This blog will be dedicated to the Radio and Audio production aspects of my life and of course the world of the the True Hideaway Production Studio.
Monday, January 23, 2012
Written by Kc Wayland
Multi-cast audio drama
Produced by Modern Myth Productions, LLC
Published by Blackstone Audio, Inc (2011)
Approx. 10.5 hours
If you are a regular reader of my postings then you already know I'm a huge fan of all things zombie. What attracts me the most to any zombie story is not necessarily the gore and horror of the zombies but rather the stories of the post-apocalyptic survivors. I guess really you could say I'm a fan of post-apocalyptic tales, but throw in some zombies and the horror of a body rotting but still living and possibly wanting to eat your brain, and you've got some fun. I think that's what I liked most about this story is that it focuses mainly on the survival of a few people and what they do to survive. Sure the author adds his own twists to the flesh eating undead, but the main focus of this audio drama is the survival and relationships of people after the world is nearly wiped out.
This story was originally released as a podcast and when I found out (sometime last summer) they had already started podcasting the second season. I knew I wasn't going to start in the middle so I downloaded the entire season to my iPod. Well here's where my frustration came in. I don't know if it is something that is eluding me or what, but I cannot, for the life (or undead) of me get my iPod to play podcasts in order from start to finish, instead it wants to play the newest release first. So what ends up happening is something like chapter 8 first then chapter 7 and playing in reverse order. I could play each chapter one at a time but when listening I usually don't have my hands free to constantly click the iPod. So after listening to the first chapter of the Podcast, I was annoyed so much I deleted the entire 2 seasons from my iPod. I was mad about this because judging from the first chapter the series was going to be phenomenal. Then just around last Thanksgiving I found out that Blackstone audio was releasing this series in an audiobook format. I shouted for joy, and could finally listen to the rest of the story.
I wish I didn't have to wait, but I will say the wait was worth it, for several reasons. First off the production value of this audio drama is through the roof. While this story could be listened to through a car stereo, headphones, a small set of speakers connected to whatever device or even a full blown stereo every detail can be heard. I did listen through all of the mentioned devices not just to test this out but because I couldn't stop listening and no matter where I was if I could hook up my iPod I did. I'll start off with the music; the placement of the music between scenes and at the end of chapters is perfect. All of the music perfectly reflects the mood of the moment.
Now to talk about the sound effects. There are numerous effects needed for this audio drama, first of all you've got gunshots, and the folks behind the production didn't use simple gunshot sounds, rather they went all out. Each character that uses guns, use different guns, you've got Burt with his gun "Shirley" which the character Saul calls his hand cannon, and each time Burt fires that gun you know it's his gun. The army guys in the story use a variety of weapons from 9mm hand guns to m-16s and more and each shot sounds like the guns should sound, there are several other weapons used and even the shotgun sounds like a shotgun. I'm sure that Kc Wayland's military experience was what made this production use this attention to detail in the drama. Another aspect are the zombies, there seem to be different types of zombies (I'll talk more on this later in this review) and each one makes a specific sound and the production quality stays on that same attention to detail when discriminating between each type. Finally the vehicles used even have their realistic sounds. When they take a Prius for a drive, it sounds like a Prius. But I have to say the most fun was when I was listening in my car in the beginning of the story and the three army soldiers are driving a hummer to get to safety, the sound was awesome, I felt I was riding in a hummer with them, it was that realistic. Based on the sound effects alone this drama was a winner with me, but there's more, oh so much more.
Part of that "so much more" is the writing. Kc Wayland knows how to not only tell a story but to tell a story with real people. Every piece of dialogue or narration is completely realistic. The characters are consistent. One thing I've often complained about when watching any zombie movie or even sometimes in a zombie book, is that all of a sudden everyone becomes the expert marksman and is able to make the headshot or that all of a sudden everyone knows what created the zombies and knows how to combat the virus, curse or whatever. This just makes the movie or book less interesting because it is less believable. I know, I know, you're saying, but how can zombies really be believable? Well maybe they can't but when a writer, like Wayland, can make the people and the situations believable, that whole zombie thing seems like it is a real occurrence. That's exactly what goes on here, everyone is fighting for survival, there are a very few that are expert marksmen, and even though the ones that are experts train the normal civilians, they don't all become experts. Not only that aspect but no one in this story (at least not in season one) have any idea of what happened other than dead are rising up and chomping down on the living, and they don't waste their time with trying to figure out how, they are trying to live and keep living.
As for the gist of the story, one morning while Army Reserve soldier Michael Cross is getting ready to take a test in his everyday normalcy of college life, an explosion is felt in the distance, Michael leaves class, under threat that test retakes will not be offered, and finds that mobs are rioting and attacking. Michael's reserve unit is immediately called in to the base and he heads to the base to find out what is going on. Upon arrival he meets up with Saul a former Mountaineering Division soldier and Angel a newbie Officer, they get into the armory to prepare for what looks like mere rioting and when the armory alarm goes off the mass of zombies which include their commanding officer attacks. The escape in a humvee from the motorpool and decide to go to Angel's girlfriend's apartment building, first to check on her and second because the place would make a good securable base.
On the way they find a couple of survivors and then upon arrival the building's maintenance man is on scene and trying to get the power back on in the building while fighting off a few zombies. After clearing out each floor of the 15 floor apartment building they arrive at the top floor to find the building's owner, Bill, barricaded in and shooting at anything that moves, after not able to reason with him they leave him be. One of the rescued survivors makes a sign that reads "We're Alive," and soon more survivors arrive.
After setting up a small community they decide to send a party out for supplies, what they discover in the world outside is not too friendly. Zombies storing the living for food and worse yet a group of survivors from a prison holed up in a mall ready to fight for turf.
