Armchair Audies 2017: Original Work Category Pick!

Original Work

To determine my pick for the Original Work category, I ran a series of Head-to-Head contests between the five titles nominated. While the comments below each of the contest below are short, you can check out the full reviews I wrote for each of the titles by clicking on the clinks of the title in the #Head2Head subject lines.


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#Head2Head #1: The Dispatcher vs The Adventures of Tom Stranger
“Tom Stranger” is furiously funny and fast-paced; and Adam Baldwin does not disappoint; but Correia is a Sad Puppy; and the manatee character sounds like a whale. And by now, we all know how perfect I think The Dispatcher is!
Winner of Round #1: The Dispatcher


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#Head2Head #2: The Dispatcher vs Alien: Out of the Shadows 
This basically comes down to The Dispatcher having a cleaner script/story and Alien: Out of the Shadows being over-produced. So far, The Dispatcher is holding its own in two Armchair Audies categories!
Winner of Round #2: The Dispatcher


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#Head2Head #3: The Dispatcher vs CarTalk Science: MIT Wants Its Diplomas Back
Tom Magliozzi passed away a couple of years ago, so it was fun to hear takes from the show he did with his brother, Ray. As always, they guarantee to put a smile on your face; but I have to admit that listening to them crack each other up segment after segment wore thin even within the short runtime of this original work. It seems that this was designed to entertain more than educate. So, by default, again, The Dispatcher!
Winner of Round #3: The Dispatcher


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#Head2Head #4: The Dispatcher vs In the Embers
In the penultimate head-to-head challenge in this category, The Dispatcher wins by virtue of excellent production quality and a well-written story. I think the world of Robin Miles, and there was a lot of work that went into In the Embers; but in the end, it felt too much like community theater. I have issues with the script and post-production of In the Embers, and annoyed at having to listen to two hours of interviews.
Winner of Round #4: The Dispatcher


 

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#Head2Head #5: The Dispatcher vs Pete Seeger, Storm King, Vol. 2
I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and format of Pete Seeger, Storm King, Vol. 2: Pete Seeger tells an anecdote about his life; and a corresponding song, poem, or interview follows. It’s unique and interesting; but a bit slow.  Also, it doesn’t really stand-alone. You need to listen to the first volume to get the full effect. I found The Dispatcher much more engaging.
Winner of Round #5: The Dispatcher


My pick for the 2017 Armchair Audies in the Original Work category:

The Dispatcher


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OTHER: I receive no monies, goods, or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

 

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Armchair Audies 2017: Audio Drama Category Pick!

Audio Drama

To determine my pick for the Audio Drama category, I ran a series of Head-to-Head contests between the five titles nominated. While the comments below each of the contest below are short, you can check out the full reviews I wrote for each of the titles by clicking on the clinks of the title in the #Head2Head subject lines.


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#Head2Head #1: Alien: Out of the Shadows vs In the Embers
In this first #Head2Head challenge, Alien: Out of the Shadows, An Audible Original Drama easily outclasses In the Embers in terms of script, sound effects and overall production values. Kudos to Robin Miles though, who is an amazing voice actor and singer in In the Embers.
Winner of Round #1: Alien: Out of the Shadows, An Audible Original Drama


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#Head2Head #2: Alien: Out of the Shadows vs The Mountaintop
Alien: Out of the Shadows
is sexy; but The Mountaintop has a better script, acting, and message. Substance wins out over style this round!
Winner of Round #2: The Mountaintop


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#Head2Head #3: The Mountaintop vs Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Adventures: Death and the Queen
It’s Doctor King versus Doctor Who! And in this round, it’s The Mountaintop for its straightforward, powerful message and understated production aesthetic over the razzmatazz BBC audio drama and David Tennant’s mumbling. Sometimes, less is more!
Winner of Round #3: The Mountaintop


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#Head2Head #4: The Mountaintop vs Doctor Who: The War Doctor: Only the Monstrous
In the final #Head2Head challenge, The Mountaintop with its understated production but powerful results wins over the sophisticated script and orchestration of The War Doctor: Only the Monstrous.
Winner of Round #4: The Mountaintop


My pick for the 2017 Armchair Audies in the Audio Drama category:

The Mountaintop


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OTHER: I receive no monies, goods, or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Armchair Audies 2017: Science Fiction Category Pick!

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To determine my pick for the Science Fiction category, I ran a series of Head-to-Head contests between the five titles nominated. While the comments below each of the contest below are short, you can check out the full reviews I wrote for each of the titles by clicking on the clinks of the title in the #Head2Head subject lines. Please note, that I did not write a review for Crosstalk as I did not finish listening to it (see below.)


