Free Radical Audiobook

  By Shamus   Jul 11, 2014   32 comments

I’ve written a few books over the years. I think my writing has improved drastically since I started, but that doesn’t change the fact that my first effort is still the one that incites the most discussion and has the most requests for a sequel.

But if you’re more of an audio fan then maybe you’ll dig the audiobook version of Free Radical recorded by Paul Spooner. It’s the whole book, unabridged, in OGG format. Like the text version, it’s free. (There’s also a print version, and the price is only to cover print costs. I don’t take any money for the book.)

I’ll admit these are hard for me to listen to. Especially the first chapter. That’s not a dig at Paul. He did fine work. It’s just that when I hear the words I hear the voice of a novice author who hasn’t yet found his voice and is suffering from a bad case of Trying Too Hard.

Thanks so much to Paul for putting this together. Here’s hoping some of you find it useful.


201225 comments. Neato.


  1. Jeff Truelsen says:

    Trying Too Hard.
    Sorry, had to say it. Now I’m going to go listen.

  2. Benjamin Hilton says:

    I understand what it’s like to look at your own work critically, but for what it’s worth, I just recently purchased and read the dead tree version of Free Radical and I loved it.

    Of course you may always feel the need to critique prose and grammar, but I find in sci-fi, and especially cyber-punk that it is the ability to set a good tone that many authors, even experienced ones, struggle with, and you got it spot on.

  3. The Rocketeer says:

    So Paul’s threat to gallivant about the countryside narrating things was no idle threat? Shoot, now I’ll actually have to carry through on my proposal to narrate my FFXII Let’s Play before he swipes the glory out from under me!

    Seriously, though, good on you, dude. It’s a hell of a thing to do apropos of just the goodness of your heart.

    • Ilseroth says:

      I’m sorry but that image is too fantastic. I am just imagining him coming up behind a farmer in the middle of a country side,
      “the man was drenched in sweat after a hard day’s work”
      The farmer confused looks up and just gives a mild hand wave telling the stranger to move on. The stranger narrated this as well and the farmer simply shrugged and went back to work.

      The stranger followed him all day, the farmer occasionally bickering at him, but the stranger continued to narrate everything the farmer did. Eventually the work day was coming to a close and the farmer headed back to his house and as he reached the door he turned around and told the stranger “Now, you’ve had your fun, go away and I don’t want to see you on my property again.” He slammed the door as he entered, venting his frustration on the poor aged hinges.
      “What’s the matter?” His wife asked earnestly.
      The farmer was about to rant about the crazy stranger when he noticed somehow the stranger was still standing behind him.
      “How did you get in here?!” He exclaimed. His wife looked at him, confused.
      “I’ve been inside all day, what do you mean?” His wife replied, shocked by her normally docile husband’s behavior.
      “Not you, HIM.”
      She stared at the blank space her husband pointed at.
      “What do you mean BLANK SPACE, I am looking right at you!”
      The farmer was at a breaking point, picked up the iron fire poker and swung at the stranger only to find his attack took no purchase.

      Great, I don’t know how Paul became not a literal thing but I was bored.

      • syal says:

        I like the idea that Paul is actually standing there dodging the poker, narrating about how the farmer is swinging at nothing because he refuses to acknowledge himself in the story.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Thanks! I was reading it to my wife anyway, so it wasn’t really out of my way.

      And even then, my motivation was not entirely charitable. Making free content is a time-honored internet tradition, with the associated price, specifically, link traffic. While the main market for glory (public widespread celebrity) may be out of reach of most people, niche fame is much more attainable, and has many similar advantages, as Shamus himself can attest. But just like “real” fame, it comes with hangers on and groupies who are all being “helpful” while vying for their own slice of the action.

      I’m just another of those guys; I’m not skilled or well known enough to make it on my own; So instead I scavenge in Shamus’ territory, who is himself a scavenger of the scraps overlooked by the Big Names in the industry.

      So, thanks for the kind words, but I see this as all part of the Notoriety Food Web; I wouldn’t consider my participation here as indicative of any particularly noteworthy moral quality.

      Looking forward to your FFLP narration!

  4. Muspel says:

    Now we just need versions of Rutskarn reading it in his various accents. Especially the Atlantic accent.

