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Posts tagged “audiodrama

A Listener Reviews: Zero Hours

Zero Hours

Episodes:  7

Length: 30-45 minutes

I’ve listened to… All released so far. I’m staying hopeful there will be more coming!

The Premise: An anthology podcast of seven stories that deal with the end of the world, in ways both universal and personal.

My Review:  Apparently, for a lot of my writing life,  the apocalypse and the end of the world have been a big theme for me. I have sixteen stories on this site alone that deal with that theme in some form or fashion. So when the people who created one of the greatest podcasts to ever exist (yes, Wolf 359. I can’t write a review because it would just be pages of gushing over how great it is) announce they are putting out an anthology podcast of stories related to the end of the world, I’m on board.

Each of the 7 stories is (more or less) standalone, though there are some references to one another woven throughout. They range from comical to serious, but each is expertly crafted and acted. The theme of the end of the world is represented from global apocalypse scenarios to personal struggles and transitions that can never be undone. I appreciate how well they innovated on the theme to create unique stories that standalone but also support and build upon one another. You could pick any episode and listen to it in isolation to enjoy it, but they are best appreciated as a collection. It goes beyond simple genre or theme and creates a series of stories that talk to one another.

Given the range of the seven stories, I am sure almost every listener will have their favorites and least favorites. I think that is both a strength and a weakness. There is a lot of variety in seven stories, but there are quite a few I wish had been developed even further through subsequent stories because it created such an intriguing idea/setting.

Beyond the great quality, the cast and crew have been very active. There are playlists that go along with each episode, listen-throughs with commentary, and unique art. It shows just how much thought and care go into each one. That kind of passion and teamwork is really inspiring, and it shines through in the final product. These stories deserve to be listened to and appreciated as a well-conceived and produced collection of stories about the end. I’m just sad I had to reach their end in only seven episodes.

You can find them here: Zero Hours


A Listener Reviews: January 2020 Roundup

Happy New Year! January is off to some kind of start, for sure, and now that we’re solidly into 2020, let’s talk a bit about podcasts. So many new things have been released, and even more shows are starting back up with new seasons. It’s great and definitely keeping my ears busy.

I thought I’d put together a few briefer thoughts on some new podcasts that have come out this month. There are so many good ones, so I’m only going to showcase a few here. If I missed one of your favorite new shows, comment so I can check them out, too! Also, especially since these shows are just getting started I’m including links to donations or Patreon (when available) so that you can easily support them if you find yourself enjoying the hard work they’ve put in.


Novitero

This comes from Goose Thunder Network, a podcasting group I’ve had good past experience with. This podcast focuses on Princess Cesaleza, who has run into some royal trouble. When her ship is raided, she and the raiders develop a partnership to hopefully solve everyone’s woes. Episode one is out, and it is nicely put together for all it is trying to accomplish. It primarily focuses on introducing the core cast of characters, establishing the scene, initial worldbuilding, and the usual introductory stuff. The plot is intriguing, and there is some nice foreshadowing set up through the trailer and first episode, which can be a challenge to do well in such a short space.  There are a lot of familiar voices, so I know the cast they have assembled is strong. If you want an adventurous space heist podcast, I’d jump in while it’s getting started.

No support link available.

 


The Call of the Void

In all transparency, the creators of this podcast reached out and asked me to take a listen. And I was happy to, especially since I had already loaded episode one into my queue when I stumbled across them on Twitter. The concept is 110% up my alley–sci-fi, mystery, supernatural, and all rolled into a nice Southern landscape. Topher and Simone’s father has gone missing under unusual circumstances. In episode one, they retrace his last steps and try to find him, spending time at the optometrist, his office, and, oh yeah, the Louisiana palm reader, Etsy, he was scheduled to meet. Within the first two episodes released so far, some of the strange circumstances become clear, but doing so only serves to introduce a host of questions for the remaining episodes.  It is set to be a 9-episode arc following Topher and Etsy as they explore something impossibly supernatural in the swamps of New Orleans. The first episodes hooked me, and it seems like a great addition to the tradition of supernatural Southern horror.

Support Them: Call of the Void Donation Page


Y2K

Let’s keep the genre hopping alive! Y2K is fictional drama following the lives of two friends through voicemails recovered from the year 2000. As someone who was alive then, I got a little bit of a shock when the narrator, the student who found and is publishing the voicemails, mentions she was not alive then. I feel old. But, 2000 is a time full of nostalgia and some great memories for me, so this little time capsule back is great. The story is mostly following the lives of Kat and Jess through moves and romance and friendship and all the twists and turns life can bring. The conversations, for the most part, feel very authentic. It sounds like the kind of audio journals two friends separated by time zones might truly leave. There are definitely some unknowns that are slowly being filled in over the course of the episodes, and I’m really curious to see where all 52-weeks of this story will lead us.

Support Them: Y2K Patreon

 


Valence

Valence brings us back around to some supernatural elements. It’s urban fantasy, a genre that I have found incredibly intriguing, but have not explored too much (yet). Valence takes place in a world where magic exists. And is intentionally suppressed. However, as you might imagine, not everyone likes the idea of suppressing their magical skills. The story follows one such magic user (or muse, as the show refers to them) as they work to challenge the system. It definitely has some nice themes emerging about fighting for and appreciating our differences, of not giving into fear mongering or paranoia. Of course, there’s only one episode out, so it will be very interesting to see where this goes over the course of the story. Again, there are a lot of familiar voices and a really well-constructed experience so far.  It takes place in a rich world that I am excited to learn more about as episodes continue to release, and I feel episode one sets the stage for a great adventure.

Support Them: Valence Patreon


Seren

Then back to my roots with a good sci-fi story. The story opens as Seren departs on an eight-month journey to reach a planet for terraforming. She is alone, save for Pearl the AI, and cut off from the world she has known. Seren does not know where she’s going, but her job while she travels is to “reflect on [her] past and the mistakes that led to [her] becoming a colonist.” From episode one, it is clear that there is a much more interesting story waiting to unfold over the eight episodes. A major strength clear in even episode one is the ability to provide context and develop a scene without having to stop and spell it out directly. There are so many intriguing thoughts and ideas presented, and I cannot wait to see where each thread leads.

Support Them: Seren Patreon


MonkeyTales

And finally, let’s round out the list with something cheerful to help you through this start to 2020. MonkeyTales is a hopepunk anthology podcast. If you’re like me and have not heard the term hopepunk before, it’s focused on telling offbeat, but optimistic and positive stories. This is brought to you by the same wonderful people who created Moonbase Theta, Out, so you know they have some real talent (which, side note, had a great second season you should also check out). So far, each story has been very distinct, but overall had a very relaxing and comforting vibe. While they aren’t necessarily designed to be a standard “good guy wins” story format, each episode so far has had some heartwarming elements that focus on the good aspects of humanity. It’s a nice reminder that there is a lot of good in the world and in people if we stop long enough to notice their stories.

