Reviews for Bastards
Anihyr Moonstar chapter 1 . 6/3/2015
I enjoyed the structure of this - opening in the ‘present’, presenting the body of the story in the middle, and then closing up back in the present. It gives it a nice neat, organized feel and a kind of sandwhich effect. Also, the opening presents the sort of ‘hook’ that gets the reader through the story, wondering what that single sentence will be, and then we’re fed the information we need to go through the body narrative before getting to it. Anyway, well done on structure.

As usual it felt well-paced, rich with just enough solid and vivid description to make the moments feel real and grounded in the mind’s eye. I like that you don’t rely just on visuals, but set the mood with scents and sounds, too. I think that playing on more than one sense is a great way to further solidify a scene and make it stick out in the reader’s mind. The build up of suspense was also well-handled, and I could feel that lingering, growing knot of dread/wonder as the events unfold.

The ending felt a *touch*…anticlimactic, perhaps? Though maybe that fits, since most of the action has already occurred, and it has all sort of dwindled to its bitter conclusion. Either way, though, I thought it was a well handled piece. Nice job.

- Moonstar
lookingwest chapter 1 . 5/31/2015
There's a line "he would've fathered his brother straight until hell" that felt odd - isn't the usual phrase "straight into hell"? "Until" to me means that he wouldn't go any further - like he wouldn't go *into* hell with his brother, but he'd at least go up to hell's gates. Unsure if that's what you meant as I think using "until" implies that he trusts his brother but doesn't trust him as far as risking damnation or something. Just a nitpick, really. But it stuck out as I was reading so I thought I'd point it out.

I like how this short story comes full circle in a lot of ways. We find out what the letter means from the opening, and we also find out what happened to Robert and Billy's mother. The ambiguity of that was intriguing - it was a horrifying scene, but I felt like I wanted to know more in regards to the situation. There was a line about Billy "struggling" with the thing up on the platform and I thought that by using the word "struggle" it meant that the thing in the barn was alive? But she wasn't right? It was just her corpse? I re-read it but either way, it's a pretty scary moment for the two of them, and I like how you paced up the fear with the use of the ladder and Billy's climbing.

Another ambiguity - are Robert and Billy actually their father's sons, or are they really "bastards" and that's the reason that their mother was killed? I don't know if those things really need to be answered, but I liked the mystery of the entire thing - and that kind of clears up the question of "why" on their father's part - though sadistic murderers don't always need a "why" that makes any sense. I also enjoyed the setting of this short story and the description of their mother's "cornsilk" hair - there were some very nice images with the barn and Nebraska foothills. Felt like my neck of the woods :) Overall another strong piece - I envy your short story prowess!
LuckycoolHawk9 chapter 1 . 5/16/2015
I really like the opening of this story because it allows us to get into the psyche of Robert and see how destroyed he is, allowing us to sympathize with him. I also like the flashback in its entireity because it comes to reflect how Robert had came this way and what pushed him off the edge. I also love the ending because it shows that the father never wanted to hurt either of his kids but had to kill one since they discovered he killed their mother. This is a beautiful horror piece and I hope to read more like this.
Jalux chapter 1 . 5/8/2015
I've said this before and I'll say it again, I do like the way you leave up things unanswered because I feel for this sort of story that's how you keep it in your readers mind. I'm not the biggest fan of horror but I still found this really enjoyable because your writing is succinct and the element of tension is honestly prevalent throughout the whole piece. I feel this is a combination of the setting itself and the description in certain sections and probably one of the strengths of this piece. It reads very gloomy I suppose with this talk of tragedy. Even though we barely knew Roberto it was still enough to get a read on his persona to feel sorry for him.
Shampoo Suicide chapter 1 . 2/6/2015
One thing I liked about this, which is attributable only to your style, is that I was expecting a more horror twist and found this piece to be more tragic. I really like the pervasively gloomy feeling the entire story has, and think the overall atmosphere you've crafted here along with some of the descriptions, like of his mother and father and their faces, make this some of the most impressive writing I've seen from you. This is intended to be high praise because you have consistently impressive and intruguing work, I think. I saw only one grammatical error that stood out, Billies, but assume someone has already touched on that. Overall very nice read!
SenatorBlitz chapter 1 . 1/21/2015
for the review games, easy fix

i think i've read a story from you before, so before i embarked on this tale i took a good long look at the genre. then i started reading and promptly got seduced into thinking the genre was a typo and this was just a story about a boy on a farm with his father and brother...even if he broke into tears when he read the letter.

you really have an edge the way you wield atmosphere in this work. the sense of foreboding, while extant, wasn't enough to warn me off this story. it wasn't enough to make me suspect every single move, character i saw. it slunk about under this false sense of security (that i dont even know where i got because like i mentioned, this rightly opens with a man crying), so when the ending came, my mouth actually dropped open in surprise, because i hadn't seen it coming.

the deliberate decision to never indicate the mother's disapearence until she disappeared and to likewise simply erase the brother like he never existed, i think, for me, is where the true horror of this piece lies. also, not ever knowing what the father did to the brother, but pretty much guessing he killed him (because i mean he killed the mother, too)? makes this even more chillding. and, and really. why does his father know where robert is now? why is he writing to him? why is he acting like there was nothing else he could have done?

*shuddershudder*. i myself am not exactly a country girl, but this story isn't helping me become a better one. really good job!

as for cc: i think most people covered the little grammar bits. i didnt see anything that stuck out too much.

