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Archive for February, 2019

A Listener Reviews: Splintered Caravan

Splintered Caravan

Episodes: 9 episodes

Length: Generally around 25-30 minutes

I’ve listened to… All there is so far!

The Premise: Delve into the world of caravans, groups of enhanced humans (and AI) that team up to complete jobs that err on the shady side. Caylek is unsure of them, but agrees to try it out when Triten–her partner? mentor?–encourages her to give them a shot so that they can complete a job. But, as you might guess, things go sideways and what should have been simple gets complicated.

My Review: I was not sure at first on this one. It seemed interesting, but was I up for this sci-fi, cyberpunk, black market, little bit of everything kind of blend? And I gave it a couple episode before I was completely hooked. The characters are not always likable, and that is one of the greatest strengths. They manage to bring to life realistic characters who make me so angry, but also manage to keep me critically interested in their well-being and survival. They have realistic flaws that end up propelling the story forward. They aren’t superficial flaws, but complex characters whose strengths and weaknesses are what make the show engaging.

Not only are the characters rich, but the world is deep; far deeper than they’ve fully explored so far. But the exposition of information has been handled well. There might be a few moments where it veers too far into explaining, but as a listener, I’m kind of grateful at times. Having Caylek as an outsider to the caravan system provides excellent opportunities for convincing in-universe exposition. I do wish some more of the details and scope of the story was a bit clearer at this point, but I’m willing to go along for the ride.

The written dialogue and acting has been consistently good. There are a wide range of voices, making each character unique in personality, tone, and motivation. Sound quality has been great, which I am always thankful for when listening in the car. From a technical standpoint, I have no complaints. I wish there was more of it to listen to, but I figure that’s just going to be the story for a lot of audiodrama.

Finally, the story is complex and deals with heavy topics, but knows how to lighten it up. There have been a lot of twist and turns in the short 9 episode run so far, and I am still working to piece things together. I would certainly not call it predictable; rather, it keeps me on my toes, eager to hear how things will unfold next.

You can probably tell, but I’m a big fan. I was excited to learn about a new episode coming out, downloaded it right when I woke up, and listened to it first thing in the morning. So it has me hooked. If any of what I’ve mentioned sounds interesting to you, then Splintered Caravan definitely deserves a listen.

You can find them here: Splintered Caravan (I could not find a direct website, so here’s their Patreon.)25-30

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A Listener Reviews: Kalila Stormfire’s Economical Magick Services

Kalila Stormfire’s Economical Magick Services

Episodes: 13 episodes so far, with some shorts and bonus content.

Length: Generally around 15-25 minutes

I’ve listened to… All the main episodes and shorts.

The Premise: Kalila Stormfire is a witch providing, you guessed it, “economical” magick services to people in her community. However, someone is sabotaging her reputation and she’s on the outs with the coven.

My Review: This is a show that I found endearing from episode one, and by episode five or six, I was hooked. I liked the concept early, thinking it would be a more “case of the week” style story, with Kalila narrating the story of one of her clients and how she was able to help. But then appeared this undercurrent of so much more going on. The world is still in the early stages, but magic and magical beings abound. It successfully manages to bring this world of fantasy into the modern day, with modern day problems needing magical solutions.

Kalila is the main character and, for season one, the primary narrator for all events. They’re adding more voice actors as they go, and I’m really excited to see where this goes as they break free of the mostly single-perspective storytelling. It’s not that her perspective is uninteresting or a negative, but I believe the creators will take the opportunity to have different voices to more fully develop the world, characters, and central conflict.

Season one tells a good story, but it certainly feels like more of an introduction than a full project currently. I really like what is there, but it simply needs more time to be fully developed.  I don’t yet have a good grasp of the “rules” of the universe, so it’s a little hard to know what is possible. However, you only get that sense from more and more exposure to what’s going on. And maybe knowing a little more about magic in general. I mean, I’m such a noob that I’m left wondering if I should be spelling it magic or magick and what might be the difference. Suffice it to say, I’m looking forward to season two (though I should probably Google the spelling thing).

Overall, this is a stable, comfortable, enjoyable podcast. It is serious without taking itself too serious, tells an interesting story, and is simply well put together. I look forward to the world gaining more depth through the inclusion of new voices and simply more time spent in-universe. This is a story in its early stages, but I am excited to hear what comes next.

Find them here: Kalila Stormfire’s Economical Magick Services


A Listener Reviews: Tanis

I’m revamping how these reviews are laid out. The original format was efficient, but frankly not up to my standards. So I’m changing it up from here on, and will be going back to update the old ones. And i’m going to do away with the “ratings.” It just does not feel right to me. So, here is the updated format. I think it’s a little more true to me.

Tanis

Episodes: 48 (4 Seasons)

Length: Generally around 30-40 minutes

I’ve listened to… 4-5 Episodes

The Premise: A man discovers a hidden story about Tanis, this lost place. As he begin to uncover what Tanis is, he is drawn deeper into a complicated history that promises more and more mystery.

