Audiobook Reviews: The Storm King: Stories, Narratives, Poems: Spoken Word Set to a World of Music AND Pete Seeger: Storm King – Volume 2

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The Storm King: Stories, Narratives, Poems: Spoken Word Set to a World of Music
Written and Performed by Pete Seeger
Edited by Jeff Haynes
Ⓟ 2013, Hachette Audio
2 Hours, 20 Minutes
NON-FICTION | SPOKEN WORD | MUSIC | FOLK MUSIC

Pete Seeger: Storm King – Volume 2
Written and Performed by Pete Seeger and Others
Edited by Jeff Haynes
Ⓟ 2016, Hachette Audio
2 Hours, 18 Minutes
NON-FICTION | SPOKEN WORD | MUSIC | FOLK MUSIC

 

Pete Seeger was an iconic American folk musician whose work was at its zenith during the Civil Rights Movement. His signature song, “We Shall Overcome” was a reworking of the gospel song, “”I’ll Overcome Some Day”” (Charles Albert Tindley, 1900); but there is more to Pete Seeger than that one song at that one period in U.S. history. This pair of offerings from Hachette Audio gives listeners a glimpse into the man, his influences, his causes, and his legacy in a format that highlights his contributions. Pete Seeger himself narrates anecdotes set against background music; and interstitial pieces (a poem, a song, an interview with a notable person) are cut between the stories. There are guest performers, and the whole is edited into a sort of highlight reel of Pete Seeger’s life by Jeff Haynes.

For those who do not know or remember Pete Seeger, the Storm King set is a pleasant introduction to the musical folklorist; and may encourage a deeper look into his biography, his catalogue of works, and the Clearwater Festival. For those who do know/remember him, it’s a nice nostalgia piece. The whole of the works have a slow, evenly paced rhythm that reflects the late singer’s aesthetic. It doesn’t seek to dazzle, but to gently inform and entertain the listener. It has a “hippy” or New Age feel to it, a contrast to the violence of the Civil Rights Movement and the turmoil of modern politics. Those who groove on NPR will probably like this a lot.

The two audio offerings seem to actually be one work arbitrarily split into two titles. The first volume is the stronger of the two; by virtue of setting the tone, and introducing all the performers other than Seeger himself. The second volume feels like a continuation, and while not less well produced, feels unsupported without the first volume.




OTHER:
I listened to a digital download copy of The Storm King: Stories, Narratives, Poems: Spoken Word Set to a World of Music AND Pete Seeger: Storm King – Volume 2 (Written and Performed by Pete Seeger; edited by Jeff Haynes) which I purchased 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.

Pete Seeger: Storm King – Volume 2 (Written and Performed by Pete Seeger; edited by Jeff Haynes) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Original Works category.

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Audiobook Review: In the Embers: The Great Northern Audio Theatre

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In the Embers: The Great Northern Audio Theatre
By Brian Price and Jerry Stearns
Performed by a Full Cast:
Edwin Strout as Digger Morgan; Robin Miles as  Kit Jeffers; Olivia DuFord – Young Alice Jeffers; Dawn Krosnowski as Susan; as Gordon Smuder as Tom; Susanne Becker as Cindy; Tom Joyal as Berringer; Charlie Meitzner as Denny; Dean Johnson as Epstein; Jacquie Maddix as Old Alice; and E. G. Bailey as Reynolds
Original songs by Mike Wheaton and Brian Price, vocals by Robin Miles and Olivia DuFord
Ⓟ 2015, Waterlogg Productions
3 hours, 35 minutes
SCIENCE FICTION | TECHNO-THRILLER | GHOST IN THE MACHINE | TIME TRAVEL | RADIO | INTERVIEWS

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY (SECTION COPIED FROM AUDIBLE.COM):
A song, a pressed flower, and the sound of two girls’ voices recovered from a burned wooden beam by using a brand-new laser technique to read a charred surface like the grooves of an old 78 rpm record. These are the clues that archaeologist Digger Morgan discovers while working on a routine dig at a Maryland plantation. Who were the girls? When was the fire? The answers all lead to 1920s jazz pioneer Kit Jeffers, whose voice mysteriously appears on Digger’s computer and whose existence remains haunted by a singular tragic event.


This is a science-fiction tale taking place in the here-and-now; but which involves audio archaeology (reading a fossilized sound wave,) a ghost in the machine (a digitized personality,) and time travel. The underlying concept behind the three ideas is that emotional intensity can have impact without carrying or accruing mass or energy, a challenge confronting physicists in regard to the laws of the conservation of energy when dealing with time travel in particular.

The actual story involves research into the life of a Jazz Age singer named Kit Jeffers who died in a fire as a young woman. The character of Kit Jeffers comes alive in this audio drama with the superb acting and singing skills of Robin Miles. There are three original songs, written in the Jazz/Rag Time style of the 1920s, expressively performed by Ms Miles, and at one point with her daughter Olivia DuFord (playing the role of Kit Jeffers’ little sister, Alice.)

