Thursday, December 29, 2011
by Oliver Goldsmith
a full cast audio performance starring James Marsters, Joanne Whalley and Ian Ogilvy
Produced by L.A. Theatre Works (2010)
Approx 2 hours
Once again I'm going back for a visit to the classics, and this time a classic theatre performance from L.A. Theatre Works. I originally sought out this audio performance because of James Marsters, I have recently become a fan of his, after listening to his narration of the Dresden Files series of books by Jim Butcher. Marsters then started showing up in some of the TV programs I watch and well I've become somewhat of a fan. I had listened to a couple of previous productions from L.A. Theatre Works and a couple of them featured Marsters, so I looked to find out what else he'd done with them.
I remember reading this play back in college and just looking at it as just another play we have to read. When reading and analyzing it I did find some of it humorous, but very little. Now that I've heard this performance, I find it quite a bit more humorous. The acting in this production really focuses on the fun parts of the play and with the freedom of not having to get graded on my analysis, I was able to enjoy it more.
I think the acting is what made this even more fun the cast consists of: Rosalind Ayres as Mrs. Hardcastle, Adam Godley as Tony Lumpkin, Julian Holloway as Elder Marlow and Stingo, James Marsters as Charles Marlow, Christopher Neame as Roger, Paula Jane Newman as Bet Bouncer and Pimple, Ian Ogilvy as Mr. Hardcastle, Moira Quirk as Constance Neville, Darren Richardson as Diggory and Jeremy, Joanne Whalley as Kate Hardcastle, and Matthew Wolf as George Hastings. While I was in this for the James Marsters performance, I can honestly say that all the actors performed so well that no one single person stood out and the production as a whole was a complete success. So far all of the productions I've heard from LATW are perfect. They put you right smack dab in the middle of the audience and you can't help but enjoy these performances.
This play is pretty much a comedy of manners, basically a play about the difference in classes, with the mistaken identities and the expected behaviors, the comedy comes from those acting out of their class.
A man of wealth, Mr. Hardcastle arranges for his daughter Kate to meet Charles Marlow, the son of a wealthy Londoner, hoping the pair will marry. Marlow has a problem with women, it seems that when he's speaking to those of the upper-class he is nervous and stammers and cannot look them in the eye, however the lower class women he has no problem talking with.
When arriving in town Kate's cousin Tony Lumpkin intercepts Marlow and sends him to Kate's home, only Lumpkin tells Marlow it is an Inn and not their home. Expecting the people of the house to be Innkeepers and servants Marlow treats them as such. Mr. Hardcastle, unaware of the misunderstanding, takes offense, but Kate sees this as the opportunity to actually be able to talk with Marlow and avoid his nervousness, by pretending to be the barmaid. During the night the whole mistaken identity and class wars create some good humor until finally someone arrives to straighten out the whole mess and those that are actually in love with each other can be open about their relationships.
Bravo, LATW, on yet another fine production.
Monday, December 26, 2011
by L. Ron Hubbard
Produced by Galaxy Audio
Approx 2 hours
I'm really enjoying all theses stories from the Golden Age, that are being released from Galaxy Audio and Galaxy Press, especially the short audiobooks they are releasing. Galaxy Audio has been releasing all the short stories by L. Ron Hubbard from his Pulp-Fiction writing days of the mid-20th century since 2008 and each month there's a new release. In the paperback versions they are giving them the look and feel of the old pulp magazines, but even better Galaxy Audio has created what I call Audio Pulps in their audio versions.
The Audiobooks all run about 2 hours in length some with 1 story and some with 2 or 3 short stories. Each one is produced with a full cast, sound effects and incidental music that fits each story perfectly. In fact, these audiobooks sound a lot like the old radio dramas from that same era. The voice actors bring to life each character perfectly.
The new year is rolling in and that means another year of monthly releases from Galaxy Audio and Galaxy Press. The first release of the year is "Trouble on His Wings," which was originally published in the January, 1939 issue of "Five Novels Monthly."
This adventure takes us to the air with a "picture-chaser" for the newsreels, yes, it is a bit dated on that aspect but the adventure is still enough to keep you on the edge. Johnny Brice is always out to get the best pictures from the mouth of danger, from flying over a shipwreck and then diving in to get the film from the tourists onboard, to flying over a forest-fire and risking life and plane to get the best film for the newsreels.
