Never take a GraphicAudio production at face value because they are always more intricate than expected. Look at their new release, Galactic Football League Book 1: The Rookie, for example: what appears to be a simple sports story also tackles themes of racism, religion, politics, organised crime, jealousy and ego.
Underscored with dramatic orchestrations, GraphicAudio productions sit somewhere between audiobooks and full-cast radio plays. Using a narrator, who often provides the kind of detail you would find in a book reading (“he raised an eyebrow…”), the stories also unfold with a massive ensemble of actors and characters, replete with sound effects.
GraphicAudio have released about 900 titles and 60 serials. Within such a massive library, they particularly specialise in long-haul entertainment – complex, lengthy tales that are testosterone-driven escapades ideally suited for truck drivers and anyone who enjoys sinking their teeth into gritty, kick-arse adventure. In this instance however, the first book in the new Galactic Football League series runs only 5 hours. It’s enough however, as the exhausting action barely provides any time to breath.
The Rookie is the story of Quentin Barnes, a 19-year-old gridiron prodigy. He’s the star quarterback in his Third Tier league with skills to match both his ego and his dreams of rising to the First Tier big league. Set 700 years in the future, the pro football league can be lethal, with teams comprising alien races from many different worlds. The game is held in such high esteem that some worlds worship their players as deities, while the top level teams get uninterrupted passage across the galaxy, making them the perfect cover for smugglers and other underworld beings.
When Barnes’ contract is sold under duress to a big time smuggler, the player only knows that he’s moving up in the world and, while he is yet to become aware of his future fate, he suddenly finds himself struggling on many deep personal levels. The Second Tier league is a much tougher competition than he has faced before and, to add insult to his crushed ego, he finds he must play alongside aliens whose mere presence goes against his beliefs. Having been raised in the deeply religious Purest Nation, where it’s illegal for an alien to even stand on their soil, he must now overcome a lifetime of racism and ignorance if he wants to further his career.
The Rookie is based on the first novel in the Galactic Football League series written by American sci-fi and horror author, Scott Sigler. It’s adapted for audio by Eric Messner with sound design by Patrick Stratton and direction by Michael John Casey. Together they offer consistently hard, fast pace action and a uniquely fun set of characters that come to life through a cast of approximately 25 actors. It’s narrated by the Director, who also takes on the lead role and differentiates between the two with very distinct voices that make it hard to believe it’s the same actor.
While the general action zips along at a brisk pace, even that can’t compare to the intensity of the gridiron matches themselves which burst through the speakers as though you were there. The vivid descriptions play out through a combination of sports announcers, roaring crowds, and the inner thoughts and actions of Barnes on the field. It’s heart-stopping competition played the way of all the best matches. You can almost smell the sweat.
Galactic Football League Book 1: The Rookie combines, action, drama, science fiction and a personal journey, wrapped in a sports motif that proves to be the ideal host for such broad themes. It’s available now on CD and in various digital formats through the GraphicAudio website.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 9
Release Date: 10 August 2016
RRP: US$14.99 CD, US$13.99 Digital Download