The Cambridge Geek


In the far future, humanity is looking to colonise the stars. Given the sheer distance to the nearest livable planet, solutions are needed to stop people either dying off, or going insane from boredom. Enter the Morpheus project. This is a Matrix-like system, with a brain-link between the passengers and a VR universe, which will allow them to effectively stay aware, while really being deep in cryosleep.

Cryo allows them to both avoid some of the horrible side effects of near lightspeed travel, and reduce the effects of aging, with them given various drugs that reduce the impact of the 20 years they will spend getting to their new planet. Of course, space is dangerous. And sleeping through it is even riskier, since you're relying on a machine to ensure you're fed correctly, and don't get bed sores.

No surprise then, that the company that is organising this trip wants a human to watch over the sleepers, staying awake for the 20 years. That human is Frank. He's not alone, being one of several caretakers on the ship, each of whom have responsibility for 100 sleeping passengers. But the safefty of those passengers is paramount, so Frank and the rest live their lives under the rule of the "Directive".

This is a command enforced by CASPER, the AI running the ship. He keeps the people apart, so there's no risk of them attacking or shagging each other. He feeds them their amphetamine-laced breakfast milkshake, that keeps them alert during the day for their duties, and the evening milkshake that knocks them unconscious for 10 hours. And he enforces their videochat sessions with each other, which is all the social interaction they are allowed.

The story is split between Frank's experiences on the ship, and the flashbacks to how he got here, including a slightly lazy approach to life. The flashbacks feature a cast of few, mostly bosses and company colleagues, but the "present day" is a meditation on loneliness. It's the seventh year at this point, and Frank is beginning to fall apart.

Works best binged, this one, being relatively short in total, feeling more like a split up radio play than an episodic work. Listening to it all in a run gives the building suspense and ultimate climax significantly more impact. There's a desperate undercurrent here, and getting it all in one shot definitely helps with that tone.

The majority of the work is based around Frank's internal monologue and discussions with CASPER, and so relies heavily on his delivery as a man under immense stress. Luckily, he does a decent job of that. I was also fond of the flashbacks to his boss, who is sufficiently naturalistic that he barely felt written.

Bit of an annoyance in the sound design choices, with a more of less 0/100 stereo split for some of the dialogue. While the stereo sound is always a nice effect for splitting characters, this means that if I fall down to one headphone, I completely lose one half of the conversation. A max 1/3-2/3 mix might be nicer.

Otherwise, a nice little drama, easily worth giving the hour and half or so it requires for a listen.

Score 4

Tagged: Audio fiction Drama Cast Dramatised Science fiction Serial