I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again right here: folks don’t read enough short fiction. There is something so fulfilling about being able to knock out a great little tidbit in less than a half an hour that has me coming back for more and more. Enhanced: A Hollywood Murder Mystery is just such a gem.
Portrayed from the viewpoint of an AI-powered virtual companion/tour guide in a smartphone, Enhanced is the story of Dave: a guy coming to Hollywood to check out some death.
Honestly, that’s all I’m going to say about the story since every little tidbit counts in this one.
What I will address is the interesting approach to a very realistic future that Mr. Hyatt presents. Set in the not too near future of 2034, Enhanced gives us a very good view of the potential uses that AI might have in our normal life. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about Mr. Hyatt’s previous works is the “maybe that could happen” approach to Futurism, and this is probably the most plausible.
The long and the very short of it is: read this novelette and enjoy it. Hell, read it twice.
For those who have read my reviews previously, it’s no secret that I am a big fan of Mr. Chapman’s work. There is a certain way he approaches a story that evolves the absolute normal aspects of everyday life into a spiral of fascinating terror, and What Kind of Mother does exactly this.
Deeply entrenched in southern gothic horror, What Kind of Mother tells the tale of Madi Price, a mother who is forced back to her hometown of Brandywine, Virginia in order to have any semblance of a relationship with her seventeen-year-old daughter. With nothing really to her name, Madi ekes a meagre living reading palms at the local farmers market and a rundown motel on the edge of town.
Then Henry McCabe enters the story. Henry is an old high school flame, and now fisherman, who now spends his time posting flyers in the desperate search for his infant son who went missing five years ago.
Madi gets involved, and then the whirlwind really starts.
Reading Henry’s palm, Madi begins to be haunted by nightmarish visions of the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, and then the familiar Chapman spiral begins.
One of the things I absolutely love about Mr. Chapman’s works is the way he creates a tiny postcard of a setting, and then just pours on the flavor. Moisture is a huge theme in this novel, and it really did not help that I have been dealing with the Summer heat and humidity of North Texas while reading it. I swear I had a cloying claustrophobia whenever I sat down on the patio to continue reading. It might be in my head, but that’s what I’ve come to expect from a Chapman novel.
This is definitely a novel of zigs and zags. Situations are turned upside down, and it was often hard for me to figure out if I had figured out a twist prior to getting to it, or if I was just led to believe I had figured it out.
I will tell you one thing, Clay McCleod Chapman has absolutely ruined crabs for me. I’m not sure I can even be in the same room as them now.
Traveling the infamous Kolyma Highway in the coldest parts of Siberia, Felix Teiglund and his friend Jack Prentiss hope to be able to pull together a documentary film or television series about life in the coldest town on Earth. When they finally arrive the town appears to be uninhabited aside from a mostly catatonic little girl, Una, who their guide recognizes as the child of some of the other missing townspeople. In the process of investigating the empty town, they decide to pack up and take Una to her great grandmother’s gas station which is further down the infamous road of bones.
Mr. Golden sets the scene incredibly well, and the isolation and desolation definitely play a great part in this tale of supernatural horror and suspense. Very quickly, the group are confronted by mysterious shadow wolves who attack them: seemingly in an attempt to get to Una. In the process, Teig and Prentiss’ guide, Kaskil, is killed, and the party goes on the run to rush away from the town. The thing is, the wolves seem to be keeping up quite handily.
Yup, these folks are in a mess of peril.
The Kolyma Highway is a daunting subject to tackle, and Mr. Golden does it great justice. There is probably no other stretch of highway with such a gruesome history. Stalin had it built to connect his Siberian gulags, and it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of prisoner bodies lie beneath the pavement: a morbid tomb for the poor souls who constructed the 1,262 miles of it.
This novel is all about the futility of survival when the elements — be they natural or even supernatural — are very much not in your favor.
Sure, there are several quite confusing portions of the book, but the story progresses in a manner that very much compelled me to try and find the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll leave it to you to decide if that actually happens. Definitely some great Summer reading.