The survival story continues with day to day living and excursions out to try and find out what can be done about the zombies. They soon find that the undead may not be the worst of their problems, when the "mallers" decide to invade the apartment building.
This story is phenomenal and every aspect is done right, from the production to the writing, especially when some chapters are told from different survivors' perspectives. Get this audio drama now and get hooked. I'm ready to start Season two now.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
by Theodore Taylor
Read by Michael Boatman
Published by Listening Library (2006)
2 hours and 58 minutes
How many of you out there have read a Young Adult book? Hopefully many, but for those of you who haven't, I hope I can get you started in a new direction. Young Adult literature are books that are aimed at the ages of 12-18. These books run the gamut of genres and can be some very interesting reading. Sure they are written for "the kids" but we adults can thoroughly enjoy them as well. Take for example the "Eragon" series or the Harry Potter series, many adults found hours of enjoyment in those books, and there are lots more where those came from.
A couple of summers ago I was introduced via an online community the group Audiobook Sync. Each summer they have pair up YA (Young Adult) audiobooks with a similar theme, so each week in the summer kids & adults can download 2 audiobooks for free. Last summer I downloaded every week's pairing and even though it has taken me until now to get to some, I love these books. This book, "The Cay" was teamed up with "Storm Runners." I haven't listened to "Storm Runners," yet but if this book is any sign, it should be fun.
"The Cay" takes place during World War II but is not a war story, rather this is one of survival and friendship. When WWII breaks out Phillip Enright and his family are living on the island of Curacao. Phillip's father was brought in from the states to help build oil refineries for the Island. The Germans send submarines to the island to prevent the refining process so the non-axis countries cannot have the fuel. When the island becomes unsafe Phillip and his mother board a boat, the S.S. Hato, to Virginia. The ship is torpedoed and Philip is separated from his mother. He finds himself on a raft with an old West Indian man, Timothy, from the boat and a cat named Stew. Phillip has been warned by his mother about black people, "They are different, and they live differently," and is wary of Timothy. Timothy rescues Phillip but during the boat attack Phillip was hit in the head and after a couple of days becomes blind.
Phillip becomes extra dependent on Timothy because of the blindness. Soon the odd trio arrive at a cay, a small island with no fresh water, and begin setting up camp for survival. The two characters learn to overcome their disdain for one another, and develop strong bonds of friendship by the end of the novel. The two characters learn to overcome their disdain for one another, and develop strong bonds of friendship. Timothy teaches Phillip how to do many survival skills, such as weaving sleeping mats, building ways to catch fresh water and ways to fish, all while overcoming Phillip's blindness. The trio overcomes many obstacles until a hurricane blows in and they must rush to tie everything down, including themselves. During the storm they lose their shelter, also sometime during the storm Timothy, who is somewhere near 80 years old, dies, leaving Phillip to fend for himself, Phillip soon learns why Timothy did the things he did, he was preparing Phillip to survive alone.
This story was one of those filled with every emotion from anger, anxiety to love and friendship and will keep you listening until the very end. Michael Boatman does a superb job of voicing this book, and captures the accents and emotions of both of the characters perfectly.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
by Brian Minchin
Read by Gareth David-Lloyd
Produced by BBC Audio / AudioGO (2009)
2 hours and 11 minutes
One of the things that attracted me to the television series and audiobooks of "Torchwood" (besides being a "Doctor Who" spin-off) was that they could combine several genres into each and every episode, and, as I'm finding out, the books and audio releases. The writers of this series are able to blend in Lots of sci-fi (of course) with some horror, drama, comedy and every once in a while a bit of romance. The latter doesn't grab me as much as the others, but hey, it's there. This story definitely weaves in the horror.
A little background on the Torchwood series is needed here, especially since this story takes place right about the middle of the Torchwood series timeline. This story takes place just before the third season of the four seasons that were broadcast, so far. Torchwood is a super secret not quite government agency that basically saves the Earth from aliens. Their base is in Cardiff, Wales which also happens to be the location of a rift in time and space from which aliens are always appearing and threatening humanity, sometimes intentionally and sometimes just accidentally slip through the rift. The series originally started out with five team members but by the end of season two, two of the members had died, leaving only Captain Jack Harkness, the head of Torchwood, Ianto Jones the admin of the agency, now serving in a more prominent function since the loss of the other two members, and Gwen Cooper, former cop. That's when this book takes place, sometime just before season three.
Gwen, Jack and Ianto are investigating some bizarre rift readings (which usually means something is coming through) when they discover a corpse on the beach, the body is clothed in a WWII navy uniform and the body's face is covered in hundreds of tiny cuts. They get the body back to the Torchwood base and discover small items within each of the cuts that appear to be egg sacs of sorts. Further investigation reveal that the egg sacs hatch into small larvae that look like small shrimp.
At this same time, Rhys, Gwen's husband, awakes after a night of debauchery at a friend's bachelor party to discover his friend, the groom is missing. When he goes to the groom's home and finds the mother of the groom dead, he calls Gwen. Gwen and Rhys set off to find the groom after Gwen decides the disappearance and the larvae may be tied together.
Also at this same time, the Reverend Hayward has found a way to take away people's sins. By placing small creatures (larvae?) into the baptismal font that take away the peoples sins, the problem is the creatures feed on the negative emotions and eventually totally consume their hosts. But this does not stop the reverend in his quest to free humanity of its sins.
Jack and Ianto discover, in the bay, a sunken ship teeming with the larvae. The larvae are caring for their "queen" who has enough larvae to destroy all of humanity. Now only Torchwood with their, better than Bond gadgets, and alien fighting wit must race with time to save the world from these "sin-eaters."