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#Head2Head #1: Star Wars: The Force Awakens vs The Dispatcher
While I appreciate the challenges that are involved in producing a Star Wars audiobook and the shear sexiness of a Star Wars title in general; The Dispatcher comes out ahead for its originality (story,) excellent narration, and clean production values.
Winner of Round #1: The Dispatcher


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#Head2Head #2: The Dispatcher vs The Book of the Unnamed Midwife
Scalzi’s novella left me screaming for more; but Elison’s post-apocalyptic vision, while heavy with import, suffered from a surfeit of story.
Winner of Round #2: The Dispatcher


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#Head2Head  #3: The Dispatcher vs Sleeping Giants
The Dispatcher holds it own against Sleeping Giants! I found both stories intriguing and the audios well produced; but while I crave more Dispatcher adventures, I found myself okay with waiting for the sequel, Waking Giants.
Winner of Round #3: The Dispatcher


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#Head2Head #4: The Dispatcher vs Crosstalk
Concept, story, and execution are perfect in The Dispatcher; but while there was a great concept going for Crosstalk, poor story/execution and narrator issues made it unbearable for me to listen to. I ended up bailing on Crosstalk.
Winner of Round #4: The Dispatcher


My pick for the 2017 Armchair Audies in the Science Fiction category:

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OTHER: I receive no monies, goods, or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Print Review: New Boy

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New Boy
By Tracy Chevalier
Penguin Random House | Hogarth
Release Date (Hardback): May 16, 2017
ISBN 9781524779467
LITERARY-FICTION

Othello is William Shakespeare’s tragedy about the jealous rage of the eponymous Moor, the fate of his fair and artless wife, Desdemona, and the machinations of Othello’s Ancient, Iago. Set on the exotic eastern Mediterranean island of Venetian Cyprus, Othello’s role as defender is rendered moot when the Ottoman Empire’s fleet founders in a storm; but isolates the key players in a foreign milieu.

Tracy Chevalier has chosen to re-interpret Shakespeare’s play through the lens of her own experience as a white “minority… growing up in Washington, D.C.” (from tchevalier.com.) The author has set New Boy in a public elementary school in the DC Metro area (in 1974) wherein a Ghanian boy is the student introduced into a playground of all white children and teachers. Setting the action of the novel in a place where “kids get together at recess and break up at lunch time,” and where such trial relationships are often intense if ephemeral, rings true; and mirrors Shakespeare’s Cyprian island in its physically limited venue away from home. But it also poses the first issue of the novel in that in inverting the racial composition of the community, the author has completely subverted the WDC culture; and readers familiar with the area and time period will immediately sense the forced contrivance.

Where Ms Chevalier succeeds is in the POV of Dee (the Desdemona surrogate,) the white girl who becomes quickly fascinated with the black student, Osei (Othello); Dee seems to have the most depth of the characters, though the aggressive pursuit of a relationship with Osei seems a bit mature for a pre-pubescent; and ahead of her time in its progressive aspect. Nonetheless, she negotiates the school with an artlessness that seems genuine. Unfortunately, the other characters are rendered as flat stereotypes such as the racist teacher, the popular boy, the schoolyard bully, etc.

Moreover, while The Bard’s play includes the issue of racism (as epitomized in Desdemona’s father,) the issue of Othello’s blackness is muted by his military successes and the esteem of his colleagues. Ms Chevalier touches very briefly on non-racial themes in her novel; but it is, by and large a book reduced to the racial aspect. The jealousies of Osei (Othello,) Rod (Rodrigo) and Ian (Iago) are all predicated on the issue of Osei being black. By reducing Othello into a story solely about race, the other themes are underdeveloped and/or nonexistent in Tracy Chevalier’s re-telling.

Overall, this was an extremely disappointing read; and underscores a personal suspicion that the idea of the Hogarth Shakespeare series is more appealing than any of its actual executions.

OTHER:  I received an Advanced Reader’s Edition of New Boy (by Tracy Chevalier) through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: The War Doctor Volume 01: Only the Monstrous

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Doctor Who: The War Doctor Volume 01: Only the Monstrous
Written and Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Performed by a Full Cast:
John Hurt as The War Doctor; Jacqueline Pearce as Cardinal Ollistra; Lucy Briggs-Owen as The Nursemaid; Carolyn Seymour as The Slave; Beth Chalmers as Veklin; Alex Wyndham as Seratrix; Kieran Hodgson as Bennus; Barnaby Edwards as Arverton; Mark McDonnell as Traanus; John Banks as Garv and; Nicholas Briggs as The Daleks
Ⓟ 2015, Big Finish Productions
Each of the three episodes runs approximately 80 minutes
SFF | TIME TRAVEL | DOCTOR WHO | THE WAR DOCTOR | AUDIO DRAMA

