Friday, April 30, 2010

Spiderman: The Amazing Spiderman (BBC Radio Collection) Story Adaptation by Dirk Maggs

Spiderman: The Amazing Spiderman (BBC Radio Collection)
Story Adaptation by Dirk Maggs
Multi-cast performance
Produced by BBC Audiobooks Ltd (2002)
Approx 2 hours

I have always been a Spider-Man fan, I'm pretty sure I came out of the womb reading the comics, so when I found this gem I had to give it a listen. In 1995, BBC Radio commissioned a Spider-Man audio book which aired on BBC Radio 1 over 50 episodes on week days between January 15, 1996 and March 24, 1996. The performance was co-produced by Brian May who also contributed to the musical arrangement and wrote and performed the theme tune. Yes, the same Brian May that plays lead guitar for Queen. BBC Audiobooks has taken this production and no made it available as a CD audiobook, I haven't looked yet for any download versions.

The run of the production includes a number of familiar characters from the Spider-Man comic books as well as key figures from the Marvel "Heroes" universe such as Fantastic Four, Namor the Submariner, and Doctor Doom. This is a re-telling of the origin of Spider-Man, not exactly as Stan Lee originally wrote it, but pretty darn close. In this version rather than Peter Parker going to a demonstration of Atomic energy (pretty dated sounding, right), he is conducting an experiment at the high school using low level radiation, but a spider gets in the mix and bites our hero. Very similar to the origin the story continues with Peter Parker calling Reed Richards, Mr. Fantastic, of the Fantastic 4 to ask for help, after all he thinks he's turning into a spider.

After finding out the Fantastic 4 are out of office he decides he needs to make some money and goes on the TV circuit performing feats of spider-like ability. After a criminal kills his Uncle Ben, Peter then takes up the crime-fighting mantle. The play then brings on such villains as; the Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, the Sandman, Prince Namor (hero/villain) and Dr. Doom.

My only complaint is that not once in the performance does Peter Parker/Spider-Man's line that is his raison d'etre come out. You know the one, "With great power, comes great responsibility." Stan Lee has been known to say that when he first came up with the phrase for Spidey, it sounded cheesy, but, it is a great life-lesson. But the Brits decided to leave it out of the production. I won't fault them too much because this was fun to hear.

The role of Spider-Man was performed by William Dufries. Also included in the cast list was EastEnders star Anita Dobson. The entire cast and the production meld to make a great comic book to audio book adaptation.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

"The Warrior" A short story by Jim Butcher in the collection "Mean Streets"

"The Warrior"
A short story by Jim Butcher
in the collection "Mean Streets"
Multiple Authors
Multiple readers
Produced by Recorded Books
approx 2 hours (for this story)

I am getting ready to listen to the latest novel about Harry Dresden by Jim Butcher, "Changes" but I had downloaded and put on my iPod this story that occurs earlier in the timeline of the Dresden Files. So, I'm listening to this one first. The entire collection runs about 10 hours in audiobook form and I am continuing with the rest of the book, but I had to stop and let you know about this story.

Before we go further let me tell you about the book "Mean Streets." This collection of original novellas tied to popular crime/fantasy series which include; Thomas E. Sniegoski's "Noah's Orphans," angel PI Remy Chandler must solve the murder of the biblical Arks builder, whose battered corpse is found on an abandoned oil rig. Simon R. Green writes with a slight humor that is similar to that by Jim Butcher in "The Difference a Day Makes," in which PI John Taylor assists a woman who wandered into the the "nightside" a world hidden within London, and another noir type story by Kat Richardson' "The Third Death of the Little Clay Dog" neatly merges noir conventions with a fantastical plot. I'll let you know how those go when I finish the entire collection.

"The Warrior" by Jim Butcher Reveals what happens to the Carpenter family after the events of Small Favor, this story takes place between Small Favor and Turn Coat.

Michael Carpenter, a former Knight of the Cross has turned in his sword, Amoracchius. The weird part is that an Archangel has decided that Harry Dresden, wizard and non-religious, hold the sword until it's new rightful bearer can be find. Harry, from a previous battle, after the death of another Knight of the Cross, Shiro Yoshimo, has possession of another sword, Fidelacchius. Many in the church cannot accept the fact that Harry, an non-believer, has possession of 2 of the 3 swords.

In this story someone is sending Harry photos of the now retired and recovering Michael Carpenter. Harry assuming that Michael is in danger, goes to the Carpenter home and tries to warn him. On the way Harry saves a little girl from being run over by a car. At first this may just seem like a simple piece of the story, maybe more of a filler, but at the end that action makes the world a better place. That's the way Harry rolls.

