Synopsis: Shepherd Autrey is a Quaker, a physician, and a man deeply disturbed by the madness around him as the War Between the States bears down on his America in 1863. Dared by a friend to take an active role, Shep volunteers to provide humanitarian aid to the victims of Sherman’s scorched earth campaign in the Shenandoah Valley. There he runs foul of a Confederate recruiting drive and finds himself hanged by the neck from a tree. Awakening in a strange land which can’t possibly be earth, Shep is plunged into battle and saves the life of an alien warrior prince. Hailed by bloodthirsty killers as the bravest man alive, Shep combats his conscience, his flagging faith, and an ever-growing number of people who want him dead.
Production: The sound quality was good. One of the things about Podiobooks is, there is a quality standard so you can e relatively certain that all of their podcasts will be listenable from that standpoint.
Cast: Apparently Steven is part of an audio drama collective over at Prometheus Radio Theatre. This isn’t a full cast though. Instead, he elects to act out each part, rather than doing a straight read. He’s more than adequate for the task, giving each character a distinctive and believable voice. His female voices are well done, earning him more than the B+ he might otherwise get.
Story: This is science fiction in the vein of Edgar Rice Burroughs. One of the reviewers over at the Podiobooks site mentioned Barsoom and if you aren’t familiar with that body of work then I can highly recommend it. It’s not necessary to enjoy Steven’s work though. The story is fairly strong. It’s told in first person, as Shep relays his journeys and adventures from some point in his near future. It’s appropriate to the genre and his limited point of view helps in setting up the alien culture he’s becomes a part of. Shep and his companions develop throughout the novel and character growth is always a good thing. The ending provides some nice surprises and over all I am very happy with it.
Verdict: This is an altogether well done piece of work. It raised some interesting questions and presented some fresh ideas. It left some questions unanswered and in my book that’s a plus. There were a few instances where character actions pulled me out of the story, but they were few. I give this podcast a strong recommendation.
Sidebar: I’m going to take this opportunity to talk about something that’s been niggling at my mind for many moons now and that this novel brought to the fore. I’ve no idea what Steven’s philosophical or religious beliefs are. He does a more than adequate job of relating certain schools of Christian thought throughout the novel. The ending contains a certain theology that some Christians will find troubling, I’m sure. I personally don’t have a problem with it. It doesn’t hurt the story and on some level I agree with it. However, I’m curious to know if the theology in the story lines up with the author’s or if the two are disconnected. It would likely be hard to tell without listening to more of his stories (something I plan on doing) and even then it may not be an indicator.
Some authors, like yours truly, might “change up” periodically and write stories that have nothing to do with a particularly belief system, unless it’s at a very low level. Other’s believe in making every story a bully pulpit. Still others, I suppose, may remain consistent even when the stories don’t reflect their beliefs. Which one Steven is I couldn’t say. Generally speaking though, when a story with a “message” is well done I don’t necessarily mind, even if I don’t agree with the agenda in question, but it can get tiresome. That’s true even when I DO agree with it. It would be easy to point the fingers at the usual suspects, but I’ve seen this in writers from all walks. In any case, well done or not I often wonder if it’s what the author believes or if they’re just trying to make you think about an issue.
So, my question is, do stories with, what is to you, an obvious message/moral bother you and is it worth while even trying to figure out what an author may or may not believe? Also, I’d like to know of some authors that you think do it well and if you’re so inclined examples of where it’s done poorly.