Podcast Review #98: Marco and the Red Granny

•14 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published September 12, 2011

Title: Marco and the Red Granny
Author: Mur Lafferty
Genre: Science Fiction
Released: 8 Feb 2011 – 25 Feb 2011
Located:PodibooksiTunes
Formats Available: Podcast, eb00k
Rating:; PG13: Violence

I’ve listened to a lot of podiobooks. A lot of them. Ms. Lafferty is one of the biggest names in podcast fiction. She’s earned that place by right of her efforts and commitment to providing a well told tale. I previously, (review 9) reviewed her novel Playing for Keeps. I’ve listened to most of the rest of her works as well, so when I recently discovered her novella, Marco and the Red Granny, I gave it a listen.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: By bringing back the patronage system, a new alien species has transformed the moon into the new artistic center of the universe, and Sally Ride Lunar Base soon gains the nickname “Mollywood.” These aliens can do amazing things with art and the senses, allowing a painting, for example, to stimulate other senses than simply sight. When someone asks a starlet, “Who are you wearing?” she could as easily say “J.K. Rowling” as she could “Gucci.”

Every creative person in the world wishes for a patronage. It’s quite competitive.

Marco wanted one, once. But then his girlfriend got one and shuttled off to Mollywood for fame and fortune, and Marco stayed home, waiting for his own patron. After several years, he gave up entirely. His career faltered. His agent dumped him. And then, one morning, he gets a call. At last he has a patron, at last the aliens want him. But he’s about to find out that an artistic patronage isn’t what it was in the good old days, and that the only friend he’s made, a tiny old woman who’s the star of a blood sports reality series called The Most Dangerous Game, has secrets of her own. (Stolen from iTunes)

Production: Although this story is written by Ms. Lafferty it is read and produced by someone other than the author. I’ve never quite understood why some authors go this route. I’m sure there is a plethora of solid reasons for doing it, but when you have the talent and experience Ms. Lafferty has, I was surprised to find her not at the helm of this one. That being said, the narrator and, I assume, producer is Devo Spice. Mr. Spice did a very nice job with the production. The sound quality is consistent and nothing really jarred me out of the moment. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles, other than another musical sequence by Beatnik Turtle.

Grade: B+

Cast: As previously stated, this story is narrated by Devo Spice. He does an adequate job of reading the story and provides vocals that never make it difficult to understand the point of view of the character that is speaking. While I was a bit disappointed that Ms. Lafferty wasn’t reading, I wasn’t disappointed with Mr. Spice.

Grade: B+

Story: Marco and the Red Granny starts out light hearted and almost comedic in many ways. As the story progresses, it becomes a bit of something else. Social conscience? Political? Perhaps. Perhaps something else as well. Regardless, it stays within the boundaries Ms. Lafferty sets out. There is no shark jumping here.

Grade: A-

Verdict: I liked Marco and the Red Granny quite a bit. I think most fans of Ms. Lafferty would agree, more importantly, I think most people would agree. This story is a novella is over relatively quickly, but it is long enough to have developed a decent plot and it kept me sufficiently entertained throughout.

Disclaimer: I have never met Ms. Lafferty. I have never tweeted with Ms. Lafferty. In fact, she doesn’t follow me, nor I her. I should probably correct that. I know she can be found on Twitter: @MightyMur. I have listened to many of her stories and am beholding to her for her participation in the podiofiction community.

Podcast Review #97: The Devil’s Deep

•14 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published September 5, 2011

Title: The Devil’s Deep
Author:Michael Wallace
Genre: Adventure/Crime
Released: 6 August 2011 – 21 August 2011
Located:PodibooksiTunes
Formats Available: Podcast, ebook
Rating:; PG13: Violence

To be honest, I’d never heard of the author Michael Wallace. In my personal reading habits, I occasionally read adventure/crime/mystery stories, but for the most part, I’ve tended to review mostly science fiction and fantasy. I believe the the podcast was mentioned to me by Nathan Lowell. I can’t remember if he recommended it or just mentioned it in passing. It doesn’t matter. When Nathan casually mentions a story to me, I usually take it to heart. I haven’t been disappointed yet. I didn’t know until today while researching Mr. Wallace that he had been picked up for a 5 book deal by Amazon’s new imprint, I believe The Devil’s Deep will be one of the stories included in that sale.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: Chad Lett is a mute witness to an attempted murder. He suffers from total paralysis, locked within a prison of his own mind. After years of silence, he establishes contact with a young nurse’s aid through a single blinking eye, but then she is abducted and a staff member begins to administer dropperfuls of cleaning solution into his communicating eye.