Upon arrival at the Carpenter house, Harry explains the photos and concerned the Carpenters have Harry spend the night for safety's sake. During the night someone tries to steal the swords, luckily Harry expected this and had fakes in plain sight while the real swords were hidden. On chasing down the thief, harry discovers the man is military trained and protected to an extent against magic.

Harry and Michael track down who is trying to steal the swords and along the way Harry learns about faith and goodwill. Great short story here in the world of the better wizard named Harry. Now to finish this book and get on with "Changes."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"Mortalis - Part 3" The Demon Wars Saga Book 4 by R.A. Salvatore

"Mortalis - Part 3"
The Demon Wars Saga Book 4
by R.A. Salvatore
Multicast performance
Produced by GraphicAudio

The Demon Wars Saga consists of two trilogies and this book, Mortalis, which bridges the two trilogies. The first trilogy tells of Elbryan the Ranger, Pony the warrior, Bradwarden the Centaur, Avelyn the monk, and Juraviel the elf as they battle the demon dactyl, Bestesbulzibar and protect the land of Corona from his evils. Mortalis covers mainly the life of Pony after the war, and develops some new characters.

Once again, GraphicAudio continues to produce this saga in audiobook form with their "Movie in your Mind" concept. R.A. Salvatore provided the great story, but GraphicAudio brings it to life with outstanding acting, super sound effects and subtle, yet effective incidental music.

The Rosey Plague is wreaking havoc in the land of Corona, especially in the kingdom of Honce-the-Bear. The Abellican Church has ordered all its abbeys to be shut and the monks to stay within the walls, so no monk will catch the plague. This is ordered despite the suffering of the common folk outside the walls of the abbeys. King Ursul has ordered the same for all baroneys. The common folk soon lose faith in the church and in their King.

Brother De'Unnero after being turned down once again to be a father abbot, turns against the church and creates a cult following of Brothers Repentant. This following is going throughout the land preaching that the plague is brought on as the wrath of God because the church has lost it's way and the people are sinful. He begins killing those that do not denounce their faith for his religion.

In the meantime Jilseponie (formerly, Poney) is trying to find a cure for the plague, using all her magicks. During a spirit-walk Lady Dasselrond of the Touel'Alfar gives her an ancient scroll where a relief, not a cure, is written to help ease the suffering. Then a vision from the martyred Brother Avelyn may give her the cure, but is it too late?

This exciting conclusion takes the listener back to Mount Aida, to where the demon dactyl, Bestus Bulzibar was destroyed and throughout all the baroneys of the land. Once again the adventure is only made better by the outstanding production from GraphicAudio.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"One Was Stubborn" by L. Ron Hubbard

"One Was Stubborn"
by L. Ron Hubbard
Multi-cast performance
Produced by Galaxy Audio
Approx 2 hours

Every time I listen to one of these pulp fiction stories I get so lost in the story that I forget where I am. I was driving around while listening to this book that I forgot completely where I was supposed to be going. The audio production in these audio books is superb. Everything from the acting, the incidental music and the sound effects are perfectly produced.

The voice acting in these stories carry the sound of the old fashioned radio shows with larger than life characters. This comes a lot from the style of writing that L. Ron Hubbard used when writing for the pulps. The characters and their dialogue at first may seem cheesy but when taken as a whole some of the stories just wouldn't work without that cheese factor. The cheese factor actually is what makes these stories fun, so don't think of cheesy as a bad thing, quite the opposite.

The incidental music that occurs between chapters or sections in the story was composed specifically for the entire run of "Golden Age Stories" from Galaxy Audio. Galaxy Audio has gathered all the short stories and novellas written by L. Ron Hubbard during the 30s through the 50s and have been releasing them as audio pulps. (The audio books also have a paperback "pulp" version for those that want the books.) The music is over the top and subtle at the same time, just plain perfect for these stories.

The sound effects are placed subtly throughout the stories. They don't overwhelm the listener with sound but they move the story along, at times I would hear the effects and appreciate the subtlety of letting me know when a rocket was blasting off, for example, but not detracting from the dialogue or narration.

This audio pulp consists of three stories from the golden age of pulp fiction.

"One Was Stubborn"
This story was originally published in Unknown Fantasy Fiction, October 1940, under the pseudonym Rene La Fayette, and is a simple tale of a man unwilling to watch the world as he knows it vanish. The main character, Old Shellback is the most stubborn man in the universe, he goes in for an eye exam but the doctor's computer says he's depressed and should see the new messiah that is changing the world. Old Shellback simply wants glasses because he can't believe what he is seeing. The Messiah tells Shellback he needs to conform and believe everything or the entire world will not believe in him. Once the population stops believing in Shellback everything disappears. Shellback discovers that to create his world he needs to simply think it into existence and then believe in it. The Messiah doesn't want Shellback to re-create the world and tries to stop him.

