From the Car: Voices New Media Fiction

Name: Voices:  New Media Fiction
Format: Podcast Compilation Novel
Running Time: 9.3 Hours
Episodes: 23 Episodes\18 stories
Website: http://www.podiobooks.com/title/voices-new-media-fiction
One sentence synopsis: Voices: New Media Fiction is a collection of previously released short stories from 10 different authors ranging a variety of subjects.

This Podcast Novel was actually the first I had ever listened to.  It introduced me to the concept of podcast novels and opened my eyes to their possibilities.  Like any compilation\anthology the goal of this particular podcast is to introduce listeners to the authors and hopefully draw you into their works.  As such this review will be a bit different than most as I will need to touch on each of the 18 different stories contained within.  I’m sorry in advance for the longer than usual length.

To be effective this podcast should entertain and pull you into the various author’s other works.  Was it effective?  Read on to find out.

Wolf in the Park, by Patrick McLean          running time 13:20
What goes on in the head of someone who is being stalked by a werewolf when no one believes him?  This story tries to answer that question.  It blends the line for the reader making you wonder if the main character is actually seeing something or if he is just crazy right up until the end.

Barry Koleman, Hero, by Mur Lafferty            running time  34:25
This short story serves as a Prequel to Mur Lafferty’s “Playing for Keeps” which will be reviewed in a later column.  The story itself is the origin of one of the supporting cast from that podcast.  As a standalone story it does provide all the information that you need about the setting and since I listened to it first actually helped my understanding of “Playing for Keeps” when I listened to it.  Listening to it again afterwards I see how it tied in even closer than I had previously realized.  Being someone who has always dreamed of having superpowers I found myself easily relating to the main character Barry who struggles to understand why he does not have superpowers.  As a listener you join him on the journey of a life destroyed by unrealized expectations and the bitterness that they can cause.

The Journey of Jonatahn Cave, by Paul S. Jenkins            running time  37:10
This story is a tale about Earth’s first contact with alien civilizations.  Earth has received a signal and sends both a reply and a ship in response.  The ship however is supposed to take 100 years to get there and that is before it ran into trouble.  There is no fear of giving away any spoilers for this because all those details are just given through exposition and not seen in story.  This story was interesting to me, but felt like it wasn’t complete.  Much has happened before it begins and it ends with a fairly open ending.  It seems like this is just a snippet of what should be a much larger story with exposition added to bring you up to speed.  I would give the author another shot based on this story, but he has not won me over.

Pandas Just Want to be Dogs, by Jared Axlerod              running time 13:55
A man has an identity crisis after looking into the eyes of a Panda at the Zoo and decides to deal with this through Drugs at a party.  This is a journey into a mind that I for one don’t care to be in.  The story seems disjointed and generally unfocused.  The author tried to work the words “Panda” and “Dog” into the story as many times as he could like they are supposed to have a deeper meaning.  The author at times is wildly screaming instead of reading his work.  According to the into this author has done many great things in his life, but in this case telling a compelling story was not on that list.  I’m sure there is an audience for this story, but I don’t know what that audience is.

Anda’s Game, by Cory Doctorow(2 part)            running time 1:07:25
I have seen this story presented in web comic, web fiction, and even in the print book “Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present,” by Avalon Books.  The story follows an overweight girl who bases much of her identity on her online persona.  The story unfortunately plays into many unpleasant stereotypes that follow the geek culture.  It tries to both be a cautionary tale about sedentary lifestyles and a political statement about slave labor in third world countries  If it sounds like this might be a bit heavy handed that is because it is.  The story does come off as preachy at times.  Despite this in audio form it is an amusing story.  I enjoyed listening to it even though I had to roll my eyes at the messages been spoon fed to me.

Conquest by JR Blackwell          running time 5:45
A girl reaches adulthood in a world being destroyed by an alien invasion.  This story is a character retelling the story of how this came about and why she is so determined to keep fighting.  Like many of the shorter stories on this compilation this one suffers from a case of telling and not showing.  You don’t experience any of the events you are instead told about what happened.  In this case though the story is powerful and I would be interested to see it expanded into a full novel.

Merry Christmas from the Heartbreakers by Mur Lafferty(2 part)          running time  47:10
This is a Christmas tale about an elf who feels unappreciated by Santa.  It is both a fun story and possibly one of the most seriously approached Christmas story involving Santa that I have heard.    It takes a different yet familiar look at the story of Santa Claus and the struggle to complete his mission when he is denied his magic.

Itsy Bitsy Spider by James Patrick Kelly           running time  36:35
An adult woman visits her estranged father in a retirement community.  In this futuristic world he is allowed to live in a house that looks like times gone by and is watched over by a robotic version of her as a child.   In his dementia he believes that he is living with his daughter.  Most of the story is a conversation between this robot and bitter woman.   It is a story of discovery where the woman finds out things about her parents that she had never known.  Overall it is a strong character driven story, a well developed setting, and a complete thought.  This story is everything a compilation story should be.

