Sunday, January 19, 2014

Inside the Machine - AudioReview

Article author: Alwyn Ash

"The mechanisms rotating and intertwining and reciprocating. The eternal operation... the infinite movement..."

The Machine. It exists. It is the whole, the centre, the life of all things. It is needed and hated. But regardless of feeling and change... there is always the Machine! It has accompanied time for so long that no one remembers its beginning...

One of the most popular four-word questions in the Universe, "Why am I here?" is the reality facing the female character in this intriguing and well-written tale from the mind of writer and audio producer Neil Gardner. Trapped inside the Machine, the woman cannot understand the reason for her being there, or comprehend the workings and reason for the Machine. An impossibility, for how can she truly be within such a place? Of course, throughout the course of just over 11 minutes we never learn of its function or even the woman's identity. It is enough to know that she is there, and needs to escape. "If the world revolves around the Sun then life revolved around the Machine."

Though a short story, "Inside The Machine" manages to create a sense of purpose, and design, and a world whose relationship with the Machine is divided by those who worship it and feel its power, to those who share no love for it at all and wish its demise. For the woman, it is neither, just an insignificant mechanical device. Now, however, the Machine has her fullest attention.

I applaud the mystery to this story, and the way in which the author crafts the wording to build up the true message here: the Machine is all! Its evolution has absorbed the knowledge of so many eras, taking what is required to make it a far more efficient entity, perhaps in the same way that Humans adapt to change, learning new skills and acquiring a little of everything throughout a lifespan to face tomorrow's challenges. The Machine, too, is growing within itself, developing. But, for all its mix of ingredients and mechanics, there is conformity.

If you have never explored the works available from Spokenworld Audio then you are honestly missing out on something really quite special. Founded in 2010, the company proudly shares its work with those passionate about audio books, featuring downloads covering many genres including horror, sci-fi and humour. The company also champions independent authors, working hard to promote and support. Rather than seeing a decline in audiobook production, Spokenworld believes that such a medium should be embraced by the majority, taking advantage of the digital market and enjoying instant entertainment. As someone who admires the audio form in all its colours, I am always keen to explore and experience what these creative people invent and realise.

And so back to "Inside The Machine". Not underestimating what is required to conceive an audio spectacle, Spokenworld gives us an excellent writer in Neil, atmospheric music to enhance the overall flavour, and the perfect narrator, in this case the lovely Nicola Bryant, whose other work includes film, stage and television - who can forget her wonderfully camp performance as Millicent in "Blackadder's Christmas Carol", or the part she is most famous for, that of Perpugilliam "Peri" Brown in the BBC sci-fi series "Doctor Who - perhaps you have even enjoyed her audio work reprising that same very role, for Big Finish? It is always a treat to hear Nicola narrating and performing, and with "Inside The Machine" it is indeed a delightful thought-provoking journey.

I am reminded of Dean Koontz's "Demon Seed", that feeling of something completely out of your control, a machine whose plans are unknown and unnerving, emotionless and precise. In this audio you feel the growing fear as the Machine's ultimate goal is still far from realised, though the tension increases dramatically in its intensity as the tale reaches its conclusion. Interestingly this story precedes a collection of sci-fi audio works by Neil Gardner to be released in 2014. Other short tales to listen to on the Spokenworld website include "The Sound Within" and "Saya's Last Gasp", read by John Banks and Louise Jameson respectively.

Descriptive and poetic, you will find yourself analysing the possibilities and meaning, as the Machine keeps its secrets from both the woman and the listener. That is the most intriguing part: giving just enough to tease and yet, never surrendering any where near the truth. Just like the Monoliths in Arthur C. Clarke's "2001: A Space Odyssey", a mystery is maintained. Only the Machine understands its true intent - or does it? To sum up: a delicious appetiser of what is to come, will be and what has already been. Though the bigger picture is far from clear, this snapshot is enough to terrify, conjuring up all kinds of nightmare scenarios. An engaging precursor...

You can obtain the audiobook of "Inside The Machine" for download at
Spokenworld Audio (FREE audiobook)