Sunday 30 May 2010

Spacehounds of IPC by E E Smith

Official Blurb

When the Inter-Planetary Corporation's (IPC) crack liner “IPV Arcturus” took off on a routine flight to Mars, it turned out to be the beginning of a unexpected and long voyage. There had been too many reports of errors in ship's flight positions from the Check Stations and brilliant physicist Dr. Percival (“Steve”) Stevens is aboard the Arcturus on a fact-finding mission to find out what's really happening, and hopefully save the honor of the brave pilots of the space-liner Arcturus from the desk-jockeys' in the Check Stations implications of imprecision - the nastiest insult you could cast at a ships pilot. He and the pilots are right, it was the Check Stations that were out of position, not the ships. But that's cold consolation because before the Arcturus reaches Mars it's attacked by a small, mysterious, globe shaped spaceship.

My Review

Pulpy Sci Fi at its best! This is an excellent classic sci fi story written when men were men and women were beautiful ( and darn good with a bow and arrow ).

The story introduces our heros and almost immediately throws them into challenging scenarios and conflict. Of course being heros they are not easily killed and able to rise to pretty much any challenge.

The bad guys in this story are totally bad, in fact single minded and unthinking in regards to anything but "attack". It makes them rather two dimensional. Although the story presents them as highly technical and advanced, they are not fleshed out. This left them as a rather card board cut-out enemy, who although "bad" didn't really evoke a feeling of menace. I might also mention that in a couple of places the author has indulged in a paragraph techno-bable. These faults are however very small problems.

This is a fun adventure in space with aliens, spaceships, space-battles and heros. It's read by the impecable Mark Nelson who gives us an outstanding performance.

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

Total Score 7/9

Download it from Librivox

Listen to the first chapter


Friday 28 May 2010

The God Conspiracy by Derek Gilbert

Official Blurb

One e-mail. Five lines. 4,000 dead.

And it is only just beginning…

When a small boy in Iowa forwards a mysterious email from ‘God’ to a small group of friends, he unwittingly releases a trigger that sends blood pouring throughout his farming community.

Thousands more are dead across the country in dozens of simultaneous terror attacks and the government blames fundamentalists who want to trigger the Apocalypse.

FBI Agent Joe Unes reluctantly teams with reclusive Internet radio host Barney Ison (from Sharon K. Gilbert’s The Armageddon Strain) to expose the plot -- and discovers that he's not contending against flesh and blood.

My Review

I came across this book by accident. It was referenced in a blog or news report somewhere and that led me to go searching for it on Podiobooks. I've reviewed another book by the same author, a fantasy book called Iron Dragons, that I really enjoyed.. After listening to Iron Dragons I discovered the author runs a couple of podcasts over at PID Radio which I instantly became a fan of. Oddly, despite listening to those shows I hadn't picked up on the existance this book!

Anyway, onto the book itself. The official blurb gives you a good overview that doesn't spoil too much. The story follows the view points of various characters until they merge into a single narrative. This works really well as it gives you the chance to get to know all of the players in this game, both the good guys AND the bad guys.

The story investigates a number of political angles as the terror spreads. This terror is rather close to home. Ordinary people, people from happy families suddenly turn into raving killers for no apparent reason. The political side of it is likewise close to home. The author has woven current real world political moves and activities through his story. This tends to make the events of the novel feel more real.

So with common everyday locations, events all too close to reality and the threads of real-world policies, and of course a fine fine cast of believable characters we have the makings of a very good novel.

I found I was drawn in to keep listening, and the excitement level was very high meaning that I found this book ending far too soon!

The reader has done a splendid job. As I said with Iron Dragons, the pace of the reading is very fast, but that adds to the excitment generated by the story.

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

Total Score 7/9

Download it from Podiobooks

Listen to the prologue


I asked the author of "The God Conspiracy", Derek Gilbert, to answer a few questions which he has kindly done.

Q : What was you inspiration for this book, at first listen you seem to have drawn on the themes covered in your podcasts?

A : Exactly right. Sharon and I have always been conspiracy theorists at heart. It struck us that The X-Files was a lot closer to reality than most people realized, except that it didn't present an accurate--by which I mean Christian--worldview.

Q : How long did it take to write?

A : The novel took me about six months to write and another four months to rewrite. And then another couple of months to editing.

Q : How long did it take to record?

A : The recording took about an hour a week over a period of about six months.

Q : What's your recording set up?

A : The recording setup I used was a consumer-grade Plantronics USB headset mic and a G5 iMac. We've since upgraded to a quad-core Windows 7 machine with a Behringer mixer and mics. I'm looking forward to recording our next audio novel, which will be Sharon's Signs and Wonders.

Q : Why release it as a free audio book?

A : Marketing on a budget. People who've never heard of Derek P. Gilbert aren't very likely to spend $15 on the novel.

