I know. Usually this is the Friday Review. However, I am typing this on a Saturday. I ran around at the Montana State Fair, spent more money than was good for me, and returned at midnight to collapse on my bed.
Back to business.
“If You Go Into The Woods” is a duo of short stories written by David Gaughran. He blogs about indie publishing when he’s not writing stories like these. The first story is “If You Go Into The Woods”. There’s also “The Reset Button”, but let’s start in chronological order.
“If You Go Into the Woods” is short and packed with suspense. David Gaughran proved with his sci-fi short “Transfection” that he is a master of character and pacing, and he proves it again here. From the moment we meet Jiri Beranek, we want very badly to know more about him.
When he decides to explore the dark forest that has terrified him for the longest time, my heart rate went up. As he explores more and more, he finds something that kept me glued to my iPhone. It’s almost haunting. I can see it in my head as I type this. Gaughran kept amazing suspense.
And when he comes to his climax, he unleashes a surprise that completely blind-sided me. I guarantee you will not be able to predict it. It didn’t resolve the problems that Gaughran revealed at the start of the story, which makes me wonder why he put them at all, but it was surprisingly thought-provoking. I was shocked to realize that “If You Go Into The Woods” could be well-interpreted as a metaphor for the allure of advertising in the modern world.
That may or not be true, but what I know for sure is that at the end of that story, I uncontrollably started to read the next one: “The Reset Button”.
Once again, I got sucked into the protaginist from page one. Linus Ericksson is a sullen middle-aged man who cheated on his wife, and lost his happy suburban home in the divorce settlement. By the time he curses his coffee for over-boiling, you know you have a vibrant character on your hands. Linus demands your disgust and your sympathy.
The ending is another shocker, if a little easier to see coming. But that won’t spoil anything. Gaughran brings his settings to life with glee. Linus’ apartments, the bars, his ex’s house… he goes place, and we go along with him and see everything vibrantly. There’s an element of magic here that grow stronger and stronger, but it is never quite as memorable as watching Linus stroll and scowl at his world.
Are they too short? Yes… well… maybe not. It is their brevity that lends power to the narrative, though I wish I could have more time with Jiri and Linus. Will they captivate you? Absolutely. Are they worth the dollar you’ll be paying for their stories? No question about it.