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March 20, 2009 Edition

Blood and Iron


The Center Cannot Hold


The Victorious Opposition, by Harry Turtledove, read by George Guidall


Listeners who love long audiobooks and appreciate a sweeping narrative will enjoy this series by an acclaimed master of Alternative History. The United States has barely settled down following the Great War, when it finds itself bracketed by restive nations. An assassination attempt on General Custer by Canada leads to the bloody occupation of northern lands, while from the southern Confederacy comes a new fascist Freedom Party. U.S. complacency leads to overconfidence even as troops are spread too thin, and when the Confederacy takes advantage of a Mormon uprising in Utah to launch an attack, it looks like the United States will be embroiled in all-out war again. While the American Empire series follows Turtledoveís Great War series (which is available as audio downloads through Netlibrary), it can be listened to as a stand-alone as well.

The Sugar Queen, by Sarah Addison Allen, read by Karen White


When Josey heads for her closet for yet another round of consolatory sweets accompanied by a good romance novel, she discovers that her refuge has become anotherís as well. Della Lee Baker is on the run from something and wonít leave, but in return for ousting Josey, she helps the younger woman come out from under her motherís shadow. Soon, albeit reluctantly, Josey starts trusting her instincts, foregoing the Little Debbies, and making friends with the hard-luck Della and the worn-down Chloe. She even starts getting over the childhood reputation thatís held her back (even though sheís changed) and comes to terms with her motherís expectation that Josey will become a Southern Belle someday. This is a sweet, light, magical story read by a reader who delights the ear with her easy accents.

The Solitude of Thomas Cave, by Georgina Harding, read by John Lee


Winter is coming on in the north Atlantic where the sailors on the English whaler, Heartsease, are preparing to return home. But a friendly discussion about the survivability of Greenlandís forbidding shores leads to a wager, and Thomas Cave stays behind alone with shelter, supplies, and a journal to keep him company and bear his testimony should he not survive. But this is more than a suspenseful survival story Ė though Thomas is at first occupied with the day-to-day mundane tasks of life, he soon finds himself with time to contemplate the events of his life, including the deaths of his beloved wife and son back in Denmark. When Heartsease returns in the spring, the sailors find a changed man in Thomas Cave, one who has made his peace with his life, his god, and his world.

Sunrise Alley, by Catherine Asaro, read by Hillary Huber


Huber gives voice to Samantha Bryton, a retired biomech researcher, who finds a shipwrecked man on her beachfront property one fall day in 2033. Upon reviving him, Sam discovers that Turner is only quasi-human: heís the product of a secret experiment by a rogue bioengineer and has a dead manís memories implanted in an enhanced humanoid body. Turner is Charonís most successful creation yet - so successful that he is self-aware, evolving, and able to escape to find the one person he hopes can keep Charon from repeating what Turner considers a monstrous experiment. Sam, well-known in the biomech industry for both the quality of her work and her ethical stance on its use, is drawn in to Turnerís plan to find Sunrise Alley, a refuge for EIs (AIs who have evolved). Asaro builds on current technologies to create a world not very different from todayís, controversies and all.

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