Tag Archives: podcast

Review – The Mask of Inanna by Alicia E. Goranson (Audio Drama)

This week’s podcast came recommended by Odin1Eye; pirate, podcaster, and podcast reviewer par excellence. It is his blog that I owe my review format to. So, check out View From Valhalla. This week I review the audio drama, The Mask of Inanna.

Synopsis: The world isn’t kind to dreamers.

Like any boy of the radio era, Leonard Allen dreamed of hitting big in New York and Hollywood; to write or host that one big show that would make everyone notice. Even after he had his chance at both, that dream still burns inside him. He’s always been able to spark the divine somewhere in his work. And he’s been noticed.

He doesn’t know the lengths people will go to take advantage of such gifts. So when the mysterious David Lewis asked him finish his classic radio drama “After Dark” after a half-century from a pirate radio station in a New England lighthouse, Len didn’t realize it wasn’t as simple as that. The truth is that Lewis served a more powerful entity than even public opinion: the goddess Inanna, Sumerian patron of love and war both.
Sometimes, a god wants a sacrifice. Sometimes, a god wants praise and devotion. But the most fickle, and the most dangerous, are those who demand a show.

Journey into the creative mind of award-winning author Alicia Goranson, as she explores the nature of power and those who covet it in a genre-busting work that blends classic fifties radio drama, tense, paranoia-fueled thrillers, and the intimate knowledge born of a career working behind-the-scenes in the performing arts. Marvel at a stunning collection of award-winning stage actors, the Post-Meridian Players, as they provide the voice and heart to a cast of over thirty. Follow Allen and Lewis as their ideological conflict threatens to consume their friends and family, a battle neither can yield.

Is magic simply a tool, or a living thing to be respected? Does man have a right to make demands of the gods? What lengths would you go to for the power to protect what you love? Whatever you believe, don’t get caught out After Dark, in THE MASK OF INANNA.

Production: This is an audio drama that’s split between audio formats and time periods. Part of the production, the “real” story is as crisp as you could ask for. The parts that are “broadcast” over the radio have the sorts of artifacts you’d expect. It really is quite clever and well done. If I have a complaint, it’s that some of the dialog was hard to hear when they went really heavy with the sound effects. There’s some irony there, when I heard a line about how crucial it is not to miss a word in the old radio play days. I didn’t miss any important dialog, that I know of, but it costs them a few points.

Grade: A-

Cast: Apparently the cast are part of a community theater group in Boston. They really are all quite talented. As I’ll get to in a minute, they’re stretched over multiple characters and I was never disappointed. The chemistry between Scotty and Len was perfect.

Grade: A++

Story: There’s a lot going on here. You have the story that takes place in the fifties, that of a group of radio players who are split up by one of the stars going to Hollywood to seek fame. Then there’s the present day story of the former radio star being taken out of his retirement home in order to relive his glory days on a little island while assuming the role of a lighthouse caretaker. Finally, you have nine or ten stories that make up the broadcast of “After Dark”, the radio show that all the hubbub us about.

The main story, almost a framing device, but a lot more, is well written. I do have a pet peeve with any story that jumps around in the time stream as much as this one does. I’m much more a fan of linear story telling. Still, the way it plays out, it never failed to catch and keep my interest. It all starts out as very “real” and the deeper you get into the story the more fantastic things become.

The After Dark episodes are fantastically cheesy, both the story telling and the acting. That’s all very appropriate for what they were trying to do. My favorite (and it might just be because it was the last one) was the Sinbad story.

The mark of really good story telling is that it makes me think about a lot of things. This is more than just entertainment. There’s love, sacrifice, the power or friendship, the power of STORY, and it asks the question, “what would you give up for the people closest to you?” Mask is top notch.

This is a matter of personal preference, but I will be dinging them a little for the jumping around. I also had a little trouble getting into it initially. I like a mystery and a slow build, but it was almost too slow. Ultimately it was worth it.

Grade: A-

Verdict: If you’re a fan of audio drama then there’s a good chance you’ve already heard this. If you’re a fan of old school radio shows I’m sure you’d love it. Each episode is at least and hour and there are ten of them. You’re in for at least twelve hours of solid entertainment. Put this near the top of your list.

Grade: A


Review – Campfire Radio Theater by John Ballentine (Podcast)

I went looking for podcast recommendations, something or someone I had never hear of before, and Allen Sale of Astral Audio recommended Campfire Radio Theater.

