Review of Flesh and Blood by Daniel Dersch

May 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

fleshandbloodFlesh and Blood
By Daniel Dersch; read by Amy McFadden
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 4 March 2014
[UNABRRIDGED] – 7 discs; 8 hours

Themes: / Vatican / vampires / Nazis / horror / romance /

Publisher summary:

A veteran New York City journalist, Claire Hagen has learned not to trust everything she hears. So when her younger sister lands in a mental hospital after claiming a vampire is feeding off her blood, Claire is naturally skeptical. A search of her sister’s apartment convinces her: The delusions are a side effect of the drugs she discovers her sister had been taking.But a deeper investigation uncovers more than Claire bargained for. Why was a man who claimed to know her sister from an online vampire forum shot dead moments after Claire interviewed him? Why are her sister’s symptoms getting worse in the hospital? And why have agents from the Vatican taken a sudden interest in Claire?Consumed by doubt and growing paranoia, Claire barely has time to ponder her next move before a violent confrontation in her apartment changes everything. She quickly finds herself on the run with a mysterious stranger who says he wants to protect her but may not be quite what he seems. Can she trust him?

For a good portion of the story in this novel, I was entertained. But the longer the story progressed, the more detached and less interested I became. By the time the end rolled around, I just didn’t care about the characters. While various portions of the story intrigued me, the narrative’s main flow felt too streamlined, structured, and shallow. I also depart feeling that the storyline was compressed. This is fifty pounds of story jammed into a twenty-pound sack. But Daniel Dersch shows promise, and I will be curious to observe his writing improve. He already does what many of his contemporary counterparts fail to do, which is to have a subject performing a verb upon an object. Dersch’s sentence construction is pleasing, and for what it’s worth, this small attention to good writing practice aided my enjoyment factor.

I felt Clair Hagen was a little too stereotyped. She seems driven to prove her resourcefulness, but appears to yearn for a strong man. The “daddy” references got a little weird, but maybe we can chalk that up to this being a translated work. The chapters in this book denote a change in POV (point of view). At first I liked this alternating split narrative thing that Dersch pulls off. But the longer this unspooled, the shorter the chapters got, and all too soon the shortness of the intervals became a distraction.

Amy McFadden narrates the audiobook, and at first I struggled with her rhythm and delivery. In the beginning, I thought her voice was grating. But the longer I listened, the more I felt McFadden captured the essence of Clair. Somewhere in the middle, McFadden won me over, and I think she does a great job with this audiobook.

Fans of contemporary vampire stories will most likely enjoy this for what it is.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

Review of The Red Panda Adventures – Season 7

July 1, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

If you haven’t already started listening to The Red Panda Adventures you’re doing yourself a grave disservice. Go back to the beginning and start with Season 1 (that’s HERE).

Superhero Audio Drama - The Red Panda Adventures - Season SevenThe Red Panda Adventures – Season 7
By Gregg Taylor; Performed by a full cast
12 MP3 Files via podcast – Approx. 6 Hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcaster: Decoder Ring Theatre
Podcast: August 2011 – July 2012
Themes: / Fantasy / Superheroes / Mystery / Crime / Nazis / War / WWII / Adventure / Toronto / Androids / Espionage / Zombies / Magic / Aliens / Poetry / Astral Projection / Hypnosis / France / Germany / Berlin / Dinosaurs / Identity / Forgery / Romance /

The Red Panda Adventures is a comic book superhero series with a world, now in it’s seventh season, that is only comparable in scale to the entire Marvel or DC universes. But unlike either DC and Marvel, the Red Panda universe has all been written by one man, Greg Taylor. Because of that it has a consistency like the best seasons of Babylon 5.

The first episode of Season 7 follows right on the heels of last season’s final episode. In the season opener, From the Ashes, Kit Baxter gets a visit from the highest power in the land. And what with the Red Panda being presumed dead there’s only one thing to do – find a replacement for Canada’s greatest superhero. The government suggests that an unkillable machine, bent on vengeance, become the new Red Panda. And Kit, is fairly forced to accept the government’s choice. Now I won’t summarize any more of the plot. But, I will say this – Season 7 is a very different season than the previous six seasons.

