Tag Archives: reading

Punch and Roll for Audacity in Linux using Autokey

audacity_logoMost of my friends know that as a side-line I narrate books for Audible.Com, and they might also know that I’m a Linux nerd, too.  Where those interests intersect, there is a wonderful open-source program called Audacity, which is a Digital Audio Workshop, that is, a program in which you can record, edit and master digital audio.  Musicians, narrators and voice-over professionals use such programs every day. Audacity, in addition to being jammed with features and options, is free. It’s the very tool to reach for if you are a dabbler, or on a constrained budget, but serious about doing good work.
Unfortunately, Audacity  lacks one capability which narration and voice-over, in particular, makes heavy use of, and that is a tool called “punch and roll”.  “Punch and Roll” allows an audio book narrator to edit mistakes “on the fly” while reading. It works like this: the reader hears himself flub a line or a pronunciation, stops recording, places the start-point line just upstream from the mistake, and hits “punch and roll”. Then these things happen automatically: the start-point jumps upstream an additional pre-set number of seconds (2-3 seconds are typical), the system starts playing the audio for the narrator to hear. As the time-line reaches the marked “flub-point”, the system stops playing, and begins to record. The narrator picks up reading, correcting the error, and the recording proceeds, as before, with the edited audio right where it belongs.

Ideally, the program should preserve both the original audio (the one containing the error), as well as the corrected stream. That may sound odd, I know, but is no less true. It doesn’t happen often, but it can be very important at times to have the original stream of audio, to fix subtle issues found much later on.  Being able to revert to the original version with the tool is called “non-destructive punch and roll”.

So, how can we do all this in Audacity? First know this: the Audacity DAW has versions that run in Windows and Mac, as well as Linux, and there have been a few clever people who have solved this problem for those systems already. My “punch and roll” solution for Audacity in Linux has been adapted from a solution posted by Steven Jay Cohen which works in Mac OSX. Cohen’s written a short piece of code that runs in AppleScript, to execute the correct keystrokes to allow non-destructive punch & roll in Audacity on a Mac. A bit of googling will also locate scripts that will achieve similar results using “AutoHotKey” on Windows computers.  My solution for linux makes use of a powerful macro utility called “autokey”, which runs scripts in the python programming language.

Here’s how to obtain punch and roll in Audacity on an Ubuntu/Debian linux computer:

1. Install autokey. On a gnome-ubuntu machine, from the command line run:

sudo apt-get install autokey-gtk

2.  From the desktop, launch the program menu, then Accessories, AutoKey. This should open the Main Window of autokey, and also place the autokey icon, a capital “A”, in your program tray.

The main window looks like this:

AutoKey Main Window
AutoKey Main Window

Now you are going to add a new script to the existing library you see on the left side of the main window. Do these:

1. Click where you see “+New”, choose Script from the menu, then give your script an appropriate name in the dialogue box. I called mine Punch&Roll.

2. Notice on the right side the box where you will input and edit your script. It’s marked # Enter script code:

#Enter Script Code
#Enter Script Code

blogYou will be pasting the code right below where you see:

# Enter script code

For those of you unused to working with programs, understand that where you see a hashtag (#) at the beginning of a line, the computer ignores that line when running the program. If you are modifying this script to troubleshoot it, you could insert a hashtag at the start of a line to remove it temporarilly from the program, or to create a note for yourself about what the next line is supposed to do.

Here’s the script that works for me. It sets 3 seconds of pre-roll:

##‭ ‬Autokey script to enable Non-Destructive Punch&Roll
‬##in Audacity using AutoKey.
#The number of “,” below sets 3 seconds of pre-roll.
#Below, (” “) encloses one press of the space-bar.
keyboard.send_keys‭(” “)
#Number for time.sleep below should equal number of (“,”).
#Delay for sleep below makes resume-record work.

After copying this into the script editing box in autokey, do three more steps:

1. Set a hot key for the script, by clicking on the button below the script marked HotKey….Set. Then in the dialogue box that opens, click on “Press to Set”.  Choose a hot-key combination that doesn’t conflict with any other program or function: I recommend a combination of the <super> key (also called  the <windows> key) and the “z” key. So press and hold <super> and then press “z”. Then press Ok. You should see <super>+z has been set as your hot key.

2. It’s wise to set a Window Filter, so that your hot key will only be activated within Audacity. Where it says Window Filter, press Set. In the dialogue box where it says “Regular expression to match”, type in   Audacity.Audacity   ,  just like that.

