The world is coming to an end. Not tomorrow, not next week, but in ten hours everything in existence that you’ve ever known and loved will be no more. What do you do with your last ten hours? Eric Shapiro presents a taut view of a world gone mad, without consequence and without fear of death, in his new novella, It’s Only Temporary. Through the eyes of his lead character, Sean, the reader is taken on a whirlwind of all the emotions one could expect when presented with such frightening news.
Shapiro has a knack for building tension and constructs his tale to wire tightness. He is at his best when working through the inner thoughts of Sean, who sees the end of the world as a chance to get stoned and reconnect with his lost love. Through his drug-induced haze, Sean reaches several crossroads that build the character and make him more than simply a one-dimensional cliché. The readers are privy to his struggles over whether to stay with his parents or to try to find the girl that got away. They hear his revulsion at the sick acts of others who suddenly know the freedom of life without accountability. Though he starts off brash and less sympathetic than one might expect of a lead character, by the end of the tale readers feel like they’ve been a mile (or several hundred for that matter) in his shoes.
The only drawbacks to this story are in its length. While 104 pages may have seemed like enough to Shapiro, it doesn’t seem to be nearly enough from a reader’s standpoint. There is a great deal more that could be done with the characters, both peripheral and lead. Readers are shown only the tiniest stretch of road from which to view the madness of decaying civilization. Shapiro’s style and writing work well enough that readers would still be hooked at page 300, if it existed.
All told, It’s Only Temporary is a good, if fast, read. At times screamingly tense, at others laugh-out-loud funny, it is geared to those who want to take the emotional rollercoaster ride toward Armageddon.
It’s Only Temporary
By Eric Shapiro
Permuted Press, 2005
3 out of 5