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