Brian Freeman,
Blue November Storms
(Cemetery Dance, 2005)

When I read the dust jacket of Brian Freeman's Blue November Storms, I thought: Hey, this book was good the first time I read it -- when Stephen King wrote it and called it Dreamcatcher.

I was pleasantly surprised, however, about a third of the way through the 97-page novella, that Freeman had taken the five-high-school-friends-reunite-in-a-cabin-in-the-woods-and-are-visited-by-unexplained-cosmic-phenomenon motif in a different direction.

In Blue November Storms, five high school heroes decide to get reacquainted with each other and have a good time hunting game at a cabin they had built as teenagers. On the same night as the big hunting trip, there is a spectacular meteor shower in which the Earth is pelted by hundreds of meteorites that cast an ominous, hypnotic blue glow that, like a luminescent siren, beckons all living things, man and beast alike, to embrace its eerie azure light. Somehow, the five friends manage to resist the strange rock's calls, and that's when things get hairy. Literally.

You see, those rocks aren't just mesmerizing meteorites, they're manipulative mind-controllers, and in order to survive, the five high school buddies must defend themselves from Mother Nature at her cruelest. I don't want to give too much away about the book, but we all know how pesky a squirrel can be. Imagine how bad it could be if you had scores of them, working together as a team, and bent on one goal -- turning you into dinner. And don't forget that there are worse animals in the forest.

For the most part, Freeman's Blue November Storms is a fun read, but it does have one fatal flaw working against it throughout the whole book. And that's its length. At somewhere around 30,000 words, the reader just does not have enough leg room to stretch out and get comfortable with many aspects of the story.

For instance, there are five main characters. I know that one of them is named Adam. The other four, I can't remember. The reason isn't that they were badly portrayed; there just wasn't a lot of time for characterization. I had the feeling through most of the story that there were only one or two characters worth knowing, that the rest were equivalent to the red shirts in a Star Trek episode.

Freeman does, however, firmly plant his story in a believable setting, keeping the majority of the novella on the roof of the cabin in the woods. This simple setting creates a very decent background with very little description and also creates a wonderful feeling of isolation.

The plot of the story is good, and the subplot could have been great. Again, the biggest problem is not enough text space to really flesh out the story. The conflict between man and beast, especially the way Freeman sets it up, is a great idea. The back story and subplots are also great, but the limited number of pages just does not allow either to fulfill their full potential.

On a nine-fingered scale in which one finger is atrocious and nine fingers are heavenly, I'm going to give Blue November Storms six fingers. I liked it, but I could have loved it. This story needed twice as many pages for it to work at its peak performance, but it's still a pretty decent way to spend an afternoon.

by Gregg Winkler
14 January 2006

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