Friday, 7 November 2014

Jetta of the Lowlands by Ray Cummings

Official Blurb

Fantastic and Sinister Are the Lowlands into Which Philip Grant Descends on His Dangerous Assignment.

My Review

That has to be the shortest Official Blurb! I even searched the internet looking for a better one. It doesn't exist! I'm not sure any of the people that are selling this book have even bothered to read it.

Anyway.

This is classic sci fi. Adventure and excitement, a hero who falls in love and nothing, repeat, nothing will stop him from saving his love when she's kidnapped. Classic style, her love for him is as instant and all encompassing as his. This really is the stuff that makes these older tales so good.  I may be a bit of a softy at heart but I love this stuff.

The bad guy knows that Jetta's worth a pretty penny and intends to take that for himself. So we have the good guy sweeping in to burn down the bad guys and rescue the princess but nothing is ever easy and things start to go wrong.

The reader for this librivox story is Richard Kilmer and I love his voice. Sadly in this story his pacing seems off, or maybe it's the original writing (it appeared in a pulp magazine). That aside his voice is easy on the ears and like it, its the audio equivalent of pop corn. :)

Reading 2/3
Production 2/3
Story 1/3

Total Score 5/9

Listen to the first chapter.
Download it from Librivox

Monday, 26 May 2014

The Sky Is Falling by Lester del Rey

Official Blurb

After dying in a terrible accident at a building site, Dave Hanson finds himself being brought back to life in a world where magic is real, and where the sky is breaking apart and falling. And he is expected to put it back together again. Will he be able to save this strange world, and his own new life?

My Review

This classic sci fi tale is a good 'un. It was birthed in 1954 during the science fiction golden age and appeared in the magazines of the time, that means that the story does all of the normal tropes of the time. A man out of water, a beautiful girl, a problem to be solved. In this case it's a really very interesting problem. The sky IS falling! Our hero has been resurrected in a strange alien world and is expected to save that world as it literally starts to fall apart. It's a world where magic actually works and nearly everything there is made with magic, but the magic is starting to fail. To add to the maelstrum there are opposing factions vying for control and fighting over our hero.

I was hooked as soon as I started listening, the strangeness of the world was original and intriguing from the outset. The story is outrageous and perhaps even silly at times, but I never lost my interest and listened straight5 through without break.

On top of that cool story the reader was outstanding, she brought a voice with marvelous expression and pacing to the story.

Reading 3/3
Production 2/3
Story 2/3

Total Score 7/9

Listen to the first chapter.
Download it from Librivox


Friday, 11 April 2014

Blake's 7: Rebel, Traitor, Liberator

Official Blurb

In the third century of the second calendar, the galactic Federation, once a beacon of democracy and peace, has become a corrupt tyranny.

Freedom and Justice are things of the past.

Roj Blake stood up for the ordinary people. When the establishment tried intimidation he laughed in their faces. When they tried to crush him he fought back. When they tried to brainwash him into obedience, he broke their conditioning. Finally they framed him and sentenced him to permanent exile on the notorious prison planet Cygnus Alpha.

The Federation thinks it has seen the last of Roj Blake.

The Federation will wish it had...

My Review

I remember watching Blaske's 7 when it was first run on television. As a kid I was glued to this amazing series. As an adult I saw some re-runs and realised just how low the production values were!

I've been listening to Spotify of late and was rather pleased to discover that it includes some audio books. Mostly these are the classics, some from Librivox and the other free locations, but I was supremely delighted to discover some "new" material too., including this particular presentation.

This full cast audio drama was produced in 2010 by a professional audio company and includes everything that entails. Good acting and great sound effects!

This three part (3 CD's I guess) story starts with Blake breaking free of the Federation and building his team, just like the TV series did. I can't say if this follows the same story path as the TV version as I don't recollect but if was a fun ride. It's a straight up adventure of world building, narrow escapes and brave stand offs. Throw in some space battles and the mysterious ship "Liberator" that has a life of its own and you have everything for a great story.