Q : Have you considered selling the audio book?

A : Not seriously. Same reason as above--nobody knows who I am, so why would they spend $10 or $20 to listen to something they might hate?

Q : What other audio projects have you done or got in mind?

A : My first novel, Iron Dragons, is also available as a free audio novel at As I mentioned, I look forward to recording my wife's novels, which are far better than mine. Of course, Sharon and I produce the weekly podcasts P.I.D. Radio and A View From the Bunker, which I may turn into a live show soon.

Q : Do you have any other projects you'd like to mention?

A : I write weekly for the website, and I'm toying with a non-fiction writing project to add to several unfinished novels languishing on my laptop.

Thanks for your time and consideration.

It's been my honor!

Monday 24 May 2010

The Moon Pool by Abraham Merritt

Official Blurb

Dr. David Throckmartin’s scientific expedition to the South Sea Islands discovers among ancient ruins a portal into Muria, an unknown underground world. After the disappearance of Throckmartin, his wife and two companions, his old friend Dr. Walter Goodwin enters Muria with a rescue party, only to confront an fantastic world filled with incredible beings, astounding scientific advances, and the worship of the most evil of all creatures, The Dweller.

My Review

What we have here is a classical pulp style adventure. Look at the elements involved, an entire underground world containing multiple cultures, civilisations, evil religions and cults, mad dwarves and monsters!

You want it, then this story has it.

Personally I found it a little slow in the beginning but it soon moved up to a better pace. There are the usual investigating-the-strange-worlds chapters. The chase-across-the-landscape chapters. The love chapters! Of course we can't do without the huge final confrontation.

The reader is Mark Nelson who does a loverly job in creating voices for most of the characters and bringing the story to life in his well paced cadence. He's brought the skill with which he reads Sci Fi into this fantasy story with aplomb.

If you enjoyed Vernes "Journey" story I think you'll find this one very much to your taste.

Reading 3
Production 2
Story 2

Total 7/9

Download the book from Librivox

Listen to the first chapter

Tuesday 18 May 2010

The Variable Man by Philip K Dick

Offical Blurb

Predictability has come a long way. The computers of the future can tell you if you’re going to win a war before you fire a shot. Unfortunately they’re predicting perpetual standoff between the Terran and Centaurian Empires. What they need is something unpredictable, what they get is Thomas Cole, a man from the past accidently dragged forward in time. Will he fit their calculations, or is he the random variable that can break the stalemate?

My Review

An odd book, in its structure at least. About two and a half hours long in only three parts with the first and last parts being an hour each. I guess that comes down to how the author chapterized his work.

The story however is pretty good. As the blurb says, we find our future driven by computers calculating the odds of every action before we take it. This authoritarian culture is at war, or at least, wants to be at war with an alien race. They are constantly striving to change the odds in Earths favour so that a real winnable war can take place.

I was confused a little by the characters interpretation of odds. At one point the odds become 7-6 in Earths favour and they declare its time for war. Those odds look a little slim to me! I'd want 100-1 or better before I'd risk all.

Anyway, odds aside, this is a good little book, with some twists in it to keep you interested and listening. The variable man of the title is our hero, a man out of his time and totally unpredictable.

Of course and as usual Gregg Margarite's reading is outstanding and sugar for your ears.

If your a sci fi fan, download it!

Reading 3
Production 2
Story 3

Total 8/9

Download the book from Librivox

Listen to the first chapter

Thursday 6 May 2010

Beneath by Jeremy Robinson

Official Blurb

Three thousand years after a chunk of iron the size of Khufu’s pyramid collides with Europa, Jupiter’s sixth moon, an asteroid borne of the collision crashes into Earth’s Arctic ice shelf carrying extraterrestrial microbial life. The first man to come into contact with the microbes hears voices—and then dies.

After determining the meteorite originated from Europa, the Global Exploratory Corporation sends oceanographer and biologist, Kathy Connelly, and her crew to the moon aboard the Surveyor, an experimental spacecraft. They are charged with the task of melting through miles of ice to the hidden ocean beneath, where the search for alien microorganisms begins. But a startling discovery awaits them on the surface of Europa.


Vast fields of red, plant-like organisms fill the cracks crisscrossing the moon’s surface, surviving on nutrients welling up from the waters below. Intoxicated by thoughts of what might lie beneath, Connelly and her crew activate the Thermal Exploratory System and melt through the ice—toward a world that does not want to be found, toward a force that will do anything to make sure they never leave.

They search for life. They find death.

My Review

This is a very fine sci fi audio book. It's by the same author who wrote "Kronos" which I've previously reviewed, and by the same reader. They make a good pairing.

The story is vibrant and the characters come across as real people in a strange situation, and that situation is thrilling, exciting and demanding.