"A Can of Vacuum"
Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, December 1949, is a fun story about practical jokes. This one brought out some fun memories of my Navy days. When someone was new to a ship the old salts would have fun with the newbie by sending them on errands that were basically practical jokes. Errands like fetching a bucket of relative bearing grease. All bearings need grease, but in the Navy a relative bearing is where an object is in relation to yourself or the ship. Or maybe send the newbie after three feet of water line. The navy term "line" refers to rope or string, but the waterline is the point on the ship that above that line is above the water and below that line on the hull is below water. Well in this story a new ensign assigned to as space station and sent to gather a quart of Rudy Rays. The Chief that sends him on this fools errand is surprised when he finds the ensign blasting off into space. Soon the rocket is lost and the chief is in trouble for sending the young man out alone as a practical joke, but the ensign comes back and the surprise is what happens next.

"240,000 Miles Straight Up"
Originally published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1948, tells the tale of the importance of the USA being the first to land on the moon. After partying on the night before he is to be the first man on the moon, First Lieutenant Cannon "Angel" Gray, wakes up with a killer of a hangover. Just as the rocket is about to launch the ground crew look up at the moon and see the letters "USSR" written on the moon. The USA is not the first on the moon, it's the Russians, this closes down the US space program, and soon the Russkies have nuclear missiles aimed at the earth, on the moon. The USSR is then overthrown by the Commander on the moon and he soon calls himself the ruler of Earth. When some supplies are needed, Angel is called to man a mission to the moon to possibly overthrow the leader. Can the USA regain power, listen to this exciting tale and find out.

L. Ron Hubbard wrote many stories that were published in the old pulp magazines of the mid 20th century and thanks to Galaxy Audio (and Galaxy Press) these Golden Age Stories can be enjoyed today.

Listen to the audio review below:

Click here to get the MP3 podcast file from

Or click on the graphic below for other sci-fi audiobook reviews...some by me..some not.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"Battlestar Galactica" by Jeffrey A. Carver Published 2006 by Tor Books

"Battlestar Galactica"
by Jeffrey A. Carver
Published 2006 by Tor Books

If you're like me you're probably missing the great series on Sci-Fi channel (I'm sorry I cannot stomach SyFy). I loved the series and watched religiously every episode, I couldn't wait for the next episode to see what would happen next. But sadly the series ended. Sure Sci-Fi now has "Caprica" which is a prequel to the series, but it's just not the same. Once again books come to my rescue, in searching for BSG books I found several that I'll be tearing into. There's the original written by Glen Larson from back in the 70s, I've already read that one. Then Richard Hatch made a run at some BSG 70s era books, but to my pleasure, there are a few written in the re-imagining of the latest BSG books. Here is the first, simply titled "Battlestar Galactica." This book covers the events in the mini-series which launched the 5 season series.

For forty years mankind experienced peace, that was about to change. Man created Cylons, mechanoids that did the work of man. But the Cylons rebelled, they developed sentience and after the Cylon war agreed to go to their own part of the universe so the two "races" could exist separately at peace. To ensure the peace an armistice station was set up so the two could meet annually to ensure the peace was kept. After the first year the Cylons did not show up, but to keep up the human side of the bargain, a representative from the 12 colonies would show up and after 3 days leave. This last time the Cylons showed up. This time to destroy mankind.

The Cylons have evolved, they now have 12 models that appear human in every aspect, even bleeding when shot. This book covers the events where the Cylons have destroyed the colonies and the few survivors of the human race, led by President (formerly Education Secretary) Roslyn and Battlestar Galactica commander Adama. The surviving members of the human race attempt to follow the 13th colony which centuries before left to colonize Earth.

Whether you have seen the series or not this is a very interesting book. Being a fan of the series, reading this book was a breath of fresh air, in that I could relive the exciting series. The writing is pretty much a good copy of the screenplay, in that I could easily picture Edward James Olmos giving orders.

Now I'm off to find other books that may tell side stories from the series, it was nice to revisit, but I'm hungry for new material.

Friday, April 23, 2010

"Dimiter" by William Peter Blatty

by William Peter Blatty
Read by the author
Produced by Macmillan audio
approx 8 hours

The author of "The Exorcist" has a new book out, but don't let that fool you into thinking it's a horror novel. While this book does dwell into some mysticism, it is pretty much a spy thriller. When I first received the audio book I noticed it was read by the author. In audio books this can be a hit or miss situation. In this case I think the jury is still out. The hit is that the author knows what he wrote and what he intended and can impress upon the listener the ideas that are most important in the story. The miss is that while William Peter Blatty has a very interesting voice, at times it is very monotonous and lulls the listener. Also Blatty is not a voice actor and does not distinguish the separate voices within character dialogue. I became very confused as to who was saying what and many times in this book I was lost.