In a well told story that combines horror, sci-fi, and some good comedic relief Torchwood and it's operatives will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.
This audiobook is read by Gareth David-Lloyd, who portrays Ianto Jones in the series. He does a fantastic job of delivering the drama and even impresses with his voicing of the different characters. In fact, his voicing of Captain Jack, is spot on, at times I thought I was hearing the voice of John Barrowman, the actor who portrays Captain Jack Harkness. His voicework and the nice dramatic music for effect make this audiobook a complete adventure.
Monday, January 16, 2012
“Doctor Who: The Ring of Steel”
by Stephen Cole
Read by Arthur Darvill
Published by AudioGO Ltd. & BBC Audio (2010)
1 hour and 18 minutes
Okay, I admit it, I’m hooked. Hooked on Doctor Who. What I find amazing is the awesome choice of audiobooks available in the Doctor Who World. In the new generation of Doctor Who, which includes the 9th, 10th and 11th doctors, there are at least 50 audiobooks available. Then all sorts of books on the doctors from the “old generation,” so it looks like I may have some fun for a while. The television series is slated to start another season next fall, so until then I’m gonna listen to all the audiobooks I can lay my hands on. Some of the se audiobooks are full length books and some are specifically for audio only and are written in a one hour format, much like a single television episode. This latest one is one of those one hour audio recordings.
Normally I find it even more interesting when the book is read by one of the actors in the series. Usually when one of the actors reads the story it is based on happenings around their character. Of course when Matt Smith reads, since he portrays the Doctor, it’s perfect, but when one of the other actors reads it you can count on it being focused on them. Now maybe that’s just something I’m putting into it because of hearing their voice. So when I picked out this audiobook I saw it was read by Arthur Darvill, who plays Rory in the series, Amy Ponds boyfriend/husband in the series. But Rory never made a single appearance in this story so they fooled me. However his voicework is spot on and when voicing the Doctor, he nearly sounds like Matt Smith, which made the book nice to hear.
When the TARDIS lands on Orkney (or Orkney Islands, in Scotland) in the near future, the Doctor and Amy arrive to find a large demonstration in progress over the construction of new electricity pylons. The Doctor tries to break things up peacefully - but suddenly the road splits open without warning and swallows police, security guards and protestors alike.
Separated from the Doctor, Amy takes charge of transporting the wounded to hospital - but the rescue mission becomes a terrifying ride as the pylons come to life and begin to walk and the road rears up, erupting with boiling tarmac.
The Doctor, meanwhile, has even more than metal monsters and rebellious roads to deal with. Here is where it became really cool for me. Have you ever been driving along an interstate or even country roads and seen those large high tension electrical wire supports that look like giant metal robots? I’ve heard some say they look like Farmer John and his wife (different shapes for each sex). When I was a kid I used to be on long road trips and imagine they would come to life, and like Amy Pond in this story, I used to protect my family by shooting them down with my pretend laser gun (forefinger extended and thumb up). Well, in this book they do come to life and attack. So, who is bringing these things to life and sucking the life out of the power company's employees - and just what is lurking inside the Astra-Gen headquarters? That is for the Doctor and Amy to find out and through the help of the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver (the only weapon ever needed) to fix and save the earth, again.
There was one really interesting moment in this book that made me have to rewind and listen again. The Doctor says, “you're only young twelve times,” is this a reference to the number of times a Time Lord can regenerate? If so are we looking at a near-future end to the Doctor Who series? There is a movie supposed to be coming out and that usually marks the end of a television series. Oh…say it isn’t so.
If you are interested as to where this book falls into the timeline of the Doctor Who series, it occurs after tv episode, “Victory of the Daleks” and before the book, “The Runaway Train.”
a full cast audio performance
starring Jeanie Hackett, Amy Madigan, Sam McMurray, Stephen Vinovich and Steven Weber
Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
Jeanie Hackett as Mrs. Peters
Amy Madigan as Mrs. Hale
Sam McMurray as the Sheriff
Steven Vinovich as Mr. Hale
Steven Weber as the County Attorney
Directed by Rosalind Ayres.
Recorded at The Invisible Studios, Los Angeles in April, 2011.
Once again I get the pleasure of attending a theatrical performance without leaving my home, okay, actually I left my home because I listened to this production from L.A. Theatre Works in my car on my commute to work. Being just under 30 minutes of performance time I heard the entire play from beginning to end without interruption. This one act play is loosely based on the murder of John Hossack, which the author, Susan Glaspell, reported on while working as a news journalist for the 'Des Moines Daily News. Hossack's wife, Margaret, was accused of killing her husband. However, Margaret argued that an intruder had killed John with an axe. She was convicted but it was overturned on appeal. The play was written and first performed in 1916.
Even if it is a one act play, such as this one, L.A. Theatre Works, puts their all into it. The recordings of the performances are so clear that every movement made by the actors is clear in its intent. Such as when the women in the play are checking the canned fruit jars, some of which were cracked due to the excessive cold in the house, when the women are pulling out the jars to find one undamaged, every clink of the glass and the scooting of the jars in the cabinet can be heard. It is amazing that they can create the complete theatre of the mind aspect without over emphasizing anything, it all has intent and once again the production value from L.A. Theatre Works captures all the ambiance of the performance.
While the title of the play is taken from one of Mr. Hale's lines, "Well, women are used to worrying over trifles." It also can refer to the time period when women were treated as mere trifles themselves. "Trifles" is seen as an example of early feminist drama, because it is two female characters', Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale's, ability to sympathize with the victim's wife, Minnie, and so understand her motives, that leads them to the evidence against her, while the men are blinded by their cold, emotionless investigation of material facts.
