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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Junkie Quatrain by Peter Clines (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website
Read FBC’s review of Ex-Heroes 
Read FBC’s review of Ex-Patriots 
Read an excerpt HERE 
Order the book HERE 

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Peter Clines was born and brought up in Maine, he moved to California when he grew up and worked in Hollywood for a number of years. He has also been a prop master for several movies and TV shows. He has written reviews for the Cinema Blend website as well as for the Creative Screenwriting magazine. He has previously interviewed many famous film personas such as Frank Darabont, Paul Haggis, Kevin Smith, George Romero, Akiva Goldsman, David Goyer, Mark Herman, Nora Ephron and many others. He currently lives in Southern California.

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: Six months ago, the world ended.

The Baugh Contagion swept across the planet. Its victims were left twitching, adrenalized cannibals that quickly became know as Junkies. Civilization crumbled as people created isolated safe havens to hide from the infected... and the possibly-infected. Now, as society nears a tipping point, lives will intersect and intertwine across two days in a desolate city.

THE JUNKIE QUATRAIN is four tales of survival, and four types of post-apocalypse story. Because the end of the world means different things for different people. Loss. Opportunity. Hope. Or maybe just another day on the job.

FORMAT/INFO: The Junkie Quatrain is 100 pages divided over four titled stories, and an introduction. Narration is in the third-person for all sections. Readers can read the stories in any order. January 13, 2012 marked the e-book publication of The Junkie Quatrain via Permuted press. Cover art is provided by Zach McCain.

ANALYSIS: There’s an interesting back story to The Junkie Quatrain by Peter Clines. Permuted Press had recently concluded a deal with Audible and invited Peter to write a few short which were to be included as bonus content. Peter agreed and set out to write four loosely connected stories that would resonate with the reader (or listener in this case). The stories can be read in the order they appear or as he suggests in the introduction, to read them after shuffling dice to determine the order of reading. I however didn’t follow Peter’s advice and decide to read them in the order they appear.

 The first story that appeared in my reading list was “Codependent” It focuses on Holly, a ragged but tough survivor, who has been travelling to reach a certain direction towards a destination. She has walked nearly hundred and forty miles and is looking for her familial connections, what she doesn’t bank upon is companionship. The story is quite a stark one as Holly is consciously trying to avoid the “Junkies” the term coined for the zombie-like humans that have been afflicted with a certain virus. She is trying to be tough as she searches for what she wants. The trouble is you can’t always depend on the company you keep.

The second story is called “Predator and Prey”, it’s also set around the same time as the first story. The focus of the story is “the outsiders” a group of people among several groups that used to travel from sanctuary to sanctuary, this story focuses on a relative big group that travels and collects certain things for a select group of people. This time it’s a task for the US military that requires them to retrieve a certain object. What they don’t know is that this time around there might be something more than human that crosses their path.

The third story is titled “Confidentiality” and is also set around the same time as the first two stories however in truth is a prequel to all the stories as it gives us the most of the back story about the world, its current junkie problem and its possible origin. The story is centered on Dr. Sam Clemens who gets pulled from his residency in Seattle and is dropped into Los Angeles for an emergency meeting. He doesn’t exactly know what’s it about but the reason for the journey might be something that will reveal what really happened six months ago.

The last story is “Strictly Professional” and it deals with a guy called Quilt, he has been extremely successful as a mercenary and he has accomplished all of it by being strictly professional. The end of the world because of the rise of the junkies has thrown a spanner in his schedule however Quilt has managed to adjust his perspective and yet remain a prized asset for the people who wish to hire his services. He however finds out that some things go beyond professionalism and he has to decide how much of a professional he will be.

These four stories are set in the same geographical region circa Los Angeles and occur nearly in the same time duration (of roughly two days), the sequence however is different and will be apparent to the readers once they read them however the sequential timeline is third, first, second and fourth. I believe this order will be most helpful for the reader to glean most of the actual happening of the overall saga. These stories follow a Rashomon-like pattern of being connected to each to other; the characters are what bring the stories alive. Each story deals with a set of characters that shine in their stories and draw the reader in. The author does his absolute best with characterization and like his debut series; this makes the story that much more special. The reader feels encompassed in a dying world, which is similar to the world introduced in the Ex-Heroes trilogy but this one is a world of normal humans who have to do extra ordinary things to simply survive. The stories are deceptive as they draw the reader in and manage to surprise the reader with their twists. The reader will be clued in to each story as the threads slowly unfold and readers are given hints about each story as well as the world.

The drawbacks about these stories are that while the author does his best to provide a complete picture, the reader is left a bit clueless about the final outcome of the world and the characters introduced in the stories, this bit will cause some dissatisfaction as the reader will want to know more and demand some closure. The threads left hanging are what cause the most amount of discord among the readers. Perhaps the author might also want to explore what happened beyond the eventual outcome of the book. I for one would love to read more about the characters and the world created.

CONCLUSION: Peter Clines absolutely shines in these experimental short stories, thereby showcasing his awesome talent which was prevalent stories in the Ex-Heroes series. Give these stories a read if you happen to love zombie stories or thrillers or LOST. The Junkie Quatrain is a must read if you haven’t read Peter Clines yet and if you have, then you definitely know why you ought to read this one as well.

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