Natural Selection

An audio drama from newly formed company Audioblivious Productions, this short piece borrows gracefully from the zombie and survival horror genre. The opening few scenes are there to make you sympathetic towards this father-son pair, and lead the listener into a false send of security. The scenes with the father and son feel a bit forced, but when shit hits the fan, watch out, because the tension only ratchets up from there.

After a scene where a pregnant pig is killed by other swine, all hell breaks loose, and the heroes must survive a night of living hell in the vein of a survival horror story. The creepy music and ambience only adds to the feeling of hopelessness the character’s face.

One downside of this piece is the acting. That’s not to say it’s not good, but given the context, the actors give performances are a bit over the top. This is probably due the usual audio drama over the internet most companies have in place. Most people probably won’t notice or care, but as a critic you tend to notice subtle things like that. The army officer who shows up near the end is a good example of the acting.

The story itself ends on a relatively sour note, almost as if the writer felt he needed to not only get the characters out of danger, but also justify the reasoning behind why the animals acted the way they did. The answer to both is a bit of a letdown as the story would’ve been fine without the reasoning aspect, because it doesn’t make sense.

All in all, the tone of the piece and constant state of anxiety for the listener as they wonder who’s going to survive make this audio drama short an excellent first episode for a new audio drama company.

4.5/5 Stars

Japanese Fairy Tales Unrated: “The Enchanted Waterfall.”

The sixth story in this collection of Japanese fairy tales has a similar light-hearted tone found in the other stories, but with a more western structure. In some ways, this is the Japanese equivalent/retelling of the King Midas story. It’s not apparent when listening. In fact it doesn’t even follow the same beats. At least not in the order or way it’s presented in the classic western fairy tale.

The basic premise is about a young boy who wants to please his father by bringing something home to him. Each day, his father talks about the good old days, when he and his father would drink sake and be merry. This is all within the first minute or two of the story and told via expository narration.

Once the boy discovers the waterfall made of sake and returns to his father, who is thrilled to have a bottle of sake after so many years without it. News spreads through the village of the boy’s discovery.

The story ends well for the boy, but not without a bumpy middle. As far as subverting thematic tropes like greed vs. gratitude, this story follows a typical fairy tale arc. Overall this 5-6 minute tale is a fun listen, but don’t expect it to turn tropes on their heads.

The full collection is available for purchase on Amazon, iTunes, and CDbaby.com.

Changes for 2016: Patreon and Amazon Affiliate Links

As of January 2016, I’ve been doing this for over five years. It’s my aspiration to turn this into a business. Granted having a single focus on reviews of a relatively niche market isn’t exactly the best business model. Especially when a lot of people creating hour upon hours of content are doing it out of the kindness of their hearts, it seems kind of sleazy to start charging people.

But don’t you pay a newspaper a subscription fee to read the news they provide, either online or off? When I started this site, it was a way to give back to the community. Slowly, this idea of turning it into a business grew inside my head. Finally, after much debate with myself I’ve decided to take the middle road. The content will always be free, but if you want exclusive bonuses, I’ve set up a montly patreon account.

I tried a similar approach during my first couple of years and quickly learned I needed a following before anyone would be willing to give me money. No one subscribed and my approach of getting new followers to the site was sloppy at best. I’m honored and extraordinarily lucky to have as many twitter followers, Facebook fan page likes, and other social media outlets. For all of you out there who come back every week for a new review, I sincerely thank you.

You may have noticed a new addition to the website header called “Help the Site.” I’m hoping the directions found on the page are self-explanatory. In case they aren’t I’ve included a FAQs for the Patreon. If enough people ask about the amazon affiliate links, I’ll update the page.

Anyway, go to Patreon.com/adr to sign up.

Patreon FAQs

Why Patreon? Why not donations?
Donations would be a fine way to raise money for the site, but I’d rather
give something to fans as a token of my appreciation and Patreon is the best way to do that currently.

What will the rewards be?
Currently there are 2 rewards you can sign up for. The patreon is monthly, as I publish reviews every week. Those rewards are an exclusive review each month at the $1 level and an ebook sent to you every month at $3.

Will free audio dramas or review requested productions be exclusive?
No. All audio productions released for free on the internet and/or sent to me through the proper channels, located at AudioDramaReviews.com/Request will remain accessible to all visitors of the site.

The exclusive reviews will be for stories I’ve spent my own money. These will mostly be audible audiobooks and graphic audio productions. Since I do this every week, more stories to review is better than less.

Questions?
Leave them in the comments below.

The Once and Future Nerd: Princes of Iorden

From the very beginning, the audio production of Princes of Iorden, Book I of The Once and Future Nerd, is an ideal blend of both familiar tropes and interesting characters that turn those tropes on their heads, adding complexity to otherwise meek and overdone clichés. One great example is the nerd who gets easily consumed by a fantasy world. But in the end, the writers manage to make the story enjoyable, despite the tropes, with a mentally and physically diverse cast.

The greatest example of how they evaded a cliché trap is with Jenny, the smart cheerleader. She’s more complex than that pithy one-line description, as her character arc in the first book goes from worried high
school girl to kick-ass fighter. Although her journey there isn’t as good as
the end result, it’s still entertaining.

The overall plot is pretty basic, but uses a full
complement of fantasy tropes to its advantage. Honestly, the story peaks around
chapters six and seven. The shift to a more humorous tone at this point is
certainly out of place compared to the previous chapters. However, the
execution of humorous bits is done so effectively, you eventually forgive such
a sudden, inexplicable shift.

My one real complaint is the subplot with Gwen and the
lady whom she serves. For the majority of the tale, there is no genuine
connection with either of them, at least when compared to the main cast of
Bill, Jen, Nelson, and their protectors.