Some of that being lost may also be attributed to the twists and turns Blatty wrote into this tale. In fact, not until the very end is it all explained, and even then there's a bit of mystery to the ending. The story opens in the 1970s in Albania, when a prisoner suspected of being an enemy agent is capture and subjected to horrendous torture. The prisoner is subjected to severe pain but at no time shows pain in either voice or action, in fact he maintains an eerie silence and at times by a simple glance changes the mood of his torturers. The prisoner escapes and completes the mission.

The prisoner is known as Dimiter the American "agent from Hell." Dimiter is notorious for taking on the harder missions and completing them with no error.

The story then jumps to Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital and a series of unexplained deaths encapsulate the a strange mix of personnel. They are all intertwined in the story as the deaths are unfolded and Dimiter's final mission is exposed. The confusion in deaths is mainly the identities of who dies, when one person is discovered dead they name on their papers is not the name of the who the person is. Many times it seems as though the body is Dimiter. But not until the final briefing between American CIA and Israeli forces does the body count begin to make sense. But then after it is all figured out, Blatty throws a final curve ball and the story may not be over.

All in all a very interesting book covering the issues of vengeance, soul searching, loss and love.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Best Bet" - a novel by Laura Pedersen

"Best Bet" - a novel
by Laura Pedersen
Published 2009
by iUniverse Books

I wasn't really sure what I was in for when I received this book. From the looks of the cover, I was thinking it was some sort of chick book leaning heavy on the romance. But we all know that you don't judge a book by the cover. I'm glad I didn't, judge, that is. I read Laura Pedersen's memoir book "Buffalo Gal," so I knew that she was fun to read. Ms. Pederson has a great sense of humor that is carried into this novel perfectly. In fact that's what kept me going throughout the book, every time something heavy would happen one of the Characters (I'll explain the capital "C" in a bit.) would blurt out something and I would be thankful I wasn't drinking milk else it come out my nose. The humor was very funny and at times unexpected.

The reason I capitalized characters is because these characters were Characters. Maybe that still doesn't explain. As I run throught the summary I think you'll get my drift.

The main character is Hallie, she is about to graduate from a midwestern college and move in with her boyfriend Craig. Hallie is getting her degree in graphic design and Craig quit school to start his now successful pond building business. Their plans are foiled when Hallie finds out that the absent-minded advisor advised her wrong and she is 4 credits shy of graduating. The school knows it is there problem and offer she take the 4 credit sociology class no charge. Hallie was planning on moving and another option is that she could take the class at a community college and transfer the credits, but she would have to pay for the course, or she could just not get her degree. As she is leaving her advisor's office she runs into an ex-"boyfriend" and is presented with a 4th option.

This 4th option, to me sounds like a dream opportunity and I would not hesitate, but then I'm not Hallie, she has a job waiting for and a boyfriend that is ready for her to move in with him. The 4th option is an independent study type of sociology class. The professor has created a study in which she will travel around the world dropping wallets with $20 in cash in them and record the rates of return of the wallets and compare to the sociological standings of the various countries. This would require Hallie to answer within a couple of days whether she could drop everything and travel the world.

Here's where the characters come in. Hallie comes from a large family and during her college years has taken up residence with some friends. These friends are of the parental generation for Hallie but not quite. First are 2 gay men, Gil and Bernard (right here I have to say any book with my name in it is worth reading ) Gil runs a local performing arts theater, and Bernard is always cooking some exotic recipe. The two live together and have adopted two Japanese girls. Bernard has taken on the training of the girls' girl scout troop. This troop being the first to know how to mix cocktails and what are the appropriate cocktails and snacks to prepare for any given social occasion. Bernard's mother, Olivia live with them and is constantly protesting or planning a protest for many political agendas.

Bernard overly frets about the safety of Hallie leaving her hometown and only offers up statistics of deaths in other countries. Olivia, says traveling the world is the best way for a young person to know their world and their place in it. Hallie's boyfriend, Craig, does not want her to go and gives her the ultimatum. Marry and stay or go and never see him again. All this time Hallie and her siblings are shocked at finding out that their fairly recently widowed mother is marrying the church pastor.

