Audiobook Review: Car Talk Science: MIT Wants Its Diplomas Back

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Car Talk Science: MIT Wants Its Diplomas Back
Witten and performed by Ray Magliozzi and Tom Magliozzi
Ⓟ 2016, Highbridge Audio, A  Division of Recorded Books
1 hour, 1 minute
RADIO | SCIENCE | CARS

Ray and Tom Magliozzi were two brothers who co-hosted NPR’s weekly talk show, “Car Talk” from 1987-2012. “Car Talk” was a call-in show wherein the public would phone into the station with questions about their cars, and the brothers would use their expertise to answer those questions. In the beginning, the questions were pretty technical; but over time, the questions became frequently more tangentially related to cars; and coupled with the brothers’ sense of humor and their Everyman approach in talking to the callers, the show became more entertaining. In 2012, the show ended its run (though NPR continued to air re-runs); and in 2014 Tom Magliozzi died due complications of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Ray Magiozzi has pulled together a few clips from the original show’s run that highlight Q&As that drew upon the brothers’ scientific knowledge (both were graduates of MIT.) That said, the callers and listeners were not subjected to some dry, academic explanations; but rather to some commonsense and comic responses. As always, hearing “Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers” is fun, guaranteed to bring a smile to your face; but admittedly, hearing the prolonged laughter of the two brothers starts to wear thin within the short duration of the audio. In the end, it’s basically recycled material that pings on listener nostalgia.

OTHER: I purchased a digital download copy of Car Talk Science: MIT Wants Its Diplomas Back (written and performed by Ray Magliozzi and Tom Magliozzi) from Audible.com. I receive no monies, goods, or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Car Talk Science: MIT Wants Its Diplomas Back (written and performed by Ray Magliozzi and Tom Magliozzi) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Original Work category.

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Audiobook Review: The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent

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The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent
By Larry Correia
Narrated by Adam Baldwin
Ⓟ 2016, Audible Studios
2 hours, 4 minutes
SCIENCE FICTION | SPACE | COMEDY

Tom Stranger is a top-rated insurance agent who offers policies across alternate dimensions*, and in this fast-paced and furiously funny novella, travels to alternate Earths to settle claims. Alternate worlds with their one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eaters and other assorted transgressors cross rifts, inflict damage, and create chaos on each other; so it is good to know that a man dedicated to customer satisfaction is on the job!

Larry Correia, renowned as the author of the Monster Hunter  series and Grimnoir Chronicles, is also infamous as the founder of the Sad Puppies campaign which sought to influence the Hugo nominations toward his and Brad R. Torgerson’s works – which Correia felt were not fairly recognized in favor of more progressive or politically correct titles. This is worth mentioning here only because Corriea makes it clear he views liberal polices and persons as inferior and weak, making stabs at both in this short piece: Joe Biden is portrayed as a drunken clown; Obama is dissed for golfing; ACA “makes no sense;” and Tom Stranger’s intern, an inept young man is skewered for having a Gender Studies degree, for having been an Occupier, and having Twitter skills… The humor is biting, sharp and refreshing; but there is a pettiness and meanness to it too which detracts from the whole.

Listeners cannot afford to be distracted for even a beat lest they miss a great comic line delivered by Adam Baldwin (the American actor  & narrator, not the POTUS – which is is on some alternate Earth.) Baldwin does a great job in setting a blistering pace and keeping the energy levels up throughout the piece. The Adventures of Tom Stranger is packed with references to US pop culture icons and ideas: Chuck Norris is, well Chuck Norris, but this time an arbitrator; R. Lee Emery is a Secretary of Defense; and Larry Correia himself is a head of a high-tech conglomerate when he’s not an author suffering the fate of comic-cons… Baldwin’s character voices are distinct; and his celebrity impersonations of R. Lee Emery and Barrack Obama in particular are strong. Baldwin is also to be commended for vocalizing a manatee as a character (Though oddly, it sounds like a whale calls and not a manatee, but whatever.)

The Adventures of Tom Stranger is like a blast of cold winter air on your face: refreshing, but at the same time a little biting. Fans of Correia will not be disappointed.

  • The alternate dimensions concept is predicated on Stephen Hawking’s “Many-Worlds” interpretation wherein “all possible alternate histories and futures are real,” each alternate world born of the moment any decision is made in any of the realities, thereby creating millions of possible other worlds.
    Wikipedia, Many-Worlds interpretation, Accessed March 8, 2017

OTHER: I listened to a digital download copy of The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent (by Larry Correia; narrated by Adam Baldwin) which was available free during the month of May, 2016 from Audible.com. I receive no monies, goods, or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent (by Larry Correia; narrated by Adam Baldwin) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Original Work category.