A heart-pounding thriller that will stay with the reader long after the last word is read, the Devil’s Deep travels from the hell of a long-term care facility to the rain forest of Costa Rica. And a crime committed under tropical waters, the dive known as El Bajo del Diablo—the Devil’s Deep. (stolen from podiobooks.com)

Production: The production of The Devil’s Deep is a bit rustic. It isn’t bad, but you can hear the static in the background a bit more than on many of the current crop of podiobooks. You can also hear from place to place a rushed edit from a re-recording of a line or two. The music selected for the podcast doesn’t really seem to fit the tone of the story either. However, none of these things made it overly difficult to listen to The Devil’s Deep or takes you out of the story.

Grade: C+

Cast: Mr. Wallace provides his own reading of his story. I always like this. Mr. Wallace’s reading is sufficient without being “polished”. His voice isn’t the sonorous voice of many of the podcasters out there, but then, neither is mine. I liked his reading and enjoyed the way he told his story.

Grade: B+

Story: The Devil’s Deep is really a straight forward story, much more in the realm of adventure/thriller than what I would call a mystery. Not that anyone has called it a mystery to my knowledge, but I was just making the point. There are several stories lines being told throughout the story that come together nicely at the end. The characters are well develop and continue to evolve throughout. This is nice and it didn’t go unnoticed.

Grade: A-

Verdict: If you’re looking for something out of the spec/fict rut you’ve been in, give The Devil’s Deep a listen. I quite enjoyed it and will quite probably be reading the rest of his novels at some point in the future. If I do, you will see them reviewed in our new Book Review section.

Disclaimer: As mentioned above, I’d never heard of Mr. Wallace before subscribing to this story. I have no idea if he’s on Twitter. I was not offered, nor did I receive, anything in compensation for this review.

Podcast Review #96: Edict Zero (Season 1)

•13 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published August 29, 2011

Title: Edict Zero
Author: Jack Kincaid
Genre: Science Fiction
Released: 9 September 2010 – 19 May 2011
Located: iTunesAuthor’s Site
Formats Available: podcast only at this time
Rating: R for violence and language.

Way back in the early days of these reviews, around episode 28, I reviewed a horror novel by Jack Kincaid entitled Hoad’s Grim. It was a mixed bag early on, but by the end I was enjoying it. At least I enjoyed it enough that when several people suggested I listen to his new audio drama, I decided to give it a shot.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: EDICT ZERO was its original name, a codename assigned to a destination planet and the mission to reach it. New Earth, like Old Earth, is a planet of mostly water, but with even less land. It is a small world of five islands, each island a state in The Federation : the democratic entity otherwise known as ‘Edict Two’ which governs the bulk of humanity.Under the broad authority of its Attorney General, the civilian law enforcement utility Edict Three is a cluster of collaborating agencies such as the FIS — an initialism for Federal Investigative Services. Like other agencies in Edict Three, the structure of the FIS is an amalgam of the Old Earth law enforcement agency models deemed most effective by historians and E-2’s founding fathers.In response to the cataclysmic events on New Year’s Day of the year 2415, the FIS assembled a task force at their headquarters in Capitol City to find the responsible party, eliminate the danger posed to the public, and deliver justice for the victims.In acknowledgement of the severity of the threat and the accordingly devastating consequences which could arise from the slightest oversight, Assistant Director Alan Dockstader authorized a special unit of the task force to pursue unusual leads and the alternate outside-the-box theories those leads may support.”Edict Zero – FIS” focuses on this small team of special agents and their investigations, which will put them at odds with the highest authority of humankind:Edict One.

