Title: Shadows of Tomorrow
Author: Ryan Lanz
Genre: Dystopia Short Stories
Only One Mask:
Nob only trusts two things: his knife and his breathing mask–the latter because he has to.
Ever since the world went crazy, he feels like he’s always on the run. Running from those who want to kill you. Running from those who want your food, your water, and your only way to safely breathe.
Tricia once said he takes things too seriously. That was a long time ago. Now taking things seriously keeps him alive.
He’s used to taking what he needs without an ounce of guilt, but now he’s faced with a moral dilemma that threatens his survival. They’ve never given him pause before, but this time, it’s different.
The Price of Art:
Jordyn prefers art to friends.
She remembered thinking that growing up, and it’s still true today. Art never let her down. Art never made fun of her. And art never tried to kill her.
She didn’t ask to live in a world where paintings are used for firewood, but that’s her reality. She’s constantly told to think practically–humanity can’t afford anything but the necessities to survive anymore. But she fought back and finally found a community who lets her keep every scrap of art she finds, anything to protect them from being destroyed.
But the day finally comes where she might have to choose between her survival and the survival of her art. The world isn’t a nice place anymore, and hard choices have become a part of everyday life.
Jordyn makes her choice.
I’ve always enjoyed Ryan’s thoughts on writing in his blog and his writing prompt book, so when he published a two-story collection of dystopia stories, I was excited to read it. Here’s how the story stacks up in terms of Narration, Content, Characters, Artwork, World Building, and Overall Response.
Narration: 5 out of 5. The tone of the book is very immediate, very real and gritty. Both dystopia stories could be unfolding in the same world, and it’s not a happy place, but the mood is enjoyable, with hopes and goals and not just a “doom and gloom” feel. The narration is third-person close, so everything is filtered through the main characters, and they feel like real people, facing real struggles. There are a few times, though, when the narration can feel a little bleak, and the stories are light on humor, so I wouldn’t recommend reaching for these stories when you want a laugh.
Characters: 5 out of 5. The best part of these stories, for me, are the characters. I’m not a huge dystopia fan, as the dysfunctional worlds and the desperation characters can have in them can be a bit depressing, but Ryan’s characters made this story come alive for me in an enjoyable and relatable way.
Nob, the main character of the first story, is a rough, do-what-he-has-to kind of guy that clearly has a heart under all his cold actions, and it really made me want to know if he’d listen to that heart or stay in survival mode. And Jordyn, the main character of the second story, feels like the kind of person many of us would be in a dystopia—way over our head and out of our element, but determined to protect what matters to us.
Content: 4 out of 5. There are a few major unanswered questions, especially in the first story, which, to me, makes the story feel incomplete, but I’m one of those readers who likes everything resolved, explained, and completed. These stories have more of a real-life feel, where you don’t always get to know everything. You get to enjoy a narrow sliver of these characters’ lives, and that’s it.
That being said, the slivers are gloriously well-written. There is some mild language, but no particularly adult content, so I’d say anyone from young adult on could read this. The characters are adults, but I think any fan of dystopia or even science fiction would enjoy the honest reality of these stories.
Artwork: Subjective. I really enjoy the cover, as I feel it captures the wild, isolated nature of both settings and the murky uncertainty of their worlds. The fact that it looks more like a photo than an artistic rendering is appropriate, too, as the stories feel more like real life than fiction.
World Building: 5 out of 5. This is another area where the stories shine. They indicate how people would live in a day-to-day basis in these dystopias and aren’t just about danger, dysfunction, and daring deeds. I would love to read a full-length novel set in one of these worlds, as they already feel rich and nuanced, and for a short story, that is very difficult to achieve.
Overall Response: 19 out of 20, or 4.75 overall. Anyone who enjoys a well-thought-out story will want to read these stories. They’re powerfully evocative, with daily life mixed in with adventure to create a satisfyingly-immersive reader experience. The character’s journeys are real and detailed, and you can’t help but want to read more by Ryan in the future. (Hint…Ryan, please keep writing!) 🙂
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Copyright 2018 Andrea Lundgren