While the men are investigating the murder scene and other aspects of the house it is the women that uncover the whole story from the clues in the quilting, the broken birdcage and more. The play doesn't end with the trial, but only after the women discuss their found evidence and decide not top pass the info on to the men, who probably wouldn't listen anyway. The sheriff, says of the kitchen "Nothing here but kitchen things." This dismissal of the importance of the woman's life and the male reluctance to enter the "woman's sphere" is key in the men's failure to discover the crucial evidence for the case. The most important evidence is found hidden in Minnie's sewing basket.
A very haunting play and a brilliant performance produced by L.A. Theatre Works makes for a solid performance you won't forget.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
by Gina Gionfriddo
Multicast performance starring;Emily Bergl, Matt Letscher, Marsha Mason, Mandy Siegfried, and Josh Stamberg
Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
1hour 49 minutes
One thing about relocating to a small town in the middle of nowhere is that there is a very limited choice of theatrical and cultural experiences. Okay maybe just theatrical, there's plenty of cultural experiences that come to small towns like harvest festivals, wine tasting festivals and various other, but with only a community college nearby the theatrical experiences are severely limited compared to when I lived in the city. I guess really that's the one thing I miss, sitting in the darkened theater with live performers, that sometimes are friends and sometimes major celebrities that come to town on a touring performance. Getting lost in the story and the full four dimensional experience that is the theatre.
Luckily I've stumbled across the audio releases from L.A. Theatre works. These recorded performances put you right in the middle of the audience and while the visual aspect of the theatre is missing, the quality of production of the audio keeps you in the performance without missing the visual. The sound effects and audience response are perfectly mixed in to not distract but instead enhance the performance.
This time around I listened to a contemporary play, "Becky Shaw" written by Gina Gionfriddo. The play is a bit of a comedy of errors type play but may even seem as a bit of a love story with some suspense thrown in, so I guess you could say, a suspenseful comedy of romantic errors. The main characters are Max and Suzana who are raised together after Max's mother dies and Suzana's parents take him in. Suzana's mother suffers from MS and has recently taken a young lover, a mere 4 months after the death of Suzana's father. During the introductory scene we learn that Max and Suzana may have an attraction to each other. The action starts when we jump a few months later after Suzana has run off to Vegas to get married and Suzanna sets up Max, on a blind date with her husband's co-worker, the mysterious Becky Shaw. During the date Max and Becky are mugged and what follows is a series of cataclysmic events that forever changes all their lives.
Mixing sharp wit and humor with the suspense of a psychological thriller, this critically acclaimed play will keep you guessing as to what will happen next. I will warn you the play would be R-rated as the main characters seem to love throwing around the F-bomb. But the performance is spot on, as have been all the plays I've heard from LATW. Also the play is a lot of fun with the humor, twists and turns, and quick view of human nature.
Not until the very end do all things get sorted out, and even then I was still left wondering, who is this Becky Shaw?
Friday, January 13, 2012
by Sam Sommers
Read by Joshua Swanson
Published by Penguin Audio (2012)
8 hours and 24 minutes
I have always had an interest in psychology and sociology, specifically I've always wondered what makes people tick and how can you make them tick differently. In fact while in college In my general ed. psychology class, my professor and his T.A. kept trying to get me to convert my major to psychology, I seemed to always have the best questions in class, I guess, and the grasp I always had for the concepts behind what makes the mind work impressed them. But I was determined to change the world by becoming the best audio production person the radio world has ever seen. Maybe I should have listened.
Anyway, I saw this audiobook in the new releases from Penguin audio and wondered if this could help me with my copywriting. Yes, just like any other copywriter I use psychology to try and make the audience realize that they need the product I'm writing about. Sneaky? yeah, but it works. So I saw this book, and after reading about the book I thought, well this sounds like it is probably a self-help book, and really I don't subscribe to all this Dr. Phil self help junk. In actuality I probably would have been a thorn in the side of the Psychology department because I feel that Freud ruined Western Civilization. In my humble opinion, I believe therapy is just a way to not have to take the blame for any of our own actions. Knowing all this, you can probably see why I almost didn't give this book a chance, but, I'm glad I did. It seems that the author, Sam Sommers is also not a fan of the self-help genre, he even goes as far as saying so in the introduction. This book explores not how you can improve yourself but rather how the invisible forces influence your life, in turn this shows how understanding them can improve everything you do.
Sam Sommers is an award-winning teacher and researcher of social psychology at Tufts University outside Boston. His research specialties include how people think, communicate, and behave in diverse settings, as well as psychological perspectives on the U.S. legal system.
The book is presented in a factual yet easy-going and at times humorous manner that shows through personal examples from the author and through various studies world wide about how the world around you shapes your instincts and sometimes most private thoughts. Through this easy-going manner the book expresses the ups and downs that are the human experience. Our lives are full of situations that are humorous and serious and this is perfectly reflected in the tone of this book.
The presentation from the reader, Joshua Swanson, makes this an audiobook experience that emphasizes the humor and easy-going presentation written by Sommers. Swanson reads the material in a manner that keeps the listener listening and makes the presentation of some of the statistical studies not merely a presentation but as though you and the author were sitting down and discussing the concepts presented. This actually makes it so that the learning is fun or rather as Bill Cosby used to say in the Fat Albert show, "And if you're not careful, you may learn something before it's done." I know I finished the book with a clearer perspective of my fellow 3rd rockers.