There are 3 significant episodes in this story. That is, the story is episodic, just like a TV or radio series, it does not follow a single story arc.  And that was where this superb production let me down. I like my audiobooks to have a beginning middle and end, but this is just the first three episodes of an ongoing story. If I'd known that going in, I wouldn't have had the disappointment factor when I reached the end. It was just an expectation thing, and does not reflect on the book itself which is great!

In fact, there are other stories in the series on Spotify, and knowing their episodic nature I'm still interested in them. Watch this space.

In summary, Good.

Reading 3/3
Production 3/3
Story 2/3

Total Score 8/9

Listen for free on Spotify

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Deadly Games by Lindsay Buroker

Official Blurb

When you’ve been accused of kidnapping an emperor, and every enforcer in the city wants your head, it’s hard to prove yourself an honorable person and even harder to earn an imperial pardon.

That doesn’t keep Amaranthe Lokdon and her team of outlaws from trying. When athletes start disappearing from the Imperial Games, they may finally have an opportunity to show the emperor that they’re on his side. If she and her comrades can get to the bottom of such a public mystery, they’re sure to get the credit.

But plans go awry when Amaranthe’s own men start plotting against each other, the new ally she’d hoped to acquire tries to turn her in, and her best fighter—and closest friend—disappears.

Maybe getting involved wasn’t such a good idea after all…

My Review

This is the third book in the "Emperors Edge" series and continues the steampunky adventure through a historical-Japanese inspired world. I've reviewed the previous books in the series.

I must be liking this series to have progressed as far as the third book, and indeed this book continues it's romp in a like manner. Sword flash, muskets crash, and magicians cause trouble for the heroes in all kinds of interesting ways.

As mentioned in the official blurb, Amaranthe leads her troop of mismatched outlaws into investigating another strange event, in this case missing athletes. This leads them to discover and be attacked by monsters along with practitioners of the magical arts. As with the other books in the series, the heroes are out matched, out gunned and out manned and have to use guile and a well placed sword point in order to save the day.

As with the previous books, the dangerous moments are never taken too seriously and the peril never gets overpowering, as the characters are always ready with a quip or sarcastic remark to lighten the mood. This gives the book a pulpy feel where the dangers are "real" but you never really feel the main characters are likely to leave this mortal coil. It's really more a case of wondering how they might get themselves out of the jams they're in.

Another great reading by Starla Huchton who puts the perfect voice on this book. I have to say that it's especially nice to have a female narrator when the protagonist is female, it makes the moments we spend in her head all the more enjoyable.

Reading 2/3
Production 3/3
Story 2/3

Total Score 7/9

Download it from Podiobooks




Saturday, 8 February 2014

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Official Blurb

Le Comte de Monte-Cristo is an adventure novel and one of the author's most popular works. He completed the work in 1844. The story takes place in France, Italy, islands in the Mediterranean and in the Levant during the historical events of 1815-1838 (from just before the Hundred Days to the reign of Louis-Philippe of France). It deals with themes of hope, justice, vengeance, mercy and forgiveness. The book is considered a literary classic today.

My Review

If I start by saying that I'd been holding off listening to this book until a single-reader version came along, you'll realise it is a book I wanted to hear, and that I wanted to hear done properly. This is actually the third version of the book put out by Librivox, but the first solo version.

It is 56 hours long. Fifty Six! The reader, David Clarke is excellent and pitches a great French accent that brings the text to life.

I stopped listening after 18 hours. Even David's wonderful reading could not induce me to continue listening to this so-called classic. With reference to this book, the word "classic" means long. It does not mean good.

It started so well, with the protagonist being imprisoned for a crime he did not commit and a great prison escape. Then...then...Well then lots of boring stuff happened to characters that I didn't feel for nor care about. Was the author paid by the word, it sure felt like it Rambling, disjointed, lack of plot, lack of emotion and in the end, after an investment of 18 hours I realised life's too short for this book.

