The Leviathan Chronicles (Chapter 1)

Story/Script

The script is unique in that it can either be an audio drama or a podcast audiobook. I haven’t heard of anything that combines the best of both worlds and after listening to this, the bar for future projects like this is up in outer space. I really enjoyed this. Great prose narration and the dialogue was the perfect combination of science and casual talking. I could understand enough of what the actors were talking about to get more enveloped in the story. I couldn’t help but be chilled by the use of sound effects and music choices. Add in the narrator and I got the same sense I get when reading good horror stories. I get that vibe, but it’s not horror. And usually that kind of “it’s horror, but it’s not” kind story doesn’t really appeal to me. Then again I haven’t really seen it done in audio form this successfully. I have heard some very good audio horror stories, but this just blows them out of the water (no pun intended).

Production/Mixing

I don’t know if the recording is all done at once, but it sounds like actors are in the same room. If they use the traditional e-mail the lines method than the amount of detail and thought put into the dialogue bits was outstanding.

Acting

Acting is top notch. Not much to say other than I loved it.

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.

Lilith’s Children

Story/Script

The story was confusing, but the script was alright. The reason it’s confusing is because it feels like just a bunch of scenes pasted next to each other that ramps up the tension, but ends on a cliffhanger. Which isn’t a bad thing, but a nice arc for a few scenes would have been nice. It seemed like every scene new characters were introduced. This additive process then repeats itself until the episode’s ending. It doesn’t answer any questions, merely adds more characters to a plot. And to me that’s not pacing that’s just structured scenes.

Production/Mixing

Mixing was good. Didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. Loved the theme song. My only complaint, and this could go in anyone of the three categories, is that the character’s sound too similar. This only added to my “feeling” of confusion, as I’ve stated above. And let me reiterate that this is just the feeling I get, not actual mistakes in the story itself. I’m sure with a second listen I could catch all the parts I’ve missed, but if you don’t get the audience interested the first time it’s damn near impossible to get them to re-listen.

Acting

The acting was good, but added to my confusion of the story. A lot of the voices sounded too similar. One actor in particular, I won’t mention a name, fooled me into thinking he was acting and not reading the lines in a different voice. I’ve been known to do this myself and I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or bad thing as people say that acting and deception/lying are often synonymous. That being said it really didn’t bother me until the last few sentences of the character before the scene ended.

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.

The G-Files Episode 1: “The Kings Prerogative”

Story/Script

The first episode of an X-files type show was both interesting and possibly based off of a famous person in English History. I’m referring to King Henry VIII, the English pimp… I mean monarch who had six wives. That period of English history is one of my favorites to learn about. So, as the story progressed, I was treating it more and more as a “what-if” story, which is the basis for a lot of fantasy and science fiction these days. But, this isn’t either of those genres. It’s quite dark and gritty, which I’ve come to expect from Michael Murphy’s scripts. I really enjoy his work and this piece is no different.

There are a few minor things I have a problem with and maybe there is a reason for it and I’m just not getting it. Below, in the “acting” section of this post, I posted a critique/comment about a performance. Read that and you’ll see what I mean. But, like I said, maybe I just missed something and it does make sense.

The ending was kind of abrupt. It didn’t really end in a satisfying way. It left me wanting more, which is good, but at the same time I was kind of disappointed that it was over so suddenly. But I guess some people like endings like that. I’m just not one of them.

Production/Mixing

Overall I was impressed with the pacing of the dialogue. But, there seemed to be a long pause in between the first and second scene. A pause that I believe was not really needed and way to noticeable. The reason I don’t think it was needed is because it’s just a continuation of the previous scene. It would be the equivalent of reading chapter in a book that ended as a partial cliff hangar, “he opened the box and saw…”, and then the following chapter continues that sentence. It’s a trick that took me out of the world, because it was too long and had me asking why would they do that?

