Originally Published at Freshly Ground on April 28th 2009
A few weeks ago I wrote what I have decided, in hindsight, was an unnecessarily harsh review of the Sci-Fi/Horror epic podcast novel Crescent, by Phil Rossi. As I've said before, there is a huge difference between highly engineered audiobooks and works of individual labour, and having now thoroughly doused myself in hours of both, I can say with confidence that Crescent is a standout of the latter species.
On that note, anyone who has gone on to listen to Crescent, or anyone who may not be into audiobooks but loves to read a good bit of sci-fi, the book version of Crescent is going to be available on Amazon soon. Phil would like his fans who plan on buying a copy of the book to hold back until July 9th, and then to descend on Amazon like a swarm of angry hornets, pushing the book up the charts. I'll remind you all again closer to the time.
What I like about Rossi is how he has clung tight to everything about the internet that says "you can do it, if you stick with it." He's put everything out there for free, he's made himself accessible to his ever-growing fanbase, and he deserves to reap the rewards. It also proves that the cream really can rise to the top, and that there is no better weapon at a writer's disposal (good writing aside) than the art of self-promotion.
So, moving on. Eden is complete at 8 episodes and available free either on Rossi's website, or through iTunes, or at Podiobooks.com. It's free in all of these places, and Podiobooks.com provides a donation service, from which the majority of the money goes direct to the author.
I'm not sure what I was expecting when I started listening to Eden, but I figured out pretty much straight away that this was not going to be a rehash of Crescent, despite my initial impressions. Eden is also set on a space station, but there the similarities with Crescent begin and end. I was expecting another action story, but Eden with its dark mystery delivered a much richer experience, which had me hanging out for each new episode.
Where Crescent is visually evocative and a tour-de-force of action and horror, Eden advances at a more cerebral pace. From the outset, Rossi's writing has improved by several degrees, so much so that I felt like I was listening to a different writer. As the writing has matured, so too has the story. Focused intently on the first-person narrator, Malcolm, who is dispatched to a tiny space station near the planet Uranus, Eden is as much about the enormous, mysterious tree that has been found growing in the void of space as it is about Malcolm, his failings, his self-doubt, and his weaknesses.
Woven into this is Rossi's blend of science fiction and Lovecraftian horror, as the station spirals further from safety and sanity and into the consuming madness of Eden. The first-person perspective also keeps you relentlessly close to the action, which makes listening to this story a painfully emotional journey, in a way that all but the best sci-fi and fantasy fails to do.
Eden doesn't drag you through the chapters with blood pumping in your ears and air rasping in your throat like Crescent. Rather, you find yourself being led, trying to turn away, your stomach a hollow pit, afraid of where the next turn is going to lead you, and cursing Malcolm for his crippling self-pity.
I score Eden 4 1/2 stars out of 5, and I seriously rate the quality of Rossi's writing on this novella. It is a good length; any longer and it would have needed a faster pace, any shorter and it would have felt rushed. Overall, and given that it is not a studio production but an individual effort, Eden is a stunner. Give it a listen.