Podcast Review #72: House of Grey

Title: House of Grey
Author: Collin Earl
Genre: Fantasy
Released: 5 September 2008 – 7 March 2010
Located: Podiobooks, iTunes
Formats Available: podcast only
Rating: PG for anime type (and referenced) violence

I have no idea who recommended this podcast to me. Whoever you are, I don’t know whether to thank you or curse you. It was recommended to me quite a while back and I simply never got around to it. Recently, I fixed that.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: 14-year-old Monson Grey faces the same challenges that any freshman high school kid would. Difficult classes, weird teachers, food fights…girls. Except Monson Grey is not Monson Grey. At least, when he looks at himself in the mirror, the scarred face staring back is not someone he recognizes. Now he finds himself attending an extraordinary school, the recipient of an incredible scholarship, among ridiculously rich classmates, and with no memory of how he got there or what to expect. As bizarre events start to unfold around him, Monson wonders what secrets lay locked in his hidden past. Add all this to a mysterious silver stone, an Indiana-Jones-copycat professor, Merlin the wizard, and even Atlantis, and you’ll find yourself in a fantastic tale in which magic does exist and everything is never as it seems. (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: House of Grey does some things very well. Without getting into the cast (which comes next of course) the producers did some remarkable work with computer altered voicework. I’m usually not a fan of this, but 8 out of 10 times, they did it very, very well. There is a The Story so Far that morphs during the course of the podcast, though never becomes something I enjoyed. In the last ep there is one or two repeated lines. Occasionally, the pieced together audio sounds like exactly what it is, but as the grade shows, never quiet enough to take me out of the moment.

One final note on production. This story has some of the longest eps I’ve ever heard. Many approach an hour and several surpass, with at least one hitting two and a quarter hours of content.

Grade: B+

Cast: The House of Grey was read by Chris Snelgrove. He does a commendable job of voice inflection and personalization of each voice. Yes, even the ladies (which pay a large part). If you choose to listen, you’ll have very little trouble differentiating the characters.

Grade: A-

Story: Occasionally, it is hard for me to distinguish between the “Story” portion of these reviews and the “Verdict”. This particular story is one of the hardest for me to differentiate.

I would label House of Grey a young adult title whether the author would or not. The protagonists are all high school kids in a prestigious west coast school. The violence is much like the anime the characters are hooked on. The problems they face range from the typical high school type of problems to saving the world.

House of Grey is also a story that unwraps as you go along. I love/hate stories that I’m half way through when I’m asked, “What’s it about?” and my only answer can be, “I have no idea.” House of Grey firmly resides in this camp.

Grade: B

Verdict: I LOVED House of Grey. Seriously gang. I know not every story is for everyone, I accept that. However, this story truly resonated with me. I have no idea why. It just did. I am not claiming everything is perfect. The story is bloated. At almost 40 hours of content I’m guessing it is at least 200,000 words and would probably surpass 500 pages in mass market paperback form. I’m also guessing a good editor would probably trim at least a third. That didn’t matter to me. Mr. Snelgrove’s over enthusiastic ep intros annoyed me. That, too, didn’t matter. What it come down to was, I was so enthralled with the story that the writing issues just didn’t matter. And for me, THAT is rare.

By now, you’re probably suspecting that my verdict would be an unqualified listen. And until the last episode, you would have been correct. The last two and a half hour episode. The one that was one huge battle sequence. The one that, with 30 minutes left, you’re beginning to wonder “How is Mr. Earl going to tie this up?” And yes, the one that with three minutes left we forget about trying to tie it up and change the point of view to a highly unlikely cast member and leaves the audience completely in the dark about how ANYTHING in the story is resolved. Let me make this clear. The story does not end. If Tolkien had left us during the scene inside Mount Doom with Frodo and Smeagol wrestling, you might get the idea. I have to admit that my initial reaction to the last episode was anger. But then again, all I really paid for all of these hours of exuberant, thrilling imaginative entertainment was my time.

So, can I recommend House of Grey to you? No. Unfortunately not. I only review finished stories, and I’m sorry to say, that although this story is marked “complete” I would beg to differ. And I cannot recommend this story to you. Why? Perhaps you noticed the first ep dropped over 2.5 years ago and there is no sign of anything new on the horizon. And for the rest.. I ask you to follow me down to the disclosure.