The Doctor and the other Time Lords are waging a Time War with the Daleks. In this trilogy, The War Doctor has detonated a time disruptor; and in the fallout, has landed on the peaceful planet of Kesca. However, Cardinal Ollistra is the manipulative head of the Time Lords who will stop at nothing to reclaim The Doctor, while he would rather forget who he is and recover at the hands of a Kescan woman. There is quite a bit of intrigue, betrayal, and even sadness in the stories. Compared to The Tenth Doctor Adventures which were fun and a bit campy, The War Doctor series seem to be much different: The scripts are sober and a bit more sophisticated with dreams and flashbacks inserted; and The Doctor is much more cynical and unlikable. There are sound effects (natch) and original music (a ten-minute track at the end presents a musical suite in full.) John Hurt as The War Doctor is en pointe as the crusty and abrasive old man; and Jacqueline Pierce is equally amazing as Cardinal Ollistra, and sounds remarkably like Judi Dench! Interestingly, if you were to scroll through the credits of the Doctor Who TV episodes from The Ninth Doctor onwards, you see some names reappear on the audio drama cast rolls. For example, Nicholas Briggs, who was the voice of the Daleks in the TV series, is the writer/editor/director of the audio dramas; and he reprises his role as the voice of the Daleks in this trilogy. The consistent use of talent across mediums reinforces the argument that the audio dramas are cannon material.

OTHER: I listened to the three-CD set, Doctor Who: The War Doctor Volume 01: Only the Monstrous (Written and Directed by Nicholas Briggs; Performed by a Full Cast) which I purchased through Amazon.com. They are also available as CDs and as downloads directly from Big Finish. I receive no monies, goods, or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Doctor Who: The War Doctor Volume 01: Only the Monstrous (Written and Directed by Nicholas Briggs; Performed by a Full Cast) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Audio Drama category.

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Audiobook Review: The Tenth Doctor Adventures: Technophobia; Time Reaver; AND Death and the Queen

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1.1. THE TENTH DOCTOR ADVENTURES: TECHNOPHOBIA
By Matt Fitton
Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Performed by a Full Cast:
David Tennant as The Doctor; Catherine Tate as Donna Noble; Niky Wardley as Bex; Rachael Stirling as Jill Meadows; Chook Sibtain as Brian; Rory Keenan as Kevin and; Jot Davies as Lukas
Ⓟ 2016, Big Finish Productions
SFF | TIME TRAVEL | DOCTOR WHO | AUDIO DRAMA

Doctor Who and his friend Donna land two years into the future in London. At the Technology Museum, it becomes clear that things are not what they should be: The head of an IT development company is there for an interview, but she becomes progressively more afraid of her own creation. Soon, fear, paranoia, and stupidity spread through the city; and The Doctor must race against time to figure things out…

The audio drama starts off fast and a bit disorienting. The script calls for an opening scene before the iconic theme music cuts in; and it takes a full quarter to a third of the audio to sort characters and plot out. While at first a little bewildering, it does place the listener in sympathy with the characters who likewise are slow to catch on to what’s happening to them and around them. Once in though, the script is original, fun, and at times humorous, though never losing the tension or drama of the events as they unfold.

David Tennant is The Tenth Doctor and delivers an expressive performance with his light Scottish lilt; but it must be noted that there are times his voice drops very low (whisper level) which makes some lines difficult to discern. Catherine Tate is also clear-voiced and brash as Donna Noble, the perfect counterpoint to the Doctor’s relatively nuanced and enigmatic demeanor. The head of the IT company, Brian, and the janitor are easily distinguishable; but the two females actresses at the beginning are so close in sounding alike, it contributes to the initial confusion as to who is who.

1.2. THE TENTH DOCTOR ADVENTURES: TIME REAVER
By Jenny T. Colgan
Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Performed by a Full Cast:
David Tennant as The Doctor; Catherine Tate as Donna Noble; Alex Lowe as Soren;  Sabrina Bartlett as Cora; Terry Molloy as Rone; John Banks as Gully and; Dan Starkey as Dorn
Ⓟ 2016, Big Finish Productions
SFF | TECHNO THRILLER | SPACE OPERA | DOCTOR WHO | AUDIO DRAMA

On the planetary transit hub of Calibris, the head of the Lost & Found Department “finds” something interesting, and deadly in the wrong hands… or tentacles! The Doctor Who and Donna work with Vacintian agents to recover the found object…

The audio starts off fast, with an opening scene that makes clear that this adventure is not a continuation from “Technophobia;” and carries over none of the characters from the first audio drama in this series other than The Doctor and Donna Noble. The script is fast-paced with chase scenes and a sense of urgency, but making time for a little of The Doctor’s trademark combination of snark and compassion.  David Tennant as The Tenth Doctor and Catherine Tate as Donna Nobel return with performances consistent from “Technophobia”; and the cast of supporting actors are distinct (no confusion between any two characters as to whom is speaking.)

