3 great audiobooks for August

Two tales of time travel and a novel about a young transgender footballer are the audiobooks for this month.

By Robert A. Heinlein, read by James Patrick Cronin, Jennifer Jill Araya, Richard Ferrone and Bernadette Dunne. Blackstone Editions, quarter past 9, $ 19.95.

He’s been dead for over three decades, but I still check every now and then to see if my favorite sci-fi author has published any new books. And, son of a gun, when I looked last month, I saw this one came out last year.

“The Pursuit of the Pankera” isn’t entirely new to Heinlein fans. Its first third is identical to “The Number of the Beast”, a novel published in 1980, during its late and minor period. And excerpts from the last two-thirds of “Number” also appear here.

But the bulk of two-thirds of the second two-thirds of “Pankera” consists of excerpts from “Nombre” – chapters which, according to a preface, were found in pieces among Heinlein’s papers and sewn together.

The characters in the novel – two men and two women, married couples in the front pages after barely escaping evil aliens in human disguise – are still wonderfully intelligent, wonderfully knowledgeable, and sexy as hell. Women are always inclined to give in to their men in order to better control them.

But there is much less here of Heinlein’s sexual reveries – the multiple combinations of characters he wanders about towards the end of “Number” – and more of the main story vanity: that the fictional universes are all real, and therefore accessible if you have a vessel that can employ the proper math.

As our heroes try to stay one step ahead of alien Pankera, then hunt down and exterminate them, we get extended stays in Barsoom’s worlds from Edgar Rice Burroughs and Gray Lensman from EE “Doc. “Smith, rather than the blink of an eye. of these universes found in “The Number of the Beast”. You don’t need to know much about these books to enjoy these tours – they are longer and more satisfying than the passages in “Number” which dizzyingly parade past characters from the many “Oz” novels and books. own works of Heinlein.

It all fits together nicely here, though there are some long exhibition pieces that Heinlein appropriately cropped for “Number,” and a few odd moments where the book, almost always spoken in first person, suddenly switches to the third. If Heinlein had reviewed “Pankera” before it was published, he undoubtedly would have picked up these passages, but his editors chose to leave them exactly as he wrote them.

Plus, it’s no surprise that despite Heinlein’s reputation as a futurist, more than four decades after this article was written, the technology is a bit outdated. Computers here are still big bulky items; there are walkie-talkies instead of cell phones; and the characters are saving the film for their Polaroid instant cameras (remember the Polaroids?) because there are no digital photos.

But that shouldn’t interfere with your enjoyment. And it will surely be enhanced by performance. The four main characters take turns telling the chapters, with one actor for each character telling the story – and readers create distinct, recognizable voices for all four characters.

Like “Pursuit of the Pankera” itself, this shouldn’t work. But in a way, it is.

By Charlie Pickering, James Colley, Rob Hunter and Cait Johnson, performed by Pickering, Frank Woodley, Claire Hooper, Aleisha McCormack, Damien Fotiou, Odette Joannidis, Adam Crouch, Wendy Bos, Tony Briggs, Danny McGinlay, Xavier Michaelides and Karla Arnall. Audible Original, 3.5 hours, included with Audible Plus subscription, $ 7.95 per month.

This fun and irreverent collection of eight Audible Australia podcasts finds host and co-author Pickering sending ‘reporters’ Natasha and Toby on a series of excursions that feature the latest time travel device from the ubiquitous Corporation – the Timeslide 9000.

As they move from the year 2041 to eras such as the Italian Renaissance, the French Revolution and the life of Genghis Khan, Natasha enjoys luxury packages from The Corporation while poor Toby continues to hang out with the peasants. , finding new ways to die and becoming quite cranky. on this subject.

Along the way, a real story is also told in a cheeky way. In an episode about the space race, for example, American listeners may be surprised by several historically accurate, but jarring, references to the feminization of President John F. Kennedy and the role of former Nazi scientists in the space program. American.

Listeners may also be surprised at the decision not to emulate the well-known (in the United States at least) and often imitated voices of Kennedy or President Richard M. Nixon. But the show’s French and Italian characters sound overly European, the Australian accents are easy to understand, Pickering has a wonderfully dry delivery, and there are plenty of sound effects to help create a ‘you are there’ feeling.

"The passbook"

By Isaac Fitzsimons, read by Jamie K. Brown. Listening library, 7 hours, $ 14.99.

This sweet and touching young adult novel is the story of Spencer Harris, who transfers to a private progressive high school after there were problems at his old public school.

Spencer is 15, a football prodigy and a trans – and his old school wasn’t ready for the latter. So he’s not ready to go out to the new school, even though he cautiously joins the Queer-Straight Alliance (maybe people will think he’s a direct ally) and tries for the football team. of the boys, changing clothes before or after the other boys do it.

But he can’t go into hiding forever, and things get complicated when he’s declared ineligible to play because his birth certificate says “Female.” There’s also a boy he has a crush on – but will this boy still love him if he finds out the truth?

Fitzsimsons handles this delicate territory, as well as Spencer’s mixed background, with sensitivity and subtlety. And Brown reads the characters – black and white, male and female – with a tremendous array of voices that not only let you know instantly who’s talking, but who’s true to who they are.

Alan Rosenberg is a retired editor of the Journal. Contact him at [email protected]


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