2298 is a dystopian science fiction audio drama by Fatecrafters Studios set in the eponymous year 2298, in which a Big Brother-esque organization called The Network oversees all citizens:
Years after an invasion nearly destroys Earth, a new society has coalesced around the only thing left: the internet. The Network makes sure Profiles eat right & stay focused but no. 24 – thanks to the sudden appearance of a mysterious bird – is finding that difficult.
We’ve discussed the marketing brilliance behind 2998 on Podcast Problems before, but not how much the show deserves the marketing campaign. 2298 is an interesting take on the single-narrator audio drama format–a similar format to Unplaced, for instance, and one we’ve discussed in the Podcast Problems newsletter. Single-narrator audio dramas have obvious benefits on a production level: only one voice means only one mic, not having to coordinate schedules, and re-doing takes with ease. It also lends itself to a common theme, though: isolation.
24, the protagonist of 2298, is chipper, energetic, and perhaps a little naive. He’s charismatic and sweet, and seemingly unaware of the depth of his isolation. In 2298, people have been reduced to “profiles” and are called as such. The importance of an online existence is foremost, even when people live around each other. 24 has his voice diary, but otherwise, seemingly has no interaction with anyone else. His chipper nature doesn’t make this easier to stomach, but just more worrisome.
The worrying parts of the podcast’s building tension doubles in its sound design. The music used in 2298 ranges from an ethereal post-rock (a la Explosions in the Sky) feels both very human but too uphoric to be comfortable, showing both sides in conflict: the people and The Network. The other bed music is unsettling low drones, added in to increase the show’s suspense without ever being repetitive or obtrusive. At times, 24’s voice is doubled over with the robotic filter put on for The Network’s voice, showing just how easily 24 can parrot back their propaganda. The tactics here are clever and add a unique edge to 2298 that helps it stand out from other science fiction audio dramas.
The dystopian setting, 24’s energy, and the sound production all allow the audio drama to feel kinetic and suspenseful, even with its singular voice. Often, podcasts with only one speaker want for something dynamic, but 2298 is able to accomplish this just with its existing features instead of needing to add another voice. I wouldn’t be surprised if more characters were eventually added to the show, of course, but the fact that it can stand with just one is a testament to how well the show uses every facet of its production.
There are some moments, though, that take the listener out of the story. Primarily, this is in the framing of the podcast as an audio journal. Single-narrator audio dramas usually need a framing device of some sort; otherwise, the single narrator would feel strange and out of place. The device itself isn’t the issue here like it is with other audio dramas, but instead how it sometimes conflicts with the narration itself. 24 often catches himself, giving further background on exposition to the word, like when he calls his nightstand “pre-period–um, before the invasion–heirloom.” Who is 24’s audience, here? He isn’t recording for a specific purpose, so explaining something that ostensibly everyone in the world would know seems a strange choice meant specifically for the audience. The same could go for the polished, poetic way 24 speaks, though this could also just be a character feature of 24. There’s a good chance most listeners will take that critique as looking far too deep into the fiction, though; the exposition needs to be relayed to the listener, and given there’s by necessity no “fish out of water” character, having the narrator explain with asides is serviceable. Even with those moments, 2998 is still engaging enough for them to be ignored.
With each episode closing in under ten minutes, it’s an easy show to binge-listen with an added bonus of being released weekly, instead of most other audio dramas’ biweekly schedules. As 2298 has developed, its only gotten more and more riveting–which means now is the perfect time to listen while you can still easily get caught up in a day. 2298 also ends each episode with The Network “acquiring” another podcast, meaning each episode also gives you a recommendation for another great listen.