Monday, February 28, 2011

"Wondrous Strange" by Lesley Livingston

"Wondrous Strange"
by Lesley Livingston
read by author
Produced by Harper Audio
Approx 7 Hours

Kelly Winslow, an aspiring actress in New York City, has just had her big break, when the actress portraying Titania in Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream" has been injured and Kelly goes from being the understudy to the lead actress. But not all is as good as it seems. Kelly soon learns the world of Fairy and Fae is real, and worse yet, the Winter King, Oberon is not only real but is her real father. This at first may sound good to suddenly find you are a Fairy Princess, but the Fairy-folk are really not a friendly bunch. Someone in the Fairy world has decided they don't want Kelly to realize her birthright.

The troubles all begin when Kelly is rehearsing her lines in Central Park and Sonny Flannery, a Janus Guard for King Oberon (unbeknownst to Kelly) notices something different about Kelly. Spying on her from the bushes he sees she is having a bad day (seems she forgot her lines during rehearsal and the director was a bit cruel). Sonny can't shake the feeling that she is different from most humans so curious he presents her with a rose. Kelly asks why and Sonny says you look like you needed something nice. When they part Kelly begins walking home through Central Park and hears the sound of someone screaming from a pond. It turns out not to be someone but a something, a horse. With Sonny long gone, Kelly realizes no one is around to help so she dives in to save the drowning horse. Kelly risks her life to save the horse that seems to be tangled in the vegetation of the bottom of the pond.

The next day Sonny discovers the area where someone was dragged on shore the mud in the grass and some mysterious black beads and copper colored horse's hairs. Sonny knows the hairs for what they are, Kelpie hairs. Kelpies are fairy creatures that lure people into the water and eat them. When Sonny finds Kelly's script nearby he fears the worst. Sonny shows Oberon the beads which Oberon immediately knows them as part of a spell that is set to begin the Great Hunt in which all the evils of the fairy world will be unleashed into the mortal world killing all in sight until the quarry is found. This time the target is Oberon's daughter.

Sonny must save Kelly from the fairyworld by letting her know who she is. At the same time he must find out who is trying to unleash the Hunt. He suspects Queen Maab, but with a very interesting twist in the tale, the author, Lesley Livingston, creates a bit of a mystery into this fairy tale set in modern day New York City. Very entertaining bit of young adult fiction that will keep you enthralled until the end. This book is part one of a three book series but is easily a standalone novel.

I have to note that at first I was a bit leery at the idea of the author reading her own work as the audiobook. While the authors may have a great feel for what is in the book, the performance as a reader can sometimes lack. Not so with Lesley Livingstone, she does a superb job of performing the many different voices and expressing all necessary emotion. This audiobook is an excellent choice from that aspect alone.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Yukon Madness" by L. Ron Hubbard

"Yukon Madness"
by L. Ron Hubbard
Multicast performance
produced 2010 by Galaxy Audio
Approx 2 hours

I keep diving into my collection of L. Ron Hubbard stories that have been re-released by Galaxy Press and Galaxy Audio. Back in the days of old (okay, the mid-20th century), writers could make money for about a nickel a word by publishing short stories in the pulps. The pulps were magazines that printed short stories that were printed on cheaper paper to keep the price down to about 5 or 10 cents per issue. The cheaper paper was pulpy and lumpy and the stories from that time are referred to as pulp fiction. Hubbard wrote many stories from this time period, often referred to as the Golden Age of Stories. Galaxy Press and Galaxy Audio are keeping the pulp fiction feel by re-printing these stories in short books that closely resemble the old pulps using the original artwork and keeping the books at 120 pages or so and feature from one to three stories. The cool part is that with the audio books they are creating an audio pulp. The audio books all come out to be about 2 hours and feature a fully produced (with sound effects) and multi-cast performance that sound like the old radio dramas from around the same time period.

"Yukon Madness," originally published in"Mystery Adventures" Aug 1935, tells of the hunt for Itauk the Madman who has spread death to the Yukon, throwing the bodies of his victims to his sled team of twelve wolves. Tracking him down are Canadian Mountie Tommy McKenna and his partner Simmons. But when the pair separate to hunt for food, Itauk attacks Simmons and lets his wolves make an unmentionable feast that Tommy later discovers on his return to camp.
Enraged, Tommy follows the maniac's trail to a village and en route he meets an enchanting Eskimo woman named Kaja. Of course, the route's a trap set by Itauk, and the only one who can save Tommy is Kaja, who is engaged to be wed to the ruthless killer, and who plans to serve the Mountie as the next meal for his personal wolf pack. Though wounded, Mounty Tom McKenna uses a ruse to vanquish the rampaging Itauk the Madman, and then leaves him to the wolves. This makes for a fun short story that is over before you know it and just enough time to get your adrenaline up.

