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Very impressed

By:David Yates, Reading, Berkshire. Uk
Date:Friday 7 October 2005
Rating:   9

The True History of Faction Paradox : Coming to Dust

A Review by David Yates

There is always something uncomfortable about Faction Paradox (originally created by Lawrence Miles for the BBC's Doctor Who series of novels), a feeling that gets under your skin. You know that when they are around something is wrong. They’re going to show you things that you don’t really want to see and take you to places you don’t really want to go. Are they heroes or villains? They have to be summoned like demons, does the similarity end there? I’m not entirely sure I’d like to be in a room with them. That said, this is the thing that I find most attractive, it makes me want to carry on listening. You will too.

I’m very impressed by this release. Very impressed.

What struck me most was the huge force of imagination at work. The whole thing plays out in widescreen. From the opening sequence on a huge battlefield to the echo filled finale. Considering it’s in a medium that relies completely on sound, it was chock full of arresting visual images, from a twisted hairless ape to a vast underground cavern. It seemed genuinely epic.

The script by Lawrence Miles, was earnest and flippant in almost perfect proportion. I heard bon mots of the highest order. “Nice use of pessimism. So we’re on monster patrol here, then?” A séance where a lesser writer would’ve had the apparition’s ghostly form appear hovering above the table – here Miles wrong foots us by having her walk though the door! No clichés allowed. Excellent. Bright, intelligent writing. And I say again: a huge force of imagination. The attention paid to the plot and dialogue is particularly impressive. It’s clear that Miles works hard on his structure, plot points come at you from all angles and you never see them coming. He seems to be able to do this effortlessly. No lazy plot holes or clunky exposition here. Everything you need to know is cleverly buried within the dialogue and sound design. There is a gothic horror feel to the play, but with a thoroughly modern sensibility. Like the bastard child of Mervyn Peake and Joss Whedon. Yes, it’s that good.

The casting is excellent. Gabriel Woof as Sutekh should be singled out, as his performance seemed to contain genuine madness seething beneath his voice. He is genuinely unsettling. His every line drips blood. Though he appears in only a few scenes his terrifying shadow looms over the rest of the story. I don’t doubt that there is much more to come in future release. I also particularly enjoyed Jane Lesley as Cousin Eliza. She was my foothold in the Faction Paradox universe. She was the one with the tension-breaking quip. “Oh God. You’re not one of those historical types who’s going to tell me that I look like a harlot or a heathen or something, are you?” Her performance was brilliantly contrasted by Wanda Opalinska’s cut glass delivery as Cousin Justine.

Though these two have been replaced from the original set of BBV audios, I can assure you that it's all the better for it. Talking of which, this Magic Bullet audio does follow on from the BBV audios, but only in the same way the new Doctor Who does from the classic series. If fact it’s closer in spirit to the feel of the new series than any of the other Who related audios currently on release. With the one possible difference being that this feels more ‘adult’. If you’ve never heard any of these audios before or know nothing about the Faction Paradox, then this is a great place to start.

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