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Stephen Baxter
INFINIVOX, 71 minutes

Stephen Baxter
Often referred to as a writer of hard science fiction, Stephen Baxter has won numerous awards for his work including the Philip K. Dick Award and the British Science Fiction Association Award.

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A review by Wayne MacLaurin

Audio-books are weird beasts. Loved by some and loathed by others, these collections of cassettes and, more frequently, CD-ROMs are finding an ever increasing amount of shelf space in the big chain stores. Maybe it's because more and more people are spending more and more time stuck in traffic or on a crowded subway, or just spending excessive time travelling. Unfortunately, it's rather dangerous to read a novel while driving. Audio-books reduce the risk somewhat.

Of course, audio-books have to work twice as hard to be successful. Not only does the story have to be engaging; the presentation has to be effective.

Many audio-books fall victim to the production trap and become something only suitable to a quiet room where the variations of volume and music can be appreciated. Or, they fail due to bad production, with the product so bland and the narrator so monotone that the listener either falls asleep (a bad thing™ especially if you happen to be speeding down the interstate at the time...) or can't distinguish the characters enough to follow the dialogue.

So, audio-books need two things to succeed. A good story and decent production.

Cilia-of-Gold is part of Stephen Baxter's Xeelee series and first appeared in Asimov's Science Fiction, August 1994. Stephen Baxter's work is well known as hard science fiction and Cilia-of-Gold lives up to that expectation. Based around a scientific study of the Sun, it explores two apparently disjoint anomalies on Mercury.

Unfortunately, this was originally a short story and not much more can be said without giving away the good stuff™.

In terms of the production quality, Cilia-of-Gold is very good. The narration is crisp and easy to listen to and the dialogue is quite easy to follow. The sound is clean and the background trailer music is subtle and distracts the listener only when it's time to flip the tape.

Cilia-of-Gold works very well as an audio-book. It's a story that adapts quite nicely to the medium and the production of this particular book makes it easy to listen to.

Copyright © 1997 by Wayne MacLaurin

Wayne MacLaurin is a regular SF Site reviewer. More of his opinions are available on our Book Reviews pages.

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