Support Them: Monkeyman Productions Patreon 


Hopefully something here will catch your fancy and start a whole new adventure. Again, if I missed a project you love, let me know! There can never be too many podcasts!


A Listener Reviews: Directive

Directive

Episodes:  6 episodes.

Length:  10-20 minutes, with most in the low teens

I’ve listened to… All of season 1.

The Premise: Frank’s job is simple: take care of the passengers aboard the colony ship bound for a new world. He’s alone, aside from his AI assistant, and video calls to other caretakers, which seemed like a blessing at first.

My Review:  Before listening to Directive, an audiodrama had never made me cry. Maybe I got a little misty-eyed, but I kept it together. And then the final episode of season 1 comes along and got me crying. Like tears down the cheeks, yucky sniffling kind of crying. I am still amazed by how powerful a punch they managed to pack into six short episodes. It is a true testament to how wonderfully crafted it is.

Now, this review may be a little vague because I really don’t want to give anything away. The story is so well structured. As someone who likes to write short stories, I’m really impressed by the level of skill in pacing and plot this audiodrama displays. It develops the main components really well, keeping things slow where they should be and moving gracefully through other moments. I think the initial episodes do an excellent job of impressing on the listener the monotony of Frank’s day-to-day. It builds a sense of familiarity and camaraderie with him. And that makes what comes after all the more powerful.

Frank is a solid character, drawing the listener in as you build a connection with him. He is balanced well by the meticulous AI, focused solely on accomplishing the mission of safely ferrying the passengers. It is interesting that both Frank and the AI have the same motivation, albeit with different motivations. For the AI, it is programming. For Frank, it’s to get his well earned reward for all the hard work. However, it may not really be as straightforward as all that, once you get down to it. But I’ll let you listen and see.

Season 2 is coming up and appears as if it will be telling a different story in the same universe. I’m not sure what to expect or how interconnected the two seasons will be, but I am excited to see what this creator does next.

Listen, if you are up for some really exceptional writing and storytelling, grab yourself a box of tissues and settle in to binge all six episodes. You’ll be done in about an hour and a half and have the rest of the day to reflect and think on what an incredible story Directive tells. Maybe it won’t hit you quite the same way it did me, but I know it is a fantastic example of how well-created a story can be.

You can find them here: Directive


A Listener Reviews: Windfall

Windfall

Episodes:  10 Episodes in their incredible first season!

Length: Generally around 20-30 minutes with a slightly longer season finale episode

I’ve listened to… All 10.

The Premise: Years ago, Wanda showed up in her castle in the sky and built a fantastic floating city. The rich live in the city, while Grounders try to eke out a living below. The story follows a family and the interconnected web of characters as Contact Day, the day of celebration commemorating Wanda’s first appearance, approaches and something sinister grows.

My Review:  Wow. So, this is a new podcast for this year, and I caught it after the season had ended. I’m glad I did, because I would have been miserable waiting week after week for a new release. Not sure what I’m going to do when season 2 starts. I’m not ashamed to admit this is a story that had me peeking at upcoming episode descriptions to try and figure out what was coming next. But they are pretty good about their descriptions and did not give away much. So I just had to cross my fingers and listen.

In ten episodes, this audiodrama manages to bring to life a whole host of various characters. And they are deep and complex and relatable in their humanity. Characters I would have classified as secondary or background characters manage to have a major impact. It is remarkable how nuanced just about everyone seems to be. The situations they are placed in are often challenging and morally ambiguous. How do you balance life, safety, freedom, respect, loyalty, family, healing, and anger in a way that is fair to everything? You can’t. And it is in those choices that the depth of the characters and strength of the writing really shines.

I said in the description that it follows a family, and that’s kind of true. But I think the family encompasses more than those related by blood, but extends to those who stand side-by-side. The characters are from above and below, demonstrating no one is as simple as they appear. Each is unique in background and motivation, each piecing life together as they can. But as the status quo in the world begins to shift, those things that worked before no longer suffice. And the choices made in those moments have far reaching consequences.

Listening to the finale episode knocked me back. It was intensely emotional in good and bad ways. I’ll say the “twist” did not really catch me by surprise, but I’m hesitant to even call it a twist. I’m not sure it was anything meant to be carefully concealed. Still, taking that in stride, it had plenty of surprising and emotional moments that left me reeling. And inspired. I think Windfall does an excellent job of showing a truth about humanity. Place people in impossible situations and their true selves will show.

With an excellent cast, intricate story, and compelling world, Windfall is an easy recommendation. It’s got some sci-fi notes, a little dystopia, some crime, some drama, and a little romance for good measure. Characters are dynamic, but woefully imperfect in the way that makes their stories exciting. The build up in tension from season 1 is handled expertly, culminating with an absolutely explosive season finale. Expect to be blown away when you give it a listen.

You can find them here: Windfall


A Listener Reviews: The Phenomenon

The Phenomenon

Episodes:  16 episodes in two seasons. Season 3 is set to start in October!

Length: Generally around 15-25 minutes

I’ve listened to… All the episodes released so far. I cannot wait for season 3!

The Premise: Creatures show up in the sky. If you look at them, you die. And the world circles the drain pretty quickly thereafter,, but things manage to keep going from bad to worse as new dangers appear. The survivors must try to understand what happened, what is happening, and what is going to happen if humanity hopes to survive at all.

My Review:  If you have been looking for some very well done post-apocalyptic horror, this is a great podcast. It is dark and pulls no punches showcasing just how terrible the end of the world can be. There are monsters and there are people turned monsters, and humanity is safe from neither. Not to say there are not bright spots and good people, too, but there is also not an attempt to paint silver linings to the grey clouds.

There has been a recent surge in apocalyptic media using this theme of the danger of sense (be they sight, sound, or otherwise). The Phenomenon has some concepts that show up in other such properties, but manages to rise well above others. The tag line of the show is simple: “Do not look outside. Do not look at the sky. Do not make noise.” And from this simple directive, they derive so many surprising developments and challenges. What I think makes The Phenomenon so great is that the threat is not static. Whether from within or without, there is a dynamism to the show that suggests the truth– and possibly salvation–is always just a step beyond what is known. It does what good stories do, however, in that as new information is revealed, new challenges and wrinkles show up to keep the tension high.

The sound design is great; I find this particularly audiodrama very immersive because of that. It complements an great script and the excellent work of their voice actors. Overall production of the show seems to be top notch, and so it makes for a really engaging listening experience. The story is expansive in scope, but is well crafted from start to finish.

