By: Jeff Chapman
I would hazard a guess that the majority of people like to have some “alone time.” Being alone gives us the chance to relax and rejuvenate without having to worry about the expectations of others. However, what happens when you go overboard with this precious time, and covet it so much that you overtly abandon your friends and family? In Soul Thief, author Jeff Chapman attempts to provide an answer to just such a problem.
In this very brief novelette, the main character, James, is invited out by his family but once again chooses to stay home and play games instead. By the reaction of his parents and sister, this is certainly not the first time he has passed up such an invite. Nevertheless, he is soon going to find out that his refusal to accompany and honor his family comes with serious repercussions. The fallout in this particular case comes in the form of a grotesque and soul stealing monster. Will James discover the error of his ways? Or will he and his soul be transported into the land of the eternal abyss?
The actual plot of Soul Thief has an awful lot of promise. It has a very intriguing and engaging premise. However, everything in the tale just seems to happen too quickly. There is not enough detail given to the actual experiences for the reader to become fully engrossed in the story. All horror writing has the common elements of mystery, suspense, foreshadowing and fear. While they all appear in some fashion in this work, they are limited and not fully developed. More time and effort given to developing the storyline and enhancing the setting description could have really enhanced the final product. The only really creepy part in regards to the setting comes when James is locked in the basement. I believe an opportunity is lost when setting is not used to enhance the story.
All that being said, it is surprising that in such a short novelette, the author does manage to aptly describe and develop his characters. For instance, the growth of both James and his sister Alicia is quite evident throughout the story. The readers will find themselves cheering for James as the tale goes on which illustrates a high level of character identification. Even James’s parents evolve throughout the tale, turning from the atypical “nagging parents”, to part of the team. Indeed, this theme of family unity is prevalent throughout the novelette. This also helps to make it appropriate for an audience of young adult and up.
While I would have liked to see this story expanded in a way which would give more credit to the ingenuity of the ideas contained within, there is still no doubt that it is good writing nonetheless. Indeed, I have read much of Jeff Chapman’s work and he is a writer who really knows his craft. Even in this short tale he managed to adequately present the elements of horror and capture the imagination of the reading audience. It does not take a position as one of my favorites however. I just believe so much more could have been done with it.
3 soul stealing stars for this one.