Waiting Out Winter is a blast to read. This is a novella that is filled to the brim with awesome characters, brilliant set-ups, and brutally gross descriptions in all the right places. This is the definition of a great piece of short fiction.
Nick and the boys return from the summer’s last hunting trip to find the streets empty, the beachfront and park abandoned, and the windows of their own homes boarded shut. The hunters have become the hunted, in an apocalyptic plague that pits man against beast – very tiny beasts. And Nick is determined to keep his strength, courage, and family alive during what could very well be the last winter of their lives.
In what is one of the most interesting, and original takes on apocalyptic fiction I have ever read, Owen grabs the reader by the ears and shows them who’s boss right from the get-go, shouting in their face to wake up and take a look around them. Her handle on words is eloquent and charming, but still packs enough of a visceral pop to makes even the most seasoned readers wince.
The characters are people that we live with. They’re people we share out lives with. They’re real, which is saying a lot for a story that is so far out there, but not really far out there at all (know what I mean, Vern?). To watch these characters come from the beginning of their trials, through to the end of the story is almost a test of endurance. How much psychological torment can a person actually take? And what could this author possibly do to make their situation more dire?
I, for one, think Owen has nailed it on the head with this story. Really, once you get into it, you realize that things are mighty bleak for these folks, and they’re not going to get any better.
The idea of a plague wiping out the world isn’t all too far fetched a notion, but Owen takes this idea and gives it a little push towards a more realistic and terrifying place. In writing this tale of world dissolution, Owen uses one of the most common, and overlooked species of our planet against us… with terrifying results. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but let’s say I don’t leave any food out on the counter anymore.
The writing is tight, the terror is there, and the style is superb. Kelli Owen is proving herself to be a force that cannot be stopped. With every successive piece that she publishes getting better and better (see our review of The Neightborhood), we can only expect to see more of her stuff out there soon.
You can (read: must) grab the limited edition, signed Hardcover of Waiting Out Winter here, and the limited edition chapbook here. Visit Kelli at her website, or follow her on Twitter. She also has a message board over at The Keenedom (registration required).
Also, keep watching the site in the next few weeks for a chance to win a signed copy of the limited chapbook edition of Waiting Out Winter.