The Katniss Chronicles Part 1

Having known several people who’ve read “The Hunger Games,” by Suzanne Collins, the biggest complaint from the book would have to be the use of present-tense. The first few chapters are hard to get by, because a lot of readers are used to past tense. That “weakness” is what makes The Katniss Chronicles such a fun experience.

There’s no way to talk about this without referencing the movie, at least a little bit. In fact, this is better than the movie on an emotional level. The movie is good, but lacks the power that a book told in the first person can have. That only makes sense as movies aren’t usually told in the first-person. Adapting any book to a movie and something is going to get thrown out or discarded. It’s inevitable with any form of adaption. However, the movie doesn’t add any depth.

The first person, present-tense narrative works wonderfully in audio drama. It did take a while to get invested in the story, but three episodes in and Barbra Dillon’s voice (Katniss) begins to grow on you. If you’re the kind of person who can’t stand a southern accent, don’t tune out because of it. The actresses’ interpretation of the character makes for a more unique story.

The scene, chapter, episode, whatever one wants to call it—where a certain character dies had me on the verge of tears. One more push would’ve done it, but sadly it never came. That’s more than I can say for the movie. While watching the film, I was bored at that particular scene. I knew what it was trying to do, but I felt like they were telling me about why I should care, rather than showing me the chemistry between the two characters beforehand. The Katniss Chronicles solves this problem by having an entire mini arc (1-3 episodes long) dedicated to the two characters and their interactions with each other. The movie does it unsuccessfully in about five minutes.

To make the audio drama not just be a reading of a book with different actors reading dialogue, the adapters used a frame story. This allows more flexibility. Two (sometimes three) hosts—one to two males and one female—talk about the games and  give you the capitals perspective. I imagine this is not something one gets in the book. The dialogue between them is almost cringe worthy, but in a good way, because they have such disregard for human lives.

Overall, the Katniss Chronicles is a great alternative to the movie(s) and possibly the books. I give it a handful of golden mocking jay pins.

The Audio Drama Reviews Ebook Update #1

Remember back at the beginning of 2013, when I mentioned there might be an ebook coming out this year? Well, guess what, it’s official! That’s what I’ve been working on, instead of posting new reviews more consistently than I would’ve liked. I only slacked off a little bit, I swear. The problem is that right now the word count is around 15k words. I want to at least reach 20-25k words, before I begin editing and adding hyperlinks and such.

I have the following audio dramas that I plan on listening to and, hopefully review, before the new year:

The Katniss Chronicles Part 1 (currently on episode 13)

The Destiny of Special Agent Ace Galaksi (not started)

Tabula Rasa Season 1 (will listen after “Destiny of…”)

Star Wars IV and V Radio Dramas (Almost done with episode IV)

Want your audible drama to be in the first collection? Send them my way via the proper channels. I’ll post another announcement when the minimum word count goal is reached, along with the contents of the ebook and more general information. This will be the first of what I hope to be many review collections. I hope to have the first draft done in November so I can have a release date in December.

We’re Alive: A Story of Survival (Season 2)

The second season deals more with the character interactions much more than the first season. There’s a whole other zombie-infested LA to explore and the writers venture out to places unknown with Michael, Kelly, and Pegs. At first glance the place seems like a paradise, but upon closer inspection the colony is on the verge of collapse. The bad part of this subplot is that it’s kind of filler material. The subplot’s engaging and moves the story forward, but after the issues are resolved it kind of bears the listener asking the question: was all that really necessary for this one thing to happen?

After that long story arc, three new people  join up with the people at the tower. Introductions are made, but things have gotten worse since Michael and the other’s got back: someone left the tower. There’s a big emotional scene that brought tears to my eyes as I walked home from the public library where I live. It amazed me that, having never experienced that kind of bond with anyone, I was crying and thinking this is how it feels like to feel like you’ve lost someone close and you could’ve done something to save them.

The climax is quite similar to the end of the first season. It’s different enough, however, that it feels fresh and original, despite having essentially the same plot archetype of survive. Only this time, they may not have been so lucky. The season finale got me pumped up to purchase the third season on audible.com. I eagerly awaited my next credit, which felt like it took forever to get deposited into my account.