3. Lastly, save your work: Click up above where it says Save, or simply press Ctrl-s.

Now, to use “punch and roll”, you need to set up Audacity very specifically for the script. It expects you will have two mono tracks above a label (bookmark) track. Audacity will launch a new track as soon as you begin recording, so I do these steps to get started:

1. Make sure AutoKey is running in the background (the “A” shows in the tray below on the right side).  Now launch Audacity, and make a short recording of 5-8 seconds.

2. Press “Ctrl-Shift-n” to make a second mono track below the first.

3. Press “Ctrl-b” to make the label track.

The top-most track is your production track. The next one down is your Edits track and will accumulate your saved mistakes as you stop, set, and then punch/roll to fix “flubs” on the fly.  It should look something like this:

Set up these tracks: Production, Edits, Bookmarks
Set up these tracks: Production, Edits, Bookmarks

To try it, you need to start with the time-marker set within the short piece of audio you recorded to launch the production track.

1. Put it near the end, but not all the way at the end.

2. Press <super>+z, and you will see the time marker jump back 3 seconds, play those three seconds, and then append a new recording to the production track as it reaches where you started.

You will also notice that all audio AFTER your start point will have been moved to the second audio track, where it will be saved, in case it’s needed to fix something. Here’s what it should resemble:

After one "punch & roll". Notice that my Edits track is muted, so it doesn't distract me as I re-record.
After one “punch and roll”. Notice that my Edits track is muted, so it doesn’t distract me as I re-record.

So there you have it! Non-destructive punch and roll for Audacity in Linux. My deep appreciation to Steven Jay Cohen for his excellent post explaining this process for Macs, without which this technique would still be a mystery to me.


Cedar Key Nomadic New Year Convergence

We spent a week at Cedar Key,  getting home yesterday feeling rested and contented. We have a special friendship with a community of people who live the peripatetic life: They are nomadic, you see, working jobs they can perform most anywhere, most of them. Oh, some of these folks self-describe as retired, but in truth are roaming, seeking, and working at all manner of things along their paths.  Many of these folks converged at Cedar Key for New Year’s Eve a year ago, and the same tribe (with many new representatives) did so again last week.

It was a colder winter there this year, and with a pair of rainy days that had our little camper, The LeSharo, dripping a bit from around the ceiling vent, but this didn’t dampen our spirits. We walked, and ran, and did yoga during the week, and made new friends every day of our stay.

We participated in ‘Bar Wars’ for the evening of NYE; an event where contestants made and served cocktails of every description, sharing favorite recipes. I fixed Vodka Gummy Worms, with hilarious results. Pro tip: I should have started them three DAYS earlier for best results. They are far too chewy after only 3 hours.

We read, and read, and read in our snug little camper on the slack hours, and dined here and there,  sharing fixings and condiments in the rolling home of our friends. It’s easy to imagine doing this sort of thing when it’s time to hang up my clinical job, oh, many years from now.

In recent reading, I’ve learned that human beings were massively changed by the advent of agriculture, being fixed to tilled land, their nomadic ways arrested by cleaving to one place. For one thing, sharing basic needs was curtailed. Acquisitiveness, ownership, and guarding one’s “lot” came to replace general sharing of everything.  Human “classes” came into being. Agriculture, while it sustains more complex civilizations, does not improve the welfare of all, but balances the improvements enjoyed by landowners and their “priests” on the backs of the balance of the closed tribe, and fully excludes “The Other”, all those wanderers who exist outside the fringes of the one tribe. Workers and Warriors support Landowners and Priests, unified in the task of excluding and defending against The Other,  even if they all share the same basic DNA. Peace cannot be a part of this construct.  Sadly, it always comes down to Us and Them.New Year Ann 2014

It is so ironic that in The Book of Genesis it says that Adam and Eve were cast out of The Garden, to toil ever after in their own damned garden. God’s Garden was the free range, where Wanderers gathered of  The Plenty, and shared freely.

Modern motorhome nomads tend to emulate God’s Garden and ancient nomads because it rapidly builds Community among transients in the moment of being together.  It is warm, and lovely, and just the best thing ever. I’ll give you an instance: One afternoon this past week, there was a spontaneous “Swap Meet”: people brought things they’d found themselves carrying around that they had no use for. People laid stuff out, and people just admired, and conversed, and tried on old hats, and laughed over hip-waders and cookware. And eventually, everything was picked up, and stowed away in EACH OTHERS ROLLING HOMES! If any money changed hands in this process, I never saw  it happen.New Year Technomadia 2014

Nomads are like that. I just love being around them. As a lesson for the New Year, and all the years ahead, it’s one to bear in mind: Be open to others, share what you have, and love beyond the limits of your own  “tribe”. If you drop your fences, and wander “outside”, you will be astonished at what you receive, and the freedom that you find.

