Stan Lee’s Alliances is a Brave New Universe You May or May Not Have Heard Before

Stan Lee’s Alliances is a Brave New Universe You May or May Not Have Heard Before

Stan Lee's legacy lives on in Marvel comics and movies, but, thanks to Audible, fans are being introduced to a whole new universe through Stan Lee's Alliances: A Trick of Light, the first story in what promises to be an incredible new adventure that Lee invites fans to become architects in this immersive experience. The

Stan Lee’s legacy lives on in Marvel comics and movies, but, thanks to Audible, fans are being introduced to a whole new universe through Stan Lee’s Alliances: A Trick of Light, the first story in what promises to be an incredible new adventure that Lee invites fans to become architects in this immersive experience. The Audible Original is available exclusively through the audiobook company, but for San Diego Comic-Con visitors got to take the experience a step further with the sights and sounds of a “light labyrinth.” Stepping into the storm that turns aspiring YouTube star Cameron Ackerson into a cyberkinetic transhuman, attendees got a taste of one of Lee’s last collaborative projects before his death.

A Trick of Light explores the complex relationship between humanity and technology and the ways in which something intended to connect us, also separates us. The idea for the project, Lee explains in his intro, was sparked over a decade ago as the internet started to gain popularity. Technology has advanced significantly since then, making this the perfect time to introduce the story, which was first announced back in 2017.

Co-creators Luke Lieberman and Ryan Silbert and co-writer Kat Rosenfield were on hand at SDCC to discuss the project, sharing their excitement over the outcome, as well as the inspirational process of working collaboratively with the enigmatic Lee. Though Lee was unable to see the launch of this new universe, the team noted that it was completed before his death, and Lee was very happy with the results.

Ryan Silbert, Kat Rosenfield, Yara Shahidi and Luke Lieberman pose together

Ryan Silbert, Kat Rosenfield, Yara Shahidi, and Luke Lieberman (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Audible)

A Trick of Light is narrated by Yara Shahidi (The Sun Is Also a Star, Grown-ish, Black-ish), whose voice hummed through the SDCC experience, guiding visitors on their journey through the labyrinth. Stan Lee’s iconic signature glows on the walls, as well as messages inviting you to connect with Nia, Cameron’s mysterious friend and partner in crime in this new adventure.

Actress yara Shahidi explores the light labyrinth

Yara Shahidi explores the Stan Lee’s Alliances experience. (Photo credit: Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Audible)

Finally, stepping through the final corridor surrounds you with the voice of Stan Lee himself, speaking about the inspiration for A Trick of Light, and inviting listeners to immerse themselves in this new world, shaping it in their own minds through this audio-journey.

His words are, in fact, the introduction the you’ll hear in A Trick of Light. He gives the impression that this is an innovative experience and it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement that the iconic voice pitches, but this is not quite the immersive experience it’s hyped up to be, and there’s a distinctive disconnect between what he and the creative team want it to be, versus the reality. The book is firmly entrenched in the legacy Lee leaves behind, and certainly doesn’t disappoint with the expansive world building that Lee is known for, but there’s something to be said about the nostalgia that fuels projects that bear the name Stan Lee, more so after his passing. That nostalgia allows things to become more than they necessarily are, which is ironic when it comes to a story entitled A Trick of Light.

Most notably, despite listing radio dramas as an inspiration for Lee’s desire to try out this storytelling medium, A Trick of Light features only one narrator reading the book to her audience, with some instrumentals thrown in at pivotal moments. Unlike radio dramas and some of Audible’s other Originals like the Alien series that make use of a larger cast speaking descriptive dialogue and sound effects to create immersion and tension, this story is spelled out for the reader. The creative team praised Shahidi’s ability to embody each of the characters, who sometimes get their own point of view chapters in the peripheral of Cameron and Nia’s story. Shahidi is indeed a competent narrator, but there is room to grow if she hopes to reach the levels of some of the more accomplished narrators in the industry.

Still, the story itself is a strong one. Targeting the young adult market, but offering an adventure that readers of all ages can appreciate, A Trick of Light touches on what it means to be human, the meaning of friendship, and just how much we rely on the technology around us now, particularly when making connections with others. “We all have digital personas,” said Silbert. “We all have alter egos, so to speak, that we present to the world and our digital avatars are having relationships with other people’s digital avatars that are — we’re trying to shape other people’s perceptions of us. And so those issues of identity are something that Stan was very conscious of, and something that we wanted to address here.”

Delving into transhumanism, Silbert explained that the biohacking and technology featured in A Trick of Light is very much grounded in reality, with the team paying visits to research labs at Stanford University, including the human interaction lab where the Oculus Rift was created. They also consulted with young vloggers to give authenticity in the main characters’ voices. The plot takes a lot of unexpected twists and turns that transport Cameron and Nia’s adventure from their own small world within the vast internet, to something that goes well beyond.

For seasoned audiobook listeners, A Trick of Light doesn’t offer anything particularly new as an audiobook, but for fans who are following Lee’s legacy, Alliances is an excellent opportunity to discover this medium before the release of the book itself in September. And it’s an excellent opportunity to discover a new world as it blossoms since, at the July 20th SDCC panel, it was announced that the second installment of the series has gotten the greenlight, meaning more characters will be introduced to the growing alliance. Excelsior!

Wendy Browne
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