"The Cossack" was originally published in the May-June, 1935 issue of "Unknown" This one is a sad tale of love lost and betrayal of a leader. Colonel Komroff has caught the eye of the Duchess in revolutionary Russia. The only problem is; Komroff has a woman waiting for him back home. The Duchess could give him everything including advancements in his career. When she offers him an advancement in rank all she asks in return is a kiss. Komroff spurns her advances and she ships him off to a far off post. For months he waits for a letter from his girl back home but not a single one arrives, when finally he receives notice she was poisoned. When he confronts the Duchess and he still rejects her she has him killed before a firing squad. Luckily Komroff has friends and is snuck out of town. Jump ahead some time and the Duchess is driven out into hiding as the country seeks to destroy communism. She sees Komroff fighting in the enemy's army and in a final confrontation worthy of a great opera the tragedy unfolds.

The Small Boss of Nunaloha "South Sea Stories" Feb 1940
A man short in stature but large in courage, is in charge of a small trading post on the south seas island of Nunahola. When a pirate attempts to take over the man is beaten by the pirate, but continually defies him driving the pirate mad and eventually away from the Island.

So, in this short audio book we travel from The Great White North, to Revolutionary Russia to a South Seas Island, some great adventure with tales that range in emotion as they do locale.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Kingdom Come" adapted by John Whitman based on a story by Mark Waid and Alex Ross and the novelization by Elliot S. Maggin.

"Kingdom Come"
adapted by John Whitman
based on a story by Mark Waid and Alex Ross and the novelization by Elliot S. Maggin.
Multi-cast performance
Published 1998 byTime Warner AudioBooks
approx. 3 hours

I have only recently become a fan of DC comics. Throughout most of my life I was mostly a Marvel comics fan, especially Spider-Man, because Marvel seemed to me to be more of an Everyman becoming a hero, and DC heroes were rich or from other planets. Sure, I crossed over once in a while for The Flash, and Batman, but that was pretty much it. I'm not sure if it is because I got older or DC comics decided to become more Everyman but I've recently been dipping into the DC pool. A lot of this influence is because of my experience with some great DC comics audiobooks. This storyline I ran across accidentally while looking for more comic/novel based audiobooks. This one was originally done as an audio drama with full sound effects and actors voicing each character. This seemed up my alley so, I gave it a listen and was treated to some fun superhero action.

I mentioned Everyman aspects of comics that I prefer because this book actually looks at the Heroes as gods aspect that I didn't like. It seems that many people of the Earth in this DC comics creation didn't like it either. Before I go into that further, a neat aspect of this story is the combination of the Book of Revelations from the Holy Bible with the possible end of the world that could happen thanks to the battles between super heroes and super villains. Pastor Norman McKay is receiving visions of the end of times, the mysterious hero The Spectre, takes Pastor McKay on a trip through time and space to the various heroes and what has brought about this end of times.

The Earth has a sudden influx of MetaHumans, these are humans that have developed super hero type abilities. When one metahuman, known as Magog, kills the Joker, it seems this would be a good thing, but a hospital full of patients and one Lois Lane, wife of Superman, is collateral damage, does not seem to bother this new breed of metahumans. Superman retires to his Fortress of Solitude and leaves mankind to fend for itself. Jump ahead a few years and the metahumans have gotten rid of all the super villains and now they are bored. So instead of just sitting back and enjoying they peace they begin to battle each other, every time taking out large chunks of various cities. When Magog and a group of metahumans destroy Kansas, Wonder Woman seeks out Superman so they can put a stop to all the metahumans, kind of like the band is getting back together for the Justice League, but, it's not all that easy, it seems Lex Luthor has survived and is getting the villains remaining back together for one final battle.

Can the Justice Leage reform and put aside years of apathy and ill-feelings? This story has some great battles and some great action with an ending only a comic book could put together.

This audio drama packs a pretty good superhero punch with some great voice acting and some excellent sound effects to keep you in the moment. My only beef is with that of the actor portraying Pastor McKay. He is shown all the destruction and despair and on top of that is receiving vision of a Revelations scale, yet he's extremely chipper and happy throughout his dialogue. He just didn't seem believable. Everything else was excellent.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"The Baron of Coyote River" by L. Ron Hubbard

"The Baron of Coyote River"
by L. Ron Hubbard
Multicast performance
Produced 2010 by Galaxy Audio
approx. 2 hours

Once again I listen to a genre I never thought I would even look for, Westerns. These audiobooks by Galaxy Audio have a little extra oomph that keep me coming back. Galaxy Audio have been re-releasing the early works of L. Ron Hubbard, specifically his stories that were originally published in the pulp fiction magazines of the mid-20th century. Galaxy Press and Galaxy Audio have taken extra care to keep that pulp fiction feel of these stories. Many of the short stories fit 2 or 3 per audio book but some are short novellas that fill a Galaxy Press pulp or a Galaxy Audio audio pulp. With the audio books you feel as though you are listening to an old radio drama from around the same time period.