Some of the examples of context affecting our attitude are pretty dark and include such cases as a man dying on a subway and no one notices he is dead for several hours, the 38 witnesses to an abduction of a child and no one steps in to question the situation, and several studies where the test subject relies on those around to decide how to act. In the listening of the different cases and studies, I found myself saying, "Not me, I would have checked the man to see if he was okay, or I would have not paid attention to those around me and would pull the fire alarm if smoke was coming in under the door to a roomful of people. But according to all the cases and studies the facts point otherwise. And looking at some situations, I tend to agree when in a crowd, and there is an emergency, I do find myself thinking someone closer to the emergency will do something.
As the author says, "Just as a museum visitor neglects to notice the frames around paintings, so do people miss the influence of ordinary situations on the way they think and act. But frames - situations - do matter. Your experience viewing the paintings wouldn't be the same without them. The same is true for human nature." By understanding the powerful influence that context has in our lives and using this knowledge to rethink how we see the world, we can be more effective at work, at home, and in daily interactions with others. He describes the pitfalls to avoid and offers insights into making better decisions and smarter observations about the world around us.
Sommers covers several issues throughout the book from gender differences in society, how we react to emergencies in different situations and even racism. I will say the section on racism was the most eye opening for me. I won't go into this chapter, because I want you to be able to experience the eye opener presented for yourself. I will say that the overall message behind the book I took out of it, is that we are not who we think we are, because our selves change through time and in context. Just knowing this can alert you to maybe in the next situation you can do something to help or just make your life easier.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
by Dan Warren and Barack Obama
read by Barack Obama
I think I have just listened to one of the coolest conglomerations ever. It seems Dan Warren has a lot of time on his hands. What he has done is chop up President Barack Obama's self read autobiography audiobook and turned it into something completely different. The story Dan Warren has creatively edited, complete with music, is the story of an ugly dog-faced demigod who recreates the world after it is destroyed.
When I first heard of this last summer, I was curious, but now that I've listened, I just can't help but think, wow! I mean, seriously this is just too cool of a concept and the way he did it. In a way some could call it sampling, much like rappers do with music, Dan Warren has done to create a story. The interesting part is that it turns out to be a full and complete story. The voice and words are those of our President, but the story is completely new and fresh. I'm not sure of all the legalities of this but after listening to this, I'm impressed.
The hero Stanley, doesn't show up until chapter three but we are at first introduced to his father, a proto-man that fell to the earth as a fruit from a tree. Seeing the world as an empty and desolate place Stanly's father begins to create the earth calling into being animals, mountains, trees, and even light. The story then goes on to tell of the rise of civilization and becomes a violent place and Stanly with the help of the Turtle on whose back the world rests goes to find Buddha to set things right. After finding Buddha to be a fake Stanley takes it upon himself to set the world right.
If you want to check out this awesome story on your own check out Dan's blog at http://danwarren.blogspot.com/ . It looks like he's also converting the story into a series of animated videos, below is a link to chapter one.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
by L. Ron Hubbard
Produced by Galaxy Audio (2012)
Approx 2 hours
Being a comic book fan I've always been drawn (pardon the pun) to the pulp magazines from the early to mid 20th century. Actually, the pulp magazines were printed between 1896 and into the 1950s. Pulp magazines with their thrilling over the top stories and characters and sensational cover art could easily be said to be the founding fathers of comic books. With authors such as Isaac Asimov, H.P. Lovecraft and L. Ron Hubbard the stories were often more valuable than the mere 10 cent cover price of the pulps. Many well known authors wrote for the pulps and provided a plethora of short stories that have been nearly forgotten. The pulps are making a comeback, thanks in small part to the old Quentin Tarantino movie, but the biggest reason for the comeback is the efforts of Galaxy Press and Galaxy Audio.
Since 2008 Galaxy Press/Galaxy Audio have been publishing the stories L. Ron Hubbard wrote for the pulps. This not only preserves the stories for the future, after all the original pulps were printed on cheap paper (thus the name) and not meant to last, but this re-releasing exposes the readers of today to some fun stories in nearly every genre; mystery, sci-fi, adventure, westerns and more. The added bonus is that Galaxy Audio is releasing each of these books, which contain one to four stories each in a pulp magazine feeling edition, into audiobooks.
The audiobooks from Galaxy Audio capture the feel of the original pulp magazines of the pulp era by dramatizing each book in the manner of radio shows from the same era. They use great vocal talent that are able to bring these over the top characters to life, sound effects that keep the story going and incidental music that fits perfectly with each genre and story. Each time I listen to one of these audiobooks, I'm always amazed at the escapism provided. By the end of each book I'm left wanting more yet still feeling satisfied by the great stories provided. Then I have to wait another book for the next issue to be released. (Actually you could buy the "ePulp" through their website, which is an iPod classic preloaded with all 80 audiobooks with lots of extras including photos, glossaries, videos and more, and not have to wait.)
This time around I gave the February, 2012 release of "Mouthpiece" a listen. This audio pulp release from Galaxy audio features for stories from the Mystery genre of L. Ron Hubbard's pulp writings. These stories were perfect Hubbard stories in that they not only were fun to hear but they included the inevitable Hubbard story twists and turns that keep you guessing until the very end.
The first story in this collection is, "Mouthpiece" originally published in the September, 1934 issue of "Thrilling Detective, and tells the story of Mat Lawrence who returns from building a power dam in the desert to track down the murderer of his gangster father. It had been a long time since Mat Lawrence went to the city. Only something urgent could take him from his job something as urgent and shocking as the grisly murder of his father. His father was a big-time gangster so it was no big surprise, Mat was an honest man but shared his father's temper which gets him to seek revenge on his father's murderer. Seeking the help of his father's attorney, Mat goes after the murderers and the million dollars that has gone missing.
