Almost Ender

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There are two sources for celebration in nerd-land this fine week.

I got my hands on Orson Scott Card’s latest version of Ender’s Game, not the immensely and justly popular movie, but Ender’s Game Alive, an audio drama produced for Audible.  I say audio drama because this special edition of Andrew Wiggin’s story, including material culled from short stories and nuances from Ender’s Shadow as well, isn’t read out loud so much as it is reenacted by a full cast of actors, one for each major character.  Scenes have been completely re-written to take all of the action in Ender’s world and describe it and analyze it from valid external points of view instead of listening to a narrator read Ender’s thoughts.  That is a bold move for a story whose main plot arc depends so completely on thought, emotion, and understanding.  Not all authors would make that leap (The admirable Stephen Gould completely re-wrote Jumper rather than try to put his psychological drama as-is on the big screen.) but Orson Scott Card does it and does it well.

It isn’t a perfect rendition.  I have some complaints about sound mastering, when in order to indicate an aside or a conversation in the background the sound level dropped so severely I had to turn the volume way up, only to get blasted at the return to normal voice.  And sometimes it just didn’t work to have observers comment precisely on what Ender was thinking instead of listening to him think.

Neither of those tiny flaws will prevent me from listening to this audio drama again and again.  It is superlative, and I grew up listening to audio drama from The Shadow to Adventures in Odyssey as a child.  O.S.C. has a lifelong background in theater.  He knows as well as anyone else how to present information woven through dialogue and tempo.  There are enough changes in story details and texture so that those of us who are long familiar with the story will find new things to appreciate.

Highly recommended.

The mid-season television premiers have brought a special treat to science fiction fans.  Almost Human is a semi-procedural police drama set in the future.  There is a strong touch of Asimov’s android detective novels in this, mixed with a low-budget Blade Runner dystopian future painted in industrial colors.

The acting is superb.  The action isn’t super-impressive but a step above a lot of shows.  (I’m not counting the swordplay in season 1 of Revolution because it just isn’t fair to hold other shows to that standard.)  I like the idea of a discontinued feeling android paired up with an emotionally traumatized human cop.  Ever since Asimov did it this theme has resurfaced in movies and television because it is a great dynamic.  If we are willing to accept an android as a silicone revision of the more pure-hearted equal it could be argued that this is one of the oldest stories in human civilization, all the way back to Gilgamesh and Enkidu.

I was afraid to get my hopes up for this series, because the previews looked too good to be true.  I have a disturbing premonition that like No Ordinary Family and Firefly this is going to be one amazing story that will only last one season, but I fully intend to savor every minute that it does endure.  And of course there are the surprise long-lasting hits like Supernatural that defy the trend.

Also highly recommended.

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