An Audio-Book Review: The Return of the… uh… Holy One?


The Return

By H. Beam Piper and John J. McGuire

Published by Librivox

Read by Reynard T. Fox

The Book:

In Pixar’s Ratatouille, the character Anton Ego says that bad reviews are fun to write and to read. I am not sure I agree with that. Oh, there is a certain freedom to sit here at my keyboard and say whatever I want, but I also want to believe I am reviewing audiobooks fairly, so it is not enough to just start trashing anything I read. Also, I really do not like trashing another author’s work. Lately, however, I seem to be finding fault with most of what I have been listening to. I do think it is somewhat presumptuous for an author who, unable to get a publisher to buy any of his stories, should be passing judgment on authors who have highly successful careers, and yet… here I am.

Fortunately, this time I enjoyed the story in question very much. I have said in the past that H. Beam Piper has always been one of my favorite authors, but this collaborative story is one I had never encountered before and, in fact, the only story Piper wrote with McGuire I have ever read was Lonestar Planet which I reviewed previously; (https://jonathanfeinstein.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/an-audiobook-review-whoa-takeer-easy-there-pilgrim/)

The Return is not related to Lonestar Planet nor does it connect to Piper’s Paratime or Terro-Human Future History series. It is, however a story set in the future in which a nuclear war devastated Earth. Two hundred fifty years later civilization has managed to rise from the ashes in the unlikely locale of Fort Ridgeway in what was once Arizona. And so we meet a pair of explorers, making their way across North America in a helicopter. Until this moment I did not wonder where the fuel to run that chopper came from, but maybe it had some futuristic atomic-powered engine that never needed fuel? Actually it’s not important and, to be honest, if they were going to fly across a land without airports they needed something that had VTOL capability.

After tussling with the stone-age and very unfriendly natives of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania they happen on a fort and the slightly more advanced “Toon,” descendants of an Army platoon who have developed an odd religion based on a god who died battling his adversary (who also died) but that both were resurrected. For reasons that would give away the whole story, the members of the Toon suspect one of the scientist explorers in the helicopter may be their resurrected god and help them break into the library vault at the site of Carnegie Mellon University while the barbarians attack in greater numbers than ever before.

It is an interesting short story, although quite typical of science fiction in the early 1960’s. After some of the heavy stuff I have been reading/listening to lately, I found it a fresh breath of air, and being a short story, it does not take long to get through. Definitely worth a read.

The Audiobook:

I ought to be able to identify Reynard T. Fox’s accent. I suspect it is Australian, but I frequently have trouble telling an Aussie accent from some regional British ones and I wouldn’t know a New Zealand accent to save my life… not on a first guess anyway. It doesn’t matter. Despite the pronounced accent, Mister Fox reads the story clearly and understandably so that his accent makes the listening experience quite enjoyable.

I see from his page at Librivox.com he has read forty-six other selections and I plan to listen to other recordings he has made.

So, The Return is a good example of SF from 1960 and Mister Fox makes it fun and interesting to listen to.

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