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This audio drama attempts to walk the line between episodic content and one full-length audio production. It doesn’t do a fantastic job, but it isn’t bad. The way this audio drama plays out, the chapter-by-chapter structure hurts the impact of the overall story. One episode will focus on one thing and introduce a mystery all in the 20-30 minutes per episode. The answer to the mystery is answered a few chapters later and it loses the “oh my god” impact that most mystery resolutions need in order to resonate or satisfy the individual experiencing the story. That’s not to say they didn’t occur, it just could’ve been stronger. The best reveals came at the end. The reveals and twists towards and during the climax were along the lines of “wow, I knew it.” (I don’t mean that in a bad sense. The plot with the mysterious voice, I figured out about a minute before Bruiser was aware. That is a great way to end a mystery. Having the reader figure out whodunit a page or paragraph before the characters is one of the best experiencing an author can give someone. Audio Drama is no exception.
Iron Man 3 (I’ll link to a review of it on my personal blog, if and when it’s written) handles the “twists along the way” structure quite well. Then again it is a movie and not broken down into smaller chunks—other than Hollywoods traditional three-act format. Unlike Iron Man 3, however, the climax of Hothouse Bruiser more than made up for the semi-low resonance level throughout. If you believe the end of a journey is greater than the adventure itself, then you’ll probably enjoy the ending of Hothouse Bruiser immensely. However, if it wasn’t for that ending, this would have been too episodic for my liking.
A tale from 19 Nocturne Boulevard, “Trophy Case” is a story of extremely dark and graphic detail. Depending on who you ask, it’s a bit too graphic. That’s the camp I considered myself to be in while listening to this story. I’m all for a dark tone, but this just pushed it over the line. On the subject of dark tones in stories, this one takes the prize. I suppose it’s a good thing, because I did cringe a lot while listening. Again, it depends on who you ask.
One of the few positives about this story is that the pacing kept me interested in what was going to happen next. However at the end, I felt let down and that I’d been dragged over nails and broken glass to reach an unsatisfactory conclusion.
The characters in the story, aside from the american, are total misogynists. The characteristics border on stereotypes. The german and italian will do anything to win. However in order to win, they have to keep a women alive and the story and the characters treat them like objects—trophies if you will. They’re expendable. If one dies, simply get another seems to be a common theme in the story. I know this is based on a story written a while back, but I don’t see why anyone would want to retell this tale in our current society.
I’m usually not one for giving negative reviews, but when the cons are the ones that stand out the most, it’s hard to ignore them.
Politics is its own inherent conflict and conflict=story. It takes a lot of guts to write a political drama. Emphasis on the drama, meaning this isn’t a political thriller. In fact the conflict is based on real life, not extrapolation. I don’t know much about the politics over in the UK. So “conservative” and “liberal” will be used in this review instead of democrat and republican.
This audio drama short shows both sides of the political spectrum in equal light. In both the amount of “screen time” each character gets and the rebuttals (though they aren’t technically called that), the writer gives each spokesperson an equal say and it’s up to the listener to decide whether or not what they are saying is total B.S.
The main problem I have with this short is I have a hard time of keeping track of who’s who. Not the voices, but the characters themselves. They become defined by their political beliefs. Which is a good thing, but not everyone has the same beliefs as a cookie-cutter liberal or conservative. They have a mixture of both. I listened to this multiple times, just so I could categorize the people. After all, I’m human and we are known to do that sort of thing. When I think I figured a person out, he says something that conflicts with my preconceived notion of certain political parties.
Where to begin? Well first let me open with a disclaimer and say that I bought the audible download of the first season. What this means is that I had no advertisements; just pure audio goodness. Also let me say that I’m not a fan of zombie-anything. I feel that sub genre of post apocalyptic stories is overdone and there are only a handful of good ones out there. “We’re Alive” is one of the good ones.
The story starts off pretty basic for a zombie story. The dead have risen and are reeking havoc. It’s only until we are introduced to two of my favorite characters: Saul and Michael that the story becomes interesting. That’s within the first couple episodes as well. I enjoy Saul, because he is just a good person. I like Michael because he’s smart. Screw it, all the characters are awesome, and that’s what makes a good zombie story (or any story for that matter). In a good zombie apocalypse story, the drama comes from the characters. The subtitle of the series: “A Story of Survival” is aptly named, because the zombies are just a backdrop. They may become important later, but as of the season 1 finale, I could really care less about the fact that there are zombies.