Yateveo Salad

A Recipe for Yateveo Salad

4-6 yellow shoots of new growth Yateveo leavesyateveo salad
2 green onions
1/2 red pepper
1 stalk  white celery
1 black avocado

Take the usual precautions in gathering the Yateveo shoots, by first exhausting the plant for safe harvest. It is worth noting that a tree that is still somewhat “frisky” yields more flavorful leaves. Be careful!

Dice or shred all ingredients. Toss together with vinegar and oil. Arrange on small side plates, and garnish lightly with sawdust. Serves 8 Greys, 2-4 members of the Chromatocracy, or 1 Prefect, unless suddenly appropriated by an Apocryphal Man.

Jasper Fforde has reviewed this recipe, and proclaimed it “good”.

If this recipe puzzles you,  please find and read Fforde’s ‘Shades of Grey’. You’re welcome!

‘The Calamari Kleptocracy’ – A New Audiobook!

"The Calamari Kleptocracy" by Nicolas Sansone — cover image

Spoken-Arts.Swiftpassage.com and All Things That Matter Press are delighted to present Nicholas Sansone’s ‘The Calamari Kleptocracy’, my second narration project,  available now from Audible.com and iTunes. Click to hear a sample from the book:

Chapter 1

‘The Calamari Kleptocracy’ is a loss of innocence tale, the story of Thor Gunderson, a cheerful and congenial young man whose life is about to take a series of wild jolts and shocks as the people in his world each, one by one, bring Thor lessons in the complexity of human nature, and the existential character of the universe in general.

Sansone’s novel is ingenious for its capacity to craft a seeming allegorical  America, which ultimately proves to be barely an allegory at all. It is, rather, a clearer vision of the plight of our nation in economic turmoil.  Common people work hard, but don’t prosper. The rich get richer, and use the common folk as their pawns. The land of opportunity exists only as a memory of a dream.

The view-points and writing of Sartre, Brecht, and Ionesco all echo in this novel, but with their European existentialism adroitly imported and adapted to our native landscape. That mirror now reflects the hardships and harsh realities of an America enduring a crippling economy, turbulent sectarian divisions, encroaching Fascism, and a corruptly parasitic oligarchy.

But don’t be dismayed by the weighty underpinnings of this story. For all the complexity of the novel’s philosophical bones, the  surface of the tale is  light and humorous, and parades characters and events which are by turns sweet, amusing and colorful, before leading us with, at times, brutal honesty to the way things really are.

And how is that? Big business manipulates and gobbles up individual businesses. Individuals are manipulated into collectives against their own best interests. “Opportunity”  has vanished from the American landscape. The prosperous prey upon an ever-shrinking and downwardly mobile middle class, an astonishing number of whom enter into incarceration in for-profit prisons. And yet there is always to be found light within human life: This was one of Ionesco’s clearest truths, which Sansone, too, demonstrates over and again,  with a precise eye for the light, color, and minute details that fill the space in which his story unfolds.

Another brilliant aspect to Sansone’s story-telling is that he never demonizes anyone. All his characters, even the most corrupt, are complexly human mosaics of traits good and bad; full and simple at once.

For that, and many other reasons, I loved working on this audiobook presentation of Mr. Sansone’s novel. Find it today at Audible.com  !

So, Now I’m A Narrator: Audible.Com and ACX


Narrated by Elliott Walsh; available now at Amazon.com!

A sample from ‘Headwind’, the audiobook.

Old friends who know me well are familiar with my theatrical past.  There was a time, in another life, when I majored in Dramatic Arts at Boston University. I studied and worked hard at becoming a professional actor. I’ve been in plays and musicals off and on for many years. I’ve performed in New York City and Boston, albeit not profitably. My interest in theatre makes me keenly appreciative of good work when I see it, both the writing and acting; mostly in watching films or broadcasts, these days.

There’s scant opportunity to perform, though, in part because where I live is such a long drive to anyplace where a scrap of performance is happening. After a day at the hospital, it’s unthinkable to drive almost an hour north or south to keep a rehearsal or performance schedule, so I’ve steered clear of auditions. There has been a bit of “flash theatre” once or twice, when I could participate in a 24 hour play project, most recently in Brunswick a few months ago, but that’s another story.

