Friday, June 21, 2019

I'm Afraid of Models Now

MODEL TOWN by Rebecca R. Pierce is absolutely frightening! I have a feeling my night terrors are going to have images from this story for the next few weeks or so. I chose this story, thinking it might be something like Small World by Tabitha King or Stop Over In A Quiet Town (Twilight Zone), but Pierce has created something far more sinister.

The author has mixed folklore, mystery and horror to create a dark twist on an old, but well-known legend. The ending is like a roller coaster, with one surprise after another. Pierce will leave readers wrecked with this -- one of her very best short stories!

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, June 20, 2019

A Calculated Guess

THE PROBABILITY MACHINE by Austin Grisham is a flash fiction piece about a young criminal retelling his experiences with a stolen device. The machine absorbs data and variables, and, when questioned, gives answers with the highest probability.

Grisham kept me interested from beginning to end, but I would have preferred more action and less conversation. I had a sneaking suspicion how the story would end, but I didn't quite guess correctly. Maybe if I had a machine like that...

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Motivated By Memories

PICKING UP PLANS IN PALMA by Matthew W. Quinn is a science fiction short centered on a spy attempting to deliver plans in an alternative 1998 timeline. The story moves between Connor trying to escape detection and his personal flashbacks, fleshing out the current political atmosphere, which includes an insane level of apartheid.

Once the action begins, the spy's struggle to outsmart his enemies is intense, similar to a chase scene in a James Bond movie. The background connections between Connor and one of his enemies provides a very dramatic reason to keep fighting, despite being injured.

I enjoyed the premise of this story so much, I would love to read more about Connor and Katje, and their efforts to help the cause.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

For The Love of a Woman

CRADDOCK by Jerry Gerold begins with a reluctant sacrifice to an ancient oak tree. The author increases the suspense with an abandoned town, a human-size husk of leaves and a frightened uncle rambling about something following his nephew.

I had no expectations for this story. I've always had mixed feelings about Gerold's stories, although readers can always count on him to provide unusual plot twists. In this case, a deadly family secret is unearthed.

Entertaining, but somewhat predictable.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, June 17, 2019

By The Numbers

RED AIRWAVES by Antonio Simon Jr. is a short story about a man who is convinced the Soviets are going to bomb the U.S. during the Cold War. He builds a bunker and monitors the airwaves for coded messages. While chasing his conspiracy, his life falls apart.

The ending is a bit of a surprised. Not the author's best story, but not his worst either.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Sundays With Scribner: Primed

WHAT I BECAME by Joshua Scribner centers on a man, sharing the horrors of his life, growing up as an orphan within the foster system. There is a noticeable pattern of murder and suicide, wherever he finds himself. At first, he believes the deaths are just what he can expect from his deplorable experiences, but, as he approaches adulthood, he realizes there is something metaphysical at work.

The end of the story wraps up with explanations of why things happened the way they did, giving the perfect excuse for the destructive path the man chooses. However, I can't help but wonder, what if it was all in his head?

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Dark Family Drama

WE ALL LOVE THE BEAUTIFUL GIRLS by Joanne Proulx is not anything like the usual genre fiction I read, but I do enjoy stories about the complexity of relationships. Although, in this case, the characters made their own lives far more complex than necessary, mostly due to their own ugly, selfish decisions. Within these pages, you'll find betrayal between friends over money and women, marital issues and bitterness...lots and lots of bitterness.

Mia and Michael are screwed over financially by a lifelong friend, their son gets drunk over a girl and disappears into the snow. Boy wants girl who is with another boy. Girl wants boy who wants other girl. Parents are too busy fighting with each other to pay attention to the horrible crap their teens are doing. Lots of talk about love, but no one is loving. Almost every character seems to get off on doing something which is sure to hurt another person, literally and figuratively.

So why read this story, with all the horrible behavior? The author does a fantastic job of bringing several  real-life issues front and center: the struggles of someone disabled, white collar crime, division of classes, and sexual assault. Proulx highlights the way life seems to pile on multiple problems at the same time and the various ways people make everything worse for themselves by giving in to their anger.

The novel rotates through the POVs of Finn's family, but ends with the POV of someone who has been a part of all their lives. By the end, I remained very disgusted with Mia and Michael making a big deal about their relationships with other people, when they lacked the ability to see beyond their own family life.

Readers who enjoy suspense and drama might enjoy this dark family entanglement.

As always,
AstraDaemon