The risks in this story run high and when Johnny and his sidekick, "Irish" fly over a shipwreck they end up rescuing a beautiful woman who manages to tag along on each adventure. Each time around tragedy strikes and Johnny loses his film and crashes a plane or two. He figures it's all because of the dame and gives her the nickname "Jinx."
Finally when Johnny is sent over to cover the war between Japan and China and is captured by the Japanese, the trio have to escape, and hopefully gather some info so Johnny and Irish can keep their jobs at world news.
Lots of fun high-flying, death-defying, adventure in this one. Using the same old pulp-fiction formula of a Hero, a sidekick and a dame, Hubbard keeps you on listening until the very end. With all sorts of twists and turns in the story that you never know what will happen until the surprising end.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
by Patricia Cornwell
Read by Kate Burton
Produced by Penguin Audio
Dr. Kay Scarpetta has been a staple in Patricia Cornwell's novels since 1990 and this latest novel brings Kay to Georgia. Dr. Scarpetta is a Forensic Examiner/Expert and in this 19th novel featuring her as the protagonist, she has agreed to meet with an inmate at the Georgia Prison for women. The inmate is a convicted sex offender and mother of a vicious killer. The woman is convicted of molesting then 12 year old Jack Fielding Scarpetta's former deputy chief. The daughter is the result of that relationship and is also the murderer of Jack Fielding. Scarpetta's quest is personal, but soon she finds herself roped into an investigation that could clear a woman, now on death row at the same prison, of murder.
The author, Patricia Cornwell is a founder of the Virginia Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine, a founding member of the National Forensic Academy, a member of the Advisory Board for the Forensic Science Training Program at the office of Chief Medical Examiner, New York City, and a member of the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital's National Council where she is an advocate for psychiatric research. With these credentials you know you are getting an author that knows what she is writing about. The science and techniques used in this book not only have that real feel, but Patricia Cornwell has not forgotten the general public and writes so that any person will understand even what could be the most technical jargon. She keeps the science real but easily understood. Not only that but Cornwell's writing involves some unique techniques that capture the surroundings so all clues can be observed in this mystery.
And example of this is when the people investigating the facts of a case over a dinner all are talking about the case throughout, but at times the listener/reader only hears thoughts in Kay Scarpetta's head, while at the same time, we hear parts of the conversation and at other times we hear off-hand comments from her friend and detective Marino. Marino comments on how he hates artificial sweeteners, which have nothing to do with the case but puts you in a very realistic scene. Very well done to make the story real.
The reader of this audiobook, Kate Burton, does a superb job of vocalizing all the different voices and attitudes of each character, from Boston accents, Southern, New York and even an Australian, all performed clearly and effectively.
"Red Mist" will engross you in a full investigation that may clear the woman on death row, but the possibilities of what may have actually happened may solve a spree of murders across the country, alert Homeland Security to possible terrorist activities and solve some burning questions from tragedies in Kay Scarpetta's past. I don't usually start a series late but this time around I was curious and jumped right in. Patricia Cornwell did an excellent job explaining the past histories of all the personnel involved and this novel serves well as a stand-alone piece in the Kay Scarpetta series.
Friday, December 23, 2011
by David Moody
published by Thomas Dunne Books
David Moody has a way of creating books about zombies without having zombies. In his series "Autumn" the "Z" word is never mentioned but there are reanimated corpses. In the Hater Trilogy he has created a bunch of mindless fighters who never eat the flesh of their victims but go into uncontrollable rages until the victim is dead. So while they may not be be zombie books, they still create the same horror of a zombie book, but without the gore.
In the Hater trilogy, it turns out that some switch is thrown in the human brain where about half of the poulation become Haters. The Haters see an Unchanged and that flipped switch causes the Hater to attack fight and not stop until the Unchanged is destroyed. Even when a Hater has all his limbs incapacitated they will still fight until one of them is dead. With this aspect Moody is able to explore the darker side of a zombie apocalypse. The darker side being how do you survive when all is gone, every aspect of civilization breaks down and no longer is there a means for food to be obtained by just going to the corner market.