Synopsis: An Original Horror Anthology for the iPod Generation… Hear the Fear!

Production: The production values are good, keeping in mind that they are trying to accomplish an old school radio drama sound.

Grade: B+

Cast: The voice acting is solid across all six episodes.

Grade: B

Story: There are six stories in this anthology: “Hungry Hollow”, “Twilight Road”, “The Haunted Cell”, “The Master’s Hungry Children”, “Night Chills”, and “Demon Eyes”. These were all fun in a sort of “Tales From The Crypt” way. My personal favorite was probably “The Master’s Hungry Children”. It’s always fun to see a human sort of evil get their comeuppance from real monsters. The endings of “Twilight Road” and “The Haunted Cell” fell a bit flat for me, but they were good. “Night Chills” made me incredibly uncomfortable, in a good way, and “Demon Eyes” had a double flip ending that I really enjoyed. All in all, if you’re a fan of old school horror that’s a little on the “camp”-y side, I think you’ll enjoy these. No idea if he’s going to come out with more, so I’ll leave my podcatcher tuned to this station just in case.

Grade: B+

Verdict:  As I said above, this is well worth checking out. If you’re into audio drama, and that’s just what this is, then you should check it out.

Grade: B+


Review – Obscurities by Mick Bordet (Podcast)

ObscuritiesEPT1600 I’ve been listening to the Every Photo Tells podcast for quite some time. I’ve even submitted a story or two. Occasionally they come out with a multi-part story. This week I’m reviewing one such story, written by Mick Bordet.

Synopsis: Del Fawmer is a solo musican with a blossoming career, but her life is turned upside down when her dying grandmother asks her to delve into the secrets of the past. Visiting the old woman’s house, Del comes across a box full of unusual musical instruments, each accompanied by a letter.
Join her as she learns about a homemade, pedal-powered organ, the different uses for a drainpipe and Bob Dylan’s unwanted harmonica. Each quirky instrument reveals a story from Del’s family history that lead her to a decision about her future.

This novella is accompanied by an album of music by Mick Bordet that includes all the instruments featured in the story as well as an illustrated colour booklet with photgraphs of everything used in creating the album.

Production: Mick’s an audio geek and as such the quality is good.

Grade: A

Cast: Mick gives all of the characters their own unique voices. I noticed one or two inconsistencies, but generally he does a great job.

Grade: B+

Story: A lot of the fiction I read these days is full of snark and sarcasm. There’s quite a bit of darkness as well. I’m not sure how much of that is self inflicted, given my reading choices, and how much of it is what’s on book shelves these days. This collection of short stories was a breath of fresh air. There’s a sweetness in them that’s rare. I recall at least one “Awwwww!!” moment and he pulls it off without being cloying or schmaltzy. These tales are also different from what I usually read in that they’re not “genre” tales. They’re straight literary fiction.

I really had a lot of fun listening to them.

As an aside, the synopsis says that you get a bonus. Mick produced music inspired by and using the instruments in the stories. Can I just say that I’m jealous of the level of talent on display here. Whether or not the music is your cup of tea (and I haven’t listened to the album yet), just the thought of the effort he put into them boggles my mind. He includes snippets of the songs in the stories and they add another layer of depth.

Grade: A+

Verdict:  You should really give these a listen. In case it’s not evident I’m a fan. For that matter you should subscribe to the Every Photo Tells podcast where you’ll get at least two or three stories a month. I can’t promise they’ll all be this good. It’s an anthology podcast with authors of varying skill level and experience. But the nice thing is that if you don’t like one of the stories there are more and different ones coming. If you’re a writer or even if you don’t consider yourself one, but have always wanted to try, consider submitting a story.

Grade: A

Podcast Link
Every Photo Tells

Review – Purgatory by Tim Dodge (Podcast)

Purgatory-cover-final-sm I’ve been friends with Tim for a while. I was hunting for something short to listen to on a recent road trip and thought I’d give his story Purgatory a try.

