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A Listener Reviews: Malevolent

Malevolent

Episodes: 8 publicly available. Patreon supporters have access to episodes in a weekly format ahead of public release, with a total of 47 weekly episodes currently available for $5 and up Patrons. 

Length: Monthly cuts are 35-45 minutes in length. Weekly episodes are 5-10 minutes each.

I’ve listened to… All 7 public episodes and maybe (definitely) all the Patreon episodes. I got hooked.

The Premise: Arthur Lester awakens with two startling revelations. He cannot see, and there is another voice inside his head. The story follows him and this entity as they try to understand what has happened, getting drawn deeper and deeper into a web of otherworldly conspiracies that put them both at risk. Using the Chaosium system to provide some additional framework to the story, it takes the listener on a mystery adventure deep through cosmic horror unknowns.

My Review: In the interest of all transparency, this creator reached out to me on Reddit and asked me to review the series. I had been eyeing the episodes for a while, so decided to take a listen. After listening to the 7 monthly cuts of episodes widely available, I decided it was well worth the $5 investment to get access to more, and I have just been listening to as many as possible since.

Malevolent is cosmic horror, and it delves into that genre quickly with rituals, sacrifices, ancient evils, and plenty of bizarre deaths and evocations. If you are familiar with lovecraftian stories, this will feel familiar, but far from stale. The plot twists and turns into danger every step of the way, constantly ratcheting up tension, while using brief moments of pause to summarize and reflect on what needs to happen next. One thing I found very interesting is that each of the weekly episodes ends with a choice that $10 and up Patrons can vote on, determining which path the characters will follow. I think the plot works seamlessly around these plot points, and even with outside control, the writing ensures the decisions are consistent with the world and characters as they are developing. The story also does a great job of providing subtle hints and clues throughout the story so that listeners can begin to piece things together. It is hard to create a sense of the uncanny through audio alone, but Malevolent manages to incorporate by providing just enough details so that the listener begins to realize the pieces aren’t aligning. And then the bizarre shines through, mimicking that real world feeling. 

Arthur is the main character, a private investigator now being forced to solve what may be an impossible mystery for human minds to comprehend. The stakes are high; an entity has moved into his head and, while seemingly an ally, there is no guarantee that the arrangement will last forever or end well for Arthur. He is a sympathetic character, and I find he demonstrates a good level of thoughtfulness in the story, while also having his moments of panic and helplessness. While we might all like to imagine we would escape mostly unscathed, Arthur shows how easily human ingenuity can be eclipsed by the otherworldly.

The Entity, which is the title I will use to avoid any potential spoilers, is just as stuck as Arthur, and yet may know more than they are letting on. That’s a great deal of the character tension, because while they are working together, Arthur and the Entity are in adversarial roles simply due to their situation. As details emerge, they serve to further complicate the tenuous partnership. The Entity also fills in some of the details and provides an excellent narrative voice. Since Arthur cannot see, the Entity explains things as they happen. I think this allows the story to sidestep one of the potential pitfalls in audiodrama in general. The audience is provided a detailed descriptions of characters, scenes, and events. This made me feel like I was getting the chance to play along, wondering if Arthur would take the same thing from encounters or places that I did, following the same leads.

The sound design for episodes is also fantastic. I think the story is served well with a blind main character. Arthur is just as surprised by sudden sounds and noises, and it creates a deeper sense of immersion. Additionally, the spooky noises, background sound effects, and wonderful skill of additional voice actors really serves to create a dynamic and engaging world. (Correction, all the voices are provided by ONE PERSON! Even more impressive, because I had no idea.) It is very easy to get sucked in and walk alongside Arthur through his perilous journey. I found episodes flying by as I listened, caught up in a world I could not see, but could easily experience.