In the first book, "Hater" the switch was flipped and all the population began a war that would leave the world scarred forever. In this book we were introduced to Danny McCoyne who became a Hater but first watched the world collapse, losing is family. In the Second book, "Dog Blood," the world was at war Haters vs. the Unchanged. Danny sought to find his daughter who he knew was like himself, a Hater. The problem was, though, his wife and two sons were Unchanged. Danny had to fight the Hate inside to sneak into Unchanged refugee camps to find his daughter without being discovered. All this while a major world war was going on between the Haters and Unchanged. When he found his daughter one side, whether it was Hater or Unchanged or both is never really known, launched nuclear weapons destroying all of the major cities. Danny lost his daughter as they were trying to escape one of the blasts, when she went running back into the explosion.
Now we come to the third book, "Them or Us." The world is torn apart and there are very few Unchanged left, what few there are are hunted down and slaughtered. A small community of Haters is gathered that is ruled by a man who gained his position by killing the man in charge and putting up all the toughest fighters up in a higher social class. So the haters now rule by might. Danny is discovered to be able to hold in the hate and Hinchcliffe, the leader of the community, uses him to inifiltrate nests of the Unchanged so the Haters can slaughter them. Danny becomes a sort of confidant for Hinchcliffe and learns all his secrets. The big problem is that once all the Unchanged are gone who is left to fight, each other? That answer seems to be yes when another community is discovered and Danny is sent to infiltrate and find out any logistical info so Hinchcliffe can attack.
With the last of humanity struggling for survival Danny begins to question whether mankind should continue or just kill itself off. The question of all time, do we really deserve to exist? If so How? And what does war prove?
This book is full of philosophic wonderings and some interesting action thrown in to keep the brain pumped. I'll warn you once you start reading this book or any book in the trilogy you can't stop until the last page, even then you'll want more.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
by Charles Dickens
Read by Jim Dale
Produced by Random House Audio (2003)
Approx 3 hours
Yep, I had to get into the holiday spirit, and with the crass commercialization I was not feeling very Christmas-y. I was very close to saying, "Bah, Humbug!" My small hometown put their OVERLY DONE Christmas decorations up the day after Halloween, and all the department stores had begun putting out Christmas items back in September. "Bah, Humbug!" Indeed. So what better story to get me back into the Christmas spirit than this Dickens classic.
There are many versions out there to choose from and I'm not sure why I loaded this one onto my iPod, but I did, and no matter what the reason, It turned out a great choice. First of all the talent of the reader Jim Dale, was enough to get me into the Christmas Spirit. His vocalized perfectly all the parts, from the charity collectors, to the two talking Spirits of Christmas Past and Present, and Marley's ghost and of course, Scrooge himself. Jim Dale's acting was more than just acting out the voices and characters, he also was able to put just enough change in his vocalization of Scrooge to show the moments he changes and then the contrast between old Scrooge and reformed Scrooge were perfect without losing the character himself. Glad I discovered this version.
The story itself is a great one that tells that a man can change his destiny, and one man's life affects many. Scrooge, the stingy, business only, owner of Scrooge & Marley's money changing, thinks Christmas is just another day and doesn't think anyone should raise a fuss. When approached to make a donation to help the poor, his response of asking, aren't there prisons? shows what kind of man he is. He doesn't even allow family to share in this cheer. On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by his former partner who died years past, Jacob Marley. Marley warns Scrooge he could end up like himself with heavy chains to bear, unless he changes his way. Scrooge only sees this as a nightmare caused by indigestion. Marley then warns Scrooge about the 3 coming spirits that will show him the true spirit of Christmas.
The first is the Ghost of Christmas Past who reminds Scrooge of how he used to be and how he gave up cheer for business, making his love interest a thing of the past. Scrooge begins to see what is meant by the Spirit of Christmas. The second, the Ghost of Christmas Present, is the one that shows how what he does affects those today. Scrooge begins to see even more when he is shown the home of his employer, Bob Cratchit, and their disabled son, Tiny Tim. When the spirit uses Scrooge's own words about the health of Tiny Tim, Scrooge is determined to change.
The real Change comes when Scrooge is visited by The Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-come. This ghost is a haunting spirit that never talks. Scrooge is shown his dismal future and all at once the man knows what he must do. Upon waking on Christmas day Scrooge is a changed man and begins a new life by helping his fellow man and spreading Christmas Cheer.