To keep things short Hallie goes on the trip and throughout the many experiences around the world with the honesty sociology experiment learns to be honest with herself. The return home Hallie is a changed person, yet still the same ole Hallie. In other words there is so much going on in this book that with all the fun you have reading the various events good, bad and downright funny, you learn Hallie was not honest with herself and where she wants to be in the world.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

"Dead Men Kill" by L. Ron Hubbard

"Dead Men Kill"
by L. Ron Hubbard
Multicast performance
Produced by Galaxy Audio
approx 2 hours

For some reason horror fans seem to be drawn to zombies, there are podcasts of zombie stories, several books and of course the re-writing of Jane Austen's novel, "Pride and Prejudice" into "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies." Many fans will consider George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" the beginning of this craze, and the die-hard fans will even think Max Brooks with his "Zombie Survival Guide" as reason for the trend. But back before these guys brought about the flesh eating scourge of zombies, L. Ron Hubbard wrote a mystery that brought the living dead into America.

First published in 1934 in "Thrilling Detective" magazine, "Dead Men Kill" is a great zombie/detective story. Galaxy Audio a branch of Galaxy Press has released this novella as a pulp book and a pulp audio book. The audio book is produced with the same fervor and nostalgia as all the other Hubbard audio books. The narrator keeps you in the story while performing as a narrator from one of the old radio serials. The actors in the performance definitely have that nostalgic feel when having to perform the action in the story that is purely pulp-fiction. The melodramatic delivery of the voice of the zombies on the kill is fun but chilling. Even the incidental music which was composed specifically for the Galaxy Audio Golden Age stories releases will launch you back to the mid-twentieth century when tales were told in magazines for a dime.

The story follows the heroic Detective-Sergeant Terrence "Terry" Lane as he investigates a series of murders among the wealthy in his town and the clues to who did the killing point only to people that have been dead and in the grave for several days. The people of status are all being blackmailed and when they can't pay, someone close to them, that has recently died, comes back to kill them.

Lane's only clue is a receipt from a pharmacy in Haiti, and a note from Loup-Garou, a man who tells Lane to retire from the police force or suffer the same fate. Lane gets some help from a female performer who works at a Haitian night club. The adventures begin and the suspects are plenty as Lane digs up a grave and finds the body missing. The same body is then found to have murdered a banker. Lane is kidnapped, drugged, almost turned into a zombie and escapes from a coffin to find the zombie maker.

With an exciting story and some interesting twists, Hubbard weaves a fun tale from zombie land that will have a chill rolling down your spine.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"Mortalis - Part 2" book 4 of "The Demon Wars Saga" by R. A. Salvatore

"Mortalis - Part 2"
book 4 of "The Demon Wars Saga"
by R. A. Salvatore
Multi-cast performance
Produced by GraphicAudio
Approx 6 hours

The Demon Wars Saga continues with book 4 "Mortalis." Actually, "Mortalis" is the book that bridges the 2 trilogies in the saga. Mortalis sums the happenings of what has happened just after the demon dactyl, Bestis Belzibar has been destroyed, even his spirit which possessed the body of the head of the Abellican Church.

The Demon Wars Saga is a series of books that cover the fantasy realm of the the land of Corona. Where the elves raise rangers to protect the woodlands and humans, Magic is performed by monks through gemstones, and centaurs protect the woodland creatures and play bagpipes. R. A. Salvatore created the series that has taken a life of its own even into a fantasy roleplaying game. GraphicAudio is producing the audio books and releasing them in 6 hour segments thus dividing each book into three parts. This makes the listening easier than having to get lost in the huge series all at once. For the first book and part of the second I was just rolling one right after another, but during the listening of the second book I had to wait for each release and the time in between allowed for me to absorb the story during my downtime.

GraphicAudio does a superb job in producing these audio books. They produce them with their slogan "A Movie in Your Mind" close to heart. These productions are full of great voice actors, sound effects and incidental music that keeps the story rolling and keeps the listener fully submerged in the world created by R.A. Salvatore.

In this edition of the series, Honce-the-bear, a country/state in the land of Corona has just had their Abellican Church fall to the evil of the demon dactyl, and a war with giants, goblins and dwarves. During the reconstruction period the Church, under the orders of the king, is getting their house back in order, but the Rosy Plague has entered the land. This plague is untreatable even by the magic gemstones of the church.

Rogue Abbot/Bishop Marcalo De'Unnaro is sent to St. Gwendoly abbey to find out if the rumors of the plague are true. What he finds is the townsfolk and monks from the abbey mostly dead from the plague. He begins his evil plans to build the church to his own doctrine, but when the new Father Abbot tries to remove him from the Church, he forms a band of Brothers Repentant, seeking to cleanse the land of all its sins. This plan also includes genocide.

