Audio

Speculative fiction in audiobook format.




The Story of the Amulet: A charming classic

The Story of the Amulet by Edith Nesbit

The Story of the Amulet is a sequel to Edith Nesbit’s famous story collection, Five Children and It, in which five siblings discover a wish-granting sand fairy named The Psammead. Each story in Five Children and It tells of a single day when the children ask the Psammead for something they think they want. Their wishes always backfire and give Nesbit the opportunity to humorously illustrate the adage “be careful what you wish for.” At the end of Five Children and It, the siblings have learned their lesson and promise to never ask the sand fairy for another wish, but they mention that they hope to meet the Psammead again someday. And indeed they do in The Story of the Amulet. The children wander in... Read More

Surface Detail: Another wild ride in Iain Banks’ far-future universe

Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks

Surface Detail (2010), the penultimate CULTURE novel, is another wild ride in Iain Banks’ far-future universe. Interestingly (or at least I think so), this novel deals with the afterlife, as does the final CULTURE novel, The Hydrogen Sonata, which was published several months before Banks’ unexpected death of gallbladder cancer in 2013.

Though speculation about what happens beyond death is a heavy subject, Banks deals with it flippantly in Surface Detail (and also to a lesser extent in The Hydrogen Sonata). The premise here is that Hell is simply a virtual reality computer simulation. That’s an interesting idea that becomes pretty funny when you consider that if hell is an MMORPG, then someone must be “hosting Hell” and others are trying to hack it. The ... Read More

The Dark Water: The story switches from SF thriller to lost world fantasy

The Dark Water by Seth Fishman

The Dark Water is the sequel to last year’s The Well’s End, a fast-paced and suspenseful YA SF thriller that I enjoyed despite its reliance on several well-worn teen themes. To discuss The Dark Water, I’ll have to spoil a little of the plot of The Well’s End, so if you’re planning to read that novel, you may want to stop after the next paragraph.

The Well’s End was written in first person from the perspective of Mia Kish, a nationally-ranked swimmer who attends an elite boarding school. When Mia was a toddler, she fell down a well and was eventually rescued as the world watched on CNN. (This story was inspired by Baby Jess... Read More

The Scarlet Fig: or, Slowly through a Land of Stone: Will have limited appeal

The Scarlet Fig: or, Slowly through a Land of Stone by Avram Davidson

I loved The Phoenix and the Mirror, the first book in Avram Davidson’s trilogy about the mage Vergil in ancient Rome, but the two sequels are disappointing. The first sequel, Vergil in Averno, is a travelogue of Vergil’s visit to Averno, a place that ancient Romans thought might be the gate to Hell. (It’s not nearly as interesting as that might suggest, though.) It had little plot, but at least it displayed Avram Davidson’s amusing sense of humor.

This second sequel, The Scarlet Fig, has even less plot. The story starts as Vergil encounters a condemned man who is pardoned by a Vestal Virgin on his way to be executed. Something happens to the Vestal Virgin’s carriage and in his attempt to keep her from falling, Vergil accidentally touches her arm. Vergil’s intentions were ho... Read More

On the Oceans of Eternity: A disappointing finale

On the Oceans of Eternity by S.M. Stirling

On the Oceans of Eternity is the final novel in S.M. Stirling’s NANTUCKET series. In the first novel, Island in the Sea of Time, which I really enjoyed, a strange electrical storm caused the entire island of Nantucket to be transported back in time to 1300 B.C. It was entertaining to watch the island’s citizens make this discovery and deal with the resulting personal, cultural, economic and political changes. Then, one of the citizens, William Walker, decided to use his modern knowledge and technology to attempt to establish himself as emperor in this “new” world. He left the island to search for people he could rule.

The second book, Against the Tide of Years, felt very much like a middle book. We watched the islanders trying to usher in an industrial revolution, but most of the plot fo... Read More

King Kelson’s Bride: Wraps up Kelson’s story

King Kelson’s Bride by Katherine Kurtz

Katherine Kurtz published Deryni Rising, her first novel about young King Kelson, in 1970 and published The Quest for Saint Camber, which seemed to be the final story in the HISTORIES OF KING KELSON in 1986. Then, eleven years later, she published King Kelson’s Bride, a story that ties up many loose ends and answers a few questions about how life turned out for Kelson Haldane. There will be spoilers for the previous books here, so you may want to skip this review until you’ve read up to this point.

King Kelson’s Bride begins about three years after the events of The Quest for Saint Camber. There are two major events going on in Kelson’s life right now and they will become intricately intertwined in this story.

The first is ... Read More

Against the Tide of Years: Less fun than the first book

Against the Tide of Years by S.M. Stirling

It’s been several years since “the event” which pulled the island of Nantucket back in time to 1300 B.C. (We read all about this in Island in the Sea of Time, the first book in S.M. Stirling’s NANTUCKET trilogy.) The islanders have been busy learning how to live without all the modern conveniences of the 20th century. They are successfully learning how to farm and fish, breed animals, acquire fuels, build ships and dirigibles, harvest morphine from poppies, make textiles, and develop vaccines and other medical techniques. They’ve instituted a republican form of government and have begun minting coins and regulating industries such as forestry.