Whose secrets are getting harder to keep. (Stolen from the author’s site)

Production: The production on this audio-drama is lavish. Truly that is the only word I can think of to describe it. Seriously, I don’t believe a single second of any episode goes by that doesn’t have some sound effect competing for your attention. Oh, wait. Does that sound negative? I guess it does. And, I guess it should. A bit. Most of the time it isn’t a big deal, but occasionally, these effects do compete for my attention. Maybe it’s just my ADD. Also, the panning of actors voices when there doesn’t seem to be a reason occasionally disrupted the story for me. Still, the production is extremely well done, and it is hard for me to grade it harshly. The story has nine eps for this season. Nine LARGE eps. Each one weighs in at over an hour. So, when you decide to listen, set aside some serious time.

Grade: A-

Cast: The cast is top notch with names you’ll recognize from other podcasts. Phil Rossi, James Keller, Julie Hoverson and Tanja Milojevic to name just a few. For a full list check the author’s website. Each of these individuals does an outstanding job voicing their character and makes it believable and real.

Grade: A

Story: Edict Zero is a cop drama set in a future world with elements of the fantastic thrown in. Some of the episodes meander around a bit (well, okay, a lot) in an, I can only assume, effort to make the characters more realistic. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I found myself really disliking the meandering musings of one of the main detectives. Even less enjoyable to me were the rants of one of the hunted, Captain Socrates. I know that they are probably other listeners favorites, and that is the great thing about a story with a large cast. Everyone can choose which characters they choose to love and hate while still being able to enjoy the overall story. Again, if you can purposefully make me dislike a character, as an author, you’ve done your job. I’m not sure these characters are supposed to be disliked, but regardless, they didn’t do much for me.

Grade: B-

Verdict: I enjoyed Edict Zero. I don’t know if I enjoyed it as much as some, but it was a story that kept me interested through each large ep. With the production issues I mentioned, there were times when I found my mind wandering, but that might have been more my fault (and ADD) than the fault of the author. I liked Edict Zero, and if you like a cop dramas and/or futuristic psycho dramas, I’m sure you will too.

Disclosure: I mentioned I was listening to Edict Zero shortly after I began and was greeted by several friends on Twitter with much enthusiasm for the story. Shortly after, an account with the Edict Zero name began following me. I have no idea who is behind this account. I haven’t conversed with them and I haven’t been offered anything in return for this review.

Podcast Review #95: Matters of Mortology

•13 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published August 22, 2011

Title: Matters of Mortology
Author: T.M. Camp
Genre: classic thriller
Released: 22 June 2008 – 9 August 2008
Located: iTunes
Formats Available: Podcast, Dead Tree, Ebook, Matters of Mortology [Free PDF] (click the link to download)
Rating: PG13 for mature thriller content

I am always looking for good stories to listen to. I admit, like many of you, I’m more inclined to listen to something from an author I’ve previously enjoyed than I might be to listen to something from an unknown. I recently did a call for new material on Twitter and T.M. Camp (@tmcamp) dm’d me wondering if I’d heard Matter of Mortology. I hadn’t, but I do own the novella, and was eager to hear it.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: When a village falls under the spell of a mysterious creature, the local undertaker is called upon to defeat the monster — even if it means sacrificing his family and his faith. Written and read by the author, with music composed by Devin Anderson.

Production: Mr. Camp does a great job with the self read. At least in my opinion. He might be a little too calm for some listeners taste, but it suits his stories perfectly. His recording studio is a bit echo-y as well. Which, depending on what I was listening to, might also bother me some. However, with the type of reading Mr. Camp does, it puts me in the frame of mind of listening to an author in an auditorium reading, or telling, their story from the stage. Suffice it to say, I liked this allusion and the production worked for me.
Grade: A-

Cast: Mr. Camp does a straight read, and he does a stellar job at it. I have a feeling he has spent many an hour sitting beside a child’s bed and has probably heard, “No daddy, say it like you did LAST time.” He doesn’t go crazy with voices, but he does do a good job and I once again find myself luxuriating in a straight read well done. (To be honest, this was written for a previous review for Mr. Camp’s previous story (see review 34: Assam and Darjeeling), but it is still the truth and I doubt I could say it much better now than I did then.)
Grade: A

Story: Matters of Mortology struck a note with me. Let me just say that from the beginning. It is a novella, and is only four episodes long. However, the first two eps are over an hour and the third and fourth come close, so it isn’t too short to really enjoy the characters that Mr. Camp crafts. And crafts he does. The style of this book might not be for those that like a fast moving dialogue driven story. One of the reasons I liked this story so much is that it put me in mind of many of the Russian stories I’ve read. Mr. Camp made me feel like I was once again pouring over the words of Dostoyevsky in The Brothers Karamazov where the story is told by the author with minimal dialogue rounding out the scenes. Mr. Camp didn’t have to do many voices in his reading, because there is little dialogue in this book. Not something I would encourage many authors to try, but Mr. Camp pulls it off with aplomb.
Grade A

Verdict: Again, I really enjoyed this story. It is a simple tale, and the big reveal is not even treated as such, with the author expecting his readers/listeners to have figured it out ahead of the protagonist. The story is told in the first person and it works very well for this type of tale. While I know that the rule of 4 is often quoted in figuring out whether you will like a story, I think you’ll be able to tell within the first 30 minutes. If for some reason you’re not a fan of Mr. Camp’s voice, he has provided the .pdf for free, and you can download it from above.

Disclosure: I’ve no idea how long I’ve followed Mr. Camp on Twitter. He is a quiet fellow that doesn’t blather on in my stream. Which is unfortunate, because I feel his tweets add much to that stream. I strongly believe his stories deserve more notice than they have received to date.

Podcast Review #94: Max Quick 2: The Two Travelers

•13 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published August 14, 2011

Title: Max Quick 2: The Two Travelers
Author: Mark Jeffrey
Genre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy
Released: 25 March, 2005 – 12 October 2008
Located:Podibooks, iTunes
Formats Available: Podcast, unsure whether other formats are available at this time
Rating: PG: Violence mild language

I recently read an interview with author Mark Jeffrey. In it he discussed his path from podcast author and podiobook founder to published author. During the course of the interview he mentioned the other titles in his Max Quick series. It occurred to me that I had never followed up on this podiobook founder so I ran to podiobooks and what did I find? A podiobook completed three years ago. So, I dutifully downloaded, plugged in my headphones and the rest is history.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: Five quiet years have passed in Starland, California since the the time of the Pocket. But when a crazed old man shows up with a warning, Max, Casey, Ian and Sasha suddenly find themselves on the run. Max and Ian go through an Arch back to 1912, where a mysterious Machine is under construction that seems connected to Max’s unremembered secret. Meanwhile, Casey and Sasha follow the old man to the strange town of Arturo Gyp.

But there is more afoot than meets the eye: the enemies of Mr. E – the nefarious Archons – are abroad. And when Max is at last eye-to-eye with his secret, he realizes nothing will ever be the same again…(Stolen from the author’s site.)

Production: Mr. Jeffrey does an excellent job with Max Quick 2: The Two Travelers. There are a few repeated lines over the course of the entire book, but not too many and the music and sound effects are inserted to good effect. Again, Mr. Jeffrey has chosen to go with a constant sound track, much like a movie. And, also, again, this doesn’t end up being a distraction but rather

Cast: Mr. Jeffrey keeps it simple with a straight read. I believe the cast is larger than book one of the series, and more voices are added. Mr. Jeffrey voices each one more than adequately. The story is easy to listen to and easy to follow.

Story: This is a good young adult story. The kids are a bit older and are a bit more interested in relationships. However, these are handled well and tastefully in a manner that is appropriate. Be aware: The Two Travelers is a much bigger, darker book than it’s predecessor.  While The Pocket and the Pendant is suited and even targeted towards tweeners, I would definitely recommend The Two Travelers for an audience a few years older. And it’s BIG. The content spans many well spent hours.

Verdict: If you haven’t heard/read Max Quick 1: The Pocket and the Pendant, it has recently been released by one of the big publishers and is currently available. Whether you read it, or download and listen to it, you should be familiar with that story before tackling this one. Once you have listened to the first one, however, I would definitely recommend you give this one a shot.

Disclaimer: I have still never met Mr. Jeffrey. I have still never tweeted with Mr. Jeffrey. Nothing was offered, or accepted, as compensation for writing this review.

Podcast Review #93: The Heavenfield (Book 1)

•13 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published August 8, 2011

Title: The Heavenfield
Author: I G Hulme
Genre: Science Fiction/Horror
Released: 2 February 2009 – 22 April 2010
Located: iTunesPodiobooks, Author’s Site
Formats Available: podcast only I believe
Rating: R for language and violence

I admit, I think I’ve heard of The Heavenfield before last Monday. Heard of it. That’s about it. Perhaps I remember seeing the announcement on Podiobooks that it would be released. Perhaps someone once asked me about it. Regardless, the name was familiar when Tee Morris asked me earlier this week if I had listened to it. Well, I hadn’t. I haven’t even seen it being discussed on Twitter. I had iTunes all ready open at the time, so I quickly searched for it and found it was only 21 episodes long, so I downloaded them all and jumped right in.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: The FIRST of Four parts in the HeavenField story.

“…The world has changed forever; we have opened the door to something which we don’t understand, and that door cannot be closed. I only hope we can change with the world.” The man had a fevered stare, and Thomas found himself mesmerised by his words, obscure as they were.
The man suddenly stiffened, as if hearing a distant noise, then leaned close to Thomas once more.
“They’re coming,” he whispered.

When Grace Palmer and her team of research scientists discover a way into a mysterious world they name the HeavenField, they trigger a devastating chain of events. Bizarre, unexplained murders and attacks on the Project leave scientists trapped in the Field with no way to return. As their air supplies run low and their equipment begins to fail, their nightmares begin to play out before them…(stolen from podiobooks.com)

Production: I have no idea what Mr. Hulme does for a living. Truthfully? I’ve never even heard of him before. However, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out he does something in film or audio. This story is very cleanly produced. It is minimalistic in that all the effects happen well under the audio, and yet, each one completely adds to the story. It is rare for me to give an A+ to production, and a professional might be finding things here that I’m not. I can simply state that The Heavenfield was a joy to listen too.

Cast: Mr. Hulme does The Heavenfield as a self read. Long time readers of these reviews will all ready know, that when done well, I’m a huge fan of the self read. Mr. Hulme does it very well. I enjoyed his telling of his story immensely. If there was one thing that kept me from giving the reading top marks, it is simply that Mr. Hulme’s voice is so relaxing, it had somewhat of a soporific effect on me. Of course, that could have been just me coming off of 2 weeks of vacation and heading back to 10 hour work days. In fact that is quite possible. However, this isn’t a story that you want lots of distractions occurring as you listen. Between my drooping eyelids and the children, I found myself rewinding on more than one occasion.

Grade A-

Story: I’m not entirely sure how to grade the story here. You see, I truly believed The Heavenfield was complete. Well, and truthfully, at least the first three parts are. Mr. Hulme has broken his story into books. When I originally looked it up in iTunes, it had 21 eps. It still does. However, that is a culmination of those first three books. So, while I’ve read the first three books, after having read the synopsis above, I’m guessing a fourth is coming. With that in mind, I’m only going to review book 1 at this time. However, be advised: all 3 books (to date) flow together seamlessly and if you had not been told the story was in parts, you wouldn’t know.

Having said all of that, the story is very good and gets you going from the first chapter. I really don’t usually make up my mind from the first ep, but with The Heavenfield, I was immediately intrigued enough to listen to the rest. The story is split into several threads, and I will say I found one thread less interesting at the beginning, while this is natural, it still felt like I was being kept from what I wanted to hear each time the thread switched back to the referred to storyline. Perhaps this isn’t a negative on the storyline in question, but a positive to the one I was enjoying so much.

Grade B+

Verdict: The Heavenfield was a very interesting and enjoyable science fiction thriller. I, personally, wouldn’t classify it a horror story, but I know some that classify certain eps of Doctor Who or the X-Files as horror. The Heavenfield is only horror when looked at in that vein. I will say that if book 4 never gets written, there are some plot holes and questions that are not answered to my satisfaction, but even with those, I definitely recommend it.

Disclaimer: Until I looked up The Heavenfield, I’d never heard of Mr. Hulme. I have never conversed with him in any manner. I will be following his writing and podcasting in the future though.

Podcast Review #92: Ancestor (Remastered)

•13 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published August 1, 2011

Title: Ancestor
Author: Scott Sigler
Genre: Science Fiction
Released: 7 June 2010 – 22 February 2011
Located: iTunesPodiobooks
Formats Available: dead tree, podcast, ebook, audiobook

One of the first author’s I found when I started listening to podio fiction was Scott Sigler. And the very first story I heard was Ancestor. Due to that, I’ve heard the large majority of his stories and purchased the ones that I’ve enjoyed the most.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: Every five minutes, a transplant candidate dies while waiting for a heart, a liver, or a kidney. Imagine a technology that could provide those life saving organs for a nominal fee…..and imagine what a company would do to monopolize that technology.

