The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Volume 1 – Audiobook Review

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The Science Fiction Hall of Fame (Volume 1, 1929-1964)
Edited by: Robert Silverberg
Includes Stories by: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury and many more.
Narrators: Various
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Unabridged: 28 hours and 9 minutes
Genre: Classic Science Fiction

Synopsis: 

The definitive collection of the best in science fiction stories between 1929-1964.

This book contains twenty-six of the greatest science fiction stories ever written. They represent the considered verdict of the Science Fiction Writers of America, those who have shaped the genre and who know, more intimately than anyone else, what the criteria for excellence in the field should be. The authors chosen for The Science Fiction Hall Fame are the men and women who have shaped the body and heart of modern science fiction; their brilliantly imaginative creations continue to inspire and astound new generations of writers and fans.

Robert Heinlein in “The Roads Must Roll” describes an industrial civilization of the future caught up in the deadly flaws of its own complexity. “Country of the Kind,” by Damon Knight, is a frightening portrayal of biological mutation. “Nightfall,” by Isaac Asimov, one of the greatest stories in the science fiction field, is the story of a planet where the sun sets only once every millennium and is a chilling study in mass psychology.

Originally published in 1970 to honor those writers and their stories that had come before the institution of the Nebula Awards, The Science Fiction Hall Of Fame, Volume One, was the book that introduced tens of thousands of young readers to the wonders of science fiction. Too long unavailable, this new edition will treasured by all science fiction fans everywhere.

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thoughts

Clocking in at over 28 hours, The Science Fiction Hall of Fame was an incredibly easy listen that seem to fly by over the course of a few days. Offering a wider range of stories accompanied by varying narrators, I quite enjoyed my time with this collection.

While it is always difficult to review anthologies (particularly of this size) I did want to share a few thoughts on this one, as many have been such a miss for me lately. When I discover a collection that feels well-balanced and overall rewarding, I want to hand it the spotlight for a few.

With that stated, I do feel it is important to mention that Volume 1 is not without flaws. As to be expected, there are times the narration missed the mark or the true age of the material was inevitably felt. Also, I received an MP3 file from the publisher, so there was a lot of information that was not accessible in terms of biographies. Several stories that were multiple files in length, actually downloaded out of order. This was a frustration to work through and I fear I missed some titles. But none of this was enough to take away from the enjoyment of a fantastic collection of sci-fi classics.

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Supplied in easily digestible chunks, this anthology takes the reader on a journey that begins in 1929 and end in 1964. There are the notorious tales of androids and psychic abilities gone bad to space craft stowaways that challenge our moral obligations and stories where protagonists face situations with universal ramifications. Each story feels unique and challenges the reader (listener) on some varying emotional level. And as good science fiction does, there are many subtle and not so subtle messages  contained throughout that explore humanity on a multifaceted spectrum.

A few of my favorites included:

A Martian Odyssey by Stanley G. Weinbaum
Helen O’Loy by Lester del Rey
The Quest for Saint Aquin by Anthony Boucher
The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke
It’s a Good Life by Jerome Bixby
The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin
Fondly Fahrenheit by Alfred Bester

Even with the obstacles I encountered, I can easily say that this a collection of great value for all fans of science fiction! I will definitely be picking up a physical copy of this anthology for my shelves at first opportunity and look forward to exploring later volumes.

*I would like to thank audiojukebox and the publisher for my copy. The above review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.

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Enjoyed over several cups of chamomile tea with a hint of lavender.


Purchase Links: Amazon.com Book Depository

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

Connect With Me: FacebookTwitterTumblr and Instagram

 

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer (Audiobook)

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Borne
By Jeff Vandermeer
Narrated by Bahni Turpin
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Unabridged: 12 Hr & 10 Minutes
ASIN: B06ZXTH9RF
Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopia

Synopsis:

In a ruined, nameless city of the future, a woman named Rachel, who makes her living as a scavenger, finds a creature she names “Borne” entangled in the fur of Mord, a gigantic, despotic bear. Mord once prowled the corridors of the biotech organization known as the Company, which lies at the outskirts of the city, until he was experimented on, grew large, learned to fly and broke free. Driven insane by his torture at the Company, Mord terrorizes the city even as he provides sustenance for scavengers like Rachel.

