Podcast Review #34: Assam and Darjeeling by T.M. Camp

Title: Assam and Darjeeling
Author: T.M. Camp
Genre: Genre bending dark fairy tale
Released: 23 September 2007 – 7 August 2008
Located: iTunes,
Formats Available: Podcast, Dead Tree, Ebook
Rating: PG13 for disturbing images dealing with children

Have you ever had a podcast that you’ve been meaning to listen to for ages, but somehow it just keeps skipping from your mind? Maybe supernatural forces are tampering with your memories. Or maybe the author just doesn’t pimp his/her stuff hard enough (at least in your hearing). Or maybe, the title has unusual words that, though you know them, seem out of place as a book title. Or maybe it is your Twitter groups fault for not bringing this story up, like ever. Or perhaps, just maybe, it is all of the above. Nah… it is just my own fault. I kept meaning to, I just kept forgetting somehow.

Well, somehow I slipped the evil forces that were trying to get my to forget about Assam and Darjeeling, and wow, am I glad I did.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: When their mother is lost in a terrible car crash, two children set out to bring her back from the Underworld — a nightmare place populated by remnants from old mythologies, defunct pantheons, and forgotten folklore. Along the way, the children discover that they cannot rescue their mother without rescuing themselves first.

Sometimes frightening, sometimes funny, and often heartbreaking, Assam & Darjeeling is the story of a brother and sister who have to go through hell together in order to learn the true meaning of family.

Production: T. M. Camp does a great job at keeping it simple. Assam and Darjeeling production is akin to something the Master Nathan Lowell might inspire. It is beautiful in its simplicity. Mr. Camp has a repetitive chime intro and outro (and yes, it is a bit too repetitive) and then without any meta discussion or trailers jumps right into the story. At the end, he humorously threatens us with copyright violation punishments too dire to retell, and he’s gone. I like that. I really really do. However, all is not joy in Mudville. Mr. Camp writes some very short chapters. That in itself is no big deal. I like short chapters. However, when each chapter is an episode, your content should not be shorter than your combined intro and outro. The intro is about 50 seconds, the outro about 2 minutes 20 seconds. When the entire ep is at or under 6 minutes, the repetitiveness of the cycle can be a bit, well, redundant. I would suggest to content providers, if your content isn’t at least 4 times as long as the intro/outro, maybe you should combine it with the next bit of content. Yes, I do mean that if you are going to intro me at 1o minutes, I want 40 minutes of content. Maybe I’m being a bit too greedy here, but if so, tell me what you think is fair.

Cast: Mr. Camp does a straight read, and he does a stellar job at it. I have a feeling he has spent many an hour sitting beside a child’s bed and has probably heard, “No daddy, say it like you did LAST time.” He doesn’t go crazy with voices, but he does do a good job and I once again find myself luxuriating in a straight read well done.

Story: Assam and Darjeeling is a unique story in that it is hard to qualify as to audience. I think back now to the original Jurassic Park movie (can it really have been 17 years ago??). People saw the amazing dinosaur effects (still hold up well) and for some reason chose to think, “Hey honey, I wonder if they’ll only be showing us vegisaurs munching leaves for two hours. Yeah, I’m sure that will make a great summer blockbuster! Load up the kids and let’s go!” Yeah, not all movies/books starring kids are written FOR kids.

Verdict: Let me restate that, just to make sure. Assam and Darjeeling is a book about kids that really is written for adults in many ways. Think about Scout and Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird. Perhaps another consideration would be Pan’s Labyrinth. These comparison’s easily come to mind when I listen to Assam and Darjeeling. However, another reason for the comparison comes to mind as well. Both are great stories, but I really wouldn’t allow my children to see either of them for years yet. Assam and Darjeeling touched me in a way NO OTHER work of podfiction to date has. I admit, I’m a softy when it comes to family. This story reached inside me and played my “daddy” strings the way a master luthier might be able too play a mandolin. I am so glad I finally remembered to listen to this story, and I highly recommend you take the time to give it a try too.

Disclosure: I’ve followed Mr. Camp on Twitter for quite a while now. He is very unassuming and I really did mean it when I said I don’t feel he pimps his work enough. We both have baby daughters and I’ve enjoyed watching him Tweet about his Sophie while I make comparisons to my little princess (who is three months today [proud daddy moment]). In one of those surprisingly coincidental twists of fate, I had started listening to this story a couple of weeks ago. I started on a Monday. On Wednesday of that week, Mr. Camp got old. Well, older. He ran a contest on Twitter and I won a copy of one of his books. He didn’t state what it would be and it wasn’t open to request. Imagine my surprise this week when a signed copy of Assam and Darjeeling arrived in the mail. I couldn’t have been more excited and I will definitely be suggesting my wife read it. However, that being said, I have never discussed this work with Mr. Camp, and he had no knowledge of this review and has never requested it. Seriously gang, this was a good one.

