When I listened to the first Kaldor City CD, Occam's Razor, it blew my socks off. The appeal of this second story is considerably more subtle. Although it's fair to say I wasn't looking for my socks when I had finished listening to it, I still consider it to be an excellent sequel, and, perhaps even more importantly, a solid base on which the rest of the series can be constructed. There is a lot of meat in this story, and it definitely repays careful listening.
The first CD set a very high standard in four areas: the script, the acting, the production and the music. Death's Head comfortably maintains these standards of excellence. The script, first of all, is written by Chris Boucher, well known for his work on both Dr Who and Blake's Seven, and the originator of the two major characters Carnell and Uvanov. It is Carnell who links the complex sequence of events together, addressing brief narrative sections to the audience as though talking to an intimate associate, and in the process deigning at least to hint at what he is trying to achieve through his latest masterpiece of psychostrategy. Nevertheless, the audience is still kept guessing as the plot twists and turns in byzantine fashion, and only towards the end do we, along with Iago, truly begin to understand.
Once again, the acting is first class. Tracy Russell makes a particularly strong debut as Blayes, an intelligent and resourceful member of Company Security; the hints that we are likely to hear more of her in future stories were very welcome. Trevor Cooper is in fine form as the increasingly psychopathic Rull, conveying an impression of barely controlled menace. Although those two deserve special mention, there is not a bad performance on the CD; Scott Fredericks as the insufferable Carnell, Russell Hunter as the paranoid Uvanov and Paul Darrow as the darkly threatening Iago are as good as ever, and even the minor parts are done superbly. David Bickerstaff, who played a doomed security guard in the first story, gets a slightly larger role as an honest but rather dim attendant in this one, and appears to relish it, while Alistair Lock is totally convincing as the jittery Hume.
The mention of Alistair Lock brings me nicely on to the production, which again cannot be faulted. Although there are not as many dramatic special effects - no flyers crashing through panoramic office windows in this story - there are one or two very neat tricks, my personal favourite being the repeated change of voice in the middle of a sentence, which occurs towards the end. Not being an expert on sound engineering, I have no idea if this is actually difficult, but I do know it works superbly in the context and it's seamless. As for the music, there is considerably less than on the first CD, but what there is does not disappoint. It is a story of a very different character from the first one, quieter and more overtly intellectual in tone, and so there is rather less scope for imaginative music. What scope there is has been well used.
No, it didn't blow my socks off, but perhaps it would have been a little unfair of me to expect it to do so. The first CD managed it because, by some strange kind of alchemy, it was more than the sum of its parts. The second CD is merely equal to the sum of its parts, but that still makes it very good indeed, and what it does make me do is want to hear more of Kaldor City. I've got quite engrossed in the fates of all these flawed, warped, off-the-wall characters. In fact, I'm hardly even concerned about the fact that there aren't any heroes.
I'll definitely be buying a copy of the next CD. And a spare pair of socks, just in case!
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