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Author Topic: PC056: Shard of Glass  (Read 8428 times)
Heradel
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« on: June 11, 2009, 06:50:49 AM »

PodCastle 56: Shard of Glass

by Alaya Dawn Johnson.
Read by N. K. Jemisin.

“Get in the car, Leah,” my mother said. Her already husky voice was pitched low, as though she’d been crying. That made me nervous. Why was she here?

“Ma, Chloe was going to show me her dad’s new camera. Can’t I go home on the bus?”

My mom pulled on the cigarette until it burned the filter, and then ground it into the car ashtray—already filled with forty or so butts. She always emptied out the ashtray each evening.

“Get in the car, Leah.” My mom’s voice was even huskier as she lit another cigarette and tossed the match out of the window.

I sat down and shut the door.

We rode in silence for a while. Despite her shaking hands and the rapidly dwindling box of cigarettes, she drove meticulously, even coming to a full stop at the stop signs. She never stopped at stop signs.

“Ma . . . is something wrong?” I asked hesitantly.

Her fingers tightened on the wheel until her knuckles looked even paler than my skin. “We’re going on a trip, Leah,” she said finally, jamming on the brakes at a stop sign.

Rated R. for violent and possibly disturbing images.
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stePH
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« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2009, 02:22:38 PM »

My file is 58:52 in length and ends before the story is over.  Angry

[edit]
Just re-downloaded it and got a file 1:09:35 in length.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2009, 02:53:41 PM by stePH » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2009, 10:27:05 PM »

  This story was interesting enough, and well read, but it didn't feel like it was really getting going until right before the end. The story was just intriguing enough to keep me listening, but it was not until they fled Okinawa that things really grabbed me.

  I never totally understood why she was able to interact with the memories (I kept expecting her to change the past through these interactions), but I don't think understanding that would change my feelings on the story any.

  Enjoyable, but not one that is likely to get replayed.
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« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2009, 12:43:56 PM »

Even with my sound turned all the way up, I still needed headphones to be able to hear the reading.  Sad  Also, it took three tries for me to get through it because I kept falling asleep. That's really saying something; it usually takes me hours to fall asleep even when I'm exhausted, and I listened to this story while feeling wide awake.
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« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2009, 09:40:04 AM »

I couldn't get into this one. The fantasy elements were hard to find, and once again another ending that confused the hell out of me. Bwa?
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« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2009, 12:05:41 AM »

confusing as all get out- but I really really enjoyed this. The MC was likable, the tale properly trwisty, and really strange. gooood stuff.
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« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2009, 10:17:48 AM »

This was an incredibly absorbing story! It sucked me right in from the beginning and held me as Leah and her mother traveled the world. From the abandoned geography report to the bodies in the cave, the Civil Rights Act, Leah's father not recognizing her, the shard of glass itself, everything about this story just seemed perfect to me. Alaya Dawn Johnson should be proud of it. N.K. Jemison's reading was a little low, but I thought her voice was perfect for this.

As for the ending, I took that it meant inside the glass was the one place where she was stronger than her father and her uncle - the one place where they couldn't find her. So she disappeared there, and escaped them. Or, at least her mind did? What happened to her actual body, I'm not sure.
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LadyIndigo
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« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2009, 11:19:24 AM »

Gorgeous story - the point was scattered amidst the exposition, but that exposition also made Leah and her mother fully realized characters, made me care.  It almost would have worked better without the fantasy element, though, as it only came into play a few times and not very important ones.  If it were just a girl and her mother and how they evolved, it would have gelled just great.
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DKT
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« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2009, 12:11:37 PM »

It almost would have worked better without the fantasy element, though, as it only came into play a few times and not very important ones.  If it were just a girl and her mother and how they evolved, it would have gelled just great.

I dunno...I know you said "almost" but...would the uncle even have tried to find them if the fantasy element had been removed? Stealing the shard of glass was what gave her power, and it was how Leah's dad and uncle gained power politically, so it makes sense they would try to get back what had been taken. Plus, it was the device used explore the power of memories and guilt and provided so much of the good stuff in this story, it was the catalyst, the object of desire, the escape...I can't imagine it being absent. It felt completely intrinsic to the story to me.
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« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2009, 08:53:31 PM »

Well written, with some really great bits that failed to really gel for me. 

And what was up with those sound levels?  Or rather, what was down?  Couldn't really hear it in the car.  The intro levels were fine, but the actual story - well, I had to turn my car stereo all the way up, and still lost words under the background sounds of driving.  Then when the story is over you're hit with really loud music again.

Please, please watch the sound levels.  I know the reading was trying to be understated, but it would have benefited from being turned up a notch or three to match the intro / outro levels.
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« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2009, 10:51:22 PM »

Please, please watch the sound levels.  I know the reading was trying to be understated, but it would have benefited from being turned up a notch or three to match the intro / outro levels.

So noted Smiley

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« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2009, 08:03:40 AM »

Bleah. I waited an hour or so for THAT ending?