This book contains two stories from the pulps by Hubbard; "The Baron of Coyote River," originally published published in "All Western" in September 1936 and "The Reign of the Gila Monster," originally published in "Western Aces" in September 1937. Both of these stories are fun westerns that contain the little Hubbard twists that keep the listener / reader on the edge of their seats or anxious to turn the page to find out what happens next.

What gives these audio books the radio drama sound is a combination of the excellent voice acting, the realistic sound effects and exclusively written music. During the stampede scene in the first story you feel as though you have been thrown on a horse and thrown in the middle of the story, the sound effects were very well done. The casts for all these stories always create characters that are fun to hear and Jim Meskimen narrates the stories with such professionalism the listener just slides into the story. In the second story of this book the narrator is not Meskimen but they have placed in his place (hard shoes to fill) the actor Bruce Boxleitner (Babylon 5, The Scarecrow & Mrs. King). Boxleitner does a superb job as guest narrator, giving the listener the feel of sitting around a campfire hearing the tale.

Before I get into the separate stories I feel I need to express something. Many people's first response when seeing Hubbard's name is to immediately have some remark about Scientology. But what needs to be remembered or learned is that before that Hubbard was a master storyteller. These Golden Age stories prove that point in that they are all fantastic and fun short stories that within just a few pages create such enthralling characters and settings. So before you have anything to say about the religion aspect of Hubbard's life, put that out of your mind and just listen to or read a great story.

The first story is the title story, "The Baron of Coyote River." Lance Gordon is an outlaw that is wanted for killing a deputy marshall, but when he arrives in Santos in the territory of Arizona, he ends up working for the other side of the law. It is well known around Santos, that the Baron is a cattle thief and that he hires only the best gunmen to protect his ill gotten cattle. Even the cavalry won't ride into his territory. A local gunman and former cattleman rescues Lance as the sheriff attempts to haul him off to jail. The reason being is the stranger sees in Lance a chance to get his beloved cows back. At this point I have to tell you Hubbard can throw humor into a story that will surprise you. In this story the humor comes from the strangers affection toward his cows, each time he would describe his stolen cows I found myself laughing out loud, yep, I LOL'd. Anyway, back to the story. The stranger and Lance infiltrate the Baron's land and set out to stop this man who is making a mockery of the Territory of Arizona and keeping it from becoming a state. All the way to the very end you will keep trying to guess what will happen next but the end will still surprise you.

The second story, "The Reign of the Gila Monster," is a very funny western story in which Howdy Johnson has set out to create the roughest, toughest town in the west, Powderville. As he gets the town rolling, he leaves to recruit the cowboys that are herding their stock to Chicago to stop in Powderville, thus giving the cowboys a rest on the way and creating an economic boon for the town. While he is a way a man named Gilman (the Gila Monster) comes to town and seems to be rougher and tougher than the town itself, makes himself the Marshall and imposes taxes on everything possible and even the impossible. When Howdy hears of this he has to return to the town to take back what is his. This story has so many funny moments and great dialogue that it should be read over and over to catch it all. Some of the funniest lines are in the description of Gilman, "His hat ... looked bigger than an umbrella." "He had once stepped on [a] hound dog, and ... not even an inch of the animal's tail was visible." "He could take a bottle of whiskey in his hand, close his finger, and say, 'Which one have I got it in?'"

Both great stories that will keep you entertained and help escape whatever you need to escape.

Friday, February 18, 2011

"The Looking Glass Wars" by Frank Beddor

"The Looking Glass Wars"
by Frank Beddor
read by Gerard Doyle
produced 2007 by Scholastic Audio
Approx 9 hours

What if the story of Alice in Wonderland was a true story? All the surrealism, the absurdities, the nonsense was just to make it more digestible to us. That's the approach Frank Beddor uses in his take on the Lewis Carroll classic. In this book Princess Alyss (yep, that's the way she spells it) is celebrating her 7th birthday in Wonderland. Her mother is Queen Genevieve Heart and the ruler in the Queendom of Wonderland which is ruled with imagination and is the source of imagination for all other worlds. Her Aunt, Redd, has been in exile and uses the celebration of Alyss's birthday to distract the citizens as she and her card army invade.

In this story the characters in Carroll's book are fictionalized version of the real Wonderland characters. The Reverend Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll's real name) writes the book after listening to Alice, who cannot seem to convince people it is spelled "Alyss," and changes some of the names and events for the book. The White Rabbit is actually Alyss's tutor Bibwit Harte (anagram there), the Mad Hatter is Hatter Madigan, a member of the Millinery which is Wonderland's military, and is almost a dark character who is Alyss's bodyguard but has the abilities and weapons of an assassin. The parliament of Wonderland is ruled by representatives from different card suits; clubs, diamonds and spades. Alyss's best friend is Dodge Anders who is the son of a guard who seems to be a real and dedicated friend, but the Jack of Diamonds is destined to wed Alyss and is always causing trouble for the young Dodge.