Enlightenment by Jason Erik Lundberg           running time 14:15
This story could be a teaser for a larger novel.  It is the typical story about someone being born as the reincarnation of a leader and a group coming to tell him of this.  There is really nothing new here, but the main character is believable and there is potential here.

Timmy, Jimmy, and the Beast of Tagmart by Daniel Emery            running time   30:45
This is a complete tale about a man struggling with multiple personality disorder.  He lived in an institution, but is functional enough to be allowed to work.  This is our hero who finds himself the only person immune to an evil that has taken residence in the store he works at.  The story has time to introduce multiple characters and develop all of them.  There are occasional volume issues with the reading when Jimmy speaks but that is really the only complaint I have.

Travel with Confidence by Paul S Jenkins(2 part)           running time 1:04:35
A con artist has a plan to make money with a teleportation device of questionable legality.  This tale is a well weaved mystery with all the clues finally lining up after a big reveal.  The story then turns to an action story dealing with the outcome of this scheme.  The author writes a very good master manipulator and I while I was disappointed with his first story on this compilation I was drawn deep into this one.  This story was a complete story and unlike the previous one the author showed events instead of just telling about them.

Asleep at the wheel by Tee Morris            running time  28:05
Is the true story about a spaceship pilot who has been woken due to an emergency or a commuter who is falling asleep at the wheel?  That is the question to be pondered in this story as the main character bounces back and forth between two realities.  The character struggles to determine if he is losing his mind and brings the listener along for the ride.   Tee Morris is a big name in podcast novels, but this so far is my only experience with his work.  I am intrigued by the world that he has developed here.

Death of a Dishwasher by Patrick McLean             running time   24:10
This is a story about a restaurant and a death.  It is the kind of story that could make an interesting movie I suppose, but for me just didn’t work as a story.  The characters are all unlikable so I just can’t care that one of them died and the others are struggling.  I also am looking for SciFi in this collection and this story didn’t fit with the other stories on the compilation.

Curse of the Forward Thinking Gentleman by Jared Axlerod            running time   25:50
After having listened to “Panda’s just want to be Dogs” I cringed when I heard the voice come on to this story.  His voice is a bit grating and the sound quality has a few major issues.  He is seemingly speaking VERY loud into the mic from too far back and has the same screaming issues he had earlier.  It makes his work uncomfortable to listen to from a technical standpoint which is sad when a simple run through a free program like levelator would do wonders towards making this easier to listen to.  It would still suffer from the reader likely maxing out his audio levels with his current recording settings.  This story is thankfully a little more focused than his other story, but the sound issues and flat writing have cemented that I will not listen to a full story from this author.

Late Shift at the Sould Eater by Daniel Emery             running time 21:40
Have you ever felt like your job is sucking your soul out?  Well in this story a Security guard comes to realize that his boss really is evil and some of his mindless yes men really are Zombies.  The writing style is good here and the story is interesting.  It strikes me as the standard introduction story.  A first issue if you will.

The Merry Husband by JR Blackwell               running time 7:25
This is a tale of a husband dealing with life when married to a famous starship captain who he rarely gets to see.  In this world the roles are seemingly reversed where men stay at home and the women go off to war.  It is told from the perspective of a letter between the two characters and focuses on the tiny aspects of these characters lives.  It is an interesting way to approach a short story and seems to work very well in this format.

Songstress by Jason Erik Lundberg               running time 7:15
This is a very surreal story about a singer who has her heart removed from her body while she sings to allow for her lungs to fully expand.  It is a grizzly story about high society taking the next step in entertainment.  The story revolves around the shock value of this action and describes is in enough detail to provide that shock.

When Sysadmins Rules the Earth by Cory Doctorow (3 part)          running time 1:19:05
I am in the IT field and had a hard time with this story.  Mostly many of the terms being used were pronounced completely wrong.  This however might be a cultural issue as this story is set in Canada and was written by a Canadian author.  My issues did not prevent me from enjoying this story.  It is a story that takes place over a very short time after an apocalyptic event.  A group of survivors do what they have always done; keep the internet infrastructure up and running.  During the course of the story the writer tried to pull on you emotions with realizations that the main character’s families are gone.  I don’t know if this will affect everyone, but it was very successful for me.  I would enjoy hearing more from this author that didn’t involve technology that I deal with on a daily basis.

So does this Podcast novel achieve it’s goal of drawing a listener’s attention to new authors?  For me it did not.  Like most anthologies I have read this audio version had few gems stuck in the middle of stories that I just could not get into.  While I have listened to more of Mur Lafferty’s work it was not because of this podcast.  This may change in the coming months if I run out of novels to listen to.  While last week I reviewed one of my favorite podcast novels, this week I have reviewed my least favorites.

This review being as harsh as it is most likely won’t win me any friends in the podcast novel community.  It is however completely honest and purely one man’s opinions.  Next week I will review the first podcast novel that I have actually purchased the print version of.  Mur Lafferty’s “Playing for Keeps”.

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