What I have done to exercise those old actor’s reflexes and skills is to try my hand at auditioning for audiobook narration. A while back a writer friend brought ACX to my attention. ACX is the Audiobook Creation eXchange, a division of Audible.Com, which is, in turn, a subsidiary of Amazon. They are a clearinghouse for Authors, Rights-holders, Narrators, and Producers, and mediate between them to foster the recording and marketing of new audiobooks.  It’s really an amazing idea, and has garnered the support and enthusiasm of first rate authors, like Neil Gaiman or Janet Evanovich, and top o’ the line publishing houses, as well.

It works like this:  If you think you have what it takes to narrate someone’s book into a finished product, go create a narrator/producer’s account at ACX . You will be encouraged to flesh out your profile, and upload audio samples of your voice, which authors and rights-holders can find and listen to.  You can also browse a significant catalogue of projects seeking a narrator. They can be searched with filters leading you to projects that fit your gender, voice-style, and age. You can also filter for fiction vs. non-fiction, or for specific genres, such as mysteries or sci-fi.

The projects will be presented with myriad information; date of publication, length, author’s notes, etc, and an audition script will be attached. I hunted up a number of projects I thought would scratch that old actor’s itch, and recorded a trio of them one Saturday morning. The matter of preparing the tracks so they might present well is a whole other story. There is a learning curve for recording techniques, but I got started with a $2 electotet condensor mic, and  free, open-source recording software, called Audacity.

To my total surprise and delight, I had a quick response to one of my first auditions, a light crime genre novel called ‘Headwind’ by Christopher Hudson. Chris liked what I’d done with a lot of my audition, but wanted me to try some different voicings, too. I re-worked the chapter, and re-submitted it. With a bit of back and forth, we’d found a good fit between what he hoped for, and what I could do. With another click or two on the project page at ACX.com , we had a contract to make an audiobook!

At that point, I ordered some pieces of serious recording gear; a better microphone (the Rode NT-1A, which rocks, btw!), a stand, better headphones, and a USB interface to connect the mic to the computer. Which brings me to another great thing about ACX: They have pages full of wonderful tips, pointers, and training videos on how to set up a recording space, how to record, edit, and polish the finished tracks. They really want you to succeed!

And here it is,  now finished and available for purchase, the audiobook of ‘Headwind’ by Chris Hudson, and narrated by yours, truly! Find it at Amazon  or through Audible.com

And if you enjoy a good car chase scene…   Please visit my professional web at Spoken Arts .



A Whelk’s Chance in a Supernova…

super novaAdelaide, Australia reached 113 degrees F. in the first week of this year,  with higher temperatures expected elsewhere. The Australian interior anticipates temperatures widely topping 120 F. this summer. Forecasters and climatologists have added two new colors to the temperature mapping system in Australia.

It bears consideration that our planet is not a static system. The Sahara wasn’t always a desert. West Texas was once an inland sea. And climatic change doesn’t necessarily take thousands of years to progress.

Inconvenient truth. Al Gore couldn’t have chosen a better title, unless, perhaps, he’d borrowed a phrase from Douglas Adam’s ‘Life, the Universe, and Everything’.   A snatch of dialoge :

“True? Of course it’s true.”

“… then we don’t stand a whelk’s chance in a supernova.”

“A what?” said Arthur sharply again. He had been following the conversation doggedly up to this point, and was keen not to lose the thread now.

“A whelk’s chance in a supernova,” repeated Ford without losing momentum. “The …”

“What’s a whelk got to do with a supernova?” said Arthur.

“It doesn’t,” said Ford levelly, “stand a chance in one.”

This passage and the chapter it’s from didn’t specifically refer to climate change, but rather concerned a galactic disaster born of tribal differences and impending war,  but Adams, as so often in his quirky fiction, made the brilliant leap in linking the most extreme of environmental disasters,  “a whelk’s chance in a supernova”,  to the pernicious, wasteful distraction of tribal warfare.

My birth tribe has been American West-European Judeo-Christian Transplants with a big dose of New York regionalism.

My chosen tribe has become the tribe of listening, thinking, analytical, scientific, mystic/mythic-skeptic, who would prefer to not hurt a spider, because they are much harder to put back together than they are to take apart.  This tribe transcends race and region, because listening and thinking, although not universal, is widespread. Pursued in a healthy manner, and to a logical outcome, listening and thinking will generally result in kindness, tolerance, and empathy.

If you aren’t spending all your time fretting about who’s god is the real god, and imagining that your birth-tribe is the best and only GOOD tribe, there actually IS time enough in the day to step back, and connect the dots on climate change, and maybe take a step or two back from ending up as a sizzling amuse bouche of escargot in clarified butter.

 I’ll save you looking it up, as I had to do.  A whelk is a snail…

Holmes for the Holidays…

On Christmas Eve, I took my wife and daughters to go see the new Sherlock Holmes film, ‘A Game of Shadows’, and we all enjoyed its clever re-imagining of the detective as played by Robert Downey, Jr, a rather darkly comic version of the sleuth, with equal parts ninja and omniscient adept. While Ann has a low threshold for weapons that go bang and graphic puncture wounds, despite plenty of those even she pronounced the film a good one. Go see it, and its predecessor, if you enjoy the Holmes cannon on any level. You’ll be glad for it.

This Christmas did have a new release from Laurie R. King for her Mary Russell series with Sherlock Holmes (out last September, actually, but close enough), ‘Pirate King’. Alas, my girls and I are so addicted to those that we read it before October was done, so it had no place in our stockings last week. It’s a larky sort of Mary Russell novel, with distinctly silly bits to it, and so harder for me to warm up to, but sustaining enough, I suppose. It’s my hope that King’s next in the series has harder edges. Even so, if you enjoy Russell and Holmes, it will suffice.

And just this morning, I stumbled upon this review at Tor.com, by Niall Alexander, of a pair of Neil Gaiman stories which have expanded the Holmes canon; magnifying and extending it into unanticipated realms. It is a beautifully written and illustrated homage to Gaiman’s extraordinary skill and finess as a crafter of stories. I mention it here to point my daughters at the link, and at the two Holmes stories it covers: ‘A Study in Emerald’ , and ‘The Case of Death and Honey’.  Alexander has piqued my curiosity, and I’m off straight-away to re-read the first, via the link above.  ‘The Case of Death and Honey’ may be found in the new release on the Poisoned Pen imprint, ‘A Study in Sherlock’, which is a collection of Holmes stories by contemporary writers.

It’s my fervent hope that some deductive skills will have rubbed off on me from all this recent contact with the great detective. Then maybe I could figure out who sent us the gift of a new corkscrew this Christmas!  Ho, ho, ho!

‘All Clear’ by Connie Willis – a review

This feels awkward, because ‘All Clear’ is not so much a sequel, but is in fact a second half of its counterpart, the earlier novel, ‘Blackout’, which I reviewed prevously here. My assessment of ‘Blackout’, could be described as “tepidly enthusiastic”. I was so enthralled by her work,’To Say Nothing of the Dog’, and was primed for some wild kind of “book-gasm” with ‘Blackout’. Well, I was disappointed, but hopeful as I launched into ‘All Clear’.

When I wrote my little review of ‘Blackout’, I should explain that I had no conception of Ms. Willis’ stature and success in the SF/F genre. Holy cow! Ten Hugo Awards, seven Nebula Awards, (which INCLUDES the award for ‘Blackout/All Clear’), and a flotilla of nominations besides. So why, I ask myself, does this monumental and highly regarded dyptych still leave me unimpressed, and, frankly, a bit confused?

I think it comes down to this: that some “genre writing” (as one author recently referred to a conglomerate of SF/F/YA books) doesn’t necessarilly require nor focus on STORY as its main staple for the reader, or maybe a tight, well-crafted story. The Aristotelian model of beginning, middle, end, with lovely, crisp story-arcs, that sail and rebound like the path of a tennis ball in a spirited volley; THAT is what I was left craving as I read through the 1000+ pages of Willis’ masterpiece. This book hinges much more on setting, atmosphere, the ephemera of bric-a-brac, costuming, the tinge of colors borrowed from other literature of the time and place of which she is writing. It IS brilliant, and wonderful in its way, and necessitates a wholly different approach to the reading of it to extract and enjoy its savor.

Alas, it requires work and patience.

Two other comparisons come to mind: these books flow and feel a bit like quest-gaming. Reading them reminds me of my hours spent in the world of Zelda-Twilight Princess. There’s such sumptuous detail, and a grinding journey through a hazardous world. The other comparison I would make is that of listening to complex music. You cannot breeze through a 40 minute sax improv by John Coltrane, and you cannot breeze through ‘Blackout/All Clear’, but you would do very well to devote the energy and attention to either.

The fault in my earlier take is one of learning to appreciate a different kind of reading. I will try to get better at it, for it does have its rewards…

‘To Say Nothing of the Dog’, by Connie Willis – A Review

‘To Say Nothing of the Dog’ , as I came to read it in its entirety, is an interesting story, for I had started it once some years ago, and failed to progress in my reading of it.  The failure, time has shown me, was entirely my own.  For whatever reason, the distractions in my life prevented me from realizing what a jewel of a story Ms. Willis had crafted. I simply didn’t know what it was I had in my hands, and so never got beyond the first chapter.  It worked something like this: this is supposed to be a time traveler’s story, and here’s this odd crew of weird academics picking over the wreckage of the cathedral at Coventry after having been firebombed by the Nazi’s in WWII. Their incompetence is exceeded only by their fatigue. Their quest is to find a missing piece of Victorian bric-a-braq called “The Bishop’s Bird Stump”, and this at the behest of a tyrant-boss who needs to copy it to decorate a modern knock-off cathedral being built in the mid-21st century.  Somehow, this wasn’t the time-travel yarn I was looking for at that time.

However, it should have been. What doesn’t immediately make itself known about Willis’ book is that it plays on so many different levels at once. It is as much about a future time when when historians might mine the past in person , as it is a gentle exercise in lampooning the Victorians both in person and through their literature, AND in the context of a cosmos that is as forgiving of our tinkering with time as Willis’ Victorians are of her lampooning of them.

It was my older daughter who eventually turned my attention back to this book, when she, in her quirky manner, quoted a meme from it, unreferenced, as her Facebook status one evening. She posted, “We are all, in a sense, Ensign Klepperman.” This game requires that I figure out what the heck she is referring to, and few google searches later it came to me in a flash that these words derived from the odd time-travel book I’d started and never finished some five years before.  Klepperman’s story and person are but a sidebar to illuminate the tasks of Willis’ protagonists as well as her greater themes in this tour-de-force, but to say how in this review might be telling too much.

This much can be said: it is a truly great piece of fiction that can mull over more than a few profound questions about the relationship between the present and the past with SUCH a gracious and deft touch that the reader hardly senses the depth of the work beneath the constant and ongoing humor, until suddenly GOB-SMACKED by it with near lethal force at the conclusion.

I’m at present reading the second work in this series, ‘Blackout’, and in possession of the third such work, ‘All Clear’, so am well positioned to feast on Ms. Willis’ works for some time to come. I’ll write about those too, in time.

For now, though, take my recommendation for ‘To Say Nothing of the Dog’ to heart if you think you’d enjoy a warm summer’s journey by boat in Victoria’s England combined with a romp helter-skelter through other times, as well.

‘The Dreaming Void’ , by Peter F. Hamilton – A Review

February 1, 2011

Actually, I’m only WITHIN STRIKING DISTANCE of finishing this interesting book, which was a gift from one of my daughters more than a year ago.

While worthy and, as I said, interesting in many ways, it was not for me a compelling read.  Hamilton is gifted but seems to write without any discipline with regard to outlining his story arcs in advance of writing, or if he does so, it is not set out for the reader in any clearly discernible way.

However, his gifts and strengths are evident, and lie in his imagination, and the scope of the palette on which he builds his yarns.  His weakness is in launching so many story lines at once and flitting between them willy-nilly, so that most readers would be at a loss as to what the hell is going on, overall. And this is exacerbated by the action being spread over thousands (or is it hundreds of thousands?) of light-years of real estate, and an indeterminate amount of time, which could be as few as several Earth months, or as many as several Earth years, if we only had a clue as to where Earth stood in this panoply.

Having reported that I’m close to finishing this major work,  I must also sadly add that I have NOT a CLUE as to how anything will ultimately turn out. After reading almost 700 pages, I will only be in a good position to set out in the second tome of this TRILOGY.  And, being a bit cynical, I despair of knowing any much more at the end of the second book, should I venture on.

The damnable part of it is, I might keep reading anyway!  Although there are few characters and story lines I much care about, there are some which do interest me. Those are well drawn, inspired in their characteristics and adventures, and might just keep me going.

The best I can say of this series is that it would make great television, as it is drawn from a superior imagination, but expresses no clear notion of where it is going so far.  New television dramas never seem to suffer as much from a want of long-term story arcs. As sci-fi “popcorn for the mind”, ‘The Dreaming Void’ is very good. Among the great sci-fi novel-series, so far it can only be an also-ran.