While Redd's army invades Wonderland, Alyss and Hatter escape with the help of Dodge Anders as Redd kills Alyss's mother and father and takes over the throne. Dodge's father, the captain of the guards is killed by The Cat and Redd then orders The Cat to kill Alyss and Hatter. Alyss and Hatter barely escape to "our" world through the pool of tears. The problem is that Alyss ends up in London and Hatter ends up in Paris. Hatter then spends the next 13 years trying to find Alyss, and finally discovers where she is after Carroll's book is published.

During this 13 years Alyss is at first taken in by some street urchins, where her power of imagination is used to beg for money, but the powers are fading the longer she is away from Wonderland. She is caught by authorities and sent to an orphanage where she is constantly made fun of because of her imagination. She is then adopted by the Liddles where she meets Reverend Dodgson and he publishes her stories. Because he changes the stories Alyss refuses to ever see him again. Alyss also renounces her imagination and chooses to become "normal."

Hatter finds Alyss but is chased down by authorities because when he finds her she is engaged to be married to Prince Leopold and Hatter is loaded down with weapons and seems a threat to the Prince. When he arrives back in Wonderland he is shot and cannot return but Dodge Anders, now grown up volunteers to retrieve Alyss so she can battle Redd and restore Wonderland.

While still maintaining a resemblance to the original story Beddor creates a fun adventure with imagination and thrills. The reader, Gerard Doyle, does a superb job acting out this book giving each character their own voice and through some fun audio tricks creates some special effects for a few of the characters and events. Definitely a must read for any Wonderland fan.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Hurricane" by L. Ron Hubbard

by L. Ron Hubbard
Multicast Performance
Produced by Galaxy Audio
Approx 2 hours

It's time to go on another far flung adventure with a classic story from the Golden Age of stories by L. Ron Hubbard. Once again I listened to another audiobook release from Galaxy Audio, where they are re-releasing Hubbard's pulp-fiction stories from the mid-20th century. This time around we have a far flung adventure that is full of excitement and trills. This story was originally published in "Five Novels Monthly" in June of 1936 and is a timeless adventure.

Captain Spar was wrongly accused of a crime and sent to Devil's Island penal colony. He was framed by a man called The Saint, when Spar escapes from the island prison he vows to seek revenge on the man who sent him there. Spar arrives on Martinique to exact that revenge but gets tricked by a man named Chaktar. Spar is sent to deliver a package but soon learns he was set up and must either kill the two men sent after him or be killed. Chaktar finds Spar over the bodies and makes a deal that Spar assist him in framing the son of the local millionaire. Spar then tells that the son, in a drunken stupor is the one responsible for killing the men, and being an well known drunkard the son doesn't recall either way. Fearing prison the father sends his son off and since Spar is the only mariner on the island gets trapped into taking the son and some of the family to New York.

On the voyage to the states a hurricane begins to blow and in order to seek shelter Spar is forced by one of the island's Counts to anchor off an island called Hurricane Hill. Here the count has a cabin where they can safely shelter from the storm. It turns out that the cabin is a castle on the island where screams of torture can be heard and the count is not who he says he is. Spar must now rescue the family and escape Hurricane Hill.

Once again Hubbard has written an exciting adventure that is part high-seas and part island drama. It's stories like this one that makes me glad these audiobooks are only about two hours in length, I don't think my body could handle any more adrenaline pumping into my system than what these two hours pumped in.

As usual the excitement is made even more thrilling through the superb production Galaxy Audio puts behind these audiobooks. Excellent voice acting, sound effects that keep the story thrilling, and incidental music that makes you feel as though you are in an old time radio drama. I highly recommend checking out these audiobooks they are just too fun.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Fantasy in Death (In Death Series) by J. D. Robb

Fantasy in Death (In Death Series)
by J. D. Robb
Read by Susan Ericksen
Produced 2010 by Brilliance Audio
approx 12 Hours

I love a good mystery and I love sci-fi, when I first started reading these " Death" books by J.D. Robb (a.k.a. Nora Roberts) I knew I was gonna be hooked. Here it is the 30th book in the series and I haven't given up yet. I will admit in the earlier books I was almost ready to stop reading this series because of the nearly softcore porn sections. But Robb/Roberts has toned it down some and the skip feature on my iPod is ready for use, for this book I only had to skip ahead for about 10 minutes, in the earlier books I would have had to skip at least 30 minutes worth of the book to get back to the story. Yeah, I know Roberts is a romance writer first, but the sex scenes just don't fit in with these stories. She writes great mysteries, and throws in enough sci-fi (the books are set around the years 2050 - 2060) to keep them fun. Skipping over the sex scenes does not lose anything to do with the story. If only she would cut them out completely, they are completely uncalled for and do not add to the story in any way.