Other than that little nitpick I enjoyed the production value. Having once mixed episodes of an audio drama myself, I know it’s hard to get pacing right when the lines you receive don’t always flow with the other ones. But despite this setback that is common among almost all online audio drama groups, the mixer did the best they could. And that’s all I, or anyone can ask of them.

Acting

The acting was good all around. But the scene where the King “finds” out about the death of the Queen kind of confused me as I thought they added another character. H Keith Lyon’s performance as the guard is great, but during that scene he had a completely different voice that was more nasally. I’m not sure if it was to show panic. If that was the case I would believe it. However, when the guard talks to the king about Prag and the Kings prerogative, it sounded like he knew about the plan all along. I’m not saying that H Keith Lyons performance was bad, far from it. I was just confused as to why there was a sudden change in his voice. At first listen I thought it was an entirely new character, maybe it was? The credits on the company website mentioned a voice in the hall. I suppose the argument could be made that there was more than one guard in the Queen’s chambers after the murder.

Listen

7th Son: Descent (Prologue and Chapter 1)

Trailer

This and future reviews of this podcast audiobook is of the BETA version (released in 2006), NOT the print edition version (released in 2009).

For more information visit jchutchins.net

Prologue

The first line of this podcast audiobook: “The President is dead. He was murdered, in the morning sunlight, by a four year old boy.” is a great hook. But, as listeners we can’t grasp how that’s possible. But don’t worry, because that gets explained later in the book. Descent’s Hook is both a strength and a fault. It’s “fault” generates from the listener who has to have a weak suspension of disbelief to believe that a four year old boy could murder the president. I’m not saying that it couldn’t happen, in fact quite the opposite. I’m saying that what Hutchins says to make it believable is really up to the listener. Without the explanation of “memory totality” and “nepth charge” I could buy into the possibility of a young kid assassinating the President. The reason is who would suspect a little boy to begin with?

However, without the exposition about the 7th son facility the book would not have been able to keep my enticed as a listener. I mean, who wants to hear about how a four year boy killed the President if there’s no mystery or sense of tension?

Chapter 1

While the Prologue raises so many interesting questions, the first chapter is an introduction to the seven main characters of the story, right before they are kidnapped. My biggest complaint is that a lot of the introductions drag on for too long. The old saying in writing fiction, “in late, out early, seems to have taken a back seat to such scenes that started like “Saturday sex with Sara was the best.” While people generally read on at the sign of sex in fiction it is quite a gamble to mention it after the fact as it comes across as a bit misogynistic.

I won’t go into too much detail, but out of the seven character introductions, I’d have to say I enjoyed Professor Mike’s the best. I really enjoyed the character’s voice and found him to be very interesting, despite having a bit of a big ego in his introductory scene. But, then again, who wouldn’t after a book you just published was about to be featured on Larry King Live along with an interview.

As a listener you wonder how all these stories are going to play out. Because, as it stands at the end of chapter one, the seven protagonists don’t have a strong enough plot thread connecting them. And this gets the listener interested in wanting more, but at the same time could turn the listener off as they could be of the mindset, like I was when I first listened to it, of boredom. After a month or so I went back and listened to it, along with chapter two, and all I can say is I’m glad on pushed on through.

Generally, professional writers don’t want to start a novel or story with an info dump, especially seven times. And J.C. Hutchins is able to find the line between that and conflict, but for some introductions, he missed that middle ground.

Welcome and What to Expect

This blog is where I will review the various internet audio drama series that are out there. This will also include podcast audiobooks as I think they fall under the same category. I mean they both have elements of drama in them. I mean it wouldn’t be much of a story without it.

The first section of reviews will be on one of Pendant Audio’s various shows (TBA). After I’m caught up I’ll move into J.C. Hutchins’ 7th son universe as I review the first book in the trilogy. The pattern, or structure, will be that I will alternate between podcast audiobooks and audio drama.

With that being said, I hope you enjoy your time here.

–Michael Bergonzi