Published by This Is Horror
With this first entry in new publisher This Is Horror’s limited-edition chapbook releases, Autumn scribe David Moody introduces us to the calm before an all-new apocalyptic storm in the intimate short tale Joe & Me.
Utilising a first-person narrative, Moody introduces us to protagonist Simon Huxtable, a stay-at-home dad engaged in a mental quandary concerning his unusual standing amongst the expected family structure while his wife, Gillian, focuses intently on her military-backed laboratory work involving what essentially boils down to the greatest medical discovery of our time.
His prose easily flowing and assured, Moody effortlessly helps the reader to slip into the shoes of Simon, who, as the story progresses, must continuously juggle his fatherly duties towards his devoted seven-year-old son, Joe, and remain sympathetic to an ever-stressed wife whose life-changing work forces an ever-burgeoning wedge between her and the remaining family unit. What makes Moody’s writing so impressive is the fact that all of these characters are so fully realised within a mere fifty pages: You’ll feel for them all – the admittedly derivative plotline becomes a mere shell for the characters to inhabit – and when things go wrong and situations change, their devotion to one another, and especially Simon’s, promotes a level of empathy that regularly stirs emotion as it collides with the ever-present gnawing of something truly horrible waiting just around the corner.
To reveal much more detail would only be to spoil the experience of Joe & Me, but this being a horror story, it should suffice to say that something horrible does indeed await, and Simon will find himself faced with an agonizing dilemma harbouring consequences of unthinkable magnitude.
Despite the derivative backdrop, by the end Joe & Me will leave you craving more – not just from the world of the Huxtables, but from the rest of This Is Horror’s upcoming chapbook line. It’s easily digestible in a single sitting (and you’ll probably want to go right back and read it again), and while acceptable as a standalone short, it could also make for an immediately gripping first few chapters of a complete novel.
All said, Moody’s story is a remarkably touching insight to everyday lives torn asunder and the undying love of a father for his child – and while a few more heartstrings could most certainly have been tugged on with some less frank narration in the latter stages, not to mention a final line of text that succeeds in being more outwardly laughable in its awkwardness than it does in its intended purpose, things are off to a grand start here. One can only hope that we’ll meet the Huxtables again, somewhere down the line.
Limited to 500 individually signed copies in paperback format, Joe & Me can be purchased over at This Is Horror alongside a discounted subscription to the entire chapbook series.
3 1/2 out of 5