Listening Report: May 2012

← Wonderful 16-minutes of Oliver Wyman reading H.P. Lovecraft's "Dagon"
Release week: Alif the Unseen; Guy Gavriel Kay; Alexei Panshin; White Trash Zombies; Prince of Thorns; and more →

Listening Report: May 2012

Posted on 2012-07-04 at 0:4 by Sam

April’s claim of 9 audiobooks was a bit of a “cheat”; I included the late Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 although I had actually read it in (very) early May. Here, things were going to again a bit stretched as it took a few days into June to finish the audiobook which took up most of my late May as well (Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312) but hey, again, it’s my blog, I include what I want, when I want, right? So. Six audiobooks in May, several outstanding including J.M. McDermott’s Last Dragon, Lavie Tidhar’s Osama, and KSR’s 2312.



  • Giant Thief: Tales of Easie Damasco, Book 1 By David TallermanNarrated by James Langton for Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio — I definitely get why it’s compared to Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora, as Easie Damasco is a thief with that sarcastic, self-deprecating, self-referential sense of humor; though here the action includes a large battle and contains gloriously ugly giants rather than inhabiting the various districts of an old city. You know you’re off to a good start when in the first chapter the hero is being hanged. (Though I’m not sure why Angry Robot chose to whitewash the “olive brown” Easie Damasco in the cover art of book one and the just-released cover art for book twoCrown Thief, due out in October; it’s sadly not an uncommon happening, thought in recent memory at least Night Shade corrected a similar issue after receiving a lot of negative feedback… C’mon, publishers. You can do better. You aren’t adapting a film here. I hesitate to mention this at all, as I do not want people punishing the author of all people, which a “well, I’m not gonna buy that there book then” response does, and Tallerman is the wrong target. But I also don’t want to be silent, so… there you go.) Back to the book: as the narrative stays in first person throughout, we see a bit more inside Damasco’s head than we did into Locke Lamora’s. However, even though Tallerman is not setting out to recreate a precocious group of Gentleman Bastards, Giant Thief is a step or two down from Lynch’s excellent debut. We get bits and pieces of Damasco’s back story, but never quite enough to build a solid idea of who he is or what he wants — even if it is the now typical “thief just getting by and not really wanting much of anything or planning ahead” mold. The first half of the book has some quite nicely turned encounters — Damasco’s acquisition of the titular giant for example — but the second half sees more and more improbable. Even for a book which asks its reader to accept the existence of talking giants, the plot turns on points which verge on the illogical, demanding that the reader unlearn what they have learned about characters and competencies up to that point. However! There’s still something fun about a book which doesn’t take itself too seriously. On the audiobook: The narration overall really fits the tone, though at times it strays just over into too much sarcastic detachment, where the curtain parts just a bit too much and you feel the acting.
  • Last Dragon by J. M. McDermott, read by Cori Samuel for Iambik Audiobooks — Wow. This one quickly vaults into both my favorite fantasy books and audiobooks lists. The book is a disjointed experience, with several timelines bringing out exquisite foreshadowing and a beautiful sense of melancholy, purpose, and atmosphere. At first, the switches between timelines was a bit jarring, but before long I found the rhythm and began to recognize the cues that setting, characters, and events quickly provided. I do not want to say too much about this book other than: listen to it or read it. Zhan is a girl coming of age, leaning to be a hunter in a secondary world of snow, ash, war, and power. What magic there once might have been is largely gone. What gods there are do not seem to listen. Once, dragons lived. But they have all been hunted and killed. So, into this, in a tribal culture, the girl Zhan. Her family is murdered, apparently by her grandfather, and so off on a quest of vengeance into the wider world goes Zhan with her uncle Seth, a fire-breathing shaman. Who can make golems. They meet and hire a mercenary bodyguard; a paladin; a gypsy. They travel through and ahead of the drums of war. It’s just beautiful. Go read it. (Here’s another review of the book when it was first published in 2008. Yeah. Go read it.)
