The Blurb on Other People’s Words – AJ Brown

January 23, 2012 at 11:03 pm (horror, Reviews, writing)

Along The Splintered Path – By A.J. Brown

I had never read anything by AJ Brown until this small collection of stories, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The first tale was Phillip’s Story. The story began with an intro to Phillip, a man plagued by delusions, who has been left by his wife and child and who now finds himself in hard straits. He finds money, or rather the money found him, spoils of crime at the scene of a fatal accident. The story then switches to a couple of hard characters, Thad and Hollis, robbing a convenience store and botching the job, a prelude to Phillip finding the money. The story continues to alternate between Phillip, after finding the money, and the thieves during and after the incident-riddled robbery.

The first thing that struck me about this story was how brave the author must be to present a PoV character who is crazy – it is difficult to capture their mindset convincingly and draw sympathy from the reader to someone with such discordant thoughts. The second thing that struck me was that it wasn’t what I would describe as a horror story, and that was what I had been anticipating with all three stories.

The storyline was both entertaining and moving, but I would have preferred the two story threads to have run concurrently. Having to reverse gears back to an earlier point in time was a little disorienting, so that the story was a bit of an effort to follow.

The second story, “‘Round These Bones”, presents the reader with James, a man down on his luck in more ways than one. When his marriage takes a turn for the worse, he races off recklessly in his car and an accident ensues. He then finds himself struggling for survival. This was a gripping thriller/horror with many twists and graphic moments, and I liked it better than the first tale. I particularly enjoyed the unusual ending.

In the third story, “The Woodshed,” the narrator describes events from his past involving his murderous and abusive father and the frightening woodshed associated with bad memories. This story is particularly gruesome and disturbing, with an old school, backwoods feel. More of a traditional horror tale, I think it was my favourite of the three.

Overall, the author had an inviting, casual writing style, shockingly so in some places, that made the stories an easy read. The styling was descriptive without being overly so and relaxed without being lazy. It captured my interest from the very beginning, with quaint phrases like: “Aisles of candy and chips and oils and other whatevers that all convenience stores seemed to carry lined out in front of them” and I didn’t have to work to get at the stories.

While I did enjoy the writing, I found the author used an excessive amount of sentence fragments and ellipses. It does mean the reader is spared from run-on sentences but it also gives the writing a “choppy” feel in places. Used on occasion, this can be a good way to accentuate portions of the story, but used to excess, it loses its impact and starts to hamper the story instead of giving it more flavour. I also found a couple of the sentences redundant or contradictory. These were minor irritations and they didn’t keep me from enjoying the stories.

Characterization seemed to be a strong point in the stories. The characters were flawed and believable, with plenty of personality. This was the most enjoyable aspect of the stories and the thing I value the most in a good read, making up for any negligible issues.

I’d rate this a four out of five stars, well worth a read if you can overlook the few minor detractions.


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