Audio Reviews: Survival!

I didn’t realize there was a theme between the last three audio books I listened to, but when I put them together, it was right there.  One space adventure, one steamy Everglades fiasco, and one white-water rafting trip in the middle of a tropical storm.  And yet, they all have one thing in common–Survival!

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Have Space Suit, Will Travel
By Robert A. Heinlein, Read by Will McAuliffe and the Full Cast Family
8 CDs, 8 Hours

Kip has wanted to go to the moon since he was in elementary school.  There is a lunar base up there, of course, but most people have to do something extraordinary to get stationed there. Kip decides that he’ll just have to go into science, work hard, and get there. His parents support his plan, although they tell him he’ll have to work hard.  In fact, his father takes a look at his school and the curriculum, and gives Kip a bunch of extra homework to do in order to have the type of basis he’ll need to get into a good college.

But then Kip hears about a contest a soap company is running. The person who creates a new slogan for their product will win an all-expenses paid trip to the moon!  Kip is suddenly the biggest fan of soap that ever was. With everyone in town giving him soap wrappers to mail in the slogans he thinks up, Kip is sure he can win.  With five thousand entries, one of them has to catch the eyes of the judges.

But Kip doesn’t win first prize; he wins something else. A spacesuit. Formerly used on the space station but retired, it’s still (mostly) space-worthy.  Instead of selling it for college tuition, Kip decides to completely renovate and update it.

Which is why he’s standing in the middle of a field when he receives a distress call from space.  And it’s how he survives being snatched by space pirate, meeting aliens, and being stranded on a secret base on the moon.

If Kip survives the experience, he’ll have a LOT to tell his grandchildren!

Have Space Suit, Will Travel was written in 1958, and it’s an interesting blend of 50s culture, projected technology and science fiction. For example, Kip is trying to fit a radio into his spacesuit helmet, and he mourns the fact that the transistor circuit isn’t smaller.  But of course now, we have micro circuits that could fit a radio in something the size of a quarter…and have much better ways than radio waves to communicate, anyway.  Kip wants to make multiple copies of something, but can’t because he doesn’t have access to a mimeograph machine.  There are computers, but they’re the size of houses. And Kip buys 5,000 stamps for under $200!

But even though there’s a huge difference from the projected future of Kip’s world and what we have now, Kip and Peewee are kids who could exist today.  They’re brave, and funny, and determined to get back home.

Now, there is quite a bit of scientific theory in this book, which might make it a little hard to listen to for listeners not interested in how things work.  But if you’re a budding scientist, with a yen for space travel, this book would be perfect for you.  And I do love the narrators of Full Cast Audio, who have different actors reading each part.  The voices are perfect, and listeners will find themselves absorbed in the adventure.

I’d recommend Have Space Suit, Will Travel book to listeners in 5th – 8th grade.  The book might be more accessible to slightly younger readers, because you can skip over the science theories and explanations.

* * *

By Carl Hiaasen, Read by James Van Der Beek
5 CDs, 6 Hours, 11 Minutes

Wahoo Cray lives in Florida, where he shares his home with his parents, several alligators, a few dozen snakes, monkeys, raccoons, turtles, a wild cat and a bunch more animals.  His father, Mickey, is a wildlife wrangler, and is so good at his job that he’s frequently in demand by TV and movie productions.   Unfortunately, he’s currently having problems due to being hit on the head by a frozen iguana dropping out of a tree onto his head and causing a head trauma and a (temporary) coma. Even though he’s now home, he’s not quite up to working.

Because the family still needs to pay their bills though, Wahoo’s mother takes a job in Japan. When she’s gone, Wahoo accepts a job over the phone, one that will pay extremely well and help the family pay off their bills.  All they have to do is work with Expedition Survival!, a TV-reality show starring Derek Badger.  What Wahoo doesn’t know is that Derek Badger is a pampered TV star who believes his own press and thinks that he can wrestle any wild animal into submission. And then eat them.   Mickey, who is extremely protective of his animal family, clashes with Derek immediately.

So when the Expedition Survival! production company decides to film in the wild, instead of in the Cray’s Everglades staging lot, Mickey and Wahoo are hired to go along as animal wranglers.  Who knew things would be complicated by a runaway girl named Tuna, a crazy boat driver, Derek Badger’s inflated ego, and a dangerous man with a gun.  Will Wahoo and Mickey survive Expedition Survival!?

Chomp is a great book to listen to!  Carl Hiaasen always creates completely wacky situations that seem to be just normal life for his characters.  I loved Wahoo and Tuna and Mickey.  And even though I didn’t really LIKE Derek or Raven, his producer, they were a lot of fun to hear about.  As they travel around the Everglades, finding snakes and dodging giant bats and encountering danger, you won’t want to stop listening.

James van der Beeks’ narration was quite enjoyable, although I was a little unsure of it at first.  Wahoo and Mickey sound very similar, and I thought there would be a problem distinguishing between the voices.  As soon as the cast of characters started growing though, everyone had a distinct voice and rhythm.  And it makes sense that a father and son would sound alike.  And he did some great Australian, Floridian, and backwood swamp folk accents.

