Reading With Your Ears
Frequency #3; $9.95/issue or $40 for 6 issues
P. O. Box 2711, Venice, California 90294
In light of the popularity of audiobooks, Frequency is a clever idea. It’s surprising, in fact, that it doesn’t seem to face any competition. It is, essentially, a science fiction magazine on compact disk, well suited for casual listening in automobiles and other environments that aren’t friendly to reading.
Disk number three is actually Frequency’s fourth “issue”, the first having been a giveaway number zero. It is the first to contain original stories, and the editor’s intention is to mix new and “reprinted” (“reverbalized”?) material on future disks. It is also his intention to start publishing on the announced bimonthly schedule; “frequency” is so far a misnomer in that respect. (Like many other clever ideas, this one has been constrained by shortages of capital and labor.)
There are four stories on the disk at hand, running for a total of just under 70 minutes. They range in length from a four-minute short-short (“The Patron” by Chuck Rothman) to a half-hour near-novelette (“A Dream of Mars” by Justina Robson).
“Shark Attack” by Kenneth Brady, though straightforwardly presented as a horror story, belongs to the dream-fiction genre, more like Jonathan Carroll’s Bones of the Moon than anything by Stephen King. The narrator is a fourth grade boy with fourth grade problems, the most important of which are apprehension about the school blood drive and fear of the class bully, who he believes is in league with the teacher. From that setup, the plot proceeds by dream logic to a thorough but unsatisfying revenge. The reading, by Tadao Tomomatsu, is perfect for the story, sounding exactly like the intonations of an insecure nine-year-old.
“Keystrokes” by Kevin Troy Darling offers a new idea for passing the Turing Test, though the surprise ending is foreseeable too far in advance. Peter Dillard’s reading is correct and unobtrusive.
“A Dream of Mars” combines a trio of familiar concepts - terraforming, genetic engineering and the mystical bond between hunters and their prey - into a solid though slightly predictable work. Alistair Logan sounds like a weary veteran of the chase, and wind effects are well used to mark off the passages in which he recounts dreams instead of memories. The first shift from dream to straight narration is, however, too abrupt; hearing it without warning, I thought that the CD had skipped a track.
Finally, “The Patron” is a brief gimmick story featuring a frustrated Victor Frankenstein in search of financial backing for his experiments. Carel Struyken reads with an Eastern European accent that is hard to follow in a couple of places but fitting to the tale.
None of these works is a strong competitor for a Hugo, but all four are pleasant enough entertainments - certainly more interesting than the average morning radio show host or a conversation about your fellow commuter’s golf game.