The New York Times Book Review Podcast: YA Literature

SFFaudio Online Audio

The New York Times Book Review PodcastThe August 6th episode of The New York Times Book Review podcast has a segment on Young Adult literature:

This week: Francine Prose on the novels of Hans Keilson; Pamela Paul on adults who read Y.A. novels; Mary Roach on her new book, “Packing for Mars”; Julie Bosman with notes from the field; and Jennifer Schuessler with best-seller news. Sam Tanenhaus is the host.

Have a listen |MP3| (the YA segment starts at about 13 minutes in).

Podcast feed:

http://www.nytimes.com/services/xml/rss/nyt/podcasts/bookupdate.xml

There’s also an accompanying text article HERE.

[via ElaineTM of the Audible Yahoo! Group]

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #023

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #023 – Jesse and Scott are joined by Rick Jackson (aka The Time Traveler) and talk to him about his podcast (The Time Traveler Show) and audiobook company (Wonder Audio).

Talked about on today’s show:

The Time Traveler Show podcast, Scott Brick, William Dufris, Mark Douglas Nelson, Sam Mowry, Arthur C. Clarke, Stefan Rudnicki, Wonder Audio, Mac Kelly, Status Civilization by Robert Sheckley, Audible.com/wonderaudio, ebook, Frank Herbert, Alfred Bester, Pat Bottino, The Cimmerian blog, Pride And Prejudice And Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, Chronicle Books, Macmillan Audio, fantasy, Lamentation by Ken Scholes, multiple narrators, Full Cast Audio, Elmore Leonard, Jim Dale, Stephen Fry, Harry Potter, Graphic Audio, Anathem by Neal Stephenson, The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester (ISIS Audio ISBN: 1856955435), Phantoms by Dean Koontz, Mel Blanc, Billy West, Tara Platt, Yuri Lowenthal, Bill Hollweg, the public domain status of Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, The Weapon Shops Of Isher by A.E. van Vogt, William Coon, The Quest For Saint Aquin by Anthony Boucher, They Bite by Anthony Boucher, William F. Temple, A Sheckley Trilogy, Worlds Of Wonder edited by Robert Silverberg, The Monsters by Robert Sheckley, A Is For Alien, The Science Fiction Oral History Association, Lloyd Biggle Jr., SFOHA needs volunteers, Worldcon 2009, Macmillan Audio, Sly Mongoose by Tobias Buckell (read by Jonathan Davis), science fiction, aliens, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow |READ OUR REVIEW|, infodumping, Scott Westerfeld, Uglies, Pretties, Extras, A Case Of Conscience by James Blish |READ OUR REVIEW|, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce, The Star by Arthur C. Clarke, The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, Penguincon, Penguincon podcast, Spider Robinson, Stephen Eley, Day Million and We Purchased People by Frederik Pohl, Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me), science as “arrogance control”, transhumanism.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Five Children and It on BBC7

SFFaudio Online Audio

BBC Radio 7 - BBC7 Good stuff is happening on BBC7 lately, like Mike Walker’s remarkable 6-part historical drama series, Caesar!, that aired over the last two weeks. This Saturday, 7 Drama will present the full cast dramatization of Edith Nesbit’s Five Children and It (which certainly ranks as one of the best ever titles for a kids novel), a story about a magical sand fairy (that) grants five children a series of wishes

A little background, quoting here from Wikipedia, Edith Nesbit popularized an innovative style of children’s fantasy that combined realistic, contemporary children in real-world settings with magical objects and adventures. In doing so, she was a direct or indirect influence on many subsequent writers, including P. L. Travers (author of Mary Poppins), Edward Eager, Diana Wynne Jones and J. K. Rowling -as well as C. S. Lewis and Michael Moorcock. Yow!

Some will recall Nesbit for her memorable novel, The Railway Children, and the film and BBC television series based on the book (presented wayyy back in the 1960’s). I said some will -if they’re willing to admit that they’re old enough to have watched Star Trek: TOS in prime time.

Now, I have to admit that I haven’t heard this production before but given the Beeb’s track record, the play should be good. At an hour and a half long, there should be enough time to cover the story while keeping things moving at a brisk pace. Also, BBC dramatizations tend to feature excellent child actors. This should be a big plus here. -A lot of “shoulds”, I know, but being a fan of Edith Nesbit’s books to begin with, of course I’m looking forward to this.

Check out Five Children and It with me on Saturday, August 16 from 12:00- 13:30 GMT. Teleport to 7 Drama here to do so. Or you can use the Listen Again feature to hear the show for six days after it airs.

Lastly, you can read and download Edith Nesbit’s novels online at Project Gutenberg. All are in the public domain. Yay!