A classic you can't miss and especially with Jim Dale Narrating.
Monday, December 19, 2011
by L. Ron Hubbard
Produced by Galaxy Audio (2008)
approx 2.5 hours
Galaxy Audio is getting ready to release some new collections of audiobooks from L. Ron Hubbard's Pulp Fiction writings of the mid-20th Century and before I get to them I realized there was one release I've missed. You see, since 2008 Galaxy Press and Galaxy Audio have been gathering all of the stories Hubbard wrote during the hey day of pulp fiction and have been releasing the New York Times bestselling author's writings in their own new pulp magazine forms. The paperbacks have the feel of the old pulps (but are a little more sturdy), and the audio book forms, well let's just say, Galaxy Audio has created the new format of Audio Pulps. The audiobook releases are all around 2 hours in length and while some may contain one story there are some that have 2 or 3 short stories. This one is only one story but, as are all of them, it is a fun and exciting adventure story.
The way Galaxy Audio has created this Audio Pulp format is by casting multiple talented people to play the parts in the story and then incorporating excellent sound effects and perfect music between chapters. The final products sound like old time radio with over the top acting for the over the top characters created by Hubbard. The voice work alone makes these recordings fun to hear.
As for the stories, well I will have to say there is a bit of a pulp fiction formula to them, but Hubbard uses that formula perfectly. I had originally thought this was just a Hubbard gimmick, but following the success of Galaxy Audio/Galaxy Press re-releasing the old pulp-fiction stories other publishers have begun releasing other stories from the pulp-fiction days, and it seems that the formula is a pulp-fiction formula and Hubbard just seemed to master it. That formula? Well, you gotta have a hero, a sidekick (preferably with some strange quirk) a dame and an impossible mission or crime to solve, then throw in some pretty enemies that are impossible to overcome and have the good guys win. It works and let me tell you, it is extremely fun.
This story, "Orders Is Orders" was originally published in the December, 1937 issue of "Argosy weekly" and tells the story of just such formulaic characters. Two marines, Gunnery Sergeant James Mitchell and Private First Class "Tuffy" Spivits, and a girl, a fan dancer trying to escape the war-torn area, dodge bullets on a 200-mile trek through embattled China to bring serum and gold to the American consulate, an isolated island of safety in a sea of dead and dying.
Japan and China are battling it out and caught in the middle, in the Chinese city of Shunkien, is the American Consulate. The American refugees cannot escape due to the war being waged and the Asiatic form of cholera is threatening unless they can get the serum on time. Sgt, Mitchell is just the man to do it, but he has one weakness, liquor, if he can stay away from it he can stay clear headed enough to get the job done. One of the many things that make Mitchell the perfect candidate is that he was raised in the area. Mitchell's father is a missionary and he was raised there until a falling out caused him to leave abruptly, he's been on his own ever-since.
Mitchell and Spivets come to the aid of a fan dancer who is trying to escape, but they end up taking her the wrong way when they commandeer her car in order to make the mission succeed. Along the way they come to where Mitchell's father has set up is mission and find it nearly in ruins due to the war. Since their last car broke down they have to commandeer one and reluctantly Mitchell's father joins in. With constant battles going on they strange landing party fight all odds to get to Shunkien on time without getting the U.S. involved in this war.
It may be the old Pulp-Fiction formula, but L. Ron Hubbard could write the action that keeps you hooked until the very end.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
by Michael Moorcock
read by Clive Mantle
produced by AudioGO/BBC Audiobooks (2010)
Approx 11 hours
While anxiously awaiting the Christmas return of Dr. Who on television, I have to get my fix. This time around I dive into a Dr. Who audiobook that is unlike any other.
First of all the length. This one is just about 11 hours where most Dr. Who audiobooks tend to be from one to three hours in length. So I was strapped in and ready for a good long run. This story would have easily taken an entire season to run.
