor flaw, not one awkward moment. Two Plays For Voices is flawless, flawless, flawless.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Dead Until Dark By Charlaine Harris

SFFaudio Review

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine HarrisDead Until Dark
By Charlaine Harris; Read by Christine Marshall & William Dufris
1 MP3-CD – 10 Hours 31 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Paperback Digital
Published: 2004
ISBN: 1584390018
Themes: / Fantasy / Horror / Mystery / Romance / Vampires / Telepathy /

Roadhouse waitress Sookie Stackhouse has a problem: she can read minds. And who wants to go on a date with a guy when you can’t get near him without seeing the images of yourself flitting through his head. It was just easier to stay home and watch TV. Until the night she got a bottle of beer for a new customer and found one man whose mind was a blank wall to her. What difference did it make that he was a vampire?

Dead Until Dark is the first book in Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mystery series.

Told in the first person through our viewpoint character Sookie Stackhouse, we get a slice of life story small town southern USA. The only difference is that’s part horror, part fantasy and part mystery. The horror element comes in with the vampires.

Sookie, our southern belle viewpoint character, lives in a pretty normal world with her grandmother in an old house. She waitresses at the local bar. There are just a few things that make Sookie different from thousands of real life women like her. She’s “disabled” with telepathy and has been since childhood. Oh and vampires not only exist but are quite common. You see, vampires, in this otherwise normal world have ‘come out of the coffin’ as it were, and thanks to new federal legislation are to be treated as regular human people with rights and responsibilities under the law. It’s now illegal to kill vampires, either by staking them or draining them for their healing blood. And of course they’re not allowed to attack humans and this is all possible thanks to the new artificial blood products designed to keep them alive. But not everything is in equilibrium in this world, a few human “fangbangers” slavishly worship the vampires and some vampires want to keep their old status and be outlaws. So when “Bill,” a civil war veteran, returns to his home town and wanders in to Sookie’s bar the community isn’t exactly ecstatic – but they figure if he’s willing to “mainstream” they’ll let him be, for now. But soon old family feuds and carpetbagger Vampires stir up trouble for Bill and Sookie both. And when poor young women all over town end up murdered all eyes turn to the vampires and those who sleep with them.

I really enjoyed this novel; Charlaine Harris made a brilliant decision to tell this story first person through Sookie’s eyes. Sookie is a bright, fun character who loves the life she leads – even if she is a little lonely. Every other character in the book stands up too. The mystery elements start slowly and the plot creeps up on you. What I liked best is the originality, vampires and telepaths are nothing new, but the way Harris puts it all together is fresh and fun. I don’t know if I’d continue enjoying the characters in their further adventures, but I enjoyed the heck out of them in this one. I should also mention there is one historical celebrity, never mentioned by name, who turns up in a minor role, that performance alone made the novel worthwhile. It’s hilarious. One heck of a lot of the enjoyment came from the masterful performances by lead reader Christine Marshall. Her southern belle voice is so just much fun, she truly inhabits the role like no other reader I could imagine. But she didn’t do it all alone; she’s assisted by veteran reader, the always enjoyable William Dufris. Dufris shows an even broader range than I’ve ever heard from him before. You’d swear there were half a dozen male actors reading his lines. Sound quality is as good as anything I’ve heard on mp3, this is high bit-rate easy access fun listening in a slick package. Recording levels are high and Paperback Digital has their own introductory music. Track spacing is also good. Together they do an absolutely marvelous job in performing Harris’s sparkling prose. I’d venture to say this is the best novel yet from newly minted audiobook publisher Paperback Digital.

Paperback Digital hired artist Jason B. Parker to do the cover art for each of their novel releases. When I first saw them I wasn’t too impressed with Parker’s covers, but the more I see the more I like them. Either he’s getting better or my tastes are changing! I’ve here reviewed the mp3-cd version this is audiobook, it is also available via download from both Fictionwise.com and the Paperback Digital website. Hardcopies (mp3-cds) come in DVD style cases with insert paper covers, CD-Roms come with disc art. Downloads are slightly less expensive but nearly as easy to load onto an mp3 player. A must listen for any fantasy fan who’s happy to have a little romance thrown in.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Salem’s Lot
By Stephen King; Read by Ron McLarty
11 Cassettes – 17.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Audio
Published: 2004
ISBN: 0743536959
Themes: / Horror / Vampires / Maine / Small town /

Simon and Schuster recently published this unabridged version of ‘Salem’s Lot, the only appearance of this 1975 Stephen King novel on audio of which I’m aware. This is the second novel published by King, and in my opinion is one of his finest.

Ben Mears, a successful author, returns to the small town of Jerusalem’s Lot to research a book he’s writing. Things get complicated quickly when a man named Barlow moves into town and folks start disappearing. Even more complicated – they start re-appearing. As vampires. As Ben Mears absorbs this fact, he meets the young Mark Petrie, and together they fight Barlow and his growing army.

