Quick Audio Review: THE CHILD by Sebastian Fitzek (Audible)

FitzekS-TheChildAUDAn excellent audio drama

My name is Simon. I’m 10 years old. I’m a serial killer. Robert Stern (Rupert Penry-Jones), a successful defense attorney, doesn’t know what lies in store for him when he agrees to meet a new client in a derelict estate on the outskirts of Berlin. Stern is more than surprised, when his old love interest and professional nurse Carina (Emilia Fox) presents him a ten year old boy as his new client: Simon (Jack Boulter), a terminally ill child, who is convinced he has murdered many men in a previous life.

Robert’s surprise turns into horror when he and Carina find human remains in a cellar the boy has led them to. The remains of a man whose head has been split with an axe 15 years ago – just like Simon claimed he had. Things go from bad to worse within hours when Stern discovers more dead bodies, the investigating police officer Engler (Andy Serkis) starts to chase him as a suspect in the murder cases, and his own past comes to haunt him. Stern’s friend and former criminal Andi Borchert (Stephen Marcus) is the only one to believe Stern and Carina. Hunted by the police, and led by Simon’s memories, they start to investigate shady sub cultures of Berlin, and soon discover things that are more gruesome than anything they could have imagined…

Narrated by: Rupert Penry-Jones, Jack Boulter, Emilia Fox, Stephen Marcus, Robert Glenister, Andy Serkis

This is a really good thriller. It’s psychological, suspenseful, and… yes, creepy. The performances are superb from everyone in the cast (and such an excellent cast!). Penry-Jones and Serkis were particular standouts for me. The sound effects are well-balanced, very rarely threatening to overwhelm the actors’ lines (there is a moment early on, in the rain, although that was actually kind of realistic), and there is one voice that is slightly scrambled (on purpose) which wasn’t always clear. I’m keeping this review very short because I don’t want to spoil any of the story — also, it’s out today, and I wanted it up in a timely manner. The story is not written with a breakneck pace — in fact, it’s quite a slow-burn. There are some genre tropes ticked off, but it doesn’t come across as a paint-by-numbers thriller. There are suggestions of something supernatural and/or otherworldly from early on, and it takes some time for things to be unveiled.

If you’re looking for something chilling to listen to in these cold(er) winter months, then I would absolutely recommend The Child.

An aside: I’m still not used to reviewing audio fiction, and I think I still prefer audio non-fiction. However, this story still managed to keep my attention and send the occasional chill up my spine. I’d certainly be interested in listening to more like it. (I think I’ll have to try Audible’s other new drama, Six Degrees of Assassination.)

Q&A with Andy Serkis on adapting Samantha Shannon’s THE BONE SEASON & George Orwell’s ANIMAL FARM

AndySerkisIn a Q&A organised by Samantha Shannon’s publicists in the UK, Andy Serkis discussed the acquisition of movie rights for Shannon’s debut novel, The Bone Season. Serkis, best-known perhaps as Gollum in Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies, has set up his own film studio, Imaginarium Studio. The Bone Season will be one of their first projects, alongside an adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, both of which will be directed by Serkis.

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What is it about The Bone Season that compelled you to include it in The Imaginarium Studio’s very first slate of films?

We first came across the manuscript at the London Book Fair and immediately fell in love with the scope, the scale and the exceptional detail of the world Samantha had created. It’s a really compelling story with such a great central character – we all immediately saw its potential as a fantastic feature film.

Have you met Samantha Shannon, and how involved will she be in the film’s production?

Yes of course – she’s a delightful, incredibly intelligent person. She’s very warm and a passionate storyteller- dedicated beyond belief. We’re working very closely with her on all aspects of bringing the world of the book to the screen. We’ve been involving her with all the early concept artwork that we’re beginning to put together. Obviously it’s her world so we want to make sure we bring it to life in the way that she wants.

ShannonS-BoneSeasonCan you tell us about how the creative process for adapting a story like The Bone Season begins?

It begins with knowing the story you want to tell. There are thousands of stories contained within the world that Samantha has created – we have to be very disciplined about opening up the world in a way that will lead us on to further investigation in the rest of the series. We need to find the emotional heart of the story; the relationships; the tension; the suspense and the drive, and of course working closely with Samantha is going to make it much easier.

At this very early stage it’s about finding the right writer and the right approach to telling the story. Hand in hand with developing the screenplay it’s also about developing the visual world and bringing that to life, finding the right visual effects team who understand Samantha’s concepts.

You have been part of bringing some of the world’s most famous and well-loved fantasy worlds to contemporary audiences. Which of your experiences across film, TV, stage and video games would you say has been most helpful in preparing you to produce The Bone Season?

It would be impossible to single out any one single experience, it’s an accumulation of all my experiences to date, but obviously having worked on The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s extraordinary world with Peter Jackson is incredibly useful. Peter basically gave me the opportunity to work on a lot of extraordinary characters in a lot of extraordinary worlds and has opened up my eyes to a genre that I knew very little about before.

Will performance capture will come mostly into play when portraying Shannon’s Rephaim race on screen in The Bone Season? Can you give us any insight into how you’d like these characters to appear?

We’re in very early stages of designing how we want to portray these characters, and are exploring a variety of avenues to bring these characters to life. We’re certainly not tied to any one production technique at this early stage.

Animal Farm is the other film on your inaugural slate. What can you tell us about this project?

OrwellG-AnimalFarmWe’re extraordinarily excited about Animal Farm. We have been working on the methodology this year, the development of the characters and the story. We’re working with a wonderful character designer and very pleased with how the animals are developing as visual characters.

In terms of story, we’re remaining very truthful to the original book however we are relocating the setting as if Orwell were writing in the present day – we’ve been working very closely with the Orwell estate on this.

You’re talents are very varied! If you could only do one thing for the rest of your career, which would you choose (stage/TV/film/video game roles, voice roles, director or producer)?

Mountain Climber.