Everyone has that friend. You know the one I am talking about. The friend who knows about cool stuff before anyone else. In my world, one of those people is Jim. We can leave that right there at “Jim”.
I had not seen my Jim in a long while, but after some years, we had that long anticipated catch-up drink and during that session he introduced me to a new podcast. The Magnus Archives. Jim knows horror. Jim knows my affinity for horror as well, and it only took a few sniffs of strong ale and a burger before Jim got me excited about this podcast.
Here are the basics.
The Magnus Archives is a horror anthology podcast. Episodes come out weekly (on Thursdays) from Rusty Quill Productions and the story centers on a fictional London archive that catalogs weird and esoteric happenings.
The main character is a man named Jonathan Sims. In the podcast’s first season, he is new in his role of head archivist, having taken over for a predecessor who vanished mysteriously. His Sisyphean task is to organize an archive of accounts that has been left in shambles.
Sims is funny and filled with snarky bits. Most importantly though, the main character is a keen observer of strange and unexplained phenomena. As of the writing of this Magnus Archives review the podcast has featured over one hundred and thirty episodes and they are still going strong.
This Magnus Archives review will cover some of what works, what does not work and what that all adds up to.
First off, the podcast is among the more consistent productions available on the market. Consistency is a challenge in any storytelling (in the horror genre especially) and Rusty Quill shines through.
The writing is strong. The character voices are unique, which is critical, because every episode centers on Sims reading an account. This necessitates a different “voice” every time out.
The characters evolve too. Jonathan settles into his role as archivist. His snarky tone stays consistent but he accepts things as he progresses.
Another surprisingly satisfying aspect is the use of body horror. The production team employs a fair amount but do so judiciously. A few episodes involve some deeply grotesque subjects and images.
Usually body horror isn’t my thing, but the producers of the Magnus Archives are careful not to over do it. The storyline is not about body horror. Instead, they use those elements when the story warrants.
Lastly, the concept of a podcast centered on a single paranormal archive would seem limiting. All of the statements come from Londoners, but the writers have been keen to ensure that is not claustrophobic. They work in a few accounts taking place at sea and in different countries (which includes my favorite, Episode #31, First Hunt).
What Doesn’t Work?
The baseline premise in The Magnus Archives of an archivist working to clean up a messy, disorganized archive really works for me.
For me, that is enough to hold it all together.
Through Season #1, a meta-narrative insinuates it’s way into the story. Not only are we experiencing these random accounts the archivist reads for our entertainment, there is something else going on in the archive.
I suppose that is fine. It’s not a clumsy meta narrative by any stretch of the imagination. My thinking, however, is that it doesn’t really need this to hold together. It’s fine as it as as a series of vignettes.
On a storytelling angle, I am not crazy about how modern most of these tales are. The accounts that the archivist reads for us are contemporary. That limitation makes me want for more variety.
Like geography, however, I think that the producers and writers of The Magnus Archives do a good job of pulling threads here and there in order to explore older times. This is a matter of my taste though. I like older times in fiction. The modern day holds less appeal.
I’m down to quibbles now, but it’s worth mentioning that as the meta-narrative develops into Season #2, it necessitates a few interruptions. This means, ss Sims is reading an account, someone from the office butts in.
Again, this is a quibble, but with a story flow that is often so good, I’m not happy when I’m pulled out of it.
What Does That Mean?
I could hardly recommend a podcast any higher than this one. It’s among the cream of the crop. It’s not only horror podcasting at its finest. It’s contemporary horror writing at it’s finest.
A Google search of The Magnus Archives reveals that fans are out there and many of them are already rabid.
Any Magnus Archives review would be incomplete without mentioning it’s binge worthiness. I often find myself going deeper than expected.
I might go for a walk expecting to listen to one, only to find myself two episodes in and wanting to loop back around the neighborhood for a third. My sincerest thanks to Jim for that.
Have you listened to this podcast? Want to add something to this Magnus Archives Review?
If so, leave a comment below.
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