Review: Afterburn by Tim Curran

afterburnAbout Afterburn

Be quiet. Very quiet. Don't scream. They can't see you, but they can hear you. And they're coming. Knocking at doors and reaching through windows, hungry to incinerate anything that moves, anything that breathes. Born in a searing hellstorm of radioactive dust, they own the night and if they touch you, they'll burn the flesh from your bones. Listen. They're coming now. Don't even whisper. And don't scream.

About the Author

Tim Curran lives in Michigan and is the author of the novels Skin Medicine, Hive, Dead Sea, and Skull Moon. Upcoming projects include the novels Resurrection, The Devil Next Door, and Hive 2, as well as The Corpse King, a novella from Cemetery Dance, and Four Rode Out, a collection of four weird-western novellas by Curran, Tim Lebbon, Brian Keene, and Steve Vernon. His short stories have appeared in such magazines as City Slab, Flesh&Blood, Book of Dark Wisdom, and Inhuman, as well as anthologies such as Flesh Feast, Shivers IV, High Seas Cthulhu, and, Vile Things. Find him on the web at: blog:

My Thoughts

A new Tim Curran release is always something to be excited about, but I couldn't help feeling that Afterburn would have benefited from a shorter, more compact execution. There's a five-star novella buried within this four-star (maybe 3.5 star) novel.

My main complaint is that Afterburn just gets too repetitive. The main threat in this story revolves around a group of hell wraiths terrorizing and incinerating the small town of Middleburg, Nebraska. The idea is nifty enough, but frankly, there's just so many times you can read about some hapless victim getting cremated, and Curran pretty well covers all the bases, from exploding eyeballs to burning, popping fat, and human bodies rendered down to tallow and charred bones. There's just a few too many instances of this, though, and it gets a little long in the tooth. And while the back half of the book works incredibly well, it also highlights just how bloated and unnecessary a few of the character vignettes in the front half were.

Curran spends a good amount of time hopping from character to character before finally settling on the main protagonists, which was another problem with the structure of the book's opening, albeit a more minor one. I wasn't quite sure who to root for for quite a while in the book's early going's as each new character that surfaced existed simply to show how prevalent and ominous the mysterious threat plaguing Middleburg really is. I can't help but wonder how many of these characters were introduced and dispatched with just as quickly simply in an effort to increase the word count to novel length.

Still, Curran is able to explore his characters sufficiently well in their, too-frequently, limited page counts. Like Stephen King, Curran is a master of blue-collar horror works, taking regular Joes and shoving them through the meat grinder (sometimes literally, and explicitly detailed at that!) with supernatural prowess. In addition to Abby, we get small-town cops, a high school janitor, a real estate agent cheating on her spouse, and a crabby old bitty who has positioned herself as the neighborhood watch and tacky gossiper. As already noted, some get more minor roles than others in the local tapestry Curran shapes in Afterburn, but we get to know each of them well, sometimes to the detriment of a few of these lowlifes and ne'er-do-wells.

As with a lot of Curran books, though (at least the one I've read so far), once things get going there's little letting up. And here, the action starts off from damn near page one as black rain fall across the town, followed by a burning, crystalline hail that slices and dices its way through any townsfolk unlucky enough to be outside at the time. Sixteen year old Abby is stuck inside babysitting and catching up on her favorite infomercials, and soon enough finds herself to be the caretaker not only for her neighbor's newborn, but another boy whose parents were killed by the burning, yearning, hungry-for-more sentient incinerators.

The threat is damning and unstoppable, leading to a scorching, apocalyptic finale that really kicks this already-amped up story into overdrive. And while this isn't the best work of Curran's that I've read, it's certainly worth a read-through.

Buy Afterburn At Amazon

Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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