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This is a compilation of 4 novellas, published sometime between 2007 and 2013, with a collection of his abbreviated thoughts wrapping it up in "Story Notes". It is independent publishing and a great way to read this upcoming author's work to date without committing to the novels or the Timmy Quinn saga.

"The Tent" is a wheelstander right off the line. It takes a pretty conventional monster-in-the-box plot and customizes it with quirky angles and a jerry can of emotions. It starts off with a creaky old recluse and his collie responding to a strange light in the forest on a typically-cliché dark and stormy night. Then, cut immediately into the main body of prose with a lost—both physically and emotionally—married couple and their teenage son despairing wet and cold deadfalls, mudholes, and a unforgiving, driving rain. It is obvious this couple is in serious, marital trouble, and a camping/hiking trip in the wilderness under these conditions can only lead to dissolution. "The rift he had hoped to heal widened with every step they take in the wrong direction"(p.17). While they verbally spar—the wife nagging, the hubby a loser losing—Cody wanders off. Frantically searching while continuing the battle of blame between them, they are drawn to a strange light in the forest. It is, in fact, a marvelously-inventive creature, forming itself like a camping tent to lure prey. Deadly camouflage, the first clue is the boulder-like masses of waste lying around the tent. It reminds the Dad of owl pellets dissected in his HS biology class. Telling shit, making the shitter the size of a Toyota. Neither survive, and at least Dad dies with satisfaction: "I didn't run. For once, I didn't run"(p.40).

But the slime chameleon isn't done. There's still Cody out there, remember? Instead of picking him up, author Burke shock cuts again, this time to the campground the losing family was supposed to find. After a superfluous scene with an older professor and a young student sweating up a sleeping bag, Cody makes a somnambulistic appearance at a neighboring camp site. His Der Golem act starts a roundup of gruesome, leeching possession of all the campers. The thing—now called "the parasite"—has expanded his campaign to include the unaware city down the road.

The story is quite cinematic in its flow. Scene cutting, simple concept dialogue, prognosticating clues, lots of visual movement and action; it is certainly easy to see this unfold as a mental movie. Maybe that's because the author got his inspiration from a film(1), but I don't think so. It's the influence on the more current generations of another storytelling medium, along with submersion into video games(2) that's changing traditional narrative structure(3).

Next is "You In?", where an ex-gambling loser takes a bottom-of-the-barrel job security guarding the renovation machinery in an abandoned hotel. The Wickerwood Inn has a tragic reputation and this washout's got the night shift. No redemption here. Losers stay losing.

Third is "Seldom Seen in August". A bankrobber, trying to ditch the law and re-group with his partner, takes a wrong turn and ends up in a nightmare of suburban blandness that turns into a punji pit for this murdering asshole.

The final story, "Midlisters", is a familiar cakewalk for mid-level genre writers, if they make the mistake of agreeing to their own publicity, that is. If you believe an author should write from experience, this plays out the fantasies/insanities of a Horrorfind convention through the eyes of an insecure, jealous, and vulnerable horror writer. It's "our ugliness as artists"(p.180) says author Burke, but it's also a neat little wrapped-up plot with import and insight on oh-so human actions and illusions.

A blanket criticism would be that Kealan Patrick Burke style/voice is easy to like and fun, while his concepts/ideas working in place need polishing. What not to tell the reader is sometimes more important than what to tell them. For my taste, this Irish-born author relies a little too hard on suspension of disbelief, idiomatically known as "alien space bats"(4). In other words, his imaginativeness, when dispensing with reality, drags me along instead of chauffeuring me over these bumps of making credibility out of illogic. But atmosphere, writing style, character's inner turmoil are all strong points.

 

1) White Irish Drinkers, c. 2010.

2) Author Burke has admitted to being an X-Boxer.

3) Michael Bay is winning, but that's a rant, unworthy of further discussion here.

4) "The term eventually evolved into a reference to deus ex machina to create an impossible point of divergences. Examples include changes to the physical laws of nature, introducing magic into the world, time travel, and advanced aliens interfering in human affairs."—Wiki

 

text only © copyright 01/25/2016 by Larry Crawford

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