Chomp is a great survival story, with a hint of mystery that could be enjoyed by readers in grades 5  through grade 8.    The audio could be listened to by kids slightly younger, although Tuna’s situation and her father’s actions might require some discussion with younger kids. I think adults and high school kids would enjoy it as well…it has a unique and subtle humor that makes you grin, rather than laughing out loud.  And then try Hoot, Flush and Scat, which are all great books and books on CD as well!

* * *

Take Me to the River
By Will Hobbs, Narrated by Steven Boyer
5 CDs, 5.25 Hours

Dylan has been planning this trip to Texas to visit his uncle and cousin for months.  Although he’s never met them, all three share a love of white water rafting; for the visit they’ve planned a trip  down the Rio Bravo, with Dylan in a canoe and Rio and his father in a raft.  When Dylan gets to the airport, he takes the bus to town, just as planned. But no one comes to meet him. Instead, he gets a message that he should hitchhike to his uncle’s house.

Puzzled and dismayed, but not wanting the adventure to be cancelled, Dylan finds a ride with a trucker, and meets Rio in a little restaurant where he works.  There, he learns that his uncle has been hired as a river guide in Alaska, and won’t be able to go on the rafting trip.  Rio was supposed to call Dylan while he was still at home in North Carolina, so that he could change his travel plans.  Rio didn’t make that call though, because he wanted to meet Dylan, even if all they can do is hang around Rio’s house.

And then the boys have an idea.  Why don’t they go on the rafting trip anyway?  They’re old enough and responsible enough, and they have plenty of experience on a variety of rivers. They get a friend of Rio’s to give them a ride to the head of the Rio Bravo, planning to buy most of their supplies at the store there.

But when they reach the store, it’s closed. And there are black helicopters on the river.  Dylan and Rio learn that there’s a tropical storm approaching and that the US and Mexican governments are searching for a group of dangerous drug runners.  Even though they consider both these problems with care, Dylan and Rio decide that it’s most likely that the tropical storm will go another direction, and that the Mexican criminals will be spotted by the searchers before they even reach the river. They set out on their trip.

But of course, things don’t go as planned, and soon Dylan and Rio are faced with tropical downpours, a raging river that’s much higher than they’d planned on, and two unwanted passengers.  Will they manage to survive?

Take Me to the River is a great adventure book for anyone who likes their stories spiced with danger!  The cousins don’t always make the wisest choices, but they’re both smart, and tough, and trying to do the right thing.   Although they’ve been in touch through e-mail and phone calls for years, this is the first time they’ve had a chance to meet, and it’s quite an introduction!

The descriptions of the storm, the raging river and the various weather fronts make the listener feel like they’re in the back of the raft.  The tidbits of information about life on the border of Texas and Mexico are quite interesting, and very eye-opening.  Once the boys run into their uninvited passengers, their actions stay true to their natures, and they struggle with a lot of difficult choices.

Take Me To The River is a wonderful survival story for kids in fifth through seventh grade. The audio could be enjoyed by family members of all ages for a long car trip.  This is a must read for anyone planning to raft the Rio Bravo, and would be an enjoyable selection for anyone who might be going white water rafting.

* * *

And…that’s it.  Enjoy these survival stories and let us know what you think.  If you’re in the Weston Public Library looking for something to read or listen to, ask one of our librarians for help.  We’re glad to assist you in finding the perfect book or audio!



2 thoughts on “Audio Reviews: Survival!

  1. I was into hard science from the time I was a kid. And also into reading, fiction and non-fiction, including from the adult section [in those days you had to get special permission to get out books from the adults part of the library, but I don’t know why that was; afraid we’d damage important books?]. But I wouldn’t touch science fiction [actually, Andy’s tin men was sci fi, but I didn’t realize it]. In 7th grade our English teacher required we read a sci fi book. I refused, so she took me to the school library and showed me several options. I finally picked Have Space Suit, Will Travel, and I’ve been a voracious sci fi reader ever since.
    I will point out that your one comment isn’t quite factual: “[we] have much better ways than radio waves to communicate.” Technically radio waves include the whole electromagnetic spectrum [though not all uses of some of those frequencies is as radio waves: you can do radio over visible light, but you can use visible light for non-radio purposes]. Without radio waves, especially in the microwave regions, your internet access would bog down. When the internet infrastructure, telephone infrastructure, and cell phone infrastructure fails, common in both man made and natural disasters, ham radio operators get called on to help. They may use classic radio waves, moon-bounce or even meteor-bounce, or internet, or some combination of those and other radio-related communications to get those emergency messages through [OK, probably not the meteor scatter for emergencies, but at least potentially].

    • I’m glad to see that other people still remember reading this book! I think it was the first “real” science fiction I read too. (Well, H.M. Hoover’s books may have come first. But Heinlein was close after!)

      I’m not a scientist, and I have to admit that my comment had no scientific backing. I just thought about the difference between the size of walkie talkies from the 60s and cell phones now. My dad was a ham radio operator, so I should have thought about the difference between the frequencies. Thanks for the clarification! I guess I should go look up a book on radio waves now. 🙂

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