reviewed by Montserrat Mendez
Steal The Stars, feels like no other podcast I have heard. It feels like an elevation, an evolution, and a true work of humanity, the real combined with the extremely fantastical.
It is also astutely witty about other things than science fiction, as if it knows that story needs layers to attract audiences. It has plots twists, love affairs, sacrifice, misunderstandings, it is funny and heartbreakingly gorgeous. That I am having trouble choosing my favorite, podcast or novel, has inspired me to write about the story telling journeys that transformed my understanding of forms. So stay tuned to this blog. This is just the beginning.
While the Podcast by Mac Rogers explored the ideas of obsession, lust, of jealousy and the secrets humans are expected to keep, Nat Cassidy’s adaptation travels deeper into the landscape of human emotion.
The human emotions in this case belong to Dakota Prentiss, a disciplined soldier leading the protection (for exploitation) of Moss, an alien, that landed somewhere in the hills of California, around which an entire secret industry has been built.
Mac Roger's Podcast, somewhat flies through this information to introduce us to the unique personalities that work at Quill Marine, because Mac’s Podcast is a lust story, he establishes the rules of the world fast; and then sets us towards the breaking of the worst rule, no fraternization. That the people working in Quill are expected to work together and keep a secret so big that it stunts their ability to have honest relationships is part of the thrill of seeing its lead struggle with rules she once professionally kept.
But Nat Cassidy, spends time describing the town, and it is in and of itself a lonely place, Cassidy understands that there are places in America that have lost their industry, and the town then turns towards its darker nature, and the darkness overtakes it; and then the cancer grows, or the silent alien lands, and it doesn’t do much of anything, but it does create the one thing the town needs, a reason to exist. And then by its very presence Moss acts as a mirror, makes us aliens to one another. A particularly touching moment when Patty stands in the parking lot, looks out onto the horizon and is desperate to connect to Dakota, is one of those moments you can only read on the page.
""Fraternizing," I said.
"Fraternizing," she echoed.
Patty stared off at the inky trees. Against the glowing sky the trees looked as if they'd been cut out of black construction paper. What a weird planet we lived on."
In both podcast and novel, Dakota is an efficient employee because she is a chess player, she is the type of employee that every company loves, because she can anticipate your needs, and she doesn’t mind killing the occasional person.
Into this world, where the alien has become so normal, as to have its every action clocked predictably, enters the most unpredictable of things for Dakota… that funny little thing called LOVE. And his name is Matt.
This is where I can write about how the podcast vs. the novel.
In the podcast, I actually felt the lust, the newness of Matt into the mundane existence of babysitting an alien is what turns Dakota on, that and how much she feeds her obsession about him, her jealousy, that jealousy makes the final moments of the podcast brilliant for reasons I cannot spoil. But if you are an especially jealous person, the ending would probably satisfy you even though you won't admit it out loud.
But on the page, with Nat Cassidy’s adaptation, I could actually feel the love. She falls in love with Matt, every word that Nat writes, is a word that takes a step towards her damnation.
There are moments that work as reflections of one another, there are moments in the novel that are better than the podcast and vice versa, but they both stand alone as unique pieces of work and of genius, living in the same universe but feeling, reading, and claiming ownership of their mediums in ways I couldn’t have anticipated.
And there are real consequences to love and to lust, and both Steal the Stars the novel and the podcast lean into those consequences with a certain abandon that leaves you breathless.
We live now in a time when stories are hitting us from every direction, I believe that social media will give way to who we are in our very content, what is our story? and so to be touched by any story is actually harder now than it was ever before. Because the minute you finish a story, you are asked to join another one, be it on Facebook, twitter, almost immediately, it is making us immune to the power of story in that we are often just looking for the next story high.
Well, if Mac Rogers and Nat Cassidy have discovered a way to slow us down and gives us a more lasting high then I am completely here for it. Let them be my story dealers.
The podcast is full of incredible performances and two performances by Ashlie Atkinson and Becky Comtois that elevate the art of podcasting. It will be very hard for me to return to other podcasts without wanting that elevated feel that their performances achieve.
And Nat Cassidy has matched those performances by including details, taking risks, and truly thinking about how to honor Mac’s universe while building a home for himself in it that you’d want to visit again and again. There is a haunting interlude that may just be the best two pages I have read in a novel in a very long time.
While I was at the edge of my seat, waiting week to week for the podcast with the expressed need of an addict, I had a completely different reaction to Mr. Cassidy’s achievement, every page I turned gave me anxiety, because there came a point where there were less pages in front of me than behind me, and I just didn’t want the story to come to an end.
This is clearly the best podcasting experience of 2017, it is a landmark in content creation. It will inspire podcasters and story tellers to take control over their own creations in a way that signals the further end of the old systems.
But who cares about that?!!! there is at the end of it all, Dakota Prentiss yearning for something, for a love, for an adventure, for a change of her routine, for a light in the darkness, and holy moss in the sky, Mac Rogers and Nat Cassidy supply us with light and darkness to spare.
Steal the Stars
Podcast by Mac Rogers
Novel Adaptation by Nat Cassidy
Produced by Gideon Media
and Tor Labs