Podcast Review #59: How to Succeed in Evil: the Novel

Title: How to Succeed in Evil, the Novel
Author: Patrick McLean
Genre: Super Hero/Villain Fiction
Released: 16 March 2009 – 16 July 2009
Located: PodibooksiTunes (warning – only the first 18 chapters “work” in the iTunes version)
Formats Available: Podcast only at this point
Rating: R for violence and sexual situations and language

How to Succeed in Evil is another of those podcasts that I’d heard of but never got around to listening. I knew nothing about it or it’s author, but had heard it mentioned on more than one occasion. For the most part, I hadn’t heard much positive or negative, just mentions. I surmised that I wouldn’t have heard that number of mentions, however, if the podcast was terrible, so I decided to give it a try.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: How to Succeed in Evil is not a self help page for the maladjusted. It is the story of Edwin Windsor, Evil Efficiency Consultant. He’s like Arthur Anderson for Supervillains. (Stolen from iTunes. Believe it or not, this is the longest synopsis I could find. If synopsis were graded, I’d fail this one.)

Production: For as excellent as the production of How to Succeed in Evil is, there are still too many errors and issues that have gone uncorrected. Let’s start with iTunes. After the first 18 chapters, the remaining eps and chapters are all corrupted. No content. At least not in my tests. [ed: Mr. McLean has commented below that he has tested both the iTunes “independent” feed and the Podiobooks feed that always runs in iTunes and has not been able to replicate my problem. The issue I’m finding is only with the iTunes independent feed (you can tell the difference by the icon, which is a bit cropped and therefore enlarged). In this feed at episode 54 (chapter 19) the times start showing up at a length of 1:01. When loaded onto any of my devices, there is no content. Can anyone else verify this or is this simply my equipment?] [I’ve come to the conclusion, that although I cannot get said episodes to download correctly, I must be the exception rather than the rule. Thanks to those that have provided feedback.-ed] There are multiple examples of blown lines being repeated without the original being edited out as well. My final complaint is the length of the episodes.

I don’t believe author’s need to constrain themselves to the magically arbitrary and adhered to rule of thirty minutes. Not at all. There are many examples of podcasts that last longer and those that are shorter that are both done very well and that aren’t bothered by not adhering to this rule. However, when some of the eps are less than ten minutes, the length can become an issue. When they’re less than five, it is an annoyance. [Mr. McLean also points out that the novel is relatively short at approximately 80,000 words. It does seem longer with the short episodes, but I’m not complaining about the length of the book. It was good. It ended when it was over. I just would have preferred, personally, a few of the short eps to have been combined.]

Thankfully, the good far outweighs the bad.

Grade: B

Cast: This is an author read book. But it is far from a straight read. Each character is voiced distinctively and with it’s own inflection. With the job Mr. McLean does a in reading life into each of his creations, Dr. Frankenstein would rightfully be jealous.

Grade: A

Story: I’ve never much been one for antiheroes. Thomas Covenant left me rooting for the villains. Edwin is far from a Mr. Donaldson creation, but he’s not exactly likable either. At least not to me. As I’ve said multiple times, I’m very character driven, and this isn’t a character driven story. The story is built around a unique concept, and that concept is enough to keep me listening.

Grade: Solid B

Verdict: As mentioned above, How to Succeed in Evil: The Novel is unique. However, a unique concept will never propel a book into my upper tier alone. Without the characters, it is just an interesting story. In no way is that a bad thing. However, at 70 episodes, this is far from a short easy listen. If you like it early on, keep going. If not, you might as well quit. You know what you’re getting very early on.

Disclosure: I have no idea if Mr. McLean is on Twitter or not. I know I’ve never had any contact with him. Yes, that includes never having been offered anything in return for this review.

Comment Pages

There are 13 Comments to "Podcast Review #59: How to Succeed in Evil: the Novel"

  • Patrick says:

    Thanks for both the kind and critical words about How to Succeed in Evil.

    Not sure what difficulty you are having with iTunes as no one else has reported it and I could not reproduce it. Right now both iTunes feeds work perfectly.

    The podcasted version of the novel is about 80,000 words. Which is, in fact, pretty short as far as modern novels go.

    In any event, if you’d like to listen to the other 3/4ths of the book I am happy to provide it you in any form you desire. Or you could just check out my latest, Unkillable. The story of a young man who is murdered and brought back from the dead at a shot for revenge. It’s kind of a zombie story told from the zombie’s perspective. http://www.patrickemclean.com/unkillable.

    I am also on twitter: @patrickemclean

    Thanks again for the review.

    • odin1eye says:

      Thanks Patrick for the quick comment! I have no idea how you stumbled upon this review so quickly, but I’m glad you did!

      I’ll edit the review asking if anyone else has the error from iTunes.

      I did enjoy the story and will be checking out more of you’re work. I post review notification on twitter at 8, 12, 4 central time. Hope it helps gain you a few listeners!

