Thursday, June 7, 2012

Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: Blackout and Art of Death by Oli Smith and James Goss

Titles: Blackout & The Art of Death
Authors: Oli Smith (Blackout) & James Goss (Art of Death)
Narrators: Stuart Milligan (Blackout) & Raquel Cassidy (Art of Death)
Publisher: AudioGO
Edition: Unabridged
Duration: 2 hours, 32 minutes
Summary: (taken from back of box)

- Blackout -
November 9th, 1965. New York City is plunged into darkness, a taxi driver has bad dreams, and an invisible spacecraft hovers ominously above the skyline. As an extra-terrestrial disease sweeps the populace, Amy and Rory must sabotage the city's water supply to slow the spread of infection, and a dying Doctor holds another man's life into his hands. With the death toll rising, and his companions stalked through the streets by alien businessmen, the Doctor is forced to make a terrible decision. How far must he go to save his friends?
- Art of Death -
"Don't be alarmed!" the Doctor cried through gritted teeth, "It's simply sucking the life out of me. Nothing to worry about..." When the Doctor falls through a crack in time he finds himself in the Horizon Gallery. But it's no ordinary art gallery, because this one has the best view of the most impossible wonder of the universe -- the Paradox. Tour parties are eager to see this stunning, hypnotic portion of sky that's beyond description, and it's Penelope's job to stop people staring up at it for too long. For the Paradox's beauty drives people mad. The Doctor, Amy, and Rory are about to discover that the Paradox also contains a giant and frightening creature with a taste for death...
Blackout - 3/5

In terms of story and writing, Blackout just didn't come up to par for me. I felt that the humor and the characters (especially Amy and Rory) were off a bit. While listening to it, there were quite a few times that I would think, "Amy wouldn't say that," or "Rory wouldn't do that." Also, there wasn't much mystery. The situation is explained near the beginning, and from then on there isn't much suspense or intrigue. It's just a matter of seeing how the situation plays out before the Doctor's plan works to save everyone. To be fair, there is a lot suspense as to just how the Doctor is going to save everyone, and a fair bit of action on Amy and Rory's behalf. So, there was still quite a bit of excitement in the story.

I did like the sound effects. It was more like having a TV episode on in the background instead of listening to an audiobook. It's obviously specifically made for audio -- Smith doesn't describe the heavy New York traffic, instead you can hear car horns in the background and people walking on the pavement. I'm not a person that usually likes a lot of music or sound effects in audiobooks, but it worked for Blackout.

Stuart Milligan was good, but I did have one complaint. He did a New York accent for the New Yorker, an English accent for the Doctor, but Amy didn't have her Scottish accent. It's a minor, petty thing, but it did bother me.

Overall, I enjoyed listening to Blackout. It's not as good as I expected a Doctor Who story to be, but it's decent and I thought it was time well spent.

Art of Death - 5/5

This was my absolute favorite. The story was exactly what I expect from a Doctor Who story. A weird paradox, a normal human getting wrapped up in supernatural events, mystery, action, suspense, humor, etc. Basically, everything that Doctor Who represents and all that makes it great was put together in this story. I felt like this story grasped the feeling of the show better than Blackout did. The characters act more like themselves and it fits in more with the general themes that Doctor Who usually sticks with.

It's told from the point of view of Penelope, which was great. For one, we get to meet the Doctor through the eyes of someone who has never met him -- always a fantastic experience. For another, I really liked her character. I feel like she could have been a companion if the timing would have been right.

Raquel Cassidy is brilliant. I do think there is a bit of a bias for me between the two stories, because I tend to enjoy first-person audiobooks more, and this one was told in first-person. It took a bit to get used to her variation of the Doctor, but how she portrays him works for Matt Smith's character. Her voice for Amy was spot-on. In terms of performance, this had less than Blackout. Not as many sound effects, but I don't think it needed it. The story carried itself extremely well.

The story is intense and is really no problem to listen all the way through. Running at about an hour and fifteen minutes, it sustains its suspense all the way through, but is long enough to have a satisfying resolution. If you haven't noticed yet, I thought that Art of Death was simply perfect.

*In exchange for my honest review, I received a free copy of this audiobook from the publisher through Audiobook Jukebox's Solid Gold Reviewer program.*