Blue November Storms: Doesn’t hang together

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsBlue November Storms by Brian James Freeman

The “Lightning Five,” so called because of their prowess on the football field, has reunited twenty years after a tragedy sent one of them away — so far away that the other four all thought he was dead. Adam simply calls Steve one day out of the blue and says that he’d like to go hunting with the old crew, practically giving Steve a heart attack. The gang agrees to get together, especially because there’s supposed to be an amazing meteor shower that night. They’ll climb onto the roof of the cabin they built together and watch the show.

And so they do. Adam has promised to tell why he left, but as the night settles in he still isn’t talking. Still, the friendship between him and the four others resumes as if twenty years had not intervened. They play cards, drink beer, and talk about everything but why Adam left. Finally, around 2:00 a.m., they climb out onto the roof and wait for the meteor shower. It’s supposed to be pretty amazing, a display that won’t recur for a million years. And it really is phenomenal, once it starts: bright flashes in the sky that are clearly visible from horizon to horizon even with a full moon hanging in the sky. They pour down like sleet, numerous enough that the men have to reassure one another that they’re not in any danger.  But when one blue orb with red edges appears in the sky, so big that it challenges the moon for size, things start looking dicey. The men scramble down from the roof as a sonic boom shakes the sky. There’s a sudden heat and then an explosion directly overhead, and bits of hot rock rain down on the hilltop. The entire forest goes silent.

In the immediate aftermath of the meteor landing, the men react as smoothly as they ever did when playing football, working together to stop a nascent forest fire. After that’s done, they decide to find the meteor itself, which isn’t hard to do:  the rock burns with the odd blue color it had in the sky, and it’s emitting a lot of heat. And it’s pulsating. It seems to hypnotize the five men for a time, causing their pupils to contract to pinpoints and filling them with a greed to possess it. Things might have gone seriously wrong between them at that point if it weren’t that they notice something very strange: virtually every creature in the forest has arrived at the meteor site, their eyes burning with the same blue color, fur on end, ears twitching. Those animals include bears. It’s time to get back to the cabin before they become something’s breakfast, they decide, and besides, that meteor sure makes them feel funny.

As they sprint back to the cabin, Harry falls behind a bit, and that’s when things start going seriously wrong. He’s been cut from the herd, in a sense, and dozens of deer are charging straight for him, their eyes blazing blue, their teeth bared, foam dripping from their mouths.

And deer are the least of their problems.

The horrors unfold in grisly detail from there, as the wildlife turns on the humans with a fury they’ve never seen before. It’s Hitchcock’s “The Birds” writ large, with star appearances by ducks, raccoons, and, of course, bears. I don’t think I’ll ever look at a squirrel the same way again.

Brian James Freeman’s afterword indicates that Blue November Storms has been around in one form or another since 2001, when he was in college. It’s undergone revision ever since then, and was first published in 2005 in a collectible limited edition. Freeman revised it again to give it new life as an affordable e-book. And it’s a decent enough horror story.

But the book doesn’t hang together. After the build-up in the first few chapters, one would expect that Adam’s twenty year absence was somehow tied to the travails of the group, or that there would be some explanation for why the meteor caused the animals to collectively go berserk. Instead the two distinct narratives are smashed into one novella: a coming of age story and its aftermath on the one hand, and a strange thing from space story on the other. More loose ends are tied up in the former story than the latter, but the whole simply doesn’t coalesce into a single, coherent narrative.

If you want to be terrorized, this book is for you. If you’re looking for seamless storytelling, you might want to reconsider.

Publisher: It’s been twenty years since the group of friends known as the Lightning Five visited their hunting cabin together. Twenty years spent living in the shadow of something they did in high school, an event that forever defined them in the minds of everyone in their small town. Now they’re returning to the cabin to reminisce about old times and forget their troubles, but mother nature has other plans in mind. Before too long supplies will be running low and the Lightning Five will have to make some hard choices… like who gets to live and who has to die.

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TERRY WEYNA, on our staff since December 2010, would rather be reading than doing almost anything else. She longs to be a full-time reviewer, critic, scholar and writer, but nonetheless continues to practice law as a civil litigator in California. Terry lives in Northern California with her husband, professor emeritus and writer Fred White, the imperious but aging Cordelia Louise Cat Weyna-White, and a forever-growing personal library that presently exceeds 15,000 volumes.

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