Podcast Review 75: Vatican Assassin (Remastered)

Title: Vatican Assassin
Author: Mike Luoma
Genre: Science Fiction
Released: 31 July 2009
Located: PodiobooksiTunesAuthor’s Site
Formats Available: podcast, ebook
Rating: R for violence and strong language

This is another story that had been recommended to me. Again, for one reason or another, I’ve lost the link between the book and the person that recommended. I have had this one sitting on my phone for ages and finally had a chance to sit down and listen.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: Bernard Campion, aka “BC”, is an assassin for the Pope, struggling with his work’s inherent contradictions while trying to take care of “business” during an out of control interplanetary religious war in 2109. BC is a killer disguised as a priest of the New catholic Church. His current assignment? Eliminate the Governor of Lunar Prime, the free state on the Moon. BC has no idea this latest assignment will change everything… (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: Mr. Luoma does a decent job of the production on Vatican Assassin. As noted in the title, I am reviewing the remastered addition. I have no idea why it was remastered or what issues might have been present in the first. I’ll restate however that the production of the remastered version is pretty good. I think I caught a repeated line or two, but it is hard to tell as the speaking patterns of certain individuals might include a certain repetitiveness. In cases like that, I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to the author.

However, in a disturbing trend, I’m finding several episode lengths to be much too short. I’ve discussed this before and won’t go in depth here, but I think podcast eps should be at least 20 minutes long. Of course, that is just me.

Grade: A-

Cast: Vatican Assassin is an author read story. Mr. Luoma does his best to read the story with gusto. Perhaps too much. I personally found the continued ebullient voices grating after a while, but your opinion may differ. (If so, you know where the comment section is, right?) The character list for a podcast story was just right and I had no difficulty remembering or tracking characters.

Grade: B-

Story: Mr. Luoma states at the beginning of each episode that Vatican Assassin is the beginning of a trilogy. In his world, this must mean that the first book is basically meant to create multiple open threads and close very few of them. This is exactly what Vatican Assassin does. We follow B.C. around for thirty eps watching him blunder from one storyline to the next without closing any of them along the way.

Grade: C-

Verdict: I personally can not recommend Vatican Assassin. I found the premise of the concept of a unified “Christian” church under the auspices of the New catholic church (small “c” on catholic intentional) to be implausible but very interesting. I also found corruption in the church to the extent where they include a branch of assassins to be novel and clever. (Yes, I know there is probably historical precedent, but that is not what I’m talking about.) In implementation though, I found the story lacking. From the reading to the slapdash antics of the protagonist, I just never grokked this book. One of the things that probably annoyed me the most about this story was the fact that it was written in 3rd person present narrative. “B.C. looks out the door. He turns and looks out the window. He sees nothing and sits in a chair.” (NO, that is not out of the book, it is an EXAMPLE of 3rd person present.) I hated this writing style as it felt to me more like a screen treatment than a book. Again, this might be just me. But it annoyed me badly enough I almost discontinued listening.

I know that many of the story lines will be concluded in the next two books (or believe they would have to be), but this will happen without me. I believe that in any series, at least the first book should be self contained. If the author chooses to make further books mandatory to receive closure, I’d prefer they just roll it into the original book, even if it makes that several hundred thousand words long.

Someone recommended this book to me. What did I miss that would make you recommend it? Give me your side in the comments. Please.

Disclosure: I’ve never tweeted with Mr. Luoma or conversed with him in any other way. I’ve seen him continually putting up new works at podiobooks.com, and for that I thank him.

Comment Pages

There are 13 Comments to "Podcast Review 75: Vatican Assassin (Remastered)"

  • To quantify, I have not read/listened to the story, I am just commenting on the points Odin makes.

    I do think a trilogy where the first book is just first part of the story can work (a la J.C. Hutchins’ 7th Son). That being said, I think authors need to be careful, as there is more of a potential for losing audience for the series. I can understand why a writer might feel that it should draw more readers to parts 2 & 3, but frustration can be a big turn-off.

    I’m writing a short story trilogy now and, amateur as it is, I intend each part to be a story that can stand alone, so if I feel that way in my own short story writing; you can understand why I feel that novel series should do likewise as a general rule. And that breaking this rule should only be done with someone with serious execution skills.

    On the plus side, it sounds like the author is doing some things right and perhaps this is part of his first million words that will make his second (and third) million words truly excellent.

