Big Data | The Complete Series (Episodes 1-9)

Big Data Cover Art

Ryan Estrada’s nine episode comedy series asks some big questions and tackles even bigger ideas. Big Data is both funny and smart. A trait not found in a lot of humor pieces. At its heart Big Data will appease fans of both random side jokes and those who prefer a coherent story with humor sprinkled in. Almost all the jokes are a home run. At its peak, Big Data is both social commentary and a well-written sitcom with meta humor about the medium of podcasts. After all, it asks the question: What if the internet was gone?

The idea of there being seven keys to access ICANN and destroy the internet as we know it, sounds like the plot out of an epic or urban fantasy series. However, while that might be fantastical, the depth and knowledge of how the internet works is amazing. There’s just enough to make you wonder if there really are keys to the internet.

The tongue in cheek method of improv comedy isn’t just apparent in the episodes like “Relay” where there’s a blow by blow description of what’s happening from a single person. Something which is hard to pull off in an audio drama, but works marvelously here. If there was one thing about Big Data which might be a turn off it’s the chaotic nature of each episode. The script, assuming there is one, doesn’t have dialogue in the same sense as a movie or television show. It’s more like Mr. Estrada put people in a room, told them about the scene and let the audio recorder run for however long it took. The ultimate audio drama ad-libbing session.

Starting out as a successful Kickstarter campaign, Big Data asks complex questions, bordering on philosophical at points. Yet it’s still humorous, throughout. If you thought the episodes were funny, stay for the credits as you’ll get a quick chuckle out of them as well.

5/5 Stars

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A Choose your Own Audio Adventure: The Fairy Tree (Michael)

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Listening Order



Chapter 1
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 12
Chapter 15
Chapter 17

Review



The Fairy Tree is a choose your own adventure story done in an audio drama format. Since there are multiple routes you can take, this review will follow the path outlined above. This playthrough  erred on the side of being a kind, magical character and not fighting head on when you playing it smart can get you far. Call it my cautious personality.


The production value is top notch and worth the money you pay for it, assuming this style of story intrigues you. The adventure is short lived. At least for the path taken by me. Check out Zane's review for a different perspective and route taken through this fantasy adventure.


Headphones are key to experiencing the full effect of this audio drama. While it's not technically 3D as far as I can tell, it is highly immersive. That sense of being enveloped from both sides separates The Fairy Tree from free or even other paid productions. Again the price of admission is worth every penny.


It goes without saying that your mileage will vary. Not just because of the subjective nature of art, but due to the simple fact that your journey will be different from someone else's. Of course there's the caveat of limited combinations and permutations of plot events. Nowhere is this more clear, than when you're essentially given a redo for a decision you made early on in the story.


That's by far the biggest problem with this audio drama. It doesn't warrant repeat listens and there's no real sense of consequence for the actions you choose.

Michael L. Bergonzi   

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

The Table Round Episode 3

By far the darkest episode, the third chapter of “The Table Round” takes the story told thus far and provides a common denominator for the series to follow.

Before now, the episodes seemed too episodic. There were loose connections, but nothing concrete enough to say that these stories were related. The reveal in episode three about Kind Arthur and the force which would one day take the thrown away from him tied in the first two episode and by the end, the story had taken a darker turn for the better.

One can only hope that the next episode isn’t as dark, because while certain aspects of the King Arthur myth are gritty and unpleasant, a lot of what people remember are the positive things like the Knights of the Round Table. (Or maybe that’s thanks to Monty Python). Characters like Mordred and Morgan La fey give fans of the mythology a reason to squee, while others will find their introduction to be a great development for the story regardless.

 

5/5 Stars

Mistborn: The Final Empire (Part 2 of 3)

The middle (part 2 of 3) of this audiobook/audio drama hybrid is easily forgettable. That’s probably due to the lapse in listening I took and because having read/listened to the book, it was hard to differentiate what happened in what part. An event that happened in the beginning of part three could’ve happened at the end of part two. It’s not important, but it does make reviewing these hard. People who listened to this without a 1-2 month gap have larger attention spans than I do. While I enjoy political intrigue, all the ball scenes felt out of place. The tone was too different from the rest of the story. I realize it was necessary for having the plan established in part one to work, but the way it was handled could’ve been better. The sound effects were great. Each metal had a distinct sound, but sounded familiar enough to each other that it could be identified as allomancy. For example, Iron and steel are both external metals, but have opposite effects. One pulls objects towards you, while the other pushes them away. Their sounds are both similar and different, thus adding a certain ambience to the world through the SFX.

Rating: 3.5 stars