  • Michael says:

    Sometimes you get wierd things with Itunes and playing mp3 files. I listen to my stories on the old Ipod, which is usually slotted into a stereo. For some strange reason Full Share only plays properly for me on headphones or on speakers plugged into the headphone jack. When trying to listen on the PC or through the stereo it onlt plays the music track…

    On the subject of the item reviewed. The only exception to my rule of only reading/listening to stories with people I like, and avoiding the anti-heroe is David gemmel books. I had looked at this title but was put off by a the anti-heroe premise and the number of episodes. 🙂

    • odin1eye says:

      This is a very good point. I don’t think you would truly consider Edwin to be a bad guy or true true anti-hero. Not in the traditional sense. He isn’t actually unlikeable. Just unique.

      Thanks for the comment Michael!

  • I decided to do a bit of sampling for you, Odin. First I downloaded, from iTunes, How to Succeed in Evil under the genre of Literature, with the full icon. It downloaded in chapter version, not episodes. I “got” chps 19 at 6:26 chp 20 9:04 and 21 at 6:11. Then chp 53 at 7:44, ch54 6:06 and 55 at 11:40. All were very short (More on this later.)

    I moved on to HtSiE listed under the Society and Culture (small icon, magnified)- also chapters-downloaded 19 – 21. All were the same length as the first. There are other works on this download, not just HtSiE.

    Finally, the Original Podcast, black/white icon. I found only 21 episodes.

    So, could not find Episode 54 but found that chapters 19 and beyond were short but there for my download.

    I never found the iTunes download that had 70 + episodes. Maybe I missed it.

    However, I do not like chapters that are this short. I listen while drive and many do not start playing consecutively, and I will not play with them as I am driving. If I find podcasts with short episodes/chapters I skip them. Unless someone beats me over the head with it. :0)

    Thanks for taking your time to help us out, Odin!

  • Terminusvox says:

    While I agree that How to Succeed in Evil isn’t exactly character driven I still must chime in as a fan of this and other work by Patrick E McLean. I tracked through HtSiE just last week and did not have the problems you encountered. I’ve listened to at least two versions of the podcast novel and the latest rewrite is drum tight though I guess that tension may have come at the expense of some character development. Of course, my podcast files were downloaded nearer to the completion of the novel so I guess the issues you ran into with itunes is just that; an issue with itunes. I hardly ever delete podcasts – isn’t that what terabyte HDDs are for?

    There’s much for me to love about HtSiE from the inevitability of Edwin’s plans to his explanation of how, economically, every bank robbery actually costs the robber more than it nets. Heck, McLean even manages to make a round of golf riveting audio!

    I found the production values higher than average for podiobooks. I’ve listened to more than one professionally acted, produced, directed, mixed, and mastered audiobook with retakes of lines left in the final recording. I can accept that level of effort from folks who share their fiction for free!

    • odin1eye says:

      Thanks for the comment! I would have been disappointed if you hadn’t commented because one of your tweets actually was the impetus for me to get off my butt and finally listen. For that I say “thank you”.

      Make no mistake, when I point out “issues” I am simply finding places that could be made better. Could I do better? Most assuredly not. I’m very impressed with mr. McLean’s capable production and voice work. The story was good, but not in my favorite list for the reasons noted. You’re the second to call me on the iTunes issues and I plan on retracting that portion as soon as I get to a computer.

      Thanks again, and feel free to suggest anything you think I might need to give a listen!

  • Katharina says:

    The list of requirements from you gets longer with every review. *sweat*

    Anyway, i agree that having to klick on the next episode every 10or less minutes would make me stop listening. Re-release maybe?
    Or provide the listener with an episode-skippin monkey. Then again that might fall under bribe in odin’s eyes… *sigh*

    See my point on how it’s hard for a wee writer to release a podcast novel without being afraid odin tears it to shreds?? 😀 😀

    Thank you for the review, as usual you tought points that can make or break a story for me. Saved me tons of time!

    • odin1eye says:

      A monkey? That isn’t a bribe, that’d just a sure fire way to get a positive review!

      And for your information I’ve never ripped anyones story to shreds. I use scissors.

      And remember, for each of my suggestions, there are many who would disagree.

  • Scott Roche says:

    Good review. I will say for me the short episodes weren’t a problem. I don’t mind short ones, though if it seems consistently short I’m more likely to mainline (the exception being Fables of the Flying City, uber-short episodes, but I MUST LISTEN NOW).

    I did notice some production issues but mainly it was volume leveling.

    Overall I love this story and found it hilarious. It is a case where a “sidekick” overshadowed the main protagonist (see also Nocturnal), but given the personalities of Topper and Edward this didn’t bother me too much.

    The thing I loved most about this is the look into the psychology of villains and what could make a good man turn bad and vice versa. I look forward to having this on my bookshelf one day.

    • odin1eye says:

      Thanks Scott for the comment! I had a hard time calling this one an “anti-hero” because Edwin is not a dislikable character on most levels. But he is helping the bad guys. Was a well done story and I definitely am not condemning it in any way. Just trying to help people find the right fit for them.

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