Podcast Review #26: Down from Ten

Title: Down from Ten
Author: J. Daniel Sawyer
Music by: Danny Schade
Genre: um…..
Released: 21 June 2009 – 18 April 2010
Located: Author’s Site, iTunes

Formats available: podcast only
Rating: Strong R or above

After having listened to J. Daniel Sawyer’s first podcast novel, Predestination and Other Games of Chance, I knew that I would automatically be giving the next thing he produced a chance. Down from Ten is that next thing. It was that simple.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: In early January, a group of friends get together for an annual retreat; eight artists, scientists, and authors cloistered together in a mansion in the mountains above Redding, California for ten days of games, conversation, exhibition, and hedonism, while isolated from the outside world. It might all have been quite pleasant, if it weren’t for the biggest California snowstorm in over twenty years. When the storm hits, the house is buried in an avalanche, leaving our heroes with no way to hike out. Instead, they must find a way to survive and stay sane while waiting for rescue – which becomes difficult when they all start having the same dream.

A comedy in the tradition of The Shining and A Clockwork Orange, a romance in the tradition of Clue and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, and a mystery in the tradition of Paint Your Wagon and Time Enough For Love, Down From Ten will thrill you a little, chill you a little, and tickle your fancy in ways you wouldn’t want your children to see.

Down From Ten boasts an original score, a full voice cast, and professional soundscaping.
Intended for adult audiences.

(Stolen from the author’s site.)

Several notes on the synopsis. Yes, I know I don’t usually comment on the synopsis, but I feel I need to in this case. First, the intended for adult audiences really isn’t a suggestion. It is notification. There isn’t a single episode that is suitable for the entire family. If you decide to listen, you should know this going in. Second, I have a feeling that there will never be a work of fiction Mr. Sawyer writes that will be easily classifiable, easily listened to, or easy to create a synopsis for. While Down from Ten is everything the synopsis states, it is also nothing at all like the synopsis. It is much more.

Production: Let me simply state here. I’ve never been much of a worrier about production. I am all about the story, and even more about the characters. If you’ve read any of my reviews, you probably all ready know this. Many times I’ve written something along the lines of, “The production isn’t great, but the story is, so the production never bothered me.” Not exact, but along those lines. I’ve also heard a few podcasts that I have complimented for their production. There are a few podcast author’s that spend great amounts of time and effort on the production, and that always shows through. I of course notice, and appreciate. I’ve always stated though that I would listen to a great story even if the production was pretty bad. However, I’ve stated the reverse too. No matter how great the production, I would never listen to a podcast that had a weak or bad story. Then came Mr. Sawyer and Down from Ten. This production is nothing short of absolutely amazing. If you listened to this without really listening to the production, please go back and listen to at least one ep again. Please. Each location within the story has it’s own sound. If you’re listening with headphones, you’ll notice where each character is speaking from in the room in regards to you, the listener. Mr. Sawyer is a professional in this line of work (seriously, check his bio) and it has never been more apparent than with Down from Ten.

Cast: The cast for Down from Ten reads like a freaking Who’s Who of podcast fiction. Tee Morris. Pip Ballantine. Nathan Lowell. Nobilis Reed. Christiana Ellis. Kitty Nic’Iaian, Miss Kalendar, Chris Lester, Gail Carriger and Spinderfly. Also guest viola playing by P.C. Haring. They each do an admirable job and together are amazing. Each and every one nailed their roles. Really, what more can I say? If you are familiar with most of their work, that should speak volumes.

Story: From the very first ep, I could tell Down from Ten would not be a podcast that I could just listen to casually. Some podcasts I can listen to while I do pretty much anything. Not Mr. Sawyer’s. If you have anything that is going to demand your attention more intently that reminding yourself to breathe, I’d say save Down from Ten for another time.

Down from Ten will not be for everyone. I don’t think Mr. Sawyer is necessarily trying to offend anyone, but I do believe he wants to make his audience think. If this requires a “shot across the bow” of conventionally held morals or beliefs, he’ll definitely attack with all cannons firing.

Verdict: I will say that all the characters were expertly written and acted. That is what happens when you have a great writer working with some of the best voices in the business today. I will also say that I didn’t really like any of them much. HOWEVER, they ALL interested me, even if it was because I wanted to see them beat to a pulp. Down from Ten is amazing in it’s scope and it’s detail. It has THE most surprising ending I’ve EVER heard in a podcast and I defy anyone to see it coming.

If you want something that is highly unique, lovingly and lavishly produced, challenging to conventional thought and with an ending that will make you want to relisten to see if there were clues you missed, don’t wait any longer.

However, if you’ve become upset or irritated when you’ve read something that contradicts your belief system, I suggest you might want to give this one a pass.

Disclosure: I have never met J.D. Sawyer, but have followed him on Twitter since beginning the Predestination podcast. He is not what I would call verbose in that setting, but will talk to you if you have something to say that interests him. I have not received anything from him in return for this review. (I wrote this disclosure for Predestination, and upon rereading it, I’ve decided I can’t do much better. In between the two stories I have conversed with Mr. Sawyer substantially more. He is a very interesting individual and one that I do admire.)

Comment Pages

There are 14 Comments to "Podcast Review #26: Down from Ten"

  • Thanks much for the kind review!