The islanders are sprea... Read More

The Quest for Saint Camber: An exciting DERYNI story

The Quest for Saint Camber by Katherine Kurtz

Even though The Quest for Saint Camber is the third novel in Katherine Kurtz’s THE HISTORIES OF KING KELSON trilogy, it’s actually the sixth novel about King Kelson and it’s part of her larger DERYNI CHRONICLES. You should read the books about Kelson in this order: Deryni RisingDeryni CheckmateHigh DeryniThe Bishop’s Heir, The King’s Justice, and then The Quest for Saint Camber. You might also like to know that this is NOT the last novel about Kelson. There is one more novel called King Kelson’s Bride that wraps up some loose ends from this story.

At this point in the story, young King Kelson has finally put down the Mearan reb... Read More

Crown of Shadows: But wait! There’s more!

Crown of Shadows by C.S. Friedman

Crown of Shadows brings C.S. Friedman’s COLDFIRE trilogy to a close. (This review may contain spoilers for the previous books, which you really must read before beginning Crown of Shadows.)

In the previous book, When True Night Falls, the unlikely allies Reverend Damien Vryce and undead vampire Gerald Tarrant battled their way across hostile foreign countries to combat the evil force that was threatening humanity. Just when they thought they were finished, they were essentially told: “But wait! There’s more!” Now they’re on their way back home where they will — they hope — finally really combat the actual final real ultimate source of evil ... which turns out to be Calesta the demon.

Damien and Gerald w... Read More

When True Night Falls: Compelling, but too long

When True Night Falls by C.S. Friedman

When True Night Falls is the second book in C.S. Friedman’s COLDFIRE trilogy. You’ll want to read the first book, Black Sun Rising, first. This review may spoil some of that first book’s plot.

At the end of Black Sun Rising, Reverend Damien Vryce, the devout warrior priest, discovered the source of the evil that is infecting his country — it lies across the ocean where there exists another continent that humans are aware of but know nothing about. In the past, several expeditions have been sent to explore it, but none has returned. Damien knows he should report to his church’s patriarch, but he’s afraid the patriarch will forbid him to go, so Damien ignores the man and instead boards a ship to cross the ocean. He is again reluctantly teaming up with Gerald Tarrant, the evil undead sorcer... Read More

The King’s Justice: King Kelson must squash a rebellion, part two

The King’s Justice by Katherine Kurtz

The King’s Justice is the second book in Katherine Kurtz’s THE HISTORIES OF KING KELSON trilogy, which is part of her DERYNI CHRONICLES. It’s the fifth book about young King Kelson. You really ought to read the books in this order: Deryni Rising, Deryni Checkmate, High Deryni, The Bishop’s Heir and THEN this book, The King’s Justice.

Kelson is now 17 years old. In the previous book, The Bishop’s Heir, Kelson and his advisors (Morgan and Duncan) dealt with the rebellion of the province of Meara, which used to be indepe... Read More

The Forgotten Sisters: A wonderful story for girls AND BOYS

The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale

I just adore Shannon Hale’s PRINCESS ACADEMY books for young readers. The Forgotten Sisters, released earlier this week, is the third and final installment. This review will contain spoilers for the previous books.

In book one, Princess Academy, the first school was built in Mount Eskel, an uneducated rural mining community. The purpose of the school was to educate marriageable young ladies so that the prince of their realm could choose a fitting bride. One of the potential princess wannabees, Miri, wasn’t chosen to be princess, but she learned subjects and skills that she used to better Mount Eskel’s economic situation. In the second book, Palace of Stone, Miri goes to the capital city for more education and ends up qu... Read More

Black Sun Rising: Unique worldbuilding and science fantasy

Black Sun Rising by C.S. Friedman

Black Sun Rising is the first novel in C.S. Friedman’s popular COLDFIRE trilogy. I read Dominion, the prequel novella, a couple of years ago after reading (and loving) several of her science fiction novels. I admire Friedman’s worldbuilding and her writing style.

The COLDFIRE trilogy feels like traditional epic fantasy, but it would best be categorized as science fantasy because it takes place in the far future on Erna, a planet colonized by humans looking for a habitable world. When they got to this world, they discovered that natural laws work differently. Some force, which they call the “Fae,” feeds on human fears and uses those “vibes” (my word) to influence evolution. This means, for example, that creatures that aren’t r... Read More

Lord Kelvin’s Machine: A steampunk adventure with time paradoxes

Lord Kelvin’s Machine by James P. Blaylock

James P. Blaylock returns to Victorian England in another steampunk adventure with scientist Langdon St. Ives and his nemesis, Dr. Ignacio Narbondo. Lord Kelvin’s Machine contains three related stories which each feature a fictional infernal device created by inventor Lord Kelvin. I listened to the excellent audio version which was produced by Audible Studios, is just over 8 hours long, and is narrated by Nigel Carrington.

