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Book review: <i>Phoenix: The Radio Play</i> by Scott Fivelson

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the cover of the book

In an underground laboratory, a selection of specialised scientists work to cure a killer virus sweeping the world. Can they come up with an antidote before it's too late?

The story

Marie and Cameron, power scientist couple, are in overdrive in their underground laboratory. Accompanied by the serious scientist Deitrich, lab assistant JC, and the lovely but disturbed Anya, the team are trying to cure a virus they know to be sweeping the world above. What they don't know is how serious it is, and what is happening on the surface. Their only contact with the world is a direct line to the president, who's remaining positive about their abilities to heal the world, and Bain, the president's man in the underground lab.

JC feels like he hasn't been told the whole story, and Marie concedes. It turns out there's a lot more going on than a simple organic virus, and also the scientists are looking for more than a simple cure. This news is disconcerting to JC, and causes some clashes in the lab, as well as a confrontation between the scientists and the president.

When things start to fall apart, the lab becomes compromised. How will the scientists resolve this greatest threat to the human race?

The style

This is a radio play, so I listened to it on Audible. Not being a talking-book gal usually, this required a re-listening to make sure I hadn't missed anything, because it's not like you can just skip back to the last paragraph while you're listening. You miss it and it's gone. (Actually, that may not be true, but I'm possibly not technologically blessed). The re-listening certainly didn't bother me, the play runs for just under half an hour and is a really fun experience.

Phoenix is narrated by Danny Castiglione, who is excellent. It may just have been the repetition of the words “underground laboratory”, but I got a strong Frank Zappa vibe from his speech pattern and undertones of hilarity. (For those not au fait with Zappa, I'm specifically referring to his song “Muffin Man”). This made him a compelling narrator who set just the right tone for Fivelson's apocalyptic tale, slightly over the top, funny, but with an underlying serious message. Which is Fivelson standard.

The other characters were also well acted, with special kudos to the president. I've never actually heard a radio play before, but I could picture everything, how the characters looked, what they were doing, and exactly how the story was progressing. I imagine that's how radio plays work ideally. I loved the story, it had great twists and was thought provoking, easy to listen too, and fun. Thoroughly recommended. I think it would be great to read, but I think the narration is worth listening to.

Who is this book for?

Fans of Fivelson, this is something you shouldn't miss. Fans of Zappa's Muffin Man, you'll get a kick out of it too.

If you like this book, you would also like...

Fivelson has produced other offerings, including an audio book narrated by Mariel Hemingway, a noir style play, and his novel, Tuxes. They are all excellent, topically varied, but contain Fivelson's trademark humour. Absolutely worth a read.


In short

Title: Phoenix: A Radio Play
Author: Scott Fivelson
Publisher: The Cleveland Radio Players
ISBN: 978-0692370469
Year published: 2015
Pages: 44
Genre(s): Humour
Review Type: