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Ninth Step Station Episode One: The Faceless Body Review/Recap

Ninth Step Station is Serial Box’s newest serial. It’s a cyberpunk science fiction story about a near future Tokyo. In the story, produced and written by Malka Older. The story presents itself as a buddy cop drama. Our two main characters are the stoic Japanese police officer Miyako Koreda, who has been on the force for a while and longs for the old Japan. The Tokyo police department forces her to work with a US Peacekeeper named Emma Higashi. Both characters complement each other well. Miyako is a straight-laced, stoic and seasoned detective. Emma is green, she’s optimistic, doesn’t understand the nuances, and occasionally embarrasses herself and Miyako, which adds to the fun of following these two characters around. Malka Older has come up with a great duo between these two and their dynamic is perfect and I look forward to seeing their relationship evolve.

Older has also created an interesting near future Japan that has a lot of mysteries and will keep the reader wanting to know more. In the story, Tokyo is divided city. There was a Chinese invasion and now China controls a portion of the city, the United States control other portions, and the rest are Japanese. The citizens may travel around, but this can make police investigations complicated which is how we begin The Faceless Body.

Like any good murder mystery, the episode begins with a murder. The scene opens on a busy train station, a man walks up to another man in the crowd, stabs him a few times. The stabbed man falls down and the crowd tramples his body. By the time Miyako and Emma find the body, it’s curled up in a corner and is missing his face. Worse off, someone steals the man’s sleeve (a computer attached to a person’s arm, so they have trouble identifying the body. This is just the beginning of Emma’s problems. She’s called into the police station, not because of the murder. She’s called into the station because someone stole an American supply truck and smuggled it into the Chinese sector of the city. Her job is to find out who stole the truck and to get the items that were in the truck back. So, Emma and Miayko find themselves stuck between trying to solve two different cases, both of which will take up most of their time.

Malka Older has made her name writing cyberpunk stories. Most of her stories deal with the power of personal information in a digital age. This story is different but deals with the theme of information and identity. When computers connect us all, information is key. Older has created a cyberpunk setting in Japan that rivals Akira in its inventiveness. The setting is strange, yet familiar. The damaged and divided Japan has an interesting setting that the reader will want to learn more about. This story is a perfect blend of 80s buddy cop drama, with a current noir cyberpunk undertone. Older succeeds in creating an original Japanese cyberpunk setting that feels authentic and feels realistic. The world feels real and feels like this future could be a real possibility.

What makes this even better is the ability to listen to the audio version. Silverwood had great sound effect work but this blows Silverwood out of the water. There are constant raindrops in the background, or footsteps, or people talking in the background. All the sound effects work well and bring about a great ambiance. If you are to experience this serial, I strongly recommend the audio. Serial Box has stepped their game up in terms of production, and it definitely shows.

One final thing, to purchase the season, you will need to spend $13.99, that gives you access to every episode they release, which go live every Wednesday. Episode 1 is free, so anyone can take a look and decide if they want to continue. This serial seems to be longer than their other ones. Silverwood clocked in at about an hour an episode, or it took about 45 minutes to read. Ninth Step Station clocks in at about an hour and a half an episode and take about one hour to read. So, for $13.99, you are getting quite a bang for your buck. The first episode is free, and you can read it over at www.serialbox.com

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