If there was ever a story in which the individual
characters made the plot actually interesting, Princes of Iorden is it.
Although the plot does follow the typical tropes; the characters add life to
it, delivering everything you expect from an age-old fantasy plot, but in a way
that’s enjoyable and not always predictable.

4.5/5 stars

Japanese Fairy Tales Unrated: “The Battle of the Monkey and the Crab” and “Goblin Spider.”

The fifth track of Japanese Fairy Tales Unrated album is the story of a kerfuffle between a monkey and a crab. Seems pretty straight forward, but the ending is not what you’d expect from a fairy tale. At least not a western one. Even still, the outcome of the battle is brief, grim, and slightly gruesome. It’s essentially: “He was so ugly that everyone died. The end.” Brief climax and a even shorter denouement will make you go “what?” Not even a sentence passes between the two phases of a story.

The rest of the tale is more or less what you’d expect, if you’ve listened to the tracks before. The combination of narrative summary and dialogue make for a more engaging tale. Interesting is something else entirely.

Skipping to the last track, “Goblin Spider” is a tale of lone warrior on a quest to defeat a goblin. Like Game of Thrones, you think he’s the main character, but when he dies from a goblin spider masquerading as a religious man, you realize there’s more to the story. And then the tale ends with the warrior’s men taking the creature out the next morning, giving a surprising yet inevitable plot twist that feels rushed. This is the fault of the storyteller and not the narrator. At the same time, it’s a difference in cultures and what we expect from stories.

Both tales have similar themes of battle and war. Some are more obvious than others, but both are short, to the point, and perhaps a little too brief.

The full collection is available for purchase on Amazon, iTunes, and CDbaby.com.

John Falls into Another Dimension

A lovecraftian tale from Pocket Radio Theater, this horror story of a man’s slow descent into madnes is nothing new to the Lovecraftian subgenre. “The Rats in the Walls” was my first introduction to Lovecraft. This is certainly reminiscent of that, and based on a little light research a common trope of both Lovecraft and Lovecraftian fiction.

“John Falls into Another DImension” is a full cast production because of the inclusion of different actors/actresses for the various roles. More often than not, stories with narration and character-spoken dialogue have a tendency to halt the soundscape or the narration, as if you can’t have both at the same time. The problem then lies with the mixer and his ability to properly convey what is going on.

This production sides more on the side of an audiobook and therefore dodges that particular problem. The writer and narrator of the story, Karl Sparks, does a good enough job of setting the scene with the words and the infliction of his voice that sounds layered on top of it would’ve only distracted from the tale.

That’s not to say the actors didn’t play an important role, but since most of the story takes place inside John’s head, it’s hard to rate their perfomances because their lines were so few and far between. At least when compared to the amount of narration.

There’s not much else to say, other than the ending may be an obvious twist and seen in a lot of stories in general, but it still left an impact on me. The bulk of the horror comes in the form of a series of increasingly strange events which test John’s sanity.

4/5 stars

Japanese Fairy Tales Unrated: “The Wonderful Tea Kettle.”

Like Shippeitaro, this tale is confusing because of its non-western roots. Unlike the classic Japanese Fairy tale reviewed two weeks ago, the story “The Wonderful Tea Kettle” jumps around a lot. At first it sounds like a genie, trapped in a magical lamp trope. Before that you get a hint of no one but a certain man can see the creature and everyone thinks he’s crazy.

Continue reading

Eclipse: An Original Audio Drama

What happens when the sun is nowhere to be seen and the entire planet is shrouded in darkness?

With this premise, it may sound like your typical “save the sun from exploding” mission, but that’s not the problem the character’s face. In fact the sun is fine. It’s merely being blocked out by a large banner.

The most noticable thing of this thirty-four minute audio drama is its humor and drama are so conflicted with each other, you don’t know when character’s are being serious or if they’re joking. Add in the problems that means for the overall tone and you have a coherent plot, but one that’s also a mess.

The plot was easy to follow and as long as you don’t ask how a banner could be large enough to block out the sun for the entire planet, you shouldn’t have any problems with it. Even if that particular pill is extremely hard to swallow.

It’s hard to tell whether the actors or the writer are to blame for a cast of dozens, where none of them feel like real people. The dialogue isn’t cringe-worthy, but could be better, and the acting certainly doesn’t help with believability that these character’s have lives.

The solution to the problem comes soon after they figure out the problem is, which brings in a problem of pacing. Right from the beginning, there’s no investment in anything. Character or plot. It’s like they didn’t care one way or the other what happened.

Despite all the complaints, it’s not so bad you shouldn’t not give it a listen.

3.5/5 stars

Japanese Fairy Tales Unrated: “Shippeitaro.”

Shippeitaro is a confusing tale, not because of the plot, but because the promises it makes to the listener aren’t what western audiences expect. It’s not that it’s bad, but the cultural norms are different in Japan than they are in the the states, even back when the story was first told/written.

By the end I was left wanting more, but not in a good way, feeling like I missed a good chunk of the story. There was a lot of information in a little over eight minutes in length, and only the surface was scratched. The complexity of the story, however, did not merit a second listen-through. Shows like Edict Zero FIS which have layers upon layers of intrigue warrant a second play through, because you know you missed a lot. Shippeitaro is just plain confusing. Perhaps that says more about me and western culture than the story itself.

I will give the narrator credit for keeping my interest at least mildly engaged and the howling cats scene creeped me out due to the sound effects, audio filters applied to the cats, and narration.

Shippeitaro is supposedly a classic in Japanese fairy tales, with many renditions out there, but in terms of the listener’s ability follow–it will vary greatly. For me, it was meh.

The full collection is available on Amazon, iTunes, and CDbaby.com.