Speaking of expansive, there are a lot of characters to get to know. I think that was my biggest challenge overall as I started listening to the podcast. I had some trouble keeping everyone organized as to who they were, how they related to other characters, and even where they were at times. As the show has gone on, I have gotten better about this…and some characters no longer need to be accounted for. Like I said, it definitely does not pull punches when it comes to being a rather dark exploration of humanity after an apocalypse.

I have routinely been surprised by the twists and turns this story takes. If you have seen and heard of similar stories and thought this fits the same mold, you’re probably like me and probably just as mistaken as I was. The Phenomenon really excels not only in the quality of the product, but in the creative development of its story. The plot borrows some themes from apocalyptic stories (and of course it does, that’s the genre) but finds ways to make those new. There is a careful balance throughout of hope and hopelessness that is so delicately crafted, it elevates other themes from the genre, such as the search for safety or a “cure.”

Overall, The Phenomenon really showcases how great apocalyptic fiction can be. It shows all facets of humanity when faced with such peril. Characters are good, bad, and everything in between, making impossible decisions in impossible scenarios that, frankly, get worse by the day. It is realistic, shocking, and beautiful. I can highly recommend it and suggest you catch up on the first two season before the release of Season 3.

You can find them here: The Phenomenon


A Listener Reviews: A Scottish Podcast

A Scottish Podcast

Episodes: 30 episodes, plus some specials and mid-break bonus epsiodes.

Length: Generally around 10-20 minutes

I’ve listened to… All the episodes released so far. Season two just ended #whereslee

The Premise: Two friends acquaintances people who live in the same general area, Lee and Dougie, decide to create a spooky podcast about paranormal events in the hopes of becoming famous. Well, to be fair, Lee wants to create it, and Dougie just kind of gets roped in. So if you want to listen to them bicker while spooky stuff happens, you’re in for a good time.

My Review: I’ll be completely honest, I did not get this podcast at first. I went in thinking it was a fictional podcast about a podcast. What I learned after a few episodes of head scratching is that this is a podcast about a handful of characters who sometimes are focused on creating a paranormal podcast and often end up falling into impossibly terrifying, supernatural experiences. And then they just go on about with their lives.

It is irreverent, ridiculous, bizarre, and fascinating. The paranormal aspect, which is what I originally came for, is more of a backdrop to the relationships and realities of life encountered by the characters. Uncovering amazing, terrifying realities is most notably lauded by how it affects downloads of the in-world Terror Files podcast, rather than the unsettling nature of the discovery. In fact, once uncovered, stories are mostly left. And that is wonderful. The story weaves and drunkenly swerves from situation to situation because that is the unpredictable path of its unstable narrator whose main focus is fame.

This podcast hinges entirely upon the cast of characters. They are all unlikable at times with major flaws. And that is so refreshing, because it feels so real. There are not nicely polished, inquisitive, altruistic characters delving the depths of the world. They are just who they are with all their imperfections and (at times) downright infuriating character quirks. And yet I cannot help but look forward to stepping back into the story and seeing where it is headed next.

The main cast is definitely well developed and complex. The secondary characters are also each very unique, with their own voice, motivations, and styles. They add a really nice bit of variety to what is going on. Also, a lot of funny moments. The podcast overall is pretty humorous, in my opinion, with some more serious moments sprinkled throughout. But it never seems to take itself too seriously, always maintaining a tongue-in-cheek approach to whatever is happening.

Overall, I find A Scottish Podcast to be a unique ride. The thread running throughout the plot is the creation of the Terror Files, but the real focus seems to be on living life alongside the characters as they go on this strange journey. And the broad view it takes provides so many opportunities to learn about the characters, which enhances the tension during moments of stress or danger. I think this is one of those stories you have to listen to in order to fully get it, but give it a few episodes and I think it will win you over with its charm. Just don’t tell Lee that.

You can find them here: A Scottish Podcast


A Listener Reviews: Project Nova

Project Nova

Episodes: 15 current episodes, with the final episode of season 2 coming soon!

Length: Generally around 15-20 minutes

I’ve listened to… All the episodes released so far. Eagerly awaiting the season 2 finale.

The Premise: Four strangers wake up in a strange place and begin to try and figure out how to live and survive in the world they’ve woken into. Their companion in this is the AI, designed to administer trials to help them learn to survive. But things begin to take a dangerous turn and more questions about who they are and why they are here surface.

My Review: If you are looking for something to scratch a good sci-fi/thriller itch, this will do it. The episodes generally focus on how the four characters manage to respond to tests designed to help them learn to survive. Along the way, of course, things begin to go off the rails and some uncomfortable realities begin to surface.

I think season one of this was good, but season two is where they really have hit their stride. There is so much depth in each episode, so many clues and trails to follow as the listener tries to puzzle through all that’s happening. I think what is impressive is that season one answered a lot of the original questions, but presented so many more that have been churning throughout season two. And given the direction for season two so far, I anticipate much the same experience: we’ll get our answers, but only to the degree that it makes us question so much more.

One strength is in that very fact. Yes, there are moments and solutions that are telegraphed a bit in advance. But in general, I have found myself repeatedly surprised by the scenarios and their solutions. The titles tend to give a bit of a hint, and so I enjoy trying to figure out what might be coming. Nevertheless, it has always been an exciting story to follow along with.

The main cast is the four subjects (and the AI). The four have a really great dynamic together. There are moments of levity and moments of intense stress. It will keep you on the edge of your seat, but does provide some moments of respite and aptly timed humor. The subjects shine in moments of crisis, but the “downtimes” provide so much opportunity for character development. Personally, I think the danger gets my heart pumping, but the more personal, heartfelt moments of real human connection and uncertainty are what have helped me feel connected to the characters. Those moments are the ones that keep me rooting for them to overcome all the messes thrown their way.  In the midst of chaos, there is a lot of about finding who you are, following your strengths, doubting yourself, and pushing forward. And the importance of teamwork. 

Overall, Project Nova is a podcast that makes me smile and lean forward in anticipation every time I hear the intro. The writing is sharp and creative, introducing new and unexpected elements throughout. The characters are human, endearing, and resourceful. It makes for an exciting and enjoyable listen where I can’t help but keep rooting for success, even when things seem grim. Fingers crossed for the season two finale. I’m sure it will deliver.

You can find their Patreon here: Evil Kittens Patreon


A Listener Reviews: The Amelia Project

The Amelia Project

Episodes: 13 episodes, plus preludes, available in season 1. Season 2 to release on July 19 2019!

Length: Generally around 20-25 minutes

I’ve listened to… Most of season 1. I’ll explain below.

The Premise: Have you ever just needed to get away and start over? Fake your own death and begin a new life somewhere wonderful? Amelia can help with that. Just give them a call and they will be happy to have their team start working on a way that you can disappear for good.

My Review: Talk about a podcast that caught me by surprise. I had this in my queue for a little while and was kind of uncertain. I heard a lot of good things, but I was not sure the style of humor was a fit for me.