As a brief aside, the story does use the Chaosium system, as stated in materials. I am not an actual-play podcast person, nor have I played an in-depth RPG-style tabletop game (but plenty of other tabletop games). I mention it to say, after reading up a bit on the system and some of the Call of Cthulhu rulebook, I can see how the system helps provide some additional structure to the story. That said, it is not an actual-play podcast and does not use dice rolls. I also never found myself lost or confused because I do not have the RPG experience. My one hesitation prior to listening was the reference to Chaosium and worries that I would be in the dark. Fortunately, I have not found that to be the case in the slightest.

Overall, I am so glad I gave this a listen. It is a great spooky story where the unraveling tale keeps me hooked. I am working to put the pieces together as the story develops, feeling like I am walking alongside Arthur and the Entity as they get pulled in deeper and deeper. The writing is strong, dialogue well written and acted, and sound design on point to create an immersive experience. I have been able to get lost in the world and the mystery of Malevolent, and I think it is an excellent listen if you need a little more otherworldly terror in your life. And who doesn’t, right?

You can find them here: Malevolent and support them on Patreon for access to weekly episodes, plus the opportunity to help determine Arthur’s fate.

A Listener Reviews: In Another Room

In Another Room

Episodes: 8

Length: 30-45 Minutes

I’ve listened to… All of it

The Premise: Wendy Morrow is exploring a notoriously haunted house. Each episode tells the story of a room as Wendy tries to understand not only what has happened in the past, but what is in store for her after she is caught within the house’s clutches.

My Review: If you like haunted house stories and great ghost stories, then this podcast is almost certain to have something for you. While each story deals with a specific room in the house, it is definitely designed to be listened to in order so that you can understand the workings of the house. Each room holds a clue to what happened, but more importantly what is keeping the souls trapped. The frame story with Wendy is also well-crafted, focusing on her need to understand the supernatural at the expense of the rest of her life.

The individual ghost stories are told well and have some familiar themes. To be fair, it is tough to come up with new ghost story themes, because it has been a genre since the start of time. However, the delivery of each story, as well as the interplay between time and setting, creates some unique experiences even with familiar concepts. It innovates on a theme that many will find familiar, turning it into something new. It is a haunted house, not only because it is inhabited by spirits, but because each spirit is haunted in their own way as well.

Some of the stories really stuck with me. They were well-written, well-acted, and showcased a great mix of complex characters throughout. The stories develop a claustrophobic feel as they explore the injustice of those trapped, and the same feelings spill over into the present-day experience with Wendy beautifully. Wendy’s story becomes its own standalone cautionary tale, following someone driven to the edges by grief, even to the point of missing life right in front of them. In many ways, she is trapped before she ever steps foot in the house, and so it is interesting to follow in her footsteps deeper into the mire that exists.

Overall,Iin Another Room took a lot of ghost story ideas and blended them into a unique and intriguing story. It creates a sense of chaos and confusion that brings setting and characters alive throughout the story. Voices blend over each other, time shifts, and everything that happens within the house has the feel of solid reality and complete fantasy rolled together. It is spooky and unsettling in all the best ways, ultimately reworking the idea of a haunted house in a way I am really glad I got to hear. It reminded me of campfire stories from my childhood, but grown up with an air of polish that kept me eagerly listening episode after episode.

You can find them here: In Another Room

A Listener Reviews: The Patron Saint of Suicides


The Patron Saint of Suicides

Episodes: 14 episodes in season 1.

Length: 20-35 minutes per episode

I’ve listened to… all of season one, very eagerly.

The Premise: Years ago, a flash robbery on a train went wrong and ended in bloodshed. And now, bodies are showing up on the train tracks with the same Lucha masks worn by the perpetrators. The podcast follows Haven Otomo, one of the attack survivors, as she navigates her recovery while walking alongside the investigation into these new deaths.

My Review: This is a strong mystery crime thriller that introduces a cast of phenomenal characters and develops a compelling interwoven story about grief, loss, recovery, pain, justice, and revenge. It starts with two primary focuses, following Haven as well as the investigation into new deaths, led by Victor Blossem and Zoey Gibson. As the investigation progresses, Haven’ connection with a survivor’s support group makes her invaluable to the investigation as they try to figure out why these suspects are turning up dead. I very much enjoy stories that start with divergent stories and weave them together, and I think this manages to bring the two sides of the story together in a wonderful way.

