Archive for the Audio Books Category

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake

Posted in Audio Books with tags , , on July 22, 2010 by Aaron

This isn’t a review, just a kind of an enthusiastic recommendation for the book. I’ve read it twice. First time was about 10 or 12 years ago. I discovered it at Audible.com maybe 5 or 6 years past. This is the second time I’m listening to it and just thought I’d relate what a fantastic experience it is.

Published in 1946, Titus Groan – I’ve just finished it and once more started on it’s companion Gormenghast (ISFDB references here and here) – are master classes in descriptive writing.  Mervyn Peake’s prose is filled with incredible, original, often beautiful (and sometimes bizarre) similes and metaphors.  His use of color is unparalleled.  The only authors that I have read that come even close are H.P. Lovecraft and C.L. Moore, and with them he shares a certain dark foreboding feel behind the words, though with perhaps, slightly less gravity.

Mr Peake has, as I’ve read variously around the Internet, been accused of not developing his characters fully.  Indeed, this might be true.  I feel though, the more traditional or literary method of characterization through background, inner thoughts and motivations isn’t necessary.  Here, characters are described more in terms of their actions, affectations and appearances rather than their personalities.  A technique that, because of Mr Peake’s rare skill in painting a picture for one’s mind’s eye, is incredibly effective.  The ability to really connect with the characters does, I suppose, suffer because of this, but the sheer enjoyment of actually seeing the characters and roaming the stretches of stone corridors and the various rooms and locations within and without the great castle is something to experience.

Let me give you a small taste of what I mean.  The following passage is how the book opens – our introduction to what has been said to be the principal character of the tale: Castle Gormenghast itself.  I’m taking these from the audio version, so apologies for any errant punctuation as compared to that in print.

Gormenghast, that is the main massing of the original stone, taken by itself would have displayed a certain ponderous architectural quality were it possible to have ignored the circumfusion of those mean dwellings that swarmed like an epidemic around it’s outer walls.  They sprawled over the sloping earth, each one halfway over it’s neighbor until, held back by the castle ramparts, the innermost of these hovels laid hold on the great walls, clamping themselves thereto like limpets to a rock.  These dwellings, by ancient lore, were granted this chill intimacy with the stronghold that loomed above them.
Over their irregular roofs would fall throughout the seasons, the shadows of time-eaten buttresses, of broken and lofty turrets, and, most enormous of all, the shadow of the Tower of Flints.  This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven.

Outstanding.  The last sentence has stuck in my mind since I took it in upon the first reading. “..arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven.”  Awesome.

This fantastic talent that Mervyn Peake has, does, on occasion, border on the farcical.  Allow me to illustrate.  By way of brief background here, Mr Flay is the Earl of Gormenghast’s manservant and Swelter is the castle’s head cook.  They share a mutual dislike that comes to a head towards the end of the first book:

Swelter’s eyes meet those of his enemy, and never was there held between four globes of gristle so sinister a hell of hatred.  Had the flesh, the fibers and the bones of the chef and those of Mr Flay been conjured away and away down that dark corridor leaving only their four eyes suspended in mid air outside the Earl’s door, then surely they must have reddened to the hue of Mars.  Reddened and smoldered and at last broken into flame, so intense was their hatred.  Broken into flame and circled about one another in ever narrowing arcs, and in swifter and yet swifter flight, until merged into one sizzling globe of ire they must surely have fled, the four in one, leaving a trail of blood behind them in the cold gray air of the corridor until screaming as they fled between innumerable arches and down the endless passageways of Gormenghast, they found their eyeless bodies once again and retrenched themselves in startled sockets.

This is just so over the top that I can’t help but mentally rock back and forth while (again, mentally) clapping my hands in delight.

Anyway, I highly recommend these books.  They are a reading experience that you will not quickly nor easily forget.  The versions from Audible.com are fantastically voiced, the reader gives each character very skillful and appropriate vocal characterizations and this technique, while I normally dislike in audio books, really works well here and adds to the experience.

Gnome Press books online

Posted in Audio Books on December 21, 2009 by Aaron

As you are probably aware, Project Gutenberg delivers ebooks and audio books free.  Read more about what they do and how they do it over on their site.  The reason I mention it is that they have a couple of Gnome Press titles available to read online or to download for viewing on an ebook reader.  Librivox are another who deliver audio books, I’ve mentioned them before in this blog.  I think I’ll start up a new page with free online versions of any books from Gnome Press.  There should be a new link over on the right, or else click here.