Story number two is "Flame City," originally published in the February, 1935 issue of "Thrilling Detective" and tells the story of Fire Chief Blaze Delaney whose job is in jeopardy because of a rash of fires hitting the city. Blaze gets help from his son to stop an epidemic of fires and bring the arsonists to justice.
The third story is "Calling Squad Cars!" originally published in the April, 1934 issue of "Phantom Detective" and tells of a police dispatcher suspected of helping a gang of bank robbers. When he is fired as dispatcher he fights back by tracking down the gang. When he is taken hostage by the gang he soon learns how they were able to put out false reports on the police band to cover up their actual heists. Now the dispatcher must use his skills as an expert radio man to foil the gangs criminal antics.
The final story is "The Grease Spot," originally published in the July, 1936 issue of "Thrilling Detective" and tells the story of former race car driver now owner of a wrecking company who has been warned against using the police band as a means to get his tow jobs. He soon finds himself a captive, at gunpoint, and needing help from the men in blue, or can he turn it around and help them out?
All four stories in superb audio drama form are the perfect companion for anyone who loves a good mystery.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
by David Moody
Published by Thomas Dunne Books
I'm continuing in my excursion into the Autumn series by David Moody, and with the third book out of the way, I'm more convinced that this is NOT a zombie series. Although the walking corpses do prevail in these books, the series is more about survival on a post apocalyptic world than just the horror of walking dead. Ever since book one I've been wondering why these meatbags haven't been eating the living, but at the same time with the constant despair and need to survive guiding those that were immune to the virus, this series is just a good story. My love of all things zombie got me interested in the books, but it was the excellent storytelling by David Moody that kept me reading.
In the first book, "Autumn," we were introduced to Michael and Emma as a mysterious virus struck nearly 90% of the world's population dead. The deaths happened within seconds after contracting the virus. Michael and Emma were among the few survivors that grouped together in a small town community center. The two met up with Carl and decided that they had pretty much the run of the world since there nearly everyone else was dead. When the bodies of those struck down by the virus began to rise and walk around the 3 decided to head off and find safety in an abandoned farm. The bodies then actually started to attack, not eating the flesh of victims but just the mere mass of lots of bodies was enough to bring harm. Carl tried to go back to the Community center but found it overrun with bodies and he finally fell to the horde. Michael and Emma took off to find somewhere safe.
In book two, "Autumn: The City," the story runs parallel to the first book but this time from the view of survivors in a large city. This second book also throws in that the military had a bit of a warning of the virus and military personnel were immediately sent to bunkers before the virus struck. The survivors in the city are holed up in a university but the crowding from the walking cadavers soon makes it obvious they need to relocate. When the military decides to send out a scouting party to determine what has happened and the current status, two of the soldiers are left behind when the troop transport is overwhelmed by walking dead. One of the soldiers has his protective gear removed and dies within seconds showing the virus is still in the air. The second soldier, Cooper, discovers he is immune and finds the survivors in the University. Eventually with the help of Cooper the survivors escape the University to find the underground military bunker, on the way to the bunker they meet up with Michael and Emma in a motor home. The few survivors get into the bunker but not allowed past the decontamination area, now safe underground.
Now for book three, "Autumn: Purification." We join all the survivors as they continue to exist in the bunker. Problems arise in the bunker when the now aggressive walking corpses are blocking the vents which feed air into the bunker. The undead are blocking by sheer masses of bodies in the area, attracted to the living that are in the area. The military tries to clear the vents but each time they go out they attract more bodies. On the final attempt to clear the bodies, something goes wrong and the survivors must leave, able to save a few of the soldiers after the main bunker is closed to the outside. In a convoy of the motor home, a prison bus and a troop transport they stop in a nearby town to regroup. After clearing out a few animated bodies, the survivors spend the night in a relatively secure area.
The next morning a helicopter arrives in town and lands in the secure area. The survivors from the bunker are told by the pilot of a plan to go to safety. The safety comes in the form of an island which had a small population. Once the few bodies are cleared the island should be a haven of safety compared to the mainland. The survivors then only have to drive to the airport where the pilot is stationed and then, using the chopper and one airplane go to the island. Not as easy as it sounds, especially with the dead becoming more self-aware.
What I really liked about this story of survival, is that David Moody uses the normal person as the main characters. Not like other zombie movies. Have you ever noticed how in other zombie movies your everyday average person suddenly becomes an expert marksman when zombies attack? Not so in this book. These people panic, don't shoot straight, and often double think their movements. Basically what your everyday normal human would do when struck by the sudden terror of not only being one of the last humans alive but also the terror of the dead walking around.
Now for the fourth and final book in the series, "Autumn: Disintegration."
Saturday, January 07, 2012
by Geoffrey Cowan
Produced by L.A. Theatre Works (2008)
Approx 2 hours.
Where did it all go wrong? When did the government become a source of distrust? I don't think there is one single event that caused this current distrust of politics and the government, but according to current Pew research only 26% of those surveyed trust the government. A lot of this has come from current governmental scandals, but I would go out on a limb and say that a lot of this government distrust started during the Vietnam war era. That was a time of coverups and secret wars that once the information reached the public the government in general seemed to be a bad guy.
One of the events that reveal this cover up was the publishing of the "Pentagon Papers" by the New York Times and the Washington Post in 1971. This release from L.A. theatre works brings to light the events surrounding the release of the Papers by the Washington Post, including the court trial which led to a landmark decision by the Supreme Court which is best summarized by Justice Steward, "without an informed and free press, there cannot be an enlightened people." The first amendment, which states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." with the section on free press, provides another check and balance for the government to act in the best interest of its citizens. This production from L.A. Theatre works not only provides a nice glimpse at this moment in history but also helps to further the lessons learned during this time of cover ups.