While I was skeptical about the humor versus randomness feel to the story, that quickly evened into a really nice balance that kept me surprised, but also felt natural. The Interviewer is a quirky character, no doubt, but also makes sure things get done. And little twists and turns in the episodes themselves left me smiling. Some of them even now have me scratching my head. From cult leaders to roller coaster designers to government agents to unsatisfied characters, Amelia has helped many people escape their circumstances and find a better life.

This is definitely a story of the week kind of podcast, and I like that. While having overarching stories is good, too, I like a mix of both. There are references to past episodes or characters, but most of the episodes stand alone. There are also Preludes. When I first started listening, I did not know if the Preludes were unique content, or just a teaser of content that was released in the episode. Don’t be like me and skip the Preludes, they are completely unique content. I still think I missed one or two. The Preludes provide resolution to past episodes or introductions to new characters, sometimes a little of both, and are just fun little snippets of the inner workings of Amelia. These will not be in season 2, but will be available to Patrons, per the podcast’s website.

I just love the funny creativity in each episode. The situations are bizarre at times, and so they call for outrageous solutions. The show is written well enough ,though, that these outrageous solutions end up feeling perfectly reasonable. Of course, that sounds like a great plan, I find myself thinking at the end. The Interviewer feels like a complete character, with internal consistency and important flaws. He feels right at place in the world they’ve created.

The Amelia Project is what I would call a charming podcast. It will win you over, because it is just that good. The second season will be out soon, so it is a great time to listen to the current episodes so you can be up to date. Definitely a story to enjoy.

You can find them here: The Amelia Project


A Listener Reviews: Calling Darkness

Calling Darkness

Episodes: 8 episodes so far

Length: Generally around 30-45 minutes

I’ve listened to… everything put out so far.

The Premise: A group of hopeful actresses show up at Annabelle Crowe’s residence for an acting workshop. Only they accidentally summon a demon overlord, like you do. Now it is up to these women and some helpful (or not) companions to just mostly try to survive the whole demon thing.

My Review: As someone who grew up on the corny movies on the Sci-Fi (now Syfy, what?) channel and a healthy dose of MST3K, this show is perfect. It is an audiodrama that lovingly plays with so many of the horror tropes, but takes them in unexpected directions. Or sometimes plays them up for the humor. I mean, they do have a priest there, after all. Maybe. He has a priest ID, so who can question that? If you like horror that knows how to laugh, then this is definitely something worth listening to.

The concept is good, bouncing between some really unsettling horror ideas and some honestly funny moments. The narrator in the series, who I think knows more than she’s letting on, has a great tone about her that helps balance the mood of the story as a whole. It provides some nice transitions, some good foreshadowing, and adds an additional level of mystery to what is really going on in Crowe House.  The podcast overall is really well written and well-acted. So often, people try for these self-mocking style stories, but end up falling flat by either taking themselves too seriously or not taking the story seriously enough. Calling Darkness manages to balance those very well so far. The story is good and well-executed, not leaving glaring holes or inconsistencies. The characters are interesting and well-acted by their voice actors. And at the same time, they lovingly mock themselves and other tropes within the genre.

Speaking of characters, I think this is a true strength of the podcast. The characters are all stereotypical to a degree, but play up those qualities for plot and character development. So many stories miss the mark when playing around with stereotypical characters because they leave them in that role. Calling Darkness has already done a great job demonstrating character growth, development, and depth. So what starts out as your stereotypical horror movie scream queen develops into someone much more complicated through the story. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this goes as the plot continues to unfold.

Overall, Calling Darkness feels like horror-humor audiodrama gold. It brings in demons, guilt, alcohol, running from the past, acting, songs by Journey, pizza, horror, and humor all together into one messy, wonderful pot. If you like this kind of media, then Calling Darkness is an excellent take on the story with some complicated and strong leads just trying to survive. The latest episode released as of this posting, (episode 8: “It’s All Going to Hell”) was one of the strongest of the season and really demonstrates how good this story can be. You want to start at episode 1 so you can appreciate how wonderful that episode is. And by that point, you should probably just keep listening to see where it goes.

You can find them here: Calling Darkness


A Listener Reviews: Still Lives

Still Lives

Episodes: 8 episodes in this contained story

Length: Generally around 20-30 minutes

I’ve listened to… the whole story

The Premise: Five people live alone in a post-apocalyptic world…until one day someone knocks on the door. With this change comes many others that threaten the delicate equilibrium they have established.

My Review: This is another story that is all told in one season release. And, much like The Deca Tapes last week, it tells the story in a packed eight episodes. And again, it is a story I was so sad to see end. It starts quiet and slow, and builds tension in a more restrained way. The stakes are high at times, but the tension built is of a quiet sort that seeps into you and twists into knots.  The creators have described it as a “pastoral post-apocalyptic audio drama.” When you break down what that means, it does an excellent job of describing the tone and feel of the story. It’s quiet, subdued in that pastoral sense. But it’s also post-apocalyptic. So the main reason it’s got such a quiet tone? Most of the humans on earth are dead, with all our noise and chaos.

The story focuses on five main characters: The Archivist, the Cook, the Scientist, the Soldier, and the Kid. The Archivist is the main character and the narrator for most events, and she develops as a rather complex character. In fact, all the characters are pretty complex. They are flawed, selfish, and impulsive at times throughout the story. But their wants, desires, and ways of handling situations are so painfully human. They make mistakes–some of them big–and there are real consequences. There are also situations with no good solution that left me feeling bad for the characters put in those predicaments.  In eight short episodes, I was able to connect with the characters and see their perspectives, even when I disagreed or knew it was going to lead to trouble. It is that realism that captured me and separated this story from the millions of other post-apocalypse tales that have flooded…well…everything.

This is certainly the kind of story that could go on for many seasons and episodes, meandering through crisis after crisis. However, I think its strength is that it does not try to do that, but instead focuses on telling one story, and telling it very well. It has a clear beginning, middle, and end. There is a central conflict that the characters are working to resolve, each in their own way, and their success or failure is what drives everything forward. I found some episodes a little slower than others, but I think that is a good thing. There is tension in the story surrounding timing, and so it’s fitting that I’m getting nervous and wanting to rush ahead, because rushing feels like it would solve the in-world problems. Even if it might not.

My critique does come at the end, in the way things were wrapped up. Without giving too much away, I felt it was too convenient in how it tied up loose ends. There was ambiguity, moral quandaries, and uncertainty all throughout. To have an ending that put a bow on so many things was not as satisfying. I think I wanted more ambiguity in the ending, to leave it a little messy. While I like the clarity about how things end, it felt inconsistent with the other story beats. That said, it did end everything and bring the main conflicts to a satisfying resolution.