  • Osama By Lavie Tidhar, Narrated by Jeff Harding for Audible Inc. — Length:8 hrs and 27 mins — So. This one took a while for me to really turn into something I could wrap my head around, but when it happened — when I started to finally understand where Joe’s world diverged from ours, and started to find some hand-hold into the surreal alternate history that Tidhar creates. Through a primary “private dick” novel structure comes interstitial chapters which are detached descriptions of terrorist attacks in our own real world — our world which somehow is reflected in Joe’s world through a series of pulp novels starring Osama bin Laden, vigilante. This is a novel which just refuses to come out and tell you what is going on — Joe’s confusion is, at times, our own, as he tries to find out who is writing these books. Amidst the seriousness of some of this, there’s a hilarious send-up of sf fandom. I’m still puzzling this book over, and plan to read it in print again soon. There are layers, there is fog, there is mud, and then there are these moments of crystallized clarity where the surreal becomes real, before going once again out of focus and out of reach.
  • Kids/Teens: Railsea By China Mieville, Narrated by Jonathan Cowley for Random House Audio — Length:9 hrs and 59 mins — So. I came here on Mieville’s name, and on some early burbs which seemed to indicate that there would be some meatier undertones on power and hierarchy; but what I found instead was a fun, tracks-whirring-by story in a deeply stratified Mievillian world of old tech, advanced tech, giant moles, and the Railsea.
  • 2312 By Kim Stanley Robinson, Narrated by Sarah Zimmerman for Hachette Audio — Length:19 hrs and 15 mins — OK. This is a fantastic work, the best new book of 2012 so far — dare I say, a decade-defining work which captures a snapshot of our medium future’s best hopes? There’s a solar system-spanning medium future of “qubes” (quantum computer AIs), terraforming and thousands of hollowed out asteroid “terraria”, explorations of gender, and post-capitalist extra-terrestrial economies — amidst the grim passage from here to there through climate change, failed geoengineering fixes, and political and economic crises. There’s interstitial future history “non-fiction” excerpts. There’s an honest to goodness, memorable, building love story between the Mercurial Swan (an avant garde artist/architect/etc.) and Saturnine Wahram, a diplomat from Io. There’s even a (small) bit of policework from Inspector Jean Genette. The book opens well, builds and builds, with perhaps a bit of side-trackery on Venus, and other than some misgivings with some bits of the final resolution (and some stunning repeat stupidity from Swan) I was very much blown away by the novel. The overall planet-spanning plot works; the love story really works; it’s wonderful sf across the strata of setting, science, plot, and character. It’s on the longer side, but narrator Zimmerman plugs along without much drag behind her. She gives a mostly “invisible narrator” performance, not engaging in vocal gymnastics to develop strong accents, instead relying primarily on slight variations to distinguish speakers when necessary. Clean and crisply done, and well-suited to the work. Highly recommended.
  • Memoir: Bossypants By Tina Fey, Narrated by Tina Fey — Length:5 hrs and 35 mins — I don’t have too much to say about this title for a sf/f audiobooks blog, but for fans of Fey there were quite a few bizarre and quirky little stories on her meandering path from childhood to working at a YMCA check-in desk to a Chicago improv troupe to SNL and 30 Rock. At times, particularly to end an “aside” phrase, Fey’s voice trails off a bit too much for clarity, but of course she is the perfect person to read her own story.
I also listened to about half of KSR’s A Short, Sharp Shock and the first few chapters of Evan Currie’s Into the Black: Odyssey One, both of which I have on review copy.

Reading: a handful more pages on the Delany; the first chapter of John Claude Bemis’s The Prince Who Fell from the Sky; the foreward (“Foreweird” by Michael Moorcock) and introduction (by editors Ann and Jeff VanderMeer) of The Weird (which I’m planning to read one story from per week over the next 2+ years, so stay tuned for updates on that for a good long while); and all of The New Yorker’s Science Fiction issue.

I’m not going to do a “Plans for June” post here, as, well, it’s July, and I’m done with June. So… (Hints: RedshirtsShadow’s Son, No Going Back, On Stranger Tides, Clementine, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, …)

Posted in Sam's Monthly Listening Report | Tagged 2312, david tallerman, giant thief, jm mcdermott, kim stanley robinson, last dragon, lavie tidhar, monthly listening report, osama