At first, Borne looks like nothing at all—just a green lump that might be a Company discard. The Company, although severely damaged, is rumoured to still make creatures and send them to distant places that have not yet suffered Collapse.

Borne somehow reminds Rachel of the island nation of her birth, now long-lost to rising seas. She feels an attachment she resents; attachments are traps, and in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet when she takes Borne to her subterranean sanctuary, the Balcony Cliffs, Rachel convinces her lover, Wick, not to render Borne down to raw genetic material for the drugs he sells—she cannot break that bond.

Wick is a special kind of supplier, because the drug dealers in the city don’t sell the usual things. They sell tiny creatures that can be swallowed or stuck in the ear, and that release powerful memories of other people’s happier times or pull out forgotten memories from the user’s own mind—or just produce beautiful visions that provide escape from the barren, craterous landscapes of the city.

Against his better judgment, out of affection for Rachel or perhaps some other impulse, Wick respects her decision. Rachel, meanwhile, despite her loyalty to Wick, knows he has kept secrets from her. Searching his apartment, she finds a burnt, unreadable journal titled “Mord,” a cryptic reference to the Magician (a rival drug dealer) and evidence that Wick has planned the layout of the Balcony Cliffs to match the blueprint of the Company building. What is he hiding? Why won’t he tell her about what happened when he worked for the Company?


thoughts

Borne is a complicated experience that will likely land readers on one of two sides of the fence; love or hate. For myself, I fell onto the “love” side with a heavy landing. Although, with my constant appetite for the peculiar, I cannot say I am surprised.

The Company lies at the edge of the city, where while known to be almost defunct, many still believe continues to create. One such creation, Mord (a bio-engineered bear) flies above the city where he was once created, held captured and ultimately tortured. Now he reigns havoc on the land while also providing a way of life for scavengers, such as Rachel, who survive off of the remnants of Mord’s destruction. Upon discovering a small green, gelatinous blob (Borne) snared within his fur, she makes the decision to bring the creature home into her safe haven shared with her only companion Wick. He happens to be a drug dealer, developing tiny creatures who have the ability to give others more desirable memories, and he immediately wants to dissect Borne to experiment with his genetic composition. However, Rachel develops an attachment and refuses to surrender her newfound discovery, much against Wick’s advice. But as Borne begins to evolve, secrets also begin to surface. Secrets about Wick and the Company he once worked for. The same company responsible for Mord. What is it that he cannot tell Rachel? And what is Borne?

Attempting summarize Borne in a paragraph feels like a ridiculous and almost impossible task. As you may have noticed, it is not easy to do. I am sifting through the many notes I acquired during my listen (read) and trying to reduce this review into a more digestible and compact recap of my time with Vandermeer’s very original, and often odd approach to an ultimately endearing and emotional dystopian tale.

In terms of character growth there is an enormous amount happening, but in the most subtle of ways. Rachel begins to bond with Borne over her own loneliness and desire for something more in a desolate and harsh environment. But in turn, we soon discover that Borne is the one who truly encompasses that loneliness. There is a brilliant exchange of developments, realizations and acceptance that is continually occurring between both, supplying the reader with a very unique and profound form of character development that is rarely seen. As Rachel’s relationship with Borne evolves it slowly begins to challenge her relationship with Wick, bringing multiple questions to the surface, further exploring all characters. And tucked within it all, we learn that everyone is grappling with various issues of self-identity and acceptance.

The setting is typical of many dystopian tales in the sense of the usual suspects: imminent dangers, the fight for survival and a barren landscape that requires daily scavenging and roaming. All of the expected threats and dis-pleasantries are offered with the additional element of bio-engineered life forms. The effect is intriguing and inviting, but not in the warm, fuzzy sort of way.

