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Audiobook Review: The Copper Cascade Chronicles by Kneel Downe

“With The Copper Cascade Chronicles, [Downe] has produced an accessible and entertaining entry point for his larger canon. And the highly professional delivery of the drama from experienced narrator Bayley only adds to the quality of the story.”

The Copper Cascades by Kneel Downe - CoverAuthor Kneel Downe has taken a less conventional route to creating the work referred to as The Virulent Blurb. And it certainly appears to have worked for him. After attempting many different styles of writing, Downe had the idea to post fragments of fiction on Twitter. And, so, the Virulent Blurb universe was born. It was not a planned birth, but has grown organically with elements of fantasy, science fiction, superheroes and horror. There are numerous planes of existence, myths and legends, science and sorcery, a dystopian city at the centre of it all and a disappeared sun. There have already been numerous books released featuring a myriad of interesting characters who call the city home. Now, Downe has released The Copper Cascade Chronicles to give newcomers to his work an introduction to an interesting group known as the Vengeful Squad.

The audiobook is delivered more like an audio drama with narrator RJ Bayley delivering all of the voices. It is broken up into interview sessions between Dr Paul Nyman and the individual members of the Vengeful Squad, a group with individual and unique abilities who are being held in Mental Rehabilitation Centre Alpha (The Copper Cascade) “for their own good”. The listener is quickly settled into the story, due in no small part to the funny and well-written exchange between the doctor and his first subject, Karl Kane AKA Captain Photon. Photon’s abilities are not in question, given that he punched the head off of a “supervillain”. What is in question is his sanity. To say he has a hero complex would be quite the understatement, as he offers an origin story very similar to that of Superman. The doctor isn’t convinced by the suggestion that Photon was born in the heart of a dying sun, and presses him for the origin of his “splice”, the accepted term for the superhuman abilities.

Indeed, the quest to discover the nature of their abilities is at the forefront of these sessions as Dr. Nyman continues to interview them one-on-one or use hypnosis to probe the subconscious, with little result. What the listener finds with each interview is a bunch of unique and enigmatic characters from the heroic (if slightly dopey) Captain Photon, to the sinister and hostile Dark Deliverance who displays some less than heroic traits when revealing details about the doctor’s private life. Then there is Pluto Boy, seemingly no more than a child with a fondness for the circus and balloons who may be the most dangerous of them all, Professor Green AKA Blood Punch, The Creeping Creeper, Sandra Gibson AKA Sonic Shriek, The Sharp Blade. Are they really the good guys? Or are they being manipulated by larger, malevolent, forces to perpetrate acts of evil?

Through the course of the selected interviews, the total of which runs to more than one thousand, we begin to discover the bigger picture, mostly through the sessions with Dark Deliverance. He hints at “The Great Secret”, a conspiracy involving the disappearance of the sun and a plot to deceive the inhabitants of the city by those in power. He also hints at the “shades” and “spiders” and the snake in the wires, all seemingly elements of the larger story arc of the Virulent Blurb. It all serves as an effective and entertaining introduction to the wider work of Downe. The audiobook comes to an unsettling conclusion when Dark Deliverance declares that a storm is coming, something that hasn’t happened for a very long time, not since the weather station was locked in a permanent state of rainfall. But it happens during the narration of the doctor’s final case note, when he admits that Dark Deliverance and his claims are beginning to get to him. He has made inquiries about the patients that are missing from the hospital, alluded to by Dark Deliverance, and is told they are taken for “The Void”. The oncoming storm traps the doctor in the hospital and, when the power eventually goes out, he is visited by a couple of his patients who now wish to talk. And that’s where the story ends, at least, where this small part of the story ends. The audiobook was conceived as a means to offer an introduction to the work of Kneel Downe in general and the Vengeful Squad in particular and it has delivered in a very effective way. By the time the listener reaches the end of the audiobook they will be ready to dive into the world(s) of the Virulent Blurb.

Downe is clearly a writer who marches to no beat other than his own, and it seems to be working for him. With The Copper Cascade Chronicles, he has produced an accessible and entertaining entry point for his larger canon. And the highly professional delivery of the drama from experienced narrator Bayley only adds to the quality of the story. If you like the idea of a group of superheroes who make the Watchmen look like well-adjusted pillars of the community, and you like dark and fantastical stories set in alternate realities like Chris Kelso’s Slave State or the work of Jeff Noon, you should check out Kneel Downe’s unique stories. We dare you to listen to this well-written and expertly produced audio drama and not be drawn to the darkness of the rabbit hole that leads to The Virulent Blurb and The Veil. Maybe we’ll meet you down there.

THOMAS JOYCE

Publisher: DreamCage Media Group
Audiobook: 37 minutes 30 seconds
Release Date: 4 July 2017

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