News Flash: The Survivors by Tom Godwin was released at Librivox about 4 hours before this post.  Cool.  That will be my next audio book experience so you can expect a mini-review sometime in the next week or so.

Review II: Starman’s Quest

Posted in 1958, 2:Orbital, Audio Books, Review with tags , , on July 25, 2009 by Aaron

Robert Silverberg
1958

This book has recently become available at Librivox.org.  I thought I’d take the opportunity to listen to it and feed back the experience into the review I did a few months ago.

Unfortunately, it didn’t do anything to change my opinion.  The body of the story is great, right up until Alan inherits his money and takes on development of the Cavour drive.  As I pointed out in the original Review, the big disappointment is the end and this is exacerbated in audio form.  With audio books, it is very easy to just switch off for a minute or so.  If you do that towards the end of this book, as you switch back in you will wonder what the hell is going on as the story progresses in giant leaps.  And all of a sudden it’s over.  As I did with the book, I kind of felt a little cheated out of a fulfilling read (or listen, as the case may be).

It’s frustrating, as there is some great material and ideas here.  Despite all this, the book is well read by Dawn Larsen.  It’s very easy to listen to her voice and she is well paced.  All in all, Starman’s Quest is worth reading or listening to, but pay attention at the end.

On to a new book… and other stuff.

Posted in Audio Books, Uncategorized with tags , on June 17, 2009 by Aaron

I finished ‘This Fortress World’ last night and began Five Science Fiction Novels edited by Martin Greenberg.  The Review for Fortress World should be up in the next couple of days.  It was an excellent read.

I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of the four books that are on their way.  If I’m very lucky, they will be here tomorrow, otherwise I expect them next week sometime.  It’s been a while since I had a book arrive, I think I’m having withdrawal symptoms…

I’m listening to The Reality Dysfunction by Peter F. Hamilton at present.  It’s a very challenging task.  Many characters, multiple and seemingly disparate plot threads (that are just beginning to converge now) and some excellent takes on future technology and culture.  At about 42 hours listening time, it’s going to take me a while, and this is just the first book in The Night’s Dawn trilogy.

I’m also considering reshooting all book covers.  Extracting them out of their protective covers to do so.

Good things…

Posted in Audio Books with tags , , , , , on June 13, 2009 by Aaron

A couple of good things have happened over the past couple of days…

First, I have four more books on their way to me, Address: Centauri, Space Lawyer, SF ’58: The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy and Renaissance.  I’m expecting them late next week or early the week after.

Second, the audio book version of Starman’s Quest is completed and available online at Librivox.org.  I’m looking forward to listening to that.  I’ve been listening to a few early SF books from them lately, they have been all very good.

Last, This Fortress World is very good!!  I’m about half way through so far, expect the Close Up to be avaiable sometime soon.

A little news…

Posted in Audio Books with tags , , , , , , , on May 28, 2009 by Aaron

I finished The Shrouded Planet last night and went straight on to it’s sequel, The Dawning Light.  I’m gonna do a double header Close Up and likewise for the Review.  Should be interesting.  So far, I’m enjoying the story very much.  It’s building nicely in a well constructed world.

I visited Librivox.org last night to check it out.  I posted about it a while ago, but they have a few free audio books from Gnome Press authors.  There is only one Gnome Press book – Plague Ship by Andrew North (Andre Norton).  I’ll read the book before listening to that, but I downloaded Murray Leinster‘s Space Tug, which I’m listening to at the moment.  Starman’s Quest is currently a project at Librivox, I signed up to be notified when it’s done.  I’m looking forward to that.  I’ve often toyed with the idea of doing some of the Gnome stuff for audio.  But I don’t have a clue how to determine what is in the public domain, and what isn’t.

There has been very little of interest come up on eBay lately.  Things are a little slow.

Some free SF online…

Posted in Audio Books, Uncategorized with tags , on March 19, 2009 by Aaron

I just found a really cool site.  Best Science Fiction Stories is a site with short synopsis/reviews accompanied with links to many SF stories online.  There are a few Gnome Press authors such as Asimov, Murray Leinster, Lewis Padgett, Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke available on the site.  The selection of stories available on the site covers the whole history of SF, extending from the 1930s all the way up to the present day.  There are a few audio books available too.  I thoroughly recommend checking it out, and I’ll be placing a link over on the right.  Because I like it a lot, I’m also going to use the ‘Welcome’ page on that site as inspiration and rewrite the one (or what passes for one) on this.  Actually, it’s a very well thought out and constructed site.  Props to the guy that runs it, Rusty.  Nice work.  He’s also a huge Gene Wolfe fan like myself.