Spine-Tingling Short Fiction: Newton’s “The Reconstruction Descending”

The Reconstruction DescendingThe Reconstruction Descending by Newton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The short story is a genre that should be more popular than it is. The shrinking national attention span should be creating more of a clamor for stories that range from several to a few pages in length. Writing such as Newton’s “The Reconstruction Descending” will create more of a desire for shorter fiction because of its ability to bring swift hammer blows of visceral meaning.

There are six stories in this short collection; if there is a common theme, it is the hostility that humanity faces, not only from the natural world, but from other worlds and even from its own creations. If Stephen King made his mark chronicling the various darknesses that swell inside us, Newton will make his mark leaving unsettling visions percolating in our minds long after we have put the stories down.

The best story in this collection is the last one, “Breathing Room.” It imagines a world in which people can use SimBots to spend time with recreations of loved ones who have passed away. A rogue judge uses the technology to recreate time with his wife; the fact that he is unspeakably cruel to the SimBot triggers a real simulation of his wife. Instead of the compliant blonde he expects, the angry, dead soul comes back to life and occupies the SimBot, with a vivid outcome.

“Quality of Life” turns cancer from a fatal disease to a malicious force that seeks to take over the bodies of its sufferers. The haunting battle between an elderly woman and her cancer is one that, shall we say, makes me less likely to swim in a lake near a nursing home.

The most effective parts of these stories are the philosophical questions that underlie them. There are some stories that could use a little more development, such as “Gifted” and “An Angel and the Devil Over Coffee.” The title story, “The Reconstruction Descending,” is powerful because of the existential chaos it believes to be coming toward us all.

All in all, these stories are definitely a diversion from what is mainstream. If you like your fiction to make you think about uncomfortable topics, this is a collection you will enjoy.

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