The character of Haven is developed over the course of the season in very compelling ways, revealing deep pain and remarkable resolve. She has a habit of patrolling the Golden Gate Bridge to help people contemplating suicide, fulfilling a role as impromptu therapist on many occasions. Through this, listeners also learn of her own recovery and progress, as well as her lingering wounds. Haven’s perspective is generally told in her own words, with a biting level of insight and honesty, even when exploring those moments of uncertainty and insecurity. She has her flaws and these are generally displayed openly throughout, with her own awareness of her weaknesses servicing to add a layer of internal conflict that feels very real. Even when she can recognize pitfalls, sometimes she is unable to avoid them.

In addition, there is a whole cast of strong characters that exist within the world. They show different responses to trauma and grief, each in different stages of healing. I really appreciated the way these trauma reactions were handled throughout, noting how challenging it can be to recover from an event like this, but also demonstrating how people find healing and recovery at times. That’s not to say it is all happy endings, and there is a very authentic exploration of death and suicide throughout, both from central characters and secondary or tertiary ones. So, it is important to know that suicide and death will be frequent themes in the episodes. If you couldn’t guess by the title.

In addition to the treatment of trauma, I really appreciated how the story spoke about race, privilege, and the impact of mental illness. It fluidly incorporates many systemic factors that often negatively impact marginalized groups (such as the impact of mental illness of members of a minority group, or how police relationships can be shaped by race and status). In doing so, it adds layers of complexity and realism to the story that deepen character motivations, strengths, and weaknesses. It is a thoughtful story that tackles challenging topics in an effort to provide a believable and increasingly complicated story.

The writing was engaging and well developed. Each episode left me wanting more of the story, introducing new twists and turns. Dialogue is well-written, narration is thorough without becoming distracting, and the internal workings of Haven’s mind provide the chance for the audience to really connect and understand her more fully. In addition, I really enjoyed the glimpses of her standup sets for the additional view into her world provided. The plot is complex, but developed wonderfully throughout each episode. The finale episode was remarkably done. It is a crime thriller with hints of a whodunnit throughout, so I won’t give anything away besides noting it is an exceptional episode that really did justice to the story as a whole so far.

It is a complex story, and so I feel I have tried to capture some of that in this review. But it is certainly a fascinating and emotional story to listen to from start to finish. I am interested in hearing where it goes from the finale of season one, but I have no doubts there are plenty of intriguing ways to further develop and explore the characters. While it deals with heavy topics, it is something I wished I could have binge listened to (had I not listened as it released) because each part was so good. Now that all of season one is out, I highly recommend listening to it as soon as you can.

You can find them here: The Patron Saint of Suicides and support them on Patreon

A Listener Reviews: The Oyster


The Oyster

Episodes: 7 in season 1

Length: 30-60 minutes

I’ve listened to… all of season 1.

The Premise: The surface of Earth can no longer sustain the population, and so underground bunkers are constructed to save who they can…based on a numeric rating system. The story follows Hannah Ori as she lives in this world and works on a new project, The Oyster, promising complete peace. But at what cost?

My Review: I found the Oyster when it showed up in a number of other podcasts I listen to. I had previously listened to Darkest Night, which shares some themes and creators in common, and so I was eager to hear more. I wrote briefly about my thoughts in A Listener Reviews: New 2020 Roundup, and my appreciation for the story only grew the more I listened.

The Oyster is a pretty dark ride. It does not shy away from discussions of trauma, grief, loss, racism, suicide, and meaning. And for that, I really appreciated the story on multiple levels. I think it is important to be aware of these themes and the pretty grim tone throughout for anyone considering listening, just so you can check your mental health. But if you feel up to it, I think the story it tells is wonderful and evokes some great questions that we should wrestle with.

