Though originally never published, T. Ray Gordon’s novels currently experience a fairly unique existence thanks to the work of Richard Sellers and Apex Audio. Strawberry Automatic stands as the second script released in audio format by Gordon, and this sophomore production proves just as successful and creative as the first, Inhumanity Quest.
Like the previous novel, this science fiction tale is set in the distant future. Earth has established colonies and governments on the moon and even Mars. Blaze, an automatic robotica, travels the planets as a high-paid escort—though she has numerous other talents and quite a few technological advances unbeknownst to many. After arriving on Mars for another customer, Blaze finds herself under attack. Somebody wants her dead and is spending big money to guarantee it. She has no choice but to go underground, and there she encounters Red Mars, a terrorist organization that continually assaults the Brey Corporation, a company with dubious dealings, melting the Martian polar ice caps to generate a breathable atmosphere. When Blaze comes face to face with Esteban, the Red Mars leader, she is compelled to help them defeat the corporation.
Right from the start, Richard Sellers proves that he is not a one-hit wonder. The sound quality proves crystal-clear, while his choice of sound effects and background sound substantially enhances this production - though a few times he time-slots a sound effect. This means that within the text he read a sound cue, “She knocked,” which is followed by a slight pause in the story for the sound effect to be heard. These sounds are best executed concurrently.
Though narrow in breadth, this story still provides a lot of story, and a mere few words or even just the sound of a character’s voice belies an entire history. The female voice for Blaze delivers an intensity that suits the character’s nature, even though her voice goes unidentified. Seller’s talent proves amusing as one character comes across as a fair Christopher Walken impersonation.
Seller’s stern, commanding voice quickens the pace while intensifying the suspense. But he might use a bit too much intensity and emphasis in his voice. He reads every sentence with great determination, which can work for a short piece such as this. However, on longer future projects, the forceful voice might brandish a bit of listener fatigue. Readers subconsciously reach the edge of their seat when a voice displays intensity—they instinctively know something important is happening. Seller’s voice holds this state throughout the production, making one feel that each sentence is of grave importance to the plot, no matter how mundane.
With a good tale and a decent slice of science, Strawberry Automatic certainly fits right in the science-fiction genre. When it comes to quality and production, Apex Audio may not be on top of Mount Everest, but it most certainly has made a significant ascent unto the mountain.