Many stories have been coming across my desk these days concerning biblical, end of the world scenarios. Perhaps in this time of war and uncertainty in the world, people are turning in that direction as a source of their fear. The title story of author Jason Brannon’s book Winds of Change touches on this very fear. In “Winds of Change,” the longest tale in this three-story collection, a handful of people are hiding out in a hardware store while what appears to be the apocalypse takes place outside.
Matt, Steven, and Chuck are employees of Kingsley Hardware & Appliance going about their regular routine when the lights go out. It becomes quickly and painfully clear that something bad is going down when whoever steps outside the door turns into a pillar of dust and salt and blows away. As employees, the three men feel it’s up to them to keep the customers still inside safe from…whatever is out there. This is not an easy prospect, especially considering the back-up generator didn’t kick in and the delinquent Weaver boys are in the store. This little group of survivors consists of Jesse, Jake, Kenneth, and Vera Weaver; Ashley and Wayne Richards; Pete; and the elderly Leland.
The question soon becomes: What have they survived? Chuck thinks it’s a terrorist attack, and who wouldn’t these days? But Steven and Vera think it could be religion based. Pretty soon, it’s looking like they might be more right than Chuck. It seems as though those without sin, or those who repent, are spared being turned to dust. God sends a message via Vera and Steven (the two most devout kids in the bunch) that this little boo-boo was caused by a rogue angel who is now among them. Thus, the survivors have more to contend with than just going “poof” and becoming a spice; they have to try and figure out which of them is a killer angel in disguise and how to defeat him.
Brannon does an excellent job of crafting a cast of very different characters for the reader to experience. If there’s not someone there that everyone can identify with, I’ll eat my copy of the book. The suspense is built slowly throughout the night to a truly apocalyptic conclusion. My only peeve with this piece is that the ending feels rushed, which is a bit of a letdown after such a nice build-up.
The second segment, entitled “Quartet,” starts off with a bang and a splash. A music conservatory on a limestone promontory above the sea is rocked by an earthquake, leaving only one small group alive, trapped in a room together. But that’s the least of their problems. Deep sea monsters, Tritons and Krakens, have taken this opportunity to attack the conservatory and stop the music that they hate once and for all. At first, I felt the story was glossing the surface, rushing forward at too fast a clip for the reader to catch up. When the four characters — Gordon, Caitlyn, Michelle, and Charlie — are first introduced, I almost missed their names because the narrative was moving so quickly. But once the facts of how they got where they are and what the situation is are clear, this story buckles down and gets into some serious terror. These four trapped musicians must not only try and survive the aftershocks of the earthquake but also fend off the hungry monsters who want to feed. The only way they can keep them at bay is to play…and to keep playing. Brannon does an excellent job of detailing the personas of these characters in a short period of time, and talk about tension! The idea of these two men and two women forced to play music continuously or fall victim to a vicious monster had me white-knuckled. How long could you play if your life depended on it? This was my favorite installment; it gives me shivers even now.
The final section, “Graffiti,” focuses on Donald and Charlie, two homeless people living on the streets. Charlie has a special talent. He’s a tagger, a spray painter, but his work is more than just art. Charlie’s dearly departed mother was a voodoo priestess, and he’s a chip off the old block, bent on cleaning up the streets and getting back at the scum who killed his family in a truly interesting way. Donald ends up helping him out though he’s reticent at first. By the end of the story Donald’s changed his mind about what’s right and what’s fair. “Graffiti” is a tale of revenge and dark magic, well told and concluded with a delightful turn of the screw.
Brannon has a solid style incorporating carefully chosen words. His characters are very easily accessible, and he knows what fear lies within the human heart. These three tales are full of darkness, humanity, and terror. Winds of Change is delightfully sinister and well worth the read. I recommend you pick it up today!
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