The Cambridge Geek

The Magnus Archives

Time for another "archive" series, where the protagonist is going through records of previous events. In this case, that's the Magnus Archive. Jonathan Sims, the new head archivist, has discovered that the previous archivist was absolutely terrible at keeping records, and so he has to go back through them. Since they're all paper based, and in no particular order, he decides to multi-task and create audio recordings while he's filing them.

This equates to him reading out the statements, in what is effectively an anthology of short stories. These have a certain amount of sound effects and music, but are mostly a straight reading. It makes it feel a lot like Pseudopod (especially this one), which is a good thing given how much I enjoy that.

The Magnus Archive is a bureau of supernatural investigation, so all of the stories are rather horrific. There's a whole collection of different monsters and creepy objects which do a decent job of ruining the lives of people who have the misfortune of getting close to them. A few examples of these: person full of maggots; coffin that knocks back when you knock on it; bags full of teeth; a vampire killer, and several evil books.

The books are very important, because while the stories are mostly independent of each other, some of them connect up. In the background of this, there's a cult of some sort that has an influence throughout the series. They have an (as yet unknown) motive, which involves an evil library, human sacrifice, summoning of some sort of monster gods and a lot of spooky eye motifs.

Luckily thus far(18 out of 120), it's not got to the point at which every single episode is connected, which I always find a bit annoying. Hopefully that will continue. There's also another interesting difference from the standard archive format in that since these are fixed reports he's reading through for the first time, there's an "after action" section, in which he discusses the additional research his team have done. This usually involves checking police reports, chasing down witnesses or looking into missing people cases. It's a fun addition, and allows the stories to have extra creepy twists added.

Thus far, it's also resulted in the occasional interruption from his team, which suggests there's a bit of interpersonal conflict to be dealt with at some point. Mind you, since there's now 120 episodes, there's plenty of room for office politics in there. That large number of episodes and extensive set of topics makes this overall very complex, which is likely why it apparently needs a wiki.

I know, a whole wiki. Seems a bit over the top, but having listened to what I have, I can see the need to keep track of the different callbacks. The other value in that is that it helps work out who some of the "storytellers" are. Having a single reader does mean that the different intended voices can sound a little similar. I did sometimes find myself surprised to remember halfway through a given record that it was a female statement, due to the consistent reader. He does however do a nice variety of styles depending on whether the recordee is angry or nervous and so on.

The different stories are sufficiently varied to keep my interest in the series thus far, and the ongoing overall plot is looking well-built. It's also generally got a good tone, with the slightly grumpy voice of the archivist being entertaining. Going to happily keep listening to this one.

[UPDATE - 19 October 2018]: I've now got through all of series 1. I usually try to do that before I review something, but that turned out to be 40 episodes for this. Bit much. But luckily I spent a couple of days stuck in a car, and it was a handy excuse to binge.

As it's run on, it's increasingly turned into an audio drama, with the original minor interruptions by other staff/interviewees becoming much more involved. This has lead to a nice widening of the cast and the dialogue, and gives you a much fuller impression of the Institute and all the things threatening it. It's turning into both an exciting and slightly terrifying show, and it's all the stronger for it.

Score 5

Tagged: Audio fiction Horror Monologue Personal recording Urban fantasy Serial