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Vox: SF For Your Ears
by Scott Danielson

Other Vox: SF For Your Ears Columns

Audio Drama
BEYOND 2000
Giant Steps: An Apocalyptic Comedy for the World Wide Web
Mark Time Award
Seeing Ear Theater
Wollcott and Sheridan
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audible.com
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Star Wars Novels/Audio
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ZBS
SF Talk Radio
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Hour 25
I-SCI-FI
RadioSciFi
Reality Break - a science fiction talk show
Sci Fi Overdrive
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ReelBooks
The Teaching Company
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Voyage's Multimedia Project

Tales from Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, read by Ursula K. Le Guin, Scott Brick, Gabrielle de Cuir, Amanda Karr, and Stefan Rudnicki, postscript by Harlan Ellison, Fantastic Audio, Unabridged, running time approx. 10 hours

Tales from Earthsea Tehanu, she said, was going to be the last we'd hear of Ged and Tenar. Lucky for all of us, she changed her mind and told us more of Earthsea. With the five excellent stories contained in Tales of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin again shows us that she is one of our finest writers.

This volume is the fifth in the Earthsea series. The stories can all stand alone, but gain much if the earlier volumes are read first. The last story in the collection is "Dragonfly", and Le Guin calls this story "important" and a "bridge" between Tehanu and her latest Earthsea novel, The Other Wind.

Also included here (and read by Le Guin) is her current Hugo nominee, "The Bones of the Earth", a stirring story "about the wizards who taught the wizard who first taught Ged". The other stories are "The Finder", which takes place before A Wizard of Earthsea, and tells the story of the founding of Roke. "Darkrose and Diamond" is a love story among wizards, and "On the High Marsh" takes place while Ged is Archmage.

Le Guin's Earthsea is as special in my experience as Frank Herbert's Dune or Tolkien's Shire. I don't mean that in a world-building sense, though. The place of Earthsea actually feels very familiar, and perhaps that's part of it's draw for me. It's the characters rather than the setting that stay with me after reading an Earthsea story. And those characters never fail to move me. These five tales are no exception.

Fantastic Audio did a great job with these stories. Each one was performed by a different narrator, all of which were first rate. I particularly enjoyed Le Guin's reading of "The Bones of Earth". Scott Brick turns in another great read, Stefan Rudnicki's deep voice was wonderful, as were both Gabrielle de Cuir and Amanda Karr. Harlan Ellison makes a brief, hilarious appearance in a postscript.

Star Wars: The New Jedi Order -- Vector Prime by R.A. Salvatore, read by Anthony Heald
Star Wars: The New Jedi Order -- Dark Journey by Elaine Cunningham, read by Alexander Adams

Vector Prime Dark Journey I was sent Dark Journey by Elaine Cunningham, and I listened without expecting any more than another tie-in novel in which nothing really happens. But I was pleasantly surprised. Surprised enough, in fact, to track down a copy of R.A. Salvatore's Vector Prime, the first of the Star Wars: The New Jedi Order series, of which Dark Journey is a part.

I realized that something unexpected (to me, anyway) was afoot. I'm old enough to remember buying the first Pocket Books Star Trek novel -- Vonda N. McIntyre's The Entropy Effect. It came out soon after Star Trek: The Motion Picture... 1979 I guess it was. I read it and a few books after that, but something became quickly apparent. The novelists were not allowed to advance the Star Trek story in any significant way. This was left for the filmmakers, who were paying no attention at all to the novels. The novels ended as they began, all characters intact and unchanged. How much of that can a person read? I wondered, and now, with approximately 26 billion (OK -- this is an estimate) Star Trek novels sold, who am I to question?

Sometime in the late 90s I picked up and read Timothy Zahn's great Star Wars Thrawn trilogy, which was the beginning of the current collection of Star Wars novels. I enjoyed them greatly, but never really considered keeping up with what I figured would be another tidal wave of books containing endless stories of an eternally 35ish Han Solo chasing an eternally beautiful and slightly younger Leia. Her brother Luke would chase and endless list of bad guys with his light saber while wondering who else he might be related to.

Upon listening to Dark Journey by Elaine Cunningham, however, I found something I liked. This is the eleventh (yes, eleventh) novel in the New Jedi Order series, which itself is part of a larger whole. The difference here is that... well, stuff happens. The story is progressing forward. Han and Leia are married now, with three teenage children; Jaina, Jacen, and Anakin, who are all major characters in the books. Luke is also married -- to another Jedi named Mara Jade, who was introduced in those Timothy Zahn books I mentioned earlier. In the 25 or so years that have passed since Episode IV, about 100 Jedi now exist, each with his or her own agenda. Luke has taken it upon himself to re-establish the Jedi Council. Enter some bad, bad guys: the Yuuzhan Vong, a race whose technology is biological and who don't seem to disturb the Force in any way.

Since George Lucas has said that he won't continue making Star Wars movies after the prequels are finished, these very good writers, though I'm certain that they are not allowed to do everything they want, have been given the authority to move the Star Wars story forward. In other words, stuff is allowed to happen. Han, Leia, and Luke are older. The Solo children (all training to be Jedi) are great, fresh characters. Unless Lucas changes his mind, these novels are the further history of the Star Wars universe, and they are fine entertainment.

These audio versions are very well done, again enhanced with familiar sound effects and excellent narration from both Anthony Heald and Alexander Adams. I found them very enjoyable and am looking forward to discovering where all this is headed.

Hey, how about that Yoda, huh?

Copyright © 2002 Scott Danielson

Scott discovered the world of SF audio years ago, when he spent hours a day in his car. His commute has since shortened considerably, but his love for audio remains. By trade, he's an electrical engineer. Aside from reading and writing science fiction, his hobbies include community theater, where he can often be found behind the soundboard or (much less often) on the stage.


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