Tired of the chaos, dejection and the generally dystopic outlook of your own existence? Looking for fun and distraction in the chaos, dejection and generally dystopic outlook of other people’s existence (fictionally, of course)? Look no further!
I’ve found some awesome sci-fi and fantasy podcasts that feel far enough removed from this reality that they might not remind you of the fact that all you have in this world are your plants… and the banana bread we all pretended to learn how to make in 2020.
Tumanbay is the most magnificent city on earth. The beating heart of a vast empire. A city of dreams – where even those who begin as slaves can rise to the heights of power. But not all is well in the city – while a mysterious force devours the city from within, rebellion is brewing in a far-off province. Gregor, Master of the elite Palace Guard, is charged by Sultan al-Ghuri with the task of rooting out this insurgence and crushing it.
This podcast is an elite audio experience – immersive sound and superb storytelling are brought to life by a talented cast of voice actors who will have you forgetting that you put the kettle on for tea / coffee / fun and profit.
What I liked most about Tumanbay is that its mix of new and established characters allowed the podcast to strike that fine balance between giving the listener all the information they need, without it feeling like info dumping. If you enjoyed NK Jemisin’s Dreamblood Duology, or are an Egyptian history junkie craving a story set in a world that looks just familiar enough to be relatable, without, you know, reminding you that the world is kind of actually on fire – then this is the show for you.
Interestingly, this podcast was so good, and the story so rich and immersive, that it spawned not one, but two novels. Written by Walker Dryden, they’re apparently quite good. One fine day, I may check them out and write a review.
In the meantime, you can listen to Tumanbay here.
The Liberty Podcast
For hundreds of years the colony of Atrius has been cut off from humanity and endured generations of civil war. What remains is a gleaming city, but beyond its walls sprawls a lawless expanse known as the Fringe.
The violent gangs and other unsavoury denizens of this deadly territory threaten the lives of those living within Atrius’s protective walls – so a covert government agency assigns an expedition team to infiltrate the Southern Fringe. Their mission is to discover any and everything they can about the Fringe. But once you’re outside the walls of Atrius – nothing is certain, and every decision could mean life or death.
Liberty was a whimsical listen one bored Saturday that turned into a very invested season binge. It continues past the point where I left it at the conclusion of the first season, and I have no doubt that it remains an excellent listen throughout. Season one, titled Critical Research, starts off in familiar space colony dystopia territory and then burrows itself even deeper into the genre, to great success.
We follow a hybrid team consisting of military officers, a civilian researcher and one rugged veteran of Fringe exploration as they steadily realise that no amount of training can prepare you for the choices and sacrifices necessary to survive once you leave “civilisation” behind. This podcast is part of a larger universe which includes comics and a tabletop RPG game – so if you listen to it and simply can’t get enough there’s more Liberty for you to sink your teeth and time into. Check out their website or Reddit if / when the hankering strikes you.
Or, you can just listen to The Liberty Podcast here.
The Second Oil Age
When an oil executive goes missing aboard the deep-sea Atlas Station, the company sends agent Synøve Pan down for answers — and she’s just the woman to get them. Welcome to the Second Oil Age: a sci-fi podcast that transports listeners to a post–energy-crisis world in which humanity’s thirst for oil is satisfied through a bargain with a mysterious deep-sea species.
Oops – have I come a bit too close to home?
I must confess, I was tempted not to include this one, since the ocean was very recently on fire – but sometimes “too on the nose” is just on the nose enough, you understand?
I’m just going to warn you up front that The Second Oil Age ends on one hell of a cliffhanger, and seems to have no second season in sight. So if you hate pain – now is your jumping off point. Conveniently, it’s also the end of this post, so that’s quite nice.
This podcast struck a very uncomfortable balance between what is and what could conceivably be, with elements of “well, at least that will never happen” thrown in to keep it from being truly depressing. Naturally, you may be wondering why anybody in this day and age should listen to a story about saving an oil executive, but that disappearance just the plot hook the podcast uses to introduce you to a far more interesting story – one about what we would do to survive and thrive in a world that’s gone upside down but won’t admit the fact. Also, there’s that deep sea species who will remind you, if you’d forgotten, that the ocean is a terrifying place about which we know very little.
Listen to The Second Oil Age here.