The next feature that makes it unique is the writing. Michael Moorcock is a well know award winning author of science-fiction and fantasy, and I have heard his name bandied around in sci-fi circles, but I've never picked up one of his stories until now. This story takes the Dr. Who universe and seems to pop it into a more surreal almost absurd series of events that seem to blend the writing styles of Douglas Adams and P.G. Wodehouse. At times the story is a humorous romp through the multiverse and at others a bit of a humorous whodunit. Needless to say this is a fun book featuring the 11th Doctor and his companion Amy Pond.
The reader Clive Mantle does a great job of delivering the story through this audiobook. In some cases the characters are over the top and Mantle voices them just that way. From his vocalizations you can nearly picture the faces of the characters. Superb delivery.
At times this story reminded me of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," with Amy pod as Alice and the Doctor as the White Rabbit, and there are a couple of hatters that do seem mad.
In the beginning it at first seems as though the Doctor is out for a bit of sport as he and Amy join the Terraphiles, a group of humans in the far future obsessed with recreating Earth's distant past and reenacting medieval Earth sports. By the far future I mean about 50,000 years into the future, so you have to forgive if they get some of the sports wrong. There's a version of, I'm thinking Rugby, where the ball is an arrow and the bowmen/archers shoot the arrow and catch it. I did say they didn't quite get it right.
As it turns out, though, the Doctor is trying avoid the collapse of the Multiverse from the mysterious "dark tides" that have begun to appear. The Doctor and his new friends compete in a Grand Tournament in the Miggea star system, which lies on the border of parallel realities. The prize of the contest is an ancient artifact called the Arrow of Law, sought also by the Doctor's old foe Captain Cornelius and his crew of space pirates.
With the multiverse on the verge of collapse the Doctor, Amy and the Terraphiles have to team up with the space pirates to try to save all of existence. With some fun moments, the theft of a gaudy hat, and some strange sports, this is one adventure with the Doctor that you won't soon forget.
Monday, December 12, 2011
by Robin Cook
Read by George Guidall
Produced by Penguin Audio
Approx 11.5 hours.
Back in the '70s Robin Cook had a huge best seller with his book, "Coma." I remember everyone just had to read this book (I was still into just monster books at the time). Then the movie came out and again folks were excited. Dr. Cook then went on to write many best sellers but "Coma" was the first one that came to mind. I got the opportunity to listen to this book, "Death Benefit," his latest creation, and had to ask myself, "Why haven't I read anything by this guy before?"
So here I plunge into a medical thriller, written by the man who pretty much perfected the genre, and I'll tell you first hand, Dr. Robin Cook can keep you in suspense, while spinning a tale that involves science that could be happening now, and a story that could almost come out of today's headlines. I think I may have been intimidated before, knowing that he is an actual physician, I had assumed his writing would get real technical. Well, I was right it does get pretty technical, but Dr. Cook has a way of telling the story and the science behind the story that becomes educational as well as entertaining. The science behind this book involves stem cells and the growing of human organs, and, well, let's just say, I followed along pretty well. I don't consider myself a biology know-it-all, but I'm also not uneducated. When it comes to biology I sit right about in the middle of that knowledge scale. But, and here's the good part, listening to the story told by Dr. Cook the science came easy and he wrote in such a way that anyone could grasp the ideas.
Before I go into the story, I would like to talk about the reader, George Guidall. Mr. Guidall did a nice enough job reading the book and even did some nice vocal changes to match the characteristics of each character. However, I think if I were the one casting a reader for this book I would have gone with someone with a 20 something female voice. He did a nice enough job to keep the book interesting, but i just think it might have been better with a younger and female voice since the book centered around Pia Grazdani a fourth year medical student. And many of the characters were younger. Guidall matched perfectly with some of the older professors and the mobsters, but some voices just would have worked better otherwise.
The story comes at you from two fronts to start out with. First with the story of two financial investors that have come up with the latest scam since the bubble burst on sub-prime mortgages. That scam being the buying up of life insurance policies of folks who may have a short time to live. The person gets 15 percent of the policy value and the investors collect on the policy when the person dies. These two investors go out an purchase policies of those with fatal illnesses, especially those with diabetes. Knowing they won't live long the investors make money off the dying.