What isn’t different is Taylor’s scripting. It’s still great, in fact its almost unbelievably great. Taylor has one of those highly distinctive writing styles, one that’s instantly recognizable – he’s like an Aaron Sorkin, a David Mamet, or an Ian Mackintosh. And with Taylor’s style comes a whole lot of substance too. He does incredible things with each half-hour script. Each standalone tale features a carefully measured combination of snappy repartee, genuine mystery, thrilling suspense, and clever action. And he does it all within a expanded universe so consistent so as to have become a kind of complete alternate history. His seven year series, and running, has created an image so vivid as to be completely realized. Taylor’s 1930s-1940s Toronto is far realer to me than any Gotham or Metropolis offered up in comics or movies. In fact to find anything comparable you’d have to go to the Springfield of The Simpsons!

Indeed, for the last seven years I’ve followed The Red Panda Adventures rather avidly and with each season I’ve become more engrossed in the show. The release of a new episode has become so inextricably linked to my listening habits so as to become like a good a visit from an old friend. It’s truly wonderful.

In my re-listening to the first eleven episodes of this Season 7 I picked up dozens and dozens of minor details in dialogue and plot that I’d missed the first time around. Take one point, early in the season, as an example – a character quotes the tagline of the CBS Radio series Suspense as a part of her dialogue.

How wonderful to find that!

And of course there are all the usual line echoes that we know from all past seasons (if you’re curious there’s a whole thread of Taylorisms over on AudioDramaTalk).

As for Season 7 as a whole, it has a sense of deep loss, very much in keeping with the times in which the story is set and the fallout from Season 6. Earlier I mentioned that Season 7 was unlike previous seasons, that’s because it features two overarching, and eventually intersecting, plots. The first, set in Toronto, deals with Kit Baxter, her new sidekick, her new job as associate editor of the Chronicle, and her developing pregnancy. The other plotline, set in Europe introduces us to a new character, a Lieutenant Flynn, a man in a deep denial, and his attempts to fight the Nazis behind their lines. It’s a radical change, and unforeseen change of pace, but not an unpleasant one.

The smaller scale stories from this season, like The Milk Run, work terrifically well too. As even the characters themselves will admit a plot about the forgery of rationing books doesn’t sound very dramatic next to the events unfolding in war torn France. But it’s a job that has to be done, and should be done, and done well it is. And that’s because the relatively harmless domestic crime of forgery is an important part of the story of WWII Toronto. The The Milk Run script tackles it in a way that makes it seem as if such a story could not not be told. In fact, this whole home-front end of the season’s story holds up very well next to the very dramatic later episodes.

One other such, The Case Of The Missing Muse, works very similairly. It’s a story in which we meet a super-villain, with a super-vocabulary, in a mystery that could have been set in any of the previous episodes. But what with the war time setting it of Season 7, and a new Red Panda running the show, it has a resolution that has its own unique wartime fit.

That replacement Red Panda, who in fact is a character from a previous season is still voiced by the wonderful Christopher Mott. The new Panda has a very different personality and temperament than our good friend August Fenwick. His goals as Red Panda are different, his methods are different, and it’s basically everything you like about when a hero regular superhero, from the comics gets, a replacement. It’s a new origins story – a fresh start – with all the promise that brings.

Some have argued that The Red Panda Adventures is really Kit Baxter’s story – and that certainly could be argued especially within the first arc of Season 7. Indeed, Kit Baxter, aka Flying Squirrel, does not get short shrift there. Besides her regular superhero duties, Kit’s also required to train the new Panda, fill in for the shattered Home Team (from last season) and somehow deal with the fact that her butler now knows she’s the Flying Squirrel! But that’s not all over at The Chronicle, the fictional Toronto newspaper that Kit works for, she, and we, get to visit with one of the best editor voices I’ve ever heard. Editor Pearly is your typical fatherly J. Jonah Jameson type caricature of an editor, but with a voice so crazily stressed out, a voice with lines so quickly delivered, you’ll barely understand a word he’s saying. It’s both fun and funny.

