Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman

Radiomen

Eleanor Lerman, who lives in New York, is the author of numerous award-winning collections of poetry, short stories, and novels. She is a National Book Award finalist, the recipient of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship as well as a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2016, her novel, Radiomen, was awarded the John W. Campbell Prize for the Best Book of Science Fiction.

Tower Review:  What inspired RADIOMEN?
Eleanor Lerman:  Whitely Strieber said something once that I’ve never forgotten: when he wrote Communion and then subsequent books about his encounters with aliens, he said that people kept asking him why the aliens abducted people, why they seemed to be doing some kind of experiments on them, etc. His reply was that how could he, a human being, possibly understand the beliefs and motivations of other beings? They might have a completely different view of the universe, of living beings’ purpose and place in the universe. He thought it was almost arrogant of human beings to think that their understanding of the universe would be the starting point for any other being’s understanding in any other part of the cosmos. I thought that was a brilliant and profound idea–with one little spin of my own. I imagine that wherever there is life, there is probably some yearning for connection with a higher being and probably the same kind of confusion about who He/She/It is. That’s what began the story for me. But there’s one other thing: when I was a little girl, my uncle rigged a radio receiver that allowed us to hear the sound of one of the later Sputnik satellites. The Soviets wanted people to pick up the signal because they thought it would scare Americans, in particular, into thinking that the Soviets were way ahead of them in the space race. But when I heard Sputnik, I wasn’t scared–I think I fell in love with the idea of sounds traveling through space and being able to hear them on a radio. (When I was a teenager, living in New York, I remembered this feeling when I could pick up a rock and roll station at night from a distant city like Chicago.) Many years later, I came across an audio tape of Sputnik’s telemetry signal online, and when I heard it, it was like hearing the voice of an old friend.

Q:  How important was tone to you, related to audiences outside the scifi community?
A:  It is very important to me that Radiomen be accessible to both the scifi community and others who are more focused on reading “literary” novels. Most speculative fiction and scifi written by women tends to be dystopian in nature. I’m not really interested in speculating about the end of the world or apocalyptic times. For me, the question of whether or not we’re being visited by aliens and if so, why, is a framework for speculating about why actually lies beyond the human horizon. Questions about why we exist, what our lives mean, whether we are alone in the universe–big questions like that–are the kind of thing that you talk about with your friends when you’re young. But you sort of forget about them in the middle of your life when you’re caught up with work and raising kids and the everyday stuff of life. But as you get older, the questions return again when you start staring mortality in the face. Once that happened to me, as a writer, it seemed almost trivial to be writing about anything else, but I needed a big framework to deal with such outsized, almost metaphysical questions, and that’s how I moved towards scifi. But I was hoping that anyone who wonders about what we can’t see beyond the night sky and the stars would like Radiomen.

Q:  Did you hear the audiobook, and if so, what did you think?
A:  I have not heard the book yet but I was very impressed by how much effort Dawn Harvey put into making sure that her pronunciation of names and words was something I was comfortable with. I very much appreciated that and I can’t wait to listen, some late night, to a reading of the story.

Q:  Will there be a sequel?
A:  In a way. A new book called The Stargazer’s Embassy. New characters and, sadly, no dog–but alien beings are once again main characters, although this time what they are confused about is the nature of death. The Betty Hill star map–-her claim that when she and her husband Barney were abducted in 1961, the aliens showed her a map of the Zeta Reticuli star system and said that’s where they were from–plays a role in the story, as does a Hello Kitty phone app and a character based on Ted Serios (who was once famous for being able to take “mental pictures”–-meaning, to transfer images from his mind to the film in a camera).

