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Author Topic: PC191: Balfour and Meriwether in The Vampire of Kabul  (Read 6048 times)
Talia
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« on: January 10, 2012, 08:07:01 AM »

PodCastle 191: Balfour and Meriwether in The Vampire of Kabul

By Daniel Abraham.

Read by Paul S. Jenkins of the Skepticule podcast.

Originally appeared in Subterranean Online. Read the text there.

It was the third of December in 188-, and snow swirled down grey and damp upon the cobblestones of London. Meriwether paced before the wide window of the King Street flat impatiently. Balfour sat before the roaring fire, correcting a draft monograph he had written on the subject of Asiatic hand combat as adapted to the English frame.

“I cannot understand how you can be so devilishly placid,” Meriwether said at last.

“Practice,” Balfour grunted.

“Every winter it’s the same,” Meriwether said, gesturing at the falling snow. “The darkness comes earlier, the cold drives men from the roads, and I have this…stirring. This unutterable restlessness. The winter traps me, my friend. It holds me captive.”

Rated R for violence.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: January 31, 2012, 09:25:52 AM by Talia » Logged
kibitzer
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« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2012, 02:39:23 AM »

Am I the King Of The Mountain?? Unbelievable!

Very much enjoyed this story. The first one (PC138) had a novelty value that always helps -- the first time you meet the characters, understand the setting, ride along on the adventure it leaves you wanting more! But the subsequent adventures can disappoint because in a way, the author has to try even harder to impress; the characters and setting are established and whilst you can embellish that, you may lose the original mystique.

Thankfully, that was not the case here.

I enjoyed the dip into horror and the continuation of the theme of specialists in the arcane who are the best there is, battling the barely-known. And again, the capable femme fatale!

You will hear no complaints from me if this becomes an annual event :-)

(Hint, Mr Abraham?)
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« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2012, 08:10:59 AM »

Did I get a bad download, or did the story cut off just before it was finished? I checked the text and it turned out to be only one word. (All that was lost was "peace". Make of that what you will.) But it definitely distracted me from the ending.

That aside, I liked the moral ambiguity... no, moral reversal in this. The protagonists fought not just for the Empire, but for monarchy everywhere. While the "bad guy" wanted to avoid useless war and protect the human rights of the Afghan people.
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« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2012, 09:03:46 AM »

I read a quote somewhere, I can't remember who said it: "Afghanistan is where empires go to die."

Something truthful in that. And rather ominous.

I liked this one, and I was grateful that the whole "imperialism is bad" was given a less heavy-handed treatment: that the system is not supported by power-grabbing dictators, but by well-meaning individuals who genuinely see it as a good thing. "Civilizing" these backward tribes, and all that. Letting them become citizens of the empire, and all the "benefits" that that entails. Which, I suppose, makes all the more believable, and all the more dangerous.
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Talia
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« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2012, 10:08:07 AM »

Did I get a bad download, or did the story cut off just before it was finished?

Yeah, the final word was cut off for me as well. I thought it was easy to get in context though - and checking now I guessed correctly.
For those wondering, the last word is 'peace.'
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2012, 11:41:57 AM »

I enjoyed this as I did the previous Balfour and Meriwether tale, and was glad that you managed to get the same narrator as well.

I didn't see it so much as a battle for monarchy everywhere, but Empire everywhere. And not just the British Empire. It's quite clear from his opening remarks (via Dave, thank you Dave) that the subtext is American involvement in Central Asia.
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DKT
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« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2012, 12:24:29 PM »

Did I get a bad download, or did the story cut off just before it was finished?

Yeah, the final word was cut off for me as well. I thought it was easy to get in context though - and checking now I guessed correctly.
For those wondering, the last word is 'peace.'

Well, that's embarrassing. Sorry everyone. We've got a corrected version up there now.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2012, 04:32:03 PM »

I thoroughly enjoyed this one, from start to finish. Smiley The opening standoff between Balfour, Meriwether and the Czarina was awesome, and the grudging truce was really well played out. The relative skills of Balfour and Meriwether seemed a little less even in this story than in the previous one, but that could be my memory playing tricks with me. And of course, the themes gave a lot of meat to chew on without preaching at us, which is always appreciated.


