Audio

Speculative fiction in audiobook format.




Sourdough: Celebrates the appreciation of excellent food

Readers’ average rating:

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

I really loved Robin Sloan’s Sourdough (2017), but not everyone will. You probably will if you’re a foodie (I am), an introvert (I am), and a bit geeky (I am). If you love sourdough bread (I do) and magical realism (I do), you’ve just got to read Sourdough. And you must try the audio version. It’s amazing.

Lois is new to San Francisco. She moved from Michigan, where she grew up, and she’s starting a job as a programmer of robotic arms at a tech company where everyone works so hard that they basically have no other life. Most of them just eat a nutritive slurry rather than bothering to plan, shop, and prepare meals.

Most nights Lois orders her dinner from a food delivery se... Read More

Drop by Drop: A boring small-town soap opera

Readers’ average rating:

Drop by Drop by Morgan Llywelyn

I’m going to make this short. There was nothing — absolutely nothing — that I liked about Drop by Drop (2018), the first book in Morgan Llywelyn’s new STEP BY STEP trilogy.

The story is about a small town where everybody seems to know everybody else. Suddenly one day, the plastic gradually starts to melt. Everything that is made of plastic eventually fails (they call it “The Change”) and the society has to learn to live without plastic. This means reverting to more primitive technologies since cars, computers, the internet, and so many other things all rely on plastic parts. As The Change is happening, we follow personal developments (marriages, divorces, deaths, etc.) of the town’s citizens.

... Read More

Darkest Hour: This series is getting a bit more complex

Readers’ average rating:

Darkest Hour by Meg Cabot

“You really have the most alarming way, Susannah, of getting yourself into scrapes.”

Darkest Hour is the fourth book in Meg Cabot’s MEDIATOR series. It’d be best to read the previous books, Shadowland, Ninth Key, and Reunion before picking up Darkest Hour. While each short book has a stand-alone story, the key characters are the same and there are some overarching plotlines including Suze’s crush on the ghost who live... Read More

Paternus: Wrath of Gods: More myths in a faster blender

Readers’ average rating: 

Paternus: Wrath of Gods by Dyrk Ashton

Paternus: Wrath of Gods (2018) is the second book in Dyrk Ashton’s PATERNUS series, following Paternus: Rise of Gods. In that book Fiona Patterson and her would-be boyfriend Zeke were wrenched out of their fairly ordinary Ohio teenager lives and thrust into a war of gods — small “g” gods, actually the offspring of the Paternus of the title, whose past deeds form the basis of most human mythology. (It’s not a major plot point — at least, not yet — but at least two of these “gods” are perfectly sincere Christians. I’m not quite sure where Mr. Ashton is going with that, but I do hope to find out.)

... Read More

The Hercules Text: Asks interesting questions in an uninteresting way

Readers’ average rating:

The Hercules Text by Jack McDevitt

In the near future, NASA scientists pick up a signal from space that turns out to be a coded message (“The Hercules Text”) from an alien species. It originated a million years ago, so it’s unlikely that the aliens still exist, and even if they do they’re very far away, but the message tells us that (1) We are not (or were not) alone in the universe and (2) A million years ago these aliens were sophisticated enough to send this technologically advanced message.

These facts have profound effects on the scientists and other people involved with the NASA project. They are forced to re-think much of what they thought to be true and they need to work with the US government (and other nations) to decide how much of the information should be made public because some of it is dangerous. As you’d expect, there are differing and strongly-held opinions on ... Read More

Buying Time: Immortals running for their lives

Readers’ average rating:

Buying Time by Joe Haldeman

Dallas Barr is a Stileman — one of the few humans who’ve paid a million pounds and given up all their assets to have their bodies rejuvenated. These folks need the process repeated every decade or so, so they spend that decade earning the money needed for the next treatment. To keep the Stilemen from gaining too much wealth and power, they’re required to give up their assets each time. This leads to the funding of many philanthropic initiatives around the world.

When Dallas and his girlfriend Maria discover a conspiracy affecting the Stileman Process, they are forced to run for their lives. If they can’t shake their pursuers and don’t solve their problem in time, their immortality will run out.

