Tag Archives: If You Go into the Woods

Book Review: If You Go into the Woods by David Gaughran

7 Jan

11268433“If You Go Into the Woods” and “The Reset Button” by David Gaughran

Arriba Arriba Books (April 30, 2011)

23 pages

3 out of 5 stars

Synopsis: In the first story, “If You Go Into the Woods,” a little boy is lured into a forbidding forest. In the second story, a recently divorced man feels that he is losing his identity.

Review: The first thing you should know is that these stories are short. Very, very short. They each clock in at about 2000 words, or eight manuscript pages. The other 8 pages of this slim digital volume include descriptions of and links to Gaughran’s other books, a four-page excerpt from his historical novel, an author bio, and a request for a review. 

The other thing you should know is there are, in fact, two stories in this volume. I did not realize this and was deeply confused when “If You Go into the Woods” ended and “The Reset Button” began. Gaughran included this information in the product description on Amazon, but I failed to read it. It was in the second paragraph, y’all! No one reads that far down.

Ahem, anyway. I have a huge amount of respect for Gaughran as an indie author pioneer–his nonfiction titles Let’s Get Digitial and Let’s Get Visible should be required reading for indies–and the production values on his short story collection were as good as you’d expect from one of the leaders in the field. Self-published titles usually get eviscerated for their proofreading and presentation, but I have no complaints on that front.

The writing itself is…serviceable. The language is stripped down and straightforward in a way that doesn’t appeal to me, but that’s more a matter of personal taste than an actual criticism. Gaughran is Irish, but given the somewhat stiff language and the settings (the Czech Republic and Sweden, respectively), the stories read as if they’d been translated into English. The cleverness of the ideas compensated for the lackluster prose, however, and “If You Go into the Woods” has a pleasantly creepy aftertaste that lingers long after the story ends.

If the purpose of this little collection is to entice readers to pay for one Gaughran’s full-length work, A Storm Hits Valparaiso, I’m not sure that it’s successful. Purchasers (note: I received this collection for free during a promotion) may feel disgruntled that they paid $.99 for two very brief stories and ads for his other works. Even if they felt that the stories were a good value, Gaughran’s novel is a sweeping historical saga set in South America. It has little in common, either thematically or stylistically, with these European fairy tales or his other fiction offering, a sci-fi short called “Transfection.”

As long as you approach these stories with the appropriate expectations–i.e. you actually read the description before downloading–I think you’ll be pleased with the 20-odd minutes of mildly unsettling entertainment they provide.

(Book Source: Free download from author promotion)