Review of Radiomen here: 

http://audiobookstoday.blogspot.com/2015/02/radiomen-by-eleanor-lerman.html

science books

ANNIHILATION by Jeff Vandermeer

jeff vandermeerANNIHILATION by Jeff Vandermeer. Plot: Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide; the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition. The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself. They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers. Narrated by Carolyn McCormick on audio, the stand-alone novel is not your typical scifi listen, but has been picked up for a movie adaptation starring Natalie Portman and directed by Alex Garland, who did Ex Machina. It is a subjective account told through the protagonist’s viewpoint. Sensations are key, and the almost stream of consciousness revelations seem like diary entries. There are no Predator creatures hunting them down, using invisibility shields. It’s more cryptic, moody, the influence on the scientists more like the supernatural. And like “The X Files,” not everything can be explained. Which is the whole point. You can see why Garland was attracted to the material. The mystery lingers, and the purpose of such books and films is not to do a neat little Hollywood feel-good wrap-up, complete with one-liners, but to present the dilemma. To incite debate while stimulating the imagination.

For a change or pace, the video below is classical violinist Sarah Chang talking about ethics. Sarah is one of the best musicians in the world, a prodigy who grew into one of the most demanded performers. What is special about her, outside of music, is her honesty and dedication to kids and learning. No diva with a massive ego, she is the real deal. She once showed up in a tiny club in Buenos Aires, just out of love of Latin fusion tango music, although she has played with every major orchestra, including (as a child) with John Williams at the Hollywood Bowl. Our interview with her is HERE.

Sarah Chang

TAXI?

Tony DanzaUber is threatening the taxi cab industry. Competitors are threatening Uber. Stock prices fluctuate, while the public looks for the cheapest fares. Long before he starred on some of television’s most beloved and long-running series such as Taxi and Who’s the Boss? and went on to distinguish himself in a variety of film and stage roles, Tony Danza was a walking contradiction: an indifferent student who dreamed of being a teacher. Inspiring a classroom of students was an aspiration he put aside for decades until one day it seemed that the most meaningful thing he could do was give his dream a shot. What followed was a year spent teaching tenth-grade English at Northeast High — Philadelphia’s largest high school with 3,600 students. Entering Northeast’s crowded halls in September 2009, Tony found his way to a classroom filled with twenty-six students who were determined not to cut him any slack. They cared nothing about “Mr. Danza’s” showbiz credentials, and they immediately put him on the hot seat. It was only after experiencing abject terror for several weeks — and even dissolving into tears on several occasions — that Tony began to pick up the tricks of how to get kids to learn. Featuring indelible portraits of students and teachers alike, I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had reveals just how hard it is to keep today’s technologically savvy — and often alienated — students engaged, how impressively committed most teachers are, and the outsized role counseling plays in a teacher’s day, given the psychological burdens many students carry. The audiobook also makes vivid how a modern high school works, showing Tony in a myriad of roles — from lecturing on To Kill a Mockingbird to coaching the football team, organizing a talent show, leading far-flung field trips, and hosting teacher gripe sessions. Interesting, heart-opening.

Taxi

First Book of Fiction by Tom Hanks!

Tom Hanks book

A collection of seventeen wonderful short stories showing that two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor. A gentle Eastern European immigrant arrives in New York City after his family and his life have been torn apart by his country’s civil war. A man who loves to bowl rolls a perfect game–and then another and then another and then many more in a row until he winds up ESPN’s newest celebrity, and he must decide if the combination of perfection and celebrity has ruined the thing he loves. An eccentric billionaire and his faithful executive assistant venture into America looking for acquisitions and discover a down and out motel, romance, and a bit of real life. These are just some of the tales Tom Hanks tells in this first collection of his short stories. They are surprising, intelligent, heartwarming, and, for the millions and millions of Tom Hanks fans, an absolute must-have!
“Wait—Tom Hanks can write, too? Funny, moving, deftly surprising stories? That’s just swell. Maybe there’s no crying in baseball, pal, but it’s perfectly acceptable in the book business. That’s how we drown envy.” —Carl Hiaasen
“It turns out that Tom Hanks is also a wise and hilarious writer with an endlessly surprising mind. Damn it.” —Steve Martin
Tom Hanks narrates, with additional performances on the story “Stay with Us” by five other voice actors. Hanks has won Academy Awards for best actor for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. He has starred in many other films, including Big, Sleepless in Seattle, Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile, Cast Away, Catch Me If You Can, Captain Phillips, Bridge of Spies, and Sully. His other awards include Golden Globes, Primetime Emmys, and the American Comedy Award, among others. His first work of fiction is the short-story collection Uncommon Type. Order ebook version at http://TowerReview.com and audiobook version at https://AudiobooksToday.blogspot.com

