I don’t usually review much outside of games, because I usually don’t feel I have the necessary expertise to give a well informed critical review outside of the medium that I love. So understand this review is that of a laymen who enjoys this piece of media. More disclosure: the author and many of the cast are friends, acquaintances, or people I would like to be friends/acquaintances. Though I don’t think that has influenced my enjoyment of the work, and think it easily stands on it’s own merits.
So what is New Century? That’s the hard part to answer and part of what I’m writing this review for. New Century is what you get when you mix a podcast, an audio drama, a book series, and the marvel/dc universes together. It’s a long running series that starts as an alternate history apocalypse scenario, the apocalypse? A zombie-like virus that produces feral werewolf-like humans, who can spread the disease through bodily fluids, most notably saliva and blood. That’s what the first title ‘the cartographer’s handbook’ explains.
This title feels more like a standard audio-book, a crisp reading of text with various actors. It sets up the world, explains the time period, the catastrophe, and how the united states is starting to come back after being completely decimated by this phenomena. They band together in rural less populated areas and form the cartographers, who after the breakdown of most of civilization have to even redraw maps, and indicate safe and dangerous paths, reach out to the people who survived in isolation and try to bring them back into the cause of taking back the United States from these beasts, and chronicling this time.
Book 2 in the series is titled ‘secret rooms’ and here is where you start to the see the shift of how this is performed, it sounds less like a book read allowed, and more like an audio drama, focusing on character interactions and performance, rather than the words and descriptions. Unlike the more cut and dry first book, that serves as a reference and a world building book, this one has a horror tone to it, as these lost cartographers discover a mansion that makes little sense, and holds deep and dark secrets. The audio design in this is great, and this title is best enjoyed in the dark with headphones on, particularly the later you get.
The third title in the series? Tiger’s Eye, this really is where we jump the shark so to speak, and find out our protagonist isn’t human, isn’t from our world, and is in fact a giant cat lady. Though in short order she does meet a human, and they have to face dangers and tensions and drama, while trying to deal with the cultural and language barriers that separate them. This is an interesting story of character growth, of cooperation between very different peoples, between maturity, and dealing with loss. Overall a great and very emotional title.
Book 4 returns us back to the world we knew from books one and two, and follows a single African-American family, the Arlingtons, as they deal with navigating the political waters that Game of Thrones would be proud of, as well as racism, rivaling political factions, and R&D and logistical planning for all of the cartographers. We see the strain it puts on this family, the splits that are beginning to form from differing political ideology even inside the family, eventually leading to one of the biggest and most impacting climaxes I’ve ever …heard? in the book….drama….title? You can see where this gets difficult.
Book 5 drops the seriousness, and the lasting melancholy of a broken world, the more serious tones, for a lighthearted and comical tale called the Princess Thieves, with obvious inspiration from the Princess Bride, this lighthearted and comical take on a fantastical London with dwarf and ogre like creatures cooperating with humans is something even my cynical, analytical heart can’t bring myself to tear apart. Only 3 episodes in and I adore this series already, the timing and performances are just wonderful.
So, a wide-reaching program that started as a book, has e-book versions, has audio-drama versions, and is released weekly as a podcast? I don’t know what to classify it as, or even who it appeals to. When you jump settings and tones and even genres. When the overarching narrative and cohesive plot that binds all these books together is only hinted at, I can certainly say I’m not sure who this truly appeals to, but in that same breathe, who it can’t appeal to with such a variety of stories to choose from.
This series is perhaps one of the most well planned and well constructed worlds I’ve seen since Lord of the Rings, with timelines, travel distances, characters, plots all worked on well in advance, with more detail behind the scenes than we could hope to get. With more backstory to each character and actions than will ever see the light of day. This series is a novelty, a precious gem, and something wholly undefinable in it’s execution. The only thing I can say? I recommend it wholeheartedly, links below, and the podcast form which is available both to ios in the podcast section, and android through various podcasting services. You can also purchase titles on bandcamp, and as e-books through amazon/kindle. Links below:
New Century Forums: http://schoolofmovies.com/forum/index.php
I will eventually be doing in depth reviews and analysis for each title in the series, but I felt I had to make this overall review first, to explain the difficulties and uniqueness this series brings.