Synthetic Justice

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

Steelheart

Fantasy author Brandon Sanderson’s first venture into the YA market (The Alcatraz series is middle grade, from what I hear) tackles this issue of absolute power corrupts absolutely into a revenge story that is both surprising and inevitable.

Readers of any age will find the David’s bad metaphors a riot. It blends non-sensical humor found in younger children’s books with the literary styles of a high school English teacher doing a lesson on poetry and focusing on the differences between metaphors and similes. Set in our world, the government considers super powered beings natural disasters. These Epics (humans with super powers) have taken over the United States and unleashed an era of dystopia upon the country. The main plot the book presents is defeating a villain known as Steelheart, who is the most powerful Epic in the former Chicago area. Much like Mistborn: The Final Empire, the story revolves around a group of rebels known as the Reckoners as they try to kill Epics across the nation. Steelheart is going to be their toughest challenge. Luckily Dave has spent most of his life thinking about revenge and how to defeat the Epic who killed his father.

When the third act comes, it hits you. Hard. The battle between the reckoners and Steelheart is both epic and at the same time “down to earth.” With all the revelations happening by the end of the second and third acts, a sequel was inevitable. Sanderson achieves complexity with both his characters and his resolutions, making Steelheart a hybrid of YA and adult, and excellent read or listen all around.

5/5 Stars

Mistborn: The Final Empire (Part 3 of 3)

I remember being unsatisfied by the ending of Mistborn: The Final Empire when reading the book/listening to the audiobook. I thought the way the protagonist killed the bad guy was lukewarm. It wasn’t until reading the author’s annotations on his site that the ending suddenly received weight in terms of its resonance. Needless to say, I went into this 3 part audio drama/audiobook hybrid knowing what to expect in terms of the beats. Graphic Audio did a fantastic job of making the book come to life to another part of my imagination and brain.

It goes without saying that reading and listening to an audio drama both depend on the individual’s imagination more than the visual mediums like television and film. It’s why the idea of a combination is so kick-ass. I said in the review of part one that I found the narration annoying. I tolerated it in part two, coming to expect long passages of the narrator just describing the setting and the characters acting or reacting within it. By the end of the book, it was barely noticeable.

The “real plan” reveal, when I first read it did not have much emotional weight. The actors and actresses performances of the scene after this plot twist occurs was outstanding. I was on the verge of tears at the actresses’ of Vin response. Sometimes experiencing the story in a different light is all one needs to truly understand it.

5/5 stars

Mistborn: The Final Empire (Part 2 of 3)

The middle (part 2 of 3) of this audiobook/audio drama hybrid is easily forgettable. That’s probably due to the lapse in listening I took and because having read/listened to the book, it was hard to differentiate what happened in what part. An event that happened in the beginning of part three could’ve happened at the end of part two. It’s not important, but it does make reviewing these hard. People who listened to this without a 1-2 month gap have larger attention spans than I do. While I enjoy political intrigue, all the ball scenes felt out of place. The tone was too different from the rest of the story. I realize it was necessary for having the plan established in part one to work, but the way it was handled could’ve been better. The sound effects were great. Each metal had a distinct sound, but sounded familiar enough to each other that it could be identified as allomancy. For example, Iron and steel are both external metals, but have opposite effects. One pulls objects towards you, while the other pushes them away. Their sounds are both similar and different, thus adding a certain ambience to the world through the SFX.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Mistborn: The Final Empire (Part 1 of 3)

Originally published on graphicaudio.net

I finished reading the Final Empire sometime in the fall of 2011. However, I don’t remember much of the opening chapters, because I took a long gap of about 3 months before picking the book back up again.

Having read half of the second book in the trilogy, all I can say is “wow” at all the clues and hints I missed.

The one downside is that the narration is sometimes not needed. and seemed to drone on in places. A really good sound effect could do much of the heavy lifting in the “action” department. If I hear a coin being tossed, I don’t need the narrator telling me the same exact thing. It’s redundant.

That aside, it’s a shame that this part ended where it did. The book kicked it into high gear, during the heist planning scene and hearing it again was a real treat. Then again, it got me wanting to buy the second part.

Rating: 4/5 stars

The 33: Episode 1 Pramantha (Part 1 of 4)

Author J.C. Hutchins has a new story out there in the world and, damn it, can it be February 28, please? This is a serialized story released in both ebook and audiobook. The only way to get the audio is via his website: jchutchins.net.

HTML links aside, this series promises to be a great read or listen (or, in my case, both). The introductory scene was confusing at first, but that’s probably the point. The scene goes to a dark place rather suddenly, and from the scene’s conclusion it was smooth sailing until … well, the end of the episode.

The author’s narration is faster than most professional audiobooks and that’s a good thing. Actually it has more to do with pacing, but there was never a moment where my eyes wandered several paragraphs ahead to find out what was going to happen next. J.C. narrates at a similar speed in which we [sentient beings] read.

There’s not much to review in terms of story. From what is in the episode, there was never a moment where it seemed to drag on. The beginning may have been a bit slow, but it ramped up quickly and efficiently all the way to the end. And by the time it reached the end, I was completely caught off guard. Time really does fly by when your having fun.