Everyone in this story has their dark side, some more than others. There is an acknowledgment of collective trauma, as well as exploration of the individual stories that brought people there as well. The cast of characters all act in various shades of grey, ranging from shadowy to midnight. However, there is generally a compelling reason for their actions and consistent motivation, even if I find the decision abhorrent. I think this is a true strength of the show because it does not have evil for the sake of evil, but evil often in the name of “good.” It demonstrates just how reasonable terrible things can seem when spun in the right way with half-truths and fearmongering. Hannah is an engaging narrator set in a world that is executed well in the audiodrama format with good use of sound design to flesh out the world.

In addition to this, the story weaves themes of systemic injustice throughout, highlighting how most of the people who did not make the initial cut to escape underground were members of a minority group, those with medical/mental health conditions or disabilities, and people with other difficulties that often act as barriers today. It managed to showcase exactly why such systemic inequalities can exist. Everyone taking comfort that it does not affect them directly while refusing to see the bigger picture. That aspect of the story is introduced in multiple places, always managing to show how damaging perpetuation of the status quo can be.

And it does not stop there. It delves into the meaning of trauma and suffering in a beautiful way. I work as a trauma therapist, so my day-to-day is pretty much filled with hearing people talk about the worst moments of their life. The Oyster starts to show what happens when we individually and culturally prioritize comfort over addressing the pain of the past. It also weaves in additional complexities cause by government conspiracy to increase pressure to conform and pretend as if everything is fine. The culture that is created is one of faux normalcy and concealed pain that seeps into so many parts of everyday life, everyone trying to recover from impossible losses. Which ultimately is what makes the Oyster (the creation that promises to end this pain) so dangerous.

The Oyster overall is a challenging story in the themes it addresses, but it does so in a way that forces introspection and reflection. It tells a very compelling story by holding up a mirror to some of our worst sides, and through it, makes you want to fight for humanity all the more. It was unsettling to listen to, but in a outstanding way, and I cannot wait to see where the story goes from season 1.

You can find them here: The Oyster

A Listener Reviews: Vega


Vega

Episodes: 13

Length: 20-30 minutes per episode

I’ve listened to… all released

The Premise: Vega Rex is a highly effective assassin taking out some of the world’s worst criminals in a fascinating sci-fi world. Only this time, she may not be able to catch the bad guy.

My Review: If you have not listened to Vega already, you have definitely been missing out. Set in a sci-fi, fantasy, futuristic, technologic world, it follows Vega as she does her job. Her job as a high-powered, terrifying, secretive huntress. The story is told with a strong, engaging creative voice and weaves together a complex world that I am always left more and more curious about.

The style of Vega certainly sets it apart. It is told through narration predominantly, with frequent asides to the audience, commentary on events, and general insight from the mostly omniscient narrator. It breaks the fourth wall frequently, chides the audience, and keeps energy high throughout the telling. It is one of the most distinct narrative styles I have listened to in recent audio dramas, and it serves very well to accentuate and elevate the story into a different experience. It is not always a linear story. The narrator may pause and expand on a topic, reveal a bit of the past, or jump forward a little into the future. Or even dive into the perspective of another character. It is a fast-paced ride through the story, and the narrator’s energy shows this is a story they are passionate about. The casual and conversational style of the writing also gives it that feel of a great, excited friend eagerly filling you in on the important facts and juicy details. Frankly, I’d listen to the narrator tell me about paint dry and probably still be fascinated.

The world of Vega is also incredible. There is a lot of depth alluded to, and expanded upon in its time, throughout the thirteen current episodes. Not everything is explained or laid out neatly, but the narrator provides context necessary to understand. This also serves to leave a number of questions that I look forward to hearing answered. The cultures created are certainly intriguing, with various worldviews and religious perspectives that are detailed to varying degrees. It provides a backdrop of a complete, fully functioning world that Vega must navigate. And while as a listener I never know all of the pieces, I can start to appreciate some of the challenges present in a universe as complex as the one showcased in Vega. It feels real, as if the narrator could look to the side and begin to tell you a story about that other character over there, their life, experiences, and roadblocks. It feels like a living world.

