Stricken by Sean A. Lusher

Advance request for forgiveness for any typos or weird words. I’m blogging from my Kindle Fire. It also places periods in bizarre and inappropriate places. Sorry!

STRICKEN

Stricken starts off like pretty much any other sci-fi horror plot. An inconspicuous search and rescue crew on a mission to save/salvage a suspiciously deserted colony/moon/planet/spaceship amid gallons of gore and body parts. There are the prerequisite characters, including the hot chick with the locked-down vadge,  the Reddick-wannabe, the pensive, wounded hero, and red-shirt slackers. How perfectly the story fits into the sci-fi/horror mold is one of the meh factors of Stricken.

But somebody said, if the story’s been told, tell it better. The good news is Lusher is a great writer. He crafts the story well, and weaves in tension, suspicion, and intrigue. While, to some degree, we know how this story will ultimately end, Lusher lets us have fun on the way there. It takes a while to really develop an emotional connection with any of the characters–there are just a lot of them and most have

a backstory that gets hinted at, but never really explored, and sometimes it seemed like characters were supposed to have a larger part later in the story, but Lusher said, “Ah, screw this dude,” and let a monster eat his face off. Granted, it’s a novella, so there isn’t a lot of room to fully flesh out every single character.

Eventually bad things slow down, and the survivors finally open up–surprise, tragic back story about how they ended up where they are–but a good thing happens here. The main character, Trent, goes from angsty flat hero to being human. His fear creates a connection with the reader. he panics, and he doesn’t really act like a scifi-horror hero, he acts human. He wants to run and hide. He drags himself into the fray.

The monster is a little different from the usual supernatural-devourer-of-all. I wasn’t completely impressed by him. I was more chilled by the secondary plight of the survivors: the isolation, the possible threat of a bloodthirsty monster on the loose, and the certainty that one of the other survivors was going to turn on the others. All in all, I think that’s what made this story enjoyable for me. The first part of the story was just people running around, shooting scary things, getting ripped to shreds. The second half of the story was about survival.

Stricken is an easy read, full of creepy atmosphere and lots of gore. Absolutely gets a “READ THIS” rating from me.

Visitation Rights by Lawrence Dagstine

Publisher: Damnation Books

Length: Short Story

Rating: 1 chill, no nightmares

A retired couple seek the visitation rights with the supernatural remains of their only son.

Interesting concept. I think… A young man dies in a futuristic society where there is a link of some sort between stem-cell research and ghosts. It’s never thoroughly explained, but I’m assuming that dead people can possess bodies created from stem cells. The story felt a little weak, regarding the explanation of this process.

The story isn’t bad, it’s just a little hard to get into. I couldn’t really find a lot of excitement, much to really grab me and keep me in the story. Mr. Lawrence has a rather extensive publishing history, so I was expecting something with a little more active storytelling, rather than so much passive writing. The author’s voice is more literary than I prefer, especially in short fiction.