Stories of the World’s End
Author: Fran Lewis
This was another short story I chose to read from Blackthorn Books Tours’ “Quick Bite” for December. (For any new readers in my audience, these are short stories instead of full-length novels available for review.) My curiosity was piqued when I read the blurb and saw that it was a short story about the end of the world. I seem to always find doomsday type stories, movies, etc. fun, interesting and exciting but also horrific and terrifying at the same time.
As I started reading this, it’s only about twenty pages, I was thinking it had real potential. And I must state before I give my actual review that I still believe it has great potential. So, at the start of it, I was pleased and eager to turn pages.
The author describes multiple scenarios in which the world’s population has decreased to zero or near zero. Some scenarios have nothing living on the planet. No humans, animals, plants, nothing. Others there are some signs of life but still rather desolate and fairly void of signs of living inhabitants. All of these worlds could be considered a version of Hell on Earth. Lewis describes the emptiness, the loneliness, the profound damage and destruction all around. She can convey emotional traits these worlds bring forth in very vivid ways. The death and destruction, the pain and suffering, the danger and isolation, desperation, sadness and emptiness flooding the reader as the turn the pages of a number of possible futures.
However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss two particular things that I found somewhat…bothersome, I guess would be a good way to describe the feeling that I started having. Each chapter is only a few pages long. The first issue I had with this short story was how repetitive the writing seemed to be. For example, in one section of the story there are three chapters back-to-back, all describing the exact same kind of world. It seems that the author was trying to give us different points of view through various characters at assorted times in the story. So, let’s say the first chapter (in this set I am talking about) would be a general description of the new world. The next chapter is a more detailed description with causation added. The third would then be the same world being described but from a character’s point of view. Yet, even though we are talking about three different chapters, it was as if the same chapter repeated three times, varying only in vocabulary. Even at only twenty pages this became very tiresome very quickly.
My second observation really had me feeling rather uneasy and uncomfortable. And here’s why:
During the description of each world there is a “soap box” preaching type of feel embedded in what could be a great story. Covid-19 is mentioned multiple times throughout the whole work and whether or not people get vaccinated seems to be a key issue here. It also seems that the writer automatically assumes that whoever is reading this is against or doesn’t believe in things like Covid, the vaccines, global warming/climate change. The way things are worded at many points in the story there is almost a shaming aspect geared toward the people who exercised their right not to get the vaccine. There also seems to be some righteous indignation towards people who decline to conform to the mandates and rules set down as the pandemic hit and throughout its global run. We are given multiple scenarios of the world’s end and they all seem start with people not being vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus and other viruses that would follow. It’s almost as if this author is using this short story as a warning to the reader and implying that this is what will happen if you don’t get vaccinated.
Now, if you are someone that doesn’t have issues with the mask mandates or the vaccines and you wear your mask and got your shots, the kind of thing I just described probably wouldn’t really bother you. You’d probably just find it a little heavy handed on the preaching and a little light in the plot. But, if you are a person that is against the mandatory masking, against places of business or education requiring vaccination or if you don’t believe in or trust the vaccines or you feel that the government has done this on purpose to the population…you may very well likely be offended while reading this story.
I feel that the author has a great base for a fantastic story. Such emotionally vivid descriptions set the stage perfectly for the end of the world or a world after people. Also, this story has enormous potential for the ultimate amount of creepiness and eeriness already rooted with huge gusto in the core of the story. But when the repetitive chapters are combined with the “shame on you” and “this is the fault of the unvaccinated” kind of attitude, it can actually become quite annoying rather quickly. If the preaching had been significantly toned down or, better yet, completely removed this story would have been one hell of an eerie and creepy tale of life beyond mankind. More time and effort could have been spent on developing the story’s imagery and actually building and nourishing the characters’ personality profiles. This would also allow the author to unveil much more intricate descriptions, resulting in the story and its characters having a fuller feel with a lot more body and impact. Unfortunately, we don’t have any idea who is telling the story and when we do meet characters, they are only referred to by letters, such as “S” or “M”.
And one question kept being asked over and over and over again throughout the entire story. In fact, this one question seemed to be on about a third of the pages. “Would you want to live in a world like this?”. That question or some slight variation of it permeated the story from beginning to end. This made it feel almost like you were ten years old again and getting a lecture from your mother about something you did wrong. Again, if this was not so prevalent and so ‘in your face’ the story would have been much better. In my opinion, if the preaching and indignation were removed this story would most certainly be a huge hit amongst those horror lovers that like doomsday end of the world storylines. But as it stands now, it seems to be more like a public service announcement warning of tragedy to come if all people do not conform. That in itself is a little creepy to me. So, I can’t just tell you guys that you’ll love this. I honestly am not sure at all how any random person would respond to this. I would assume some would naturally like it, some naturally wouldn’t, some wouldn’t care about the preachy side of it and some would be incredibly offended. I don’t know which one of those groups any of you as my readers would fall in to. This is one I have to leave up in the air as far as recommendations go. But my rating of the story is still an honest rating. I just can’t say for sure who to recommend this one to.