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– by Stephon White

Joseph told me about Serial Box and what they hoped to accomplish in media. I took it to understand it’s like an episodic version of Audible. In a sense, it is, but what sets the two apart is the quality of audio with Serial Box. The stories aren’t just narrated aloud. The audio is much richer, the sound effects that much more present, and they’re original stories. Serial Box is like a movie where your imagination is an active participant.

This week is a continuation of the science fiction police procedural Ninth Step Station, created by Malka Older. The “pilot” episode introduced Miyako Koreda, the local Tokyo cop, and Emma Higashi, the U.S. peacekeeper. Last week in the second episode “The Bodiless Arm,” we followed a new investigation. This week’s episode is titled “The Fallen Executive.” It is another new mystery to add to the police procedural Ninth Step Station.

RELATED – Ninth Step Station Episode 2 Review: The Bodiless Arm

The portion of the story opens with a surveillance drone doing some recon only to have a suicide jumper come crashing down onto it. But once the body is ID’d as Arai Rinsho, the Chairman of the high-profile Taniguchi Group on the brink of a scientific and military breakthrough, it soon becomes apparent to Miyako and Emma that they may need to turn the spot of a suicide into a murder.

The main thrust of this entry of the Ninth Step Station follows the two leads Miyako and Emma as they look into Arai Rinsho and the reasons he may have had to commit suicide. Being that he was the executive of Taniguchi Group, most of the story takes place within the confines of Taniguchi Group. The secondary story ties directly into crime. It just so happens that the financial market is having a tumultuous time. This adds a timetable to the entry as the main characters are pressured to wrap up the investigation at Taniguchi Group.

How do these threads resolve? The murder investigation is interesting, specifically after it becomes apparent that there is more to the crime scene. I also enjoyed a twist that happened late in the entry that deals with a suspect’s location to the crime. The way in which Miyako and Emma come to the realization was thrilling. The story did a good job showing the parallels from the different side of the tracks. It was also nice to have Miyako stepping into Emma’s world and, in turn, helping her make the decision to relocate. The best part was the tech aspect that was intertwined with the investigation. I will say if you’re a fan of Predator you might see this coming halfway into the story.

All in all, I dug the story. I tend to like dystopian science fiction. I do really wish the characters had better personalities. They carry the story, but if it weren’t for that, I feel like I really wouldn’t care about them. It almost feels like you could swap out Miyako with a number of literary characters and the story wouldn’t feel any different. This is in stark contrast to, say, Stephen King stories. When I read Dark Tower, I would never have suggested he be swapped out and replaced with any other fictional character. Perhaps it’s due to the episode nature of the story, but given how much time we have, there could have been more.

Finally, I do have an issue with some plot contrivance. More specifically, I thought it was very convenient for Emma to be randomly flying the drone that Arai Rinsho took out on his way to the pavement. I do hope that Emma’s decision to make that big move will help improve upon her character in future entries I read.

Grade: C

+ Compelling narrative
+ Stays true to its genre
+ Solid narration by Emily Woo Zeller

– Could use more world-building
– Bland characters
– Plot too convenient at times

To check out the series for yourself, go ahead and CLICK HERE!

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