This story is amazing.
The first 8 pages alone are just so brutally gut wrenching that it is virtually impossible to look away. Having read nearly everything Burning Effigy has to offer in terms of horror, I am not in the least surprised. What I am surprised about, however, is how someone can like Southard, for example, can come strolling into the genre, take a few well placed swings, and completely own everything and everyone in sight.
If Nate Southard is the face of the new breed, I’m happy to say that the genre is in incredibly capable hands.
It was supposed to be a normal day for Brandon, but then the earthquake came, trapping him in a collapsed parking garage with a pair of strangers. Now, he’s buried underneath Manhattan with no light, no food, and no way of knowing if rescue is on its way. And there are sounds in the darkness. Something’s coming, and saving Brandon is the last thing on its mind.
The first couple of minutes that the reader will spend with this story are absolutely wonderful. The beauty that Southard conveys through the relationship between Brandon and his wife Amanda is absolutely wonderful. This author obviously knows how to control the emotions of his captive party (the reader), and ultimately exploits that ability with the snap of his fingers, and the turn of a phrase. Within the space of 5 minutes, I went from being very interested to absolutely riveted.
And then the action started.
To say that this book surges forward like a typhoon of relentless action and purpose would be an understatement. The sheer amount of lyrical prowess that this author holds in completely awe-inspiring. One minute the main character is talking on the phone, thinking random thoughts, and living a normal life – and then a moment passes, and the world comes crashing down around him. Almost literally.
Southard’s ability to describe a scene vividly is brilliant. He has such a way with words that one cannot help but be absolutely forced to see what he wants them to see. In my opinion, that’s very rare these days. The style is not grandiose or over-dramatic. On the contrary, it’s rather subdued and meticulous. The author seems to choose his words very carefully, placing everything in the best possible order that they could be in. The result is an overwhelming success, bringing the reader to his/her knees with the finality of it all.
While Southard does allow space for the imagination to run free, he also paints a very detailed, terrifying landscape for the adventure. Southard’s characters in this story are thick, layered, complex, and surprisingly heavy for a piece this short. They’re instantly identifiable, perfectly sympathetic, and not at all unbelievable. While speculative fiction usually relies on the reader’s ability to suspend their disbelief, This Little Light of Mine and it’s characters never ask that of their audience. The story is there, and will go on even without being read.
It is, in and of itself, one of the most perfect pieces of fiction that I have ever read.
Now, that being said, I would like to express the fact that I’ve read Southard’s work before, and have become quite used to his style. His novel Red Sky blew me away, but his short story “In The Middle of Poplar Street” left me wanting more. Granted, I have yet to read the author’s complete works, but I can say with authority that this is a writer to watch. He is a master of his craft, and deserves to be known the world over.
Southard’s writing does more than grab the reader and force his/her attention to be focussed on what transpires within the page. He takes the reader away on a journey. It just so happens that it’s sometimes to a place filled with things one would rather not see. I would take a trip with Southard anywhere, any day.
This Little Light of Mine can be purchased from Burning Effigy Press. While you’re there, I implore you to check out some of the other titles available. Burning Effigy has been one of my favorite small presses for some time, and I can guarantee you that the quality of these stories is the absolute top notch.