  5. Maybe re-read the first chapter so it is more similar to the reading of the second chapter? And release it as a v1.1 ? *shrug*

    • Paul Spooner says:

      I’ll be the first to admit that the phrase “the voice of a novice author who hasn’t yet found his voice and is suffering from a bad case of Trying Too Hard” certainly could be referencing me, but I think Shamus was referring to himself there.

      Is this addressed to me, or to Shamus?
      If to me, what failures of similarity do you refer to? I’d be happy to improve the recordings, but I’m not sure what you mean here.

      Or are you saying that I should make a V1.1 of the first chapter of Free Radical, and then offer it as an improved alternative version, and make a reading of that?

      I’m so confused… also, I’m definitely Trying Too Hard.

  6. MaxEd says:

    This book is more fun than anything Gibson ever written. I wish only people who really understand something about computers wrote cyberpunk (your book and Stevenson’s Snow Crash are the only two I ever liked from the genre).

  7. lethal_guitar says:

    I know that feeling when you look back on something you created a long while ago. But there’s no need to be so critical. I really like Free Radical, and I’ve read it more then once. It’s gripping, lively, interesting, varied and simply lots of fun to read!

    • Paul Spooner says:

      I don’t know exactly how Shamus is feeling, but I’ve experienced what seems like a similar frustration many times. It has to do (for me at least) with the disparity between the “value” of a work as perceived by the author and the audience.

      For example, when I was younger (around the turn of the millennium) I was working on developing my 3d modeling skills. I worked for hours and days on this scene of a garden, and when I was done, the response from my friends and family was middling at best. A month or two later, I slapped together a spaceship with some lens flare in the space of a half hour, and was met with (comparatively) wild adulation.

      This disconnect between the quality of the labor put into a work, and the apparent quality of the result, has continued to the present day. I’ll work long and hard on something, only to have it flop. Then I’ll toss a few random ideas together and crap something out and everyone goes wild over it. It’s a natural part of “trying stuff and seeing what works” but, for a creative person, it can feel like injustice. It leads to artists (of all mediums) saying things like “I can’t believe people enjoyed that!” and “No one understands my art!”

      Now, in reality, you’re probably right that Free Radical has a great deal of objective value… but it’s not going to help Shamus to tell him that. He knows it’s popular! He knows that people like it. But he also knows how much he’s grown (as a craftsman) since he made it.

      I don’t know what the numbers are like on Shamus’ end, but the recording of How I Learned got a quarter of the traffic that the Free Radical recordings are getting. I also know (from doing both readings) that Shamus’ writing in How I Learned is far superior to that in Free Radical. I would feel the same way if people kept telling me that this was their favorite animation. On the one hand it would be flattering… but on the other hand, it’s embarrassing to have people focusing on a rather flawed first attempt instead of later projects of objectively higher value.

      That disparity is pretty discouraging. It makes one feel like no one else cares about the hard work and skill that you’re developing. It makes the improvements appear to be wasted effort. It makes one think that people are more interested in flashy schlock than in well considered contemplation. All of that can add up to a person throwing their hands in the air, yelling “FINE! I see how it is!”, and cranking out popular low-brow garbage for the rest of their career.

      I don’t think Shamus is anywhere near that point, and probably never will be. I think he’s going to keep making things he likes, and often those will be things that other people like too.

      And I could be way off, as this is mostly my projections onto what little I know of his circumstances.

      In any case, I hope all that helps to give some insight into how a skilled and creative person can come to a place where they would feel embarrassed by their own work which everyone else openly enjoys.

  8. Mersadeon says:

    This is great! I loved Free Radical. I especially thought it hit the typical Cyberpunk stereotypes in a really nice way before it went to citadel station – and there it just got even better.

  9. Aitch says:

    I’d been putting off reading this book for a long time now waiting for the right moment, and found myself with a bit of an empty stretch last evening – figured what the hell, why not at least see what it’s about? Started reading at around 6pm, and just finished now at about 20 minutes to noon, breaking only for the occasional cup of tea or micro-nap to let my eyes uncramp.

    It’s a hell of a thing for me to find an author’s voice that I can even tolerate, let alone become so entranced in their story. The first book I’ve read in years, in fact, for that very reason.

    A few minor problems to it. I couldn’t call them genuine complaints, but in the forward Shamus asked for any feedback, so here goes.