1.3. THE TENTH DOCTOR ADVENTURES: DEATH AND THE QUEEN
By James Goss
Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Performed by a Full Cast:
David Tennant as The Doctor; Catherine Tate as Donna Noble; Blake Ritson as Rudolph; Alice Krige as Queen Mum; Beth Chalmers as Hortense and; Alan Cox as Death
Ⓟ 2016, Big Finish Productions
SFF | DOCTOR WHO | AUDIO DRAMA

The Doctor and Donna land in Monte Carlo where Donna finds her Prince; but will she find her HEA?  The Prince hails from a kingdom that no one has heard of; and there is an ulterior motive to his marriage proposal. The Doctor crashes the wedding with some answers; but will the Doctor lose Donna? Will the Kingdom be saved?

This adventure is neither a time (“Technophobia”) or space (“Time Reaver”) tale; but one of place; and is not a continuation of either of the other two stories in this set. Back on Earth, The Doctor and Donna come to a fork in the metaphorical road when Donna meets a prince in Monte Carlo. The Doctor becomes suspicious when he hasn’t heard of the prince’s kingdom, Gauritania; and his skepticism interferes with Donna’s pursuit of happiness. The Doctor’s relationship with Donna becomes strained owing to his intrusions as much as Donna’s stubbornness in refusing to admit that The Doctor may be right… The overall tension relies not on a race against time or an exciting chase scene; but on the dynamic between The Doctor and Donna. That is not to discount the battle scene, the wedding, and the surprise groomsman; but they are events that force the connection between The Doctor and Donna to come under closer scrutiny. The Doctor is forced into some surprising admissions! Overall, the story feels more like a comedy than a thriller or soap opera. Doctor Who adventures have a unique sense of humor that tends toward the dry and clever; but this one tipped over into more obvious humor, a bit campy or even cheesy.

David Tennant and Catherine Tate return as The Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble respectively; and for better or worse, with the same consistency in performances as from “Technophobia” and “Time Reaver.”  The supporting cast was excellent, delivering lines with clarity; with distinction from other like characters (i.e. Rudolf and Death); and with the exaggerated affectations that the characters demand – all with aplomb .


This set of audio dramas are heavy on the sound effects, the overall aesthetic closer to radio drama with its Foley artists than the subtlety of a film score.

It’s all in good fun, and Doctor Who fans will enjoy the ride. Are they cannon though? This is debatable as the adventures do not fit into the TV franchises storylines per se; and are not actual BBC productions but that of a producing licensee. But they do have David Tennant and Catherine Tate; that instantly recognizable theme music; and most importantly, they add to, without taking anything away from The Doctor Who mystique. 


Trailer for the set:


OTHER:
I listened to CD copies of 1.1. The Tenth Doctor Adventures: Technophobia (By Matt Fitton; Directed by Nicholas Briggs; Performed by a Full Cast);  1.2. The Tenth Doctor Adventures: Time Reaver (By Jenny T. Colgan; Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Performed by a Full Cast) and; 1.3. The Tenth Doctor Adventures: Death and the Queen (By James Goss; Directed by Nicholas Briggs; Performed by a Full Cast) which I purchased through Amazon.com. They are also available as CDs and as downloads directly from Big Finish. I receive no monies, goods, or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

The Tenth Doctor Adventures: Death and the Queen (By James Goss; Directed by Nicholas Briggs; Performed by a Full Cast) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Audio Drama category.

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Audiobook Review: The Mountaintop

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The Mountaintop
By Katori Hall
Performed by Larry Powell and Aja Naomi King
Ⓟ 2016, L.A. Theatre Works
1 Hours, 4 Minutes
PLAY | HISTORICAL FICTION

This is a staged reading of Katori Hall’s 2011 play featuring Martin Luther King, Jr. and a maid sitting in a motel room talking and smoking. As mundane as that may seem, the import comes from the time in which the play is set, April 3, 1969 – the eve of Dr. King’s assassination.

The dialogue reveals the flaws and greatness of both characters; and the lines are delivered with all the best of actorly skills: credibility and passion.  Everything the listener needs is in the script, meaning the action does not require sound effects or music, and the performance is powerful for its understated production values. This is also a play that also stands up without any visuals, making it the perfect audio drama offering.

Below is a “video” (actually the audio posted with a still photo of the event) of Martin Luther King Jr.’s last speech in full, “I have been to the mountaintop” (posted by SeurJamzEnt on YouTube.com):

OTHER: I listened to a digital download copy of The Mountaintop (by Katori Hall; Performed byLarry Powell and Aja Naomi King) which I purchased from Audible.com. I receive no monies, goods, or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

The Mountaintop (by Katori Hall; Performed byLarry Powell and Aja Naomi King) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Audio Drama category.

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