Imagining Diana Author Interview

Diane ClehaneDiane Clehane is the author of Diana: The Secrets of Her Style and has served as a commentator on the British royal family for CNN, Access Hollywood, and CBS News. She has written about celebrities and popular culture for Vanity Fair, Forbes, People, Vogue.com and Adweek.com, and is a U.S. correspondent for British Heritage. In her weekly “Wednesdays at Michael’s” column, Clehane chronicles the Manhattan media scene. She co-authored the New York Times bestseller Objection and edited the New York Times bestselling collection of essays, I Love You, Mom.

Tower Review) There’s much background on Diana, and of course speculation about what her motives were, played out in fiction after her death. Wondering what the biggest guess was, besides the fact that she wanted to live her own life and create an honorable life for her boys amid all the glitz and paparazzi.
 
Diane Clehane) I have been writing about the British royal family for a long time and did extensive research for the book. As someone who has written about Diana for two decades, I felt very confident about the path I imagined for her had she lived. The biggest mystery was if she would have remarried. What I did in the book is directly related to a relationship she really had with Teddy Forstmann. I believe the greatest happiness Diana would have found later in her life would have come from the relationship she had with her sons — and their wives and children — and her work as a global humanitarian figure. 
 
TR) Did Diana really not want to go to Paris, making it a jealousy play with no intention of a serious relationship with Dodi? 
 
DC) When Diana met Dodi, she had just had a devastating break-up with Hasnat Khan. I believe she was trying to make Hasnat jealous by allowing herself to be photographed on the yacht in Dodi’s arms. That said, she was enjoying herself on that vacation because Dodi was focused solely on her. She found him very attentive, but when the holiday was over she was ready to go back to London. I don’t think their romance would have lasted for a whole host of reasons — the fact that William didn’t care for the Fayed jet-set lifestyle being among them.

TR) The agent in New York looking to exploit Diana. Was there a specific agent in mind, perhaps based on one you encountered in real life? Or is she a total fiction, like Meryl playing a fashion snob in The Devil Wears Prada?
 
DC) The agent Lois is a composite character based on many people I’ve known in the media, publishing and entertainment fields. I thought it would be fun to make her a larger-than-life presence.

TR) Was Diana ever in love with Charles, and vice-versa, in your opinion? Who cheated first, and why?
 
DC) Diana was definitely in love with Charles when they married. She was all of 20 years old and very much believed in love and romance. Charles told friends he hoped he could ‘grow to love Diana’ and he did, I believe, in his own way. Unfortunately for Charles and Diana, it was an arranged marriage because he was being pressured to find a suitable (read: aristocratic and virginal) bride. Unfortunately, Charles never really let go of his emotional attachment to Camilla.  Later it became an open secret among palace insiders that he had resumed his affair. Ironically, Diana and Charles were starting a new stage of their relationship post-divorce when she was killed. I believe they would have grown closer as friends in later years as they do in my book.

About the book:
IMAGINING DIANA begins on August 31, 1997 in a Paris hospital. As the world awaits news of Princess Diana’s fate following the paparazzi-fueled crash, Diana awakens from a coma to discover that she has survived the wreckage, but with her famous face—the most photographed in the world— forever changed. Based on actual events, what ensues is an elegant, riveting account of Diana’s storied past and imagined future as an icon, lover, and mother of a future king. On audio the book is introduced by the author, and narrated by Stina Nielsen.