Posted by RC of Radio Tales of the Strange and Fantastic

FREE LISTENS Review: Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper

Review

Free Listens Blog

Little Fuzzy

by H. Beam Piper

Source:Internet Archive |17 zipped MP3s|
Length: 6 hr, 45 min [UNABRIDGED]
Reader: Maria Lectrix

The book: Jack Halloway, a lone gem miner on the corporate-owned planet Zarathrusta, discovers a small furry alien hiding in his mining shack. The alien, whom he names “Little Fuzzy”, is friendly, and although primitive, appears to be intelligent. When word gets out about Little Fuzzy, it means bad news for capitalist Victor Grego. Grego runs the entire planet under a Terran Federation policy that allows the Zarathrusta Corporation to operate with little interference, but only if the planet is not home to a sentient life form. If the Fuzzies, as they come to be called, are sentient beings, then they own the planet and all the profits that the Zarathrusta Corporation has been making are forfeit. A legal battle ensues, a physical battle looms, and Jack discovers that he’s become responsible for a whole race of adorable aliens.

This is a fun young adult book with great depth. The early going is a little rough, as Piper introduces many characters one after the other before the reader can get a good handle on each. Later, as the relationship between these characters becomes apparent, the sense of being lost in a flood of minor characters diminishes. Toward the end of the book, the story seems to drag, but Piper is able to wrap up the plot before too much momentum is lost and arrives at a satisfying conclusion.

Although written in the 1960s, the book brings up many issues that are pertinent today. Piper’s descriptions of climate change, corporate and government distortion of science, and the need for ecological preservation make the story seem, at times, like it was written in the present day. The issue that becomes the centerpiece of the last half of the book, whether Fuzzies are sentient beings, is not as esoteric as it appears. Many of today’s most vexing ethical issues, such as abortion, stem cell research, and euthanasia, are in part, a debate over what divides a living thing from a sentient human being. To Piper’s credit, he makes the debate in his novel entertaining as it is enlightening. I finished the novel with both a smile and something to think about.

Rating: 8/10

The reader: Maria Lectrix delivers a delightful reading of a book she seems to love. Her voicing of the Fuzzies’ “yeeps” is a high-pitched squeal that sticks in the mind. She does an admirable job reading the other characters parts, though I would have preferred if she had made each voice more distinct so the characters could be more readily identified. I won’t say this is a perfect recording. There is a hiss when listening at higher volume and she stumbles over a word a few times. Yet, none of this interfered with my enjoyment of the novel, which in my mind, is the mark of a good storyteller.

Posted by Seth

Review of Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Little Brother by Cory DoctorowLittle BrotherSFFaudio Essential
By Cory Doctorow; Read by Kirby Heyborne
MP3 Download – 11 Hours, 54 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: May 2008
Themes: / Science Fiction / Young Adult / Terrorism / Philosophy / The Internet /

Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works-and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems. But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days. When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.

I rarely feel uncomfortable when reading a book. Cory Doctorow made me feel uncomfortable. I had a deep and growing unease as I listened to Little Brother. Talking about it with a friend, in between early chapters, I at first had a hard time pinning down exactly what was bothering me so much. But, after explaining what the book was about I suddenly realized what the one nagging issue was that was causing this growing unease: It was the villains. They were “all straw men” I told my friend, “not three-dimensional, or believable.” Their villainy “wasn’t realistic,” said I. But soon after that, in cataloging their various villainies, I realized that everything that was happening in the near future USA where Little Brother is set, was already actually happening in the United States (or its offshore territories). It was at that point when I realized that what I had at first been seeing as a poor choice on Doctorow’s part (making the villains one dimensional, completely unsympathetic, and therefore unrealistic) – was not valid. Doctorow is talking about the United States in the very same way George Orwell was talking about the Soviet Union in 1984, or Margaret Atwood, the world, in The Handmaid’s Tale. I can’t effectively argue that real world villainy is unrealistic. The villains of 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale are not unrealistic and neither are those of Little Brother. After I realized that, my attitude of dissatisfaction changed to one of alliance with the book. And the longer I’ve thought about it, the more I am convinced. This is a book that people, especially young people, should be reading. This is an important book. It addresses in a very accessible way, some of the very pressing issues confronting our new age.

Doctorow is both revolutionary and conservative. He wants to overthrow those who would shackle us to an old business model and preserve the long and honourable tradition of revolution. In the book, Marcus, the main character, has a couple of internet handles. The first, “w1n5t0n,” is a tip of the hat to the oppressed victim-protagonist of 1984, and the second is “Mikey.” That one’s a nod towards the proactive leader of the Luna revolution in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. I think Little Brother takes equal inspiration from both these masterworks of Science Fiction. That’s a strong recommendation in itself. Whether this will turn out to be a tenth as influential as either of those classics will turn on how much it resonates with you. This is a book I want people to read.

Another friend, who stopped listening to the book, said Little Brother was full of “infodumps”, and he has a point. It is full of infodumps. But, I think that term gets a bad rap. Science Fiction, as Cory Doctorow himself points out, has a long tradition of the infodump, and, since this is more than just a novel, it has to have a good share of technological and mathematical explanations. In my opinion, the way the novel is written, it doesn’t at all come off as particularly hard to take. Cory Doctorow, in fiction and in real life, is a clear and concise explicator of technologies. He comes up with terrific analogies that illustrate his points, and I therefore think the charge of excessive infodumping is like saying “her hair is too red,” it says more about your predilection for blondes or brunettes than about any particular red-head’s hair colour. Check out one of the infodumps from the book:

If you ever decide to do something as stupid as build an automatic terrorism detector, here’s a math lesson you need to learn first. It’s called “the paradox of the false positive,” and it’s a doozy.