You will hear no complaints from me if this becomes an annual event :-)

(Hint, Mr Abraham?)

Yes, please!
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« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2012, 06:17:45 PM »

Excellent story! I liked it very much. It was very good to hear about these two again!

More please!
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« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2012, 09:26:22 AM »

Eh, it was okay.  It didn't have the novelty of the first one, and I was much more interested in the clockwork plague than in this guy, especially since "Vampire" was right in the title you already had a pretty good idea where it was going.  It was fine, but nothing I found particularly memorable.
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Balu
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« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2012, 05:52:16 PM »

Great story, and an even greater narrator.

If Morgan Freeman's the voice of God, I reckon Paul Jenkins a shoe-in for the other guy. The man could fascinate with a laundry list.
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eytanz
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« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2012, 04:00:02 AM »

I enjoyed this one, but I agree with Unblinking that the threat wasn't as interesting as in the previous story. And I was kind of annoyed by the part towards the ending where the villian spontaneously decided to explain and justify his plan to his grandson just as the heroes came into earshot.

The main characters were the best thing about this - I do like how Balfour and Meriwether, as well as the Tzarina, clearly were drawn as characters with depths beyond what comes out in the story. But the plot itself, for this one, felt less like a story and more like a precis for a novel.
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« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2012, 05:32:44 AM »

Another great outing for these two. I love the fact that like the first story the whole background of the two gentleman adventurers is only hinted at. The addition of the Czarina with whom they've previously entangled adds to the mix wonderfully. The obvious comparisons with Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler don't detract from this in my view.

Throw in a vampyre/zombie club-wielding Queen Victoria and what's not to like.
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« Reply #13 on: January 28, 2012, 06:11:04 AM »

The obvious comparisons with Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler don't detract from this in my view.

"To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman."
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« Reply #14 on: January 28, 2012, 07:06:18 AM »


"To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman."

Well played Sir, singularly well played.
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« Reply #15 on: February 01, 2012, 09:51:49 AM »

I liked this one, but I don't think I liked it as much as the first Balfour and Merriweather.  The Tzarina seemed a little cliche to me, and the story didn't have as much zing as the first one. 
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« Reply #16 on: February 03, 2012, 01:50:55 PM »

The trend in this thread must be defied!

I thought this was a significantly more compelling story than the first. The first was very clearly a fantastic and otherworldly threat that was bent on the total destruction of humanity. This second outing was far more nuanced with the moral grey areas. There were no white hats and no black hats in this story, just folks who think they know their color. Also, the line between the mystical fantastic and reality was more finely shaded with the opiates and parlor trickery of the antagonist.
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« Reply #17 on: February 13, 2012, 07:47:29 PM »

I find these stories to be sort of the opposite of Lavie Tidhar's "Bookman" series, in a way.  Where the world of the Bookman is basically filled with flash-bang rapid-fire references to famous characters from fiction and history with a gunfight every other chapter, these stories are almost washed-out in their understatedness.  But on me, the end effect is the same; the story drifts by, and I don't really notice it.  Balfour and Meriwether are just so bland and indistinguishable.  I dunno.  It's not that it's bad - I can't really point to anything that struck me as a flaw, per se - it's just that it never hooks me.  I glance up and go, "Oh, did it end?  I wonder what happened..."
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« Reply #18 on: February 27, 2012, 01:10:33 PM »

This one was okay. I had a little problem with the narrator in that he spoke in a monotone that didn't convey the excitment of the action bits too well, so I was lulled into half listening while I worked. I don't think the first story really stuck with me either, so it could be that more than the narrator.
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« Reply #19 on: February 28, 2012, 09:54:58 AM »

This one was okay. I had a little problem with the narrator in that he spoke in a monotone that didn't convey the excitment of the action bits too well, so I was lulled into half listening while I worked. I don't think the first story really stuck with me either, so it could be that more than the narrator.

The writing is more of a reserved style that fits the age from whence it came, so it might just be that, rather than the narrator.  (Or perhaps, combined with the narrator)
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