Podcast Review #22: The Gearheart

Title: The Gearheart
Author: Alex White
Genre: Steampunk fantasy
Released: 23 February 2009 – 20 March 2010
Located: iTunes, Podiobooks, Author’s Site
Formats Available: Podcast only at this time.

Almost an entire year ago, 7 April 2009, to be precise, while still a very newbie blogger, I wrote a challenge to my very small community encouraging the sharing of podcasts (time for a anniversary edition? Hmm….). I received a comment – this blog’s very 1st comment – on that post. “Can I compel you to listen to my fiction podcast? You can find it at http://www.thegearheart.com.” I was amazed that anybody would ever care if I listened to a thing they had written and immediately informed the author, Alex White (@alruff on Twitter), that I would be happy too. During the course of the year since, The Gearheart (@thegearheart on Twitter) has turned into a 37 episode epic and has introduced many into a steampunk fantasy world that was before unknown to us. The Gearheart was recently completed (though I believe episodes are still pending with podiobooks.com), so now I can tell Alex exactly what I really thought.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: Jonathan Andrews, Initiate in the Seekers of the Arcane Unknown, joined the society two years ago with the hopes of protecting the secrets of magic from the greedy world beyond. However, a ravening shadow appears with a hunger for Seekers and Jonathan finds himself out of his depth. When Jonathan’s friend is attacked and the young initiate is assailed with apocalyptic visions of the future, he must find a way to uncover the past and stop the beast before it tears his group, and the world, asunder. It’s a ripping tale of magic, adventure and gunfights! (Stolen from podiobooks.com)

Production: The production of The Gearheart has evolved as the podcast has grown. Let me state that it was always completely satisfactory but the initial episodes are really quite a bit differently mixed than the latter. Mr. White started The Gearheart unaware of the larger podiofiction community so was relying on only his own prodigious skills and background preparing this podcast. Considering this makes the product even more amazing. The Gearheart is also one of those rare podcasts where the music was composed (by the author) specifically for the podcast and definitely adds to the work as a whole. The soundtrack is available for free at the website. Mr. White did choose to do a The Story So Far, but they were minimal recountings. In fact, they were minimal enough that it made me realize something very important: while I will never need or enjoy a TSSF, the ones that I truly despise are the ones that seem to be written in such a way that you could have skipped the previous episode. This is especially true for those podcasts that do a comprehensive TSSF. If you feel you must do a TSSF, minimal is definitely the way to go. No review of The Gearheart production would be complete without mentioning the commercials. They are truly unique to this podcast and I’ve never heard anything remotely similar. They are missing from some episodes from the middle, and I do know and understand the reason why, however, I truly believe that if you start something in your podcast, you should be consistent throughout. Unless of course it is with a TSSF. Feel free to drop that whenever.

Cast: The cast for The Gearheart is surprisingly small consisting of only Mr. White and his wife Renee. Both do an admirable job on making each of the characters come to life with a personality and a voice of their own. Of course some characaers voices are more appealing than others, but this would be true if they were each voiced by a different actor as well. I will also say that Ms. White voiced my two favorite characters and deserves recognition for doing such a nice job on such a wide range of vocal styles (Good job Renee).

Story: The Gearheart story spans a quite respectable 37 episodes and was my first venture into anything remotely resembling steampunk. From the outset this intrigued me. However, I will state that the world of The Gearheart is as much fantasy as pure steampunk with magic playing an integral role.

I promised Mr. White I would give a truthful review. He, and the reader’s of this blog, deserve nothing less.

As stated repetitively, I am a very character motivated reader. I don’t have to like the characters, but I do have to feel for them. In this aspect, The Gearheart is a complete success. Mr. White is not gentle with his characters. Actually, he is quite vicious at times. Without going into detail, I will state that my favorite character does not make it to the end of the book. In a rather reversal of my regular habits, I much preferred his female characters to his male. (Actually, I usually tend to prefer characters of the same gender as the writer. Maybe more realistic? I don’t know, and it really doesn’t matter.) Mr. White’s male characters took a bit of time to grow on me, as they seemed weak and ineffectual. However, as the story progressed, the characters grew as well, and character development is what makes a story for me.

