By Tom Lloyd
It should not matter what format you ingest a novel – on paper, on the screen or even via audio, but it does. I do not always get on with audio as I am such a fast reader, even on speed up the narrator cannot keep up with my awful lack of attention. However, the right book works as an audio experience. I love a drama adaptation with sound effects and music. The other situation that works well is a story told from a single perspective and the narrator feels like the protagonist. In the audio version of Tom Lloyd’s Falling Dark, Angela Cleland plays Song, a salvage Captain who has just come across the find of a lifetime. This is great news, but how long is that lifetime going to last?
Song is the captain of a small salvage ship with only four crew members. They work as independent contractors for a company who sponsor their expedition, any salvage is split. When the crew find a massive dormant alien spaceship the priority is to claim salvage rights. This is the find that will change their lives. However, although the ship has been sleeping, it seems that when some of the crew step on board, someone or something may have awoken.
Falling is a novelette rocking in at under 200 pages in paper form, so this makes it a perfect punchy title to record onto audio. At just over six hours it is a story that you can listen to on the commute over a week, and it is the type of story that you will want to dive back into as you are on a knife edge for large parts.
Song finds herself in a position of survival, having to hark back to forgotten training on deep space exploration. Lloyd does a fantastic job of highlighting the horrors of deep space, I could not do it. You are only a few inches of metal away from a vacuum, or even centimetres from it in a space suit. On the abandoned alien craft there are jagged edges to contend with. Death stalks any space explorer, and this is before the situation gets worse. There appears to be something on the ship that means the crew harm.
The tale is told mostly from the perspective of the captain, but we do learn more about the tightknit crew. Having a main point of view helps the book as it keeps you focussed on the horror of space. It also helps Cleland’s wonderful narration. You feel that she is Song, and she gives the character a little more emotion than just reading from the page. Cleland also plays the other roles and reads the exposition, but it as a listener you feel that she is Song. The story works perfectly in the audio format.
With its short run time, there is not great depth to the story. Instead, Lloyd concentrates on producing a punchy story that builds tension and then leaves. I like the quick nature of the story as it did not become bogged down. You get the right level of introverted terror in the middle. The start and end are the most fascinating sections, but the solid chunk of tension in the centre is what carries the book. Falling is an intelligent science fiction story that will appeal to fans of that genre, but it also effortlessly describes the simple horrors of deep space, therefore phycological horror fans will also enjoy the book.
Written on 20th December 2022 by Sam Tyler .