Short stories (especially as eBooks) are really popular at the moment. I guess it is because they are so accessible, being easy to read on the daily commute to work or school, or even on your lunch break. When I heard that Jack Croxall was planning on releasing X, I simply had to know more. You may remember that I loved his young adult Victorian-era adventure, Tethers, and so I knew whatever X may be, it was a certainty that it was going to be good.
X follows a fifteen year old girl, who for some unknown reason, is hiding out in the basement of an old house in the English countryside. For outside lay scariness and horror. As you read, you learn that these uglies could in fact be zombies, although they aren’t exactly specified. They drag themselves around, biting and eating people, which in turn is enough to ‘turn’ the victim into one of them. We follow X as she records her final thoughts.
Written largely as a series of journal entries, X is a very clever short story. Perhaps, in my opinion, simply because of the great portrayal of X. Jack Croxall does a fantastic job at getting in to the head of a teenage girl, and portraying her in such an authentic way. She’s no superhero, she’s not trained in martial arts; she’s just a normal school kid, a girl who used to have a family, a girl who has a crush on one of her school friends. And that is exactly why this story hits you. This is a girl who has been thrown in to such an extreme situation, who must survive the horrors that wait outside, and by writing down her thoughts, it gives her a voice – transforming her from a nobody into a somebody.
By writing in the first person, Jack Croxall gives the reader such a personal account of X. Therefore we don’t need strong imagery techniques such as similes and metaphors. We need only the exact account – and that is strong enough. It is often touching, especially towards the end of the story, where the exact truth behind X’s story is revealed. It’s gripping and emotional, but told in a very as-matter-of-fact way, which doesn’t detach you from X, but instead gives way for respect and sympathy. This girl didn’t have a choice, but manages to survive through intuition and instinct.
I thought the theme of sisterly love was exceptionally endearing as well as understanding, giving readers that little bit extra to relate to. It is also gives strong emotion to the story, especially when all is revealed. It is the little flashbacks that gives this story that added bit of depth too, which can be difficult to achieve when there really is only one character. I also loved the unanswered questions that this story evokes. What has happened to the world? Why has zombies suddenly appeared? What happens to X? But where cliffhangers can be annoying or frustrating for some, here it adds a poignant message of loneliness, detachment and a realisation that only the best survive. Life is cruel in X’s world.
Zombie stories can sometimes alienate people, but what Jack Croxall achieves in his short story is nothing short of brilliance. He has such a strong voice that connects with X, making her easily familiar and authentic, which is key for getting the readers to sympathise with her plight. This is less like a horror story, more like a personal thriller of sorts, and X’s personal account, which often asks the readers rhetorical questions, is emotional, harrowing and utterly believable. This isn’t a story about a chemical pathogen, a world disaster, it’s about the survival of an ordinary girl, who must rise up and survive, as well as swallow down the grief and loneliness this sudden existence asks for. The impending doom that awaits X is engrossing – if you like a good read that captures your attention then I’d definitely recommend this.
X is available as an eBook from:
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