A Listener Reviews: The Deca Tapes
The Deca Tapes
Episodes: 8 episodes in this contained story
Length: Generally around 25-35 minutes
I’ve listened to… the whole story
The Premise: Recordings have been released detailing the lives and events that befall ten strangers kept together in a small, confined location. The strangers, each with their own roles in this micro-society, narrate the events. These events are also cut together with news, radio, and interview clips providing more background on who the ten people are and how they arrived there. I don’t want to say much more, because anything else might give away some of the fun twists and turns.
My Review: Looking for a really interesting mystery? Something with a bit of whodunit, a bit of conspiracy, and a whole lot of piecing clues together to uncover the big picture? The Deca Tapes manages to bring a lot of ideas together in a really successful format. It is a very serious mystery and deals with some adult themes and content throughout. But the way it all comes together makes for a wonderful ride. I’m going to do my best to avoid giving too much away, because the slow reveal is certainly one of the strengths of the story as a whole.
Each episode follows a single character and outlines a bit of their life. Some pasts (and presents, for that matter) are horrifying, some are sad, and many live in a messy grey area. Character development is brief, since most only get one episode to really share their perspective; however, they manage to be unique in voice, motivation, and personality. By midway through, a listener can start to recognize and understand how characters are likely to respond as new situations face the group. There are some characters with more thorough development, background, and personality, but each serves their place in the overarching story.
The clips from outside the group serve to provide a lot of character development, as well as push the mystery forward. These ended up being some of my favorite parts, because I felt each one gave some clue to the mystery, and I was hungry to learn more. On top of that, the backgrounds of the characters shared through this format were really creative. I was often surprised by the directions the stories took, and the writing took care to avoid some of the more obvious or expected tropes. As the character backgrounds come into focus, it makes it clear how each was assigned to their role, and why that might not always be for the best. If you do the math, though, you’ll notice that not every character gets their episode. Which I think works in the end, but my greedy curiosity would have loved more.
Another strength is that the writers clearly set out to tell a specific story. The plot is tight and moves at a good pace. Each episode serves to reveal a little more, and I certainly felt a growing sense of dread as the pieces began to line up and the big mystery became clearer. With eight episodes, it does not drag, nor does it feel too rushed. The preparation and storytelling considerations up front really help this story stand out.
My main critique would be the ending. Not because it was bad; it was completely fitting and appropriate given the direction of the story. I think it also threw me for an unexpected loop related to the timeline, but I won’t say more. However, I was left wanting more. I wanted more about these characters, more about their journey, and more about the shady stuff going on behind the scenes. It’s not that the ending did not wrap everything up nicely, but rather that the story really captured my curiosity. I was sad to see my time of studying this tiny portion of the universe end. And if I’m being honest, I really wanted there to be ten tapes. Because the Deca Tapes. But I think that might have been a little too on theme, and maybe not entirely consistent with the overall message.
The Deca Tapes is a well-paced, somber mystery that explores greed, religion, human nature, fear, and a lot of other deep concepts. It take a “found tapes” style approach, but develops those more fully so that it becomes a very vibrant story. While I had figured out a good bit by the end, as I mentioned, there were still some surprises waiting. It’s a solid story, written well, and executed beautifully. At eight well-constructed episodes, it is definitely worth listening to, even if you turn out like me and end up craving even more.
You can find them here: The Deca Tapes