I often take this opportunity to discuss great podcasts of the past year. I’ll be honest, I didn’t get the chance to pick up too many new SF-related podcasts in 2019, but continue to enjoy new episodes of the familiar ones. Welcome to Night Vale is proceeding delightfully, with wars in time, space, and alternate realities, including a frightening conflict involving Night Vale citizen brains placed in future robot bodies and the return of the followers of the Smiling God. A fourth season of Within the Wires has just concluded in a disturbingly ambiguous fashion. Set in a version of the late 1990s, this one consists of inspirational messages from the leader of a secret commune which persists in establishing and maintaining familial bonds in an alternate world where national, tribal, and family affiliations are strictly forbidden because they lead to conflict. That leader, Freya, travels the world, meeting with other such groups, or Cradles; meanwhile, dissension threatens to tear her own Cradle apart, instigated by a man whom Freya considers an ally, but whose motives seem dubious to a more cynical eye.
I experienced (and shared with you) some really great audio productions this year, which truly enhanced their texts to provide a fuller experience of the story. Dawn Kurnagich’s Teeth in the Mist offered a full cast, some sound effects, and even a song performed in three-part harmony, an especial rarity because legal and other issues often prevent narrators from singing when the text calls for it. The publisher Serial Box also put out some great works with sound effects approximating a complete audio landscape, including the near-future political buddy-cop serial Ninth Step Station, and the urban fantasy buddy-copy serial Gods & Lies (to be covered in my April 2020 column).
My two favorite single-narrator productions were the audiobook versions of Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth, an emotionally devastating and thrilling continuation of the adventures of Lyra Silvertongue, which featured the sublime actor Michael Sheen, and Carlos Hernandez’s hysterical middle-grade work Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, in which Hernandez, via narrator Anthony Rey Perez, provides amusing instruction in Cuban slang, sly substitutions for English curse words, and a fun and poignant account of an eighth-grade stage magician who fuels his act with the ability to pull things out of alternate universes.
This and more like it in the February 2020 issue of Locus.
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