Tag Archives: podcast

Review – Babcock

Today I’m reviewing Babcock by Joe Cottonwood. I don’t read/listen to a lot of straight up fiction, but the review at View From Valhalla convinced me to give it a whirl.

Synopsis:A fat boy with the blues. A skinny girl who runs marathons. And a con man on the lam. If you liked Clear Heart, or if you liked Boone Barnaby, you’ll like this one, too. The themes are a bit more grown up than Boone Barnaby, but it’s still family-friendly for reading. For any age it’s my brand of writing: humane, down to earth, good-natured, sometimes funny and sometimes sad.

In short, it’s about character. About making music. About family, hard work, about love and loss. Sometimes there’s laughter. Sometimes the lights are off in the kitchen; papa’s got blues. But always life is rich and deeply moving…

Babcock is part of the San Puerco trilogy, which makes it a companion book to Boone Barnaby: same characters (plus a few new ones) and more adventures in the scrappy little town of San Puerco. The book won awards as a novel for children, but it has many adult fans, too. Most of the issues appeal to an adult perspective as well as a child’s, though with different understanding. Other issues, of course, only a young person can understand. That’s life. That’s rock and roll.

Production: Excellent audio quality. A great use of music that was apparently composed just for the book.

Grade: A

Cast: Solid voice acting on the part of all involved. Joe does a few of the voices himself as well as the narration.

Grade: B

Story: Like I said up front, this isn’t usually my literary cuppa tea. Still I’m glad I took the leap. It’s well crafted, touching, engaging, and hits every note.

Grade: A

Verdict: I will definitely be seeking out the rest of his works. I’ll probably even get my twelve year old to listen. There are one or two instances of strong words, but given the circumstances in the story I don’t have a problem with that.

Grade: A

Review – Compensating Controls

Today I’m reviewing Compensating Controls by James Keeling.

Synopsis: Nicholas Edgwood rides a wave of good karma–a job he excels at, a new girlfriend, and a bright future. When he gets framed for a cyber-crime he did not commit, he must run for his life while his entire world crumbles around him.

Betrayal and murder replace peace and hope as he finds himself in unfamiliar territory. He may not be the biggest and baddest guy out there, but he has skills, the kind garnered from a career steeped in computers and code. Now he must leverage these skills to their fullest to stay above ground and breathing. It will take all of his talent, and courage he may not have, just to survive.

Production: Good audio quality. I don’t remember any glitches. Good use of music.

Grade: B

Cast: James does all of the voices for this production. This leads to him doing female voices as well as some accents. Interestingly enough I like his voice acting better than his straight narration.

Grade: B

Story: This is a solid techno-thriller. While you don’t have to be a geek to enjoy it, if you are one it won’t hurt. James handles the technical end of things well (since he is a geek after all). This seems like, and I believe is, a first novel. The writing could be stronger. There’s some unevenness in tone and occasional word choices that bugged me. The biggest example of the former is an interrogation scene that was more horror then thriller.

Grade: B

Verdict: This is an enjoyable podcast novel. I looked forward to each installment, even going so far as to bug James for the next one when I caught up to it. It’s wrapped up at his site and Podiobooks so you won’t have to wait as I did.

Grade: B

Review – Fables of the Flying City

Today I’m reviewing Fables of the Flying City by Jared Axelrod.

Synopsis: Ashe, a young woman from the streets of the flying city of Amperstam learns what it takes to be a member of the Aerial Guard, and finds herself at war with an invading empire and the rulers of the city she has sworn to protect!

Production: The audio here is very solid. Jared is a podcast pro. There’s no added production overhead.

Grade: B+

Cast: This is a straight read. Jared does most of it. There are a few episodes where he has a guest voice. All three voice actors do wonderful jobs with their segments. My favorite are the Hanner Gatling segments.

