Podcast Review #35: Dead Mech

Title: Dead Mech
Author: Jake Bible
Genre: Science Fiction/Horror
Released: 26 September 2009 – 27 June 2010
Located: iTunes, Podiobooks, Author’s Site
Formats Available: Podcast, Dead Tree version coming soon
Rating: R for intense violence and gore, strong sexual content and pervasive profanity

A while back you might remember I made a concerted effort to fill the void created in these reviews by the lack of horror. I believe I mentioned at the time that it is probably my least favorite of the speculative fiction categories, and it remains so. As I was looking for a good story or two to review I was amazed to find how popular zombie fiction had become. (I know, sometimes I’m a bit slow on the uptake.) I don’t remember who recommended Jake Bible’s Dead Mech to me, or even if it was one I stumbled upon on my own, but I just finished listening to the last ep and had been holding this review until that episode dropped. Thank goodness for author’s that release on schedule (even a Sunday release schedule… Sunday? Really?).

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: After the zombie apocalypse decimates the world, human civilization tries to put itself back together again. Their secret weapon: the Mechs. But what happens when a mech pilot dies in his mech and becomes a zombie? Hell on earth is unleashed… (Minor quibble.. authors, you put A LOT of work into your stories and then the podcasting of them. Consider providing a synopsis that, even if it is brief, give me a very good idea about what your story is about. I’m more likely to listen.) (Stolen from podiobooks.com)

Production: Mr. Bible bills his story as the world’s first “drabble” novel. Don’t know what that is? Don’t feel bad, neither did I. In a nutshell, a drabble is a 100 word story. Exactly 100 words. So, Mr. Bible has written a novel that is broken into 100 word bites. Not chapters necessarily, but scenes, characters point of view, etc. What does this have to do with production? Simply that at the end of each drabble, the story pauses. No music, no sound effect, just nothing. for an obscene amount of time. Like at least a minute. Well, not really probably more like five seconds. Still, it seemed much longer.

Mr. Bible did one other thing in his production that I really have to admit I would not recommend. Author “metadata” (all those things that author’s share with us that might or might not have anything to do with the story) is really fun and I usually subscribe to the iTunes or author’s site versions so as to be able to listen in on it. However, if you are going to place it at the beginning of the ep, I believe it should be kept relatively concise and keep on tract. Several of Mr. Bible’s intro’s approach the 10 minute mark. Yes, I know that I could have subscribed to the Podiobooks version and then I would not have this complaint. And of course, that is a very valid argument. And truthfully, now that this story is complete, I would suggest you do. (Well, it should be complete at Podiobooks before you get that far anyway.)

Cast: Mr. Bible does a straight read on his Dead Mech but does provide a good amount of inflection. He really doesn’t do much in the way of voice characterization, but it really doesn’t need it and the story stands up quite well.

Story: Dead Mech is a horror story. It really is. But it is a horror story in the vein of Aliens where it is very dependent on the science fiction element. Mr. Bible does a very good job on blending the two. Mr. Bible also provides a disclaimer at the beginning of each episode letting the listener know this story is really intended for adult audiences. Believe him. I have never heard this much profanity in a podcast before. (It came to me as I was mowing the yard while listening to an ep that I can imagine Mr. Bible counting the words of the latest paragraph and finding himself at 98, so why not throw two 2 more f-bombs in to [that is meant as a light hearted musing only folks] wrap it up nice and tidy. If that in itself is a stopping point for you, don’t bother. There are also detailed scenes of gore and sexual violence, violence and cannibalism. Seriously. And we’re not talking zombies munching of humans either. However, this is a story that I’ve never heard before in any variation. I love the idea of his Mechs and the specialized duty they are capable of.

Verdict: I didn’t love Dead Mech, but I sure didn’t hate it either. I liked it. And it is telling that it is one of the podcasts that I wait for every week to listen to. For horror (and me) that is really saying a lot. I would recommend it if you are a horror fan and you don’t mind frequent and considerable profanities. It isn’t Shakespeare or Dostoyevsky, but what is? It is a good story, read moderately well that will keep you entertained. If this was a movie, I’d call it a summer popcorn flick, and there is definitely a need for that.

Disclosure: I don’t follow Mr. Bible on Twitter but will probably be correcting that sooner or later. To my knowledge, he doesn’t follow me either and I don’t remember every exchanging Tweets with him.

Comment Pages

There are 12 Comments to "Podcast Review #35: Dead Mech"

  • Given Odin1Eye’s tastes, I get the feeling that if he likes this kind of story; it is probably a pretty good horror story – with the appropriate warnings in mind.