Joe Haldeman’s Buying Time Read More

Ninth Key: Decent fantasy entertainment for older teens

Readers’ average rating:

Ninth Key by Meg Cabot

Ninth Key is the second book in Meg Cabot’s MEDIATOR series about Suze, a high school student who can interact with restless ghosts. She helps them settle their affairs on Earth so they can move on to wherever they’re supposed to go (she doesn’t know what happens after they leave Earth). In Shadowland, the first MEDIATOR book, Suze and her mom had just moved from New York to northern California so her mom, a widow, could marry a widower with three sons. None of the family knows about Suze’s ability to see ghosts.

Upon arrival in California, Suze discovers the ghost of a hot guy names Jesse in her bedroom. He’s been dea... Read More

Under the Pendulum Sun: I’m looking forward to Ng’s NEXT book

Readers’ average rating:

Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng

Laon Helstone is a British missionary to Arcadia, the recently discovered land of the fae. Laon hasn’t been heard from for a while, so his sister Catherine sets out to find him, travelling alone (but with the approval of the Catholic church) to Arcadia. When she arrives at the house where Laon has been living, she finds out that he hasn't been seen there in quite a while, but is expected home soon.

As Catherine waits, she befriends a couple of the house’s residents and learns that the fae aren’t too interested in hearing the Gospel. Most don’t see themselves as needing salvation. Catherine also spends time studying the journals of the first (mysteriously deceased) missionary to Arcadia. They may contain important secrets about the nature of the universe and God’s relationship to the fae.

There’s a lot to like in Jea... Read More

Starless: A sensitive portrayal of diverse characters

Readers’ average rating:

Starless by Jacqueline Carey

For all of his life, young Khai has been training to be the “Shadow” protector of Zariya, the youngest daughter of his nation’s king. Nobody knows why the gods have decreed that Zariya, a politically unimportant princess, needs a protector, but the role as her shadow should be relatively easy. Nevertheless, Khai has trained hard and hopes he is ready for the role. When he arrives at the palace to finally meet his charge, Khai is surprised to discover that Zariya is not the kind of princess he envisioned and this is not going to be an easy assignment after all. Khai will be tested beyond what he thought was possible.

In many ways, Starless (2018) feels like so many other epic fantasies I’ve read, except that it’s written in Jacqueline Carey... Read More

SFM: Roanhorse, VanderMeer, Theodoridou, Moore & Kuttner, Divya

Short Fiction Monday: Our exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about.

“Welcome to Your Authentic Indian ExperienceTM” by Rebecca Roanhorse (2017, free at Apex Magazine, $2.99 Kindle magazine issue)

Accolades have been pouring down on this 2017 SF short story, which won both the Hugo and Nebula awards, and is also a Sturgeon Award nominee, a Locus Recommended Short Story, a Apex Magazine Reader’s Choice Winner. Additionally, Rebecca Roanhorse won the Hugo’s John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. On my first... Read More

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom: Murder and mayhem at Disney World

Readers’ average rating:

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow

I picked up Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (2003) because it’s set in one of my favorite places in the universe: Walt Disney World. I grew up less than an hour’s drive from the Magic Kingdom, so I’m intimately familiar with the park and, though I’m now middle-aged, I never get tired of visiting. I love the idea of a far-future science fiction story set inside my favorite theme park.

Jules is a man who’s over 100 years old but looks to be in his 20s due to rejuvenation techniques and the ability to back yourself up with a clone. In this immortal post-scarcity society, people pretty much do what they want as long as they have enough “whuffie” — a kind of social credit that’s based on their current reputation. Jules (and others of his ilk) live inside Disney World and operate the same rides that... Read More

Zeroboxer: The truth will set you free

Readers’ average rating:

Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee

Carr “The Raptor” Luka has been rising in the ranks of zeroboxers — men and women who fight in zero gravity. He’s just signed with an agent, been assigned a brandhelm (publicity manager), procured a sponsor, and he hopes to be able to compete for the championship title. As political tensions rise between the residents of Earth and Mars, Carr’s success becomes a point of pride and an inspiration for Earth, “the old dirt ball.”

While on a publicity tour, Carr discovers some information about a crime that someone close to him has committed. This brings on a major ethical dilemma as he decides whether or not to report the crime. It’s not as simple as “doing the right thing” because not only is Carr’s career threatened, but so is the fragile peace between Earth and Mars. Not to mention the devastating effect this information would have on all of Car... Read More

The Remnant: A long but satisfying finale

Readers’ average rating:

The Remnant by Charlie Fletcher

“No more hope. No more heroes.”

