February 2013 saw the release of what we now know will be the first of possibly many Vienna Salvatori stories. Entitled The Memory Box and written by Jonathan Morris who introduced us to the character in The Shadow Heart (part of the Drashani trilogy). The intention behind Vienna is to give us the character of a bounty hunter (or assassin if you prefer) in Philip K Dick influenced action-rich slice of the future and have us care about what happens to a person who appears to be without scruples or any morality beyond her own survival.
Does it work? Read on…
Berkeley Silver, one of the richest men in the Earth empire, lies dead in the Penthouse Suite of the Galileo space-hotel. Law Enforcement Officers Detective Captain McGinnis and Detective Sergeant Mead are called in to investigate – but it seems to have been the perfect crime. Even when subjected to a memory scan, everybody in the space-hotel has an alibi for the murder.
Which means it can only have been the work of one woman. The most accomplished – and the most glamorous – bounty hunter in the galaxy. Her name is Vienna Salvatori. And she has a little rule; nobody gets to hear her name and live…
The synopsis from the Big Finish website gives a flavour of the story without giving away any twists and turns. The story pivots on the use of the eponymous Memory Box – a device that allows you to lock away memories in your mind until a pass phrase activates them again. Vienna uses this to hide the memory of the death of Berkeley Silver such that when she is memory scanned by the police she is freed due to having an alibi. By the time the police find other flaws in the alibi Vienna is on her way to the space docks to escape. Sadly her exit is blocked and she has to kidnap the wonderfully named Norvelle Spraggott to travel to an obscure ice world to receive her reward.
Inevitably there has been betrayal and we are treated to a wonderful attack of the cyber zombies which results in Vienna escaping in the police ship with Mead and McGinnis having to co-opt Spraggott and his space yacht. Everyone travels to Volcana, the centre of Berkeley’s empire!
[pullquote]cue more cyber zombies[/pullquote]
Jonathan turns our expectations upside down and we now learn that Silver probably needed to die for his crimes against humanity – cue more cyber zombies. We now get a whole host of reveals and an almost farce like (in a good way) set of twists that if they have a weakness overuse the idea of the memory box.
All ends relatively well. Vienna gets away with her money, the police are still in pursuit and Vienna gives large sums of money away to a charity.
This immediately gets the attention of the listener with a punch rock-styled title theme (notably the theme tune can reflect the essence of the show – Jago & Litefoot is immediate and quirky, this is high octane. Counter Measures gets some stick on the forums for its more subtle music which is arguably more in line with the idea of the series).
Chase Masterson is tremendous as Vienna and is convincingly clever yet fallible. John Banks plays McGinnis (John is a regular with many Big Finish titles under his belt) and Gemma Whelan plays Mead (also appearing in Counter Measures boxset II) with Tom Price( Counter Measures boxset II and PC Andy Davison from Torchwood) as the amusingly named Spraggott. All are convincing and this Ken Bentley directed story is up to the normal high standards.
The interviews really paint Chase as someone who cares about science-fiction and understands audio as a medium. We also get some sense of where the series might develop.
I was surprised at how much I liked this and am keen to know the pricing for the boxset and who else is writing for it. What about you? Did you get it, did you like it, is it not your kind of thing? Do let me know!
PS – My Starburst review is here for those who want a more general take on the story.
Tony, February 2013