On a remote island in the Canadian Arctic, P.J. Colding leads a team of scientists who have discovered this holy grail of medicine. By reverse engineering the genomes of thousands of mammals, Colding’s team has dialed back the evolutionary clock to re-create their common ancestor. The method? Illegal. The result? A computer engineered living creature — an animal whose organs can be permanently transplanted into anyone with zero chance of rejection.

There’s just one problem: these ancestors turn out not to be the docile herd animals Colding’s team envisioned. Instead, Colding’s work has given birth to something big, something evil.

……AND IT’S VERY, VERY HUNGRY! (stolen from podiobooks.com)

Production: The production of the remastered version of Ancestor is very good. Even the production in the original version gave me very little to complain about. I liked the original production and I liked the remastered even more. Sigler’s A-Team of A. Kovacs and Arioc Morningstar do an amazing job of providing crisp, clean audio that allows the listener to simply sit back and enjoy.

Cast: Mr. Sigler is always a cast of 1000’s all on his own. He’s often given much crap for female voices, but it is always in good fun because he does a female voice as well as any man can.

Grade A

Story: Ancestor is still one of my top favorite of Mr. Sigler’s works. It is a truly spooky creature feature where science has created the creature and the small group of scientists and staff must now play roulette with their lives.

Grade A

Verdict: Ancestor is still my favorite of Mr. Sigler’s science fiction/horror stories. I love the characters and the creatures are truly scary. If you are a fan of the creature feature, of movies like Alien and enjoy a good scare on a dark snowy night, go ahead and download Ancestor now.

Disclaimer: I do follow Mr. Sigler on Twitter (@scottsigler), and I did purchase a signed hardback copy of Ancestor (with help from Thomas Reed, thank you sir). Yes, the read is even scarier. I mean, then you have Sigler in your head. How much creepier does it get?

Podcast Review #91: A Dance with Demons

•13 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally updated July 25, 2011

Title: A Dance with Demons
Author: Jeff Offringa
Genre: Fantasy
Released: 21 December 2009 – 29 October 2010
Located: iTunesPodiobooks
Formats Available: Podcast and ebook

Rating: PG 13 for Violence and mild language

As a kid, I lived in a fantasy world. Well, I mean I read and lived in the fantasy genre. I cut my readers teeth on Tolkien and had book cases full of Eddings, Brooks, Feist and others. Some of these were well written and actually dealt with “deep” subject matter, others (most?) were just fun and stirred a boys imagination. When this podcast was suggested to me (by @JSterlingS, I think) I ran on over to Podiobooks.com and read the synopsis (yes authors, they do matter) it was a pretty easy decision to slip back into this comfortable genre for me.s

So, on to the review.

Synopsis:

Tarn Nohmal doesn’t want much out of life. Food on the table, a roof over his head, and privacy. But when his old commander shows up and needs someone to track a band of orcs, what should be a simple mission turns out to become an endeavor to stop disaster from spreading across the entire realm of Averim.

Not only is the kingdom threatened from within by a civil war, but the lack of troops on the eastern border seems to be making the orcs bolder. And to top it off, a demon is slaughtering orcs and humans alike. And it’s up to Tarn and his companions; Nyla, a half-elven wizard, and Logan, a human priest raised by dwarves, to stop it before it comes to their home town and slaughters everyone there.

But will there be a home town to return to? The Earl keeps calling troops west to support him in the civil war. The orcs can’t be that big a threat… right?

Step into the world of Aromathus, the creation of author Jeff Offringa, and experience swords and sorcery, military maneuvers, and political intrigue in a place where magic abounds, knights charge gloriously into battle, and the orcs may not be as stupid as they appear…
(Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: The production of A Dance with Demons is erratic. At times it is quite good, at other times it is barely adequate. The approach used is minimalistic with opening and closing music with story between. Some episodes however, sound like you are listening on old vinyl, with pops and hisses beyond what should be expected. Other episodes are free of these distractions and allow you to fully immerse yourself in Mr. Offringa’s world. I do understand how difficult it is to produce a consistent sound, and usually don’t comment on episode by episode changes. These distractions, however, are far from regular.

