The Diamond Jeru is a wonderful story—full of suspense, intrigue and mystery around every corner of the wilderness with which the story is set. That being said, it wasn’t until the thirty minute mark where you can hang your hat on something. In this case its jealousy. The particular scene was a bit one-sided, in that the jealous character was being thick-headed, but it was understandable given what we know of the characters.
There’s also a tug-of-war between the conventions of audio drama and full-cast productions, which adds to the long, drawn out beginning which is only there to set everything up. In simpler terms, this audio story doesn’t know what it wants to be. For example, one time the narrator mentions the color of something as well as detail not necessary for an audio drama. However, in other parts, the sound effects and ambiance are so good that you wonder why the narrator is describing the same thing you’re hearing. Basically, it gets too specific when it doesn’t need to, and that could turn some people off.
It is however a nice transition ground between old time radio conventions (the ones which use narration) and the more modern era of audio dramas. The creators strike a fine balance and sometimes miss their mark, but aside from the one nitpicky example above, they’re easily forgettable and don’t impact the enjoyment of the story.
Fun fact: this story is based on the author’s travels in Borneo and the audio adaption was headed by his son Beau–who, for over ten years–recorded sound effects and music. Both of which are original. I’m usually not one for the biography of an artist, but that’s too amazing a fact not to include. How much of the story is based on truth, is anyone’s guess, but seeing as there aren’t supernatural elements in the story it’s possible that the entire story might be truthful to an extent.
The ending has the emotional weight of a modern contemporary story, but at the same time the tone of a 30s era pulp fiction. It’s an odd combination and the narration helps meld the two together. When a certain character dies, the music is beautifully composed and had me misty-eyed, despite not knowing the character too well (aside from his role in the story).
In the end, the biggest hump to get over is the beginning and the narration. Compared to other productions that use the same audio storytelling techniques, however, this one feels rich with life and different from a more contemporary standpoint. And that is its biggest strength: blending the old and the new conventions into a cohesive whole.