“Dust” – A Fiery Short (REVIEW)

Dust by Jeff Scudder is a short horror story that packs a mighty punch. It begins with fire and ends in quite a surprising twist. As with all short stories – and their poetic counterparts – every single word makes a difference. When writing a short story you have to focus on the tempo, the climax, the denouement, and the oh-so-important finale. A short story is nothing without the above. If one word is out of place… Well, it all falls down like a crying widow at a Sicilian mourning session. That’s why it’s so important to focus on proper grammar, punctuation and story development.

I wish I could give Scudder a full five stars for his brilliant short story, but unfortunately I have to go with my critic-gut and fault him on the numerous mistakes he made. Let’s start, shall we? Firstly, there’s a couple of glaring spelling mistakes like “passed it” instead of “past it”, “abandon” instead of “abandoned”. Secondly, Scudder used the word envision twice in a very short period of time. Whilst this works in longer fiction, it doesn’t in short fiction. Why not try and find a synonym? Repetition is the devil’s playground. And lastly, Scudder overuses his adjectives. This verbosity made the reading a bit cumbersome. If he did away with some of the little darlings, I’m sure the story would have been cleaner.

I can’t fault Scudder on the denouement – it was breathtaking. Nor can I fault him on the social narrative. Unfortunately I can’t give away any details as the short hinges on surprise. All I can say is that the usual horror trope took a magnificent turn and forced me to read the finale several times.

As a critic, I want to feel a book or a story. I want to experience the situations until goosebumps prick my arms and legs. I want my hair to stand on end. Luckily, the finale did this to me. Cold chills ran down my spine and I caught myself feeling nostalgic and sad. This speaks volumes about Scudder’s talent. If the short undergoes a face-lift then yes, I would gladly give it full marks. But the way it stands now… I simply can’t.

RATING: 3.5 / 5

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About Renier Palland 10 Articles
Renier Palland hails from Cape Town, South Africa. He is a published poet, a book & film reviewer, and a Survivor Superfan. The first book in his debut trilogy, War Game, was soft launched in August of 2017. The paperback is slated for an international release in early 2018. He has over a decade of professional writing experience. His work has appeared on TMZ, CNN, BuzzFeed and numerous other famous websites. Renier loves cats, reality television, and enjoys writing about the human condition. He is currently completing his PhD in Sociology at Stanford University.

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