The Hobbit (NPR Dramatization)

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With the third and final Hobbit film coming to the screen, it only made sense to review a Hobbit audio drama. It’s hard to criticize this the same way people do modern audio dramas. A lot has changed and the story itself is a timeless children’s classic. After watching the extended edition of “The Desolation of Smaug,” and finishing the full-cast dramatization of the entire hobbit story, there were a lot of similarities. The scenes that weren’t in the theatrical edition were some of my favorite parts of the audio drama, but felt long and over bloated in the extended cut of the second Hobbit film. The scene that comes to mind is when the biggest dwarf falls in the bewitched water in mirkwood. Despite the narration, the version that appeared on NPR was more engaging. It felt like a part of the story, rather than a scene which was cut from the story.

The story’s ending is the weakest point. Maybe it’s the source material or perhaps it’s the adaptation of the beloved children’s book into an audible medium. Regardless from the moment Smaug is killed it feels rushed. It was bam, bam, bam, and we’re done. There was no time to catch a breath and mourn for the characters who lost their lives in the battle of the five armies. It’s a simple sweeping overview of the battle and its aftermath.

4/5 Stars

Unexpected Ebook Update

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Not sure how long this has been going on, but the ebook: “Audio Drama Reviews: Three Years, 100 Reviews went up to 99 cents on amazon. Now that I’m aware of this, I’m trying my best to make it free again. I ask that you be patient until that time arrives.

If you’d like to support the site or haven’t downloaded a copy yet, feel free to buy the book. Anything over $2.00 (after royalties. I get 35 cents per download) I will use towards keeping the site up and running. I’ll update everyone when the ebook is once again free on amazon.

To the best of my knowledge, Kobo and Smashwords are still free.

I thank everyone for understanding while I get this sorted out.

False Ending

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False Ending is a dark comedy and a good one. The story starts in media res (in the middle of things) and you aren’t quite sure whether you started this episode of “The Truth” podcast near the end instead of the beginning.

Once you make it past the first hurdle of not knowing what the hell is going on, the story takes a darker turn and is immediately followed by a moment of humor. The process is repeated enough times where the creator’s don’t overdo too much of a good thing.

This story is a complete mindf**k and uses humor to soften the blow. Without it, the story would be far too dark.

4.5/5 Stars

The Huntsman Legion 101: The Good Stuff

Huntsman Legion
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The first episode of the Huntsman Legion shows promise with it’s futuristic setting and detective tropes. It’s hard to say whether the rest of the series we’ll be as good, but the “new guy” to the audio drama field knocks  episode one out of the park.

The sound effects aren’t on par with some of the more veteran production companies, but for a first attempt, there’s barely any awkward sounds that sound like they don’t belong in the same room as the characters. A common problem with newer companies.

As for the story itself, it’s a cross between noir and science fiction. There’s elements of a mystery in this particular episode, but often the information is handed out without too much trouble. That’s fine, as it’s not the primary focus of the story. What is the main plot of the story has to do with a illegal operation involving alcohol, hence the title: “The Good Stuff”

All in all “The Huntsman Legion” is something to be on the lookout for as an up and coming series from Crusader’s Media.

4/5 Stars

Synthetic Justice

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One of the best stories about drugs out there in the podosphere. Seriously it feels like you’re on drugs when you listen to it and that’s good considering the subject matter of this story. The ambience and music are a few elements that make this a truly unique experience for the ears.

While this is a short story there is dialogue. It’s hard to tell what’s going on until the end, but that’s part of its mystery and charm. The narrator does a fantastic job in providing rooting interest for the first person POV character with just his voice. If you want someone to read your story for an audiobook or podcast, this guy’s your man.

The dialogue mentioned earlier comes from a non-linear storytelling device. It’s like there’s an A story and a B story and both of them contradict each other somewhat. Another aspect that makes the story non-linear is the scenes in the courtroom. Told only through dialogue, it was like the cast went out of their way to immerse the reader more in the world and that’s something you hardly ever experience.

The one complaint is that the protagonist clearly uses the word “you” near the end of the story, which ultimately draws attention to itself and kicks the reader/listener out of the story. Small problem, but when it comes to POV I’m a stickler—even in films where the POV character isn’t always established.

5/5 Stars

The Seventh Key

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This was a wonderful story with an ending that didn’t quite bring it home. Without going into too much detail, the “what really happened” ending felt overly complex for the sake of being complex, rather than to enhance the story. Twists are a great tool for short stories, but audio seems to hardest medium to tell this kind of story. It can be done well, as in Alone in the Night.

The ending aside, this story hooks you right from the beginning. If you’re a writer, then hearing the protagonist struggle with trying not to rehash the same old stories will hit a cord deep inside and give you immediate rooting interest. Even if you’re not a romance author, like Ms. Applegate in the story, the problems she’s going through are ones which ring true for all fiction writers. If you aren’t a writer, it still gives an interesting insight into the thought process of the average writer.

That alone is worth the price of admission: time.

