The Knightmare (Part One)

An alright rip-off of “The Shadow” radio serials. Not a lot to complain about, but nothing that really set it apart from “The Shadow” and that is one of its biggest flaws. I couldn’t help, but compare it to “The Shadow” and that kind of colored my perspective when listening to this. The acting is solid and everything about it is top notch–for the most part.

A complaint I have about the story itself is that the male characters sound the same. During the scene at the observatory, I couldn’t put a character to a voice. The dialogue was too snappy that I didn’t really have time to invest in the characters, except the love interest. I felt she was the only character in that scene who could actually be called a character. The rest felt one-dimensional, as if the writer just needed someone for the female lead to talk to.

The Magic of the Movies

A fun and interesting story about what goes on behind the scenes of a movie. The logic behind it is fantasy and the writer expects you to just accept that. Which is all fine and good. However, it kind of comes out of nowhere. It felt, and I’ll say it again, crowbarred into the story–just to have a cool twist. This is the biggest obstacle for audio drama’s to overcome: foreshadowing the mystery. It’s easy to do in books and films. But in audio drama, either the writer doesn’t include any foreshadowing or the foreshadowing used is subtle to the point of being unnoticed. These create a continuum where the writer has to decide how much “telling” they need to do, in order to have the mystery be solved.

Author’s hear it all the time, “show, don’t tell.” The books I’ve read, foreshadow by telling. If a person were to “show” a foreshadowing device, the individual might mistake it for something else. That’s just my thought on it and the problem isn’t the amount of foreshadowing, it’s the lack of it. When listening I couldn’t find any reason to suspect the climax of the story would be what it was.

So, what does this have to do with a fantasy story about moviemaking? Well, everything. The structure of this story is told through flashback. The protagonist tells someone in a bar the story (haven’t I seen this before?). This also raises a question of originality in the story’s structure, but let’s not open up that can of worms. The structure of the story goes back and forth between the past and present. The narrative set in the present is a mystery. The audience wants to know why this actor stopped acting? What they’ve probably come to expect, or maybe this is just me, is that a tragedy helped make his decision.

What the audience gets, or at least what I got, was surprising–in that it was original and I wasn’t expecting it. But at the same time I felt it would’ve gone better if the expected did happen. I’m all for happy endings in stories, but the story seemed dark right from the start. I mean, how many stories with happy endings start in a bar?

Our Fair City Season 2

The second season of Our Fair City has an interesting structure. The first few episodes are quite dark in tone, which peaks around the middle episodes. Then we take a relaxing, comedic breather in the episode about the creator of the M.O.L.E. people. Dr. Morow. The reference to Stephen Hawking was enjoyable and the part about turtles made me bust out laughing, both times. Once the humor ends, it’s back to the dark and hopeless state of a city, masquerading as a happy-go-lucky place to live.

I enjoyed the M.O.L.E. people much more than the first season. I felt they were just there as a world building tool. Which is fine when you want the world you create to feel real. As characters, however, they didn’t have that much depth in the first season. I felt I could connect with Clay, who reminds me a lot of myself. The episodes with the M.O.L.E. people, though more in quanity kind of draws attention to itself. So much that you’re expecting the climax to involve the M.O.L.E. people. I call this unintentional excess foreshadowing. I won’t spoil what happens, but the fact that we spend more time than usual with secondary characters—outside of the main plot—made me suspicious as to why we were even seeing things from their point of view. It’s the principle of seeing gorilla in a phone booth. It stands out like, well, a gorilla in a phone booth.

The main plot, at least I assume it is do to the fact that it gets the most screen time, is dark comedy. Which I haven’t really heard in an audio drama. Sure I’ve laughed at jokes with dark humor, but in those the plot wasn’t as dark.

A highly original climax wraps up season two. It may be another zombie story, but the writers twist it just enough to make it original. Rather than the story being about survival all the way through, the woken apocalypse starts near the end. And, quite honestly, I’ve never seen—or heard in this case—a story done quite like this.

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.

Our Fair City, Season One

The first act takes its sweet time in getting to the main conflict. We have about seven episodes of getting to know the setting, through the eyes of different characters for almost every episode, up until episode seven. I am enjoying the structure, which is essentially one scene equaling one episode. Each episode is less than ten minutes. This is both a strength and a weakness. Its strength is that in this age of boredom, the pacing is fast and snappy and doesn’t give you the chance to be bored. It’s a weakness, because you want more of what it has to offer.

As for the actual story, i felt the middle of the season surpassed the beginning and end. The beginning took too long to get to the main plot and the ending lacked dramatic tension. It succeeds at being a comedy, but in terms of drama, it didn’t do it for me. This begs the question of is “Our Fair City” a comedy, or a drama? It has enough drama in the middle that it could go both ways. This doesn’t really become a problem until adulthood, when you want your pure comedy and pure drama separated. Obviously there is overlap, because pretty much every drama needs a humorous element in it. Although going the other way rarely works, from what I’ve experienced (going from humor to drama).

