One of the stories happens to be written by the guy who runs my Sunday night game–he’s got, like, more names than Aragorn, but the name the story is published under is John Daker.
So, full disclosure, I know this guy, I like him, I play games with him, I killed him off (under another one of his names) in a story, and then after I met him and his wife for dinner at Cracker Barrel I had to write another story in which his lovely wife did not die.
All this having been said, I do hope that I have enough a reputation for taking the craft of fiction seriously that when I say that none of the above influenced my review of his short story people won’t snicker.
“Exiled In The Desert” is a damned good story.
What, in particular, I want to draw attention to is how lean it is. This is story that a lot of published authors can learn from.
It gets right to the damned point. There on the first page the main character gets exiled into the freakin’ desert, just like it says on the tin.
There is so much going on in the first few paragraphs, we get introduced to the main character, Marty, who is a deputy being removed from office because he refused to back down from a corrupt mayor. We learn that the world is like the Old West, but the desert is rumored to contain fantastic monsters.
The opening scene is a classic, played completely straight by someone who understands that classic bits are classic because they work. Marty is given his pistol and one bullet by the sheriff. Boom. At that moment I knew exactly the kind of ride I was in for.
The fantastic elements are introduced quickly and with no explanation and no apology. I can’t tell you how refreshing that is. There’s no pseudo-historical “many years the world was bathed in radioactive fire” digressions. There’s the desert, and it’s got monsters in it. Deal with it.
The entire story is that direct and unashamed. He tells us everything that we need to know, and nothing that we don’t need to know.
That’s tough. That’s a lot tougher than it looks.
Then there’s the ending. Daker pulls off a trick here that I really admire, because he ends the story at the exact moment when I was just thinking, “man, what happens next is going to be so cool!”
In other words, he tricks the reader into writing the last scene for him. You can’t not do it. It’s not that story is unfinished, it’s just that the ending of one story opens up a whole world to explore.
And I’ll be honest–I don’t want him to write “Exiled In The Desert II”. Because I want to be able to take the action figures he built into my own backyard and play with them my way. I want him to write other stories, different stories, and open up new worlds.
Highly recommended. I’d call this story both Pulp Rev and Hard Weird.