Say you have a new disease, called Super-AIDS. Only one in a million people gets Super-AIDS. You develop a test for Super-AIDS that’s 99 percent accurate. I mean, 99 percent of the time, it gives the correct result — true if the subject is infected, and false if the subject is healthy. You give the test to a million people.

One in a million people have Super-AIDS. One in a hundred people that you test will generate a “false positive” — the test will say he has Super-AIDS even though he doesn’t. That’s what “99 percent accurate” means: one percent wrong.

What’s one percent of one million? 1,000,000/100 = 10,000

One in a million people has Super-AIDS. If you test a million random people, you’ll probably only find one case of real Super-AIDS. But your test won’t identify one person as having Super-AIDS. It will identify 10,000 people as having it. Your 99 percent accurate test will perform with 99.99 percent inaccuracy.

That’s the paradox of the false positive. When you try to find something really rare, your test’s accuracy has to match the rarity of the thing you’re looking for. If you’re trying to point at a single pixel on your screen, a sharp pencil is a good pointer: the pencil-tip is a lot smaller (more accurate) than the pixels. But a pencil-tip is no good at pointing at a single atom in your screen. For that, you need a pointer — a test — that’s one atom wide or less at the tip. This is the paradox of the false positive, and here’s how it applies to terrorism:

Terrorists are really rare. In a city of twenty million like New York, there might be one or two terrorists. Maybe ten of them at the outside. 10/20,000,000 = 0.00005 percent. One twenty-thousandth of a percent. That’s pretty rare all right. Now, say you’ve got some software that can sift through all the bank-records, or toll-pass records, or public transit records, or phone-call records in the city and catch terrorists 99 percent of the time. In a pool of twenty million people, a 99 percent accurate test will identify two hundred thousand people as being terrorists. But only ten of them are terrorists. To catch ten bad guys, you have to haul in and investigate two hundred thousand innocent people.

Guess what? Terrorism tests aren’t anywhere close to 99 percent accurate. More like 60 percent accurate. Even 40 percent accurate, sometimes. What this all meant was that the Department of Homeland Security had set itself up to fail badly. They were trying to spot incredibly rare events — a person is a terrorist — with inaccurate systems.

That all struck a chord with me. I don’t live in The States, yet I know that at least some people down there are blindly accepting these “safety measures” as not only a necessary evil, but as at least somewhat effective. The last time I took an airplane in The States I overheard a conversation in which a woman was telling her family that the Transportation Security Administration’s confiscation of her own lip gloss was for her protection. And she wasn’t being ironic!

Narrator Kirby Heyborne comes from a theater, movie, and music background. His youthful voice captures Marcus and his friends in an effective straight reading. This is audiobook narration as it should be. Two interesting afterwords by people mentioned in the book and a detailed bibliography cap the novel. There is no hardcopy edition of this audiobook available, but a DRM-free MP3 download is. GET THAT HERE.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Melting Stones by Tamora Pierce

SFFaudio Review

Melting Stones by Tamora PierceMelting Stones
By Tamora Pierce; Read by Grace Kelly and the Full Cast Audio family
8 CDs – 8.5 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Full Cast Audio
Published: 2007
ISBN: 9481394180051
Themes: / Fantasy / Young Adult / Magic / Earth / Volcano /

I’m always excited when a new audiobook from Full Cast Audio comes across my desk, but this one was special, because the book doesn’t even exist in print at this time. Nope – this is an audio exclusive, folks! Tamora Pierce wrote this book with the Full Cast Audio family in mind, and it’s a wonderful audiobook.

The book’s main character is Evvy (a short form for Evumeimei), a young girl who is a stone mage. The book begins with her traveling on a boat, which is a difficult thing for a stone mage, because the separation between her and the rocky ground where here magic is effective is too great. She is accompanied Luvo, a heart of a mountain, who has very powerful magic, and a water mage named Dedicate Myrrhtide. The group ends up on an island called Starns Island after being drawn there by earth movement felt when the water was shallow enough. From there the adventure really kicks in, as the small band of mages try to calm the moving earth.

The audiobook is done in the distinctive Full Cast Audio style – it’s unabridged, but read by a full cast. I fear sounding like a parrot, but every review I write of a Full Cast Audio audiobook needs to convey the absolute quality of the audio experience that you get with one of these books. Full Cast Audio consistently enhances the text they are performing. Their audiobooks are unique, and a joy to hear.

Melting Stones is no exception. Grace Kelly performs Evvy, and therefore has the main narrating duties, since the book is told from Evvy’s point of view. Tamora Pierce gave Grace much to work with, and work with it she does. She offers a captivating and believable performance as the plucky young stone mage. Surrounding her is a large cast that, without exception, performs well. Seamless editing makes it all work together, giving us another excellent piece of work from Full Cast Audio.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson