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Author Topic: EP368: Springtime for Deathtraps  (Read 2054 times)
eytanz
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« on: November 02, 2012, 04:21:58 AM »

EP368: Springtime for Deathtraps

By  Marjorie James

Read by Dr. John Cmar

---

The building sat in a small clearing in the jungle, its stone walls radiating solidity and the midday heat. Giant statues of warrior-gods crushing skulls beneath their feet flanked the doorway. Xnab looked from the ornately carved keyhole to his customer and back again.

“And the key is where, exactly?” he asked.

“In the treasure chamber,” the big man said in a small voice. “We had just finished putting everything away and, well, it had been a long day. I think I must have put the key down on the altar or something. The problem is, the place locks automatically, and our entire fortune is in there. We had a few locksmiths out to work on it, but they didn’t get very far.”

Xnab nodded. He had already noticed the blood spatter around the keyhole.

“So that’s why we called you. Everyone said that if anybody could get in there, it would be you.”

Xnab accepted that, not as a compliment, but a statement of fact. He was a specialist the design and construction of booby traps, deadfalls and other, largely fatal, security options. He was a small man, thin and wiry, his shaved head still smooth and unwrinkled despite years of working in the sun. Despite making a very good living, he wore a plain tunic and no adornments at all. In his business, he considered it a bad idea to have anything extra hanging around, and he was very good at his business. In fact, anyone who knew anything considered Xnab the best death trap designer alive.

Which typically would have been reason enough to turn down a job like this, but in this case it was actually why he was there.

“How long have you owned the temple?” he asked the man, who had introduced himself as Tuak.

“Just a couple of months, actually,” Tuak admitted. “It’s not really a temple. I think the statues of the gods are just there for show. The family who used to have it used it to store their treasures and they spared no expense on the security.” He sighed heavily and stared up at the tiers of stone vanishing into the jungle. “It seemed like a good


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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johnhummel
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« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2012, 07:24:47 AM »

Um. I was listening this morning through the Stitcher app and - it was 20 minutes long. I think I missed the other half of the story and now I'm going to spend my entire day worrying about what happened with the poison trapped control room.
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Kaa
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« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2012, 10:46:35 AM »

"Where we're going, we don't need toads."

... o.O ...

Really?

I didn't even hear the next several minutes because of that line. It completely kicked me out of the story. I had to go back and listen again, and even then, it kept resonating in my head. At least it's taught me one thing: I'm going to go through all my stories and, in every place I used or was tempted to use a one-liner like that, I'm going to viciously chop it.

For my actual review, I'm going to pretend that one line didn't exist. I enjoyed the story. I was very pleased to hear more from Znob. And it was read extremely well by John Cmar.

Can someone provide a list of all the other stories in this "series"? I'd like to hear them all again. Never mind. Smiley

All stories by Marjorie James — including EP007– The Trouble With Death Traps and EP224– The Ghost In The Death Trap. It's on the page at escapepod.org.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2012, 10:48:48 AM by Kaa » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2012, 11:08:21 AM »

Oh come on, that was the pop-culture pun of this pop-culture pun filled story that kicked you out? Tongue

I like how even the title is a pun. Since clearly water power didn't work it was time for them to use springs in their deathtraps.

Always great to hear more stories of Znob. Although since there was no acknowledgement that this was an escapepod regular during the intro I was afraid that maybe it was one I had already heard. Thanks for finding the previous ones Kaa. I feel like going back and giving them a listen.
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« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2012, 11:45:13 AM »

I love these stories!  When I saw the title and author, I got a huge smile on my face, know this was going to be fun.  The puns and pop culture references are a big part of it.  Kaa, if the "toads" comment pulled you out of the story, wait untill you listen to The Ghost in the Deathtrap.  Wink

This goes back to the good old days of spec fic being mostly about the fun.  I really need to see what other stories this author has. 

Thanks for this one, though.  And here's hoping there are more Deathtrap stories.
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« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2012, 03:00:18 PM »

this might be my favorite Znob story yet.  When I heard the line about the toads, I knew it was a pop culture reference, but couldn't place it until I saw someone mention it on the forums. 

Hope to come back to Znob in the future.  Thanks to the author and everyone involved in bringing us this story.
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« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2012, 12:08:19 AM »

So, being fairly recent to EP, within the last year, this is my first taste of Marjorie, Znob, and the whole Deathtrap universe. I have to say, though corny at times, it was a fun romp through an interesting world. The Back to the Future reference had me laughing and groaning at the same time. I mean, it was both horrible and awesome.

Now, perhaps it's because I'm new to the Deathtrap stories, but I couldn't help but wonder why these tales aren't being run on PodCastle rather than EscapePod. I mean, where's the sci-fi in this? The complexity of the traps? It's very clearly a fantasy tale. I'm not complaining, I really enjoyed the story, I'm just a little confused is all. Since this is a continuing series, I would think we would know by now that these are more fantasy than sci-fi and have moved them over to the fantasy podcast. Or do they hold place here due to some grandfather clause? Marjorie was one of the first, so she is always welcome back?

Either way, a fun tale thoroughly enjoyed.
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« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2012, 01:31:13 AM »

"Where we're going, we don't need toads." —I loved this! Made me chuckle. 4/5 stars.
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« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2012, 02:32:01 PM »

I loooooooved this one! The toads line was so wonderfully funny! The narration was fantastic, the story was super fun, and that's really all I have to say about it. Enjoyed it on all fronts. Smiley

And hoping for more!
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« Reply #9 on: November 04, 2012, 11:58:57 AM »

have't read it yet, just want to say HEELLLLLLLYESSSS!! DEATH TRAPS ARE BACK! *FIST PUMP*
these are my favourite stories on escape pod Smiley
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2012, 03:46:53 AM »

Excellent story, and an excellent reading. Except of course for the ever-present (and rather tiresome) complaint about the lack of an audio cue between scenes.

I started listening to EP one episode after the previous Deathtraps story, so I'll go and fill that in.

Cutter McKay: is steampunk science fiction? Just because the tech doesn't involve phasers and wormholes doesn't mean it isn't science fiction.
That's the simple answer. The complex one is that people will tell you (and I agree but lack the eloquence to put it well) that science fiction is more about speculative fiction than about the tech.

Anyway, I loved this. And the final scene threw me for a loop. First there was the problem with no way of knowing that we were in a new scene (AUDIO CUES!), then there was the actual content of the scene. Totally didn't see it coming. Well done.
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« Reply #11 on: November 05, 2012, 09:55:03 AM »

I'm still enjoying this series. I like the nonchalant way it deals with death and dismemberment.  I like the title.  I like Znab and his team's dynamic, and this one had a cool addition in the form of the dead trapmaker the best there ever was, as well as the detail of how the plot resolved. All good stuff.

Well, almost all good stuff.  The "Where we're going, we don't need toads" is absolutely horrendous.  It's not even that I'm opposed to pop culture references, or that I'm opposed to puns.  It's just that, for that to be a really effective secondary meaning the primary meaning also has to make sense in context.  Znab strikes me as someone who doesn't spend his time saying unnecessarily.  "We don't need toads" or "You can have all the toads to yourself" would be lines that would make sense coming from Znab's mouth.  But the "Where we're going" breaks it--that implies that there are other places where Znab would need hallucinogenic toads to lick.  So, that dumped me out of the story as the author made the character contort his words to make the joke, but by saying something that made no sense in Znab's context of the world.

Now, perhaps it's because I'm new to the Deathtrap stories, but I couldn't help but wonder why these tales aren't being run on PodCastle rather than EscapePod. I mean, where's the sci-fi in this? The complexity of the traps? It's very clearly a fantasy tale. I'm not complaining, I really enjoyed the story, I'm just a little confused is all. Since this is a continuing series, I would think we would know by now that these are more fantasy than sci-fi and have moved them over to the fantasy podcast. Or do they hold place here due to some grandfather clause? Marjorie was one of the first, so she is always welcome back?

In general, I'd give an answer similar to Max's, "is steampunk science fiction? Just because the tech doesn't involve phasers and wormholes doesn't mean it isn't science fiction." 

In this particular case though, I think it's because the original Deathtrap story ran on EP when it ran fantasy.  If I remember correctly, the 2nd one ran on EP as well, even after the Podcastle mitosis, and I think it ran with the editorial saying "Yeah we know this is fantasy, but we're continuing the Deathtrap franchise here where it ran before".

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« Reply #12 on: November 05, 2012, 02:50:39 PM »

"Yeah we know this is fantasy, but we're continuing the Deathtrap franchise here where it ran before".

Ok, that's what I assumed. And honestly, I don't have a problem with it. I quite enjoyed this story. I was just curious. As for:
Cutter McKay: is steampunk science fiction? Just because the tech doesn't involve phasers and wormholes doesn't mean it isn't science fiction.

Steampunk absolutely is science fiction. However, I don't see this story as Steampunk. I mean, sure it has some mechanics in the construction and operation of the Deathtraps, but what else about the tale made it Steampunk? Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade had mechanical traps very similar to this with blades that shot out of the walls and decapitated people, would you call that Steampunk?

To me, this was a fantasy story with some mechanics involved. Which is why it seems out of place on EP, not because it doesn't have phasers and wormholes.
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« Reply #13 on: November 05, 2012, 03:02:51 PM »

This wasn't a fantasy story per se - there was no magic.  Sure, it was set in an alternate universe that is somewhat lower tech, but both SF and fantasy stories make use of alternate universe tales.  But seeing as nothing supernatural happens here, it's not actually a fantasy story. 

Just sayin'.
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Cutter McKay
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« Reply #14 on: November 05, 2012, 10:16:19 PM »

This wasn't a fantasy story per se - there was no magic.  Sure, it was set in an alternate universe that is somewhat lower tech, but both SF and fantasy stories make use of alternate universe tales.  But seeing as nothing supernatural happens here, it's not actually a fantasy story. 

Just sayin'.

Ok, I'll give you that. In that regard this story is more sci-fi than fantasy.
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« Reply #15 on: November 06, 2012, 01:58:52 AM »

Cutter McKay: is steampunk science fiction? Just because the tech doesn't involve phasers and wormholes doesn't mean it isn't science fiction.
Steampunk absolutely is science fiction. However, I don't see this story as Steampunk. I mean, sure it has some mechanics in the construction and operation of the Deathtraps, but what else about the tale made it Steampunk? Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade had mechanical traps very similar to this with blades that shot out of the walls and decapitated people, would you call that Steampunk?
I'm not saying this story is steampunk, that was just an example. If I had to label it maybe... stonepunk?
Whatever it is, it is science fiction. Or speculative fiction, whatever floats your boat.
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« Reply #16 on: November 06, 2012, 08:43:55 AM »

Stonepunk.  I love it.  I move that the Deathtraps series be considered the vanguard of this new genre, a pleasing new member of the scifi family.

Those darn calendars, we're still dealing with his deceptive advertising even today...
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« Reply #17 on: November 06, 2012, 09:07:58 AM »

Stonepunk.  I love it.  I move that the Deathtraps series be considered the vanguard of this new genre, a pleasing new member of the scifi family.

Stonepunk. Good one there. Me likey.

Overall I enjoyed the story. It seemed to wrap up a bit fast, but I found it amusing and I loved all the little pop culture nods.
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« Reply #18 on: November 07, 2012, 08:40:45 AM »

I'm happy to finally listen to a story on Escapepod that didn't seem to have any kind of agenda, unless it did and I missed it.  This was just a good story with an actually story, a fun mystery, and some really funny writing.  To much has been said about the toad comment but I have to admit, it made me laugh and roll my eyes.

I sort of figured the problem with the traps once the clues were laid out.  Seems very short sighted by the trap designer that he didn't see a problem with it either.  Guess this is spoiler alert territory (not sure what the rules are for that here, some seem to care, other's don't, well I do since I come here sometimes to get the 'feel' for the story before listening.)  but I had another way to disarm the traps that might have worked, but the authors methed was much better than mine.

All in all, thought this was a great story, the first one I've really enjoyed in a while and I'm hoping there are more coming at some point.

-Tim
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« Reply #19 on: November 07, 2012, 09:34:00 AM »

Seems very short sighted by the trap designer that he didn't see a problem with it either. 

I agree that it was shortsighted.  I think it was fairly early on in his career, and he wasn't very familiar with jungles, so I think it's understandable.  It was through life-lessons like this that he became the best ever.  He didn't become the best by never making mistakes, but by learning from them!  Smiley
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