Vega as a character is intriguing. She is good at what she does–unapologetically one of the best–and she embraces that. However, she also questions and pushes against the status quo when it does not work, putting her at odds with the system she has in many ways mastered. There is some nicely developed conflict between her and the rules of the world she lives in, and I think the character development in those moments is really spectacular. She is also multifaceted, with competing values and motivations at various points around her job, religion, family, and self-preservation. As a listener, I had an opportunity to appreciate the complicated identity of Vega, while also recognizing I have a lot more to learn about her and the world as the story unfolds.

Vega is fast-paced and action packed. However, it does not neglect world-building or character development in the process. Instead, it provides glimpses into a fully developed world, while also following realistic characters living within these cultures. The narrative style is unique, but instantly engaging, and the excitement is infectious. As I said, if you haven’t listened, you are almost certainly missing out. I’ll stop talking so you can go and fix that.

You can find them here: Vega and support the creator on Patreon

A Listener Reviews: Triple Six

Triple Six

Episodes: 5 total in the story

Length: 150 minutes total, broken up into 30 minute episodes

I’ve listened to… the whole story

The Premise: Riley and Brynn head to Las Vegas in the hopes of repairing their struggling marriage. Once there, however, Brynn is kidnapped by some particularly seedy individuals, and Riley must fight against impossible odds to save himself and his wife.

My Review: I really enjoy short fiction, and I think it takes a lot of skill to tell a contained story in a succinct package. Triple Six manages to tell its story well with a pace that keeps things moving, but also provides opportunity to develop the character arc. And adds in some twists and turns along the way. The production quality in general is really standout, and scenes come to life through skillful use of dialogue, ambient sounds, and appropriate effects.

The main character is Riley, and he’s our hero. He has a typical character arc, but his journey and development is handled well in the brief five episode run. At the start, he has plenty of negative traits and qualities that make him rather unlikable. However, his growth and increasing awareness of his faults over the course of the story ultimately make it easy to root for him as things go from bad to worse. Some of the opening scenes between Riley and Brynn are infuriating and perfect. They have a sad reality to them that showcases bad communications, unmet expectations, and unspoken assumptions in a way that develops the scene and characters. However, as Riley changes as a character, his relationship transforms as well.

It is a dark story, and it does not really try to sugar coat things or dress it up. There are some truly despicable characters, but frankly they work well within the world of the story. Rather than trying to sugar coat things or pull back from the implications of the underground gambling ring, this story runs with it and shows the monsters that inhabit such a world. As well as the unfortunate (and not so unfortunate) victims swept up throughout. It is a production for adult ears and includes references to a lot of questionable content, but it all makes sense with the characters and the world at work. The pacing and style keep it from feeling too grim or heavy, instead pushing it forward like an action thriller.

In many ways, this podcast feels like a movie that you might watch with a bowl of popcorn, edge of your seat. But I think that the podcast really brings the story to life through the sounds, creating immersive scenes. It also puts the listener in the midst of the chaos. There are points where characters are referred to only by their color designation. There are a lot of people introduced and a lot of action happening as Riley works to put things together. It is chaotic and hard to follow. And it is perfect for that moment in the narrative, because it should feel overwhelming. As soon as you as the listener start to get your feet under you, the story speeds ahead. It manages to keep you a little confused in a very good way throughout, mirroring the off-balance nightmare Riley is living.

While the concept presented is not something completely original, I think the treatment of this story, the character development, and the way things unravel at the end really serve to make this a very enjoyable listening experience. It creates a glimpse into a world that I only want to learn about from the safety of a podcast. If you enjoy a high stakes adventure with an everyman hero that will keep you guessing, this is definitely an immersive story worth a listen.

You can find them here: Triple Six

A Listener Reviews: BRASS

BRASS

Photo image features Ron Richardson as Lord Brass, Kate Kraay as Lady Brass, Jeremy Adams as Cyril Brass and Katherine Grant-Suttie as Gwendolyn Brass. Photo by Wynne Earle.