While the story was not always positive and uplifting, I found myself enjoying listening simply for the quiet, contemplative tone that it set. The characters were human in all the best and worst ways, the story followed a steady and even pace, and the themes presented were really interesting to hear. I spent a good bit of time wondering about some of the dilemmas presented, trying to figure out right, wrong, and a way out for the characters. It is a different take on the apocalypse, but one that is refreshing in its perspective and treatment of human themes.

You can find them here: Still Lives


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


A Listener Reviews: Marsfall

Marsfall

Episodes: 16 Episodes so far.

Length: Generally around 25-35 minutes

I’ve listened to… All available episodes

The Premise: A colony from Earth has landed on Mars and things get off to a catastrophic start. Can the colonists stabilize and figure out how to survive life on Mars with a constant barrage of problems?

My Review: This story is intense. And I mean that in the best way possible. It is certainly not for the faint of heart as it starts with tragedy and deals with the “harsh reality” of life on Mars, per their content warning at the outset of each episode. But wow, do they tell a fantastic story.

I do not know if I have listened to a podcast that has evoked so many strong feelings. In it’s 16 episode run, there has been a lot of grief and heartbreak. The characters are authentic about their feelings, at least in their personal logs, and it ends up drawing me in as the listener so that I feel very invested. The logs also help to create an incredibly deep cast of characters with complex motivations. You still have your good guys and your bad guys, but there is far more time spent with characters muddling through gray areas. I’ll listen to that any day.

Speaking of characters, I think that is truly what sells the story. They are so perfectly human, flaws and all. Even characters I like I disagree with and find myself frustrated at their decisions. Because they act with all the nearsightedness and selfishness of all of us. However, as the story is told from multiple perspectives, the listener knows all the moving pieces, and you can’t help but wish they could overcome. Their weaknesses serve to drive the story and make it interesting. No one is satisfied sitting around and waiting, and so their impulsivity and focus on individual goals end up propelling them into exciting situations. But it all feels so organic, because they first started with realistic characters whose motivations follow naturally.

In terms of critique, I wish they would handle content warnings in a different way. Sometimes it ends up giving away too much of what’s coming in the plot. I understand the appeal of content warnings to people, and I think they have a place in media. However, the decision to speak to specific episode content each time ends up spoiling some big plot points. I would much rather have a generic content warning, followed by details in the show notes or some other format, rather than hearing up front that an episode contains death. However, even with those “spoilers,” I have ridiculously enjoyed every episode I listen to.

So, in case you have not noticed, I absolutely love everything about Marsfall. It’s incredible. It is intense, as I mentioned. I think you need to be aware going in, because some episodes are heavy. But it truly excels because it does not shy away from those topics, either. It confronts death, grief, loss, anger, fear, and so many other tough parts of life. Its willingness to confront the challenges is what really makes it something special.

Just to let you know how good it is, it was what inspired me to finally get a Patreon account and start giving back. I checked theirs, expecting it to be absolutely FLOODED with patrons because it is just that good. And I found that it was chugging along, but not nearly receiving the support they deserved. So I definitely had to sign up and give them my money every month. Because when people are making something this good, they deserve every cent they can get.

You can find them here: Marsfall


A Listener Reviews: Oz-9

Oz-9

Episodes: 12 Episodes so far.

Length: Generally around 10-20 minutes

I’ve listened to… All available episodes

The Premise: Greater Gated Galaxies (bad ears….) realizes they are about to be found out and lose a lot of money if their whole fleet is grounded. And they’ll definitely be grounded, because the ships are flying deathtraps that are lucky if they’re held together with chewing gum and duct tape. So, the best bet? Hurriedly staff the ships with crews of convicts, take a lot of rich peoples’ money, and load everyone on the ships in the hopes of stumbling across a habitable world at some point, maybe. We follow the crew of the Oz-9 as they struggle to survive the reaches of…space relatively close to earth, but definitely not still within jurisdictional range of anyone. They’ll make it out there among the stars eventually.

My Review: This is one of the few podcasts where I knew I was going to love it from episode one. Usually, it takes me a couple of episodes to warm up to an idea, and then I’m hooked. But this pulled me in incredibly quickly. The scenario is unabashedly ridiculous…but also cynical and greedy enough that I worry it may be clairvoyant. The crew of the Oz-9 are certainly caricatures, but endearing ones. As we learn about their sheer incompetence, it makes you want them to survive even more, because honestly, it seems cruel to kill people that are this hapless.

The plot is beginning to develop a bit more depth, and I certainly welcome it. The “crisis of the minute” style has been good at introducing everyone and everything, but now it’s beginning to build some more involved story arcs, and I cannot wait to see how it all unfolds. I’ll also be interested to see the humor in the show develops as the plot gets deeper. One of the things I most appreciate about this story is it’s ability to be goofy and “random” without falling into the “lolz penguin of doom” style. It does this by using call backs very well, playing on the same gag in unexpected ways. These gags have not become overused, but they’re only 12 episodes in, so let’s not give them too much credit. (I kid. Listen to the show. It’s perfectly on theme.)

Also, let me take a moment in this review to talk about a completely unrelated media property. Arrested Development. I have said on many occasions that if there were a way to remove my knowledge of a show so I can re-experience the sheer joy of a first watch through, I would use that on Arrested Development. For me, Oz-9 hits a lot of the same notes. A cast of rather unfortunate, oblivious characters, good use of running gags, and a omniscient narrator providing commentary. Admittedly, this narrator has a bit more disdain for the crew and, frankly, the audience. But I probably deserve it.

Oz-9 is silly, senseless, unapologetic humor done really, really well. It doesn’t try to be something it’s not, and it thankfully does not take itself too seriously. It is just good fun to listen to. I know I can tune in and just enjoy laugh as the crew of the Oz-9 struggle to survive…at least a week or so?

You can find them here: Oz-9


A Listener Reviews: Palimpsest

Palimpsest

Episodes: 20 episodes total (10 episodes per season)

Length: Generally around 20 minutes

I’ve listened to… Both seasons

The Premise: Each season tells a different story. In season one, the narrator moves into a new home and starts to experience some strange things. In season 2, the narrator runs away from home and soon begins work caring for a unique charge in a house that shows off these “denizens” in a high end freak show of sorts. While one is modern day and the second is decidedly not, the share a lot in tone and both focus on supernatural stories.

My Review: Both seasons have been beautifully told stories. The title of Palimpsest refers to a work of some kind where the old has been written/drawn over, but the original remains visible. And the stories stay true to this, with both seasons telling overlapping stories. What has happened in the past has a distinct presence in the future, and characters end up telling two stories at once. I think this is a stronger theme in season 1, but definitely still comes through in season 2 in a more subtle way.

