The Alternative, by Suzanne Burke. Nine stories of people both good and bad, who made the choice to exact “The Alternative.”
Suzanne Burke’s description:
There are those that cling unreservedly to the lifeboat that believing in Karma hands them so willingly.
They work, they live, and they function in a world that grants them the option of believing that Karma has no deadline.
Until they are handed the spark that ignites them into becoming the instrument of Karma itself.
There are others who have had all they once held to be truths, everything they once stood for and took pride in, torn apart and ripped from them by the hand of a cruel fate.
Then, of course, there are those who believed in nothing and no one, to begin with …
These are their stories.
Stories of people both good and bad, who made the choice to exact “The Alternative.”
And, follow Suzanne Burke on Twitter!
Travis Borne’s review:
Nine tales send you in nine different directions, surge your emotions, then tank ’em. You’ll be left aghast after some of these. And the way these tales mesh is a synergistic punch to the gut. There’s payback and retribution, salvation and death, stalkers and calculated greed, with a few shocking endings, and a few heartfelt ones. If you like gripping, unpredictable tales that’ll remain lodged in your brain, that’ll have your subconscious dwelling over the gestalt, that’ll have you rubbing your hands together with schadenfreude and a touch of sinister glee, then this collection of stories is for you.
The first, Picasso, will send a jolt up your spine—after you venture into the basement… The ending will have you cringing—and possibly saying, “YES! YES!” One of the lengthier tales, and probably, the most ghastly.
Human Disinterest, the second tale, will have you hating humanity, then hoping… while balling your eyes out. And then, just maybe, you’ll change your mind about people. Life on the streets, growing up, warm parents to freezing-cold and heartless ones, and the most difficult of times… Heartbreaking loss, life on the streets. A look into the raw, often overlooked lives of people we pass by everyday, and the destructive power of addictive drugs. This is a heart-wrenching tale, but possibly, some good with come out of it—for some.
Next, expect to meet sociopaths and sickos, as well as their very unsuspecting victims, in this third tale, The Sins of the Children. Good human beings, or are they? A helping hand for a woman in need, then a break-your-neck twist. This one has a jolting, slasher of an ending that could be, well, for some at least, almost funny—in a demented, deserving sort of way, of course.
Secrets run years deep in the fourth tale, Eternally Yours. The author’s use of dialog throughout the entire book is clever and splendid, but in this one it’s really superb: via speech, thoughts, and in the form of a very special, received letter. Head up to the Trump Tower penthouse, read the letter, wonder what in the world, then get your butt on the phone after discovering a most appalling secret! Save her—believe him! Go, go, go—this is for real! A real race against the clock.
Isolation Can Be Deadly. When I finished this fifth tale my prospective review-rating soared from four to five stars. I enjoyed many of the tales in this compilation, but this one sent my schadenfreude into the blue yonder. Crocodiles and muahahaha—HA HA! Greedy devious dudes, clever machinations and… well, you’ll never guess. And the ending, like stories #1 and #9, might evoke your sinister grin.
Alexis in Blue. Absolutely enjoyed this sixth story. Very inventive, clever, with plenty of paranoia, panic and the unnerving tick-tock of the clock. All eyes on you, or are they? Don’t hang up the phone in this restaurant. But, why doesn’t anybody say something! Can’t they see me? Nobody talks on the phone this long! HELP ME! As mentioned above, this is one of the tales that, while it didn’t have an Alfred Hitchcock twist, just stuck with me. A crescendo of tickling tension and eerie paranoia.
Choices. Story number seven is another tale that really grips you. There’s no turning back the clock, especially not after some choices have been made. The insecurities soldiers may possess regarding their significant other back home, mental instability, and a reunion that is anything but expected. Shattered trust, shattered lives.
Next, and the eighth tale, is the most horrifying one in the collection, for me anyway. Big Brother. Left for dead behind a dumpster, beaten and raped… and the years go by and by. The victim, and her brother, will never be the same. But one day a man walks into a church… Wait, I just can’t… no spoilers! Another tale that really stuck with me. Get ready for more schadenfreude-piquing, ghastly payback.
And last but not least, Hidden by Shadows. This was one of the deepest tales, as well as my personal favorite. Punishing lows take their toll on a man who once gave his all to help and save others. A life in quicksand, sinking into darkness. Once upon a time everything had been great, but no longer. This is an absorbing tale, an account of one man’s downward spiral into the deepest pits of despair. Beautifully told.
Overall, I found this compilation of stories fascinating. My official review would have been four stars, as I did feel that some of the stories, although it seemed less with others, could have used further editing and proofing. For someone who reads a lot, I find this distracting. And I felt as though the first story, Picasso, was a bit predictable. Although Picasso was probably my least favorite of the nine tales, each most definitely got better, more intense and more gripping. I’m glad I stuck with this book.
But, what really sent this review above four stars… was the way in which the stories sat together as a compilation, the way they stayed with me for a while after reading. Don’t dive into this book expecting shocking twists in every story, but do expect to be emotionally affected by all of them. Highlights of the author’s writing include her fluid use of dialog and no-holds-barred, down-to-earth, real-life and gritty method of bringing conversations to life—as well as her unique style, which I ultimately found to be very satisfying.
Here’s my top-three favorite stories of this compilation: #1—Hidden by Shadows, #2—Isolation Can Be Deadly, and #3—Big Brother. These three stories really did it for me, and my official rating of this book is 4.5 stars. I look forward to more from this author.