Fiction Friday: Dem Bones

My first novella, City of Kaiju, is finally out! Available through Amazon and Books2Read. You can see a preview of the very first chapter here. Help support a fresh new author with a fantastic read this winter season.

Fiction Friday is a series where I talk about what I’ve been reading. Short Stories (and sometimes Novellas) are featured as in-between posts and the first Friday of the month will feature a new novel review. Today, I review Dem Bones by Lavie Tidhar.

I’ve talked about my support for Strange Horizons and their amazing and diverse stories, but I don’t believe I reviewed anything from them before. Usually, because their stories tend to be creepy and dark, and a bit adult for my audience. I have featured stories like that before, so I guess, what harm is there?

Today’s short story is Dem Bones, by Lavie Tidhar. You can find it here. Speaking of creepy, how about a little post-apocalypse with a bit of dystopia and biblical nods to go with it. Anyway, let’s get to it.

Dem Bones, man

The story focuses on a mysterious tree filled with delicious apples in a world torn apart. While everything else is dying and suffering, that tree is staying alive. So naturally, Ezra, out hero, seeks it out. However, the place is swarmed by Doctors, who wear these crow-like masks and control the cities. Figuring out the secret of the apple tree, they search for a way to get a hold of the last living tree in their world.

This was such a cool read, if short. It’s almost 3,000 words long and goes by quick, but it manages to pack so much story into such a short time frame that it came out for the better. All three characters were interesting and had plenty of that typical heist characters stealing untouched fruit. I love seeing these types of characters, especially in a setting like this. It’s a nice breath from the typical rebellion since there’s no coming back when you have nothing left.

I did mention the biblical nod earlier and I did have some forbidden fruit vibes. It was clear, yet didn’t follow the same plot as the original storyline, almost as the author’s own take on it. It’s not as blatant as you might think and it works out for it. If anything, the tree is far more enticing this time around because it’s the last living thing in this post-apocalyptic world. It gives the characters a purpose. “I want the apple in that tree.” Yet it’s simplicity is executed so effectively that it’s really impressive.

That said, as amazing as it was being so short yet packed with so much content, I was kinda disappointed this didn’t go on longer. I was curious about this world with its post-apocalyptic vibe that I could see maybe a standalone story come out of this. Heck, with the way it ended, it could easily jump into that point. This world offers so much lore and history that I’d love to see more about the Doctors and this mysterious fruit-bearing tree that is uncorrupted by the hostile elements.

That’s what I love. It has such a rich world that 3,000 words don’t seem to be enough for me. This story was fantastic, beautifully told and well written, and yet I want more. I want to see this world now more than ever. I want to see these characters go through this society without horribly dying.

There’s also the whole heist aspect which I loved. Three guys, Ezra, Carmichael, and Noah all trying to blow up a wall that would grant them access to the only living tree in existence. It’s a fun take, and again, could have expanded a bit more, but I felt it flowed nicely overall. These three have such great chemistry during all of this, confident about their own efforts that it ends up being their undoing in the end.

And then there are the doctors. Creepy, mysterious, possibly inhuman, and if the art is any indication, look absolutely badass. They remind me of plague doctors with their bird-like masks and. Hard to tell if they’re even human. They don’t speak English at all and seem to have no remorse when getting what they want. And they only want food, which is usually in the form of taxes or rent. They were interesting and creepy enough that I felt cheated that they were just for this story and didn’t have too big of an appearance. I think these guys are the highlight of the story and have such a unique personality that it comes off as creepy and awesome at the same time. Just wish we would have seen more of them.

Final thoughts

This is a wonderful story. It is short, but it packs such a big storyline that it’s very impressive. The characters had great synergy, the world was unique and creepy, and the Doctors were really cool. If this had only been a tiny bit longer. Aside from that, this is a fantastic story for the length.

+ Impressive amount of content for such a short story.
+ Post-apocalyptic universe with a fun heist plot.
+ Plague doctors. ‘Nuff said.
+ Fantastic writing.
+ Great universe.
+/- Would love to see more.

Final Score:
5/5 – Amazing story.

That’s all for today. If you liked this post and want to see more, I have a Ko-Fi page set up. Why spend three bucks on a Starbucks Coffee when you can help support hard-working authors like me? Every bit helps and keeps me going. So thank you, and remember, the inn is always open.

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