The style of this podcast tends to be a kind of somber, hopeful tone. In the present, it is earnest and optimistic, even in the face of difficulties, and this is woven with a sad nostalgia at times. With a single narrator in each, it manages to convey the different needs and personalities of many different people. The music used is also really well done, setting the scene and tone without becoming distracting.

I have found the seasons to be a little predictable at times, which is unfortunate but not unforgivable. The storytelling is done well enough that I’m happy to go along for the ride even if I’m pretty sure where we’re headed. I think once I made the connection about how the title is woven into the stories, it became easier to figure out the stories because the past and present are often overlapping in the audiodrama.

These are two reflective, intriguing, and emotional stories. There is action and intensity, but it is precede by the steadily building tension that the present in its current form is unsustainable, but the path forward looks impossible. For very different reasons in the two seasons, but still. I think season one is a great example of an unreliable narrator, which is probably one of my favorite approaches when done well. It keeps me guessing, and I like that. Even if I did figure a lot of it out before the podcast got there. It was still enjoyable listening to how they unraveled both stories.

Overall, while it does play on some familiar themes/tropes, the execution and presentation in this audiodrama is phenomenal. I was able to easily become invested in the characters, even when I thought they were making a bad move. It packs a lot of emotion into a single episode, steadily moving the story forward with an even pace. Ultimately, it was a joy to follow along with the story through all the twists and sometimes rather dark turns. I will be eagerly waiting for another season, and I can’t wait to see where they go next.

You can find them here: Palimpsest


A Listener Reviews: Station Blue

Station Blue

Episodes: 11 episodes in season 1

Length: Generally around 20-30 minutes, with some outliers on either end

I’ve listened to… All of Season 1, eagerly awaiting Season 2.

The Premise: Matthew is responsible for setting up a research station in Antarctica before the rest of the team arrives. Nothing bad has ever happened in an isolated Antarctic research station, right?

My Review: Isolation. Monsters. Memories. Penguins. Terror. What’s not to love? This is really the kind of horror I enjoy. It is psychological horror done very well, highlighting at once the freedom and madness inherent in such total isolation. The episodes do a great job of developing Matthew as a character through his job and duties, as well as through well placed flashbacks.

What I think this audiodrama does so well is utilize an unreliable narrator in a audio format very effectively. I listened to season 1. I’m not sure how much happened, how much was misinterpreted, and how much was completely impossible. That’s a hard feat to accomplish, because the story has at once convinced me that unimaginable things are possible, but also that this is still the real world and real world rules apply. So I’m still trying to reconcile those pieces.

The story also touches on mental illness in a very appropriate way. It balances well the severity and negative impact of such conditions with character strength, agency, and resilience. From the point of view of a therapist who sits across from people struggling with mental health concerns, it feels more realistic than most depictions. Mental illness can often be used as a crutch in creative fiction, but here it is one facet of a very complex, unique, and intriguing character.

At times I found it a little hard to follow because they relied on audio cues to help you follow, and I was just unable to place what was happening. The writing is usually kind enough to fill me in later, however, so I don’t have to stay befuddled for too long. The story also weaves a little between past and present, so it can be confusing when listening until the context is better developed. However, I think that actually serves to increase the uncertainty inherent in this story. It should be confusing at times, because the narrator is confused at times. I’d also say this story starts relatively slow, but makes up for it once it gets going. I was hooked after a handful of episodes because, even if everything seemed okay, you just know something else is going on. The ability to create that mystery and curiosity is really remarkable.

Overall, the story is well-crafted with a very interesting main character in a setting that has been used relatively frequently in horror literature (for it’s real world rarity and isolation), but manages to avoid some easy tropes. It oozes tension and dread, but often tricks me as the listener into feeling  maybe everything is really okay…? But it’s probably not. At least, I don’t think it is. Right?

You can find them here: Station Blue


A Listener Reviews: Moonbase Theta, Out

Moonbase Theta, Out

Episodes: 18 episodes

Length: 5-7 minutes

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

The Premise: The crew of Moonbase Theta are preparing to return to Earth. Roger provides weekly updates to the corporate overlords leaders sponsoring the trip. However, communication starts to get spotty and things aren’t going according to plan.

My Review: This was a wonderful surprise of a podcast. I have seen a few audiodramas try to pull off very brief episodes, but this is the most successful application I have seen thus far. The format and structure of the episodes work really well, packing a lot of punch in the few minutes they put out each week. They also masterfully balance tension with what they say and, more importantly, what they don’t. What is unsaid is just as important in this story, and it is this fact which allows the story to delve so deep in just a few minutes.

Beyond having a refreshingly well-developed plot, there are some deeply emotional moments. It takes some very careful planning and creativity to build an intro, bit of intrigue, emotional punch, and outro within just a few minutes. I think it is a testament to the idea that sometimes restrictions lead to great creative leaps. The voice acting is also strong, leading you through the moments and carefully using tone of voice, rate of speech, and other verbal cues to help develop the full story. And they unashamedly keep the story relatively serious, not breaking the carefully crafted tension with jokes. But it is an engaging serious story being told.

The narrator is engaging and sympathetic. As someone who works within a large organization, I can feel the frustration when you don’t receive communication about things that seem vital for successful completion of your job. I mean, my leaders don’t have the excuse of being a whole moon away, but hey, I’m not bitter. That said, I definitely feel connected to Roger, the man running the communication updates. The glimpses of his life offered by the personal messages at the end serve to deepen the character in just a few lines.

As someone who enjoys writing, I am in awe of the creators ability to create such an amazing story in a very limited space. I’m wordy. It’s my flaw, and I own it. So seeing the impact of a few minutes/words is inspiring. In a thirty minute format, this story would still be good. The plot and idea is still intriguing. But the format adds a level of realism that makes the world feel more real. It also seems to highlight how limited and distant communication is, allowing me as the listener to feel just as isolated for those few minutes as Roger and the rest of the crew. I’m only going to get 5 minutes to hear the update. They only have 5 minutes to ask for help.

There is no excuse not to listen to Moonbase Theta, Out. Even if your queue is running behind, you will definitely be happy if you make a little time to catch up and keep up with this impressive, minimalist audiodrama.

You can find them here: Moonbase Theta, Out


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.


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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A Listener Reviews: The Bright Sessions

To read the review in its original format, click the “Read More” link. Otherwise, enjoy this updated style!

The Bright Sessions

Episodes:  56 full episodes, plus minisodes

 Length: Generally around 20-40 minutes

I’ve listened to… The whole thing!

The Premise: A psychologist provides services to people with special abilities, helping them manage their unique skills in healthy ways. However, it soon becomes clear that there is something important in Dr. Bright’s past, something her patients may be able to help her with.

My Review: I kind of credit The Bright Sessions (and Ars Paradoxica) for leading me into the wonderful world of audiodrama. They weren’t the first of the genre I had listened to, but they showed me that I could expect so much more than what I had been getting from some I listened to originally. So, Dr. Bright and all of her friends have a very special place in my podcast-listenin’ heart.

