The Starling Project

A simple political thriller made audible by voice actors and no narration. Jeffrey Deaver’s newest story: “The Starling Project” is putting audio drama back in the mainstream. From articles in the New York Times to reviews given by Radio Drama Revival, this “audible drama” is taking the world by storm. But is it a good representation of audio drama as a whole? Are newcomers to the art form truly getting the best possible version of a storytelling medium that never quite went away; rather, went underground.

The answer is yes, but with a caveat. The story is simple. Perhaps a little too simplistic. With the theater of the mind, there’s a lot to get right and so much more to get wrong. Clunky, descriptive dialogue and bad sound effects are the easiest to notice, but going deeper this spy thriller created in the “blind medium” is not the absolute best. This story doesn’t have that, but what it does lack is a compelling story. More specifically a satisfactory ending.

In terms of production value it’s great. If you get anything out of this review, know that the execution is great. The concept — or rather, the story — is generic. We’ve all seen the plot where there’s a mystery and it gets solved by the end. The revelation is supposed to be a surprise. The problem with “The Starling Project” is that the answer to who this criminal mastermind is happens to be unsatisfying and more along the lines of a cliffhanger ending. You find out who the starling is, but it turns out he’s as important to the story as a school janitor. Not even sure if his name was mentioned before the big reveal.

Now this isn’t a bad story, but it did start a little slow. The conflict picked up after the prologue of an opening which didn’t have much to do with the overall story. Once the hostage situation got underway the rest of the story was smooth sailing, up until the last 15-20 minutes where the identity of the starling is revealed. Then it kind of fizzled out.

Aside from the luke-warm ending, this story is worth the audible credit or how ever much it costs. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys the journey to the endpoint, rather than the end itself you’ll enjoy this.

4/5 Stars.

One thought on “The Starling Project

  1. While I applaud the multi-voice approach and have hopes it will spur on more adaptations I didnt find this production particularly appealing. For technical (and likely scheduling) reasons they are using the animation-style recording approach — actors recorded separately in different sessions, and from the sound, perhaps different studios. It is more work for a studio engineer up front but the best audio drama will always be from an old school approach when a cast records together

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