But the real appreciation for Borne can be found in its strangely contrasting narration that manages to present the often harsh and brutal reality of a post apocalyptic setting in an almost child-like and innocent manner. There is an ever-present air of light-heartedness that should clash with the current setting and events, yet it successfully fuels a rare and welcomed study of humanity and the significance of its small presence on Earth. Accompanied with Bahni Turpin’s well paced and enthusiastic narration, it becomes something of great worth in terms of science fiction. I was convinced this story was written to be told by Turpin.

The final product is a bizarre and bracing take on a timeless tale that will not be for everyone’s taste. However, there will be those that cannot help but find delight and fascination between the pages, making it an instant favorite. I am happy to fall well within the latter group. Highly recommending that you give this one a chance!

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Enjoyed with several cups of green tea and mint.

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Purchase Links: Amazon.com Book Depository

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

Connect With Me: FacebookTwitterTumblr and Instagram

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

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The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1)

By Holly Black, Narrated by Caitlin Kelly
Published by Hachette Audio
Unabridged: 12 Hrs & 36 Minutes
ASIN: B077VYK4SH
Genre: YA Fantasy

Synopsis:

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.


thoughts

The Cruel Prince was an anticipated release for me in 2018. Many favorable reviews were already circulating, and I am a huge fan of all things fae. This was a deviation from my current reading challenge, as I picked it up simply for me. Unfortunately, I may have fallen into the minority when I found myself lacking the same enthusiasm as many others. But there were so favorable moments. For the sake of this review, I will be addressing my time with the audiobook.

The skinny: A young Jude finds herself and her two sisters ripped away to the land of the fey after the viscous murder of her human parents. 10 years later she is struggling to cope with her own mortality and disgust her peers (the fey) harbor towards humans. She does not belong. Not in the high court of the fey nor among the humans. She attempts to seek knighthood and a spot in the court, challenging those around her, but soon finds it does not come without great risks and costs.

Sounds fun, right?! So what went wrong…

Those characters though: They fell into two categories for me. Over the top or 2 dimensional. I found the decision-making to be questionable during the best of moments, but did allow leeway in regards to the extremity of our protagonist Jude’s circumstances. Yet, I did not ever successfully connect with her. I do understand this is YA, but often found characterizations and responses to be too juvenile and simplistic. Without avoiding too many details here, I did feel the story offered a suggestive look at possible Stockholm syndrome with Jude’s constant struggle to come to terms with her “now father” Madoc. ⇐ I cringe as I write that knowing it may receive some very negative backlash, but this is my experience. I am not actually going to offer much more in terms of characters aside from stating that I did find Cardan’s development to be of the most interest here.

What about the story: While there were some unique elements in play, I found the main themes to be tiresome. I have reached a point where forbidden love and the victimized, not belonging, female protagonist making her mark no longer offers enough for me. It can work, but I need more. There was a lack of depth and complexity that seemed to constantly promise to surface only to slip away each time. A twist would occur but then manage to fall into the predictable. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the somewhat disjointed pace picked up around the last 15% leading to a more satisfying conclusion. Bonus points for that!

But that world building: This was one of the major highlights for me. I enjoyed Black’s description of the fey and their high court. Being introduced into their lives was fascinating and managed to compel me onward even when the story-line faltered. The incorporation things such as glamour and fairy fruit with details of the effects on humans was a welcomed addition. World development felt complete and immersive. Black takes the magical and lends an air of credible life to it. That alone will nudge my rating of this one.

Writing & Narration: Holly Black’s writing is crisp and smooth. She manages a fine balance between description and precision that serves a fluid experience. Caitlin Kelly’s narration was punchy and entertaining, lending life to the story and creating an easy listen.

Setting aside my own issues with The Cruel Prince (which lie mainly in a storyline that didn’t work for me), it is still easy to pick out the elements that find an audience within. If you enjoy story of the fey and overcoming the odds, I highly recommend exploring this one for yourself.

Untitled designEnjoyed with a cuppa vanilla chai tea and cinnamon.

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Purchase Links: Amazon.com Book Depository

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

Connect With Me: FacebookTwitterTumblr and Instagram