Title: The Starling Project
Author: Jeffrey Deaver
Producer: AudioComics Company for Audible.com
Type: Audio Drama
Genre: International Thriller
Availability: Free with Audiblec.com trial, or 1 Audible Credit
I’ll be honest – I’m excited as much for what this project means as for its actual splendor as a richly imagined, fast-paced international audio thriller. After preaching for years that audio drama needs more stuff that ‘feels’ like TV or movies, we have in The Starling Project an example of audiobooks behemoth Audible making a bold move into the audio drama space. The results put US-commercial audio drama back on the map and hopefully will lead to far more shows of its style and caliber in the future.
So: the story itself/why you should care. Jeffery Deaver is an international best-selling thriller writer with more than two-dozen titles under his belt, three of which have been turned into films (The Bone Collector, A Maiden’s Grave, and The Devil’s Teardrop). Starling features international crimes investigator Harold Middleton, who has previously been featured in The Chopin Manuscript, winner of the Audio Publishers Association’s Audiobook of the Year Award, and The Copper Bracelet.
I’m not sure how the magic moment happened (did writer approach Audible, or vice-versa?) but suffice to say, someone came up with the brilliant idea that Deaver’s latest thriller should come out as an audio movie, versus, you know, those ones that have pictures.
Starling immediately embraces the limitless imagination allowed by sound. The show kicks off with a group of UN peace keepers and Harry Middleton’s “volunteers” deep in the Mexican jungle, trying to track down some hard drives possessed by an international arms dealer. What unfolds during this raid – and what the hard drives reveal – sets the “volunteers” on a globe-trotting expedition to stop someone bad from doing something extremely bad, in a continually game of cat and mouse that taps home in the US, UK, France, Czach Republic and CAR just for good measure.
Here’s a taste:
Alfred Molina (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Chocolat, Spider-Man 2.) holds together the show as the imperturbable Harry Middleton. Harry is calculated and slow-moving, taking in all the information about every situation before making a move. As his foil, is the deft Ian Carlsen, who plays Kyle Nelson, the definition of act-now-think-later, a brash young DC cop who is somewhat randomly drawn into the globetrotting adventure but whose quick-wits prove vital to … well, you’ll see. The remaining cast (with something like 90 speaking parts) flesh out a huge diverse story world, no small feat given the international scope and pace of this production.
While the production is by no means without faults (certain audio ruses are used enough times to become predictable; not at all acting ‘doubles’ are convincing and I wanted to hear a little more ‘native’ sound of the various international locales throughout the story worlds, and for that matter, more native speakers) it’s a solid, fast-paced, sound-rich production that holds up well against similar material such as the BBC’s John Le Carré dramas.
As icing on the cake, the project was produced for Audible by my good friends at the AudioComics Company (you’ve previously heard them here talking about Starstruck, Titanium Rain, Honey West, and other titles). The influence of mainstream British producers like Dirk Maggs and Big Finish on AudioComics is obvious. Rather than making ‘safe’ choices in regards to dialogue, use of sound, and music, they push the envelope whenever possible. Knowing that there still is a wide gulf between the expectations of audiobooks listeners (who expect to comprehend every word) and savvy audio drama listeners (who get immersed in the story world and try to follow a ‘scene’), shows off how gutsy a move Audible has made.
If you’re a regular Audible subscriber, like myself, The Starling Project is well worth your credit. If you’re not yet on Audible – have we got the deal for you! Radio Drama Revival offers a free 1-month Audible trial membership and you can pick a free title, such as (dah-dah-dummm!) The Starling Project.
Disclosures: I am not compensated to write these reviews though if you sign up for the Audible trial program it generates a referral fee which helps support this show. I was not involved in the production of The Starling Project though I know the producers personally. Everything I say here is my own opinion and no one asked me to write it for them.
We (my wife Susan who you may know) and I listened to this on our Thanksgiving drive and enjoyed it thoroughly. Our friends at AudioComics (Bill and Lance made sure we got a review copy), after seeing a comment I made on friend Peter Berkrot’s FB post about the release. We own Audiobook Jukebox and plan to review this separately on our own blogs and link it on the Jukebox. Susan (Dunman) is a former contributing editor with AudioFile, SF Site, and a contributor to Tor.com.
Jeff – so great that you and Susan listened to it… Say hi for me! Feels like forever ago that I was doing reviews for Susan on SF Site. Glad you’re both still hooked to audio entertainment 🙂
https://www.sfsite.com/ is a great one