4/5 Stars

Habitat

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Habitat from Earbud Theater provides both entertainment and acts very much like a thought experiment. The idea behind the story is definitely a “what if” kind of experiment. What if a human was forced to live in an artificially created habitat?

The protagonist of this tale is an astronaut whose ship crashes somewhere out in the vacuum of space. She is rescued by a group of “super brains” who decide to study her in an artificial habitat and give her anything she needs to be comfortable. The problem lies in the difference between want and need as the protagonist goes back and forth on what needs to be happy. Everything from a life in isolation to materialism is addressed in one form or another.

The story does get a bit tedious near the middle. Some try/fail cycles could’ve been cut or shortened to allow a shorter, punchier running time. That said, this story is great for fans of science fiction. While the diehard fans will probably find the author’s use of a classic sci-fi trope to be unoriginal, the execution was brilliant.

Perhaps the best thing about this story is the ending. Right when you think it’s over, the story continues until it reaches a climax that is both powerful and inevitable. The cast does a fabulous job in bringing their dialogue to life, especially in the final moments of the story.

5/5 Stars.

The Strange Case of Springheel’d Jack Series One

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The first episode of this award winning audio drama from the Wireless Theater Company takes an urban legend and twists it into a wonderfully horrific adventure with a bit of an issue with tone. The story is a bit schizophrenic, unsure of what it wants to be. The opening scene and the final one are practically from two different stories in terms of their style and subject matter.

There’s a certain “Neverwhere” vibe coming from the production value as well as the story. The villains act very much like Mr. Croup and Vandemar from the audio adaption of Neil Gaiman’s story about the setting underneath London.

Episode two has a much better time of getting the listener hooked. The amount of twists and turns is just right and by no means convoluted. Where the first episode fails, the second episode uses those traits to springboard off of and takes you by the horns for a wild and fun thirty minutes.

The third episode, like episode one, was hard to find rooting interest in anything. While it shares similarities with Neverwhere: Victorian England and the “Mr. Croup and Vandemar” plot device, the final episode of the series one of this show lacks the power of increasing tension and twists found in episode two.

This may be a case of the ending leaving a bad taste in the mouth. It’s an excellent story idea. The acting and sound effects are great, so it’s not the execution of the idea that’s the problem. Another listen is merited, because I feel I must’ve missed something. But for now I give my rating.

4/5 Stars

Attack on Space Season 1 (Episodes 1-13)

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This show bridges the gap between audio drama and visual entertainment. Plus it’s a fan adaptation of the anime “Attack on Titan.”

This show is posted on a youtube channel. What’s different is that the creators don’t use one image for the entire episode like a lot of people. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, YouTube is another social media outlet for audio drama creators to stretch their wings over.

This series, however, takes the still image idea to the next level. It’s sort of an audio drama slideshow with the script appearing on screen as the actors and actresses say their lines. It’s almost like a passive video game on a gameboy or other handheld device.

People on YouTube are loving the series and the creators are close to finishing, if not done with, the second season. Fans have even sent in reaction videos. The first five episodes area bit sluggish, but the coolness factor of this audio drama/slideshow hybrid is amazing at the amount of thought and care that has been put into the production blows my mind. The visuals can be distracting sometimes, because I’m often looking at the screen for the next bit of dialogue. The story is off to a slow start, but the hybrid-A/V nature of this show is what made me stick around.

After episode 6, the story picks up and takes a semi-darker twist. There are also a lot of characters to get to know. Some of them feel like one-offs who we will never hear again appear again. The depth of these characters is non-existant to some extant. Even Eren—the supposed lead character— barely gets any “screen” time. Season 1 is very much an ensemble cast story. No one character is leading the show. The problem isn’t with the concept (there have been plenty great stories with an ensemble cast), but with the execution. Each scene is from a different character or group of character’s point of view and there’s barely enough time to get to know them as it changes. Again, the listener hardly hears Eren and the only thing we know about him is that his mother was killed in a titan attack and his sister is Mikasa. Other than that, we don’t know he normally acts.This may be a problem with the source material this is adapting from—but Jean, Commander Levi and Sasha are the most interesting characters. The rest didn’t have much life beyond the plot.

Near the end of the first season, when something bad happened to Levi, there was a sense of unfairness towards the commander. The last three episodes turned up the tension notch all the way to eleven and more than made up for the slow beginning.

You can find the show here

5/5 Stars

Alone in the Night

Wavefront Anthologies
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This audio drama has been sitting on my computer for awhile. Part of the Wavefront Anthologies series, from Electric Vicuña and starring Jack Ward of the Sonic Society, Genevieve Jones, Tanja Milojevic (from Pendant Productions’ starring role in “The Line”), along with David Ault and John Bell, this hour long short has both emotional resonance and a twist which rivals the one found in “The Sixth Sense.”

The first quarter of this story is getting the reader up to speed and, at times, it can get tedious. The main character informs the audience via monologue. In the story itself, he is recording himself. The setting is outer space and the ambience and sound effects clearly establish this piece of world building.

The story picks up once the protagonist meets the love interest and the interest arcs upward until the twist, which blew my mind. It was perfect for the medium of audio.

5/5 stars