The second aspect of the story is that of Pia Grazdani, who through a troubled past has worked her way through college and is now on her 4th year of Med School at Columbia University. Pia is taken under the wing of Dr. Tobias Rothman who sees Pia as he was and convinces her, that she is cut out exactly for research. He gives her the chance to work with him and Dr. Yamamota on something that will revolutionize the medical industry, using stem sells to grow human organs that because the come from the tissue of the person needing the organ will not be rejected. Thus creating a pancreas, for example, from a diabetic's own cells and transplanting it and extending the life of the patient.
When the investors get word of this research, they realize that 75% of their policies are on diabetics and that this could financially ruin them. Soon Dr.s Rothman and Yamamota contract a rare strain of salmonella and die. While it is written off as carelessness, since they were both working on research involving the salmonella strain. Pia, however does not buy into this and she begins investigating on her own. Her investigation leads to death threats on her self and a path that leads to a part of her past she has tried to put behind her.
This non-stop thrillride will take you from the campus of a prestige medical school, to the offices of shady investment bankers to a new crime syndicate without taking a breath until the very end.
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
by Larry Niven
Read by Tom Parker
Produced by Blackstone Audio
Approx 11.5 hours
If you were to look at a list of the top 100 books in sci-fi, I'm sure you would find this book at least in the top 25, maybe the top 10. Larry Niven's "Ringworld" has all the makings of a great sci-fi and Niven even turned this book into a series with sequels and prequels. Niven combines a group of aliens & humans and sends them out to find a way to save the entire population of "Known Space." The possible safe zone is a place that is called Ringworld that was constructed by unknown beings around a star, to get an idea of the scope of Ringworld, picture a solid band of Earths orbiting the sun. One solid planet all the way around, that alone would solve the population problem, but with the chance of the center of the universe exploding the Ringworld has a few other secrets to save the population.
An interesting side note the popular video game series "Halo" is based on the ideas created by Larry Niven in "Ringworld." With a ring like planet but at a much smaller scale.
What makes this a classic sci-fi is not one single thing but the conglomeration of ideas ranging from politics, alien races and their politics/culture and the exploration of a new world. This book primarily deals with 4 maybe 5 different species, to start out you have the Puppeteers that are a strange two-headed alien culture that is based on the ingrained cowardice, but signs throughout the book show that the Puppeteers may not be all they seem. The Kzinn are a race of cat like creatures who are a warring species who have lost the wars to the humans on several occasions. Then the final two species are the Engineers of Ringworld and the barbarian race that now inhabits the Ringworld since the Engineers left. Each race (including the humans) has something to contribute to the saving of the universe but the adventure of exploring the Ringworld is the only thing that reveals that.
The story stars out with Nessus, a Puppeteer, recruiting a team to travel to the ringworld which is a secret among the Puppeteers to see if it can save the universe from the the center of Known Space exploding out and destroying all planets in the path of the explosion. The entire race of the Puppeteers have already left known space to avoid the catastrophe. They didn't leave without ensuring a chance for survival, and that chance lies in Nessus' ability to explore the Ringworld. Nessus recruits first Louis Wu, a human that thanks to the benefits of booster spice is just celebrating his 200th birthday. Louis is an adventurer and has just become bored in his life. Nessus promises Louis the chance to try out and return to the humans a new technology in space travel and immediately Louis is on for the adventure. The next recruit is a Kzinn whose name is "Speaker-to-animals." Speaker has yet established his status in his society and this adventure is his chance to make a name for himself. The third party that is needed to be recruited is Teela Brown. Due to the population control laws, Earth has had to establish a lottery in order to control births. With generations of people winning the lottery in order to reproduce, the humans have bred a race of lucky people. Teela is one of those lucky ones, with a journey like this luck is needed, but it seems her luck is sporadic.
Once arriving at Ringworld the crew explores the outer sections of the ring and then determine they will have to land, however the Ringworld's automatic asteroid defense systems shoots down the ship and they crash onto the planet. With only air-cycles to carry them across the ring the crew begins their exploration of this strange world which seems to have been abandoned and the life has gone back to barbarians. They must work together through several perils (hostile locals, automated defense systems, strange storms created by punctures in the ringworld floor) in order to find a way off the Ringworld and back to civilization.
Great adventures, lots of thrills and with narrator Tom Parker, the audiobook will keep you on the edge of your seat at times and laughing with some of the fun thrown in. Parker is able to deliver the story and able to create the different voices for each of the characters and keep you in the story till the very end.