Jilseponie, Poney to her friends, has returned to her home to grieve over the grave of Elbryan, the ranger and her husband who was killed in the final battle against the demon spirit. She learns her friend is dying from the plague and brings her to the abbey only to be turned away because all abbeys and the castles have closed their doors to keep out the plague. She is sent out with a handful of the gemstones to see if she can find a cure.

Juravial of the Touel'alfar, the elves, has retrieved a horse for one of the two new rangers that are being trained, one of which the son of Poney and Elbryan. Juravial learns of the plague and returns to the home of the elves where they are also shut off from fear of the plague.

The adventures seem grim but the story is compelling and with the attention to detail production in these audio books you will be wanting for more.

Friday, April 09, 2010

"From Dead to Worse" Book 8 in the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris

"From Dead to Worse"
Book 8 in the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mysteries
by Charlaine Harris

I'm not sure if it is whether I'm becoming more of a fan of these books or if they just keep getting better, but what I do know, is that Charlaine Harris has cram-packed more action into this book than any of the other seven in the series. There's a battle for pack leadership among the werewolves, A hostile coup which leads to the King of the Nevada vampires taking over for Louisiana and Arkansas, and Sookie finds out her great-grandfather is a Fairy Prince. Okay maybe this should all be explained further.

Before I explain the actions in this book I want to say that I'm hoping the HBO series "True Blood," which is based on this series by Charlaine Harris, makes it to eight seasons so I can see this book unfold on my tv. The series is what got me curious about the series, and I'm glad it did. Okay actually it was the book "My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding" (a collection of short stories by various supernatural authors) but I've explained that before. It was after I read the story I heard they were making a series, so I watched the series and was hooked and had to read the books, and the books are way better.

Basically Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic barmaid in Bon Temps, Louisiana, has been forced into the supernatural world after all the world's vampires have come "out of the coffin," which is to say they've revealed their existence to the non-supernatural world. Sookie has fallen in love with a vampire, a werewolf and finally a weretiger. She has found out that she has a real fairy godmother, and that the supernatural has many more creatures which were once only thought to be myth.

In this book, just weeks after the events in "Altogether Dead" and about a year after Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana, Sookie's boyfriend the were-tiger, Quinn, is missing. It's as if he's dropped off the face of the Earth. Just as she decides he'll contact her when he wants, she is confronted outside of Merlotte's (the bar where she works, with her boss Sam the shapeshifter) by an Asian vampire. This vampire says he just wants to find out if what they say about her is true. After all Sookie did save the lives of the Queen of Louisiana and her entourage.

After talking with the area vampire sheriff (Eric Northman, a former lover of Sookie's) she finds he knows of no such person in the area and should alert him if she sees him again. Eric then asks Sookie out for dinner. She accepts and on the way to the restaurant Eric says he's bringing her to meet someone. As it turns out that someone is Sookie's great-grandfather, only not the one she thought she had. It turns out that her real great-grandfather is a fairy prince, Niall Brigant, Niall explains the story and Sookie now has to rethink all her family's history. But that does explain why she is irresistable to the vamps and may explain her telepathic powers. He then says to make up for lost time he wants to give her anything she wants. She can't think of anything but takes a rain check.

On the way home Sookie and Eric are attacked by a werewolf, and as it turns out all the femal pack-members are being targeted. The Shreveport werewolf pack has had been divided and in turmoil since the new leader killed to become the leader now so it looks like the wolves are going to have a major battle, and Sookie is right in the middle, after all one of her former boyfriends, Alcide Herveaux, was the son of the pack leader that was killed. But the twist here is that the attacks are not coming from where everyone thinks.

Now that's just the middle of the book. As the rest of the book progresses Sookie's witch room-mate, who is in hiding because she turned her lover into a cat, is found by her coven leader. The Louisiana vampires left weak and low on monetary assets are under attack by the Nevada vampires in hopes that the Nevada King will take over Louisiana and Arkansas.

This book has non-stop action and mysteries in the supernatural as well as the fun humor and wit that is shared through the entire series. I only hope that the next one is just as good.

Monday, April 05, 2010

"Beyond All Weapons" by L. Ron Hubbard

"Beyond All Weapons"
by L. Ron Hubbard
Multicast performance
Produced by Galaxy Audio
Approx. 2 hours.

I have figured it out, right before I start any audio book which is 10 hours or more of listening time, I'm going to fill in with an intermission of one of these L. Run Hubbard audio pulps. Back in the day before a movie the audience would get treated to a cartoon, serial or news reel. Well these audio pulps released by Galaxy Audio are just like those serials, and some of the stories are "cartoony," in that they are fun and short. These larger than life characters and interesting adventures are the perfect fit for a two hour audio enjoyment.