The characters are the most striking attribute of any Stephen King novel, and this early novel is no exception. The numerous characters breathe with detail, and they all seem like people that I’ve met or could meet today. King lays the small town of Salem’s Lot out for all to see, warts and all, and then commences to destroying it while the reader watches. The actions and fates of the small town characters King has brought to life are where the story lies – not in Barlow himself.

Ron McLarty performs the novel, and does a fine job of it. He handles all the characters with great skill, reading in a clear and often tense manner. As you can probably tell, I really like Salem’s Lot. It’s one of the few novels that I revisit every so often. McLarty treated it well, and I thank him.

Now, I’d love to hear an unabridged audio version of the other two of what I’ve heard called King’s Trinity: one of The Shining, and one of the uncut version of The Stand. I’ll wait patiently…

NOTE: Did anyone catch that recent USA Network TV version of Salem’s Lot? Why the heck did they change so many small details? OK, OK, it’s a different medium, yadda yadda yadda, but wow. They had a perfectly good story to start with. ‘Nuff said. Back to the audio.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of Legends: Stories from the Masters of Fantasy: Volume 1

SFFaudio Review

Legends: Stories From The Masters of Fantasy: Volume 1 edited by Robert SilverbergLegends: Stories From The Masters of Fantasy: Volume 1
Edited by Robert Silverberg; Read by Frank Muller and Sam Tsoutsouvas
4 Cassettes – Approx. 6 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Harper Audio
Published:
ISBN:
Themes: / Fantasy /

Robert Silverberg, himself a prolific fantasy author, has gathered with this series a collection of the longer novellas by the most popular living fantasy authors. Each of the authors was asked to write a new story based on one of his or her most famous series.

In Volume One there are two novellas. The first belongs to Stephen King and is set in his popular Gunslinger/Dark Tower universe. Silverberg’s contribution is set in his Majipoor universe. An intriguing premise but did it turn out to be any good?

The Dark Tower: The Little Sisters Of Eluria by Stephen King; Read by Frank Muller
Roland of Gilead, badly needs to find a horse doctor. His horse is ailing and won’t last long, but when he comes across a lonely desert town he quickly ends up needing a doctor for himself. Unfortunately, the only medical attention he’s getting comes from a vampire like sisterhood intent on both healing AND bloodletting.

I’ve never been overly fond of Stephen King, I find his writing like his ideas at best mildly interesting and at worst boring. But, being as I’d not tried anything of his work in some time, I was willing to give him another try. This piece seemed ideal. It was supposed to be fantasy, and not pure horror that he’s so well know for. It was also a prequel to a long series that I’d heard good things about (The Dark Tower series). But alas, I was not impressed in the least. While there are interesting elements, the setting is what appears to be a post-apocalyptic cross between the Zane Grey and The Road Warrior, which while not completely original is at least not a setting that has been done to death. Unfortunately the story is very long winded. I normally don’t care for overly long fantasy tales, The Lord of The Rings being a notable exception, but I am in the minority here. Stephen King fans don’t seem to mind a thicker than thick novel. This production of the Little Sisters of Eluria has the benefit of clarity, at all times I knew what was going on, and Frank Muller’s reading was okay, barring his usual difficulty with women’s voices. There are some writers who while not writing in the clearest manner manage to hold your attention by their very ideas. In the case of the Little Sisters Of Eluria, the clear writing and clear production just made the boredom more obvious for me. If you like the Dark Tower series you may enjoy this novella, but I found it a vulgar, mildly gross, hard to finish and ultimately pointless.

Majipoor: The Seventh Shrine by Robert Silverberg; Read by Sam Tsoutsouvas
Majipoor, a planet settled long ago by human colonists, is ruled by Valentine, once Lord Valentine now Pontifax of the whole planet. Valentine and his court entourage are on an expedition to an ancient city where they intend to investigate the murder of archeological team leader.

First let me say I like a lot of Silverberg’s work, some of his short stories are really good, but I’ve found his work very uneven. Being unfamiliar with the Majipoor stories I thought this novella would be a good introduction to Robert Silverberg’s fantasy series. This story though is a murder mystery, set on an alien world full of traditions and history. Silverberg does a fairly good job of bringing newbies like me up to speed, informing us of Pontifax Valentine’s personal history, and the strained species relations between the native Metamorphs (shapeshifting intelligent aliens) and the Human colonists of Majipoor. That being said, the story isn’t at all enthralling, it has a lot of “your majesty this” and “your majesty that” found in some of the more derivative fantasy fiction. The mystery element is unsolvable by the reader, something that I dislike as a general rule. But on the other hand Sam Tsoutsouvas does a good job, saving his different voices only for important plot characters. As with the other story in this audiobook, perhaps it will be more enjoyable for someone who likes the universe in which it is set. I can imagine never listening to another Majipoor story, and the idea doesn’t worry me in the least.