    My last comment is regarding his author web site. This site is a hot mess. If the author is writing professionally, he really needs to look at other author sites … and other professional sites. His current web site really needs a major overhaul if it is going to welcome a paying audience and portray a professional presence (I’d recommend hiring someone experienced in author sites to do the redesign). Professional of course does not mean it has to be cold, corporate, or cookie-cutter … on the contrary, a professional author site should be a welcome place to return to.

    Thanks to the author for being one of the people who makes their stories available for free in podcast audio form, it is appreciated 🙂

    • odin1eye says:

      I agree with the author site as well. And with, regardless of my petty concerns, being very appreciative of someone that will give me content. FOR FREE. I don’t have a problem with leaving a story open for future books. Quite the contrary. However, this one seriously didn’t complete a single thread that I can think of. Just continued to open more. That I do have issues with.

      Thanks Richard!

  • MickB says:

    I haven’t listened to this podcast, but I would wholly agree with your statement about over-ebullient readings. I have stopped listening to at least two different podiobooks for this very reason. It is the audio equivalent of an action movie that never even pauses for breath and becomes mentally tiring to listen to for prolonged periods of time.

    The point about first books in series is also very valid. I think it is very important for the first book to be at least partially self-contained. People who don’t like series or are not engaged enough by the story to seek out the sequels will still come away with some feeling of completion. I think this is more difficult (though not impossible) to achieve in mid-series books, but the implication is that somebody reading book 2 or book 3 has at least read/heard one book and is sufficiently invested in the ongoing storyline.

    Thanks for another informative review.

    • odin1eye says:

      Thanks for chiming in Mick. I agree with you on books 2, 3 or beyond in a series. If I pop into the middle of a work in progress, I should expect to be left hanging. Thanks!

  • Scott Roche says:

    I want to say I started listening to this cause it sounds darn familiar. Not sure. I don’t think I recommended it to you though. 😉

    I can say that I agree with you on the 3rd person present POV. It can be annoying, but like 1st person it can be used to good effect.

    Regarding open threads. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to leave some in a trilogy. You about have to if it’s a true trilogy (as opposed to an ongoing series and even then…). But you should resolve the main plot points.

  • Michael says:

    Have to agree on the not closing threads point.

    When ploting a trilogy you need a couple of main threads which run through the whole set, and each book then has a couple of threads that open and close within each book.

    A bit like a TV series where each episode has a story, and each of those stories contributes towards the larger story arc…

  • I listened to it when it went live on Podiobooks, and I must say that for the most part, I agree with your assessment. The reading was decent, but the vocal style did take some time to become accustomed to. The story idea was intriguing in the concept, though I viewed some of the plot line as somewhat implausible. Still, the writing was decent and for some it might be just what they were looking for. As an alternative to this novel, I might recommend the Antihesis Progression by JD Sawyer. Predestination and Other Games of Chance is an excellent novel along the same Space Opera style lines as the Vatican Assassin.

  • TerminusVox says:

    I listened to this one a long time ago. I’m pretty sure I listened to all three books. Being so long ago I can’t remember whether the open threads bothered me or not because I most likely mainlined all three over the space of a couple days. I didn’t recommend this book. It has some interesting elements but was at times a bit difuse.
    If I recall correctly the author has a background in radio and so decent production values are to be wxpected. I did appreciate it well enough to listen to the whole thing. Mr. Luoma’s description of papal elections compares well with another thriller writer whose research I respect.

  • Thomas says:

    I believe i was the one who suggested this series (at least the first book). I found it a fun read. nothing serious or earthshattering, just fun. cottoncandy. i also had issues with the story and the premise. as the series continued, the BC became less believable as a character, but it was still a fun read. it got more outlandish as the books continued (Even into the fourth of the series, but that book isn’t strickly a part of the series). The author’s reading style kept my attention, or at least kept me from stopping. (I know you had some issues with his style). there are some authors that inspire, some who entertain, soem who do both. Mike entertained me. as to suggesting you read it? i was wondering what you would think of it. I got what i expected from you. as you know, i have listenned to a number of podcast books and recommend those i think are good. this one, it isn’t the best podcast books has to offer, but it is fun. (Did this ramble make sense?)

    • odin1eye says:

      LOL.. It might have been you Thomas, or it might have been .. someone else. I know EXACTLY what you mean, and no two of us are the same. He is doing well in downloads and must have many fans. And he’s written a heck of a lot more than I have, so I am far from one to cast stones. As always, I’m glad he’s found people that enjoy his work, and glad his fans have found him.

  • Scott Roche says:

    Listening to Alibi Jones now one of his other podiobooks) and I can see what you mean about his reading style. It’s…enthusiastic. 😉

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