What first really caught my attention was the incorporation of therapy into sessions. I’m a psychologist, and I am used to really, REALLY bad depictions of therapy in various media. The Bright Sessions had some missteps, but for a lot of it, finally depicted therapy in a rather reasonable way. I mean, you have to add in the fantasy element, but for one of a very few times, I heard the therapist actually talk like a therapist. There are major ethical issues that come up later, but they are at least addressed, even if there aren’t maybe the consequences that would follow in the real world.

The characters are what make this podcast what it is. Each one is so distinct, with different strengths, weaknesses, motivations, and personalities. In addition, each person has their good and bad sides. They are multidimensional and flawed in ways that serve to deepen the story. There were times you knew a character was making a mistake, knew it would cause problems, but also understood precisely why they would choose to act in such a way. Its strength truly is in its ability to make realistic characters in such a fantastic scenario.

With such a relatively large cast, and with episodes focusing primarily on one perspective at a time, I think the podcast is notable in its ability to make each episode interesting in its own right. Yes, there were times I really wanted them to switch back to another character so I could hear the conclusion or next step of their arc, but by the end of the episode, I was wishing we didn’t have to leave the new piece of the puzzle. Each episode added something more and kept me waiting for the next episode.

In the end, I felt the ending was a bit anticlimactic, but with the promise of something else coming in this universe, I suspect this was just the pause before another exciting adventure.  The ending wrapped most everything up fairly well, but it did not seem to answer some of the larger questions that had been looming in the final season. And so while satisfactory, it still felt incomplete or insufficient for the larger story arcs that had been developing. I am hopeful that this “end” is more of the end of a chapter, rather than the end of a story. You can be certain that, should the creators venture again into this universe, I will be eagerly listening on day one.

Find them here: The Bright Sessions

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A Listener Reviews: Rabbits

Happy National Answer Your Cat’s Question Day, apparently. I feel like a legitimate answer to some cats’ questions could be Rabbits, so let’s go there.

Rabbits

Episodes: 10 in Season 1. Season 2 was recently announced. Season 1 felt like a pretty complete story, so I hope that another season does not serve to detract from what they created.

Length: Generally around 45-60 minutes

How I Found It: Recommended from a Reddit Thread. (Creators also made Tanis, the Black Tapes, and The Last Movie)

I’ve listened to… All of Season 1.

The Premise: A woman’s friend goes missing in mysterious circumstances, and she sets out to find out what happened. As is typical in such stories, the truth draws her into a very complicated world. She discovers an ancient game, like an ARG (as they repeat over and over), with dire consequences for the players.

The Good: Interesting puzzles and clues. I like the conspiracy feel of it. The story unfolds at a pretty decent pace, and the plot is intriguing.

The Bad:  The writing is….poor. Dialogue tends to be rather stiff and formulaic. The narrator is engaging at first, but then appears to try to hard to earn her nerd cred, ending up feeling forced. The concept of a podcast to help find her friend also begins to feel flimsy as it is not structured like the plea of someone trying to find their friend, but more like a documentary. And if I hear, “but more on that later…” again…..

My Rating:  I’ll get to it when I get to it.
Season 1 was entertaining and a reasonable thing to listen to, but I mainly listened to see how they would wrap up the story. It was enjoyable, and I liked some of the final twists. While I’m curious about Season 2, it’s not going to be something I rush to listen to, and I may just wait for some initial reviews.

You should listen if…you like puzzles and conspiracy theories, and don’t mind a bit of a repetitive style.


Want to know what this is? Why I’m doing it? What my arbitrary rating system means? Read this post here for all the not-so-juicy details.


A Listener Reviews: Ars Paradoxica

Happy Earth’s Rotation Day! Here’s a science-y podcast. Because why not. 

Ars Paradoxica

Episodes: 36 for the whole story.

Length:Generally around 30-45 minutes

How I Found It: Found it on a Reddit list of suggested podcasts. I tried finding the list, but no luck. A friend also recommended this on the same day.

How I Found It: Found it on a Reddit list of suggested podcasts. I tried finding thelist, but no luck. A friend also recommended this on the same day.

I’ve listened to…every episode I could get my ears on.

The Premise: Sally is a scientist from 2XXX thrown back in time due to a strange accident. She lands right in the middle of WW2 and works to help the US government with the war effort using her knowledge and the one working Timepiece. But, as would be expected, meddling with time travel has its own repercussions. Also, as she cannot return to her home time (only back towards the original event in the past), she struggles with how to integrate herself into the world. 

The Good: Great voice acting, solid writing, and really memorable characters. I still feel for Anthony Partridge. The story covers a lot of ground, and each season seems to present new conundrums to be resolved. They sidestep some of the time travel complications, but in a way that makes it more complicated. Also, really strong representation of women and minorities throughout, which made me want to get out there and kick butt on a few occasions. In the end, I really liked the way they wrapped it all up. I was not sure how they’d write themselves out of the corner, but they did it well.

The Bad:  Okay, they kind of get a little lazy with the time travel issue dodging, but I think they make up for it in their treatment of the issues. There are one or two really dragging episodes in the mix, but they are certainly overwhelmed by the good.

My Rating: Top of the Queue.
A really strong podcast and one of my favorites. I was so sad to hear they were ending,but felt they did their story line justice. Always better to end when it needs to end than drag it out forever.

You should listen if…you’d like hearing a strong, female scientist with a penchant for cursing stumble through life in the 1940s and beyond while navigating the practical, ethical, and moral issues surrounding being the inventor of time travel.


Want to know what this is? Why I’m doing it? What my arbitrary rating system means? Read this post here for all the not-so-juicy details.

PS- If there are any weird formatting issues here, let me know. I accidentally switched a new editor view that was not particularly kind to my text-only style posts. 


A Listener Reviews: Darkest Night

Happy New Year! Here’s a random podcast!

Darkest Night

Episodes: Third Season just ended, bringing total episodes to 30. Unclear if there will be a season 4.

Length: Generally around 20-30 minutes

How I Found It: Honestly, I don’t remember. I remember reading about it somewhere as this dark, gruesome podcast. And so I tuned in.

I’ve listened to… All 30 episodes.

The Premise: Darkest Night is about a woman working in a laboratory that can extract memories of death from the deceased. The thing is, a lot of the memories they find are very disturbing and unusual. Is it just a problem with the technique twisting memories? Or is something else going on?

The Good: If you are looking for real horror for a grown up crowd, this has it. Their first two seasons hit on some more taboo topics, but it’s not the sort of thing that is going to traumatize you, either. Using binaural recording is great and makes things feel more realistic. I’ve jumped once or twice because I thought the footsteps were actually behind me. Definitely one best served by headphones and a dark room. The characters are fine, but not incredibly deep. They serve to move the plot along and provide a good base for the story, but I listen more for the unique stories rather than recurring characters.

