Way back when, in my very first column in this space, I interviewed S.C. Harrison, and she has a new release out- A short horror work called Planks. I am going to take this opportunity to review it for this months Adventures in Indie Publishing, because it stands out not only as a quality piece by any standard, but some of the freedoms that come with indie publishing. I'll use the standard micro-review format and throw in a bonus section at the end.
Planks is, essentially, a series of five short stories, which makes is a pretty brief read. Packed into that, however, is a tremendous amount of depth. It feels like it is much, much longer than it is.
If it was simply the short stories that make up this collection, it would be good. Each story is haunting by itself- the first two feel a bit standard horror-ish, with people meeting grizzly deaths with some drug usage thrown in for good measure. They are haunting, in the way short stories can be, leaving you wondering what lurks on the periphery.
But then she explains it. It's hard to talk about it without giving too much away because, as mentioned, it's short, but the final three stories explain the who-what-when-how-why of it, and damn. Not that it's the greatest reveal in the history of horror literature, but she puts on a clinic in world building.
Not only is Planks believable, it almost feels likely. Those first couple stories allow you to feel The Planks, the dirt and crime and something creepy, but then the final three draw back and allow you to look at it as a whole. For as short as this is, the world constructed and how immersed you are in it is a fantastic achievement.
Baseline Assessment: 7/10- Fantastic, smooth read overall, with a depth to the creepiness that is often lacking in today's shock-and-awe style horror.
Penalties: -1 for being so short.
Bonuses: +1 for being so short. INORITE? I don't know what could have been done to make it longer- any more seems like it would bog it down. So the brevity is also a strong point- nothing is wasted, there is no fat. It's over before you know it, and you're blinking wondering if there should be more.
+1 For exceptional world building. I don't ever want to go to Planks, but I read this three times and felt like I was there every time.
Overall: 8/10: Well worth your time and attention.
Bonus bonus: it's $0.99 on Kindle, Kobo and Nook. You can also enter the GoodReads giveaway for a signed paperback.
Indie Publishing Observation: I noted the brevity of it as both a strong and weak point. While, with the world she wove and the characters in it, I would have loved to read much more of it, it fits the story it is. With traditional publishing, at best, this ends up in an anthology or short fiction journal. This is fine and good, I read them all the time, but not many people do. The flexibility granted by releasing it in this format means it will be around a lot longer, and give many more people the chance to read it.
On A Semi-Related Note: A very interesting observation from a couple indie authors that Amazon might be less than honest in reporting sales numbers of indie authors. This is, obviously, very hard to verify if you sell more copies than you can swear to, but interesting nonetheless- and hardly surprising, either due to blatant dishonesty or errors in tabulation. I don't take the Amazon-is-evil tact that a lot of people do (though I certainly don't blame them, or even disagree), but I think more people should look to Kobo, which is emerging as a major player in the ebook market, and is much friendlier than Amazon is, to authors, readers as well as indie bookstores (no matter what Hugh Howey says). The software is free on any device and the catalog is just as extensive as Amazons.
2021 Hugo Award Winner: Best Fanzine / 2023 Ignyte Award Finalist: Critics Award
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