Available free from Spokenworld Audio
A collection of short SF-related tales…
Neil Gardner’s name will be familiar to Sci-Fi Bulletin readers from the many soundscapes that he has done for Big Finish productions (and others) over the past few years. In addition to working on other people’s material, he’s also found time to pen these short tales, which have been recorded by various luminaries – all appropriately chosen, and whose voices fit the tenor of the story being told.
Although they’re each available individually, for the purposes of this review, I’m treating them as one collection, which mixes mood pieces with short narratives. Day One (read by Peter Noble) and The Sound Within (described by John Banks) are the former, as Gardner evokes a canvas that is almost, but not quite, beyond description. The former reminded me to an extent of the short description that Terry Molloy’s Davros gives in one of the Big Finish audios of his incarceration after Resurrection of the Daleks, as you realise that this is just the start of something that could be horrendous to experience; the latter takes a perspective on existence that is far outside the norm.
The more plot driven stories start with Extermin-8, read, most appropriately, by Terry Molloy. No, it’s not a copyright-breaking Dalek tale, but an account that doesn’t seem to be SF until near the end; if and when Big Finish work their way round to doing Callan, Molloy should be a shew-in for the role of the down at heel British agent, adopting the voice here! Focal Point, read by Geoffrey Beevers, is the highpoint of the collection, a tale that riffs off Nietschze and H.P. Lovecraft in which Beevers gives a great performance.
Nicola Bryant reads Inside the Machine, one of a few pieces where it feels as if we’re just hearing a vignette from a much greater work – although I’m not totally convinced that there are answers to the questions that the story poses. Louise Jameson is Saya, a young spacer out of her depth, in two short tales: Saya’s First Giant Step and Saya’s Last Gasp, which link together (although it’s a shame that the very idiosyncratic use of swearing by Saya in the first isn’t maintained in the sequel).
Toby Longworth describes The Waiting Room, which is somewhere between the two modes of storytelling – there’s forward momentum within the piece, but as with Day One, there’s a feeling of impending recursion. The final piece is Twin Points, read by Michael Fenton Stevens, which again poses some interesting questions, not all of which are answered – of all the tales, this is one that could profitably do with further expansion.
As you’d expect, each story is given the full audio treatment – in fact, in the case of the two mood pieces, that’s what really makes them work. There’s a generally dystopic feel to them, but they never become depressingly downbeat, and I await further additions to the range with interest.
Verdict: Some great readers and sound design bring a very varied range of stories to life. 7/10