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Matthew Heckler

Writer for The MindHut, folk musician.

GLENWOOD, IL, United States

  • 2 reviews
  • 2 ratings
  • 44 titles in library
  • 0 purchased in 2015

  • Homunculus: Narbondo, Book 2

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 45 mins)
    • By James P Blaylock
    • Narrated By Nigel Carrington

    In 1870s London, a city of contradictions and improbabilities, a dead man pilots an airship and living men are willing to risk all to steal a carp. Here, a night of bangers and ale at the local pub can result in an eternity at the Blood Pudding with the rest of the reanimated dead.... A comic science-fiction novel first published in 1986. It took the Philip K Dick award that year, and was the second book in Blaylock's loose steampunk trilogy, following The Digging Leviathan (1984) and preceding Lord Kelvin's Machine (1992).

    Katherine says: "Over the top in the right kind of way"
    "One of the most painfully boring novels ever."
    What disappointed you about Homunculus?

    There is absolutely no momentum to the novel whatsover--- it just feels like a bunch of English people sitting aroudn being English-- and not even amusingly.

    What was most disappointing about James Blaylock’s story?

    Everything-- More than two hours into the novel it felt as thought nothing at all had happened, and none of the characters were even remotely likable. I despised this novel.

    What aspect of Nigel Carrington’s performance would you have changed?

    His performance is fine-- It fits the tone of the novel, which is stuffy and English.

    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?


    Any additional comments?

    This is supposed to be one of the key novels in the development of steampunk. If this were the only novel to push steampunk into existance, I can't see how the genre would still exist. Why would anyone want to replicate this?

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Radio Free Albemuth

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 43 mins)
    • By Philip K. Dick
    • Narrated By Tom Weiner

    Philip K. Dick's impassioned final novel is a wild and visionary alternate history of the United States. It is 1969, and a paranoid president has convulsed America in a vicious war against imaginary internal enemies. As the country slides into fascism, a struggling science-fiction writer named Philip K. Dick is trying to keep from becoming one of that war's casualties.

    Jose says: "A strange masterpiece"
    "Paint by numbers reading of an outstanding novel"
    Where does Radio Free Albemuth rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I've only listened to a handful, but it is definitely middle of the pack. The quality of the novel is enormous but the reading is only fine.

    What other book might you compare Radio Free Albemuth to and why?

    Philip K. Dick is only comparable to other Philip K. Dick.

    What three words best describe Tom Weiner’s voice?

    Fine, but uninspired.

    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I definitely spent more time laughing and being enthusiastic about it than anything else.

    Any additional comments?

    My review from Androiddreamer: Philip K. Dick is nothing if not a paranoid genius. Perhaps, in his case, he had the right to be: in the middle of McCarthy’s Red Scare, Dick’s home was raided and torn apart by FBI agents probably looking for a connection between him and the Communist Party. They came back repeatedly to interrogate Philip, and it apparently did no good for an already troubled psyche. Radio Free Albemuth is essentially straight out of this period, a novel full of paranoid government rebellion and a strange brand of Gnostic Christianity that is so bizarre that it feels true.

    There are two primary characters of Radio Free Albemuth, a novel that was shelved by Dick after serious re-writes were demanded by his publishers. The first is Nicholas, a man born in Chicago who moved to Berkeley, California at a very young age, much like the writer himself. He works at a record store and receives very clear visions in his dreams that he knows to be messages from God, or from aliens. The other primary protagonist and narrator of the story is Philip K. Dick himself, a science fiction writer based out of Orange County known for the populariy of his novels The Man in the High Castle and Flow Your Tears, The Policeman Said among others. President Ferris F. Fremont is a kind of terrifying amalgam of real-life president Richard Nixon and crazed Senator McCarthy himself. This is the Red Scare in overdrive.

    Nicholas and Philip are both harassed throughout the story by government ages trying to connect them to communist sympathizers in the area. Of course, Nicholas and his partner are indeed linked to the party, but do their best to hide it from FBI agents who pretty assuredly know everything. Philip K. Dick goes through similar interrogation and some entrapment, including being seduced by a drugged up agent who tries to convince him after the fact that she is in fact underage and he will be arrested for statuatory rape if he doesn’t come clean. Another character, Sylvia, is introduced in the second half of the book as someone who has a similar connection to the general scheme of things to Nicholas, and becomes his sort of partner-in-crime in the leadup to their final act of rebellion against the fascist state.

    The novel as a whole is a perfectly executed criticism of the sort of Stalinist and neo-Fascist bent of the Republican Party of the era. It is brilliantly written with constantly flawless dialogue that never lulls—not for a second. Although this is one of Dick’s lesser known novels, it is also one of his most poignant; there are several scenes over the course of the novel that are extremely memorable for either their dark humor, brilliant political satire, or simple tragedy. While some readers have criticized this novel for not being particularly accessible, and it may be a harder read than some of Philip K. Dick’s more mainstream efforts, it ought to be seen as one of his more essential novels. Radio Free Albemuth seems to imply that alien visitors from outer space are the source of all world religions; prophets are simply people receiving messages from benevolent (but not omnipotent) extraterrestrials who seek to help us cast off our chains. It may be bizarre, but Philip K. Dick’s brilliance is as prevalent here as it ever was.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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