In the prologue of Lord Kelvin’s Machine, Dr. Narbondo murders Langdon St. Ives’ beloved wife Alice which throws St. Ives into a funk. Part 1, titled “In the Days of the Comet” begins a year later. St. Ives has been depressed since Alice di... Read More

Murder on the Orient Elite: A short GRIMNOIR CHRONICLES story

Murder on the Orient Elite by Larry Correia

For fans who just can’t wait for the next installment in Larry Correia’s GRIMNOIR CHRONICLES, you can get a quick fix by reading Murder on the Orient Elite. In this short story (only 1 hour and 15 minutes on audio) which is set in an alternate 1937, not too long after the events of Warbound, Jake Sullivan is contacted by Dr. Wells to do an undercover job on Wells’ dirigible, The Orient Elite. Wells, the psychopathic (and maybe also paranoid) psychologist, suspects that one of his passengers is planning to blow up the luxury airship on its maiden voyage and he wants Jake to figure out who the saboteur is. When Jake comes aboard, he realizes the ship is full of his usual enemies — Russian, German, and Japanese agents. Jake must uncover the plot ... Read More

The Emerald City of Oz: Just another sight-seeing tour of Oz

The Emerald City of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Emerald City of Oz is L. Frank Baum’s sixth OZ book. Here we find Dorothy Gale back at home in Kansas. Uncle Henry and Aunt Em are about to lose their farm and they despair of what will happen to their niece Dorothy since they can no longer support her. The three decide that Dorothy should go live in Oz with her friend Princess Ozma who has often tried to get Dorothy to move there. But sweet little Dorothy can’t leave Uncle Henry and Aunt Em living lives of hard labor back in Kansas, so she gets permission to bring them to Oz, too.

Thus, Dorothy gets to give her aunt and uncle a tour of Oz (oh no!) and introduce them to all her friends — Cowardly Lion, Hungry Tiger, Billina, Sawhorse, Wizard, Pumpkinhead, Scarecrow, Woggle Bug, etc, etc, etc. On her tour she also run... Read More

The Digging Leviathan: Dreamy, peculiar, and sweet

The Digging Leviathan by James P. Blaylock

The Digging Leviathan is the first book in James P. Blaylock’s LANGDON ST. IVES/NARBONDO series. I’ve been reading these out of order, which doesn’t seem to matter. The books have some overlapping characters, settings, and/or concepts, but each stands alone. The Digging Leviathan features two teenage boys, Jim Hastings and Giles Peach, who are living on the coast of Southern California during the mid-20th century. Each is a dreamer and each has his own “issues” involving his father.

Jim lives with his uncle Edward St. Ives (who, I’m assuming, is a direct descendant of Langdon St. Ives, the eccentric Victorian scientist who stars in several of the books in this series) because Jim’s mother is dead and his father is insane. (Or is he?) Most of the time Jim’s father lives in a mental hospital, but when he ma... Read More

Alector’s Choice: What Bill said

Alector’s Choice by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Despite believing what Bill said about the “shampoo-rinse-repeat” nature of Modesitt’s COREAN CHRONICLES, I gave Alector’s Choice, the fourth book in the series, a try since it has just been released in audiobook format by Tantor Audio and they sent me a review copy.

If you’re interested in reading Alector’s Choice, you should know that you don’t need to read books 1-3 first. Alector’s Choice begins a trilogy that’s a prequel to the rest of the series. In fact, if you haven’t read the other books in the series, you are likely to enjoy this book a lot more than I did since my main complaint is that it’s too similar to the previous novels.

The story follows two protagonists. The first is Mykel... Read More

I Shall Wear Midnight: Tiffany faces another Hiver

I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett

When Tiffany thinks about her age, she thinks that she’s “nearly sixteen.” On the Chalk, “nearly sixteen” means, for many girls, thinking about marriage. Tiffany might lack her peers’ enthusiasm for boys, but she has delivered babies and tended to the terminally ill. Tiffany has dealt with domestic abuse. As a witch, Tiffany’s job is to take care of everyone, the young and the old alike, and to face the things, every day, that people just do not like to face. Tiffany is wise beyond her years, and she’s certainly not thinking about boys and marriage.

But Tiffany does know that Roland is getting married to a bimbo. But children do ask her whether witches even have “passionate parts.” But she did kiss the Wintersmith.

(More of a peck, really. “No tongue!” Tiffany reminds one witch.)

Kissing the Wintersmith is a problem, or it’s a... Read More

Get in Trouble: More sucker-punching awesomeness from Kelly Link

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

Kelly Link throws a mean sucker punch. Her latest short story collection, Get in Trouble, is calculated to get you — to draw you in under one premise, and then take you somewhere else entirely. It explores modern America through her special blend of genre-busting surrealism. Exploring various landscapes such as rural North Carolina, Florida swamps, and Southern California, Link exposes the inherent weirdness of our everyday lives. She spins out alternate realities based on the already-established facts of our existence, like online dating, personal digital gadgets, and fading television stars.

If there's a thread connecting these stories, it's that all of the characters are already in trouble. Whether experiencing the toxic peer-pressure of teenage years, or alcoholism and ennui of early adulthood, or t... Read More

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