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Wolfbane

By: Cyril M. Kornbluth,Frederik Pohl
Narrated by: James C. Gibson
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Summary

The Earth has been ripped from the solar system by a runaway alien planet, whose inhabitants have their own sinister plans for Earth's resources. Humankind is dying out, but there are those who defy convention and refuse to give in.

Feared by ordinary citizens, these wolves are preparing to fight back against the aliens. Wolfbane is widely regarded as one of the very best science fiction stories from the 1950s. It was originally serialized in Galaxy magazine in 1957, with illustrations by Wally Wood. It’s this original version of the story which we have lovingly reproduced in this volume.

©2020 Andrew G. Gibson (P)2020 Andrew G. Gibson

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Well narrated and put together

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

The narration is very well done, but something (I don't think necessarily from the story itself) just stopped me from engaging as much as I normally would with a sci-fi tale of this kind. Having said that, it's an easy story to listen to, with lots of good ideas, so I will probably give it another try in some time as it could easily be external things that hampered it for me.

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  • Michael G Kurilla
  • 12-11-22

A bit 'matrix-ey'

Wolfbane by the writing duo of Cyril M Kornbluth and Frederik Pohl is a rather creative sci-fi thriller for its time (1957). Set in the early 23rd century, a rogue planet inhabited by entities known as the pyramids entered the solar system and 'stolen' Earth. The moon is converted into a mini-sun that must be renewed every 5 years. Earth's population has been devastated and most of the remaining populace live out ritualistic, docile lives employing meditation which occasionally results in the person disappearing. A small band of human who refer to themselves as wolves (as opposed to sheep) form an underground resistance. One member who until recently was a sheep still practices meditation and disappears. He finds himself a 'component' in an alien structure. His wolf personality allows him to lead an insurrection from the inside.

Kornbluth and Pohl were quite ahead of their time with their plot that seems to loosely follow the "Matrix" concept of humans becoming cogs in an alien machine. Neo in this case is a guy named Tropile who is a unique combination of wolf and sheep. While the ultimate motives of the aliens is never detailed, the story while short, moves along quickly with non-stop action.

The narration is well done with excellent character distinction and brisk pacing throughout.

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  • Gilbert M. Stack
  • 04-01-21

Fantastic New Edition of a Great Story!

This novel was written in the 1950s by two of the greats of science fiction—Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth. As one would expect from two such authors, it is filled with humongous ideas and images that have reappeared repeatedly in the genre since then. The earth has been conquered by aliens who have never appeared on the planet—only sent their pyramid machine to carry out their will from the heights of Mount Everest. The Earth, itself, has been ripped out of the solar system and placed in a new orbit around the moon which has been turned into a miniature sun which needs to be reignited every five years. Most of humanity didn’t survive this and now there are perhaps a hundred million humans left, most of whom have become “sheep” who follow the course of life laid out by the aliens—one in which greed is gone and people spend a great deal of their time in meditation. Occasionally, meditation attracts the attention of the pyramid and the meditator is teleported away to an unknown fate.

That’s all the initial setting and things only get grander in scope and scale after that. Before the novel is finished we’ll see an alien world, humans melded to machines, hive minds, and so much more. The action revolves around a man, Glen Tropile, who fancies himself a wolf (capable of acting out of self-interest) but doesn’t truly seem to be either wolf or sheep. Tropile is what makes this book so interesting and is Pohl and Kornbluth’s foil for comparing facsimiles of a Marxist civilization and a more libertarian society—neither of which appear to have what it takes to help humanity escape from and survive its alien conquerors.

This is a great book and deserves to be more widely known, but it isn’t the easiest read. Writing conventions have evolved over the last sixty years, so be prepared to give it your full attention to maximize your enjoyment.

I received this book free from Audibook Boom in exchange for an honest review.

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  • Lomeraniel
  • 01-01-21

Classic Hard Sci-fi, the origins of The Matrix

Wolfbane was first released in Galaxy Magazine in 1957. There were later editions with several changes to the story, but the audiobook corresponds to the original, with a brief introduction by the editor illustrating why this is such an important piece of work and also introducing the narrator.

I love old pulp novels, and Frederik Pohl’s Gateway (Heeches) series is one of my favorites, so I was set on listening to this version of Wolfbane. I find it remarkable that it tells more or less the same story as The Matrix, which was released 42 years later. This book could be considered as hard sci-fi even by today’s standards. The authors have kept the technical aspects quite ambiguous, which renders the story still valid nowadays.

Regarding character development and dialogs, it is heavily outdated, and it has many of the issues in novels from this time. There is a total lack of character development (which was fixed in posterior editions), and even though there is an important female character towards the end, women are portrayed as damsels in distress almost throughout the whole book. I am okay with it, as this book is a product of its own time, and for the ’50s I found the premises were very original and ambitious.

The rhythm of the story seemed off sometimes. The first part feels quite slow, as the world and characters are presented, and the resolution is kind of rushed. I would have liked to have more detail there, but I imagine this is what happens when a book is co-written and deadlines are approaching.

Despite these minor setbacks, I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and I think it is a must-read for anyone into classic science-fiction and all those who thought The Matrix was such a novel concept.

James C. Gibson delivered an expressive narration, but there were some issues that we often see in less experienced narrators. I only found this book narrated by Gibson on Audible, which explains this. The audio production did not feel completely polished and there were some ambient noises that somehow found their way into the final mix. The narration speed was a bit faster than what the standard is nowadays, which was not a problem for me, but it is something to take into account, especially because the vocalization could have been improved. I have also noticed some volume changes throughout the book and the sound quality was not as clean as it should have been. The character interpretations were okay, but on occasions, they felt a bit overdone, especially for female characters. Female voices were simply not good. I know this is a pain point with some male narrators, and I would always advise going subtle if your voice range does not allow for a believable female voice. Sadly, the female characters in this book sounded almost caricaturesque.

The introduction of the book was written and narrated by Andrew Gibson, the audiobook producer. It was well done, but there was a huge amount of reverberation that should not have made it into the final book. I guess it was mostly a recording issue, but as it was interlaced with some excerpts from the book, the sudden change in sound quality was too noticeable.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.