Reviews: The Astonishing

Musically Good, but the Story Has a Few Issues

As a big fan of Dream Theater, I love the music for this album a lot. My only issue with the music is that, with a relative lack of stand-out songs to make sense outside the context of the story (what I call "The Wall" syndrome), it can be hard to listen to the full two hours at once to get the best of it.

But the story... It's mostly decent. But I have two issues that just shatter my suspension of disbelief. First, on a relatively minor quibble, the tendency for Meaningful Names is just a bit on the nose (the Big Bad is named Lord Nafaryus? Sure...), especially with the not-so-subtle religious symbolism present (Gabriel, Faythe, Evangeline).

But more importantly, the plot point that Gabriel is The Chosen One seems contrived in a way that makes almost the whole climax feel like an Ass Pull or Deus ex Machina to me. For most of the album, it's easy to interpret it as metaphorical, that he's a great singer, and therefore unique in a world unaccustomed to music, and it all fits and makes realistic sense. But then, Faythe gets stabbed, and suddenly his screams can literally destroy Daryus's ears, and his singing literally brings Faythe back from the brink of death (or worse, from even further). ...So suddenly, and only important in the climax of the story, it turns out that no, he has a literally divine gift, and we're just supposed to take it...? Since when was this a Christian Rock album? And don't get me started on how little sense Hymn of a Thousand Voices makes (even accepting that Gabriel is divine), no matter how awesome it is.

In short, it's a great album and a mostly solid story that avoids many traps of dystopian fiction... But the climax just stretches too far for me to accept without at least a minor complaint.

(Review is set as film/book for lack of a better option, as it is a review of a complete, single work.)