As I stated earlier, the middle of season 1 is quite a rare phenomenon, because the middle usually is the most boring to write. This usually reflects in the story as  long and boring expository scenes or information that doesn’t really matter to the story. I never got that sense that the writer was “filling a word count goal,” so to speak, in the middle. I basically mean that the middle doesn’t drag on and give useless bits of information that the individual already knows.

To sum up, if you can get past first seven to eight episodes of somewhat trivial infodumps, you’ll enjoy what this season has to offer. The ending–though surprising, yet inevitable–lacks a dramatic punch you would expect from any kind of season finale, regardless of whether it’s humor or drama.

Off-Topic Blog Post: Mystery Elements in Stories

I won’t do this often, but this something I’ve wanted to say for a long time:

I’ve been thinking a lot about mystery plots in any type of storytelling, in particular how to write them, and I think I’ve come up with a general rule of thumb that I hope will help some people with the mystery plot line.

If you introduce a mystery right at the beginning of your story, be sure to answer it by the end of the chapter. The earlier to the start the better.

Doing this limits the potential for plot holes, which is basically a mystery that doesn’t get solved ever, or not until very late in the book–way before that point, the reader has probably put the book down. If you start with the reader getting to know your character, then you can slowly build a mystery for your story.

Granted if you do this too much, you will start to info dump. You want to pick what is absolutely necessary to the plot, at that moment in time, or that will make  future scenes not contain any plot holes

Of course, curiosity and interest trumps all. That being said, not all readers have the same amount of curiosity. A five year old is going to be more curious than someone much older.

Robots of the Company Episode 3

This series is really reminding me of the Schlock Mercenary Universe. I know I stated that in the last review, but if you just replaced the mercenary crew from the web comic with all robots you’d pretty much get Robots of the Company (At least from what I’ve listened to so far). The way it’s paced makes it seem like a slightly longer comic strip of 7-8 panels, rather than 3-4. I’m not quite sure if it’s one scene per episode, but it sure feels like that–especially for this episode. In fact I think it may even be just that.

The plot of this episode is that the robots are trying to get a ball from inside Rover, who is a robotic dog. The robots are trying to decide who will go dig in there and get it. I write this, but as a disclaimer know that this was not going through my head as I listened. Basically I’m wondering how bad could it possibly be inside a robotic dog. Maybe my imagination isn’t that great, but I just pictured a hollow shell, with gears and other mechanical devices. I didn’t picture flesh, bones or anything that really makes a dog a dog and human’s human for that matter. I just don’t see how they could have made that big a deal out of getting something out of Rover. Again, this is something I thought after the fact and it didn’t ruin my listening experience.

The end of the episode kind of fell flat for me. It would more interesting if Brisco wasn’t there to save the day. Putch said he was busy, or something along those lines. And yet at the end he showed up and got Squeak out of doing the job. It seems like a deus ex machina to me, but a very minor and insignificant one that didn’t really effect my opinion all that much. What did it for me was the overused joke of “Those are the wrong balls” as the last one or two lines of dialogue. I don’t think it’s childish, but I have seen it so many times that it loses its impact.

Wormwood Episode 3

It’s only episode 3 and I’m already feeling the weight of many questions that are desperately waiting to be answered. To me, a good a mystery needs to be foreshadowed and not having the questions being answered with an avalanche effect. Writers usually need to answer some of the questions before the climax, because otherwise it may be an explosive pow ending, but the reader will have so much time with the mystery that when the answer is revealed it feels lacking in dramatic tension. The most recent arc of Batman: The Ace of Detectives did this to me, to the point where I was expecting more. Granted that’s do to the one episode a month format their working in, which for incidences like those, tend to be a weakness. But, that’s an entirely different review.

I also have a hard time keeping up with the story in general. I can’t tell one episode apart from another. Which is good for a serialized story, but in terms of reviewing one episode, it’s a nightmare to keep it all in the brain with some spill over. But, I suppose that’s true with any serialized story. I liked the episode and the series, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that when you have to re-listen to an episode over and over again, it tends to lose it’s original momentum.

Robots of the Company Episode 2

Love the introduction and robot puns. You can’t go wrong with jokes that replace “mother ______ with  “motherboard.” So far the series reminds me of an audio drama version of Howard Tayler’s web comic, Schlock Mercenary. The humor is based around the character’s interactions with one another and not just based on the wacky incidents they find themselves in. Just like there are plot-driven stories and character-driven stories, there is also character humor and plot humor. The robots are likeable and their relation to one another is great. It’s hard to find humor in plot as then you’re basically having a badly written scene in a situational comedy (sitcom) where–for example–a person gets a pie in the face. No matter how good the sitcom is, character humor trumps that almost every time.

The joke with the suspense musical sting being part of a robots programming was quite funny and clever. It’s breaking the fourth wall, but it’s done in such a way that it comes off as witty–rather than childish. Though, I’m the kind of person who loves any type of humorous fourth wall breakage. When you break the fourth wall by kicking me out of the story, then thats something completely different. I just wished the episodes were a bit longer. Not much to say about a less than twenty minute episode, other than it’s good or bad.

If you can’t tell I enjoyed it on the level of its humor. I can’t really judge the entire first season having only listened to two episodes, but so far I’m enjoying myself.