The Bad: Season three has not been as strong, and it really did seem to kind of unravel a bit towards the end. I was not as impressed or intrigued as I have been in the past. I also think it lost some of the luster when they started focusing more on the corporate espionage pieces rather than the more “monster-of-the-week” format (midway through season 2, for me). I found myself wanting to skip over those frame pieces and get to the memories. Also, some of the ideas get…well…a little silly. Which is fine, normally. But they continue to treat it so seriously that it feels a bit off. A little more of a hat tip to the absurdity would be nice. Finally, the reliance on gore in some episodes feels amateur. But they make up for it with great psychological horror in others.

My Rating:  Always up-to-date.
Definitely worth a listen as it is a good horror podcast that is truly horror. It’s above average, but can fall flat in some episodes. The inconsistency is frustrating, but the good episodes more than make up for it.

You should listen if…you need something to make you feel uneasy when you’re sitting at home on a dark and stormy night.


Want to know what this is? Why I’m doing it? What my arbitrary rating system means? Read this post here for all the not-so-juicy details.


A Listener Reviews: Within the Wires

Merry Christmas! This has nothing to do with Christmas. I arbitrarily chose Tuesdays to release these, so here we go!

Within the Wires

Episodes: 28; Season 3 is ending soon.

Length: Generally around 20-30 minutes, but they seem to be getting shorter.

How I Found It: From Welcome to Night Vale

I’ve listened to…all posted episodes.

The Premise: You are learning about this strange world through audio recordings that have slipped into our world. Each season follows a different set of recordings from a different set of characters, but take place in the same universe. The first follows a woman listening to relaxation tapes in an unusual facility. The second a series of audio guides for an artist’s museum collections. This third season follows taped memos from a government official. Each one adds a little more depth to the world.

The Good: I enjoy this style of worldbuilding, the unfold as you go approach, so it really kept me intrigued. The unknowns in each season definitely keep me listening for more pieces to the puzzle. Writing is solid, voice acting is great. It comes from the same folks as Welcome to Night Vale, so the overall quality is very high. Which makes it a joy to listen to. They tend to be a little more meditative in tone, so I do have to be careful I don’t fall asleep (the relaxation exercises in season 1 were really bad for this!), but I like the calmer tone compared to other podcasts I listen to. And the fact that it stays so engaging with such a laid back style is really remarkable.

The Bad: It feels like there are a lot of ads? I usually don’t mention this (because, hey, you gotta make money) but with the episodes seeming to get shorter, it feels like there is less meat to make room for more advertising of other podcasts and sponsors. Also, the first season is by far the best, so far, and the revelations from subsequent seasons have not been as interesting. This is due in large part to the mystery and exploration element of the first season. Now that I know a bit about the world, the additional things I learn are less exciting.

My Rating:  Season 1 – Always up-to-date. Since then? I’ll get to it when I get to it.
For me, it’s a bit middle of the road, but always feels like a nice break. I know I’m going to learn something new and  continue piecing together not only the season’s story, but also the world.

You should listen if…you are interested in hearing some alternative history and reality that makes you work for some of the information, but ties it all together nicely in an unruffled package


Want to know what this is? Why I’m doing it? What my arbitrary rating system means? Read this post here for all the not-so-juicy details.


A Listener Reviews: Girl in Space

To read the review in its original format, click the “Read More” link. Otherwise, enjoy this updated style!

Girl in Space

Episodes: Currently 12, but ongoing.

Length: Generally around 30-40 minutes

I’ve listened to… All that I can!

The Premise: Girl in Space follows a girl in space. I know, right? It starts aboard her ship, and you quickly realize that, while not always the case, she is now completely alone. The mission, however, is clear: to monitor the nearby star, Ra. However, things begin to get weird when a fleet of ships shows up, turning things on their head and opening up a lot more questions about who she is, what Ra is, and what exactly has been going on.

My review: Girl in Space. This one is special to me in a lot of ways. First, because on of my very close friends heard it and sent it to me to listen to. They know me way too well, because I was hooked from episode one. And then because I listened to it right around the time my little one was born. Honestly, I planned to save it to listen to after she made her grand arrival, but after a couple episodes, I couldn’t stop listening. I had a bit of the baby blues in the weeks after she was born. Nothing serious, but I wasn’t really feeling like me. And I was crying a lot. An episode came out about a month after she was born, and it was one of those things that helped connect me to who I was and who I have become since I became the full-time caregiver to a tiny human. Plus, when anxiety and stress and sadness tried to keep me awake during the few precious hours I had to sleep, I could let myself ponder this world and relax. So, I have a very personal connection to this story because it came around right when I needed it.

Beyond that, it is excellently written, recorded, acted, and whatever else goes into making a podcast. The story grabbed me almost immediately and has yet to stop. That’s primarily because worldbuilding is some of the most artful I have listened to. Rather than taking a break to explain some concept or idea, the characters naturally discuss it and leave it to the listener to put things together. It does so in a way that is easy to follow and understand, but does not rely on spoon-feeding via expository sections.

On top of the curious and exciting world being developed episode by episode, the characters are truly engaging. They are not one dimensional, but each has their strengths and weaknesses. Which means even the good guys are bad sometimes. The way they handle intense topics is also enhanced by the diversity of their characters. There are some heavy things, and each character seems to have their own way of dealing with them, from healthy to very unhealthy. As one more positive in this already glowing review, the creators integrate a healthy dose of humor into the episodes, appropriately breaking up the tension when needed.

So, it has a good world, it has good characters, and finally it manages to mix up those two pieces in a unique and dynamic plot. Like many good stories, every time a question is answered, a couple dozen pop up to replace it. When I think I’ve finally started to piece things together, some new element comes in to shine a different light on the situation.

The main criticism I have is the irregularity. I know, that one’s rich coming from someone with a blog that sat empty for months at a time. I get it. I mean, I’ve never tried anything nearly as complex as a podcast, but I get that life and creativity don’t always mesh. That said, I wouldn’t be being fair if I didn’t note that. The update schedule is very intermittent. There are often months between episodes. This didn’t both me so much when I first listened because I binged the first 10 episodes. But now that I’m having to wait for new ones, I find it hard to keep all the relevant details in mind. So I’m sure I’m missing things. It also makes me nervous that this fantastic story is going to fade away unresolved, questions unanswered, characters unfulfilled.

But, until that happens (and hopefully it never does!), I will be eagerly awaiting each and every new episode. This is the one podcast I have set up to automatically download new episodes, and I will be waiting to listen anytime they are able to get an episode out. It’s just that good.

Find them here: Girl in Space

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