The Gearheart was unique for me in one other way. I don’t know if it was the production elements or the voicework or exactly what it was, but I enjoyed every episode, even though, as the story progressed I wasn’t at all sure that they were all necessary. Especially some of the earlier episodes. I was often left wondering why a particular story element had been pursued. Again, I enjoyed them, but they didn’t seem to add anything to the overall story. When The Gearheart becomes a published novel (as I am sure it eventually will), I personally expect it to be a bit different in the setup.

Addition: One more element came to mind while moderating comments for this post that I prompted me to create this addendum. The Gearheart almost at times feels like a sequel itself. There is so much backstory that is never fully explained that, especially at the beginning to middle portions of the story, I wondered if I missed episodes. Now, this is not a negative attribute in and of itself. In fact, I hate expository writing. Rather, it left me hungering as much for a prequel as any further adventures.

Verdict: It is easy for me to recommend The Gearheart. It is unique among the podio fiction novels I have heard and it is lavishly undertaken. If you haven’t listened to it yet, do so. I don’t think you’ll regret it. I will miss having The Gearheart in my feed.

Disclaimer: As mentioned earlier, I’ve been in communication with Mr. White since near the genesis of the this blog (which by the way, just had it’s one year anniversary) and the beginning of The Gearheart. I can honestly say that he has never offered me anything to write a review of The Gearheart, and I wouldn’t have accepted it if he had. He does mention me in the final credits of The Gearheart, however, I think he and I will just have to agree to disagree about my contribution (it really was inconsequential).

Comment Pages

There are 11 Comments to "Podcast Review #22: The Gearheart"

  • Alex White says:

    What a lovely review! Thank you so much for both your honesty and compliments. I appreciate all that you said, and I’ll try to keep it in mind in future endeavors.

    • odin1eye says:

      No problem. I’ve been waiting for quite a while for The Gearheart to complete so I could review it. It has been a mainstay and a staple of my weekly podcasts. It will be missed.

  • Another great review! As always, I’m given enough to know to know if this podiobook is worth trying and why (and without spoilers! 🙂 ). Even Odin1Eye’s most favorite podiobooks (and his least favorite) get fair and reasoned treatment. This sounds like a great audio book to try (now I just need time, darn it).

    I do agree that “the story so far” shouldn’t give enough info to be a replacement for the previous episode. Hint: If someone can get the “Cliff Notes” version of your podiobook from just listening to your TSSFs – they are probably too detailed. I do like having just enough of a recap to remind me which of the dozens of continuing story arcs floating in my brane the upcoming podcast is about.

    Kudos to the author for his apparently strong TSSF-fu 🙂

  • Scott Roche says:

    I enjoyed it quite a bit myself and glad you did. One quick question, you said “It is unique among the podio fiction novels I have heard”. In what way would you say it’s unique?

    • odin1eye says:

      Thanks for the comment Scott. I believe you’re referring to the first sentence of the last paragraph of the “story” section. If so, the uniqueness that I am referencing is the fact that EACH episode was enjoyable whether it furthered the story or not. I admit to little patience with books, movies, podiofiction that don’t seem to know where they are going. The Gearheart however, never had an episode that wasn’t enjoyable to listen too. (spoiler alert) The closest it ever came (for me) was when Jonathan had his first “seer” moment, and that WAS tied into the story!

  • Doc Coleman says:

    I recently finished The Gearheart.Like, just last Friday. I have to agree with the statement that The Gearheart feels like it is a sequel. It feels like you’ve jumped into a book two of a series. The issue is that there is so much backstory with Jonathan and Cog that is referred to and pointed at, but never explained. In one of the Q&A episodes, Alex mentions that there is another story, The Clockwork Girl or something similar, that explains how Jonathan and his Uncle found Cog and got her working. The listener’s expectations is that *THAT* story should be book 1, and The Gearheart should be book 2. Problem is that Alex never published (in any form) that first story. At least I can’t find it. I would wager that The Gearheart feels like a sequel because in the author’s head, it is one.

    As to The Story So Far… In this case it is more like a Previously On… in that it doesn’t review everything, just the key elements. Actually, the style of The Gearheart is very much modeled after old-time radio serials, so the TSSF and the commercials are very appropriate elements to the style of the podcast.

    Doc

    • odin1eye says:

      Hey Doc! Thanks for a really well thought out comment. I would agree with you on the modeling after OTR. In one conversation I had with Mr. White, he commented that he had been unaware of the podfiction movement. I think it shows in the slightly different tack that he approached it with. Thanks again!

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