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Audiobook Review: Sleeping Giants

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Sleeping Giants
The Themis Files, #1
By Sylvain Neuvel
Narrated by a Full Cast:
Andy Secombe, Eric Meyers, Laurel Lefkow, Charlie Anson, Liza Ross, William Hope, Christopher Ragland, Katherine Mangold, and  Adna Sablyich
Ⓟ 2016, Random House Audio
8 hours, 28 minutes
SCIENCE FICTION | TECHNO-THRILLER | ROBOTS

The pieces of a giant exotic robot have been discovered on the planet. Where did it come from? How does it work? What is its purpose? The story is told through reports and raises a number of questions about service, loyalty, love, bias and cost in the name of science and politics. Most reports are interviews with an unnamed interrogator and a player in the action. The book does end with a bit of a cliffhanger; but the substance of the the story is filling enough to tide the listener over until the next installment, Waking Gods (release date April 4, 2017.)

Though there is no cast list to indicate who plays which role(s) in the production, the narrators are perfectly cast, capturing the personalities, moods, and nuances of the written characters as well as conveying the tensions and atmosphere of each scene. Their individual and collective performances paint the story in vivid detail to the point where a listener may feel s/he has actually seen the events described! This is a testament not only to the  writing, but to the excellence of the acting.



 

OTHER: I purchased Sleeping Giants (The Themis Files, #1; by Sylvain Neiuvel; narrated by a Full Cast) from audible.com. I receive no monies, goods, or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Sleeping Giants (The Themis Files, #1; by Sylvain Neiuvel; narrated by a Full Cast) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Science Fiction category.

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Audiobook Review: The Book of the Unnamed Midwife

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The Book of the Unnamed Midwife
The Road to Nowhere, Book #1
By Meg Elison
Narrated by Angela Dawe
Ⓟ 2016, Brilliance Audio
9 hours, 14 minutes
SCIENCE FICTION | POST APOCALYPTIC

This is the story of a P.A. (Physician’s Assistant) in San Francisco who wakes up one day to discover that the city, the country, perhaps the world have been wiped out by “the Women’s Plague.” The virus causes babies to be stillborn, the mothers to die in a raging fever during delivery, and 98% of the males to succumb as well. As the eponymous character moves though the post-apocalyptic landscape, she does what she needs to do in order to survive and search for meaning in this life.

The novel is heavy with import; but it suffers from a surfeit of story, in particular the passages regarding another character’s journey; and some underdeveloped ideas, like hives (a single-female-led colony of male acolytes.) The author also includes a couple of “off-camera” scenes – passages which describe action that could not be known to the main character or others, which can be immediately gratifying to the reader/listener, but breaks the integrity of the narrative.

Angela Dawe takes a while to hit her stride, and her male characterizations are not strong. Her near-neutral delivery mutes the intensity  of the scenes of rape, murder, and death; and she flirts dangerously close to melodrama at times when she is clearly more invested in the story. On the whole, however, Angela Dawe keeps her performance within credible range, i.e. listeners will believe that the narrator is “the unnamed midwife.”

The blogger, The Guilded Earlobe also listened to and reviewed this title; and gave it an “A”rating! Check out what he had to say about it HERE.


OTHER:
I purchased The  Book of the Unnamed Midwife (by Meg Elison; narrated by Angela Dawe) from audible.com. I receive no monies, goods, or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

The  Book of the Unnamed Midwife (by Meg Elison; narrated by Angela Dawe) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Science Fiction category.

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EDIT: Added line and link to The Guilded Earlobe’s blog post/review.

Audiobook Review: The Dispatcher

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The Dispatcher
By John Scalzi
Narrated by Zachary Quinto
Ⓟ 2016, Audible Studios
2 hours, 19 minutes
SCIENCE FICTION | URBAN FANTASY

Taking place in the near future, “a time of miracles and wonders,” the murdered are inexplicably returned to life – safe, healed (and naked!) in their homes. Dispatchers are those that expedite certain death; and Tony Valdez is a dispatcher who has been brought in on a case involving the disappearance of a co-worker.

Instantly compelling, Quinto’s performance is fantastic –  handling voice characterizations of both sexes and different ethnicities with fluency and seeming facility. Character delineations are clear so there is no ambiguity during dialogues as to whom is speaking.