    One minor quibble, where you say “I don’t think he was trying to offend everyone,” the truth is actually somewhat the reverse – when describing this book to friends and on interviews, I’ve often said “There’s something in this story to offend just about everyone, and something to amuse just about everyone.” 😉

    • odin1eye says:

      LOL… Thank you sir for the comment. I feel appropriately chastised now. I know I know, the riding crop is in the drawer.

  • I’ve never listened to a podcast novel where I’ve had no idea where the story was going until the end. Actually not only did I have no idea where the story was going; but I wasn’t sure what KIND of story it was until the end.

    That being said, I think the story is more about the characters than the context, so I’d recommend just sitting back and enjoying the ride. I usually don’t listen to stories with this much “adult” content, but these characters are so well written that I couldn’t help myself. *Darn you, J.D. Sawyer!*

    To be honest, I only started listening to this because of the stellar voice cast. They do not disappoint. They all bring their “A-game” and J. Daniel gives them the material for them to shine. No one does less than great in this production *period*.

    BTW: Be prepared for the possibility that you may want to go go back and re-listen to the whole thing again after you discover the ending. Only the fact that I have three other awesome podcast novels waiting for me to get to prevents me from re-listening myself.

    WARNING: Despite there being times you might really want to skip to the end – DON’T! You will only spoil the whole experience. Oh and to those of you who have listened to the entire story; giving out spoilers will generate major negative karma that you really don’t want!

    • odin1eye says:

      um…. as much as I would like to post an eloquent reply to your comment, the best I can do is simply say “agreed”.

  • Scott Roche says:

    Excellent review (as usual). I echo just about everything you’ve said.

    • odin1eye says:

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I sincerely appreciate knowing who is stopping by. I am glad you found the review to your liking, and even more so that you were able to listen and enjoy Down from Ten.

  • sidfaiwu says:

    Great review! I, too, agree with most of it. Though I must say I found most of Sawyer’s challenges to conventional beliefs and morality refreshing. It was like an aspirin and a tall glass of water to this country’s puritan hangover.

    • odin1eye says:

      I am so glad you enjoyed Down from Ten, and of course equally happy you found the review to your liking. One of the things I like most about Mr. Sawyer’s stories is that he makes no apologies for his characters points of view, and really has them respond according to their stated views. Great comment by the way, I can easily visualize it. LOL

  • Allen Sale says:

    Shocking. No digs on the use of “The Story So Far”. Mark this on your calendars folks because he won’t repeat it. (I’ll try to explain why.)

    When used correctly, TSSF reminds you of a few plot points from the previous episode rather than recounting what happened from the beginning. (Ever notice how such in correct uses remind you of the old ladies that gossip constantly?) Dan gives us a glimpse of what happened before but in such vague detail that you are seeing things through a fogged mirror. (All authors should use this technique in my view.)

    Something that wasn’t mentioned in the review that I think needs to be spotlighted is the fact that as a listener, (and should you decide to listen to Down From 10), make note of what you see; that means objects, locations, interactions, you name it. I personally love books (and stories) that have symbolism throughout. Coleridge would have been proud. Down From 10 is definitely one of those books you must read more than once. The fact it was to be a television miniseries proves why well-layered stories are hard to find.

    Down From 10 throws at you a fantastical plethora of sights, sounds, tastes, smells, sensations, emotions, and memories that rope you into the dark carnival ride. You won’t know where you are going, but you want to experience every part of the well orchestrated circus. The question is, do you want to know what’s inside Caligari’s cabinet? (Yes, I was reminded of that movie when reading this book. Trust me, it fits.)

    Awesome review as always!

    • odin1eye says:

      Thanks Allen! I am glad you posted a comment, because I simply cannot agree more that this is probably the most visual audio drama I’ve ever heard. Thanks.

      As far as the story so far goes, I haven’t changed my feelings about them. I do agree some are better than others, and the ones in Down from Ten are some of the best. Due to the fact that I have recounted my distaste for the story so far multiple times, and you’ve all heard my arguments for and I have heard your agreements and disagreements, for the most part I will be dispensing with this particular mention in the future. Of course, I might change my mind on this again in the future.

      Thanks again, I really appreciate the comment and I know Mr. Sawyer loves the feedback.

  • Merlin says:

    Awesome review. I’m tickled that you even commented on the synopsis. But that’s pretty much Dan’s style. I also completely agree on all counts. It’s meant to piss you off, it’s meant to make you think, it shows you some downright terrifying scenes and parts of humanity, but it also a very beautiful tapestry Dan’s woven.

    As for production, I think Dan’s spoiled me. It’s hard for me to listen to other podcasts after getting used to his cinematic approach to audiodramas. Too good to miss!

    Quick nit-pick: “Demand your attention more intently than reminding yourself to breath” — that should be ‘breathe.’

    Good work! I like how you approach this.

    • odin1eye says:

      Thanks! I appreciate the edit, and more importantly, I appreciate the comment. Thanks for joining in the conversation. I will agree, it would be easy to become spoiled by Mr. Sawyer’s production and writing.

  • Allen Sale says:

    Personally, it reminds me what I’m wanting to do with my production later this year: Let the actors play their parts, the music convey mood, the background sounds relay locations, and use some other sound effects to help enhance the setting. In other words, Dan kept it simple.

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