The Remnant (2017) is the third and final book in Charlie Fletcher’s OVERSIGHT trilogy. You need to read the first two books, The Oversight and The Paradox, before opening this one, or you’ll be hopelessly lost. I’ll assume you have since I won’t be able to avoid some spoilers for the previous books in this review.

The Oversight is still struggling to maintain the balance between the old and new worlds. Its headquarters has been destroyed and its few remaining members are scat... Read More

Mem: A beautiful story that I didn’t believe in

Readers’ average rating:

MEM by Bethany C. Morrow

Set in an alternate 1920s world, MEM (2018) is a short novel about a woman who is the physical manifestation of a memory extraction process. If someone has a traumatic memory they want to get rid of, Professor Toutant can remove it. The memory then becomes a physical person who lives in the “vault” below the health center at a university in Montreal. (The vault is very similar to a mental or convalescent care ward.) Most of these “mems,” whose brains carry not much beyond the extracted memory, sit around being cared for in the vault until they eventually pass away. Some of them are able to interact in the world better than others. Some even visit with the person whose memory they’re from.

Our protagonist, a mem who was the first extracted memory ever created by Professor Toutant, seems to somehow have retained a copy of the brai... Read More

The Snail on the Slope: “Entirely inaccessible to the general reader”

Readers’ average rating:

The Snail on the Slope by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky

Chicago Review Press and Blackstone Audio have been translating and reprinting some of the Strugatsky brothers’ works and they’ve sent me review copies. I read Monday Starts on Saturday several months ago but never managed to write a review, which I feel terrible about because I really liked that book. I will try to review it soon.

Being familiar with their style -- which is bizarre, ironic, visually arresting, and funny -- I figured I’d like The Snail on the Slope (1968), too. Not so, but it was a close thing. I loved each individual sentence that the Strugatskys composed, and even some complete scenes, but when everything was put together, I could make no sense of it. The Snail o... Read More

Dead Men Can’t Complain and Other Stories: Diverse tales show Clines’ talent

Readers’ average rating:

Dead Men Can’t Complain and Other Stories by Peter Clines

I love Peter Clines’ weird ideas and a short story collection seems the perfect way to experience a bunch of them. I found Dead Men Can’t Complain and Other Stories (2017) at Audible. At this moment there is no print version of this collection, but the audio version, with narration by two of my favorite readers (Ray Porter and Ralph Lister) is excellent and well worth picking up. It’s only 5 hours long.

The stories, which cover 10 years of Clines’ writing career, are:

"Mulligan" — The NSA has been called in to speak to a cop who has just interrogated a man in a lizard costume. As the cop tells his story, it gets weirder and weirder.
"Bedtime story" — A young boy tells his pare... Read More

Nightflyers: Mystery and horror aboard a haunted spaceship

Readers’ average rating:

Nightflyers by George R.R. Martin

Nightflyers was first published in 1980, won the Locus Award for best novella, and was nominated for a Hugo Award. It was made into an unsuccessful film in 1987. It’s recently been on people’s radars due to the upcoming SYFY series based on the novella. You can purchase it in several new (2018) formats including an illustrated edition, a story collection, and an audio version. I listened to the audio version, which was narrated by actress Adenrele Ojo.

The story is a... Read More

Competence: Silly situations and frivolous fashions

Readers’ average rating:

Competence by Gail Carriger

I keep picking up Gail Carriger’s books because I really loved her FINISHING SCHOOL series, so I know it’s possible for me to connect with her work, but Competence (2018) is the third CUSTARD PROTOCOL book I’ve tried (after giving up on THE PARASOL PROTECTORATE from which this series spun off) and I’m realizing that it’s just not working for me. So, take my review with the proverbial grain of salt. If you’re a fan of THE PARASOL PROTECTORATE and THE CUSTARD PROTOCOL, just ignore my opinion and go purchase and read Competence. You’ll almost certainly love it.

In this installment, Primrose and the werecat get stranded on la... Read More

Gravity Dreams: Some interesting themes but not much else

Readers’ average rating:

Gravity Dreams by L.E. Modesitt Jr

Tyndel is a religious leader in his society. Any use of nanotechnology is forbidden and those who change their bodies with nanotech are considered “demons.” When someone purposely infects Tyndel with the forbidden “mites,” Tyndel must flee his country before he’s arrested and killed. When he gets rescued by the “evil” empire that allows technological body enhancements, his faith is challenged.