Disclosure: As stated multiple places and multiple times, I keep my twitter feed pretty lean. If I follow you it is because I feel you add something to my stream. A couple of eps before the end, I found and followed Mr. Earl on the basis of how much I enjoyed this story. I don’t recall ever having done that before. Through a few innocuous questions, I have discovered that he is currently planning a rewrite of House of Grey (which as much as I loved it, I agree it needs) before going on book 2. This rewrite is planned to occur in 2012 with part two following sometime after.

Comment Pages

There are 10 Comments to "Podcast Review #72: House of Grey"

  • Michael says:

    Is the ending so incomplete it doesn’t count as a cliff hanger?

  • Thanks for the info on “House of Grey”. This is exactly the kind of think listeners need to know before starting a podcast novel.

    I really hope that the author fixes the one big problem and some of the minor ones soon. It seems like the author could make these fixes relatively easily, especially compared to the effort it took to write & podcast it to the point it is.

    Still kudos to Collin Earl for writing a story compelling enough to evoke this kind of reaction from Odin. I mean how often have we seen something like “Verdict: I LOVED House of Grey”. 🙂

    Thanks again Odin. We appreciate you experiencing the pleasure and the pain of these podiobooks for us. 🙂 It’s just really rare that one has so much of both in one package 😉

    • odin1eye says:

      Thanks for the comment Richard. This was a really hard one to write. It isn’t often you have to say, “it’s awesome! Proceed at your own risk.”

  • Thomas says:

    Um, Odin, you can lay all your curses on me, i think. I may have been the one who told you about the House of Grey. I had not finished it when i had told you about it. i agree with your assessment here. It isn’t for everyone and ends with an unsatisfying cliffhanger. But it is a story that grabs and you are along for the ride wherever it leads. (and i did bitstrip this one)

    • odin1eye says:

      Hmmm. Watch your back.

      Just kidding. I completely understand. And truthfully, whether you are or are not the culprit, House of Grey deserves more talk than it has received.

  • Arlene says:

    I listened to “House of Grey” as it was being written. I was so caught p in the story that I was making guesses before the next chapter came out what would happen. I was wrong so many times! I was often surprised where Collin would take me. I do believe it is a YA novel and Collin is one to tell you that is is. He has a fan club made up of many high school students. The ending? yes, I agree with you, but I guessed it was to be continued…. LOL. Collin finished law school, took his BAR exam and landed a job while writing and producing this, although he did not do it alone. I was always and am still amazed at what he accomplished. I have to say that we do know each other and I am glad to have been able to watch his story unfold. Now, to finish the project, Collin.

  • nittmo says:

    People rave about House of Grey, but I can’t understand why. I guess we all have those movies, books, songs, whatever that others adore, but we detest. My reaction to House of Grey was the only reason to do it was the reading. I would listen to more of the narrarator. But the characters are thin cliches. Too much of the dialogue is consumed with references to pop culture that’s better made. The storyline feels “borrowed” from anime without anything original added in. To take all those pop culture influences, but make something your own takes skill if you don’t want to just end up writing something like fan fiction. Think Tarantino. And frankly, the book would be better without Monson Grey, who mopes, pouts, and doubts his way through. Oh dear me, my life sucks even though I have cool abilities, and I have some good friends, and was smart enough to get into an elite school, and have my own room and my own butler, and some of the hottest girls in school are into me. Blah. Having an unlikable main character can work if you’re Dostoevsky, but not if you’re writing an anime-derived teen novel. The story just spins its wheels too much. Ideas and hints are thrown at us, forgotten for hours and hours worth of listening. The writer has no ear for dialogue. It just feels like it fell out of anime.
    The story has a central mystery. Did Monson cause the incident at the bridge? The story went back and forth so much on this, by the time it was all over, my answer was: Yeah, I don’t care. Which, sadly, was how I felt about the whole story by the end. And I was excited to start listening to it.

    • odin1eye says:

      While much of what you say I can agree with (especially pop culture references that wouldn’t make sense 10 years from now) I liked some of the characterizations. I think there is some of the whiny spiderman type heroing going on to be sure, but what the book really needs is a massive overhaul. As it is, you’ve made many valid points which I cannot and will not dispute. Thanks for the comment!

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