Thursday, August 16, 2018

Author Skips Through Story

A poignant short story about a young woman who longs to escape her dreary, hard working existence on a Caribbean island. With a baby daughter and irresponsible casino dealer husband, she is tied down to eking a living working tables in a local restaurant. When an opportunity suddenly presents itself, she is torn between her family and the prospect of elevating herself.

Funnels by Fay Knowles had a strong beginning and unravelled towards the end. From the description, I thought the focus of the story would be a difficult decision, a once-in-a lifetime offer or something along those lines. Instead, Knowles skips over the events following Annie's initial decision to enter a pageant and ends with a rather ambiguous scene with her husband Marco.

In addition to the sloppy writing, the characters aren't developed at all. There is barely any information about the family of three. I don't understand why someone would bother writing a story and leave out the crucial elements of storytelling.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Should Be Titled Run

I have no home. Not anymore. I live off the land. Hunt small game to survive. Set up traps for rabbits and squirrels. If I'm lucky, I'll even catch a fox. I have to move constantly because the Hunters hunt humans. I'm smarter than rabbits, squirrels, and foxes. The Hunters are smarter than me.

Hunt by R.W. Taylor is a flash fiction story which takes place hundreds of years in the future. Another species is now top of the food chain and humans are food. Some of the scenes made me think of the Predator movies, although I did wonder if Earth had become Planet of the Rats (instead of Apes).

While the urgency of the narration kept me interested, I feel too much time is spent explaining how the survivor hunts rabbits. I wish the story had begun with the culling of the 32 humans, instead of simply picking up where the lone survivor escapes.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A Romance Story (I know, I'm just as surprised.)

Returning home from a disastrous ski trip, Jake is quick to trace Mel's hand in the welcoming touches scattered throughout his apartment. But when a closer look reveals more than she intended to show, Jake's world is turned upside down. Can he somehow prove to Mel that he's woken up at last, or has he lost the chance forever?

Love Blind by Angie Thompson is a love story, but not one of those mushy, over-the-top and unrealistic stories. Not to mention, this story is told from the guy's POV. Jake's epiphany about his ex-girlfriend, Danna, and Mel, the girl who has always been there for him, is something I think a lot of people will relate to.

We've all had the bad relationship we didn't know was bad until we got free of it, and it's easier to see others in a different light when we're not suffering from tunnel vision. Sometimes you just have to get out of your own way. Luckily for Jake, a skiing accident gave him a clear view of the women in his life.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, August 13, 2018

Family Feud to the Death

Driven home by grief, Cole returns to his family after being away for five years. He soon discovers that his brother, Joe, is locked in a bitter feud with a family who wants everything he's built for himself.

As things begin to escalate and tempers start to flare, Cole finds himself pulled into a world of violence, hatred, and unchecked rage.

There are no heroes. There are no villains. There is only the worst in us.


The Worst In Us by Elias Witherow (read 2017 interview with the author here at the Lair) is a brutal family drama, with the push-down-the-stairs delivery the author is best known for. Witherow carefully lays out each step, with individual challenges and success of one family contrasted with the downward spiral of another, only to hurt readers with one impact after another, as the quest for revenge escalates between the two groups of brothers.

The author does an excellent job of balancing savagery with suspense while revealing just how far all the characters are willing to go to punish one another. There are many horrific scenes in this novel, but Witherow shows decorum and does not use the violence as a plot device. There is some misdirection here and there, enhancing the shock value when the truth behind the feud is finally revealed.

Proceed with caution, Witherow spares no one...

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Sunday Suspense Short Story

Jack Wrexall leaves his Heybridge home on a warm summer day - only to be embroiled in the sinister machinations of fungal antagonists.

Blackwater by Byron Black is a flash fiction nightmare centered around a young man named Jack. The story is similar in style to a Lovecraft tale, with the character's sanity slipping away in a countryside setting facing what appears to be a cult, as well as other mythos elements, but Black's idea of horror has limited interaction with the events presented within.

I think this story would be better in a longer format, with further character development and more intense action. However, Black does deliver the cosmicism.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Sci-Fi Saturday Short

The colony ship known as the Vale has been spiralling towards Epsilon Eridani for four millennia, and Barry - the semi-sentient AI set to guard its frozen human cargo - has had a long time to question the nature of his mission. There are too many gaps in his code, too many mistakes left unfixed.

Could Barry's programmers really have been so lax? Or does he have a greater purpose, some secret mission buried in his source code? He has another eighteen thousand years to find the answer. In the meantime, he's growing bored, and idle hands are the devil's playthings...


The Last Broadcast by Christopher Ruz is a science fiction short story, but the thought process the A.I., Barry, goes through is horrific. I found Barry's conspiracy theories about the Scrubbers intriguing and I wish the author had gone in that direction. Instead, Ruz chose to go with a theme which is overdone and in the sci-fi genre and result in a predictable ending.

I did enjoy the author's writing style. I'd love to read this same story, but from the Scrubbers POV and with a different ending.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, August 10, 2018

Nothing Fun About It

Every family has a Funscreen on their wall. The question is... who's watching who?

When the government's new private welfare system begins rewarding unemployed viewers for watching the right kind of ads, Roger Birch welcomes a Funscreen into his home.

Like millions of others, Roger and his family soon depend on ad-viewing income for their survival.

Unlike millions of others, the events of one uncomfortable evening leave Roger aware of the government's shadier reasons for investing in Funscreens.

With HD cameras hidden behind a 60-inch glass veil, the answer was staring him in the face all along...


Funscreen by Craig A. Falconer is a scary science fiction prediction of what our future may bring, sooner, rather than later. This is also a depressing possibility as readers are shown how one family has all but fallen apart because of their dad's obsession with amassing credits for watching ads.

The stories steeped in realism are always the most horrific.

As always,
AstraDaemon