Then, just short of the midway point, a kind of focal transition takes place in between episodes 78 and 79, The Darkness Beyond and Flying Blind. The second arc begins slowly but soon ramps up. The aforementioned “Lieutenant Flynn”, and a team of commandos lead by one Captain Parker must escape from a Nazi stalag prison. Once achieved they spend much of the rest of the season either on the run or doing Special Operations Executive style missions in Nazi occupied France or in Berlin itself! And long time fans of the series will recognize the return of a certain Australian accented commando in one episode.

This new military aspect of the show is actually rather remarkable, being like a kind of Canadian version of WWII Captain America. It features a large male cast, allied soldiers, that act like something like a hybrid of the comics like Sgt. Rock, Sgt. Fury And His Howling Commandos, and The Unknown Soldier. Indeed, in the final episode of Season 7, The Black Heart, the show even gives a nice tip of the hat towards the later Nick Fury (the one who’s an agent for S.H.I.E.L.D.). That final season episode, incidentally, is set to be podcast later this month and features several other reveals, and dare I say reunions, which fans will be sure to love – I know I sure did. Suffice it to say, the Season 7 season-ender is definitely not a cliffhanger.

Here’s the podcast feed:

http://decoderring.libsyn.com/rss

Happy Canada Day everybody, go celebrate with some RED PANDA!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Red Panda Adventures – Season 5

July 1, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

Superhero Audio Drama - The Red Panda Adventures - Season FiveThe Red Panda Adventures – Season 5
By Gregg Taylor; Performed by a full cast
12 MP3 Files via podcast – Approx. 6 Hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcaster: Decoder Ring Theatre
Podcast: 2009 – 2010
Themes: / Fantasy / Superheroes / Mystery / Crime / Nazis / Adventure / Toronto / Magic / Dinosaurs / Telepathy / Amnesia / Airships / Time Travel / Caribbean / New York / Los Angeles / Espionage /

Of the many terrific episodes in this season’s dozen, I think Just Like Clockwork is my overall favourite. It’s an exemplary episode and it’s probably as close as Gregg Taylor will come to adapting a Philip K. Dick story. Events in any given Red Panda show can stand completely alone, but they’ll still often add to a developing story. Like in all the previous seasons villains rise, and fall, rise and then fall again. But sometimes the villains aren’t really villains, and sometimes the heroes are more frightening than we’d like them to be. By the final episode of Season 5 we know were heading towards some serious World War II stories. Here’s my description of each episode:

Episode 1 – “Nightshade” |MP3|
The newly married super-couple, August Fenwick (aka The Red Panda) and Kit Baxter Fenwick (aka The Flying Squirrel), are returning from their honeymoon in Europe. It was a working holiday, but they’re looking forward to a relaxing flight home aboard a Zeppelin. But there is a mysterious passenger aboard, and she has other plans.

Episode 2 – “Flight Of The Bumblebee” |MP3|
Doctor Darius, an earnest rooming-house tenant with a “felonious past,” is having trouble paying his rent. If he can only perfect his “royal jelly” formula … well, let’s just say that not all super-villains, it seems, are motivated by megalomania.

Episode 3 – “The Puzzle Master” |MP3|
A fiendish deathtrap, in the form of a labyrinth, faces any victim of The Puzzle Master. Can RP and FS, with the help of “Doc Rocket”, navigate the maze?

Episode 4 – “Just Like Clockwork” |MP3|
An amnesiac awakes in a dark alley. He meets a young woman, she wants to help, and he’s definitely in need of it. Meanwhile, the Red Panda is hunting for someone or something that poses a threat to someone or something somewhere in Toronto. It’s a mystery! It’s a love story! And it has all got to end either with a bang, a twist, or in tears!

Episode 5 – “Murder Wears A Mask” |MP3|
An old debt must be repaid with a trip to New York City. But unlike in Toronto, NYC has licensed superheroes, the mayor has given them badges and charged them with tracking down one of their own. But two crusaders from the Great White North don’t need no stinkin’ badges.

Episode 6 – “Terror Walks The Night” |MP3|
A cold spell, and a series of suicides isn’t likely to be a dastardly plot. Not during the 1930s depression. But when those suicides coincide with a series of disappearances then a certain something must be up. Right? Add in a snake cult and this looks like a job for a certain married couple, in thermal tights!