One of the main reasons for the audio enjoyment is the great acting. In researching these stories, I found they put the actors in the same room at the same time so they can see what each other is doing and work off that, much like the old time radio shows. Another feature is the original music composed specifically for each book. Very creative and innovative audio book production by Galaxy Audio.

The latest in my adventures is the book "Beyond All Weapons," a collection of stories that were originally published in the science-fiction pulps of the 40s and 50s. This audio book contains three sci-fi stories that demonstrate Hubbard's science fiction mastery but also the stories in this particular edition seem to be a bit more brainy. In fact the first one is a very neat explanation of Einstein's theory of Relativity as it pertains to space travel.

Let me sum up each story one by one.

"Beyond All Weapons", originally published in "Super Science Stories," January, 1950 is about the colonists of Mars wanting to get away from and destroy the tyrannical war mongers that have taken over Earth and threaten to take over Mars. The fighters have recently acquired a new fuel that will enable them to reach light speed and take the "refugees" out of the system. They manage to have enough for ships to arrive at a new habitable planet after 9 days, covering several thousand light years. Once settled on the planet they make a weapon that will enable them to return to Earth and defeat the tyrannical government. But returning to Earth they find all life gone. The twist in the story not only gives the brain a good physica problem to solve but Hubbard has also built in a bit of a morality tale into this story that will leave thinking philosophically.

"Strain," originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, April 1942, tells of a prisoner of war and how the enemy tortures him to find the secrets of an impending invasion. This story is one of futility and pain as the officer does everything he can think of to escape and once that is determined to be an unobtainable goal he becomes determined not to share the secrets. Once again Hubbard throws that inevitable twist in the story that would leave a fan of "The Twilight Zone," gasping.

The final story "The Invaders," originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, January 1942, is a little more of a light-hearted story, especially when compared to the previous two emotional stories. This one tells of a technician that was sent to a nebula where a rare and valuable crystal is being mined. However the miners are under constant attack from beings that seem to adapt to each weapon being used. The technician is sent to create a new weapon that will destroy the creatures so the crystal can be mined safely. The officer in charge of the the mining facility seems to do everything to keep the technician from destroying the creatures. The technician wants to explore outside the nebula and deep inside, with no real concern for the creatures, but the officer just wants his weapon. Eventually the problem is solved but I will warn you, this one is very deep philosophically and yet a bit humorous.

All in all these pulps bring back the years of the pulp magazines of the mid 20th century and bring back some fun stories that should not be forgotten.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

"Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers" By Grant Naylor

"Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers"
By Grant Naylor
Multicast Performance
BBC radio broadcast of Abridged audiobook
Approx 3 hours.

Recently I watched the entire 8 seasons of the British space comedy TV series, Red Dwarf. I didn't watch the series much when it actually aired (on PBS here in the states), but I did catch a few episodes and thought them to be funny...very funny actually, with that great sarcasm and dry wit that the Brits do best. After watching all 8 seasons, I kept asking, "Is that all?" It couldn't be there was too much more fun to be had. The actors were brilliant in their roles as a diverse set of characters pretty much marooned in space, at least until season 7, then things got weird (weirder?). Anyway as I found out that wasn't all. There are books out there, my fave, cool, let me at 'em. I found that the first book had been broadcast on BBC Radio with the original cast and that's the one I had to get. After all Douglas Adams made some great strides in the retelling of his "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" on BBC Radio, so this had to be great. Yes it was and more so.

Here's the premise of the series "Red Dwarf;" Dave Lister is one of the lowliest crew members on the interstellar mining ship Red Dwarf. He's the guy that cleans the gunk out of the chicken soup vending machines. Arnold Rimmer is is boss of sorts. Dave is a laid back curry eating, beer drinking, cigarette smoking slob who just wants to go back to Earth. Arnold Rimmer is the overachiever that never can pass his officer's exam. They are bunk mates on the Red Dwarf. On the last day of their lives, okay last day of Rimmer's life, Dave is placed in time stasis as punishment for bringing an unquarantined animal (a cat by the name of Frankenstein) on board. Time stasis is a pretty cool punishment, if you ask me. The punished is locked in and for the time of sentence (3 years in Lister's case) time goes by for everyone else and not you, okay you lose 3 years of pay in this case, but to the punished it only takes a moment.

Alright, so Lister is locked into stasis. The Red Dwarf then has a core meltdown creating hydrogen bomb effect on board, thus all lifeforms destroyed but electronics and the ship are fine. So Lister is release out of stasis 3 million years later after all harm of radiation has passed and he finds himself not only alone on the ship but alone in the universe, yes the human race is extinct. So the ships computer, Hollie, revives Lister's bunkmate, Rimmer, as a hologram. The technology is so energy consumptive that the ship's resource can only support one hologram. The problem is what Hollie thinks may save Lister's sanity, actually may cause him to go insane, picture "The Odd Couple" in space and you have the comedy makings of this fiasco.

