Japanese Fairy Tales Unrated: “The Old Man and The Devils” and “The Cub’s Triumph.”

The first two stories in a collection of Japanese fairy tales, this audio adaption is a great introduction to non-western folklore. It’s not too foreign that the western world won’t understand the plot, but the meaning may be lost on some.

In terms of the adaptation, the audio for the first tale: “The Old Man and the Devils” isn’t as fluid as the second one: “The Cub’s Triumph.” There are millisecond lingerings or strange artifacts which throw you out of the story. That being said, it’ more of a nitpick than anything. After hearing such great pieces over the years, it’s hard to not compare.

The first story started off alright, got interesting by the middle, and made me scratch my head in the end over a small continuity issue. Story number two had the same reaction structure as the first, though the beginning was a little better.

There will not be a star rating until I reach the final episode. You can find this production on iTunes, AmazonMp3, and CDbaby.com.

The Sherlock Holmes Society of London: The Gloria Scott

A Sherlock Holmes tale from The Sherlock Holmes Society in London. Released in 2009, this audio drama is reminiscent of a Grimms Fairy Tale. What makes this story interesting is that it plays in Sherlock Holmes’ childhood–where, even back then, his keen powers of observation were well above average.

To clarify the Grimm brother’s reference above, it’s not that this is a fairy tale. Rather there’s a certain story in that collection of stories which shares a lot of dark elements with this Sherlock Holmes tale. I’m referring to Rumpelstiltskin.

What does Rumpelstiltskin have to do with Sherlock Holmes? Not much, but there’s a certain character in this story who is essentially the devil. The father of one of Sherlock Holmes friends has, unwillingly, struck a deal with a mysterious man, and the scenes that man appears in are quite creepy and dark.

The mystery itself isn’t as memorable as the tone of the piece, but the perforamances are top notch and despite it being discontinued, this podcast–and in particular this episode is worth checking out. It’s one of the best ones out of this company

4/5 Stars

Edict Zero FIS: Season One

Part sci-fi, part cop drama–Edict Zero FIS excels in both engaging storytelling and tremendous acting. The one downside is that the medium level details are lost in translation. There were many times where you don’t know what’s going on, but on a micro and macro level, you understand everything you need to know. Perhaps a better word would be the specifics of the information.

The plot revolves around a team of federal operatives who are tasked with solving the mystery of who the illustrious Mr. Cook is and the reason behind him blowing up a building on New Years Eve. From there things get complicated.

The sci-fi may be prevalent in the technology and SFX of the show, but at its heart this is a cop drama. Albeit with less of an episodic-feel, where one episode equals one crime. There’s an overarching plot, which seems simple, but the more that’s uncovered, the more intriguing it gets.

The characters are great. Each one had a distinct voice, both on paper and the microphone. By far the most interesting reoccurring one is Agent Garrett, who has all the trappings of a sociopathic character, but is a federal agent. My favorite character in the first season, who disappears after his usefulness to the agents is fulfilled, is Socrates. Creator of the show, Jack Kincaid gives a performance that is mind blowing. The best I’ve heard in a long time when it comes to audio drama podcasts.

Around episode five of the nine episode first season is where the season reaches it’s peak. There’s so much going on, it demands a second listen as you’re bound to miss something minor. However, you can follow the story just fine without going through it again. Needless to say, this on my re-listen list and that’s an honor not many audio dramas have received.

4.5/5 stars

The Buyer in the Library

An adaptation of an award winning one-act play, written by Karl Sparks of Pocket Radio Theater. The mind behind 10 cent stories and the Bootleggers series is lacking in good sound effects, but makes up for it with a single character who is charmingly twisted and evil and who ultimately steals the show.

The story is set in Rochester, NY, specifically in the basement level of a University. The only way to get there is via an elevator with a button that appears to select number of people. The first three minutes or so explain the workings of the elevator and for the purposes of the story doesn’t matter a whole lot. In fact the narration which explains it, could’ve been cut and no one would be confused.

This entire play is a series of events, tied together with a delightful performance by Leah Mould who plays a character along the lines of genie. It relies a little heavily on the genie story arc, where each wish you make comes back to bite you. It doesn’t follow it specifically and there’s enough there with the performances and the nuances of how “The Buyer” goes about fulfilling wishes to make it somewhat entertaining.

Unlike the first episode of The Bootleggers, the sound effects here are a bit much and don’t create a consistent soundscape this time around. Every time the elevator arrived was like nails on a chalk board. It might’ve been intentional, but I could’ve done without it lasting as long as it did each time it came.

All in all this a fun tale which relies heavily on the performances and the tropes of the “magic comes at a price” trope. If you’re looking for a subversion of tropes, then look elsewhere. The story follows the convention closely, but it’s still enjoyable.

4/5 stars

The Bootleggers: Episode One

Produced by Pocket Radio Theater and set in my hometown of Rochester, NY–this period piece about life in the upstate New York city during prohibition mixes the old time radio aspect of the time with modern audio drama sensibilities. Complete with music which reflects the period is only icing on the cake.