Reading 3/3
Production 2/3
Story 0/3

Total Score 5/9 (Only count this score, if you think it fair when I didn't finish it!)

Listen to the first chapter 

Download it from the Librivox

Where Evil Grows by S. Lawrence Parrish

Official Blurb

Where Evil Grows: Sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll... from Hell.

It's 1976. The rock group KISS is cool. Every teenager alive wishes they could be so cool. So what would you be willing to do to hang around with the cool kids? Pretty much anything....

Justin Foley has cool new friends; they smoke dope and everything. And now that Justin is just as cool as his friends, an evil and malignant entity as old as time and space also wants to be his friend. And more than that, while it gestates in the service tunnels beneath Justin's school, the thing wants Justin to be its mentor. It wants Justin to teach it all about life and what it takes to be a success in this world.

What better place to learn than in a school? And what better measure of success than in taking control of your own destiny? Of course, along the way you might also learn how to assume control of everybody else's destiny....

Where Evil Grows: When fantasy becomes reality... you'll suffer.

My Review

Spoilers Ahoy!

A disappointment.  Well written on a page by page basis, very good narration, but ultimately lacking...something. Let's break that down a little. The story focuses on a group of school kids and the thing that is growing in the basement.

It started really well, introducing the kids and the "thing" but then seemed to just go on and on and on about the kids interacting and getting high.  Too many time did we here them talking about getting high and , OMG going on and on about the group KISS. Even if the kids were supposed to be obsessed with the group, I am not and I found it rather tiresome. I did wonder if the author was writing an autobiography at one point and the story went into immense detail of the history of KISS.

Anyway...I was really disappointed when the story seemed to be building towards a climax set in the school as the protagonists were to put on an air guitar KISS concert. Yet, in the end the school blowing up was just a throw away scene no more important to the plot that which guitar pick the kids used. Such a waste.

I'm so confused by what happened next. The evil thing from the school turns up at the kids home impregnates a girl and the book ends.  Only it doesn't. There's an epilog where the world ends. As I listened to the epilog, I thought to myself, THIS IS THE STORY, not endless drug smoking scenes. Then the epilog was over, just a couple of pages.

The squib was damp.

Now, having dumped all over the book's structure, let me say that I did enjoy listening for the first two thirds of the book. The narrator is excellent (is it the author?). I listened right to the end, which is more than I do for many books, but I was disappointed. One for KISS fans.

Reading 3/3
Production 2/3
Story 1/3

Total Score 6/9

Listen to the first chapter 

Download it from the Podiobooks

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

SHAT by S. Lawrence Parrish

Official Blurb

In a post-plague world where plants have suffered as much as animals, a colony of human survivors has gathered in a fortified former-luxury condominium complex they call “The Park”. These remnants of humanity are inextricably bound to their domestic cats, from which Dose (a temporary plague vaccine) is derived.
A forager army is rumored to be heading toward The Park. The Park people must prepare to defend themselves and all they have worked for, because they have made a discovery: not all cats are created equal; while regular Dose only staves off plague symptoms, the dose derived from Simon, The Park’s only Siamese cat, can be refined into SHAT, a super-dose that rejuvenates the growth of plant life. . . and which also may hold the secret to a permanent plague-cure. Problem: Simon is a neuter. If he should die, so, too, dies humanity’s one hope for survival.
Enter Sasha, a purebred female Balinese of breeding age that also produces SHAT. With the sky-rocketing tensions of increasing militarization, Sasha’s humans want to take their cat and leave The Park. But The Park people will use whatever means necessary to make them stay.

My Review

I found this story when I was trawling Podiobooks looking for new sci fi books, and when I saw this revolved around cats I HAD to listen to it.

