Feel like escaping the confines of your second pandemic-winter without actually going anywhere until you can receive a vaccine? Me too. That’s why I’ve selected six new out-of-this-world audiobooks to take us far away in space and time while we wait for our jabs.
Let’s start on Mars. You know you’ve wanted to visit since listening to R.C. Bray’s performance of THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir. Well, Martin Shoemaker has set THE LAST CAMPAIGN in an actual future city on the red planet. Rebecca Mozo delivers an Earphones Award performance of the space mystery, which is a great combination of who-did-the-industrialist-in and well-imagined details about everyday Martian life. Plus, the police chief is a woman. Go, girlfriend!
Next, we head back to Earth a few years from now, when the climate crisis has heated up substantially. Kim Stanley Robinson offers hope and a slap upside the head in his riveting speculative fiction work, THE MINISTRY FOR THE FUTURE. With the audiobook given an Earphones Award performance by a wonderful cast of narrators led by Jennifer Fitzgerald, we join the international team tasked with averting catastrophe as they cope with the way life has already changed around the globe. Our reviewer says that you won’t want to stop listening. I agree.
Let’s stay international with TO HOLD UP THE SKY, a collection of short stories by Cixin Liu, who is one of China’s most prominent science fiction authors. Read by ten noted narrators, the magical stories consider everything from life 10,000 years in the future and a reimagining of the past to a present day that isn’t quite how it seems. Thoughtful, haunting, otherworldly, the stories and their beautifully voiced performances will stick with you for a long time.
Now for a far-future smuggling team and its psychic cats. They’ll have you laughing in no time, which is what you need in this pandemic-winter. PRIME DECEPTIONS is the second offbeat space opera by Valerie Valdez about the aforementioned crew, which mostly tries to do right while being chased by some deliciously awful outer-space creatures. Narrator Almarie Guerra’s friendly voice, perfect Spanish, and exquisite timing enhance the humor and adventure. Chuckling and shouting “Whoa!” are great ways to spend fourteen hours.
How about getting away by giving up your body and morphing into a sentient space probe with self-replicating powers? That’s what happened to Bob Johansson in Dennis E. Taylor’s celebrated Bobiverse Series, all of which, including the latest, HEAVEN’S RIVER, are read by Ray Porter, whose Earphones Award performance guarantees delight. In this installment, set in 2334, Bob and some Bob-replicants discover a pseudo-planet in deep space that’s populated with de-evolving aliens who resemble otters and who may be holding another Bob hostage. Full of humor, adventure, tech-talk, and Star Trek references. I’ll keep listening until I get to experience my own future as a sentient space probe.
Although I’ll also need to join everyone’s favorite android in Martha Wells’s NETWORK EFFECT, the fifth installment and first full-length novel in her celebrated Murderbot series. Performed to marvelous effect by the series’ narrator, Kevin R. Free, this episode kidnaps our beloved SecUnit on an opinionated spaceship with impossible humans and really nasty aliens, and then sends everyone through a wormhole. Replete with Wells’s wry humor, thrilling suspense, and really cool tech, this is as satisfying as the best beach vacation. Okay, outer-space vacation. And the best, best, best news? A sixth book is coming to our earbuds in April. So listen up.
Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/Harvard-Smithsonian CfA. The perfectly picturesque spiral galaxy known as Messier 81, or M81, looks sharp in this new composite from NASA Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes and NASA Galaxy Evolution Explorer.