Grade: C

Cast: This is a  single read story. It is read by someone other than the author, and to my shame, I don’t recall the name. I also cannot find it on the web. I will try to update this post when I have a chance to put on my headphones and relisten to the opening credits of an ep to get the readers name. Regardless, he did quite a nice job, giving life to each of the major characters with accent and inflection.

Grade: B+

Story: A Dance with Demons is pure fantasy. Orc hordes. Demons. A quest by a small hand picked band of adventures. But it also seemed to have elements to me of a story written by someone that has a gamer background. As in Dungeons and Dragons. The company is made up of a half elf girl who is a fighter/mage, a gritty warrior and a cleric. Other mages and fighters join the party for small amounts of time, but the core of the story revolves around the above. It is a simply told story, but that in no way detracts from it.

Grade: B+

Verdict: A Dance with Demons is a big story. If you plan to listen, remember it has 51 eps. Most or these eps are in very easily listened to bites, but 51 is still a lot. I enjoyed A Dance with Demons. With the info I provided in the opening, and the information provided in the review, it should be easy to understand why.

Shameless plug: Don’t forget, if you send an audio comment to me at Odin1eye at viewfromvalhalla dot com, I’ll include it in the podcast version of this episode next weekend (or when I receive it). You can also leave voicemail, for this or any other story, at the Valhalla Hotline simply by calling 956-307-ODIN (6346)

Disclosure: I don’t follow Mr. Offringa on Twitter and I don’t believe he follows me either. I’ve also never had a conversation with him. Nothing was offered or excepted in return for this review.

Podcast Review #90: Last Man Home

•13 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published July 18, 2011

Title: Last Man Home
Author: John Mierau
Genre: Science Fiction
Released: 1 July 2009 – 22 July 2009 – podiobooks, 28 June 2011 – 11 July 2011 – iTunes
Located: Author’s SiteiTunesPodiobooks
Formats Available: Podcast and ebook

Rating: PG 13 for Violence

Not long ago, Review 85 to be exact, I reviewed John Mierau’s Enemy Lines. I enjoyed it and had no problem recommending it to those that were interested in a good science fiction story. After Enemy Lines was complete, I stayed subscribed to Mr. Mierau’s feed and he continued to drop regular pieces of entertainment in the feed. Recently a new story, Last Man Home recently dropped into the feed, and I felt it was worthy of its own review. With Enemy Lines, I believe Mr. Mierau might have had one of the longest stories yet reviewed. With Last Man Home, I’m almost positive he has the shortest.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis:

What happens when the survivors of long-dead Lieutenant Tom Callahan’s squad meet for their annual reunion – and one of the Alotans they spent years killing shows up. An alien going by the name of… Tom Callahan.

“I sprayed a mouthful of beer all over Teddy and Gris when the Bug stepped into the Wildlife Tavern. I wasn’t alone. Rows of grizzled backwoodsmen wore their neighbor’s drinks as the first Alotan they’d ever seen lumbered back to our table. Things like that just didn’t happen in Ladysmith, Quebec (population 1,400).” (Stolen from the author’s site)

Production: John Mierau previously received rather high marks for production, and if anything he only improves that here. I believe I caught one repeated line, but that could have been simply the way the story was written as well . The production is kept to a minimum with no sound effects, and a simple (but very nice, uncredited) guitar rif to open and close the story with. The story is very short with a total length of less than an hour and a half, and I definitely feel like the decision to make the production minimalistic was the right choice.

Grade: A

Cast: Mr. Mierau does this as a strait forward self read. He does a very nice job with it. I would be surprised if there are more than ten voices total, and only four voice or five voices are greatly recurring. He does a fine job of keeping these voices straight and reads them very well.

Grade: A

Story: The synopsis does a descent job of providing a clue on whether you’ll enjoy this story or not. This is a good story and Mr. Mierau tells it in the first person. As stated before, when not done well, I really don’t like first person. Thankfully, Mr. Mierau does it very well.

Grade: A

Verdict: I liked Last Man Home. If you’re a fan of science fiction, and you have an hour and half to spare, I would recommend that you go ahead and give this story a listen.

