Disclaimer: the author of this story, T.A Hernandez, did not ask me to read it in exchange for an honest review, nor did she pay me, threaten or bribe me. I did it because I try to review everything that I read, and this is a story that I think everyone should read at least once. Furthermore, it isn’t even listed on Goodreads or Amazon. Rather, Electrispec owns the rights to it until March, 2017, and is available to read for FREE, here:
Additional disclaimer: the author is a friend of mine (online only,) but I say this with the utmost sincerity and earnestness: my opinions wouldn’t change even if we weren’t friends. I truly, wholeheartedly believe that.
The Dead Life is what I’d call a paranormal science fiction short story. I’m tempted to label it a thriller, as well, but I don’t believe it meets that criteria.
The narrative starts off simply enough, but as I soon found out, nothing is quite as it seems. And a big part of what makes it fire on every cylinder is Hernandez’ precise attention to detail as she consistently took strides to develop her strange and miraculous world. It’s a world unlike any fiction I’ve read, and I long to go back. I miss Jason and Ruben already. It is an awesome world! Furthermore, I am in complete awe of Hernandez in general, but especially her crazy world-building skills. As far as that goes, I think she’s in a class all her own. Why, you ask? Because, unlike a lot of science fiction/fantasy narratives out there (the written word in general, actually,) she doesn’t ever drop a ton of information on the reader and expect her/him to process and retain said information. She seasons it with smalls details here, some intrigue and mystery there, and throws in some cool paranormal bits throughout. It’s neither over or under done. It’s an immaculate balance, and it is always interesting. This allows the story and the characters to speak for themselves, as all art should strive to do.
She takes it even further, though, by making the entire process look easy; effortless. As a fledgling writer myself, it is another but easy, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The truth of the matter is, you hooked me with the opening sentence. I couldn’t put it down.
Keeping in mind that this is a short story, I was equally impressed with the uniqueness of the characters, and the degree to which they’re developed. You’ll find no one flat here, folks. But please don’t misunderstand me, either, as they’re not Dickensian type characters, where everything is spelled out for you, and you learn their life stories. What Hernandez delivers is a good sense who they are personally, and where they stand morally.
Also, she REALLY outdid herself with the ending, I can’t stress this enough. I also can’t express the depth of my feelings towards it, and I’m at a loss as to how in the world she executed it. In my opinion, it is the essence of perfection. I’m left with the impression that she went to great lengths to do her story justice, in ways that aren’t cliche or over the top nor underwhelming. It’s just very refreshing to find not only a satisfying denouement, but one that completely blows you away. Bravo, kudos and all that, Hernandez!
In closing, the prose is incredibly clear, accurate and precise. There aren’t any wasted words here, as literally every single one serves a purpose(s.) The plot is compelling, the world-building is CRAZY good. If I had some constructive criticism to give, I’d say that for me, Ruben’s gender wasn’t clear. Despite the obvious giveaway, I kept picturing him as a woman. An attractive woman. But it’s hard to say, this could very well just be me. Concentrating is a big issue with me. Either way, some additional clarity certainly wouldn’t hurt.