Sunday, July 5, 2009

Podcast Novel Review: "The Failed Cities Monologues" By Matt Wallace

If you don't like the thought of how blood might taste in your mouth, don't listen to this book.

If you don't like to hear bones snapping inside your head while you listen to a podcast, don't listen to The Failed Cities Monologues.

And just to make it clear, the crew at Variant Frequencies don't need a sound effects library to drop the pit out of your stomach. Matt Wallace does all this and more just by screwing words into your ear, with all the sharp edges and deadly precision of a power drill. TFCM is a bleak and powerful tale of two cities collapsing under their own weight at the nether reaches of a dystopic future that doesn't seem entirely impossible. Assembled as a series of monologues, as the name suggests, TFCM is told from the perspectives of eight characters caught up in events that spiral out of control and lead to a bloody and violent endgame. With each shift of character, Wallace adapts his writing style without missing a beat, capturing each of his unfortunate souls with unique blends of tone, nuance and voice. Different narrators perform specific characters, lending an even greater depth of credibility to the unorthodox story-telling structure.

Hovering somewhere between sci-fi, horror, and action, TFCM pulls no punches whatsoever. Wallace has created a world of shadow, flame, deceit and misery. There is nowhere to run and hide, not for the characters on either side, and not for the reader. But once you start into this book, you won't be able to give it away.

Wallace is more than just a superb storyteller; he is writer of some of the best modern prose I have read or heard in a long time. He gets under his characters' skins, and through them, under his readers'/listeners' skins. You'll feel him crawling around there, wishing you could scratch him out, but not really wanting to either.

The audio production is equally superb. Rick Stringer does a masterful job of producing a clean, clear product, which does Wallace's writing fantastic credit. Music themed to the various characters is woven from chapter to chapter, orienting the listener, and excellently matched to the narrators' voices and delivery. The levels remain impeccable throughout. Thoroughly professional in every regard. I tip my hat.

Fantastic writing, great performances, faultless production.

I give TFCM the full 5 Stars with the following caveat: This one is not for the faint-hearted. This is a brutal world, and Matt Wallace is a merciless god lording over it. He will not treat you kind (but you will beg for more).

Enter at your own risk.


  1. Good review, wouldn;t have even seen this if not for your post. I'm going to go and track it down now, thanks.


  2. Sounds ghoulishly fascinating . . . you know, like rubber-necking as you pass a bad auto wreck . . . you just can't help yourself sometimes! Guess I'll have to check it out this summer.

  3. Thanks for the great review! We really appreciate it.

  4. It's unfortunate that this review begins with warnings about horror and violence. This is a very dark tale, it is true, but the violence contained in this story is only one part of an masterful tapestry of story-telling. Never does it overwhelm, as I feel it often does in the case of Scott Sigler's writing.

    With this one story Matt Wallace has established himself, in my mind at least, as one of the top authors in podcast fiction and set the bar for others to match.

  5. This review reads like a sales pitch! But I understand. The Failed Cities Monologues is simply so good that it must be difficult to describe it correctly without coming off like you're selling something.