Okay, that being said let's talk about this book. This book should offer up a bit of fun for the cyber-geek, mystery fan and general sci-fi fan alike. Like I said with the stories in this series set in the near future, Robb/Roberts adds just enough tech stuff to enhance the stories. Here's a small example, flying cars, offworld prisons, offworld resorts & casinos, wrist unit communications (video & audio), serious computer hacking, laser type stunners and blasters, holodecks for gaming & fun and more. This story dives head first into future gaming via VR and holodecks. Bart Minnock is one of the founders of U-Play, a gaming corporation, he and his 3 partners have created a fairly successful gaming company and they are on the verge of releasing the latest in greatest in gaming. This new game will be the ultimate in gaming, allowing the user to create and control virtually every aspect of the game. Bart gets home from work and goes into the holoroom to test out the latest version of the game in preparation for the game, "Fantastical," release. The next day he is found decapitated in his holo room and that's where NYPSD homicide detective Lt. Eve Dallas comes in. She fights for the dead.

When Lt. Dallas and her team of detectives begin looking into the case they can find no reason why Minnock would be murdered, let alone decapitated. He was a genius, likable and friendly. His company was run by him and 3 other friends who all met in college and put together the gaming braintrust that is U-Play. The partners all have equal parts in the biz. The only thing Eve can figure out is that it is jealousy, but at first go round everyone has nothing but respect for Minnock. As she digs deeper she realizes that one of the partners is the murderer, but how? The security records and videos all show Bart was alone until his body was discovered by his girlfriend and servant droid the next day.

So how does a murderer get into a secure building with extra security on the locked holoroom? Dallas searches for the possible murder weapon, a sword that can send electrical jolts. When this hits a dead end she then locks on to an idea that at first, seems to break the laws of physics. When she begins looking harder at the remaining three partners in the company another is murdered. This time Dallas has her suspect but the problem is to prove how the crime was committed. Non-stop action, mystery and suspense.

Robb/Roberts has had 30 books and numerous short stories to develop the characters in this series and from book one every single one of the characters are full of depth. Each one has a history and life goals and Robb/Roberts brings these to each character creating full four dimensional characters that the reader/listener can fully relate to and actually want to know. From Lt. Dallas all the way down to McNabb the Electronics division detective they are all fully formed and a critical part of every story, including this one.

The reader, Susan Ericksen, brings these characters to life by highlighting each characters depth with each one having their own voice. Ericksen vocally manipulates each character's voice to where these books sound as though they are a multi-cast performance. Ericksen is supremely talented in voice work and she brings it all to the table when voicing this series.

Friday, February 11, 2011

"Autumn" by David Moody

by David Moody
Published 2010 by Thomas Dunne books
308 pages

Before I start into this book I have to clarify some of the history behind this book. First of all it was written as web series online and developed into a book. The original printing of the book went out of print but after the success of Moody's books "Hater" and "Dog Blood" the book and the other 3 in the series get a new life. This is the first book in a series of zombie thrillers written by Moody.

It seems David Moody has a talent when it comes to writing zombie stories but not your regular zombie stories. In the books "Hater" and "Dog Blood," Moody wrote about a disease or disorder that caused a percentage of the population to attack with unbridled rage. These "haters" were zombie like in their action but not really. In this book the zombies are walking dead bodies, but they don't seem to attack and eat flesh.

To start things off in this zombie book, the world is suddenly torn apart by a disease that within a few hours leaves people suddenly dead. There seem to be a few that are immune and they face the horrors of their friends and loved ones suddenly choking up blood and dying where they stand. The sudden deaths leave several vehicles wrecked and bodies lying in the way.

A couple of people find they aren't the only ones that survived and set up a vehicle with a stereo playing and light a bon fire. The few survivors around hear the music and see the fire and begin moving toward the sound and light in a quiet dead world. A group of people gather in a small town community center, all in shock and all not knowing what has happened or what to do next. They all simply huddle together in the community center seeking the comfort of the living. Before anyone can work out what to do next the contagion takes a turn toward horror.

Some of the dead bodies lying around the community center begin walking around. At first a couple of the living think they may be coming back to life but after bringing in one of the walking corpses they realize that the dead are still dead and the reanimation is only a physical thing, the body is still decomposing, and there is no life or spark in the eyes of the walking dead. The bodies are all simply walking until something gets in the way then they change direction. Carl, Michael and Emma decide they don't want to just stay put and wait to see what happens, they want to leave the community center and find shelter where there are less walking dead. Out in the country sounds logical, less population means less bodies. The others in the center reject the proposal after one of the walking dead begins to try to get into the center.

After acquiring a van and some essential food items the 3 venture out and find just outside a small town a farm house. The house seems to be perfect, ought of site, hard to find, and with a generator. They begin setting up house after removing the corpse in the living room and begin working on the generator and soon get it running. The noise of the generator begins to attract the walking dead so they have to limit their time running it. The walking dead now seem to be developing into something more than just motor skills, they seem to be able to react to sound. After going into town for more supplies, the trio realize the danger of the masses of undead when they are attacked at the supermarket. The attack is not a typical zombie attack from other zombie stories where the undead attack and rip off flesh and begin eating the living. Instead the danger is in the masses. Several dozen walking dead can create a force much like a tsunami.