The writing is good and the sound effects even better. The immersion factor is seemless and you’re never thrown out of the story even for a little bit. A problem a lot of newer shows have with their production values.

The plot of this episode deals with two bootleggers who run into trouble with the feds. After a scene which explains a change in management for the two men, the bootleggers go about their daily lives, complete with name-dropping actual places inside Rochester, NY. As a native of the city, it made me smile. After the stage is set and we get to know the main characters a bit more, the episode ends.

There’s not much to say about this other than there are new episodes released on the 15th of each month and it’s a serial. The first episode is not self-contained, but there many things about it which hook you. I started listening to the next episode immediately after. If you’re a fan of the 20s and 30s, this audio drama is for you.

You can listen to the first eight or nine episodes on iTunes or by visiting their site at PocketRadioTheater.org.

4.5/5 Stars

Powder Burns Episode 4: Fifteen Thousand Friends

The Blind Sheriff. Powder Burns

This episode starts off what with can only be called a flashback. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but the scene feels out of place when compared to the rest of the episode’s story–which is in present day. By the end, you still aren’t sure why it was included.

Moving on to the meat and potatoes of the story, episode four could basically be called 3.5 as it has very little to do with the previous plotline of Emmett trying to capture Monte Hogue. We’re introducted to another character, a man from the US Army. Seeing as this is a western, you know he’s going to be trouble. You arent’t sure in what capicity, but the moment he’s on screen you know he’s plotting something.

Once again, John Wesley Ship and the rest of the cast bring their A-game and the appearance of Robert Vaughn (Napoleon Solo from the original The Man from U.N.C.L.E series) makes the episode stand out a bit more than usual. This is the weakest of the episodes in terms of the overall story arc, but still a good episode taken on its own.

4/5 Stars

Blood Ties: The Bonds are Permanent

Book one of the Magnolia series is a thrill ride that doesn’t know how to sit still. The story changes focus throughout and does so at points where the story begins to drag. This makes interest in the text a foregone conclusion. It never decreases.

As for the characters, there are two main ones. The protagonist and her mother. All the other characters are side. You could make the argument that the male viewpoint of one of the subplots is a main character, but how that particular thing wrapped up felt more like a sidequest than an integral part of the plot.

The protagonist–Karina Summers–is a character with the same internal conflict Katniss Everdeen has in the Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part 1. The general consensus is that if she’s supposed to be a strong female lead, why is she pining over someone. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, logically.

Thankfully once the inevitable sex scene happens between her and the younger boy Beau, the story takes a turn for the better. The plot points from the different viewpoints begin to weave themselves together. But by the end, all the tension is gone and you’re waiting for the book to end.

All in all, the story starts off strong, loses some steam in the middle, and any hope of an awesome climax is gone after Karina and her mother find out who’s behind everything.

The narrator does a fantastic job of keeping interest in the story, even if the content itself is borderline predictable. For that I’d give this a perfect score, but you don’t see a movie based on a reviewers opinion of the special effects.

4/5 Stars

Powder Burns Episode 3: Weep for Me

The Blind Sheriff. Powder Burns

Episode three of this audio drama western takes us once again deeper into the backstory of the characters. This episode is very much a set-up for episode four. Or at the very least a moment of rest which ends on a cliffhangar.

This episode is under twenty minutes, but it feels more like ten. The pacing is fast and the tension ratchets up with every spoken word. Without this increase, this episode would feel like a sequel, rather than a scene. If memory serves correctly, this episode was just one long scene, but it’s not something you’re thinking about when listening. In fact I just thought of it as I was writing this review. So points for that. Hopefully my memory is still functioning properly.

As for the plot of this episode, there really is none aside from what was set up in episode two. Emmett is once again on the lookout for outlaw Monty Hogue. The real conflict comes from the clash of personalities of the Emmett and his deputy. The ramp up in tension in that one scene is exhilarating.

The episode’s conclusion is a cliffhangar. A confusing one at that. For the first time, we get a glimpse of what it’s like to view the world when blind. It may be the logline for the show, but the execution feels like a badly shot action sequence. The one’s with all close up shots and shaky camera work. Episode four was also released last month and will be reviewed next week. Until then I give you with a rating.

4/5 Stars

The Cure

The Cure is a tale from Theater in your Mind productions. They are a relatively new group which shows potential. The story however doesn’t quite work. It was boring and you could tell what the twist at the end was going to be early on. Pretty sure it’s been done before. Add in the lackluster performances and the result is something easily forgotten. The acting isn’t bad, but nothing about it made it memorable.

If you couldn’t tell by the title or the episode’s description on iTunes. This story is a zombie apocalypse origin story where you learn where the zombies come from. The answer to the question is tied directly with the big reveal near the end. In terms of originality, I have to give them points. But as far as the execution goes there was a missed opportunity here. It was like the writer took the first and most obvious plot twist he came up with and rolled with it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but when the rest of the story is bland you need to step up some other aspect of it. Otherwise you’re just another direct to blu-ray horror movie. And sadly that’s what this feels like.

3.5/5 Stars