“Dead Air”

deadairI’ve been spending more time than usual listening to audios because I hurt my thumb last week (not even sure how), so I’ve been avoiding doing anything that might  jar it. I’ve found that playing on my iPad while listening to audios is a fantastic way to rest a thumb. The most recent thing I’ve listened to is the audiobook Dead Air, written by James Goss and narrated by David Tennant, and it was absolutely fantastic.

I’m going to try to talk about it without spoilers, because honestly, it’s that good and you want to go into it without knowing what to expect.

Dead Air is an audiobook, not an audio play, which means, like The Destiny of the Doctor, the reader is reading the book and doing the voices of the characters. Unlike most audiobooks, which are usually written novels or novellas being read out loud, Dead Air was written for the audiobook format (probably even with the knowledge that Mr. Tennant was going to be the reader), and Mr. Goss took full advantage of it. The story is told in first person by the Doctor, and so it’s intensely personal. The Doctor describes landing on a boat off the east coast of London in the early 1960s; the boat is pirate free radio, broadcasting the “subversive” rock’n’roll that was not allowed on approved radio stations.  He’s there chasing down a rogue weapon called the Hush that was designed to kill using sound: as its victim makes more sound (for example, by screaming), the more it tears the victim apart. The boat’s transmitter is broken and the Doctor knows that if it gets fixed, the weapon will be able to broadcast itself across the world and destroy it, so he must find and neutralize the weapon before the transmitter is fixed.

The Doctor of course meets the occupants of the boat, two DJs and another girl who works on the boat taking care of them, and he must protect them against the Hush. The story itself is a great Doctor Who story, but where this audiobook excels is how it uses its format. Much of the boat is dark and quiet, so since you as the listener can’t see what’s going on anyway (this is an audio!), you’re drawn into the dark and feel like you’re right there. As the Doctor is describing the situation, you’re listening hard for the Hush, and, well, all there is behind the Doctor is silence, which is terrifying. And the ending is spectacular. It’s inventive, and it pulls you into the Doctor Who universe like few other stories have. I might liken it to “Blink,” in which part of its brilliance comes from the way it invites you, through brilliant camerawork, to stare at the Angels to keep them from moving. When watching that episode, you feel like you’re in the show. Dead Air does the same thing.

The other part of this audiobook’s brilliance is Mr. Tennant’s performance. The narration is done by the Tenth Doctor, and you know what he sounds like, but there are three other characters, each with a different pitch, quality, and accent, and he switches between them effortlessly (yes, that’s four different voices and accents). And he manages to keep them all separate while portraying a huge range of  human and Time Lord emotions.

In short, this is a brilliant audiobook and I definitely recommend it to anyone. I got it on Audible.com (that’s part of Amazon), in some promotion where I received it free – I believe that if you have an Amazon account, you can get one free audiobook from Audible.com, so that you can try out its service. What are you waiting for? Go get Dead Air!