Synopsis:Charles Cunningham, a wealthy real estate developer, dies unexpectedly and finds himself in Purgatory, the place between heaven and hell. Though depressed about his early death, he befriends two other souls doing time there — the writer Edgar Allan Poe and a music-loving deadbeat named Billy. Upon receiving a letter from God telling him he must learn some unnamed lessons before he can go to heaven, he convinces Poe to join him in the portal back to earth. They hope to make up for their past mistakes, but they arrive on earth in the year 2049, 42 years after Charles’ death. Traveling from mid-21st century New York City to Las Vegas, Charles seeks out the daughter he neglected in life, though she is now in her eighties. However, an unfriendly soul from Purgatory follows them to earth. This soul, an employee with whom Charles had an affair and summarily fired, is determined to keep him from winning passage to heaven. She teams up with Charles’ grandson, a debt-ridden gambling addict who has a talent for messing things up. Together, they hatch a deadly scheme to foil Charles’ plan to get to heaven and net the grandson badly-needed money. Charles learns of their plans and enlists his friends to help stop them. Will they succeed?

Production: I dinged Tim on my review of Acts of Desperation for his audio quality. There was no paper rustling. There was some breathiness and he could use a pop-filter. I hope he can invest in some better audio gear for future endeavors. I’ve heard a lot worse, but this will bother some people enough to take them out of the story.

Grade: C-

Cast: Tim reads this himself. He does a good job, particularly voicing the character Billy. It’s largely a straight read.

Grade: B-

Story: This is billed as a “comedy”. It’s only true in the classical sense. There are some smiles here and there. There’s also a bit of tension as Charles, Ed, and Billy try and stop a dangerous plot. My outright favorite part of this story were the interactions between Charles and Ed. Tim nailed the character of Edgar Allen Poe.

The religious aspects of this story are a bit on the “soft” side. This is basically a morality play. We get to watch the characters as they deal with the repercussions of their actions both in this life and the life after. Some of them succeed and others fail. It’s hinted at that the failures will get another try. Makes me wonder what the Hell in this universe would look like and who would be there.

Don’t expect a treatise on the afterlife along the lines of Mur Lafferty’s Afterlife series. Do expect a fun listen with engaging characters and a dash of sci-fi.

Grade: B+

Verdict: I sense that his writing is stronger this go around. If you’re not an audiophile or a religious purest give this a listen. I think most folks would enjoy it.

Grade: B-

Podcast Link
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Review – Sense Memory (Podcast)

sensememamazon I’ve long been a fan of The Roundtable Podcast, so when I heard that Brion Humphrey had a podcast novel out, I was excited to give it a listen. I love thrillers. I felt pretty confident that the story would be good and the reading very good. So how do I feel about Sense Memory? Read on.

Synopsis: If our memory is the thing that shapes and defines us, that informs who we are at our very core, then God help us all…for memory, is a wicked and deceitful wretch. Thrust into a search for his own sister’s killer, Benjamin Cady flees Colorado and the only world he understands to scour the streets of Los Angeles, plagued by headaches and memories of murder. He quickly discovers that L.A. is not unknown to him, and as his memories of his sister’s death become clearer, so does the possibility that Ben himself may be the murderer. Lieutenant Jim Banquer has plenty of bodies, but every witness seems to be suffering from a mysterious form of amnesia. Investigating these deaths means he must piece together the scattered shards of a deadly power scheme that goes well beyond murder, and Ben is the key. Sense Memory is a psychological thriller that weaves an intricate web of doubt and intrigue as it goes, leaving no thread unstrung. A sure page-burner, this story will stay with you long after the smoke clears.

Production: The sound quality is excellent. The music chosen for the intro is appropriate. I didn’t notice any flubs or repeats.

Grade: B

Cast: Brion provides all of the voices for this podcast. He has a theater background and it shows. His touch with female character voices is light but appropriate. There’s one character voice that jars me out of the story nearly every time its so over the top, but that almost makes sense, since the character himself is also over the top.

Grade: B+

Story: This is the first novel that Brion has put out there for us to savor. It’s a good first outing. The first couple of episodes are setting up the characters. For some people that may make the pace seem a little slow. The last few chapters make up for that apparent slowness.

The characters are fairly well done. In a few cases they threaten to slip into caricatures/archetypes. In one or two cases they fall right into the thick if them. I’m fond of Ben, the protagonist, but the character I would have loved to see more of was Sonia.