Mega Tales Episode 19 “The Tale of Mr. Night Night”

Horror and comedy, in a lot of ways, are two sides of the same coin. Both genre’s goals are to illicit an emotion in the individual experiencing the story. Successful horror makes the reader/listener afraid, while successful comedy makes the person laugh. That being said, it’s impossible to do both at the same time. Fear and laughter are on opposite ends of an emotional spectrum, which makes a horror-comedy a very hard genre to pull off. One has to balance moments of humor and horror and 9/10 times, the writers make it more of a comedy.

What does this have to do with Mega Tales? Just near everything. This anthology show is marketed as horror-comedy and that really colored my vision of this particular short. There were some other problems, like the script feeling like it wasn’t edited, but the biggest complaint I have is the genre. True comedy is hard to write, because it is so subjective. This particular short only made me laugh once. That’s not to say the jokes were bad. They just didn’t make me laugh, personally. This is recommended for a younger audience. I felt like the two creators had a blast creating this audio short, just from their

The script felt like it needed serious editing. The reason why I felt this way was because of how many times the same thing was repeated, using different words. While listening it was hard to tell if the story was scripted at all, or if while acting, the actors made it up as they went. If I had any advice to offer the creators of this anthology show, it would be to keep an eye on your scripts. That and don’t stop doing what you love.

Red Colt: Bounty Hunter Episode 1 “The Girl”

A short little western piece that succeeds in both concept in execution. Despite the limitations of a short timeframe, this story had traces of an entire arc that take newer writers years to execute in a way that’s believable and in character. This is a problem I have the most trouble with in my own writing. It’s like that saying: “Execution in storytelling is king, not how cool one’s concept is.”

There was a bit of nostalgia for Red Dead Redemption. The same sort of character as John Marston played the protagonist of this story. The character in this story is in some ways more moral than Marston. Red Colt’s flaw, at least from this episode, is that he can’t let go of the past. He feels guilty about events of the civil war that he felt were his responsibility. The writer does it in one powerfully delivered line from the actor. The writer and the actor might even be the same person, though I’m not 100 percent positive. Leave a comment below if this is true.

The concept itself is straight forward. A traditional western done in audio. While I haven’t listened to a lot of audio drama westerns, I know they’re out there. The price (yes, this one costs money) is reasonable when you consider that most songs are 99 cents or more and you get less content. Generally a song can be anywhere from 2-5 minutes. Looking at it like that, I think you get your money’s worth. Basically if you’re willing to buy a song on iTunes, you shouldn’t be complaining about this costing 89 cents.

The Leviathan Chronicles Season 2 – The Director’s Cut (Part 1 of 2)

It took a long time to get into the first season of The Leviathan Chronicles. To be honest, I never did. The closest thing I got to experiencing the first season of this underwater sic-fi adventure was the Season one recap. After listening to that, I was intrigued to not only listen, but to buy the director’s cut. Let me just say, it’s worth every penny.

The thing that caught my attention were the three main story lines of Tully and Oberlin, the Black Door group and the Leviathan rebels, and Macallan’s team. Two out of the three were in direct conflict with one another. The execution of the story was brilliantly done. It seemed that in the first few episodes of season one, Macallan was reactive, rather than proactive. On top of that, she didn’t have any traits that made her sympathetic for me. That’s the main reason why I stopped listening.

Season two takes it in an entirely new direction within the first chapter. Granted there was an entire season to get to know the characters and some twists and turns along the way. That being said, I was never lost as to what was going on. There was no mid-story jump-in fatigue, like in a lot of movies and television shows that when you come in late, you have no idea what’s going on.

The rest of the cast was more fleshed out and the ambience and sound effects were top notch as always. This time around the narration bits weren’t as distracting. One thing I noticed was that there’s no clear villain. Not that this story needs one. It’s stronger because of it. There’s an antagonist—the side opposite the main two of Macallan or Black Door, depending on who you feel is the protagonist. Tully’s storyline was definitely the weakest link and hopefully he has more to do in part two.

This part doesn’t end on a cliff hangar. It’s a fully contained story with just the right amount of loose ends needed for what I hope to be an epic season finale. I’ll definitely be purchasing the second part of season two.