Episodes: 34, with more coming to complete the fourth and final season

Length: Generally around 15 minutes, with some select episodes running in the 25-35 minutes range

I’ve listened to… 11 episodes. I intended to listen to six, then figured I would finish up the first season, and then accidentally listened to one more. A complete accident, of course.

The Premise: BRASS is a steampunk adventure following the titular family of scientific geniuses as they unravel the criminal underworld of an alternate universe 19th century. It is a light-hearted adventure story with moments of danger, humor, science fiction, and just plain old good storytelling.

My Review: This review started with a request from the creators, and so I wanted to give them a listen. I usually start listening to the first three episodes of a podcast. I give them a chance to overcome maybe a challenging opening and catch me within three episodes. I was hooked by episode one and eager to listen to more. Which is how I may have ended up binging far more episodes than I intended originally for the writing of this review. And I will certainly be finishing the story now that I’ve begun.

BRASS is full of fun. It is a full cast audiodrama, and the voice acting really serves to provide additional depth to the characters. There is so much of the story that is told through tone, with a heavy hand of sarcasm throughout, and I am certain you will hear the eyerolls in their voices at times. The characters each have their set roles and personalities, but they play very well off of one another. The writing is sharp as well, providing good interplay between characters. I also find the narration to strike a nice balance. It provides enough context to understand, without slowing the story down or missing out on character building moments. It mirrors the old radio announcer style in a way that is instructive and likable.

This podcast does one thing that I think tends to make me happy in any media. It has fun. The story does not take itself too seriously, but plays with the rules and creates interesting situations which allow the characters to shine throughout. Sometimes things are a little too convenient or bend the limits of the believable. But if you accept the offer to suspend disbelief, I think it is truly an enjoyable experience to follow along with the family Brass.

The world is familiar, yet distinct enough to leave space for discovery and exploration, and I find they weave in the steampunk elements enough to give some extra creativity when it comes to not only problem solving, but also the dangerous stakes facing the family. I personally have really loved the allusions to and cameos from various historical and literary figures, and I find those moments feel like a familiar inside joke. Plus, if you do fall in love with the world of BRASS, there are many different opportunities to learn more. Not only is there the podcast, but also another podcast of short stories from the world, live theater productions, and a short film. It speaks to the depth of the worldbuilding that they have been able to create and support so many windows into the goings on.

BRASS is ultimately a fun escape into a world adjacent to our own. The characters are entertaining and endearing in their own ways. The writing is done well, moving the story along at a good pace while focusing on the relationships between characters. Most of all, this is a story that enjoys taking you along for the journey, and wants to make sure you are enjoying it as well. It has kept me wondering about what will happen next and how characters will escape the dangers ahead. It is funny, engaging, intriguing, and witty. I am definitely sad that I had not listened to them before, but very happy to have the chance to catch up now.

You can find them here: BRASS. And support them here.

A Listener Reviews: The Resistible Rise of JR Brinkley

The Resistible Rise of JR Brinkley

Episodes: 4

Length: 30-35 minutes

I’ve listened to… the whole production

The Premise: The Resistible Rise of JR Brinkley is a stage play adapted to audiodrama format to help combat the challenge that 2020 has been for the performing arts. It is a Brechtian play (which, if you are like me and need to Google that, means incorporating direct discussion with the audience, historical parallels to modern events, and fourth wall breaking). It details the mostly true story of JR Brinkley, medical fraudster turned radio host turned politician in a story that is eerily familiar to the modern US political landscape.

My Review: This was a fantastic listen overall. It is not what you typically expect when you are used to full cast audiodramas, but understanding the format helped me appreciate the story. The story is told through a conversational narrator, dramatized portions, and interviews with the writer and outside experts. The action may pause for a brief aside to explain an artistic choice, a historical moment, or some other tidbit that deepens the story. It was like listening to an annotated history or a well dramatized documentary. Not only was it entertaining, but it definitely helped deepen my understanding of certain concepts and themes in US history.