The Rats in the Walls (Part Two)

Horror in written form rarely scares me. I feel scared for characters, but I hardly ever feel general sense of horror. A few works of the father of the detective story: Poe give me goosebumps like this did, but I confess I haven’t read any Lovecraft. This was my first introduction to his works and now I’m kind of afraid to read his stories, especially in the dark. The narration just brought up the creepiness level that much.

The Rats in the Walls (Part One)

This is a reading, which surprised me in the sense that I wasn’t expecting a reading of an H.P. Lovecraft story. I expected an adaption, though that didn’t ruin my experience. In fact, it was a nice change of scenery for me. My two complaints are the occasional popped P-sounds and the cello’s volume level. At times the cello would be louder, and thus distract me from the story. The popping of the P-sounds, while few in between also had that same negative effect. These are all just nitpicks, but I feel they’re worth mentioning. I do have to give props to the narrator. He did an excellent job in bringing a horror story to life, using just his voice. I felt a sense of genuine horror and tension when listening that I got goose bumps.

Horror in written form rarely scares me. I feel scared for characters, but I hardly ever feel general sense of horror. A few works of the father of the detective story: Poe give me goosebumps like this did, but I confess I haven’t read any Lovecraft. This was my first introduction to his works and now I’m kind of afraid to read his stories, especially in the dark. The narration just brought up the creepiness level that much.

7th Son: Descent (Chapters 4 and 5)

Chapter 4

The proof chapter in which the listener learns that they do have the same memories, but cloning is still in the skeptical pile as Jack (the geneticist) doesn’t believe that humans can clone other humans. And with good reason too. Dr. Mike, Thomas, Killroy 2.0 and Jonathan all sit in their own rooms while Michael (the marine), John (musician) and Jack discuss their childhood and find the evidence that there memories are in fact exactly the same. The other four clones each have their own questions and fears to face.

While I’m not that big on reaction chapters, I felt this was necessary as who wouldn’t be thinking what the clones are thinking after hearing what they heard. The way Hutchins shows how the clones have the same memories is simple, yet creative. And I think that was the best route to go.

Chapter 5

The chapter after the storm starts out just reintroducing the characters. Which is necessary when you have seven protagonists. The focus of the chapter is on Dr. Mike (the criminal psychologist) and how is unwilling to except the truth that he is a clone. It’s an interesting parallel with the POV character, John, who takes the opposite view. It’s a matter of fact vs belief. Dr. Mike has some evidence supporting his claim that all of this is an attempt to brainwash the seven of them. Everyone else barely has any proof, other than the worn out photographs of each of the clones Uncle Carl and Aunt Jaclyn.

It is possible for the listener to be skeptical as human cloning seems impossible with today’s technology in 2011 and this podcast novel was written in 2006. Add in the ability to record, copy and paste entire memories and you get yourself a science fiction story that will divide the readers into two categories: ones that love the book and ones that hate it. Even though previously mentioned in the last chapter, I still had a hard time believing it.

But just like real life, the majority is often right. Same goes for fiction as the six other clones are confident that all seven of them are indeed clones with the same memories of the man dubbed, John Alpha.

7th Son: Descent (Chapters 2 and 3)

Chapter 2

This is where things get interesting, but not a lot is answered. The listener can now conclude, if they haven’t already, that the seven different kidnappings were part of some larger scheme. What makes this chapter interesting is the POV character, John, who has been selected to be the eyes and ears of the listener. For those playing the home game, John is the guitarist. There is a brief flashback as John looks at a cracked mirror and remembers how it became cracked. As to why it’s included at all, I don’t know. After the flashback scene, Killroy 2.0 enters, but we don’t know that’s his name, because we are looking through the eyes of the character. And he isn’t called Killroy 2.0 in the chapter. In fact all the character’s names remain a mystery to John. And even though the listener knows, or should know, all the names from the previous chapter, there is a sense of mystery about them. It’s almost as if J.C. hit the reset button on the story. But instead of it feeling like you died and have to restart from the last checkpoint, it adds to the mystery with out stopping the flow of the story.

The mystery was not just who these people are, but also how they are related. I think it’s hard to pull off a double mystery that is compelling and believable all in one chapter, but J.C. Succeeds in doing just that.

Chapter 3

The chapter is from the POV of a newly introduced character, Kenneth Kleinman. He knows exactly what’s going on and withholds that information from the listener for as long as possible. Until someone asks, “The billion dollar question.” That question being, “are we brothers?” and not “why are we here?” Even after listening to the entire podcast novel and knowing how events play out, I was still surprised that that was the question Kleinman was referring to.

Hutchins goes back in time after the first scene is done in order to tell the history of John Michael Smith starting from his inception. This would be mere telling, but J.C. intertwines that brief flashback seamlessly to the current narrative. It was as if it was a long dialogue-induced info dump that never happened. That part blew my mind at how simple it was, but at the same time creative.

The rest of the chapter plays out in this way and ends with the clones finding out why they’ve been summoned. Which was kind of weird way to end a chapter as I was more fascinated by the science and technology mentioned in the chapter. I mean Hutchins introduced us to it and then sort of went: oh yeah, by the way we need you to stop the person you were cloned from. It changed subjects to quickly. But, still a good chapter nonetheless.