Tea in the Sahara
Kev – Fiction Podcast Critic
All right stop, collaborate and listen! If those words/lyrics mean nothing to you (welcome millennials), then I pray at a bare minimum I caught your attention. This week guys my review is of a straight-fire podcast thriller called ‘Outliers’ brought to you by Realm, the same folks behind ‘Roanoke Falls’ & Netflix’s ‘Orphan Black’.
I would like to give a quick shout-out to all of the indie writers who have contacted me recently with their dope podcast submissions. Fear not I will listen to them all, and if your podcast clicks I will be in touch to write your own bespoke review.
The nucleus of Outliers is set within a dystopian future where humanity’s last orders have been served and the planet (well America), is roamed by carnivorous humanoid creatures called the Outliers.
Let me briefly touch on the elephant in the room before we go any further. I know what you are thinking, lord not another zombie horror podcast set at the end of the world? Well in truth yes. However, through this critique, I seek to dispel some of those monster podcast stereotypes, as under the bonnet of this podcast there is much more than just monsters that go grrr!
Outliers podcast is narrated in an audiobook style format with lone narration supplied by Rory Culkin (Scream 4), who voices the lead character simply called Boy. Rory also voices all of the other characters the audience is introduced to including his old & frail companion Da, who raised the young lad from infant to teenager filling the father-figure void as everyone else is apparently dead.
As mentioned humanity has crumbled, and everyone is dead except the Outliers. Our two chaps live within a fortified compound spending their days salvaging supplies, reading books, and keeping the Outliers at bay. The story behind how the Outliers came to be, and mankind’s demise is not clear at first as Boy was born just before the change of events and when mankind plummeted down the pan.
As the story progresses further we finally discover that the enigmatic Da was previously employed as a governmental bio-chemist to create bio-weapons to cull mankind due to overpopulation outstripping natural resources. Da calls this devastating cull ‘the solution’ which went sideways big time.
Not sure if the writers were drawing parallels to our own global situation, as the Spanish flu gets name-checked as a circular epidemic that occurs roughly every hundred years, like Covid. Speaking of writing, the content and distinct vocabulary on display within Outliers is bang on. If you are a Wordle fan I am sure you will appreciate ace words that get used like traverse, concertina, and pillaging (minus them not being five letters long!)
Standout scenes include when Boy describes the environment he grows up in. A world without mobile phones, flatscreen TVs, and the internet is actually quite refreshing given how most of us habitually scroll on our mobile phones. In the part where Boy meets Girl (yep), a hybrid female (human-outlier), this scene faintly reminded me of the way Ian Flemming wrote ‘risque encounters’ for his own character James Bond.
The audio quality on offer is executed in a subtle, stripped-back format depicting every scene that you are listening to elegantly. Be that crunchy snow underfoot, or crackling open fires this low-key approach allows the narration and storytelling to take centre stage. This all kinda makes sense given this podcast is based on a novel by Casey Wells, who also co-created this audio drama with Dave Beazley.
So can I recommend this podcast?
Time for some reflective thinking. If you like your podcasts with an audiobook-style approach where one person voices all of the characters within the show then you will get on famously with Outliers. I know for some this might be a massive showstopper. However, for me, it was fine as Rory Culkin has a superb voice for podcasts, his tone and pitch have this dry patina sound to it like a smoker’s last cigarette of the day which I found engaging.
I would also pull the trigger if you like your podcast’s viewpoint packed with detailed descriptions of topography, sensory smells, and engaging writing that brings audio environments alive by word alone. Each episode ends on a notable cliffhanger which is a shrewd way of leaving a carrot dangling in front of the listener leaving them wanting more.
I smiled inside at the popular culture literature name-dropping throughout the series with novelist Mark Twain, and dare I say Shakespeare’s skull scene from Hamlet perhaps getting a loose nod? So hopefully my comments help prove to you, that you don’t have to be a fan of monster-thrillers to enjoy Outliers. Even my personal bugbear adverts are neatly blended into the show in order to appear less annoying.
As Outliers was previously within the top ten of some of the podcast charts I am sure a few folks jumped onto it like me. My only slight concern is for Outliers to go unnoticed, within an age where attention is currency, which would be a travesty. This fiction thriller is well written with a stripped-back storytelling vibe which is awesome.
Scores on the doors this week and ‘Outliers’ receives a generous 4.8 out of 5.
Thank you for taking the time to read my review of ‘Outliers’, which can be found on Spotify & Apple Podcast, or from wherever you get your podcasts from. For your podcast submissions email me directly at email@example.com, via my socials, or follow my newsletter. Cheers, Kev.
Created by Dave Beazley and Casey Wells. Voiced by Rory Culkin.