The story itself is almost too bizarre to believe. There is a lot more talk about goat testicles than I ever expected to hear in my life. However, that is where the maxim “truth is stranger than fiction” thrives. The parallels to recent events, as I mentioned, are so strong that some of Brinkley’s speeches are edited to incorporate more recent rhetoric and, frankly, they can be hard to distinguish from the original statements. The work does not shy away from the ugly sides of history, not in its depiction of Brinkley as a greedy fraud, nor in the frank depiction of the accepted antisemitism of the time. I think what stuck with the most as I listened was the balance between the absurd and the distressing. On the one hand, I was often in shock at the things that were done, said, and accepted. Were this not a true story, it would probably stay in that balance between comedy and disbelief where the absurd often resides. However, it did happen. It continues to happen.

From a more technical perspective, the production is crisp and clear. They incorporate country music, including adaptations of country classics and contemporaneous political songs. The songs are ear catching and serve to provide transitions, exposition, and additional context for the play. It is interesting how the start of country winds through this already odd story, and it provides yet another way to deepen one’s understanding of the cultural context that led to such events. The discussions with experts on these topics serves to provide intriguing and educational facts that accentuate the complexity of the story overall.

Listening to this story was an experience on multiple levels. It is an intriguing story. It educated me in some cultural and historical contexts that I was not very familiar (not being a country music fan or at all knowledgeable about Kansas politics in the 1920s). It prompted reflection on current events and trends seen in my country today. It did a lot in its just over two hour runtime.

This is not a traditional audiodrama, nor do I think it set out to be. But it was an experience to listen to. 2020 has been hard on everyone this year, and the performing arts have been hit exceptionally hard. I am really encouraged to see some people turning to other avenues to continue sharing their work, though I hope we soon come to a time where we can all return to the theater seats and hear, see and experience it together again. Until that time, however, I strongly encourage you to keep your ears open for great productions like this. If you want to listen to a wonderfully made play, look them up and listen in.

You can find them here: Untitled Theater

A Listener Reviews: Mission Rejected

Mission Rejected

Episodes: 22 so far

Length: 30-45 minutes, usually

I’ve listened to… everything released so far

The Premise: Mission Rejected tells the story of the agents who take the rejected missions. It centers on Agent Skip Granger, who is tasked to save the world in increasingly mundane locations when the agency’s star asset hits reject.

My Review: I had not given much thought to that old cliché phrase, “Your mission, should you choose to accept it…” until this podcast came along. But they took a simple concept and developed it in an extraordinary way.

Each episode focuses on a specific mission, with the buildup, planning, implementation, unraveling, and conclusion. If you like action movies and spy flicks, I am certain you will recognize many of the themes and tropes. There are kooky gadgets, mad scientists, evil geniuses, hidden lairs, and a cast of misfit characters tackling it all. I am really torn in writing this review. I wanted to say that the misfit characters are really what make this story. But then I started thinking it was the sharp, witty writing. And then I thought about the subtle jokes and gags that make me laugh in-universe and at our own world. And the sound design is done wonderfully well. Plus they have an episode with multiple original songs that honestly I would listen to outside of the podcast. So, I’m having a bit of trouble, because they do so much well.

Let’s take things one at a time. The characters are a well-developed bunch that demonstrate character growth over the course of the episodes, while also holding true to their roles within the team. After a few episodes, you get a good feel for how they fit together (or how they grate against each other), which provides a lot of contrasting motivations, even when the goal should be on the mission. No one is static in this show, and each character has their own needs, wants, dreams, and growth areas that are changing as the seasons progress. It is truly enjoyable just listening to those interactions.

And the writing is top notch. Dialogue is sharp, character consistent, and honestly makes me laugh out loud in my car. The overarching plot is paced well, with increasing danger and intrigue as the master plot develops, but enough standalone spy-work in each episode to keep you locked in. Plus, the storylines throw some unexpected twists into the plot as they plays with the expected thriller tropes. It does not rely on narration, but tells the story through dialogue. I think they do a great job of outlining the scene and providing visual information through really natural conversations, updates, and observations of the characters. Plus, as I mentioned, they use sound design to create deeper backgrounds, letting a listener fill in the gaps. There are good sound cues that help provide disruptions, plot progression, or general background to bring the events to life.

