I met the author Justin Bruystens via Write or Read—he’s an alpha and beta tester who has provided invaluable feedback. When he told me the name of his e-book, I immediately purchased a copy. It sounded so cool—a bunch of apocalyptic short stories. I was not disappointed.
Bruystens has a very eloquent style. His book is a mixture of short stories and poems, all loosely related.
I’ll admit I was a little thrown off at the beginning of the book. It starts with a prologue and 21 chapters that were compelling and could easily have been expanded into a full-length novel. Though I knew the book contained multiple stories, I was at first disappointed there wasn’t more to the first story. And I wished there were more details and that some of the scenes were more fleshed out.
But Bruystens has such a wonderful imagination I was immediately sucked into the next story. And the one after that. And the one after that.
There are some lovely and horrifying images:
“My eyes flew open when I felt an incredibly sharp pain in my right hand. Looking down, I saw a perfectly white horn pierced through my hand. The pain reminded me of the time I had forced three sharp needles all the way through my hand. Pushing the memory aside, I looked up to see what the horn belonged to: a unicorn with gentle blue fur.”
Some of the stories are creepy, but fortunately are short enough that I could move on to the next one. Death is a major theme, but it comes out in really interesting ways. One of my favorites is “Shadows,” a story about the link between death and shadows.
“Looking down at the ground, I noticed not only that the ground had no life of any description but also that my skin looked strange. I was decomposing. I would have panicked if it hadn’t been for the pain, but instead I continued on toward my unknown destination.”
I was also really drawn in to “Natural Insanity,” a story about a man on an adventure with a group of people. But this story, like the first one, felt too short to me, and I think Bruystens could have easily expanded it into a longer work.
I guess that’s a problem with short stories sometimes. I really enjoy them, and I like being able to read multiple works quickly, but at the same time, certain stories seem like they deserve to be drawn out. Some ideas are either so compelling or creative that people want to read more, or else they don’t feel satisfied.
I look forward to reading future stories by Justin Bruystens. He has a strong voice and a lot of intriguing ideas, and I hope that eventually I’ll get to read a full-length novel, where I can really get to know his characters. One of the last stories is “An Excerpt From: A Counterfeit Archetype” so I have high hopes. For now though, I recommend reading his collection, Apocalypse.