My Review: I tried to get into Tanis, because the mystery seems so intriguing. It’s a really unique idea and, following along on the subreddit, sounds like they go some really interesting places. It has so many pieces that I generally love in a story, like time and space instability, supernatural elements, puzzles and clues, multiple dimensions. All kinds of fun stuff, frankly. But for me, I just have been completely unable to get into the story and stay engaged. The interactions between the main characters always end up feeling very artificial and stiff. There are great leaps in logic that leave me feeling confused, followed by the character missing incredibly basic things. You  can tell it’s a scripted story because of how forced some of the dialogue ends up being. And oh my, the pauses. They must receive royalties for every dramatic pause because the episodes are chock full of them.

I’m so torn on this series. On the one hand, I really want to love it. But I  simply have not been able to make myself listen to more. I think this would have been more palatable to me had I not listened to a couple of podcasts by the same creators prior to starting Tanis. They use a lot of the same beats and techniques across their shows, which is to be expected. But whereas I was able to overlook it once or twice, by the time I reached Tanis, I was worn out. With the world of excellent audiodrama out there, I simply have not been able to convince myself to sit through the poor execution to appreciate the intriguing story. And I hate that, but there are a lot of people doing both well.

That said, there is a lot they do well from a technical perspective. The sound quality is great, the music is well suited, and they maintain a rather reliable schedule of updates. I truly believe this podcast could be incredible if they brought on some new voices and perspectives to help them escape some of their bad habits and tropes. But, for now, I’m not going to dedicate any of my precious listening time to Tanis.


Quick update about reviews

Hello!

Well, after getting into the review groove, I’ve decided I don’t really like the format I’ve been using. But, I figure that’s pretty in line with my goal for the site. After all, I started this to showcase how ideas and stories change throughout the process. How editing and reworking are integral parts of the creative process. And that we should not be ashamed to show where we start from and where we are going.

But, frankly, the format I’ve been using was chosen for expediency rather than artfulness. While I want to keep some parts to make it easy to learn more about a podcast (like the basic info), I want to change the way I’ve done the reviews. I just want to talk about them, not try to fit it into this artificial format with a couple of short paragraphs. I’ve tried to make it clear all over this blog: I like to hear myself talk (er…see myself write?). And I want the reviews I write to have the same quality as the short stories, even if the style and requirements are different. But I’ve never really done many reviews, so I’m learning.

In line with my aspirations for the blog as a whole, I will keep the old published versions of all reviews already published available via “Read More” links. And if I should decide to make further changes later, well, I’ll cross that bridge then. For now, I hope you like the change!


A Listener Reviews: Station to Station

To see this review in the original format, click “Read more.” Otherwise, please enjoy this updated version.

Station to Station

Episodes:  10 current episodes

Length: Generally around 30 minutes

How I Found It: From the Directory of Independent Audio Drama 

I’ve listened to… 10 episodes.

The Premise:  A scientist is missing, leaving notes for his friend and lab partner to uncover. But what happened to him and why does no one else seem to remember he existed?

My review: This is a rather slow burn of a story. It’s not loud and in your face like some similar stories in the genre, but a little more reflective and subdued. It builds tension that keeps you hooked, but it’s more the quiet, uneasy sort of tension. If I’m being honest, it was that quality that made it hard for me to get into at first. Because there was not a lot of urgency from the main characters, I found myself wondering what the big deal was. I’m glad I stuck with the story, though, because as all the pieces fit together, it really explodes into this interesting, thoughtful world. The exciting elements are not running from monsters, but trying to decide how to do what is right in an impossible situation. It feels more…philosophical, I suppose. What caught my interest most by the end was wondering how I would react in this situation. And if all this is happening, what are the broader implications?

I had some difficulties, however. I like to listen to podcasts when I am driving. This one made that difficult due to the rather quiet voices of the cast. I’d have to crank the volume up, and then get deafened a scene or two later. That’s a small annoyance, but it definitely makes it more challenging. I probably missed some information and connections because I simply could not make out the dialogue. Were I using headphones, this likely would have been less of an issue. But I also would have far less time to enjoy all the wonderful audiodrama out there. And perhaps this is just personal, but I also had some difficult telling the three main characters apart. There are three primary female leads, and while one was distinct, two tended to run together for me. I had to spend a lot of time staying focused on context. That made me glad I listened to the episodes in more or less one go (across a few days, but not over a release schedule), because I would have struggled even more trying to keep all the characters straight otherwise.

In the end, while I enjoyed it, the more reserved tone of this story made it a little harder for me to get as caught up. I did not ultimately feel as connected to the characters as I have in other audiodramas, partially due to my own difficulties distinguishing the characters, but also because I felt like there was less background. They remained very focused on the present moment of the story, fitting within the theme of the podcast, but less engaging for me. That said, their final episodes also left me wanting more. There is a season 2 in the works, apparently, I will almost certainly tune in to hear more of this story. It may not be my all time top podcast, but it’s one I am glad to have found and am excited to hear more of.

Find them here: Station to Station

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