I was hooked almost from the first instant. Being a cat owner, I found the cat P.O.V. used in some segments totally absorbing.  And that was a major part of the appeal throughout the book.  It seemed like every third chapter or so was told from the a cat's perspective. The animals relationships to one another was anthropomorphic, even to the point of them "speaking" to each other. However by making sure this never crossed over into talking to humans, it didn't ruin the mood of the piece.

Don't get me wrong this is not all about the cats, it has very strong characters who all come across as individuals with their own motivations. They are believeable people in a weird world and I wanted a happy ending for all of them.

A warning of sorts for cat lovers. Cats get torn up in hideous ways in this book. When I was considering this review, I asked myself, who was this book aimed at, not cat-lovers as the poor beasts suffer, nor was it aimed at cat-haters because the cat characters are appealing. Then it hit me. The cats in this book are treated no worse than the human characters who also get torn up in the same way. What the author's done here, is to create a post apocalyptic world that is as horrid to cats as it is to people and we the reader get to see just how horrid it is to everyone.

The book kept me hooked all the way through, the tension kept building towards the finale in just the way you want a book to.  It was a very good reading too,with a neat use of sound effects to help bring the whole thing to life.

Reading 3/3
Production 3/3
Story 3/3

Total Score 9/9

Listen to the first chapter 

Download it from the Podiobooks




Thursday, 22 August 2013

Dark Currents by Lindsay Buroker

Official Blurb

It’s been three months since former enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon and the notorious assassin Sicarius thwarted kidnappers and saved the emperor’s life. The problem? Nobody knows they were responsible for this good deed. Worse, they’re being blamed for the entire scheme. With enforcers and bounty hunters stalking them, and the emperor nursing a personal hatred for Sicarius, it’s going to be hard to earn exoneration.

My Review

This book is a sequel to "Emperors Edge", which I've previously reviewed. This book continues the story. It's the same great narrator presenting the continuing adventures of the same heroes.

The story develops with an opening investigation that leads to the discovery of a nefarious plot bound up with a magician creating magical artifacts that threaten the whole city.

Like the first book, it's a sword and musket romp through a pseudo Japanese realm that has a lot of western mores and tendencies, and all with a steam punky feel.

I do feel that the plot suffered for having no character development. There were no new characters  to be introduced and no growth or change in those that remained, it was really more of the same.

During one underground scene, that should have been full of dread and fear, the characters were laughing jauntily and poking fun at each other, which kind of destroyed the scene. It removed any sense of real danger.

I mention these two points because I didn't notice anything like them during the first book. the author seems to have dropped the ball, or if not dropped it, perhaps fumbled a little.

That may sound like I didn't like it. That's not the case. I did like it, and I've already queued up the third book in the series ready to start listening. So that recommends it, even if it did have some minor disappointments.

Reading 2/3
Production 3/3
Story 2/3

Total Score 7/9

Download it from the Podiobooks

.


Friday, 26 July 2013

The Emperors Edge by Lindsay Buroker

Official Blurb

Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads.

But when ravaged bodies show up on the waterfront, an arson covers up human sacrifices, and a powerful business coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed.

Worse, Sicarius, the empire's most notorious assassin, is in town. He's tied in with the chaos somehow, but Amaranthe would be a fool to cross his path. Unfortunately, her superiors order her to hunt him down.
Either they have an unprecedented belief in her skills... or someone wants her dead.

My Review

I hadn't read the blurb when I first started listening to this so I went through all of the "that's odd" moments you might expect when the story starts off feeling as a feudal Japan/samurai story, evolves into a buddy cop story, then a political intrigue and then in wafts the early steam age.

Sound odd?  It is. But it is good. It's a fun adventure based in a Japan-like steam-punk world. Oh and just a enough magic to keep things interesting.

The narrator is not the author on this book, which is quite unusual for books on Podiobooks, but the reader does a wonderful professional job.

As a bonus this is the first part of a series, but stands very well on its own.

