Review – Vatican Assassin by Mike Luoma (Podcast)

VatAss2012 Today I’m reviewing Vatican Assassin, an audiobook/podcast novel by Mike Luoma. You can follow follow him on Twitter at

Synopsis: Bernard Campion’s friends call him “BC”. Not that he has a lot of friends. You don’t make a lot of friends when you’re an assassin. His mission: eliminate the governor of Luna Prime, Meredith McEntyre. His bosses, The Office of Papal Operations: The OPO, tell him she’s been sympathizing with the enemy, the Universal Islamic Nation (UIN). His boss? BC works for the Pope.

It’s 2109, a time of war. BC is “officially” assigned as PR man to the Vatican Mission on Luna Prime, the major city on The Moon, as his cover. Just a mild mannered, young, twenty-something priest working for the New catholic Church on public relations. But he’s really a weapon pointed at the UIN by the NcC and their Earth based allies, the Universal Trade Zone, the UTZ.

Production: I believe Mike has experience in radio. His voice is excellent and the recording quality is good. He plays a little with the audio, using reverb and other audio effects to tweak the listener experience. Perhaps my one nitpick here is that when he has explosions or other onomatopoeias, he actually says them rather than using actual sound effects. With such a broad availability of free sound effects it would have been a better experience to use those.

Grade: B-

Cast: Mike voices all of the characters. For the most part they’re variations on his own voice and are reasonably consistent. The only problem is that when it comes to emoting, every character sounds “upbeat”. Mike also sounds like he’s reading the text more than acting it out. Finally, there are a number of places where it would have been good to add a brief pause between characters speaking. Because some character voices don’t change, there are times where it’s hard to know who’s speaking. It’s a bit like reading text with no paragraph breaks.

Grade: C

Story: There are some issues with the writing in this podcast novel. First, and this is mostly a stylistic preference, he writes in present tense. That can work to lend a sense of immediacy. I’ve seen it used to good effect, but here for some reason it doesn’t work for me. It also feels like he really wanted to write this in first person, since we get BC’s internal monologue. As it is it’s written in kind of a 3rd person limited.

My biggest beef with the story is that it’s listed as a science fiction adventure. There’s definitely a science fiction element, but I never got a sense of adventure. The story of an assassin, particularly one that’s being used by the Vatican in a war torn future, should be action packed. Approximately a third of this story is dedicated to his imprisonment and subsequent theologically based brainwashing. The few times there is action it feels glossed over. This is less James Bond or even Dan Brown than it needs to be.

There’s a fair amount of strong language, itself not something I ordinarily object to, but for some reason it was particularly jarring in the second half of the story.

Grade: C-

Verdict: I had a hard time making it all the way through this podcast. It wasn’t bad. I’ve certainly experienced far worse. There were times that I really wanted to put it down, but I kept hoping that it would live up to the potential that I felt it had. The last third had glimpses of that potential. I can’t really strongly recommend this.

Grade: C