I wasn’t crazy. Not like most of the tortured souls I shared the prison with. Some wandered, muttering and bumping into walls. Some sat unmoving for hours, staring into a darkness even the desert sun couldn’t penetrate, their eyes seeing but not seeing, ears hearing but not listening. And a sad few would break; they would weep, and rock, and cry out. These were the broken: shuffling from place to place, barely eating, barely drinking, numbly watching the flesh drip from their bones, oblivious to the blood slowing in their veins.
We know very little about the central (practically only) character in this novella — he’s a prisoner, somewhere in Persia, sometime long ago. That’s about all that we know — for that matter, that’s about all he knows. His imprisonment has left him so psychologically shattered that he can’t remember anything about himself. He has children somewhere, he thinks.
We see him struggle to survive, struggle to get free, struggle to convince himself that he’s not crazy, and return to/rebuild his life. I don’t know much about him, but I like him, and I want to see the best for him.
I don’t think it’s possible for the word “visceral” to show up more in my notes for a 75-page novella than it did here. You feel this story as much as you read it — the almost-alien creepiness of a scorpion, the isolation, the fear, the rat chewing on a toe — all of it, de Gutierre puts you right in the mind of his amnesiac (his having no name helps there).
Until this story spools out a bit more — maybe volume 2, maybe until the end — I’m not sure what I think of the story, plot or characters. I can tell you that I want to know these characters better, I want to find out what happens to them, but that’s as far as I can say on that front. So, I’m left with de Guiterre’s writing — which is just what this story needs. He knows what he’s doing, and has got me hooked, even if I don’t have a clue about what he’s doing. This atmospheric, visceral read will leave you demanding more, soon.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novella from the author in exchange for my honest opinion — and I’m glad he gave it to me, because I wouldn’t have heard of it otherwise.