It is soon discovered that during the 3 million years that infamous cat of Lister's was safe behind cargo bay doors and reproduced over the timespan and eventually the cats evolved over 3 million years into Felis Sapiens. Humanoids but still cats at heart, any cat lover would love this character. Later in this book after discovering a crash landed Earth space craft the crew is rounded out with Kryten, a mechanoid, a robot designed to serve.

This audiobook is basically a retelling of the first season of the series and a portion of season two. The additional material is what makes this a big bonus. Not only do you get the retelling but also some back story, like how Lister got to be on the Red Dwarf, more information on the evolution of Cat, and some extra fun information.

If you are a fan of Red Dwarf, you'll love this audio book, If you have never watched a single episode, check out this audio book and then get ready for the urge to watch the series.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

"First Lord's Fury" Book six of the Codex Alera by Jim Butcher

"First Lord's Fury"
Book six of the Codex Alera
by Jim Butcher
Published November 2009 by ACE

Shakespeare said,"there is no new thing under the sun." and The Bible says the same, (Ecclesiastes 1:9-14 NIV) "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." So I've often wondered if writers will ever run out of material to write about. After some pondering I've somewhat come to agree with Billy S. and the Bible, but I think it's all a matter of how you tell it. The reason I bring this up is that while reading this final book in the "Codex Alera," by Jim Butcher, I found myself comparing the events in this book (and series as a whole) to some of my other favorites in fiction. While the uneducated would call it stealing, I definitely don't see it that way and accepted the fact that Jim Butcher is a master story teller and if he borrows ideas, or just simply comes up with ideas that have been used by others, the bully for him. In fact the real genius in these books is that Butcher takes several different elements in fiction and rolls them up to create a gooey sticky delicious fantasy adventure that should be on everyone's reading list.

Let me first give you my comparisons. First we have the major enemy of the land of Alera, the Vord. The Vord is an unrelenting hive-mind enemy led by a single queen. They assimilate those they conquer (as well as creating bug like creatures) and their goal is total destruction until there is nothing but Vord. I found myself comparing the Vord to a combination of The Borg, from the Star Trek Series' and the bugs from Starship Troopers. They did share qualities but Jim Butcher created the ultimat destructive force when he created the Vord.

The series of books follows the life of Tavi, later Gaius Octavian. A young man that could not control the magic of "furies." The furies are representations of the elements, earth, water, fire, air, steel and those that control them usually specialize in a particular fury element and have powers related to those furies. For example, those that control air furies can fly, steel and earth furies have extreme strength and so on. As the series progress it is learned that Tavi had the power of fury-crafting somewhat hidden by his mother so he would be safe. Also as the series progressed Tavi not only learned fury-crafting but became better at it than any other Aleran. This aspect reminded me of the progression of the powers and secrets behind J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.

During the telling of the tale of Tavi, and as he grows stronger, he must travel to other lands and recruit help from many forces and races to bring a war to the evil that is the Vord. He recruits the Murat a fighting race that take on the resemblance of the different animals they "bond" with. He recruits the Canim, a wolf like race that, as it turns out, was run out of their lands by the Vord. this aspect reminds me of the entire "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Once again I have to say, yes they have similarities, but Jim Butcher finds a way to meld these ideas into an entertaining series. So while there may be nothing new, Jim Butcher has found a way to make it seem new in this wonderful tale. Therefore, it's all in the storytelling.

Now to talk about this book. Basically there are three fronts for the final battle between the Alerans ( now including the Canim and the Murat); The hive itself where the Vord Queen has taken Tavi's mother hostage, and directs her swarm of Vord alongside Lady Invidia, a traitor to her kind. The northland and into the city of Reva with Tavi and his forces of Aleran Legions and Canim warriors. This one is constantly moving to what will be the final battle in the third and final front in the war Calderon. This is the safest place in all Alera and the battles from the fortified city are some of the best in the series.

As the three fronts merge into one final battle site the characters all grow stronger and as the reader I became completely immersed in their lives and at times kept wanting to put the book down, only because I did not want it to end. After all this is the final book in the series. Tavi learns Kitai is pregnant, traitors are exposed and dealt with and assassination attempts are thwarted.

So with all the melding of great ideas and the super storytelling ability of Jim Butcher, the Codex Alera comes to an end with one of the greatest battles ever and leaving the reader wanting more.

Thank you Jim Butcher.