The full cast performance of "Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers" stars; Diane Adair, Bo Foxworth, John Getz, James Gleason, Gregory Harrison, John Heard, Charles Janasz, Raphael Sbarge, Russell, Soder, Susan Sullivan, Peter Van Norden, Tom Virtue, Geoffrey Wade, and brings to life the events which led to the publishing of the papers and the battle which was brought to court by the Nixon administration. The play is very well performed and written and with the audience effects LATW puts you right in the middle of the performance. Based on interviews and court transcripts this story is one that must be heard by all.
It all starts when an injunction has been served on the NYTimes to stop publication of the "Pentagon Papers," and the Washington Post reporters and editors see this as an opportunity to scoop the NYTimes by getting their hands on copies of the Paper. Once the Post begins publishing the Papers, after a long night of soul searching by the reporters and editors, Nixon's administration jumps in taking the Post to court under the guise of National Security. Through the trial the paper's attorneys and editors battle down every argument against publishing the Papers and eventually win, even after the Nixon Administration appeals all the way to the Supreme Court.
This play is a great representation of a time in U.S. history that changed the world, and is a key story in any freedom of press argument. Grab this piece of history and enjoy.
Friday, January 06, 2012
by Larry Niven
Read by Paul Michael Garcia
Produced by Blackstone Audio
Approx 13 hours.
Okay, I've decided to go ahead with the listening of the Ringworld Series of sci-fi books by Larry Niven. I had listened to one of the prequels, "The Juggler of Worlds," and found the story to be very interesting and a nice piece of creative science-fiction. I then read the original, "Ringworld," and was just blown away by the great science-fiction created by Niven. After the review of "Ringworld" I was warned that the sequels aren't very good. I decided I would listen to them anyway, the books, not the warnings, and so far, with the first sequel out of the way, I'm still in awe. Not only are my favorite characters, Speaker-to-Animals and Louis Wu back but the science behind the science fiction continues to be superb. So, no problem with this sequel.
Maybe it's all in the presentation. I've read books and then gone back and listened to the audiobook version and found that the audio version shows off areas I may have missed. I had never read the "Ringworld" books so maybe the outstanding production in this audiobook is the difference. The reader, Paul Michael Garcia, delivers the story perfectly. His ability to provide voices for the different races; Pearson's Puppetteers, Kzin, various races of the ringworld and of course the human Louis Wu hits the mark. He is also able to convey the emotions and attitudes of each character within the given context. So maybe this is what makes it so good.
I do have to say that the world created by Niven is a feat in and of itself, and the different races, ideals and circumstances on the Ringworld are enough to make this a fascinating science fiction story. It's kind of funny, though, Niven never planned on writing a sequel, but thanks to the fans, he did. Mainly because of the popularity, but as is stated in the introduction to this book, there were numerous engineering problems and with a group of MIT students chanting "The Ringworld is unstable" at the 1971 World Science Fiction Convention, was reason enough to write this book and fix those problems. It took nine years from that convention, and 10 years from the publication date of the first book to get this one out, but I for one am glad he did. The fun continues as well as the concepts that really make you ponder the possibilites.
This book starts out some 20 years after the events in "Ringworld," with the characters having gone through life changing events. Louis Wu is a junkie, a wire junkie. Wire junkies are addicted to a drowd, a box that connects to the pleasure centers of the brain via a wire, and keeps the junkie in a state of bliss, much like the tasp used by Nessus in the first book. He has become this way because of loneliness mainly, through the book we discover that the Ringworld native, Pril, who came back to Earth with Louis, Nessus and Speaker-to-Animals was taken by the U.N. Security Council once arriving on Earth and never seen again. Louis was in love with her and never discovered her fate until this novel.
Speaker-to-animals, earned a name and a status, which included several wives, by bringing back the technology promised by Nessus to the Kzinti. His new name is, Chmee. And in this novel he seems to really fit the status by being more of a leader.
Since the fans found the Ringworld to be unstable that's the general idea of this novel, fixing the instability. But first, we have to get our party together and that's where it all starts, Hindmost, the mate to Nessus gathers Louis and Chmee to return to the Ringworld. The reason for Hindmost to return is because, Hindmost has lost his position as a leader of the Puppeteers, and he seeks to bring back some Ringworld Technology to regain his position. With Louis an addict the Hindmost has control over him, but soon learns that Kzinti and Humans do not make good slaves.
Upon arrival at the Ringworld, the horrifying discovery of the Ringworld being of kilter in it's orbit around the sun is made. Calculations put the destruction of the Ringworld, by falling into the sun, within mere months. Louis and Cmee search the Ringworld for a repair center that should have been established by the Ringworld Engineers to fix the problem and stabilize the orbit, saving the millions upon millions of lifeforms now living on the Ringworld.
While on the Ringworld they meet several different hominid species that have evolved on the Ringworld. This is where some of the creativity comes through for Niven. To picture the wide variety of life on the ring world picture the expanse involved. The Ringworld is a structure in the shape of a ring set in orbit around a sun set at around the same distance Earth is from the sun. With that size hundreds, if not thousands, of Earths could fit in, leaving a large amount of habitable space. The lifeforms Niven created include, small red (demonoid) carnivores, vampires who put out pheremones to seduce other hominids, tree hangers, otter like people, and many more. Louis decides to rebel against Hindmost and makes it his mission to save the various life forms who have very little technology due to a virus that attacked all the Ringworld's super-conductors.
In the Great Ocean of Ringworld there are small islands that are "maps' of various planets in known space. For instance, a "map" of Kzin seems to be a smaller scale representation of the planet and even seeded with Kzinti, although from a past when the Ringworld was created, so they are not docile by any means. Chmee discovers that Hindmost will not be returning to Known Space, and sets off to make a life on "The Map of Kzin."