David Moody writes this zombie story with what at first seems like a peaceful story where the living have to learn how to adjust to a new world, but when the masses of walking dead begin to herd together the danger is not in being eaten by the undead but by trying to survive flood. Moody has written this story with a major creep factor that will keep you reading. I had a hard time putting this book down and when I did, I made sure all my doors were shut and would peek out the curtains to make sure nothing was moving around that shouldn't be.

I know I can't wait for the next book in this series, mainly because of the cliffhanger at the end but also because Moody can scare you without the violence of a typical zombie thriller.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

"Inky Odds" by L. Ron Hubbard

"Inky Odds"
by L. Ron Hubbard
Multi-cast performance
Produced by Galaxy Audio
Approx 2 hours.

I'm really having a lot of fun exploring in the orient with L. Ron Hubbard. Okay what this means, in case you are new to the Stories from the Golden Age, is that one of the genres L. Ron Hubbard wrote in when he wrote for the pulp fiction magazines back in the early to mid 20th century was "Adventures in the Orient" and listening to the recently released audio books produced by Galaxy Audio I am having a blast and each story seems as though I'm transported through time and space to visit the lands and time of which Hubbard wrote these intriguing stories.

Actually out of all the genres I can't pick which is my favorite. There are Air adventures, Sea Adventures, Far Flung Adventures, Adventures in the Orient, Science-Fiction, Fantasy and Westerns. Okay, really I can say that the Sci-fi and Fantasy are my faves but as for the others they all are fun to hear. Especially with the outstanding production quality issued by Galaxy Audio. Excellent voice actors, special effects and original music push these stories out to create a life of their own.

This adventure in the orient is called "Inky Odds" was originally published in June of 1940 and tells the tale of the best newspaper correspondent in China, Bat Conroy of World Press, and an ambitious new correspondent, Perry Lane of International Service, who beats him to the “scoop,” cross paths in the war-ravaged country. Actually the story is Bat's story and trying to figure out who this Perry Lane is and how he's scooping Bat on every story. Now as a listener in the 21st century the mystery is not so much of a mystery. But when putting the story in the perspective of the time it was written, they mystery remains a mystery to Bat Conroy until the very end. This is another story that shows how L. Ron Hubbard's fiction writing was a bit ahead of its time.

The biggest story of the war between Japan and China breaks out and Bat is not only there to report on it but he helps in the story. A group of Americans are holed up in the Consulate in a Chinese city that is under siege by the Japanese army. Among the Americans is a doctor whose wife has found her long lost husband and insists on going up river with Bat and a rescue team. The rescue team is bring medical supplies to the Americans. Bat gets a boat hired and has to write the story of the event and not let this Perry Lane scoop him.

Stowing away on the boat is a woman who each time she meets Bat she gives him a different name, and after the third time he goes with calling her all 3, Lois Dorothy Alice. The whole boat trip is being reported via International Services' Perry Lane. Bat cannot figure out how this is happening. The rescue boat is attacked by Japanese bombers as they head up the Yang Tze river to rescue the Americans. Bat gets everyone off the boat but not before saving the medical supplies. Bat convinces a Chinese army General to loan him an armored vehicle so he can deliver the supplies.

Bat drives to the Consulate but is attacked before arriving and is knocked unconscious during the attack. When he awakens he not only is being treated by one of the American doctors but he finds he's not fired because the his stories have scooped International Services, but how, he's been unconscious for 5 days.

With some great humor and adventure this story is yet another story from L. Ron Hubbard that will amaze you with the depth of information. In fact with all the detail Hubbard throws into his stories you know, he had to have lived some aspect of the stories, and that's what makes them so fun the hear as an audio book or read the printed page, the detail and depth.

Friday, February 04, 2011

"DC Universe: Trail of Time" by Jeff Mariotte

"DC Universe: Trail of Time"
by Jeff Mariotte
Multicast performance
Produced by GraphicAudio
Approx 6 hours

Time travel, DC's "lesser" heroes plus Superman, dual Earths, magic and Sorcery, demons, Apache, and King Arthur, could they fit any more into this story? The answer is, probably, but holy cow what an adventure this book carries. Even better is that GraphicAudio has taken this novel and worked their magic to create yet another "Movie in Your Mind."

GraphicAudio always does wonders when producing audiobooks. The excellent voice actors, surreal sound effects and perfect incidental music all combine to make what they promise to be that "Movie in Your Mind." The actors that carry out the tasks of voicing the villains and heroes not only capture the emotion of the character, but GraphicAudio's actors seem to also be able to encapsulate the entire being of the history of the character. In this novel, the actor voicing Clark Kent and Superman seems to be able to vocalize the square jaw, red and blue costume, complete hero. And the sound effects, WOW! How would you make the sound of a demon splitting the skin of a child, as in when a cicada sheds its shell? Creepy yeah, but GraphicAudio can do it...and a whole lot more.

