Review of Volitar: Murder, Mystery, Mayhem Music

Volitar: Murder, Mystery, Mayhem
Music by Andrew Engstrom; Dramatic scenes performed by a full cast
1 Music CD with dramatized connecting scenes – 47 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: 2002
UPC: 803680208120
Themes: / Music / Science Fiction / Experimental / Mystery / Suspended Animation / Aliens /

“Well according to the Navi-computer we’re right on target Mr. Braiden. We should be landing on Volitar in oh…. a quick year and a half.”

The year is 2117. Mining moon owner Trevor Braiden, along with planetary geologist Dr. Desiree Lear, return to Volitar in search of a new mining site. Just hours after their arrival a bomb blast rips through the mining compound leaving Trevor bewildered from the loss of his best friend. Someone is trying to him, but why?

Tracks included:
1. Blast-off
2. Deep Freeze
3. Soul Searching
4. Landing
5. Gateway Theatre
6. Faces
7. The Secret
8. Just One Look
9. Machine Shop
10. Nightmare
11. Laser Research
12. The Fire of Section 17
13. Dead
14. Mourning
15. Desiree For Dessert
16. Free

Volitar’s creator, Andrew Engstrom, wrote this concept album as a hybrid between science fiction audio drama and straight rock music CD. He personally wrote and played multiple instruments in all of the songs, sang in others, co-wrote the dramatic storyline and even performed the lead character’s role. I’m of two minds on this one, I liked the idea, though I admit to not being a devotee of the concept album, but I didn’t come away from it thoroughly convinced. The dramatic elements are probably most to blame here. Unfortunately Engstrom came up with a milieu and some characters but the story isn’t quite finished. What little of it I could follow didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, and each of the eight dramatic scenes that it is composed of seemed to be written only as introduction to the following song. One example of this is where our characters go into a seedy bar, where an alien rock group is just taking the stage. Before the band starts to play one of the characters asks another to dance. – Cue the music track. – After that song finishes, they tell each other how much they enjoyed the dance they just had and ask to dance again…

While I really and truly appreciated the enthusiasm and the follow through in production of the CD and fit and finish of the packaging, the content itself left me bewildered. The voice acting was only fair and for some scenes the actors sounded like they were simply reading their lines straight off the page. And though the album was recorded between 1998 and 2002, the music felt very 1985, with lots of heavy metal riffs and indecipherable or inaudible lyrics. Not my favorite. But then my tastes in music may not be yours; several other reviewers have noted how much they enjoyed the music. Musically it may work well for you. As far as the fiction goes … I like to be able to follow the story. And I couldn’t here. BUT, taking it in as a serious attempt at SF, that should be followable may have been a mistake on my part.

Becky Jo Engstrom, who plays one of the characters, noted in an exclusive audio interview available with the bonus eBook CD “The Making of Volitar,” that they planned the CD as an homage to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and the ‘B-movie’ influences of their youth. So, if before you insert the CD and hit play, you tell yourself, ‘this is light entertainment, just music with dramatic scenes’ and not ‘dramatic scenes with music’, you may have a heck of a lot of fun with it! As an aside, special mention should go to artist, Bud Curtis (, who’s responsible for the CD’s digital imagery in the fold out packaging; he’s done a terrific job! I found the bonus eBook quite interesting too, well presented and chock full of production details. Andrew Engstrom and his team seem like really cool people and I look forward to their follow up album tentatively titled “Volitar: War In Ganthros.”

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of A Song Before Sunset By David Rowland Grigg

A Song Before Sunset
By David Rowland Grigg; Read by Alexander Wilson
MP3 DOWNLOAD – 28 minutes, 22 seconds [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Telltale Weekly
Published: 2004
Themes: / Science Fiction / Post-apocalypse / Music /

In a post-apocalyptic city, an old man seeks to recreate his past as a concert pianist. First published in 1976 in the Australian anthology entitled: Beyond Tomorrow – An Anthology of Modern Science Fiction edited by Lee Harding, this story has been languishing unreprinted until this exceptional audio edition was released. Production value is high, the sound is exceptionally clear and the reading is lightly, and appropriately accented with music. Alexander Wilson’s reading is haunting and restrained, matching the mournful tone of this short story. Available online at for only $1.00 USD, “A Song Before Sunset” is an excellent value and a great listen!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Green Hills of Earth / Gentlemen, Be Seated by Robert A. Heinlein

SFFaudio Review

Green Hills of Earth/Gentlemen Be Seated by Robert A. Heinlein, read by Leonard Nimoy, Caedmon, 1977

Let me pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave me birth
Let me rest my eyes
On the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.

–Robert A. Heinlein’s Rhysling

I type that from memory, hearing Leonard Nimoy’s voice in my mind’s ear. These two stories make my favorites list probably for nostalgic reasons, though Leonard Nimoy is an excellent narrator. This was one of the first audiobooks I listened to as a youth – it was one of the tapes in my local library’s small collection. I found it one day while looking through the few old time radio cassettes. This was also my first exposure to Robert A. Heinlein, and I was hooked. I was struck (and still am) by Heinlein’s ability to make his future so normal to all the people in it.

The story of Rhysling, blind singer of the spaceways, was on one side of the cassette, and the story of a reporter’s dangerous lunar adventure was on the other. A top-notch performance from Nimoy made this a gem that I’ve enjoyed many many times. I have no idea where to find copies of this now. If anyone does, please let me know.