Comment Pages

There are 20 Comments to "Podcast Review #34: Assam and Darjeeling by T.M. Camp"

  • Another well done review by Odin1Eye. I actually purchased the e-book out of support for the author, but I haven’t gotten around to listening or reading. I think the same forces that kept it off Odin1Eye’s mp3 player have been conspiring against me. I’ll try to remember to post another comment here after I’ve listened/read it.

    • odin1eye says:

      I personally really appreciate folks like you that will purchase an ebook in support of an author. Read it or listen to the podcast. I’m really interested in your take on it.

  • Jill Estabrooks says:

    I have been listening to this podcast for a while. I love it, though I totally agree with the intro/exit bit. It is kind of annoying. I just forward the beginning to .45 seconds each time. I could listen to TM Camp read anything. He has a wonderful mellow voice that is just right. I mistakenly listened to the epilogue before finishing so now I know things I wish I didn’t. I plan on ordering the print version.

    • odin1eye says:

      I also find myself skipping in about 50 seconds. Mr. Camp has an exceedingly mellifluous voice that is perfect for this kind of story.

  • Jeff Hite says:

    Thank you Odin for another great review. I am really looking forward to giving this one a try.

    • odin1eye says:

      My pleasure. I am going to go out on a limb and say I will be surprised if it doesn’t become one of your personal favorites. Could be wrong, but you will find value.

  • Scott Roche says:

    A podcast novel I don’t think I’ve heard of? Unpossible. Thanks!!

  • Dan Rabarts says:

    You’ve piqued my interest. Subscribing and downloading right now. Thanks for another pointer, as I’d never heard of this book or this author before now.

    • odin1eye says:

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you just made this interview a success. Finding a new story/author and sharing is what it is all about. If you think about it, come on back and share your thoughts.

  • Wow, just had two and a half weeks filled with grandchildren. I need a great family story now, as they have all gone home. 🙁 With your great review, I will go download and start listening today. Thank you again.

    • odin1eye says:

      I hope you enjoy it. I really do. It isn’t all sunshine and cream, but it truly touched me. Family sometimes means sacrifice. Love can be bitter as well as sweet. Assam and Darjeeling has all of these elements.

  • Jeanette Marsh says:

    I, too have been meaning to listen, but forgot. Thanks to your review, I know it’s worth the effort. Off I got to download it, thank you Odin 🙂

  • Thomas says:

    Thank you for pointing this one out to us, had no clue about it. down loaded it already, putting it in my iPod soonest.

  • I must say, I clicked on the review to make sure you got the hits you wanted and now am convinced I must listen to this story. What a wonderful review. I have just subscribed to the site! Why didn’t I do this before? You rock!

    • odin1eye says:

      *blush* wow. Thanks. And subscribing? Double thanks. I have to say though, without people like you and the writers, I’d still be directionless here. Thank you very much.

  • Jeff Hite says:

    I subscribed and downloaded on your recommendation. And as usual you were right, I liked this book. I have already recommended it to a couple of people. I was fascinated by the settings the places, the people in those places, the pain and loss that some of them suffered and the joy of others, the simple joy of wanting your mother, the urge to protect the ones you love, the power of a bargain struck, the level of hate and anger that can be developed given enough time. All of these were wonderfully done.

    I spend time looking up all of the gods and goddess that were referenced trying to figure out who Sarah or Seth were was almost as fun as the story. One of the things that I liked best about the book, besides the things that I had already mentioned was the authors ability to describe the pain that this chacters were suffering without showing it to you. To put it another way, you saw the pie being tossed, you saw the embarrassment of having to walk out of the office covered in pie, but you didn’t see the pie hitting the jilted lover in the face in the middle of the break room with everyone watching. Enough details to let you know it happened, without actually showing it happen. I want to thank the author for that. Understand that people are in pain, had had pain inflicted upon them is in my oppion more powerful that seeing that pain, and it leaves the actual action to your imagination. And we all know that it is only in your imagination where a tiny spider can be transformed into a demon devouring people from the inside out as they sing it praises.

    If I were allowed to only complain about one thing, I think I would complain about the audio levels. At points I had my stereo cranked all the way up just to hear what they were saying and then the outro would come and blow my ears out.

    Since I am allowed to talk about more than one thing that I didn’t like I would also reiterate the your comment about the short chapters. In text format this would not be a problem in fact it might be a good thing. But in audio, when the chapter is over and the progress par is less than half way across the screen it found it frustrating and was very glad that I keep my ipod in a place in my car that I can easily swipe to the next chapter. I know if I were listening and waiting a week and then got one of those short ones only to have to wait another week I would just about scream. Not that screaming would do me any good. (PS this is why I am a Podiobook hoarder, thank you PG Holyfield for teaching me that lesson.)

    With all of this said, I want to reference you back to the top of my Comment where I said, “I liked this story. I have recommended it to others and I will continue to do so.” all on my complaints were about the audio itself and not the story in anyway. In fact It inspired me to write a story about well people on “the river.”

    • odin1eye says:

      Thanks for the great reply. You don’t know how much comments like these mean to me and I’m sure even more so to Mr. Camp. Thank you. And I do agree with the audio levels as well.

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