THE FOUR by Scott Galloway

IT

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. Those are the THE FOUR examined by author Scott Galloway in his first book, out early October. Having listened to an advance review copy, I was astonished by some of the material not covered in earlier tech and marketing related books such as Future Shock, Rise of the Robots, Wonderland, and Brandwashed. Galloway is a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, and has served on the boards of Eddie Bauer, The New York Times Company, Gateway Computer, and Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, where he teaches Brand Strategy and Digital Marketing. He is the founder of several firms including L2, Red Envelope, and Prophet. The takeaway quote from his new book: “It has never been easier to become a billionaire, and never harder to become a millionaire.” What he means is that domination in markets has become an endgame in which only those few giant corporations that utilize data mining and artificial intelligence can gobble market share, and end up controlling not only how people make their purchases, but what they are exposed to, and how they perceive the world (think.) This goes beyond what Wal Mart has done, in going to rural America with big box stores and putting mom and pop shops out of business by undercutting their prices. This is spying and influencing on a subliminal level, and then utilizing influencers in sports and entertainment and politics. Product placement is old news, as in the movie Mission to Mars when a Coke saves the crew by finding a leak in the hull. Today it is all about controlling the entire experience of living, making you rely on the brand to service your every need. Facebook can hear every sound in your room when you’re on their site. They may know more about you than you do. They cooperate with the FBI, and while this sounds like a good thing, they also sell your data to third parties, who may then be hacked. Amazon began with books, and now sells electronics, food delivery, and soon cars. Jeff Bezos, he says, will be the first Trillionaire, and his vision of the future is robots replacing humans everywhere. (This was also my plot in The World’s First Trillionaire, a scifi satire at Amazon.) Better get that robotics degree or high tech trade license! Standing in line at AGT is a futile gambit in a winner-take-all culture in which the judges make more per show than the ultimate “winner” gets. Apple has a billion credit cards in their system, and are paranoid about security and secrecy. At their product launches the stunning images are offset by a CEO and tech guy who come out dressed in jeans and untucked shirts like rappers, the message being “we’re just like you. We’re cool.” Then they get into their new red Ferraris. Google can punish companies by demoting them in their search results. “Page two is like being dropped off the Earth,” says Galloway. Shareholder value can plummet overnight. Cooperate or else. “In the future,” the author says, “one percent will be lords, and the ninety-nine percent will be serfs.” In many ways, we are there already. A must read for anyone wanting to survive in an age when fitness must be mental, and willingness to change, emotional maturity, empathy, and knowledge are the four keys to success.

Advertising
The Four Judges. Does it really cost nothing to vote on AGT? If you download the app, they have your credit card and personal data. If you vote at NBC they require you to log into Facebook. Then they know who you voted for, and can target you with ads. Product placement becoming spying.

storms

The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret AtwoodMargaret Atwood’s popular dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale explores a broad range of issues relating to power, gender, and religious politics. Multiple Emmy and Golden Globe award-winner Claire Danes (Temple Grandin, Homeland) gives a stirring performance of this classic in speculative fiction, one of the most powerful and widely read novels of our time. After a staged terrorist attack kills the President and most of Congress, the government is deposed and taken over by the oppressive and all controlling Republic of Gilead. Offred, now a Handmaid serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife, can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Despite the danger, Offred learns to navigate the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules in hopes of ending this oppression. The Handmaid’s Tale is narrated on audio by actress Claire Danes.

Margaret Atwood’s books have been published in more than thirty-five countries. Her novels The Handmaid’s Tale and Cat’s Eye were shortlisted for the Booker Prize, The Blind Assassin was awarded the Booker Prize, Alias Grace won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy. In 2005 Atwood received the Edinburgh International Book Festival Enlightenment Award. She lives in Toronto.