Grade: A

Story: This is a wonderful story. It’s a prequel for a graphic novel that will be coming out soon. He’s done a good job of setting up the world and characters. It has a very pulp, steampunk feel, but this isn’t just our world with gears tacked on. There’s some definite mystery here and this world is a different place than our own. Ashe, the protagonist is a wonderful character that we see grow and change, but as can happen from time to time, there’s an ancillary character that steals the show when she’s on stage: the afore mentioned Hanner Gatling. I’d kill for a Hanner-centric story.

Grade: A+

Verdict: This is a podcast to not be missed. I had the pleasure of being at the launch party at Balticon last year and I can say that it lived up to my own internal hype. Fair warning for those who don’t like short episodes, I think most of these clock in at about ten minutes each. Still, it’s done now so you can mainline it!

Grade: A

Review – Peace Lord of the Red Planet

This week’s review is of Peace Lord of the Red Planet by Steven H. Wilson

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.

Grade: B

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.

Grade: A-

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.

Grade: B+

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.

Grade: B+

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.

Review – Fetidus: The Damned Heir

This week’s review is of Fetidus by James Durham

Synopsis: FETIDUS: The Damned Heir by James Durham is the first sci-fi/horror novel and original music score set in the grim and fetid alleyways of a post-apocalyptic Washington, DC, circa 2034. In this first novel, Art Blanchard, a jaded Washington lobbyist who works for The Foundation for the Ethical Treatment of the Innocently Damned, Undead and Supernatural (FETIDUS), takes up the blackmail case of a mysterious woman, which leads him on a twisted adventure filled with noir-humor, suspense and horror.

Production: James does audio production for a living. He’s also a musician and composer. It shows in every bit of this podcast. He won a Parsec for it and it was deserved, even though at the time he won it, it had not yet finished. Fetidus seems not so much produced as sculpted. The music and sound effects accentuated every bit of the story.

Grade: A+

Cast: Fetidus uses a full voice cast. Most of the people involved are pros, possibly all. As such, they do a marvelous job with their various roles.

Grade: A+

Story: This is a modern noir. There’s a healthy dose of violence and sex, though the former is more explicit than the latter. There’s a lot going on here and in that sense it’s perhaps more complicated than its cinematic predecessors. Of course he injected vampires, zombies, and a horrific apocalypse into it as well. Taken all together there are times when it almost seems like too much. It’s easy to get overloaded with plot threads in addition to the world building that he’s done here. If you’re looking for a straight forward romp, this ain’t it. It also gets really, REALLY dark and there are times where the violence is a bit too much for my taste.

Grade: B+

Verdict: I heartily endorse this podcast. In case it’s not obvious I think it’s one of the top ones out there and it earned the Parsec. Odin rightly dinged it for it’s release schedule, since it did go through a reboot. There are good reasons for that that I won’t go into since they’re immaterial now. You as a new listener have the benefit of all the episodes being out there for your consumption. If you’re into noir and zombies I’m frankly surprised you haven’t already listened to it!

Grade: Solid A

Glorious Self Promotion

Just wanted to drop a quick note on two things that have happened recently.

First, I dropped the new, extended version of “Fetch” on Smashwords. You can check it out here. The first half is available for you to read or you can listen to the audio version on the Every Photo Tells site. They were kind enough to drop a blog post about it today, too.

Second, JC Hutchins, author of 7th Son and Personal Effects: Dark Arts, had myself and Zach Ricks on his podcast to talk about Flying Island Press. It was a blast and you should listen to it ASAP.

Review – The Guerrilla Poet

I’m going to start reviewing podcasts as I complete them. Since I believe in stealing only from the best I shall be using a format similar to Odin at View from Valhalla. I don’t promise that these reviews will be as good or as regular as his, but I will dedicate this first one to him. Go over to his site. He’s reviewed sixty-three podcasts (including Archangel: Valley of the Shadow).

So, onto the review for The Guerrilla Poet by Keith Hughes.