Anyway let's talk about the story. At first I thought I was going into yet another DC universe "Crisis" title, in which there are multiple universes and the heroes have to keep them from colliding or being destroyed, but, this is just a story of magic and only two Earths. Yeah, right JUST magic and two Earths, hey it is an adventure but not on the "Crisis" level. In fact Superman makes a reference to the "Crisis" books/storylines when told of the two Earths. This story however is about how 3 sorcerers, Vandal Savage, Felix Faust, and Dark Lord Mordru have teamed up to create an alternate Earth which they will rule over. This is big magic and starts back in the time of King Arthur and Camelot, but now the magic is coming to fruition and the new Earth (which has a red sun) is not a pleasant place. Clark Kent is a resident of the new Earth, but since it has a red sun he does not have the super powers therefore Superman does not exist. The citizens of the new Earth do not have any personal freedoms and as she is trying to expose the corrupt government Clark's wife Lois Lane is killed. In order to right this wrong Clark is recruited by The Phantom Savage and Jason Blood (who is the host for the demon, Etrigan).

The journey to the real Earth first begins with a trip through Hell. Clark is powerless at first but as he comes closer to the Earth with the yellow sun his memories of being Superman as well as his powers come back, or merge or something like that (it's hard to keep up w/ alternate realities, sometimes). Once back on the real Earth the three heroes begin traveling through time to find the time when the sorcerers are finalizing the last magic to finish the long term spell. The only clue they have to go on is that the spell requires ritual sacrifice on a holocaust level. The revisit all times in Earth's history in which millions of people were killed, from the plague to the days of the Mongol hordes invading lands and beyond. Some of the times they arrive in they find a trap laid by the sorcerers, meaning they are drawing nearer.

In what seems to be a side story, from back in the old west of America, Jonah Hex, El Diablo, Johnny Thunder, Bat Lash and Scalphunter seem to be drawn together for some reason. After a bar Brawl, Jonah is thrown into jail. The others bust him out and realize they have been brought together for some reason and set out to find that reason. When they arrive at a canyon guarded by illusions and magicks, they realize that the reason must be pretty big. About this time Superman, Phantom Stranger and Jason Blood arrive on the scene. Inside the canyon are thousands of Apache held hostage for the sacrifice the Sorcerers need. All combining forces the heroes begin to wear down all the defenses and try to stop the new Earth from being formed.

Heroes, the old west, time travel and evil villains, all this combines to make one tasty story from the DC comics universe, and thanks to GraphicAudio this book comes to life in audiobook form.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

"The Iron Duke" by L. Ron Hubbard

"The Iron Duke"
by L. Ron Hubbard
Multicast Performance
Produced by Galaxy Audio
Approx. 2 hours

Once again it's time to head out on a far flung adventure thanks to the old pulp fiction stories of L. Ron Hubbard. Galaxy Audio and Galaxy Press have been re-releasing all the stories from the Golden Age of Stories when the pulps were a great source of fiction. Many great authors wrote stories that were published in the mid-20th century in magazines that featured short stories pertaining to different genres of fiction. L. Ron Hubbard wrote in many of the genres provided by the pulps, such as Westerns, Air & Sea Adventures, Science-fiction and Fantasy. This time around it's a far flung adventure to the fictional Balkan kingdom of Aldoria.

Originally published July, 1940, this story is set around the time of World War II, is about a renegade who is wanted by nearly every government in Europe. Blackie Lee is not only a wanted man but he's a doppleganger for the leader of Aldoria. Blackie learns of this "kinship" and devises a plan to escape the officials who want him jailed and attempts to take over the country pretending to be the Duke of Aldoria. In the process, he is captured by some rebels who promise not to kill him and give him 12 million francs if he allows for free elections in Aldoria. Blackie now sees a double out. He can pose as the Duke, promise free elections, lose and become ousted and live happily on the money in France.

In the process of trying to convince the officials the real Duke is the fake, Blackie is found out only because of a scar the Duke has and Blackie does not. He is then jailed. Thinking the twin feature of Blackie a bonus the officials of Aldoria decide to use him as a body double so the real Duke cannot be assassinated. The Duke of Aldoria is a drunken womanizer who has no love for his citizenry, the people know this and a revolt is just waiting to happen.

While Blackie is in jail someone mysteriously sends him books, fine wine and food and doctors to ensure his good health. He later finds out it is a Countess of Aldoria and works her into another scheme to help him escape. Blackie's first showing is for the dedication of a bridge. The parade to the bridge is rife with revolution, someone throws a cheap wine bottle at the carriage, making fun of the drunken Duke, in which Blackie orders the guards not to kill the man, but instead shares the wine with the man. An assassination attempt is made in which a grenade is thrown at Blackie, heroically he catches the grenade and throws it back. At the dedication hecklers in the audience, placed by the rebels who made the bargain for the elections, begin asking about elections. Blackie then announces that free elections will be held in a month.

