Monday, January 23, 2012
"We're Alive: A Story of Survival" (The First Season) Written by Kc Wayland
Written by Kc Wayland
Multi-cast audio drama
Produced by Modern Myth Productions, LLC
Published by Blackstone Audio, Inc (2011)
Approx. 10.5 hours
If you are a regular reader of my postings then you already know I'm a huge fan of all things zombie. What attracts me the most to any zombie story is not necessarily the gore and horror of the zombies but rather the stories of the post-apocalyptic survivors. I guess really you could say I'm a fan of post-apocalyptic tales, but throw in some zombies and the horror of a body rotting but still living and possibly wanting to eat your brain, and you've got some fun. I think that's what I liked most about this story is that it focuses mainly on the survival of a few people and what they do to survive. Sure the author adds his own twists to the flesh eating undead, but the main focus of this audio drama is the survival and relationships of people after the world is nearly wiped out.
This story was originally released as a podcast and when I found out (sometime last summer) they had already started podcasting the second season. I knew I wasn't going to start in the middle so I downloaded the entire season to my iPod. Well here's where my frustration came in. I don't know if it is something that is eluding me or what, but I cannot, for the life (or undead) of me get my iPod to play podcasts in order from start to finish, instead it wants to play the newest release first. So what ends up happening is something like chapter 8 first then chapter 7 and playing in reverse order. I could play each chapter one at a time but when listening I usually don't have my hands free to constantly click the iPod. So after listening to the first chapter of the Podcast, I was annoyed so much I deleted the entire 2 seasons from my iPod. I was mad about this because judging from the first chapter the series was going to be phenomenal. Then just around last Thanksgiving I found out that Blackstone audio was releasing this series in an audiobook format. I shouted for joy, and could finally listen to the rest of the story.
I wish I didn't have to wait, but I will say the wait was worth it, for several reasons. First off the production value of this audio drama is through the roof. While this story could be listened to through a car stereo, headphones, a small set of speakers connected to whatever device or even a full blown stereo every detail can be heard. I did listen through all of the mentioned devices not just to test this out but because I couldn't stop listening and no matter where I was if I could hook up my iPod I did. I'll start off with the music; the placement of the music between scenes and at the end of chapters is perfect. All of the music perfectly reflects the mood of the moment.
Now to talk about the sound effects. There are numerous effects needed for this audio drama, first of all you've got gunshots, and the folks behind the production didn't use simple gunshot sounds, rather they went all out. Each character that uses guns, use different guns, you've got Burt with his gun "Shirley" which the character Saul calls his hand cannon, and each time Burt fires that gun you know it's his gun. The army guys in the story use a variety of weapons from 9mm hand guns to m-16s and more and each shot sounds like the guns should sound, there are several other weapons used and even the shotgun sounds like a shotgun. I'm sure that Kc Wayland's military experience was what made this production use this attention to detail in the drama. Another aspect are the zombies, there seem to be different types of zombies (I'll talk more on this later in this review) and each one makes a specific sound and the production quality stays on that same attention to detail when discriminating between each type. Finally the vehicles used even have their realistic sounds. When they take a Prius for a drive, it sounds like a Prius. But I have to say the most fun was when I was listening in my car in the beginning of the story and the three army soldiers are driving a hummer to get to safety, the sound was awesome, I felt I was riding in a hummer with them, it was that realistic. Based on the sound effects alone this drama was a winner with me, but there's more, oh so much more.
Part of that "so much more" is the writing. Kc Wayland knows how to not only tell a story but to tell a story with real people. Every piece of dialogue or narration is completely realistic. The characters are consistent. One thing I've often complained about when watching any zombie movie or even sometimes in a zombie book, is that all of a sudden everyone becomes the expert marksman and is able to make the headshot or that all of a sudden everyone knows what created the zombies and knows how to combat the virus, curse or whatever. This just makes the movie or book less interesting because it is less believable. I know, I know, you're saying, but how can zombies really be believable? Well maybe they can't but when a writer, like Wayland, can make the people and the situations believable, that whole zombie thing seems like it is a real occurrence. That's exactly what goes on here, everyone is fighting for survival, there are a very few that are expert marksmen, and even though the ones that are experts train the normal civilians, they don't all become experts. Not only that aspect but no one in this story (at least not in season one) have any idea of what happened other than dead are rising up and chomping down on the living, and they don't waste their time with trying to figure out how, they are trying to live and keep living.
As for the gist of the story, one morning while Army Reserve soldier Michael Cross is getting ready to take a test in his everyday normalcy of college life, an explosion is felt in the distance, Michael leaves class, under threat that test retakes will not be offered, and finds that mobs are rioting and attacking. Michael's reserve unit is immediately called in to the base and he heads to the base to find out what is going on. Upon arrival he meets up with Saul a former Mountaineering Division soldier and Angel a newbie Officer, they get into the armory to prepare for what looks like mere rioting and when the armory alarm goes off the mass of zombies which include their commanding officer attacks. The escape in a humvee from the motorpool and decide to go to Angel's girlfriend's apartment building, first to check on her and second because the place would make a good securable base.
On the way they find a couple of survivors and then upon arrival the building's maintenance man is on scene and trying to get the power back on in the building while fighting off a few zombies. After clearing out each floor of the 15 floor apartment building they arrive at the top floor to find the building's owner, Bill, barricaded in and shooting at anything that moves, after not able to reason with him they leave him be. One of the rescued survivors makes a sign that reads "We're Alive," and soon more survivors arrive.
After setting up a small community they decide to send a party out for supplies, what they discover in the world outside is not too friendly. Zombies storing the living for food and worse yet a group of survivors from a prison holed up in a mall ready to fight for turf.
The survival story continues with day to day living and excursions out to try and find out what can be done about the zombies. They soon find that the undead may not be the worst of their problems, when the "mallers" decide to invade the apartment building.
This story is phenomenal and every aspect is done right, from the production to the writing, especially when some chapters are told from different survivors' perspectives. Get this audio drama now and get hooked. I'm ready to start Season two now.