Audiobook Review: Bayban Ascending by Nigel Fairs

The Worlds of Blake’s 7: Bayban the Butcher tie-in Audio Novel
Bayban Ascending by Nigel Fairs

Narrated by Colin Baker
Produced by Xanna Eve Chown and Peter Anghelides for Big Finish Productions

Review by M1795537 OC Virn

My mother… Oh yes, I had a mother. Wonderful woman. Truly evil person. She had a saying. “Babe,” she used to say – she called me Babe. “Babe,” she used to say. “Treat every hour as though it’s your last.”

You can tell when someone's enjoying themselves. There's a different energy about everything, not least their voice - and you can certainly hear that in Colin Baker's reading of this book. I wouldn't say he 'narrates' so much as 'embodies' the story, with a range of accents, tones and voices, each character recognisably Colin yet distinctly different from each other. There are plenty of them, too.

Olana Serris is a delightful caricature whose rags to riches transformation is, in her opinion, the least she deserves after what she's been through. Olag Gan makes a pre-The Way Back appearance, in Nigel Fairs’ version of the events that led him to Cygnus Alpha. Within the main plot there is also a coming-of-age element, as Mak Serris gradually grows from a lowly, unambitious worker to a position of authority. Meanwhile Bayban - Borrance Bayban, that is - epitomises the unkempt, unlovable and uncompromising rogue that we might expect from someone who carries that family name.

As a story, it's a simple enough plot: the hero is tasked with finding parts of a mysterious artefact. Wound around this are glimpses of a society ruled by the Federation, the corrupting influence of power and the devastating effects of drug addiction. That said, it's also an enjoyable romp through some endearing - and not so endearing - characters and themes from the B7 universe.

There were a couple of places where the story jumped into a new scenario with little supporting explanation, while at other times the introduction of a new character sent the narrative into a tangential backstory for a while. Sometimes it felt as if the author struggled to come up with names for them all.

After the frenetic pace and plot twists of the recent full-cast Big Finish audio dramas, it comes as something of a relief to listen to a full-length audio novel (the running time is over seven hours) with proper narrative and descriptive passages alongside authentic dialogue. That's not so say there aren't surprises along the way - some of them quite bloodthirsty. I'd give this a 12+ certificate, but overall it's eminently entertaining.

Colin Baker triumphs throughout by being himself, displaying his acting skills through the written word as much as in any other performance. I would say he's one of the best story readers ever.

More, please!

Cover artwork by Mark Plastow
Photo of Colin Baker courtesy of Big Finish

Bayban Ascending is available on Download from Big Finish. Their full range of Blake's 7 books, audio dramas and audiobooks can be found here: B7 Hub
You can read our spoiler-free reviews here: Reviews.