Synopsis: What if by simply Writing a Word you could build a wall, light a fire, or cloud someone’s mind? In an environment like this Alan Porter struggles to use his talents to overthrow a totalitarian government that controls the masses by controlling Words. Access to Writing materials is restricted, and creating Verse without a license is severely punished. Raised in this atmosphere of systematic censorship, Alan heeds the irresistible call of Words to create a better world.

Now Alan gathers people who will fight with him to bring about a society based on freedom. In a war where the weapons are stylus, paper, and Words, he is the only one who can lead the battle and show the way to victory, a fight that Alan Porter wages even long after his death, because he is the Guerrilla Poet.

Production: The audio quality is good and he does use some musical cues and some light effects. In a world where podcasters seem to go overboard on these things, I like a light touch.

Grade: B

Cast: This is a straight read a la Scott Sigler. For those of you not “in the know” on the reference that means that Mr. Hughes, like Mr. Sigler, does give each character their own inflection and tone. While I wouldn’t say that Hughes is anything like a voice actor, I can say that this didn’t detract from the story and did serve to distinguish characters. His reading of the narration is done in his own voice and his reading style is what I would call a bit soothing. Perhaps not ideal for a story that involves a fair amount of tension.

Grade: B

Story: This is a story within a story. While the synopsis would lead you to believe that this story is all about Alan Porter, the titular poet, there is a framing device around it. I think that this story would have worked better simply as the story of Porter, told in first person perhaps, that served as a prequel for what’s going on in the “here and now” world of Trev Haroldson. The frame seems to weaken both stories a little. The villains were also more than a little two-dimensional. Still, there’s a strong dystopian sci-fi vibe with a dash of fantasy and I like the characters and end up caring about them all. That goes a long way towards smoothing over the story cracks. I also like the world he developed and how it feels one world removed from our own.

Grade: B-

Verdict: The more podcasts I listen to the more I like to “mainline” them. That is, I wait til production finishes and consume them in large chunks. I did that with this one and it definitely had me coming back to it time and again. I would say if you’re looking for a new author this is one that deserves to be checked out. If you decide to listen, give it a few episodes, because it does get off to a little bit of a slow start.

Grade: B

Fetch – A Winter's Eve Ghost Story

I was inspired by the awesome podcast, Every Photo Tells, to write a story. Every month they post a picture and encourage their listeners, or anyone really, to turn in a one to five thousand word story based on it. You as the author retain all rights, but they record and release your story as a Creative Commons licensed episode. It’s a wonderful outlet.

This is part of the picture that inspired me.

It’s winter time and I thought the perfect story would involve ghosts. I love Ireland and it just seemed fitting to write a ghost story set there. After a little research I came up with an appropriate bogey man and hammered away until it was done.

You can listen to the story here and I would encourage you to do so and to leave a comment. You should also subscribe. I’ve heard some lovely stories and there are more to come.

My story doesn’t end there though. I ran into some interesting characters in this universe and will be fleshing the story out over the next week or so. I anticipate releasing the expanded version on Smashwords for sale once it is done. So if you enjoy the situation and characters keep your eyes trained on this site or on Twitter and I will let you know when it’s available!

E-Book Chat

James Melzer, Drew Beatty, and I have a nice chat on ebooks, podcasting and publishing.


Drew Beatty

James Melzer

Scott Roche

Paul E. Cooley

Zach Ricks

Jennifer Hudock

Critters.org E-book Pricing Survey

Jake Bible

Podcast Survey

Alan Middleton, podcast fan (and better yet Archangel fan) and associate professor at Ohio University wants us to fill out this podcast survey. It’s not over long as these things go and asks some good questions. It will be available for five weeks and he hopes to have the results available in a few months. He’ll be putting them in a paper and providing them to the community at large to help us learn a thing or two about our listeners’ habits. This is everything from how they listen to the kinds of ads they like/don’t like.

Help a brother (and our community) out by taking a few minutes and filling it out!