This is an audio-first story produced under the auspices of Audible Studios. Though a print edition of this novella will be available in May of 2017, at the time of this writing, there do not appear to be any plans for expanding the Dispatcher concept. Too bad, as it certainly whets the appetite for more!

OTHER: I listened to a digital download copy of The Dispatcher (by John Scalzi; narrated by Zachary Quinto) which was available free during the month of October, 2016. I receive no monies, goods, or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

The Dispatcher (by John Scalzi; narrated by Zachary Quinto) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Science Fiction category; and a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Original Work category.
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EDIT: Added “and a finalist n the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Original Work category.”

Print Reviews: The Vegetarian AND Human Acts

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The Vegetarian
By Han Kang
Penguin Random House | Hogarth
Release Date (Paperback): February 02, 2016
ISBN-13: 978-0553448184
LITERARY FICTION

This is a lit-fic novella which won the author the ManBooker International Prize. Set in South Korea, the story features a married woman who suddenly decides to become a vegetarian. This sets up a chain reaction of strange, and dramatic responses from her husband, father, brother-in-law, and sister. At first, the story feels alien and weird even given the foreign setting; but once the reader becomes acclimated to the style and tone, the material is thought provoking. This is somewhat of a modern re-telling of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” (And no surprise, it is published by Hogarth!)

Human Acts
By Han Kang
Penguin Random House | Hogarth
Release Date (Paperback): January 17, 2017
ISBN-13: 978-1101906729
LITERARY FICTION

In 1980, in a Southern Korean province, a democratic uprising against the tyrannical government was brutally quashed by soldiers. Known as the Gawngju Uprising, its violence and toll in human lives was shocking: An estimated 2,000 people were summarily executed. Amongst the casualties was a fifteen-year old boy named Dong-Ho; and his death is the centerpiece of Han Kang’s sophomore effort. The author utilizes the Roshomon Effect in driving the plot forward though the years, revealing events though six sections told from various POVs: That of Dong-Ho himself; Dong-Ho’s friend; An editor; A prisoner; A factory girl; and Dong-Ho’s mother. There is an Epilogue, which is not part of the story; but an actual statement form the author regarding her connection to the fictionalized account that she has written. The events recounted are unflinchingly savage, its effects scarring the survivors mentally and physically for years after the uprising itself. Han Kang’s writing is tighter and more grounded than it is in The Vegetarian, perhaps owing to a more concrete set of events at hand (history) as opposed to the performance-piece-like style of her debut novel in the West. That said, there were a few places where the translation or style felt a little awkward: The shift from third-person omniscient to first-person accusatory was disconcerting; and replacing South Korean vernacular with Yorkshire idiomacy was jarring. Overall, however, the novel was powerful; and intentional or not, relevant in today’s political climate in asking the question, “How far would you go to be on the right side of history?”

OTHER: I purchased a hardback copy of The Vegetarian (by Han Kang) from Barnes & Noble in Medford, OR and; I received an Advanced Reader’s Edition of Human Acts (by Han Kang) through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Print Review: Shylock is My Name

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Shylock is My Name
By Howard Jacobson
Penguin Random House | Hogarth
Release Date (Paperback): October 11, 2016
ISBN-13: 978-0804141345
LITERARY FICTION

Shylock is My Name starts off with a sort of colloquy between Simon Strulovitch and Shylock as they discuss Jewish identity, humor, and families (especially the relationships between fathers and daughters.) Then the story kicks into gear as Simon lives out the 16th century play, The Merchant of Venice against the backdrop of an upscale neighborhood in 21st century England.

It is not clear whether Shylock is a literary revenant incarnate and/or an alter ego made manifest under the pressure Simon is under. The initialism of the novel’s title, “SIMN” serves as a possible allusion to the schizophrenic nature of the heroic element; but the double-protagonist scheme does not break down so it is possible that Howard Jacobson simply created a contemporary Shylock, complete with fedora. The conversations tend to be excessively neurotic and introspective, often encumbering the overall story line even as the action line surfaces. The comic elements feel a bit forced; and the humor dry and subtle.

Highly recommend reading William Shakespeare’s, The Merchant of Venice beforehand. Those with an affinity for Jewish literature may also find this more rewarding than those who do not.

OTHER: I received an Advanced Reader’s Edition of Shylock is My Name  (by Howard Jacobson) through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.