The Cambridge Geek


Seems like I'm in something of a horror mood, with the recent Ostium, Immunities and now Tribulation. This reminds me of nothing so much as Revelations, a podcast that I listened to a very long time ago, when podiobooks was still a thing. Apparently it's "Scribl" now.

Anyway, Greg and Stacey Carlson, husband and wife, are driving cross-country through East Texas, when they encounter a mysterious radio station. It's playing what sounds like a bible-thumping preacher, who is talking about his flock and their suffering through "Tribulation", as a way of getting to heaven.

Tribulation takes seven years, the first of which is the breaking down of the self in order to convince the believers to put their faith in the leader of the cult, Brother Elijah. The second step is "Millennium", and it only gets worse from there. One of the steps is called "Thousand Cuts". That one doesn't sound great.

While Greg pops out of the car to get something out of the boot, the radio talks to Stacey directly, telling her that her own path to Tribulation is not what she's heard on the radio. Of course, she freaks out a bit.

She freaks out worse when they pass an old radio tower and Greg becomes desperate to investigate it, jumping out of the car, running inside and vanishing into thin air. Stacey is horrified to hear Greg appear on the radio, being torn apart by the cult leader's congregation, leaving her sufficiently catatonic that the Sheriff has to come pick her up and try and help her find Greg with information from a cult consultant ("cultsultant"?), Dr. Mannion.

Also coming to her assistance is Reid, who is both a conspiracy nut and a surprisingly popular singer. He's split off from the band, and is now investigating the Tribulation cult and its force of personality leader, Magus.

It's an impressively creepy piece, with some excellent sound work in the horrifying transitions between the real world and the cult's world. It's got a decent sized cast, all of whom are pleasingly distinct and the folio in general is convincing. It can get very trippy when the cult reach out through radio waves to hunt down our investigators.

There's an awkward point at about the 3/4 mark of the first series, where more of the plot is revealed and it gets a little confused with the different layers of story crashing together, but in general it's a fun ride. The horror slowly creeps outwards as Stacey realises more of her world is being sucked into the cult's influence, and it sneaks back and forth over the science-fiction/horror line, with a few hints of A Clockwork Orange.

I'm lead to believe there will be a second series, which I'm certainly going to listen out for.

Score 4

Tagged: Audio fiction Drama Cast Dramatised Horror Serial