Shameless plug: Don’t forget, if you send an audio comment to me at Odin1eye at viewfromvalhalla dot com, I’ll include it in the podcast version of this episode next weekend (or when I receive it). You can also leave voicemail, for this or any other story, at the Valhalla Hotline simply by calling 956-307-ODIN (6346)

Disclosure: As stated previously, I do follow Mr. Mierau on Twitter and converse with him on a regular basis. I will be trying to get an interview from him for the audio version of this review.

Podcast Review #89: Black Shadow

•13 January, 2020 • Leave a Comment

originally published July 11, 2011

Title: Black Shadow
Author: Steve Saylor
Genre: Comic Fantasy
Released: 1 December 2007 – 5 May 2008
Located: Author’s SiteiTunesPodiobooks
Formats Available: podcast only

Rating: R for violence and language

I’ve enjoyed comics of many types for many years. I can’t say the superhero mainstream are my favorites, but I own more than one issue of Superman, Spiderman, The Hulk and others. It might have been a decade or more since I’ve purchased a comic, but I still enjoy a good comic type story. I find these to be poorly executed as a genre in podiofiction. As mentioned several weeks ago, I can’t claim to be a fan of the Secret World Chronicles. I’ve also had issues with several other comic series. I did very much enjoy Matthew Wayne Selznik’s Brave Men Run, and though I haven’t listened to Escape Pod in years, I also enjoyed Jeffrey DeRago’s Union Dues stories. So, how did Mr. Saylor’s Black Shadow measure up.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis:

In a world where evil walks the earth, where super villains are taken over by demonic beings . They all want one thing, and one thing only. To take over the world. There is only one man who can stop them. One man with the powers and abilities to kick some serious demon ass. In a race against time to stop a portal that opens to Hell itself. One man, one hero, one sonofabitch you don’t want to mess with.

He is faceless,

He is fearless,

He is… Black Shadow. (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: Okay. You know, I love minimalism. I also love summer popcorn sensationalistic over the top action flicks. Mr. Saylor shot for the latter. He should have settled for the former. I’d say that in 90% of the time, Black Shadow’s production is pretty good. It is full audio drama with multiple sound effects running throughout. Sometimes, I wish it wasn’t. A self read would have made this one more enjoyable for me. In one scene, the hero is in Hell. The cycled sound effects made that episode almost to painful to listen to. Seriously. I almost skipped it. In another ep, the outro music and info was played several minutes before the end of the episode, over the content, then again at the end. Several episodes have several minutes of silence at the end. This 10% became the part that stuck with you and considerably lessened my listening enjoyment.

Grade: D

Cast: Mr. Saylor states this is a story “read by the author”. However, unless he is channeling his feminine side better than any author I’ve yet met, there is at least one female cast member. The majority of the story is done by Mr. Saylor, and though I know he was going for a good comic book sound, they over the top voices combined with the whiney aspect of others was a bit much in several places. Still, you have to appreciate someone going all out for their story.

Grade: C-

Story: Hmmm.. Not sure what to say here. Black Shadow is exceedingly strange in that in many ways it is a mashup of many of the mainstream superhero comics. In a roundabout way, Mr. Saylor even mentions many of the golden age comics. Black Shadow even was born and raised in Smallville, Kansas and was impacted by a famous meteor shower. However, this story has multiple issues and though a valiant effort was made, I feel it fell well short.

Grade: C

Verdict: If you’re a huge fan of superhero comics, you might want to give Black Shadow a shot. I do appreciate Mr. Saylor trying to do something within the genre. However, this story is consistently inconsistent and misses more than it hits. Some of the wording and dialogue left me speechless. And not in a good way. If you have listened to this story, and have a different (or the similar) listening experience you’d like to share, please do!

Shameless plug: Don’t forget, if you send an audio comment to me at Odin1eye at viewfromvalhalla dot com, I’ll include it in the podcast version of this episode next weekend (or when I receive it). You can also leave voicemail, for this or any other story, at the Valhalla Hotline simply by calling 956-307-ODIN (6346)

Disclosure: I’ve never met or listened to anything else Mr. Saylor has produced or written to the best of my knowledge. I don’t believe I follow him on Twitter or that he follows me.