Reading 2/3
Production 3/3
Story 2/3

Total Score 7/9

Download it from the Podiobooks

Listen to the first chapter.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Secret Of The Ninth Planet by Donald Wollheim

Official Blurb

An alien race has put a station on Earth and other planets in order to steal the rays of the sun, possible causing the sun to nova within two years. Burl Denning, a high school student, is the only person who has the power to stop the alien project. Can he and the crew of the experimental space ship Magellan act in time to save the earth?

My Review

This a classic pulp style sci fi adventure where as the blurb suggests the protagonist is young chap who just happens to be in the right place at the right time... oh and he's a bit of a hero.

This is not a serious sci fi story, it take some facts such as the vast distances between the planets and uses them within the story, but these are sprinkled in with the "super science" of the 50's era.

It's a good yarn, an adventure in space, where the bad guys are not criminals but aliens. It has a dramatic finale that I really enjoyed.

Keep in mind the stories low-sci-fi take on things and that it's a pulp story and you'll have a good time with it, like I did.  Great reading, and a fun listen.

Reading 2/3
Production 2/3
Story 2/3

Total Score 6/9

Download it from the Librivox

Listen to the first chapter.



Monday, 24 June 2013

Police Your Planet by Lester Del Rey

Official Blurb

Bruce Gordon looked at his ticket, grimaced at the ONE WAY stamped on it, then tore it into bits and let the pieces scatter over the floor. He counted them as they fell; thirty pieces in all, one for each year of his life. Little ones for the two years he'd wasted as a cop. Shreds for the four years as a kid in the ring before that--he'd never made the top. Bigger bits for two years also wasted in trying his hand at professional gambling; and the six final pieces that spelled his rise from special reporter helping out with a police shake-up coverage, through a regular leg-man turning up rackets, and on up like a meteor until.... He'd made his big scoop, all right. He'd dug up enough about the Mercury scandals to double circulation. And the government had explained what a fool he'd been for printing half of a story that was never supposed to be printed until all could be revealed. They'd given Bruce Gordon his final assignment... 

My Review

Bruce is sent to Mars, supposedly as part of an undercover operation, but he doesn't want the job, doesn't believe they mean it, it's just an excuse to git rid of him. Mars is a hell hole. Corruption and gang-life run rampant. The cops steal what the gangs don't and people live in a misery of hand to mouth existence.

This is a brutal story of life at Mars port where beatings and muggings are the norm and our hero, or perhaps I should say protagonist, is beating and fighting his way through life. In the "dome" the thugs carry clubs instead of guns, because even they realize a stray bullet could puncture the dome. So the copy carry a shield and club!

I really enjoyed this story. It's well written and well narrated and if you love sci fi you'll like this. 


Reading 2/3
Production 2/3
Story 3/3

Total Score 7/9

Download it from the Librivox


Listen to the first chapter.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

The Chapter Ends by Poul Anderson

Official Blurb

Far, far in the future the Earth is still spinning around the Sun, on the edge of the galaxy, dozing in obscurity, forgotten by it's trillions of progeny and completely irrelevant. But this doesn't matter to the few millions who still live there in simplicity and quiet happiness. But then interstellar politics dictates that they must all leave Earth because ... well, listen to the story as told by the great Poul Anderson as he explores what the Earth means to humans and to one man in particular. 

My Review

A short story in four parts running for about an hour. There really isn't a lot I can tell you about the story without spoiling the whole thing. It's sci fi, but is really a character-play. As the blurb says everyone has to leave Earth but the story revolves around the last few, as they are rounded up and encouraged to get on board ship.

I listened to the end, but it didn't really grab me. Also I found the ending a bit weak. I don't think Poul quite pulled off the effect he was after.

The reader was good. So in summary, its a easy unchallenging listen but don't expect to be wowed.

Reading 2/3
Production 2/3
Story 1/3

Total Score 5/9

Download it from the Librivox


Listen to the first chapter.