I have a couple of gripes with the story. The first and largest is the supernatural/paranormal aspect. I won’t go into detail, but the “power” displayed and how the people who wield it do so are a bit uneven. How they got the power and how they’re connected is also pretty vague. I don’t mind a bit of ambiguity in my story, but if you’re going to do something new in this realm at least a little explanation of what’s going on is appreciated.

My second gripe revolves around point of view. There’s some degree of head hopping going on. That makes some degree of sense given the subject matter. For me it’s a matter of personal preference, but if you’re going to tell a story in third person limited, then save the POV changes for chapter breaks. Don’t do it within the chapter. I would have loved this story strictly from Ben’s point of view.

So, how’s the writing? In a story that’s called “Sense Memory” you can imagine that the role of senses is important. Brion does a bang up job describing things, almost to a fault. This leads to some repetition and that can slow down the pace. That’s something that you don’t want in a thriller. The sensuousness lent it an almost lurid, pulpy feel. I liked that where it wasn’t excessive.

Grade: B-

Verdict: I enjoyed this story, but I enjoyed Brion’s performance more. There were chunks early on where I might have strayed if I’d been reading this. His solid voice acting kept me coming back. I will definitely be coming back when Brion puts out his next works. As I understand there will be more with these characters down the line.

Grade: B

Podcast Link
Amazon Link

Review – Shaman, Healer, Heretic (Podcast)

SHH-2012-300 Quite a while back I shouted out to the Twitterverse that I needed a new podcast novel to listen to. Shaman, Healer, Heretic by M. Terry Green came highly recommended. Did I like it? Read on.

Synopsis: Even for a techno-shaman, a kachina in the bedroom isn’t exactly part of the drill. When Olivia Lawson wakes to find one towering over her, she panics. A Hopi god visiting the real world isn’t just wrong–it’s impossible.

Or is it?

Soon Olivia learns that the kachina is the least of her worries. As she struggles to save her clients, clashes with other shamans, and fends off the attacks of real-world vigilantes, Olivia finds herself in the destructive path of a malevolent ancient force intent on leaving the spiritual realm to conquer this one.

Left with few options, Olivia is forced to defy centuries of shaman prohibitions. As she and her allies risk everything in their bid for survival, Olivia ultimately learns that the rules are there for a reason and that breaking them has a terrible cost.

Production: Solid audio all the way through. With Podiobooks that’s not surprising. This is a straight read with minimal production values.

Grade: B+

Cast: This is read by Terrry. She does an excellent job, though I must say that this is read, rather than performed. That’s okay as it’s well read. The story also helps on the rare occasion that the reading is a little on the low key side.

Grade: B-

Story: When I first started listening to this I went in blind. I don’t think I even read the above synopsis. As a result I thought that this would be a cyber-punk/Shadowrun type of story. In a way it is. The shamans in this story are able to use technology that makes working in the “multiverse” similar to the way the ‘net is portrayed in those genres of story. Whether they use technology or not, the other side and how they experience it varies from shaman to shaman.

I really enjoyed the story itself, but the characters were very well done and were perhaps stronger than the story. Not a bad thing at all. I particularly liked SK who acts as a Fixer/manager for the Shamans in his world. I’d enjoy seeing more from his perspective and perhaps even a story written completely about him. Olivia, the story’s protagonist, is likable, believable, and grows during this story. This is the first of a trilogy and I’ll be interested to see if she continues to gain depth.

There was one big thing and a couple of little things about this story that bothered me. A late reveal, where the side villains make themselves known, didn’t really work for me. Throughout the story the Big Bad, in the form of Tiamat, takes center stage. Other than a couple of scenes where we see someone working with Tiamat in the shadows, the bad guys are working entirely off stage. As a result they aren’t really very well developed. I realize that the author wanted them to be mysterious and she threw a few red herrings into the plot, but what could have been a great reveal fell flat. Part of that had to do with the brief span of time between the reveal and the conclusion of the story.

The minor problems involved two important themes that I think needed to be used more (and perhaps may in latter books). The first is the notion that shamans are treated by society at large with mistrust and in some cases hatred. I liked that and there could have been more conflict with that as its cause worked into the story. The other was the notion of old gods and old ways declining in power. This played out both with some shamans who were traditional needing to adapt and with some of the “gods” that the shamans run into in the multiverse. None of these issues detracted much from the story.

