“Connection Lost” by Eric Mangum
This story about a writer, Michael Branson, who goes to his late parents’ cabin to get away and write and is “haunted” by his mother’s old computer is quite a mess. Odd factual inconsistencies mar the first part of the story. A 26-year-old writer with 12 best-selling books? Taking a battery out of a cell phone instead of just turning it off? A cabin that requires flashlights for light, but can support a computer and a cordless phone? A voicemail system that doesn’t let you listen to new messages first? Etc, etc., etc.
Then a spooky event – where the computer appears to have power even though it is turned off – freaks Michael out so much that he collapses on the couch in exhaustion. A healthy 26 year old guy? Weenie. *sigh* Michael falls alseep and wakes up with his Bluetooth headset in his ear. Really really in his ear. He manages to remove it and then…..
Then the climax of the story is *told* to the reader by a sheriff who happens upon the aftermath and reads the manuscript that Michael supposedly wrote about how he killed the young girl found in the cabin with him. Because cops believe everything written by crazy persons. Yeah.
“Happy Anniversary!” by Todd Martin
If you believe this story, then couples who kill together, stay together. It’s Richard and Mary’s anniversary, and Mary presents Richard with a new set of steak knives that he’s been hinting about for months. Richard’s gift to Mary is something they can both use the knives on…and it isn’t a side of beef.
This story had an interesting premise and was generally well put-together, and with a bit more editing it could have been quite good. A bit more description would have brought the characters to life; there’s no last name, no physical description, nothing beyond an anonymous man and woman. The As-You-Know-Bob portions of the conversation could easily have been moved into narrative, rather than dialogue, and the head-hopping could have been cleaned up.
I think this writer has potential, but he needs someone to look over his work with a more critical eye. Too bad he ended up with Nicky for an editor. Particularly since he also got taken by PublishAmerica.
“Threat Detected” by Andrew Boughton
This is also a story a man haunted – or this case, possessed – by a computer, which eventually kills him. It is also connected to the first story reviewed today because the main character Neil is a friend of Michael’s. And Neil’s little sister Allison is the girl that Michael kills (in the first story).
While having the two interconnected stories is a nice little surprise, I don’t think that putting this story second in the anthology was the most effective placement, considering that the events in this story take place before the events in the first story. This story also had issues of its own, although in general it was better written than “Connection Lost”.
The pace is initially bogged down with lots of details of Neil’s new computer and what he does to it to get it up and running. Neil, who is apparently the sole guardian of his 13-yr-old sister, spends more time on the computer and fussing over it than he does with her – there’s no cooking her dinner, making sure she’s in bed, etc. It’s just Neil and the computer. This is either unrealistic or Neil is a pretty bad pseudo-parent. I felt bad for Allison by the end of this story.
Mr.Boughton also has issues with punctuation. Specifically, commas may not be used in place of periods or semi-colons. I had to read several run on sentences multiple times.