Do you like zombies? I don’t. That doesn’t stop me reading, watching, or listening to the occasional zombie story.
We’re Alive is a solid zombie story. It’s told from a combination of two styles: personal reflection and conversation. Various characters from the story talk about events and setting as they write their various journals, and when action scenes take place, characters are constantly conversing, talking about what is happening, and generally going crazy. It’s done well.
For a fairly small publisher (as far as I can tell), Wayland Productions does a remarkable job with this story. It’s an audio drama that is complete with hundreds of sound effects and dozens of good voice actors. And a half-decent story.
As far as stories go, it is episodic, and therefore has to keep tossing bait to the audience to keep us invested. This appears in several ways: the “zombies” get stronger or smarter, which presents more challenges for the heroes; the vicinity’s supplies wear thin; heroes are kidnapped or get lost; criminals pose ever-increasing threats to the heroes – and each of these elements intensifies gradually, with each tension rotating focus per episode.
Character is a strongpoint for We’re Alive. Each of the heroes is told to keep a journal to both help them stay sane and keep each other informed about things they learn from the changed world. Some of the characters like this idea, others aren’t so interested. All of them do. Their opinions about other people and things are all different in unique and very interesting ways. Some of the characters are called to lead. Others wish they were in charge. Some of them resent the current leadership. All the characters have backstories and “start of the end” stories. Some of the characters are very attached to certain things they salvaged when the world ended. Every voice is different, and not just because there’s a different voice actor reading the script.
The setting is very much zombie-esque. Every corner is tense. Every abandoned car could be a death-trap. Every fuel station is pure horror waiting to happen. The cities are broken. Utilities are minimal if they exist at all. Something I found haunting was that even the water was dangerous. Two of the heroes step onto a boat at one stage. They never try that again.
The audio side of the story exceeded several professional standards. Everything was clear. Sure, some conversations were slurred – but when is conversation ever completely clear? The sounds were crisp, solid, gritty. It felt like everything was recorded specifically for the audio drama. No stock sounds. No Age of Empires owl noises. No Command and Conquer death cries. And the strongest point of the audio was the calls of the… uh… “zombies”. They were haunting. Their baleful howls still echo in the recesses of my mind, and I haven’t heard them for quite a while now. Think of something of a cross between a Jurassic Park tyrannosaurus rex and a wolf. Well, that was the big ones. The smaller ones had slightly different noises.
The “zombies”. They weren’t exactly zombies, which is probably why the subtitle is “a ‘zombie’ story of survival”. Zombies are overdone, so this was neat. Some of them are human in appearance, but from the characters’ descriptions of them and their noises, there are different mutations. My mind pictured an array of mutations: some like dinosaurs, some like wolves, some like people, and more. Definitely more appealing than the standard array of zombies who just need a good coffee to put them straight.
All in all, I highly recommend We’re Alive. It’s a chilling tale, but well worth the haunting. Everything feels fresh, and it’s professionally produced. Keep a good blanket nearby, and maybe leave a lamp on, but definitely have a listen.
Thepenofjoel. Succinct. Short. Meaningful. It combines the ideas of “pen name” and “writing” and “written by” into a single, easy-to-remember nickname. It is the pen-name of a writer buddy of mine. (Oh, but don’t let anyone know that I suggested that name to him, k? That would be telling.)
Personal achievements aside, Joel is a great writer with a keen eye for story. He does structural editing for Legends of Eisenwald (otherwise the game would be doomed), writes Daniel Roth mystery books (starting off with A Final Portrait), hosts The Morning Bell‘s podcast for emerging writers, and publishes intelligent, thought-out video criticisms of well-known computer game stories on his YouTube channel, thepenofjoel.
Seriously, check him out. Or, better yet, send him a question on his ask.fm page – he monitors it regularly, so go ahead!
If you want someone completely fluent in writing gobbledygook with a keen eye for the little things about stories that truly matter, Joel is your man. And he’s approachable, too. Let me demonstrate: Joel, what started you out on your writing career?