Review of Brad Lansky and the Alien at Planet X

SFFaudio Review

Science Fiction Audio Drama - Brad Lansky and the Alien at Planet XBrad Lansky and the Alien at Planet X
(Brad Lansky, Episode 1)
1 hour 16 minutes – [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Protophonic
Published: 2014
Themes: / Audio Drama / Science Fiction / artificial intelligence / Space Travel / cybernetics / aliens /

It’s difficult to believe that Protophonic is ten years old. I know it is because there’s a notice on their website that says so, and, in celebration, they are giving away this remake of the first installment of the Brad Lansky series for free – for a short time. I urge you to go check it out.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. At Protophonic, the sound is the thing. Each track Protophonic produces is a rich soundscape that needs to be enjoyed using a pair of good headphones. I also recommend that you give it your full attention – turn everything off, and let this audio work magic.

As each track starts, the sound sets the scene. More than once, I was surprised by the images in my mind. How easily they appeared in reaction to the sound, and how vivid the scenes were in my imagination. Much to the credit of Protophonic, no time at all is spent in dialogue establishing the setting. Actors never say things like, “My, just look at this blue spaceport!” The rich audio in cooperation with my imagination provided the setting. Indeed, Protophonic has trusted the listener with more than a typical audio drama would, and I found it an exhilarating experience. I enjoy the feeling of collaboration, and I like knowing that my mental picture of this story is sure to be different from another listener’s. It’s also wonderful that the story both depends on and works with whatever the listener brings to the table.

This first Brad Lansky production opens with a Ship AI (called Echolocator) telling co-pilot Dieter Rothman news of a distress call. Dieter and Captain Sandy Larkin meet at the main control console to discuss the situation, and things get tense quickly. Soon after, at Shanghai Spaceport, Brad Lansky and co-pilot Alex John meet with Zara, a life-form scientist, who tells them that Sandy Larkin is missing. Lansky and John immediately start searching. What follows includes alien life, artificial intelligences, cybernetic persons, and space travel.

In short: Brad Lansky and the Alien at Planet X is a very enjoyable work of science fiction, highly recommended for superior audio presentation. This is a remake of the first installment, and there are currently four other episodes to enjoy. The last two (episodes 4 and 5) are winners of the Mark Time Award for Best Science Fiction Audio Production of the Year.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of The Standards of Creation by James Campanella

SFFaudio Review

The Standards of Creation
By James Campanella; Read by James Campanella
MP3 Download – Approx 16.5 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Uvula Audio
Published: 2008
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mars / cybernetics / aliens / telepathy / genetic manipulation /

J.J. Campanella is perhaps best known in audio circles as a frequent narrator on StarShipSofa, which is where I first encountered him. His website, Uvula Audio, features Campanella’s narration of a wide variety of audiobooks ranging from L. Frank Baum to Doc Savage to P.G. Wodehouse. It does not take long to discover that narration is indeed a skill at which Campanella is expert. He handles foreign accents and different voices with an ease that makes it easy for the listener to visualize each speaker.

What is easy to miss, perhaps, is that Campanella’s own written work, The Standards of Creation, is included among the archived files. This is a shame as Campanella has written a fast-paced, multi-layered book that combines the best of action thrillers and science fiction. It definitely deserves to be noticed by more people.

Just a few of the elements woven into the story include:

• Martian colonies of Chinese and Americans, each hiding their secrets while trying to discover those of the other.

• Yarrow Hayes, a Nobel Prize winning biologist born and raised on Mars, who ironically is dying of an incurable disease.

• Alex Arodyne, a young scientific genius whose cynical outlooks threatens to cripple his promise.

• Belle, an undercover NATO agent whose cybernetic enhancements give her unparalleled skills but carry with them a price that lead her to take surprising steps.

• Who are Gabe and his mysterious boss? Is he really an alien using telepathy to speak to Alex in his dreams?

• What is the mysterious alien ship voyaging through the solar system?

• Just what are the standards of creation? How will they change the lives of each person in the story?

All this is set against a background containing some of the most classic science fiction elements: terraforming on Mars, life in the Martian colony, biological scientific development in the future such as the different versions of the cloned NATO officers, and an alien device that looks like a huge black marble silently making its way toward the sun while scientists struggle to communicate. All of this is laced with characters in impossible situations for which there is seemingly no solution.

Above all this is a book of secrets. Every person and every situation has at least one secret beyond those that we think have been revealed. This leads to an indepth look at free will and personal responsibility that both surprisd and delighted me.

I am not even including some of the subplots involving drug trafficking or an order of priests with a surprising yet practical hidden agenda. It might sound as if there is too much crammed into the story to make a good book. However, Campanella handles the many elements with ease to provide us with a truly original novel that is not only thought provoking but which also hearkens back to the times when science fiction included real science. We hope that his future endeavors branch out again from narration to include more novels such as this one.

Posted by Julie D.