Gravity Dreams (1999) is very similar to The Parafaith War, the last Modesitt book I read. Both stories involve two societies, one whose religion teaches that the other is evil because it uses technology to upgrade sensory processing an... Read More

Relic: I really ached for Ruslan’s plight

Readers’ average rating:

Relic by Alan Dean Foster

A man-made virus has wiped out all the humans in the galaxy... except one. Ruslan (he doesn’t know whether that’s his first or last name) is the last man standing, literally, on a faraway planet colonized by humans long ago. He was rescued by aliens who took Ruslan in and cared for him. They’re nice aliens and, with Ruslan’s help, want to study and preserve human culture. Now Ruslan is an old man, living in this pleasant but alien society. He likes his hosts, but he is still lonely for human contact even though he knows that humans are at fault in masterminding their own extinction. When he makes a bargain with the aliens, they go in search of Old Earth and make a surprising discovery.

I just can’t resist a “last human in the universe” kind of story. Even though I’m pretty far out on the “I” side of the Read More

Stars Uncharted: Pleasant but lacks originality

Readers’ average rating:

Stars Uncharted by S.K. Dunstall

I’ve read a lot of books and seen a lot of shows with this basic premise: several individuals, each with their own secrets and special skills, end up together (in this case, on a spaceship) and must bond with each other so they can outwit and overpower the evil enemy that’s chasing them. That’s what’s happening in S.K. Dunstall’s version of this classic storyline in Stars Uncharted (2018).

There’s Nika Rik Terri, a famous body modder (think artistic genetic engineer) who is trying to hide from the criminal organization her ex-boyfriend belongs to. There’s Snow, a young body modder who gets swept up in Nika’s adventure without recognizing Nika as his idol. There’s Josune Arriola, an engineer, spy, and darn good fighter who is trying to find the location of a deposit of extremely valuable elements.... Read More

Angel Station: Needs some humans we can root for

Readers’ average rating:

Angel Station by Walter Jon Williams

Ubu Roy and Beautiful Maria are a couple of young adults who were genetically engineered by their “father,” a spaceship pilot and explorer who recently committed suicide on his ship, leaving his two “kids” to fend for themselves. The money is gone, and so are their prospects, so Ubu and Maria set out to try to make enough money to avoid foreclosure on their ship.

Luckily, they both have a couple of special skills engineered into their DNA. When they happen upon an unknown alien civilization, they come up with a get-rich quick scheme. But for it to work, they have to keep the aliens a secret from humanity. This becomes more and more difficult to do as their competitors plot against them.

Angel Station (1989) is the type of space adventure that I usually find very appealing and there were some aspects of t... Read More

Idoru: Slick and shiny, but also deep

Readers’ average rating:

Idoru by William Gibson

Idoru (1996) is billed as the middle novel in William Gibson’s BRIDGE trilogy (bookended by Virtual Light and All Tomorrow’s Parties) but, though it shares some history and characters with its companions, it can easily stand alone.

Idoru follows the stories of two people who live in Gibson’s post-industrial world. One is Colin Laney (of All Tomorrow’s Parties) who grew up in a Florida orphanage where he was given experimental drugs that changed his brain in such a way that he can now see... Read More

Long Hot Summoning: Diana tackles an evil shopping mall

Readers’ average rating:

Long Hot Summoning by Tanya Huff

Long Hot Summoning (2003) is the third and final book in Tanya Huff’s KEEPER’S CHRONICLES. It’s advisable to read the first two books, Summon the Keeper and The Second Summoning first.

Claire’s sister Diana has just graduated from high school and is off on her first summoning. It leads her to the local indoor shopping mall, where she discovers that evil forces are quietly infiltrating the mall, where they hope to gradually create a segue into our world. Diana is the strongest keeper alive, but even she is not confident... Read More

The Paradox: So much to admire, but definitely a middle book

Readers’ average rating:

The Paradox by Charlie Fletcher

The Paradox (2015) is the second book in Charlie Fletcher’s OVERSIGHT trilogy. I loved the audiobook version of the first book, The Oversight, when I read it four years ago. Despite its crawling pace, I loved it for its grungy Victorian setting. The audiobook narration by Simon Prebble, an award-winning superstar of the audio world, was so spectacular that I titled my review “One of the best audiobooks I’ve read this year” and I said that I’d be picking up The Paradox as soon as it was available.

But, alas, when Read More