Most of the characters are likable, but they are by no means perfect. A perfect example is Michael. He serves as a sort of mentor figure for the people of the apartment complex. However, he also yells at people for a simple mistake. Granted any mistake could cost people their lives in such a scenario, but the way the actor played the character made it sound like the person who caused the accident did it on purpose. For me personally I hate people that do that. On the other hand, as I said above, Michael is one of my favorite characters. His character flaw is what makes him more rounded and realistic as a person.
I write this review before the last episode of season 1 has been released. Again, like all the other times, I don’t have much to say. It’s an interesting episode. You don’t get too many musical hymns in an audio drama. I didn’t mind it, but it did get a little annoying after awhile. Then again, practically every church song repeats the same verse over and over again. But enough about that, this isn’t a review of music.
I seem to recall saying that I didn’t trust the believers. Amos said it best. People in post-apocalyptic setting generally follow a Social Darwinist approach: survival of the fittest. The only reason there so nice is because they want something. My guess is a sacrifice. I mean a guy kidnaps a little boy for God knows what reason (pun intended). I’m not here to predict or potentially spoil a plot point. However I do like to deconstruct stories, if you couldn’t tell.
I’ve said it before one of the intriguing parts of this audio drama is the “group-antagonistic” nature of it. Basically each group in this world has an opposing group. It’s something I picked up on, after months of playing Fallout: New Vegas, and re-listening to the these episodes.
When the New Year comes, I’m definitely going to revisit this series.
And now some promotional links:
A nice little horror episode to make one feel the dystopian nature of this world. The character of Tully reminded me of the dentist from “Little Shop of Horrors.” Both are insane sociopaths, but tully takes the prize. Feeding people to his pigs is something I’d expect out of a cult horror film. It’s not very believable, but on some level every story has moments where if you think too hard—the left side of the brain will throw you out of the story.
They also go deeper into one of the four main sects of this world: The Republic, John Prophet’s gang, the Christians, and the Refuge. In episode 3? we focused on John Prophet’s gang. This time, we learn more about the preacher and we see (hear) him attain two new followers—In an ominous sort of way. Maybe it was the actor, but I got the strange feeling that the preacher has his own agenda. Then again, I’m usually skeptical about people who are that involved in Christianity. Perhaps it’s a red herring, or maybe just a subplot that will come together with the other threads going on? Only time will tell.
There in lies a problem I’m starting to have with this series. There are too many plot threads and a lot of them are adding questions on top of questions, without giving any answers. While this builds mystery, it can get old pretty quickly. Note that I can’t say for certain that this is actually happening in the story, maybe it’s just my imagination? The production value is so good that everything kind of blends together. This makes the world more rounded, but when the focus is clearly on the characters, the scopes of the stories tend to conflict with one another. What I mean is that it would be like someone doing a mundane task, only on an epic scale. There was a Writing Excuses episode where they talked about epics and Brandon mentioned “The Hulk” movie, by Ang Lee.
This is the episode where seemingly random plots are strung together with the campfire chat continuity the audience has experienced since the first episode. I’m referring to those scenes where someone talks about something that already happened. I’ve noticed that these scenes kind of come in two varieties. One is where the listener does not know a piece of information nor should they need it. The other is a “tell, then show” method of storytelling. When I’m writing stories of my own I find myself doing the same thing. The old saying is “show, don’t tell.” It’s odd that dialogue is inherently show to most people reading prose. Yet in film or audio dramas it is a tell. But I guess such is the nature of any artistic medium.
Back to the campfire sequences, I’m starting to get confused as to the point of them and if the story is essentially all just flashbacks of different characters. This didn’t bother me as much in the first, because they weren’t as many. It seemed like the campfire scenes were more obvious this time around. Which isn’t a bad thing. It just made me think about how the story is being told, rather than just enjoying it.
The middle of the season is also the part where the you-know-what hits the fan. All the pieces seem to be in place for an explosive season finale. I’m curious to see how they wrap-up loose ends and which ones they leave for future seasons.