Hothouse Bruiser

This audio drama attempts to walk the line between episodic content and one full-length audio production. It doesn’t do a fantastic job, but it isn’t bad. The way this audio drama plays out, the chapter-by-chapter structure hurts the impact of the overall story. One episode will focus on one thing and introduce a mystery all in the 20-30 minutes per episode. The answer to the mystery is answered a few chapters later and it loses the “oh my god” impact that most mystery resolutions need in order to resonate or satisfy the individual experiencing the story. That’s not to say they didn’t occur, it just could’ve been stronger. The best reveals came at the end. The reveals and twists towards and during the climax were along the lines of “wow, I knew it.” (I don’t mean that in a bad sense. The plot with the mysterious voice, I figured out about a minute before Bruiser was aware. That is a great way to end a mystery. Having the reader figure out whodunit a page or paragraph before the characters is one of the best experiencing an author can give someone. Audio Drama is no exception.

Iron Man 3 (I’ll link to a review of it on my personal blog, if and when it’s written) handles the “twists along the way” structure quite well. Then again it is a movie and not broken down into smaller chunks—other than Hollywoods traditional three-act format. Unlike Iron Man 3, however, the climax of Hothouse Bruiser more than made up for the semi-low resonance level throughout. If you believe the end of a journey is greater than the adventure itself, then you’ll probably enjoy the ending of Hothouse Bruiser immensely. However, if it wasn’t for that ending, this would have been too episodic for my liking.

Trophy Case

A tale from 19 Nocturne Boulevard, “Trophy Case” is a story of extremely dark and graphic detail. Depending on who you ask, it’s a bit too graphic. That’s the camp I considered myself to be in while listening to this story. I’m all for a dark tone, but this just pushed it over the line. On the subject of dark tones in stories, this one takes the prize. I suppose it’s a good thing, because I did cringe a lot while listening. Again, it depends on who you ask.

One of the few positives about this story is that the pacing kept me interested in what was going to happen next. However at the end, I felt let down and that I’d been dragged over nails and broken glass to reach an unsatisfactory conclusion.

The characters in the story, aside from the american, are total misogynists. The characteristics border on stereotypes. The german and italian will do anything to win. However in order to win, they have to keep a women alive and the story and the characters treat them like objects—trophies if you will. They’re expendable. If one dies, simply get another seems to be a common theme in the story. I know this is based on a story written a while back, but I don’t see why anyone would want to retell this tale in our current society.

I’m usually not one for giving negative reviews, but when the cons are the ones that stand out the most, it’s hard to ignore them.

The New York Crimes: Part 1

Once you get past the bad acting, this audio drama really shows some promise. The New York Crimes focuses around two twenty year old brothers in New York City. One wants to go upstate, while the other is content with partying non-stop. They are classic foil characters for each other.

In the first few scenes we pretty much know the two main characters and then the ball gets rolling from there. The two brothers meet a Mr. Norman Avery. Norman is a reclusive writer who owns a private investigation business. And the “Hipster Hardy Boys” are perfect candidates. What could possibly go wrong? Well, a lot of things. Otherwise there’s no story.

The acting isn’t that good. I’m not expecting oscar performances  but it sounded like they were reading—rather than acting. It’s only the first episode, so I hope I won’t be disappointed in future parts. The point is that the biggest hurdle for this first part is the acting. But the scene between the two brothers and Norman Avery is written well enough that you forgive that aspect of the episode.

Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls: Sweeney Todd’s Barbary Falls in a Trap.

Stories that wrap everything up in a bow are my favorite kind of endings. The conclusion of Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls does just that. This is one of the few times where I can honestly say that the mystery plot of a story is executed perfectly. I’ve said before that it’s hard to pull of a mystery in an audio drama, because of the lack of visual. The only way to mention something as being a clue is to hang a lantern on it. The screenwriting term: “hanging a lantern on it,” in terms of audio drama is basically playing an episode of blues clues with the listener. It’s so painfully obvious that it’s a clue.

I think what made the ending so successful was the fact that it made a promise to the listener that they didn’t know was being made. The concept of “surprising, yet inevitable.” I’ll try not to spoil too much, but a character who has very little backstory turns out to be someone important. It references the opening in that the listener should go: “oh that’s right” and think: “How did I not see the coming.” That reaction, for me, is what makes an ending truly great.

I can’t stress enough how cathartic the ending was to me. So you’ll just have to use the information in the paragraph above to determine that.