Fantasy / Supernatural
Go Not Gently
Written By: Parke Godwin, Patrick Thomas, and C. J. Henderson
Reviewed by Frank L. Ocasio
When it comes to purchasing an anthology of novellas, readers always run a serious gambit; they could be paying for a grouping of incredible work by incredible minds, but they could also be paying for a batch of scribblings made by snails with pens taped to their shells--or the human equivalent of that image, anyway. Because you're reading this, you have to be asking yourself whether Go Not Gently was penned by man or snail. My answer: It's not perfect, but there's definitely a lot to enjoy than there is to dislike.One more thing before I quit: I liked Patrick Thomas' story about hell so much because it reminded me of Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. If you haven't read this novel but enjoy sci-fi and fantasy, I totally have to recommend picking it up as well. Sure, it'll be a little disturbing at times, but it'll be a really profound piece by the time you're through with it--guaranteed.
And that's an achievement when you consider Go Not Gently is comprised only of three short stories: The Fire When It Comes, by Parke Godwin; Dysenfranchised, by Patrick Thomas, and Leisure and Hurry, by C. J. Henderson. Each story spans about fifty pages in this 177 page collection, and to be perfectly honest, the stories go from best to worst in the order they appear.
The Fire When It Comes is the first of the stories featured, and its title along with "WORLD FANTASY AWARD WINNING NOVELLA" is posted all over the book. And who's really to blame for that? How else was Padwolf going to tell readers that Parke Godwin writes an awesome novella? The Fire When It Comes follows Gayla, a woman trapped in her apartment after her death. Having drifted shapelessly for decades, our phantasmic protagonist only begins to gain an ethereal consciousness after a young couple moves into her apartment. As if her observations of their life and Godwin's descriptions of her after-life aren't interesting enough, Gayla starts to piece together the life she'd forgotten, eventually discovering how she died. Godwin doesn't make this a mystery novel though--this novella reads out much more like a drama, and I could only be grateful for that in retrospect; the satisfaction and revelations you'll gain from learning about Gayla's life and here mistakes is done so well that you too will prefer it over a generic whodunit.
Dysenfranchised brings the collection down a notch, but don't think of that in a bad way. Rather than thinking of Thomas' novella a change in quality, you should just consider his piece, about a forgotten god working the streets of Hell as the Devil's Detective, as simply a change in pace. This will be more like a generic whodunit it though. However, there'll be enough original ideas to keep you interested and enough laughs to keep you enjoying the whole read. Seriously, I kinda expected Thomas to run out of fuel with the Hell jokes, but even if some were a little cheesy, the man's consistency deserves merit and creates the right kind of atmosphere for such jests. All of this coupled with an interesting twist made this story my personal favorite of the three, even if I have to acknowledge that it might not hit as wide an audience as Godwin's novella. Still, can Negral figure out how / why the Lords of Hell are being put out of commission? Why would anyone not want to find out?
Leisure and Hurry does finally bring things down a notch in a bad way, however. Now, there's a slight chance you might enjoy this story about a group of paranormal detectives who arrive at a secluded housing complex for the rich to discover how an actress simply disappeared from her room, but for the sake of saying it cleanly and simply, C. J. Henderson's story had one too many flaws for me to enjoy it. Sure, you might like the moxie of Henderson's characters or the dark history of our protagonist, Teddy London, but the story reads in such a plot-holed way that I could sit with you for some time and pick out a dozen things about it that don't make sense. Example: Teddy London has been linked to the Conflagration--an event that happened on the east coast that resulted in the death of millions. Now, mind you, everyone apparently knows he's tied to those deaths somehow... and yet, he's still walking around freely. That kind of seems impossible. If you don't mind this sort of thing though, and especially if you love the same kinds of paranormal detective shows that are flooding the airwaves these days, you very well may enjoy this adventure of Teddy London.
Like I said though, this collection is a lot more quality than not, and because the first two stories are well done and charming enough, I feel the book itself is definitely worth a read--especially if you enjoy paranormal / mystery stories. Just be warned though that I'm saying that with The Fire When It Comes and Dysenfranchised in mind. When it comes to Leisure and Hurry... Well... You'd probably be better off pretending you're buying a collection featuring two novellas--it'll save you the disappointment.