I wasn’t sure what I was in for with a title like SCREECHERS and a tag-team of authors in Kevin J. Kennedy & Christina Berling, but the experience was a pleasant one, that is if you enjoy nightmarish hellscapes.
In SCREECHERS, we have two interweaving stories. One follows three men, Austin, Denver, and Brooklyn (gotta chuckle at the city theme) as they try to survive in a virtual post-apocalyptic hellscape of uncertain origin. Their community has been destroyed and everyone killed, but Austin and Denver, twin brothers try to keep their tempers cool among each other, despite their abrasive companion Brooklyn testing his limits. The second tale is of two monsters, one an adult, the other a child as they struggle to understand this new land and find their place in it. When these two groups collide, the reader is in for a real treat.
Overall, I was kind of expecting a lot more from this, especially with two writers on board. The world building is fun, if not a bit light, but the broad-strokes are good, especially when painting what a nightmarish hellscape the world has become. Monsters lurk at every turn, twisted by toxins, radiation, and brutality. The men each have their own struggles and motivations, which are fun to watch play against each other, even if they seem to be unrelateable to the reader.
The sections that involve the monsters were really interesting and fun. I personally would have wanted them to be even more alien or stranger, but in some ways, they felt more human than the actual humans in the story. Not sure if this was intentional, but it was interesting all the same. The arc of the story is fast-paced and brief, but it makes for an entertaining experience and one that, if you don’t get caught in the mechanics of the story, is quite fun. Juggling two writing styles and voices can be hard to do, especially in a brief novella, such as this, but both authors managed to pull off a skilled feat and told a concise story, if an all around short one.
I would be thrilled to see another collaboration of Kennedy and Bergling in the future, not that they have their feet wet.