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Tablesaw Tablesawsen ([personal profile] tablesaw) wrote2009-02-13 07:08 am

Podcastle Reviews (31-40, plus miniatures)

Let's get these out while I'm in a reviewing mood.

  • No. 31. "Colin and Ishmael in the Dark" by William Shunn (read by "MarBell"). A guard, a prisoner, and the dark. I really loved both the story and performance. My only disappointment was that the story, which was (or at least felt as though it were) almost entirely dialogue should have gone all the way and been performed more as an audio play than as a reading. The action in the story gets very tense, and as amazing as MarBelle's reading was, he still couldn't overcome the limitations of the interposed narration, or the physical difficulties of portraying a heated, interrupting argument between two people using only his own voice. Still, an excellent read.
  • Miniature 19. "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allen Poe (read by Cheyenne Wright). "Amontillado" is, I think, the most worthy of Poe's stories to be read aloud. It's short and simple, and yet there's far more room for interpretation of motives and circumstances than, say, "Tell-Tale Heart." Wright gives a good performance, but he gets tripped up a bit over his attempt at an accent, which had him adding a mysterious L sound before the d of "Amontillado." On the other hand, his coughing was exquisite, and I highly recommend the perfomance for that portion alone.
  • No. 32. "Senator Bilbo" by Andy Duncan (read by Frank Key). Bilbo Baggins meets Theodore G. Bilbo. No, really. A descendent of Bilbo Baggins (with the same name) acts in the Senate of the Shire in much the way that wihte-supremacist Bilbo did in Mississippi and the U.S. Senate. When I listened to the story, I was not aware of the connection to American history, and many elements seemed odd, overdone, or overly caricatured. Yup, those were the ones that turned out to be taken from the history of American politics. There isn't much plot to speak of, but it's an effective commentary on how history is written by the victors, and how that perspective needs to be taken into account even in imagined histories. Key's reading was uniformly excellent, here.
  • Miniature 20. "Okra, Sorghum, Yam" by Bruce Holland Rogers (read by An Owomoyela). The story of the second princess of three. After it was done, my only thought was that I still much prefer to hear the tale of the third princess to those of her elder sisters.
  • No. 33. "The Girl with the Sun in her Head" by Jeremiah Tolbert (read by Ann Leckie). A while back, I'd noticed that Leckie had an infuriating ability, when reading the final quotation of the podcast, to make the listener feel that what was clearly intended to be the last word, was actually the middle of a sentence, and that more was coming in just a bit. Her reading of the fiction, here, had similar mixed messages for the listener. The performance felt overly rushed (and perhaps overly anxious) to the point that I was actually made more tense and angry, my teeth clenching, merely trying to listen to the story being read. I skipped.
  • Miniature 21. "The Princess and the . . ." by Marie Brennan (read by Ann Leckie). THE LAST WORD IS PENIS LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL! Ugh. Far too much time dedicated to only half of a dirty joke that wasn't funny to begin with.
  • No. 34. "Clad in Gossamer" by Nancy Kress (read by Paul S. Jenkins). The Emperor's New Clothes, retold with an eye to court intrigue. I can't actually remember much of my reaction to this one, but I enjoyed it while I did the dishes.
  • Miniature 22. "The Kissing of Frogs" by Bruce Boston (read by Mur Lafferty). Don't really remember this one either. Those must have been some dishes.
  • Miniature 23. "Bury the Dead" by Ann Leckie (read by Tina Connolly). Family politics, gender politics, zombie politics, and turkey. I feel like I had deep thoughts about this one, but they've all melted away in the months since. I really enjoyed it, though, and I recall listening to it twice, and reading it online. So I liked it, yeah.
  • No. 35. "Winter Solstice" by Mike Resnick (read by Chris Furst). Merlin = Alzheimer's disease. I liked this story when I heard it, but it didn't hold up as well when thinking about it later. Ultimately what stays with me is Merlin's perspective on the fall of Camelot. If Merlin truly ages backwards, then the fall is something that happens to people he barely knows, but who've known and trusted him all their lives. His first meetings with them are at moments of pain and betrayal, and Merlin will have to go on to watch them as hopeful youths knowing (or possibly not knowing?) to what ends they will come.
  • No. 36. "Ancestor Money" by Maureen McHugh (read by Diane Severson). An woman travels from her quiet American afterlife into the bustling afterlife of Hong Kong. There's a lot going on in this story, and I don't know how I feel about it. I think the focus is on the way American and Chinese people think about their ancestors, and taken apart the views are interesting. McHugh's view of "ancestor worship" is that it keeps one's ancestors constantly tied to the temporal world of their descendants. So the dead of Hong Kong, no matter how old, live in a world that is much like the Hong Kong of the present of their descendants. While the American dead drift off into their own singular worlds, cut off from most everyone else. Their descendants may see pictures of them and wonder how they lived, possibly making mistakes in their imaginings ("Did they have phones, then? They must've had phones, then."), but for the most part they stay where they are temporally. When American Rachel makes the trip from one to the other, though, the values get complicated in strange ways that I haven't fully puzzled out. It's certainly very exotic. Also, Severson uses accents in portraying the many Hong Kong voices in her reading, and they sounded off to my ears (though I'm certainly not an expert). On the other hand, the English spoken by the Hong Kong spirits was meant to be oddly translated, I think, so I don't know how much Severson could have done.
  • Miniature 24. "Intelligent Design" by Ellen Klages (read by M.K. Hobson). Can't remember a thing.
  • No. 37. "Gordon, the Self-Made Cat" by Peter S. Beagle (read by Barry Deutsch). I mentioned this story earlier. I turned it off after it started to sound less like a story about a mouse named Gordon and more like a cat owner telling me all of the absolutely adorable things their pets do.
  • Miniature 25."Through the Cooking Glass" by Vylar Kaftan (read by Julie Davis). Also nothing remembered.
  • No. 38. "In the House of the Seven Librarians" by Ellen Klages (read by Rachel Swirsky). Like "Gordon," but with libraries instead of cats. Tried to listen twice; got bored and turned it off twice.
  • No. 39. "Honest Man" by Naomi Kritzer (read by Ann Leckie). This story starts out with a dragged-out retelling of a hoary scam. I held on for a while, until I looked at my iPod and saw how much time was left in the episode. I decided I couldn't take another half-hour of whatever was going to follow.
  • No. 40. "Hell Is the Absence of God" by Ted Chiang (read by James Trimarco). As I lay them all out like this, I notice that I've been pretty hard on the last few months of PodCastle, and this episode was no exception. I really liked the text of the beginning of the story, but Trimarco's performance was so incredibly boring it hurt. If this hadn't been a "Giant" episode, I might have stuck with it, but since I knew going in that I was going to have to listen to that voice for an hour, I couldn't bear to go on.

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