Episode 7 – “The Secret City” |MP3|
A dozen unsolved “society” kidnappings are followed up by an “impossible” $80,000 jewel robbery – the police are baffled but Red Panda (and wife) are on the case. Perhaps one jocular simian and his Oliver Twist-like crew are responsible?

Episode 8 – “A Dish Best Served Cold” |MP3|
A stakeout, some “ritualistic nonsense” and a gravelly voiced villain leading a covert cabal of criminal creeps may spell the extermination of both Panda and Squirrel. Can anyone stop The Red Panda Revenge Squad?

Episode 9 – “Song Of The Siren” |MP3|
A Caribbean vacation for Mr. and Mrs. August Fenwick is cut short when a Havana based pleasure boat, reported in distress and then missing, proves irresistible to this power couple. Could a mysterious high pitched cry, and an inconspicuous island deep in the epicenter be signs of a secret testing base? But testing for what? And for whom?

Episode 10 – “Eyes Of The Idol” |MP3|
Late one night in Los Angeles two security guards pass the time by talking. One has a strange tale to tell. It seems there was once an uninhabited island off the coast of India. On that island was an ancient ruined city. In that city was a certain eldritch idol. And that idol had two jewels for eyes, now called the “Eyes of Doom.” Now one of the guards has one. Two means doom.

Episode 11 – “Sins Of The Father” |MP3|
Is it only coincidence when Fenwick Industries is plagued by accidents? After all, accidents happen. But sometimes accidents aren’t actually accidents at all! And a sniper assassin is no kind of accident. Its all very hush hush, but what exactly does the suspicious Colonel Fitzroy know about it?

Episode 12 – “The Great Fall” |MP3|
Set in late August 1939, with a recently signed non-aggression pact between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. One hero, and her husband, will fight one final holding action in a losing war, the Occult War. Their opponent is Professor Friedrich Von Schlitz and a division of SS scum.

Happy Canada Day everybody, go celebrate with some RED PANDA!

Here’s the podcast feed:

http://decoderring.libsyn.com/rss

Posted by Jesse Willis

DRT Summer Showcase #3: The Knightmare

May 26, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: News 

SFFaudio News

And here are details from the first of Decoder Ring Summer Showcase #3‘s program…

The Knightmare by Bill Cunningham

The man behind this production, Bill Cunningham, says that “The Knightmare is a hero cut from the same cloth as The Shadow or The Green Hornet.” Not unlike Decoder Ring’s Red Panda himself! In this 2-part episode, The Knightmare is fighting Hollywood gangsters, Hollywood cops and Nazis (probably not from Hollywood). Unlike RP this story is set in Los Angeles.

The KnightmareThe Knightmare (The Murder Legion Strikes at Midnight)
By Bill Cunningham; Performed by a full cast
2 Parts – [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcaster: Decoder Ring Theatre
Podcast: May 30th, 2009 & June 6th, 2009

Podcast feed:

http://decoderring.libsyn.com/rss

Here’s a downloadable sample from the intro to the show |MP3| and |HERE| is the full press release.

Posted by Jesse Willis

BBC7 Robert Harris’ Fatherland RADIO DRAMA

March 1, 2008 by · 7 Comments
Filed under: Audio Drama, Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

BBC Radio 7 - BBC7Beginning on Monday and running daily, BBC7 is airing their adaptation of Robert Harris’ bestselling novel Fatherland. This powerful and award winning drama, examines an alternate history in which the Nazi empire never fell. The setting is 1960s Berlin, on the cusp of Hitler’s 75th birthday. Dramatised and produced by John Dryden, it stars Anton Lesser and Andrew Sachs. This will definitely be one to catch via the Listen Again service!

BBC Radio Drama Fatherland by Robert HarrisFatherland
Based on the novel by Robert Harris; Performed by a full cast
5 Parts – Approx. 2 Hours [RADIO DRAMA]
BROADCASTER: BBC 7
BROADCAST: Monday March 3rd to Friday March 7th @ 9am, 8pm and 1am (UK time)
Nazi Germany has won the war. Churchill is living in exile. King Edward and Queen Wallis are puppet monarchs of the UK. It is 1964, a week before Hitler’s 75th birthday. Anton Lesser stars as the Berlin detective called to investigate the suspicious death of a retired German senior civil servant.

Posted by Jesse Willis