Review by Ian McArdell
Chosen is the latest Blake’s 7 novel from Big Finish, released in audiobook form. Set in Series A, between the episodes ‘Mission to Destiny’ and ‘Duel’, it meets the crew early on, still working out their dynamic as they deal with a host of dangerous situations.
The story begins with a terrific battle in an asteroid field against a determined Federation commander; Midrey Wraithe, in charge of the Stormhammer, has a personal grudge against Blake and is keen to be the one to end his reign of terror.
After the Liberator critically wounds Wraithe’s ship, but also suffers tremendous damage itself, Blake sets course for an abandoned mining facility. He has been considering the merits of a static base to operate from and this fits the bill. However, while he, Jenna and Villa beam down to investigate, the others try to make repairs and Cally triggers a dormant defence system on board.
Niel Bushnell’s story splits the crew and offers an unusual pairing for one of its strands; Avon and Gan are forced to work together to regain control of the Liberator, as well as save it from impending disaster. It is an interesting combination, as Gan’s chafes at Avon’s dismissive comments and struggles to overcome them while also dealing with his own limitations.
The other main player is Jenna. Frustrated by Blake, she pushes herself forward for once and challenges his decisions. He allows her to take command and we enjoyed her perspective on their adventure as they discover the base is not quite as deserted as they expected, but instead is a death trap.
Meanwhile, trapped on the flight deck and seemingly in a coma, Cally’s vivid dream state offers the most compelling part of the story. Following the tale of Channa, a young man who is curious about the forbidden technology on his devastated planet, it kept me guessing for most of the book. Eventually, a hint in some description and a particular line suggested where his tale was inevitably headed, which added a feeling of creeping dread!
We also spend a goodly amount of time seeing the travails of the determined Space Commander Wraithe too. While cut from the same deranged cloth as Travis in some respects, there are deeper currents too and her motivations remained an intriguing puzzle until the end.
It is clear that Bushnell has a deep understanding of the characters and I particularly loved the interplay between the acerbic Avon and the more agreeable Gan. Playing from the latter’s point of view felt like a fresh perspective and it was pleasing to see Gan in the heroic role (even if undercut by a tumultuous inner dialogue.) He also demonstrates a great read on Villa’s gallows humour, while Channa’s story is both touching and ultimately pretty horrific.
Olivia Poulet provides engaging narration for the story, choosing not to try and mimic the cast directly, but differentiate the characters well enough to make sense of the story. It’s the right approach and though this varied tale, with its lively action sequences and more descriptive moments, she easily held my attention. It is impressive to; as, with this story being recorded in lockdown, she has effectively acted as her own sound engineer too. Whilst not as obviously connected to the series as Stephen Grief, she also speaks charmingly about having worked with the original cast while recording 2018’s 40th anniversary adventure ‘The Way Ahead’.
Following on from last year’s Uprising and Outlaw, Chosen is another well-plotted and involving audiobook from Big Finish. In lieu of full-cast adventures, which are necessarily on hold, it is great to have these stories keeping the Blake’s 7 universe alive.
Order/download here: https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/blake-s-7-chosen-audiobook-2254
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