Grade: B-

Verdict: This story is a slow burn. There’s some action and no small amount of conflict, but much of the latter is interpersonal. The ‘cast runs at about eleven hours and there are times when it dragged a little. Don’t expect a rockem sockem experience and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Grade: B-

Review – Flashpulp (Podcast)

flashpulpicon This week I’m interviewing something a little different. Up until now I’ve reviewed mostly long form fiction podcasts. Flash Pulp isn’t that. It’s an anthology podcast, but it’s no Escape Pod or Every Photo Tells. All of the stories (except for the occasional guest episode) are written by JRD Skinner. As the carnival barker says though, “But wait there’s more!”.

With the help of audio wrangler, Jessica May, and artist and voice actor, Opopanax, he brings three stories a week to your ears. And that’s not all! They’re serialized. He has ten regular story lines and the occasional one off. While the story lines are all “separate” there’s more than one peek into the other strands, letting us see the interconnectedness.

Synopsis: It’s difficult to give you a synopsis given the aforementioned nature of the podcast. I’ll just crib from the show’s about page:

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

While Flash Pulp is obviously in the tradition of classic radio and magazine stories of the 1930s and ’40s, there exists a trinity of specific modern inspirations for this creation: Warren Ellis, and his constant pushing of format boundaries; Kris Straub, for Ichor Falls, and the persistence of his ideas when he should be focusing on things that actually make him money; and Michael Buonauro, for his work on Marvelous Bob – arguably the seed of this entire mess.

Production: The audio production is solid and reliable. Sometimes Jessica May incorporates sound effects, but overall she ensures a clean, consistent sound.

Grade: B+

Cast: Opopanax provides the voices and narration for every story. If you think writing and interconnecting ten story lines is tough, imagine having to bring these characters to life. She manages to do just that. My particular favorite when it comes to her voices, is that of the narrator from The Murder Plague. That particular storyline is a world I can see Hitchcock dreaming up. Imagine a disease that turns you into a paranoid psycopath. Now imagine that most people have it, but you can’t be sure who does until they come at you with garden shears.

Grade: A-

Story: The writing is generally very good. I’ve run across a few that didn’t work for me. When you’re talking about three hundred plus episodes, I guess that’s going to happen. My favorite part about the entire thing is the arcs JRD has built into the fabric of the universe. Most episodes are stand alone tales that fit within their own arc. Occasionally he throws a two or three parter at us.

I have my favorites. The Murder Plague is up there. I also enjoy Ruby Departed, his take on the zombie apocalypse told through the diary entries of a but kicking young women with an assegai (the Zulu spear). I also like Kar’wick. What isn’t there to like about an immense spider god bent on destroying the world?

Grade: A

Verdict: This is definitely one you need to add to your list. I recommend you start with episode one. While it’s not necessary, it’s certainly the nest option in my opinion. You could listen to each arc on their own as I do believe that there are helpful links to do that from the site.

Grade: A

Sidenote: In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve written one of the guest episodes. I also occasionally contribute audio versions of these reviews for their weekly cast/crew/fan show. That’s right, they have a podcast about their podcast (and their hobbies and a lot of fan generated content).

Review – Prince of Hazel and Oak by John Lenahan

theprinceofhazelandoak Today I’m reviewing The Prince of Hazel and Oak, Book 2 of the Shadowmagic series. It’s written and performed by by John Lenahan.

Synopsis: The eagerly-awaited sequel to Shadowmagic.

Having returned to the real world from Tir Na Nog at the end of the last book, our hero Conor finds himself arrested for the murder of his father.

When he explains to the cops that his dad is safe and well and enjoying life as king of a land of elves, imps and banshees they understandably think he is a nutcase.

That is until he is rescued by Celtic warriors on horseback and taken back to Tir Na Nog, accidentally bringing a policeman with him.

Once safely back in The Land, Conor finds that all is not well. His father is dying, the girl he loves is betrothed to another and a rather confused American cop is wandering around causing havoc.

It falls to our young hero, and his band of friends, to find a cure for the king. On their epic journey they encounter one of the most mystical and dangerous races in The Land, the shapeshifting Pooka, and find their fates linked in ways they could never have imagined.

The Prince of Hazel and Oak is a stunning fantasy adventure that takes fans of Shadowmagic further in to the land and brings back many of the favourite characters from the first book.

Production: The audio quality is solid. There were no repeated lines.

