When the Cicadas stop singing - by Zachary Ashford
When I started reading this novella, I had expected a straight-out creature feature. I couldn’t really tell you why, perhaps it was word of mouth, the cover, the marketing – I still don’t know – and whilst elements of that are in the book as a constant threat and background, this reads more like a hunter/slasher – a psychological thriller, a battle of minds and attitude – good against evil.
And it’s all the richer for it.
Ashford introduces the reader into his world with an action sequence that gets the blood pumping right from the get-go. We are introduced to Cora, the tough, badass female MC as she battles one of the lizard-type creatures that now infest the planet, using the natural habitat to overcome the stronger, faster enemy. It’s like a cross between predator and Sigourney Weaver from aliens, you are thrilled and hooked right from the get-go. Zachary blends the standard methods of short chapters loaded with tension hooks to keep the reader breathless and flipping the pages, and that tension doesn’t ease up for a second. This is a ride, make no mistake, from beginning to end, and I was thrilled to be on it.
The book takes an unexpected and wonderful twist with the introduction of two new human characters into the fray. Darren, an Alpha male with the mentality of a soldier ape, is the obvious threat, his “girlfriend” Sarah the submissive sidekick. Ashford quickly establishes the intelligence of Sarah and her attempts to negate her boyfriend’s domination through her hiding his resources (bullets), and Cora, seeing this, steals the items Sarah has hidden and hides them elsewhere, in an attempt to remove a threat that would give Darren an advantage if it came to a fight. That is the catalyst that enrages Darren and starts the hunt.
There are elements here that Zachary uses perfectly to play on the heartstrings – Cora’s attachment to the land due to it being the burial ground for her son, a victim of the lizards -the beating of Sarah, and the verbal and psychological abuse she suffers from Darren – it’s all gold. Darren is transformed into a monster much deadlier and much more abhorrent than the lizards we should truly fear – and in doing that we see the monster in humanity revealed in all of its cunning and brutal forms. That through his actions Darren physically transforms, Ashford completes his metaphor, of course.
It’s popcorn. I ate it up before I even knew my hand was feeding me.
This is a blast of a novella, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. The pace alone and the hatred Zachary injects into Darren make him unforgettable. If you are looking for a thriller horror this summer, then grab a hold of this.
Superb work, Zachary. Job done. 5 out of 5 ⭐ ‘s and I’ll be reading more of your work soon.
And that cover - lush.
You can buy a copy of When the cicadas stop singing, by clicking on the appropriate Amazon link, below:
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