Meanwhile Louis has found the floating city where there is a library and earns his admission into the library by repairing water condensers for the various buildings in the city. In the library Louis learns that the "maps" in the great ocean may be the key to the repair center. Taking command away from Hindmost via mutiny Louis brings them all to "The Map of Mars" where many startling discoveries are made, including the fate of Teela Brown who was left on the Ringworld in the previous novel. Niven borrows from his book "Protector" to weave the tale of Teela.
Great science-fiction mixed with the struggle of a race against time and the struggle of sacrifice this sequel to "Ringworld" continues the great story of wonder..
Thursday, January 05, 2012
by Peter Anghelides
Read by John Barrowman
Published by AudioGo / BBC Audiobooks
Running Time: 3hrs 0mins
So did you catch any seasons of Torchwood? If so then you know how cool of a TV series it is. The show is a spinoff from Doctor Who (in fact the title, Torchwood, is an anagram of Doctor Who) and features an "X-files" type team in Cardiff, Wales who fight every day to keep aliens from invading Earth. The series is based on the idea that a rift in time and space runs directly through Cardiff and all sorts of nasty stuff is trying to get through.
The first season of the series (which is where this audiobook takes place) features Captain Jack Harkness (portrayed by John Barrowman), a time traveller and con man from the 51st century who once was a companion in the TARDIS with the Doctor. Captain Jack has a team that specializes in wrangling the aliens and using various alien technology to cover up their existence. The team conists of Gwen Cooper, a Welsh police officer recruited to the team after seeing "too much," Owen Harper, a medical doctor that is quickly learning the anatomy of many alien races, Toshiko Sato, a computer specialist, and Ianto Jones the coffee guy/front desk man and more (in this part of the series that's all you really need to know, later in the series it was revealed why and how he became a part of the team.
The series gained a larger and larger audience as each season aired mainly because of the well written stories, but also because of their open approach to Gay and Lesbian characters. I found the series a nice sci-fi series that combined elements of Doctor Who and the X-files. All the episodes had some great acting and great scripts and kept me interested until this last season which aired in the U.S. on the Starz network. This last season moved what was left of the team (Gwen and Captain Jack) to the United States and for some reason the writing seemed to miss something.
Anyway back to this book. Like I said, it takes place in the first season, so you get the full team, as the seasons progressed team members were lost with no replacement. This book starts just about a month or so after Gwen is recruited and jumps into the action right away. A massive storm is dumping rain on Cardiff with twenty-four inches of rain fall in twenty-four hours, the city center’s drainage system collapses, causing sever flooding and to make matter's worse the homeless are being murdered, their mutilated bodies left lying in the soaked streets around the Blaidd Drwg nuclear facility. Tracked down by Torchwood, the killer calmly drops eight stories to his death. But the killings don’t stop. Torchwood soon discovers a sea-monster in a bathtub, stolen nuclear fuel from an army base and Torchwood's doctor, Owen, goes missing.
As it happens something is forcing its way through the rift in the bay causing the storm system and it is up to Torchwood to track down the alien before the "something" coming through the rift destroys Cardiff and possibly the world.
The audiobook is read by the show's lead actor John Barrowman and he delivers the story in the perfect Captain Jack Harkness way. Harkness is a bit cocky and always sure of himself and Barrowman portrays that perfectly in the series and in this audiobook, without being a multi-cast audiobook, Barrowman was the perfect choice and succeeded in presenting the fun and action within the Torchwood world.
Not sure about the future of the series, but if this audiobook is a reflection of the others available, I can still get my fix.
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
by Martin Day
Read by Matt Smith
Produced by AudioGO Ltd.
approx 1 hour.
What to do with the Doctor Who TV series on hiatus until fall 2012? Catch up on my Doctor Who audiobooks, that's what. I've got a lot to get through and I thought since the series is on the 11th Doctor, portrayed by Matt Smith, I'd get through the latest ones first. It seems that Matt Smith is growing on me as the Doctor, I wasn't quite sure at first, I had really become fond of David Tenant, but change is inevitable, especially with the doctor. With this audiobook featuring Matt Smith reading, I've grown a little more fond of his portrayal of the Doctor, he is able to continue with the attitudes that only he could have in this role and this reading makes it easy to escape into another episode of Doctor Who.
Another aspect of the audiobook being easy to perceive as another episode is that it is just over one hour of listening time. Sure Doctor Who can run a multi-episode story arc, but some of the best are simple one show adventures, and that is exactly what this book is. The audiobook even begins and ends with the iconic them music so you know you are ready for a ride in the TARDIS.
The story begins with the TARDIS receiving a distress call from a Shinto shrine, in medieval Japan on Earth. The Doctor and Amy Pond arrive in a small village and met by the village elder, Shijo Sada. He finds the Doctor an intriguing sort, who seems aloof yet full of the knowledge of the ages. He takes them to a holy site that is guarded by small ogre-like statues called Otoroshi. The Otoroshi are said to guard the ancient jade pyramid in the heart of the temple. The temple is so holy that only the monks are allowed in and that the temple has strange healing properties.
It turns out the Shogun, the ruler of Japan, wants the pyramid and has ordered seven samurai to take possession of the temple. Amy ventures into the temple and discovers that the guardians can come to life to protect the temple. The Doctor is attacked by a niinja and the adventure runs from there leading the Doctor deep within the temple to discover the secrets of the Jade Pyramid.
With Samurai, Ninjas, Aliens and the Doctor, this story is full of fun and adventure and is a must hear for any Doctor Who fan, and who knows, maybe able to attract the few that have yet to discover the fun in Doctor Who.