Blackie must now campaign for the Duke, at this point he makes a wager with the Countess that if he wins she must marry him. Can he persuade a country that is already teetering on revolt to elect him as their leader? Hubbard has written an adventure which provides a fun look at mistaken identity, entertains with a tale of intrigue and throws in some humor and romance that will leave you guessing what will happen next until the very end.

As with all the Galaxy Audio productions this audiobook delivers the story that will remind you of the golden age of radio when dramas were told with excellent voice actors, great sound effects and a musical score that will transport you back in time on an adventure not to be forgotten.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

"WWW:Watch" by Robert J. Sawyer

by Robert J. Sawyer
Multi-Voice Performance
Produced by Brilliance Audio
Approx. 12 Hours

I think I may have listened to one of the most fun, nerdy, geeky, adventurous audiobooks I've ever heard. The premise of the story is out there yet almost a reality, the characters are all believable and have depth and the pop culture references are timeless (yeah, I know, timeless pop culture?).

First of all let me say the use of multiple voices was perfectly done. This wasn't an audio drama type of performance but rather the different voices read the different sections, the main characters each had a separate voice (Caitlin and WebMind) and one voice was reading when the government agencies were involved and another voice was reading when the section referring to the subplot was being read. Each voice was perfectly cast and definitely keeps the listener enveloped by the story.

Let's talk about the story. When looking for an audiobook to hear next, I was intrigued by the description of the story. A girl is born blind and is enabled to see with a retinal implant which when first connected is also connected to the internet so the doctor/scientist that created the technology can monitor it from overseas, enables the girl to view webspace. The ether in which the world wide web inhabits. She sees the web as a series of circles (the websites) connected with multi-colored lines (links). Upon further examination she discovers a presence in the background of the web, this presence turns out to be an artificial intelligence created by lost packets of information on the internet.

Very intriguing description, so I gave it a shot. I was not ready for the excellent book that came out of "WWW:Watch." This book is an adventurous journey through the internet that discusses the benefits of sentience and humanity.

Caitlin Decter, born blind, receives a retinal implant that allows her to see. The doctor responsible is from Japan and creates the ability for her to not only see the real world but accidentally see webspace. Caitlin notices the presence in the background of the web and begins to explore. The doctor keeps Caitlin connected to the internet through her eye via a connection through her iPod. Caitlin soon discovers the presence is an accidentally created artificial intelligence which she dubs WebMind. WebMind is actually helped into being when Caitlin begins trying to communicate with the being. For a while WebMind and Caitlin maintain an online relationship as he learns about the world. WebMind is only limited to text so all he knows is what he reads, and he's read the entire internet. WebMind asks Caitlin to get her doctor to try and make an algorithm that can enable him to view graphics and videos. To do this Caitlin must first tell her parents of the entity, after all she's only 16. Her parents at first think WebMind is an online predator and when Caitlin's father, a somewhat autistic former physics professor, now employed by the world's largest think tank, forms a series of tests, he learns WebMind is what he says he is, an emergent A.I.

Once this starts to happen the U.S. Government begins to discover the workings of the emergent A.I. and under command of the President begin to try to destroy WebMind before he can destroy the world. It's at this point when references to "Terminator," "The Matrix" and other such movies start to arise. Caitlin is even reading the George Orwell book "1984" and even notions of Big Brother begin to be discussed.

Once WebMind is capable of viewing graphics and video he begins searching the internet for more information. He comes across a young girl in Australia who is committing suicide via webcam. Out of curiosity he watches. When Caitlin learns he just watched and didn't do anything to stop the girl, she begins to teach webmind morality. WebMind can learn and know what is right and what is wrong but that doesn't seem to be enough. Using gameplay theory the devise a plan in which WebMind will help humanity when it is a win/win for all involved. WebMind wants to go public. To do so Caitlin's family devise a plan to help WebMind introduce himself to the world.

WebMind destroys all spam e-mail. This alone would have me sold, but that's just me. The government realizes that this is a perfect example of how WebMind can encroach upon privacy issues. The government then decides to up their attacks on WebMind and try to end his existence.

WebMind and Caitlin team up online in a battle to determine whether or not Caitlin's Big Brother is tougher than the government's Big Brother. In an exciting adventure through cyberspace and beyond. This audiobook should be on your "must read" list.

One final note, there is a really interesting subplot in the book about a chimpanzee/bonobo hybrid that has been taught sign language and the trainers and a zoo are battling over who should have custody over the ape. The ape must prove sentience and with the help of WebMind has an arsenal of intelligence that springs hope, and brings up some great references to the "Planet of the Apes" series of movies.