The world of Mission Rejected looks much like our own, with enough differences to provide the escape I need from reality. It does help it provide some laughs when things hit closer to home than expected, however. As a mom to a toddler, I’m not sure I needed Baby Whale taking up any brain real estate, but there it is. Speaking of the Baby Whale song, I have to say there is a musical episode, and I cannot even conceptualize the amount of work and creativity that went into creating such fantastic, on point songs for each scene. The story is told through the songs in a competition, and it not only progresses character story arcs, but does so with snappy tunes. I was floored.

Because there should probably be a limit to how much I gush about one individual show, I will wrap up. Suffice it to say Mission Rejected has been a highlight of my audiodrama queue recently. It provides the perfect escape and pick-me-up I need during 2020 with a cast of endearing characters that I root for week after week. It has strong writing, strong characters, a lot of laughter, and a fun idea executed to perfection. I strongly recommend you accept.

You can find them here: Mission Rejected

A Listener Reviews: Forgotten SciFi

Forgotten SciFi

Episodes: 10 so far

Length: 30 – 90 minutes

I’ve listened to… 4 episodes – working my way through more!

The Premise: Forgotten SciFi is an anthology podcast focused on reading the original, as-written foundations of modern sci-fi. With stories stretching back into the Victorian Age, it showcases some of the early stories that smudged the line between scientific breakthrough and fantastic fiction.

My Review:  Some of my earliest memories of media are watching Star Trek with my mother at way too young of an age. I remember being fascinated by Star Wars in the same way, and then going with my dad to see the re-releases in theater. There is a distinct moment where I remember feeling betrayed because it dawned on me that he knew the whole time who Darth Vader was, and he had kept it hidden. But that reveal in the theater was remarkable.

Sci-fi as a genre is one that I have become very familiar with, and so many of the tropes that are used can become common place. Rarely can I recapture that amazement that I had when I found out the truth about the Skywalker family. And not to ramble on too long about Star Wars (a bad habit, I’m sure), but I find Forgotten SciFi helps me better appreciate the sci-fi of today by learning more about its history. It shares stories that created what I know and love today, and I realize someone had that same moment of amazement as they learned about alien worlds, time travel, and other twists for the first time in these stories.

As an anthology, each story is different, has a different author, and is its own contained narrative. It is really easy to pick up any episode and dive in. The narration of the episodes is fantastic for this medium, and I find myself really transported by the narrator as each story unfolds. This is a literal one-man show, but it is put together in a wonderful way. The pacing, tone, and emotion of each story is well-balanced. Even when discussing the dangerous and otherworldly, there is something soothing in the voice that just makes me want to keep listening. I’m also impressed by the ability to set apart characters with easily noted changes in voice.

For an anthology, I think it is also served by digging deeper into the past for the narration. These are not stories I have come across in other podcasts, nor are they ones I was reasonably familiar with prior to listening. However, each one showcases a story that developed some of the familiar themes we see in sci-fi today. As someone who also enjoys writing, I am fascinated by the way the writing style, author’s voice, and original context is preserved in the rendering. The “downside” of using such foundational stories, however, is that the stories often become somewhat predictable. Rather than detracting, this instead allows the listener to appreciate the crafting of the story, even if the twists are now familiar.

Forgotten SciFi is unique in that it tells engaging stories that are expertly crafted, while also providing an experiential history of sci-fi. Each story stands alone and presents a unique story that can transport you to the incredible world being constructed. If you like sci-fi, this is definitely worth a listen not only to appreciate the craftsmanship of the original story and the talent behind the current presentation, but also to learn a bit about where modern sci-fi draws its inspiration.

You can find them here: Forgotten SciFi