    As much as I like Odin’s reviews, I do hope a horror fan who has listened will post their thoughts, to provide a different perspective.

    I’m not big on horror or profanity, but I am intrigued by the concept of a novel composed of 100 word sections. I’ll probably give this a listen just for that. I’ll try to remember to post a comment when I finish it.

    Odin1Eye did a another great job on this review – I think most people who read this will have an idea if this is something for them to try or not – which is my personal standard for a good review.

    I do think that podcast novelists would be well served to read Odin’s reviews to get an idea of what they may want to be sure to do and what they may want to avoid. Odin doesn’t make the rules – nor does he want to or try to – but his idea of what works and what doesn’t should at least be considered by podiobook authors, especially for those who are doing it for the first time.

    • odin1eye says:

      Thanks for the comment Richard! And thanks for the vote of confidence. One of the reason I liked this story is that, although it definitely has horror elements, at it’s core it is more a science fiction story. And a fresh one at that. I do think that if people are not put off by the aforementioned elements they will find a story worth hearing. Much fun.

  • Scott Roche says:

    I’m a big fan of zombies and horror in general. I try to limit my intake because too much darkness can have an adverse affect on me emotionally. I saved a place in my podcast diet for this though.

    It’s dark, grisly stuff but it’s got a lot to say about the power of family and the sheer cussedness of the human spirit that will survive ANYTHING you throw at it and that made it totally worth all the F bombs (there were too many and I had the same rather humorous thought you did re: word count) and some of the more disturbing content.

    I’m glad for Jake’ success and can’t wait to see what he’ll put out next.

  • kmaimer says:

    Funny thing is, after the review I didn’t expect Odin to suggest the podcast to other people. Throughout the review itself I had quite the impression that this wasn’t the kind of Podiobook that he would wait every week for.

    If any criticism, I wasn’t completely able to follow the train of thought why exactly Odin was waiting every week for it – especially knowing that he found Half Share very sexual, and LA LA LA’s in the presence of the F-Word.

    So yes, a question from me – why were you waiting for the story every week?

    • odin1eye says:

      Valid question. Have you ever gone to a movie, watched a show etc. That really wasn’t something you would have thought you would have enjoyed, but you did? Dead Mech, by description, might not have been my choice, and truthfully, I almost didn’t recommend it. However, when I realized it was one I was waiting for, I also realized that sometimes a story is more then a sum of it’s parts.

  • JC says:

    I have always been a horror fan, so tend to be more open to anything in that genre. But most horror in any media is so awful it makes me wonder why I am. This podcast doesn’t improve that track record.
    This is one of the most original concepts I’ve heard of in a very long time. And I heard about it from Scott Sigler and I think from the Drabblecast also, so I was excited to hear it.
    The first quarter of the book the drabble concept helps create some tense action scenes. There are some deft moves between different scenes early. It feels as though we’re going to learn more about this post-apocalyptic zombie-infested world and the Mech Pilots (why are giant tank operators called pilots? Don’t do any thinking here, it’ll only ruin the story) who try to bring it back. And the first quarter of the book it feels like we’re moving in that direction.
    But from there on, the whole thing just fizzles. The characters are so thin they’re interchangeable. You hear the name of one of the pilots and have to actively think “uh, is Rachel the one sleeping with Matthew, or is she the one who has a crush on Matthew?” I listened to the epilogue where the author was boasting about not describing the characters so we had to use our imaginations. This is ridiculous. It’s still the author’s job to create vivid characters we care about, and a world we find interesting, or believable. They’re YOUR characters, bring them to life for me. A good songwriter can make believable characters in a 3 minute song, but Jake Bible couldn’t bring me one character I gave a crap about in hours and hours worth of talking. The pilots respect their captain supposedly, but disobey him at every opportunity, swear at him, and ignore him. Some military organization. No wonder the whole flippin’ world is run with zombies.
    The dialogue is painful to the ear. The characters blurt out long, clunky lines while they should be clipped, terse lines in the heat of battle. And every character says things the author thinks is a clever quip. None of them are. NONE. This also loses me. Listen to a group of people. In every group people speak differently, even people who spend a lot of time together. Everyone handles stress differently. Some quietly just get by. Others bitch and moan. Some do a little of both. Some try to always get out of doing the work. But all the characters sound the same. They have no individual personality. It’s one thing to expect us to use our imaginations, and another to fail to do even the basics required of the author. There’s one mechanic named Jay, and another named Jethro. Couldn’t remember which was which most of the time. There’s a pilot named Masters and one named Mathews. Too much alike. I listened to hours of this thing, but know nothing about the characters.
    The graphic sexual violence early would not be so unsettling for me if it had been balanced by the female character suffering it had been good, strong and believable. Otherwise it just feels like you’re reading an S&M story on a creepy fetish website.
    The first major villain, the Boss, just makes no sense. And this story, though incapable of producing even one well conceived and executed villain, has like 4 or 5 villains by the time it’s all over with. The Boss keeps his village in line with sadistic violence. Why don’t the people overthrow him? It’s hard to believe that if people are as primitive and desperate in the wasteland as we’re supposed to believe that they would be too timid to do that. No idea. Why do they live in the Wasteland? No idea. What is life like in a citystate? No idea.
    We all have a limit that our belief can be stretched. I’ll listen to a zombie mech podcast even though I’m not convinced either is in our very near future. But any fantastical world still needs a cohesiveness to it. It has a logic that makes sense to that world. This world doesn’t. This world can produce enough food and equipment for a small army to pilot 3-story tall battlemechs with 50-cal guns, rockets and plasma cannons. But not enough food to keep small groups of people from eating human children. This world has coffee, but not cattle. In fact, don’t recall any animals mentioned at all. Or plants. The only agricultural product ever mentioned is coffee. Do they eat coffee? And coffee needs to grow in altitude in shade. So, where did it come from? It may seem nit picky, but when there are so many of these examples of lousy world creation, the nit picky starts to be more noticeable. All of that adds up to make me start questioning the basic concept. How can a human society so barely clinging to existence and barely able to feed itself have the tech to have a giant mainframe computer with human integration, giant building sized mechs that can dance (yes, dance) and nano technology? Where are the factories? Our culture is technologically suprerior in most ways to that of this world, but we could not dream of reaper chips or Mechsand we have agriculture, Suspension of belief suspended.
    By the time the thing was supposed to be in its climax, I was looking at the iPod trying to figure out “how much more of this crap is left?” The point of horror is certainly about what are we afraid of. But behind everything is the real “what are we afraid of?” With zombies we’re afraid of social collapse. We’re afraid of losing our humanity and becoming mindless consumers, incapable of thought. With apocalypse we’re afraid that humans will lose thousands of years of progress and decline into an animal state. Hundreds or thousands of humans, which are already sparse, die, but we’re never put in a position to contemplate how close to the brink of extinction humans are being pushed. They’re either used to create more zombie obstacles (and though this is seemingly about zombies, zombies aren’t that prominent in this story), or die in a revenge for not helping the Mech Pilot storyline that goes nowhere. Humans almost destroyed would normally get me on the edge of my seat because it’s a deeply held human fear. In this work? Nah, not important. Gets in the way of a Mech Pilot shouting foul langugage as it attachs a Dead Mech scene.
    By the end I was really rooting for the Nuke to wipe everyone out. Really.
    To me there are several ways to judge a work. First, no matter how much I paid, or how I got the work, the first question is: Is it good? Second, is more subjective. How would I feel if I had paid my money for this work? If i had paid money for this, I’d be really jacked.
    Wooh, man I was glad to get that off my chest.
    P.S.I love that this site exists, and what you’re doing for podcast reviews.

    • odin1eye says:

      Thank you for a very thorough comment/review! I really enjoyed reading your thoughts. It had been so long since I had listened to this podcast with so very many in between that I had to go back and read my own review to help me remember what I thought about it.

      I can not fault a single one of your reasons for disliking (mildly put) the story. I didn’t have as many issues with it, but I can agree that not a single character seemed “necessary” and very few of them were memorable. I don’t know about you, but I truly thought the “rookie” was going to be the main character or have something very unique about him at the beginning, and yet he ended being just another player in a cast of thousands. So yes, I do remember well enough to commiserate with you.

      Thanks so much for stopping by. I would love to hear any thoughts on any other podcasts reviewed here, whether we agree or not (especially if we don’t ,^) ).

      Sincerely, thank you for the kind words expressed about these reviews.

  • JC says:

    Thanks. I promise that there are podcasts I actually like, even though my first two comments have gone scorched earth.
    I agree that it seemed as though the rookie was going to be at least a major character. There was a fight in the cage, helped get them out of the zombie swarm, and then….nothing.
    I like drabbles, particularly in something like the Drabblecast with Norm Sherman, but it seems to me trying to make a Drabble novel just doesn’t work. It’s a limiting concept. A limit for an inexperienced writer. Not a selling point.

    • odin1eye says:

      LOL.. Yes, I’m sure there are many podcasts you like. If not, you have more time to waste than I think is good for a soul. I think I agree on drabble novels not working, but perhaps for a different reason. With the 100 word limit it just ends up feeling a bit too choppy to me.

      Thanks again for your time and comments!

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