It seems that the longer the stories are the less-important the fantasy portion is; the tattoo in the last Giant, the ghosts in the Japanese giant, etc... Not always, but often. This story was the same. The fantasy part seemed grafted on as an excuse for these two people to go on the run from an "evil" senator who also held power over his misguided younger brother. I would've been thrilled had the story ended about 20 minutes earlier, probably with a showdown in Japan and something more fantastical. Instead... bleah, as I said.

The reading was extremely quiet... I had my iPod up to 95% and my car up to 40 and it was still hard to hear some of it while other times the audio popped and made my rearview mirror (and teeth) vibrate. Good reading, generally, though it seemed like the reader wanted to stop doing the accent after a while. It started to feel forced.

There was just too MUCH in this story, I think. Make it about civil rights and a family on the run, or make it about a magical piece of glass -- which we still don't know the provenance of, which I would really have liked to know, which I think would've enhanced the story -- or make it about two people living in Japan and the kid finds the bones... but all together, I felt buried, and the slow reading didn't help. Perhaps two or three good stories, but only passable as a single one.
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« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2009, 03:24:31 PM »

I dunno...I know you said "almost" but...would the uncle even have tried to find them if the fantasy element had been removed? Stealing the shard of glass was what gave her power, and it was how Leah's dad and uncle gained power politically, so it makes sense they would try to get back what had been taken. Plus, it was the device used explore the power of memories and guilt and provided so much of the good stuff in this story, it was the catalyst, the object of desire, the escape...I can't imagine it being absent. It felt completely intrinsic to the story to me.

All totally valid points, but that's exactly what it came across as to me - a device.  There was nothing that made the form of the object important, it could have almost been anything.  'Powerful object that is source of family's strength' seems tacked on as a reason, you could have just as easily had a scrapbook or memento that was the key link to the dark secret as well as providing info about Leah's parents, maybe even the same incident all linking up to three people - and don't get me wrong, the story's great, but it did need a better 'blending' of everything it was trying to do.  I still do say 'maybe' because I'm not the most practiced author.  Maybe it would've made it worse.
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Ocicat
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« Reply #13 on: June 17, 2009, 06:32:27 PM »

Oh, I also meant to add: Loved the intro.  It spoiled nothing about the story whatsoever, while getting one in a nice headspace to hear a story, and even taught a little something.  Well done!
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Talia
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« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2009, 08:25:17 AM »

The fantasy element was how she destroyed her uncle's career, too. She wouldnt have known about the murder if she hadn't looked through the glass.

The sound level was absolutely perfect for listening to with headphones on an mp3 player actually, which is what I did..the sound quality was quiet and rather soothing.  I really dug the reading, perfect for the piece, IMHO.

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Rain
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« Reply #15 on: June 19, 2009, 10:01:07 AM »

I couldnt finish this story, got halfway through and just couldnt go on, nothing about it really interested me
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eytanz
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« Reply #16 on: June 19, 2009, 11:36:34 PM »

The sound level was absolutely perfect for listening to with headphones on an mp3 player actually, which is what I did..the sound quality was quiet and rather soothing.  I really dug the reading, perfect for the piece, IMHO.

You're making a really invalid assumption here, which is that everyone's headphones and mp3 players are equal, or their listening conditions. I could not hear this story, with my iPod and earphones, except when I was in a very quiet room. And since I normally listen to podcasts on the go, that means I have not been able to finish the story yet since I haven't had enough quiet time for it (though I have to admit I'm not finding it very engaging, which isn't helping).

Plus, volume can always be turned down, but not turned up past the max, so I'd much rather the podcasts err on the side of slightly too loud.
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eytanz
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« Reply #17 on: June 28, 2009, 09:49:59 AM »

Finally finished it. Not sure what to say about this one - there's a lot good about it, but it was a hard slog. Not sure if it's the author's fault or the reader's, but it was really difficult for me to maintaing engagement in it, as much as I found a lot of the plot elements quite interesting.
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thomasowenm
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« Reply #18 on: July 27, 2009, 03:23:01 PM »

Whew!! finished it.   I thought I would never get to the end.  This story dragged for the first half until finally grabbing my attention in Japan, but it was still too long for the content.  The pacing could have been helped by being aggressively edited.  For example Luxumburg could have been eliminated without changing the story, speeding up a tired beginning. 

I did like the story overall, however I wish the power of the glass would have come into play a little more.  One thing I did really appreciate was that the inclusion of the civil rights movement was done well, just a flavor in the background.  To me it did not feel like an agenda piece, which so many stories lately have felt like.

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« Reply #19 on: July 29, 2009, 01:15:07 PM »

I did like this story very much.  It was intriguing and I think just the right pace.

On a side note, ss I read through the Trangulation: Dark Glass anthology, this story keeps coming back to my mind.  It would have been a perfect fit.

By the way, the Triangulation: Dark Glass anthology also features two very good stories written separately by Rachel Swirsky and Dave Thompson (DKT).
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