Review: Escape Pod, Pseudopod & PodCastle

Titles: Escape Pod, Pseudopod & PodCastle

Reviewer: Sheryl Anderson

First, some general notes.  These are podcast magazines.  They are professional magazines who just happen to be online, in audio, and free.  They depend on donations to pay the authors and run the site.  In practice, for you, this means that a new story is released every week as an .mp3 file.  You can download them from the website yourself or if you have a podcatcher program, like iTunes, you can set it to download the file automatically.   The audio quality has always been good on all three magazines.  I’ve never noticed a problem with it.  The stories are often read by the editors or by other members of the podcast community.

Most of the stories tend to be around half an hour or a bit more.  They also occasionally release flash fiction, which is really short fiction, and reviews.  All of their work is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license.  This means you can download it for free, give it to anybody you want, burn it to CD, etc. as long as you attribute the work to the author, don’t change the file, or try make money off it.

Escape Pod is the original magazine; it began in May 2005.  Originally it ran mainly science fiction, but did run some fantasy and horror.  These days, except for an occasional story, it’s all science fiction.  They feature a mix of new and established authors.  Some of those established authors include Isaac Asimov, (Nightfall, ep.100,) Nancy Kress, Mike Resnick, David Brin, and Elizabeth Bear.  They also run the Hugo nominees every year, or as many of them as they can get.  The stories are generally good. There have been a few I haven’t cared for, but it’s been because I didn’t care for the story itself, the writing and production were fine.  The stories are rated, G through X, and there is a secondary feed that only runs the G through PG13 stories.  If you like science fiction and listening to stories, I highly recommend Escape Pod.   It’s my favorite of the three.

Pseudopod was the first sister podcast.  It began in August 2006.  It’s a horror magazine.  It too has both new and established authors.  Unlike Escape Pod, which has stories suitable for children, Pseudopod doesn’t, nor would I recommend it for the easily disturbed or offended.  If you like horror though, it’s a good magazine and worth checking out.

PodCastle is the newest magazine of the three, and it’s a fantasy magazine.  It only started publishing in April of this year.  Again, it has both new and established authors.  There have been a lot of stories by Peter S. Beagle for instance.  So far, it’s publishing its regular stories, flash fiction, and they just started PodCastle giants, which will be longer stories.  They’ve only published one so far, and it was around an hour and a half long.  PodCastle also rates their stories, but I haven’t noticed a secondary feed like Escape Pod has.  It’s also worth checking out.

I must admit to not having listened to any of the recent episodes on Escape Pod and Pseudopod.  When I discovered them I started all the way back at episode 1 and I have not caught up yet.  There’s only so much listening you can do in a day.  I’m up to about episode 130 on Escape Pod and episode 60 on Pseudopod, so I’m currently about a year behind.  PodCastle only began this year, so I’m only a couple episodes behind at the moment.

To sum it all up, if you like science fiction, fantasy or horror, and you like listening to stories, you should give them a try.

And if you are new to podcasting, you might want to check out Escape Pod’s explanation of it.

Published in: on October 13, 2008 at 12:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Book Review: Artemis Fowl

Title: Artemis Fowl

Author: Eoin Colfer

Reviewed by: Sheryl Anderson

Although aimed at children, the Artemis Fowl series is entertaining for adults as well.  These are action-adventure stories with elves, dwarves, trolls, centaurs and other fairy creatures, lots of high tech gadgets, some humor and some magic.  They follow the escapades of Artemis Fowl, a young genius and criminal mastermind, his bodyguard Butler, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon and assorted other fairy characters.

In the first book, Artemis has discovered the existence of fairies and sets up a trap to catch one.  Artemis is not a very nice person in the beginning.  The fairy he manages to kidnap is Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon.  LEPrecon is short for Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance, an elite group of the LEP.  All of the fairies moved underground ages ago to escape humanity, which is where Lower Elements comes from.  We are introduced to many reoccurring characters in this book as they try to rescue Holly.  There’s Foley, a centaur and technological genus, Commander Julius Root, Holly’s boss, and Mulch Diggums, a tunnel dwarf and convict.

Book two reunites Artemis and Holly in the search and rescue attempt of Artemis’s father and the squashing of a goblin rebellion.  Book three involves stolen fairy technology and lots of high tech stuff.  In book four, Opal Koboi, the villain from book two, returns and plans to expose the fairy world.  Book five is about the lost colony of demons and the unraveling of the time spell that keeps them hidden.  There is a sixth book due to come out any day now, if it hasn’t already.

The books so far:
Artemis Fowl
Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident
Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code
Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception
Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony

Published in: on July 21, 2008 at 1:32 pm  Comments (1)  
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Book Review: Brimstone

Title: Brimstone

Author: Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Reviewed by: Sheryl Anderson

Brimstone is a modern version of the locked room mystery. It begins with the discovery of the body of Jeremy Grove. He is found in a locked room, with furniture shoved against the door, so you know the killer didn’t just lock the door behind him. His corpse is lying on a bed, burnt to a crisp, with the rest of the room untouched by fire, and a single cloven hoofprint burned into the floor by the bed.

The two main detectives on the case are Sergeant Vincent D’Agosta and FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast. D’Agosta is a former NYPD officer, currently working for the South Hampton PD which is where this first murder takes place. Pendergast is a quirky, cultured, and fascinating genius who just happens to be an FBI agent as well. They follow the case from its beginning in South Hampton to New York and later to Italy trying to put together how all the victims are connected and what exactly is going on. Is it really the devil killing these men as some people believe or something else entirely?

The story has elements of art and music history woven through it, it’s not just a simple thriller. Some aspects of the case in fact are rooted in the past, not the present. There are also references to Pendergast’s past and previous books featuring him. They do not detract from the story, but rather serve as interesting bits that make you want to read the other books. There are several prior books featuring Agent Pendergast, but they can be read independently of this. Brimstone does happen to be the first book of a trilogy featuring D’Agosta and Pendergast however.

Published in: on May 7, 2008 at 11:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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