Fractal Noise

Macmillan Audio. (Fractalverse, Bk. 2). May 2023. 9:57 hrs. ISBN 9781250870995. $26.99. SF
Paolini’s second “Fractalverse” novel (following To Sleep in a Sea of Stars) is gloriously narrated by narrator and voice actor Jennifer Hale. With superb accents and character voices, Hale creates a diverse cast of researchers investigating the sudden appearance of a perfectly circular, mysteriously large hole on the remote planet of Talos VII. She brings the characters’ strained relationships to the forefront, allowing the setting and technology to become background noise. The audio is enhanced by an exemplary soundscape, perfectly modulated to capture the changing landscape. As the explorers excitedly start their investigation, the music is bright and animated, but it morphs into ominous drumming when enthusiasm turns to trepidation and tragedy. Beyond the music, an unsettling booming sound comes from the hole. This sound is heard throughout and gets louder as the characters close in on their target. Static, feedback, and sound distortion from radios add a sense of immediacy. Importantly, the audio makes judicious use of silence, allowing the dread to spike when the explorers lose their radio signals and are alone on the seemingly barren planet.
VERDICT This cinematic production pulls listeners into a character study of grief and religious zeal while making the most of the audio medium.
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