From the outset with the first interaction with the asteroid which kicks everything off, the mystery hooks you, and you're caught on that line for the rest of the story!

It's a classic technique to present the reader/listener with a mystery at the outset and slowly reveal the truth behind that mystery. This is done in an outstanding manner in this book, and even as facts start to reveal the truth, it keeps revealing more mysteries and exapanding, so you are constantly left with a sence of wonder.

Add to this, dramatic use of the environment to enhance the danger and present strange situations, and then combine with a cinematic descriptive prose that is totally engrossing.

All in all an excellent audio book, and all for free and legal download.

Reading 3
Production 2
Story 3

Total 8/9

Download the book from Podiobooks

Listen to the first chapter

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Spherical Tomi by Jack Mangan

Official Blurb

A deadly power struggle between warlords.

Tomi was once lead combat programmer for the Shogun Ryogi, on the front lines of his conflict against President William the Black of Cerberus. When she failed to prevent William from killing the samurai she loved, she abandoned all sides, all loyalties, all hope. In her fury, Tomi destroyed the Greatship, Hades IV, and almost everyone onboard. Almost everyone. . .

My Review

I chopped down the official blurb because I think it gave way too much away! I am way way overdue in reviewing this audio book. I've listened through twice now and apparently never put my review in writing, a terrible oversight.

I'll put that right now. This is a hard sci fi novel with a core of crunchy technology and the excellent flavour of samurai warrior codex.

The Spherical of the title refers to the programming technology in use within the story. Combat coders float within a sphere of computer code and fight with thier coding skills. Clone bodies are used as weapons, with the combatants leaping from body to body. Over that tastey mix you also have the honour and warrior spirit of the Samurai era and the end result is delightful tech thriller.

The lead character is not all she seems. Her past is about to catch up in the most explosive dynamic way, you'll be hooked and drawn in.

If you enjoyed the beauty of "The Last Samurai" and the tenseness of "Wargames" you'll fall in love with this story too.

As you've probably guessed I loved the story.

The production on the audio book is a little scratchy, some of it being quite harsh. Yet that does not take away from this novel. The harshness of the soundscape and music help to express the feel of the story.

Reading 2
Production 2
Story 3

Total : 7/9

Download from Podiobooks

Listen to the first chapter


Saturday 1 May 2010

The Outlaw of Torn by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Official Blurb


The story is set in 13th century England and concerns the fictitious outlaw Norman of Torn, who purportedly harried the country during the power struggle between King Henry III and Simon de Montfort. Norman is the supposed son of the Frenchman de Vac, once the king's fencing master, who has a grudge against his former employer and raises the boy to be a simple, brutal killing machine with a hatred of all things English. His intentions are partially subverted by a priest who befriends Norman and teaches him his letters and chivalry towards women.

Otherwise, all goes according to plan. By 17, Norman is the best swordsman in all of England; by the age of 18, he has a large bounty on his head, and by the age of 19, he leads the largest band of thieves in all of England. None can catch or best him. In his hatred for the king he even becomes involved in the civil war, which turns the tide in favor of de Montfort. In another guise, that of Roger de Conde, he becomes involved with de Montfort's daughter Bertrade, defending her against her and her father's enemies. She notes in him a curious resemblance to the king's son and heir Prince Edward.

Finally brought to bay in a confrontation with both King Henry and de Montfort, Norman is brought down by the treachery of de Vac, who appears to kill him, though at the cost of his own life. As de Vac dies, he reveals that Norman is in fact Richard, long-lost son of King Henry and Queen Eleanor and brother to Prince Edward. The fencing master had kidnapped the prince as a child to serve as the vehicle of his vengeance against the king. Luckily, Norman/Richard turns out not to be truly dead, surviving to be reconciled to his true father and attain the hand of Bertrade

My Review

Gulp! Rarely does a blurb give away the whole story but in this case... there you go.

Well, onto review details. This story is a seven hour audio book with a medievil theme including and driven by all the great classic motivations. We have anger, revenge, greed, disguise, mystery and of course love, it all adds up into a great story.

The story follow the life of the "outlaw of Torn" from a young lad right up to becoming a major player, able to take on the Barrons of olde England. Although an outlaw our hero is in every way a nobel knight. I'm a sucker for nobel knights and so this story was like an addiction, and I had to keep coming back for more.

At times it reminded me of the Cadfael audio books ( narrated by Derek Jacobi ) that I really love, this was because the language used was of "olde" style. Thee and thy appear throughout. If you've not listened to that kind of language before you might find the first couple of episodes/chapters a bit of a struggle, but stick with it, the story and beatiful prose is worth the effort.

There are two readers in this book, one for the first half and another for the second and both are jolly spiffin. All in All, a good book and well worth downloading!

Reading 3
Production 2
Story 3

Total : 8/9

Download from Librivox

Listen to the first chapter