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Smashwords book reviews by J. Bird
- If You Go Into The Woods
on July 04, 2011
TLDR; Overall, a three-star set of stories. They are not bad stories, but they are not good/great stories, either. Both pieces feel more like the introduction, the beginning, the first half of what could be a great short story, but end rather abruptly at their climax. They don't need to give ALL of the answers, but there are gaps that leave too much to the reader's imagination to fill in. There's no denouement, no resolution. The potential and promise in these stories make them worth a read.
Mr. Gaughran has such great potential, and such a good voice for storytelling, I'd certainly recommend giving him a read, and I would definitely give more of his work a read.
Broken down review on each story in this set:
"If You Go Into The Woods"
Overall, I have mixed feelings about this particular short story.
Positives: Good introduction. I was interested in the characters, in the setting, and in the events about to unfold. The tension building moments were fairly well done. Overall solid storytelling voice/tone.
Middles: The story could use a little bit of an editor's touch. No major grammatical errors or typos, just a few places where the wording is redundant or awkward. This never really detracts from the overall experience of simply enjoying the story, however. (Starting a sentence with "but" and including "however" in the same sentence, as an example.)
Negatives: The story presents 'important details' that are never resolved or explained or even really addressed in a way that makes their presence feel necessary or actually-important. (The details about his mother, specifically.) The story felt like it ended at the climax. There's no sense of resolution. While some may find the ending an invitation to imagine the horrible (psychological terror is the most effective), it didn't actually leave me with enough or any sense of dread to justify it.
The Reset Button, David Gaughran
The best thing I can say about this short story is that it has immense promise. See my spoilers for various impressions - the final one making this feel more like the beginning of a good short story, rather than a full story on its own. Similar to "If You Go Into The Woods", I have mixed feelings.
Positives: The premise I think the author is trying to approach is very interesting. There are turns of phrase that are very well done. And again, a solid story telling voice.
Middles: Another story that could use some workshopping with an editor. There are details about the main character's life that could be explained more concisely (to make the point more poignant).
Negatives: It feels like there's something clever here that the author has not quite managed to bring through. I'm not entirely certain what has happened at the end of the story.
Spoiler Warning (stop reading if you want to read this for yourself without ruining any surprises):
Specifically, the keys being in a different location and Linus not remembering where they were at could indicate that the "Reset Button" is real. Not to mention, the ending itself would indicate that. It also indicates that Linus KNOWS about it. These interpretations make the scene at the first bar all the more confusing. If he knows about it, then what's the point in getting upset that no one at the bar remembers you? If the point is that everyone else has one? If, however, this is like the story "Big" (Tom Hanks - kid wishes to be "big" and wakes up in an adult body), and a matter of the Reset Button 'becoming true' at the end, then the story stops very abruptly and there is no sense in shared satisfaction between the reader and Linus.
There are simply a lot of mixed messages coming through in the story. Obviously his wife/son remember him well enough. And I never quite understood why he missed his previous visits with his son? Or why his ex-wife thought it perfectly reasonable to expect him to take his son to the zoo on a day when there's a snowstorm going on.