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.
Counterpoint: This is not great by any means. This is, at best, adequate. This short story is a siege story with flies instead of the nearly ubiquitous zombies. It has the same structure, the same defense mechanisms the same story points (compound member “infected”) It’s not really that innovative, except for in the message that perhaps you should get to know your neighbors before they get eaten by wolves. The take on the withdrawal of society is at least more original than the rampant violent tribalism which has been a part of the genre since it’s birth. If you want to read this, I don’t know that I’d shell out for a physical copy as it was $3 from Amazon for the Kindle.
We appreciate your comments, but are inclined to disagree. (spoilers ahead)
Owen’s use of flies as an agent to infect the masses is, in our opinion, innovative, and her handling of the pressures of a society being torn apart by loss, through her characters, is clearly the strongest point of this story.
Now, anyone looking for the standard stalk and slash, or rampant gore present in so many of today’s zombie novels is going to be disappointed, but this is by no means not an apocalyptic tale. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it is one of the more refreshing of its kind. I wouldn’t think that this is merely a siege story either, mainly because it does deal with the slow destruction of the planet’s population, and (spoiler) there seems to be absolutely no end in sight but a bleak one. Only a short respite, as detailed in the story’s title.
Again, thank you for your comment. It’s discussions like this that make this genre such a great place. We really do appreciate the time you took to post this.
“Owen’s use of flies as an agent to infect the masses is, in our opinion, innovative”
The flies are just a different vector for the same story to be told.
“her handling of the pressures of a society being torn apart by loss, through her characters, is clearly the strongest point of this story. ”
This I absolutely agree with. The best moment in the story (spoiler) Nick’s meeting the man in the scuba suit which gives us our theme. A bit more on the nose than I’d like, but it’s a novella, what are you going to do?
“mainly because it does deal with the slow destruction of the planet’s population”
We see very little of this aside from perhaps the gas station at the start and the recollection of “home front” characters who relay confused and incomplete information to the protagonist and thus the audience.
“there seems to be absolutely no end in sight but a bleak one. Only a short respite, as detailed in the story’s title.”
I would argue the opposite. The revelation that there is a natural predator to the flies via the spider would actually give the story a bit of an uplift at the end.
Thank you, Eric. I love honest opinion and appreciate your willingness to provide it. Hopefully you consider my next work more than adequate =)
Absolutely. I have heard good things about your other work, this was just the easiest thing at hand when I heard your name mentioned, so I was curious to check it out.
And thank you, Kelli, for getting in here and talking. We love it when authors interact with readers, and wholeheartedly encourage it.
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