    It seems like it was never given a final polish, which I guess is just a symptom of not going through the publishing process – a few misspelled words that threw me out of the story for a couple seconds whenever I’d stumble over them and remember that it was all being written by someone (jarring only because my absorption into the world was so complete throughout), a few repeated words that fell too close to each other in the structure to flow as naturally as the rest, but honestly very minor stuff that would be fixed in a single draft-through. And the minor disappointment of not being able to access the elevator music, or any of the files on the multimedia page, just dead links from years ago forgotten subsections or somesuch.

    Ultimately, though… excellent. All the thanks and gratitude I could express would fall short of the feeling that I’m left with. Like when your life is full of depressing boring people that are mean on top of it, and you finally find someone different to have a long meaningful conversation with. That same kind of inexpressible reassuring satisfaction. Because finding any bit of respectable art nowadays often feels like being forced to pan for gold flakes in a sewer, and I just came up with a rough diamond the size of a fist, you know? It’s good for the soul.

    Anyway, thank you.

  10. Jamas Enright says:

    Just wondering, so more a question for Paul, if it would be possible to have all the audio chapters in one file for easier management?

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Like, an archive perhaps? Yeah, I could do that. Give me a few hours; I’ve got some other stuff to take care of first.

      EDIT: The whole thing lumped together comes out to about 1 GB, (890 MB). I’m going to have to wait until I’ve got access to a good net connection to upload it. Right now I’m on a mobile hotspot inside an aircraft factory, terrible bandwidth.

  11. Cuthalion says:

    Cool. Now I am sorely tempted to record one of Shamus’s other books and get in on that hot narrating action! Hm… I do have The Witch Watch, and How I Learned was pretty cheap as I recall…

    Shamus, do you have a general policy on what people should and shouldn’t do with your books? Obviously, you were ok with Free Radical being recorded, but that was also the one you aren’t selling.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      I did a “How I Learned” audio book a while back, but it’s not great quality. I don’t know of anyone doing Witch Watch.

      I’ve always started recording before asking permission, just because it’s kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing for me, and there’s no harm in it. I’d definitely get permission before posting it on the ‘net though, especially since Witch Watch is the only book Shamus has written which isn’t freely available.

    • Shamus says:

      As long as you’re not charging money for it, feel free to record and distribute to whomever you like. It’s all good.

    • DaMunky89 says:

      Oh YEAH that reminds me, I need to still buy Witch Watch. (The first part posted on the blog was really good, but then I got distracted and totally forgot.) I’ll make a note this time. :)

  12. Decius says:

    Hey, I’ve played characers in tabletop RPGs that are pretty much based off of Deck pre-citadel.

  13. Talby says:

    I read Free Radical years ago from start to finish years ago, and really enjoyed it. It helps that I love System Shock and cyberpunk as well. I actually like it more than the Witch Watch, although probably because I am really tired of steampunk these days. (sorry, it’s just a bit overdone and I was never a huge fan in the first place)

    How much would it take to re-edit Free Radical to replace the copyright-infringing references to System Shock, and maybe polish up some of the writing if you really felt the need to? Then you could potentially publish it commercially.

    Also, I have to reiterate my desire for Shamus to finish the Book that Ran Aground, aka Fall From the Sky. I was hooked on this story from the opening paragraph, and not many books can do that for me.

    I hope Shamus’ book-writing days are not over. The man has real talent.

    • lethal_guitar says:

      “I have to reiterate my desire for Shamus to finish the Book that Ran Aground, aka Fall From the Sky.”

      Yes! I’d love to see it finished as well.

  14. Daniel says:

    This is wonderful. I don’t have time to read books these days, but I can listen to books while doing other things.

  15. Daniel says:

    Technical note: Exactly one of the files is tagged wrong. Chapters 7 and 8 both have a “track number” of 7.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Thanks for the heads up. Fixed now. I’m sure there’s an easier way to change the tag than by re-encoding and re-uploading the entire file… but sometimes its easier to work than to learn.

      Some current download statistics, for those who are interested:
      Looks like around 50 complete downloads at this point. The prologue (the most downloaded) has 130, chapter 1 has 100, and chapter 2 has 55. So, it looks like if you made it through chapter 1 (only half of those who downloaded it), you very likely went on to listen to the whole thing.
      The landing page itself has around 400 hits, but that may be skewed by re-visits for people listening to later chapters.
      Also, it looks like this spurred five people to go back and listen to the How I Learned audio book.

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