Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Audio drama review: Robert Heinlein's Ordeal in Space

For the next week, you can listen to a reading of the Robert Heinlein short story, "Ordeal in Space," on BBC Radio 7, aired to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth. (Which actually doesn't make any sense to me, because he was born on July 7, 1907 and died on May 8, 1988. However, BBC Radio 7 has a habit of repeating material over and over and over again - that is their raison d'etre - so presumably this was first aired on July 7, 1907 and is just being repeated now.


The story
The main character, Saunders, was a spaceman who has an accident in space, and develops a dehabilitating fear of falling as a result. This makes it impossible for him to return to his life on board spaceships, so he is doomed to spend the rest of his days on Earth, feeling less than a man. One day he is invited to the home of a new colleague at his place of work. That night, he hears a small kitten crying outside the high-rise building, trapped on a window-ledge. But how can he save it?

A good narrator can save a poor story. A poor narrator can ruin a good story. This story is read by American Adam Sims, and I'm afraid he comes down on the poor side. He doesn't ruin the story, really, but he certainly doesn't augment it. I listened in spite of him.

He has the same kind of voice as Ed Bishop (of UFO fame) - kind of reedy and thin, with little inflection. He also barely varies his voice for each character - similar to William Hootkins who narrated Philip Dick's "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" (source for the movie Total Recall). Contrast their voices with those of the Brits who alter their pitches and registers and accents for each and every character....

As for the story - it's predictable. But then, I like predictable. I'm not sure that I believe in the psychology of it, but perhaps a cure for a phobia can happen as easily as seems to occur here...

Heinlein is an excellent writer, and most of his work up until a certain point is very good. So if you like Heinlein, or classic SF, you'll like this.

Adam Sims
He has only one entry at the IMDB, as a lab technician in the Lost in Space movie of 1998. That doesn't necessarily mean anything - IMDB is hardly complete.

I like Robert Heinlein's early work - his "juvenalia" such as Space Cadet and Podkayne of Mars, but don't much care for his later work. Friday, in particular, stank on ice, as far as I'm concerned!

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