There are sound effects and voice enhancements galore; but all the effects sometimes are confusing (Who exactly is speaking? Why does the voice sound like that?) or; superfluous (Is more than a couple of seconds of a bulldozer rattling around necessary to tip the listener off that a bulldozer was being used? Especially after being told that a bulldozer was being used?)

There is an extraordinary amount of enthusiasm and work that clearly went into this audio drama; but the overabundance of story ideas and sound effects in particular made the overall production a bit unwieldy.  The script is structurally unbalanced and a modicum of post-engineering restraint is lacking. It’s no wonder that the writers managed to make a glaring continuity error regarding time travel, a mistake they seem to have only realized after the production had wrapped and they were being interviewed. In the end, the talents of Robin Miles and the songwriters could not save In the Embers from sounding like community theater-grade writing and performance.

The audio runtime is three hours long; but it the play is only about an hour long. The second hour of the audio is an interview with the writers, composer, and actors of the audio drama; and the last hour is an interview with just the writers.


OTHER:
I purchased a digital download copy of In the Embers: The Great Northern Audio Theatre (By Brian Price and Jerry Stearns Performed 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.

In the Embers: The Great Northern Audio Theatre (By Brian Price and Jerry Stearns Performed by a Full Cast) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Original Work category and in the Audio Drama category.

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Audiobook Review: Alien: Out of the Shadows: An Audible Original Drama

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Alien: Out of the Shadows: An Audible Original Drama
Based on the Novel by Tim Lebbon
Adapted and Directed by Dirk Mags
Performed by a Full Cast:
Corey Johnson as Hooper; Matthew Lewis as Baxter; Kathryn Drysdale as Sneddon; Mac McDonald as Lachance; Andrea Deck as Kasyanov; Nathan Osgood as Welford; Abdul Salis as Powell; Regina Brandolino as Garcia; Barbara Barnes as Jordan; Tim Alexander as Vic and the computers; Laurel Lefkow as Ellen Ripley and; Rutger Hauer as Ash
Music by James Hannigan
Ⓟ 2016, Audible Studios
4 hours, 31 minutes
SCIENCE FICTION | SPACE | HORROR

This is an audio adaptation of the first of three novels that take place between the time frames of the movie, Alien and the sequel, Aliens. Ripley’s escape shuttle has been adrift for thirty-seven years when it’s picked up by by Chris Hooper’s mining ship, DSMO Marion – which is held together with a wing and a prayer; and they all find themselves disabled on LV-178, a small planet with a seemingly abandoned mining colony on it…

The story uses a lot of the scene and plot devices created for the 1979 movie,  Alien   (directed by Ridley Scott); and in many respects listeners may feel that nothing new has been added to the cannon knowledge of the Alien universe; but Lebbon’s story does offer a possible explanation as to why the xenomorph aboard the escape shuttle at the end of the movie just lies there in the bulwarks; provides an interesting context for Ash’s semi-resurrection; and gives a nice “out” as to why this story wouldn’t be referenced in any of the movie sequels. However, the horrific aspects of the story are reduced to chase scenes, figuring out to deal with decompression chambers, and warning & reminding each other frequently of a variation of  “Acid burns! Watch out!” The story does offer an enticing peek at another civilization, but it does not look like it will be developed into future storylines.  Also, there was one scene in which the new crew is informing Ripley of all sorts of things about the xenomorph which they couldn’t possibly know, unless they saw the first movie!*

Laurel Leflow voices Ripley so well, it sounds like Audible has spliced in film dialogue; and Rutger Hauer voices the modified Ash character credibly as well. Most of the  other actors pass muster too, though the character of Lachance is, of all things, Cajun, and that’s just not one of those accents that really be played convincingly or not sounding comically bad.

The production has original music and sound effects. The music is gorgeous, adding atmosphere. The sound effects are a little heavy-handed at times; but always clearly indicating the action. Alien: Out of the Shadow: An Audible Original Drama doesn’t quite have the balance and finesse of a BBC production; but Alien fans will undoubtedly connect; and those for whom Rutger Hauer is a draw will not be disappointed.

 

* It is not clear if this a continuity error that exists in the original novel as I haven’t read it yet; or if it is one generated by adapting the novel into a play script; or if I’ve somehow completely missed the rationale… If you can explain, please let me know in comments!


OTHER:
I listened to a digital download copy of Alien: Out of the Shadows: An Audible Original Drama (By Tim Lebbon; Directed by Dirk Mags; Performed by a Full Cast) which was available free during the month of April, 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.

Alien: Out of the Shadows: An Audible Original Drama (By Tim Lebbon; Directed by Dirk Mags; Performed by a Full Cast) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Original Work category and in the Audio Drama category.

 

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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.