Faction paradox: a Magic Bullet Production


The True History of Faction Paradox


by D.R. Partridge


This series of six CDs constitutes an exceptionally good audio production. Lawrence Miles’s narrative is rich with breathtaking scope and imagery, but the story is tight, well-paced and deeply involving. Further, the tale is self-contained, making it pleasingly accessible to listeners previously unacquainted with the ‘Faction Paradox Universe’ characters and concepts. Crucially, Miles avoids the trap of losing the story and the sense of human scale amongst the complexity and compass inherent in such epic constructs.

What distinguishes this series from its predecessors, however, is the quality of the production: cast, direction and sound engineering are nothing short of sublime. I would like to show restraint in mentioning just a couple of highlights in best ‘objective reviewer’ style, but veracity demands that I give my genuine impressions so forgive me if this becomes a ‘cast list’!

Firstly, the ‘antiheroines’ (and Faction Paradox agents) Cousins Justine and Eliza are wonderfully realised and key to the story’s progression. Ms. Lesley and Ms. Opalinska create their respective characters with an absolute conviction and synergy: the listener is engaged not merely by their individual traits, but is convinced of the close personal relationship between the women, with all that relationship’s subtleties of humour, camaraderie and ultimately pathos. Eliza is the ‘audience identifier’ in many respects, and the series is to a large extent her story: Ms. Lesley never falters in her empathic portrayal, even when Eliza is at her most ‘wicked’!

The ‘gods’ of the Osirian Court are particularly well-cast. Gabriel Woolf is brilliant, of course, as the increasingly psychotic Sutekh, but Julian Glover's Upuat is gorgeously laconic and Peter Halliday's Anubis just perfectly understated and measured. Peter Miles's acerbic tones make a superb 'civil service' Anhor and De Souza's Geb has all the splenetic atrabiliousness that one would expect from a superannuated and immensely bitter grandad. This is exactly as one imagines the 'gods' would be - their Olympian perspective on Time is cleverly expressed by these actors and the often downbeat dialogue of the divinities is reminiscent of Len Deighton at his best. It's a tricky feat to accomplish. Although a relatively minor role, Tracy Russell's Nephthys is worthy of note - she has a tough job, expressing the 'domestically-abused' relative of the bully Sutekh: she is horribly torn between loyalty and fear on one side and her realisation that he is a nutcase on the other. The very delicate tone of rising strain and suppressed hysteria that she manages to work into her brief speeches is a key element of the unfolding drama and sets up the climax beautifully.

There really isn't any weakness in the cast - each discrete 'group' of people is handled so adroitly that one completely believes their differing antecedents and motivations. The 18th Century antiquarians – all rich with period intonation and usage - speak and act entirely as one would expect, and as a trio are well-balanced between the sceptical realist, the dreamer and the pragmatist with his heart-rending personal agenda. The conflict of not merely intent but of culture that these Englishmen encounter in Isla Blair’s inspired portrayal (as if we’d expect anything less...) of the delusional zealot Merytra is piquant.

Representing the ‘Great Houses’, Mr. Tranchell’s Ambassador Mortega provides an axis of rationality (his expressions of incredulity, surprise and frequent frustrated confusion are delightful) whilst the War King...well, what can one say about the much-missed Philip Madoc? Surely one of the most pleasing and resonant voices ever recorded, and as superb in this role as in the rest of his canon. Jet Tattersall’s Lolita is imbued with a mischievous energy and cold-blooded humour worthy of an arch-baddie. Messrs. Stevens and Lock garner well-deserved laurels for assembling such an illustrious cast, and handling them with expert legerdemain.

It's very rare to have an audio production that works this well, and I think the success of the production is that it is so 'immersive'. The handling of the sound effects and ‘auditory perspective’ in this series is in the upper echelons of the Art. So often, and particularly with Science Fiction, audio productions labour under heavy-handed sound-effects and dyspraxic production. But these ‘True Histories’ live up to their names as thoroughly believable tales set in gorgeous soundscapes. They stand many repeated listenings: my correspondents (vicious critics, all...) are unanimous in their use of the description ‘gripping’. Superb stuff.

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