T. Ray Gordon,
Strawberry Automatic
(Apex Audio Theatre, 2005)

Richard Sellers has adapted and narrated another radio play from T. Ray Gordon's works from the 1940s. Strawberry Automatic was first broadcast in mid-September, 1946. These "radio dramas" were part of a series of science fiction stories known as Vistas of the Beyond, performed for listeners of WOR Radio out of New York City. Instead of a single voice playing all the parts, each individual character is voiced by a different actor.

The main character of this tale, Blaze, is nicknamed Strawberry Automatic due to her red hair and the fact that she is "robota." From the CD liner notes, we learn that an "automatic" is "a living mechanical replication of a human being, but which is both physically and mentally superior." They started out as military androids, but eventually gained recognition as sentient beings with rights equal to humans.

Strawberry Automatic takes place on Mars. At this point in history, Mars has been colonized and the peoples of Mars have declared their independence from Earth. The slow process of terraforming the planet has started. Unfortunately, someone wants to speed up the process, even if it means the death of millions of innocent people. The question is whether Blaze can uncover who is behind this plot and stop it from reaching fruition.

Similar to Inhumanity Quest, the first radio play released on CD by Sellers, this story fits on one disc. Like I said in that review, this CD also has some of the best use of audio effects I've heard in an audiobook. Most audiobooks have simple narration. Some have occasional background music to help set the mood. The stories released by Apex Audio Theatre include background noises such as the sound of a shower or the staccato of a gun fight. The additional audio vastly improves the mental visuals the listener creates while listening to the story.

Gordon penned 72 tales during his lifetime. Generations later, Sellers is in the process of bringing them to a new audience of science fiction fans. While some of the lines are a little dramatic and perhaps dated, the general story sounds like it was recently written. If you enjoy short science fiction audiobooks such as Strawberry Automatic, you will be glad to know that Sellers is currently working on Gordon's Tears of the Tin God. I know I am looking forward to giving it a listen!

by Wil Owen
10 June 2006