Grade: B

Cast: I tweeted a while back that the two best story tellers to have graced my earbuds are Nathan Lowell and John Lenahan. I’ve no doubt that John’s experiences as a stage magician and comedian play heavily into his ability to take a “straight read” and make it as magical as the plot. He does a wonderful job in bringing his story to life.

Grade: A

Story: This is one of those epic fantasy stories that gives me hope for the genre. His tagline on the novel says “Lord of the Rings for the 21st Century, Only A Lot Shorter.” I love the humor in this, but more so I love the truth. In a market that seems to be glutted with door stops that drag on forever (and a few much shorter works that seem to drag just as much), John has a work of epic fantasy that can and has made reading them (or at least listening to them) fun again.

He’s got a range of characters, old and new, that I care deeply about by the end. His world is well developed and strikes me as a good fusion of Irish folk tales and his own imagination, in the same way that Tolkien’s was a melding of Germanic myth and his own love of language and world building.

There are a few quibbles I have with the ending. Bad things happen to some of the main characters and we’re told rather than shown what happens. This is a first person narrative though, so that’s part of the point of view limitations. I do like first person for this, since it gives us a “real world” perspective into the land of Tir Na Nog. I also wanted a little more of an ending, but there is a third book so it had to leave us wanting more. And as middle books go, this was a lot more than just a bridge between the first and third.

Grade: A-

Verdict: This is one of those podcasts that owned my iPod. I listened to little else. I fast forwarded past opening and closing music because I wanted MOAR PODCAST STORY. I think that speaks for itself.

Grade: A+

Sidebar – This book has been published by Harper Collins. I’ve no idea why they are letting him give this away on Podiobooks (possibly because they’re smart enough to know how great of an audience builder that can be?). Kudos to them, though. I’ll be buying the ebooks (half the price of the paperback, again kudos to the publisher for “getting” it) for my kids.

Available on Amazon

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 https://twitter.com/MikeLuoma.

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


Review – Stolen Time by Keith Hughes (Podcast)

stolen_timeToday I’m reviewing Stolen Time, an audiobook/podcast novel by Keith Hughes. You can follow follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/edgizmo.

Synopsis: Ness Relevant has traveled through time before. Now once again he must use his machine to confront a determined foe. Only this time his personal stakes are even higher. Threatened by his future, he must find a way to save his wife and thwart a mad-man’s schemes for world conquest, or he’ll never regain his stolen time.

Production: The recording quality is very good. The music he chose for the intro is fitting.

Grade: B

Cast: Keith does this in a “reader’s theater” style, voicing all of the characters himself. He does a good job, as he did with his prior podcast outings.

Grade: B

Story: This is the sequel to Borrowed Time (click the title for a review I wrote). If you haven’t read or listened to the first story, go check it out. This is more of a thriller with science fiction elements than a true science fiction story. Keith does a good job building tension. Ness and his wife Angie are working together. She’s been kidnapped in the future and her only hope is for her and her husband to save her and for them both to get to the bottom of why she will have been kidnapped. Sound a little confusing? Well it is a time travel story.

Truthfully, though I enjoyed this story, it illuminates some of the problems I have with the whole “time travel” trope. You often end up with a fair amount of confusion in the characters’ efforts to either set the future or past right or prevent a paradox from happening. The listeners are treated with a little more information on how it works in this world, but since Ness isn’t an expert and the only real expert died in the first book, it remains something of a mystery. What’s important to know is that at one point Ness is chasing himself through time and helps himself to save himself more than once.

The drawback to this is the deus ex machina of the PDA is used too often. Ness gets in trouble? So long as he can reach the device he’s okay. The final confrontation in the book is a good example of this and of the confusion that can result. That served to rob some of the tension that the story could have had.

So what helped me to overcome that? Angie. I really enjoyed watching her deal with her husband’s adventures in time from the first book (something she wasn’t privy to) and I like watching her get a little bloodthirsty. I’m a sucker for women who kick butt. Ness wasn’t as well developed of a character in this one as he was in the first book. Maybe the inclusion of Angie as a more active character in the book contributed to that.

Grade: B-

Verdict: There were some definite weaknesses in Stolen Time, but I did enjoy it. If you want some lighter fare with a good dose of action then this might be the podcast for you. It gets moving quickly and if time travel is your bread and butter then add it to your MP3 player today.

Grade: B