SB
m. b. whitlock chapter 1 . 1/8/2015
RG EF #6,478

This story is really powerful and cinematic. I get this big sense of wide open fields and these kinda brutal small, insufficiently protected spaces in the midst of them, barns and stables, places where darkness and winds filter in and where men brutally assert their dominance over animals.

Anyway, I thought this story was chilling and really good. :) I think you did a great job describing the setting, making it more than just scenery but an iconographic conflict zone. Very cool. The whole male clan with their blue eyes rings so true, as does Robert’s ultimate misfortune. Really cool . :)

Okay, I have some notes:

This scene is particularly cinematic I feel:
“The letter was crumpled and smudged. Robert read what was in it and the next thing he knew he was slumped against the toilet, shaking himself to pieces and bawling his eyes out.”

I really like how you make the land itself barbaric, brutal, ominous:
“They were raised as farm hicks under the dutiful eyes of their father, who owned 300 acres of flat, fertile land where they grew feed corn and raised cattle. He never talked much about their mother, only telling them she was a 'city gal' who couldn't handle the country life.“

Fascinating moment:
“Even in the dying light Robert could see the mischief in those deep blue eyes. Billy reached into his pocket and pulled out a key ring.

"Look what I got!" he dangled the keys in Robert's face.”

This is so good!:
“The sound of Billies laughter drifted through the dusk and as they made their way to the barn Robert could feel his apprehension lifted. He would've followed his brother straight until hell, *that's how cool he thought he was.*”
But you might want to consider cutting the last ** part. Just don't think you need it if you want to be a harsh editor. ;)

Love this:
“Robert felt like a scarecrow with hay down his shoes, shirt, and pants. He was wiping the hayseeds from his hair when he spied Billy eying the ladder with that same mischievous glint in his eyes.”
Scary!

Great visceral stuff here:
“Robert could hear Billy fidgeting against the rafters way up there. The ladder groaned in protest and Robert tried to swallow but his throat was as dry as the hay pile.”

This whole story is wonderful from beginning to end. Deftly Poe-like, Fall of the House of Usher just a tad. But it has this interesting 'country/Scandinavian-American/Northern Mid-West' thing. It's very realistic and freaky and iconic and cool. :)

vb,

mbw
Jitterbug Blues chapter 1 . 12/31/2014
Heya :D I'd like to get the one nitpicky thing out of the way, and that's how you may want to be more careful with your possessive forms, especially the plural ones. There were several instances here where the apostrophes were missing, and while they didn't deter from the enjoyment of the piece, they were enough to be noticeable. Just a heads-up :)

So this is a whole new environment compared to your other stories' usual fare (well, the subset of them that I've read anyway), with a more rural, backwoods setting. I enjoyed the descriptions, and I think in this piece specifically your descriptions really shone, not just of the setting but of the characters as well (the mother's description being especially important for... reasons [spoiler redacted], and when you harked back to that first description of her features it hit like a gut punch and really *worked* for me, it really did).

Also, while a lot of your other pieces that I've enjoyed dealt with surprise endings, in which the last paragraph or two delivered one big revelation, I really liked the deviation in structure here. There were two such, smaller moments here - one at the barn, and one at the very end (even after the barn, the reader is left with 'but what about the letter?' and while the resolution with the letter isn't earth-shattering, it leaves a queasy feeling in the reader's stomach - which I guess is exactly what you were going for. It really works, and I think the slow burn to the two revelations was executed very well too.

Thanks for the read :) Happy New Year!
- JM for RG EF
Ventracere chapter 1 . 12/30/2014
Oh man. I swear, your openings are always a way to lure in a false sense of security, I have got to stop falling for them. Anyhow! I love the way you describe his parents. You don't do it in the whole blue eyed, wearing whatever whatever kind of way. Instead, you got about it in a way that pairs their features up with geography. And it makes everything flow so much more. Nice!

Okaaayy. So another thing that I liked in particular about this story was how seamlessly you melded the past and present. I have got to stop using the word fluidity, but that's what you have. Because you have the past and present going in and out, the flashback doesn't read like a flashback and it puts your readers right into the scene. Which for that matter was kind of terrifying and something that does not help my fear of creaking old places that stink. So Kudos.

Have I ever mentioned that tying the beginning and end is one of my favorite techniques? You've got that there and again, this makes everything come full circle. It's closes matters fully and we can see just how much Robert regrets that moment in his life.

Nice job :)
mycastleheart chapter 1 . 12/28/2014
For the Review Game, Easy Fix

Whoa, that was intense...

And I loved it!

The raw emotions, the descriptions, the characters, the mystery, you had me hooked unto this story. I wondered what happened to Billy after he found the dead body, but I guess there's no mystery there that the dad probably killed him too.

I wondered why the dad killed himself. Did he get caught by police and was on the run? Or was it something else?

I loved it, loved loved loved it! I was always a sucker for a good horror story, which is probably why I like it so much, lol. Some parts confused me, and a lot was left unsaid, but that's natural for a piece like this.

Well done!
alltheeagles chapter 1 . 12/28/2014
For the RG EF

Wow, powerful stuff there to end the year with.

Right, so I actually liked the loose ends, which is rather strange I know, but I think it works because if everything were explained neatly it'd probably take away some of the impact of the main message. So it's fine with me that we don't know who their real dad is and what happened to his brother, though you could probably add just a tiny bit of detail on Robert's life in between the barn and dropping out of school.
The other thing I like is the dialogue, which sounds sufficiently farm-hicky to me without being too over the top. If you'd put in stuff like Yee Haws or wait-a-cotton-pickin-minutes there, I'd have barfed.