Late last year, Kevin Lucia delivered a wonderful collection called Things Slip Through, a great gathering of tales presented in a wholly unique way. The voice of Lucia’s writing is old school—think early King or later Bradbury. So obviously, I was quite anxious to read this novella, Devourer of Souls, which is actually a pair of longer stories which are stitched together by a similar framing device as those in Things Slip Through.
You know the old saying: “If it ain’t broke…”
Devourer of Souls starts with two men meeting in a diner. They are members of a sort of coalition in the Clifton Heights area, a group of men who meet once in a while to keep one another apprised of the weird shit that seems to be bubbling under the Rockwellian surface of their town.
The first half is a great tale called “Sophan.” A group of boys and an outcast dying to be drawn into a strange and ancient game of chance called Sophan, a tile game offered to one of the boys at a rummage sale. During the last breaths of summer, one boy is consumed by hatred and bigotry while his friend is called to fix things. A father is haunted by the ghosts of war and another by his good fortune to have returned and moved on. Lucia does a great job of bringing these characters to life. The emotions are realistically rendered and easily relatable, he keeps them simple but something that we can all recognize, honestly written and stronger for it.
“The Man in Yellow” is the second feature, and it is just a good as the opening act. Set in another flyspeck town that neighbors Clifton Heights, this story involves a young man on the cusp of adulthood, angry at the world and the God he isn’t sure is out there. He and his friend discover that faith can be a monster when a new minister arrives in town. A charismatic stranger in a bright yellow suit and an ancient agenda. This one has a decidedly darker tone than “Sophan,” and given the brooding cloud of faith and/or lack thereof that hangs over it, it isn’t surprising. .
Lucia’s strong characters and smartly simple and realistic dialogue are one of the many things that propel his writing along the rails. His pacing is good and he knows how to tell a good story without a lot of fat. Too many times writer’s bog down their stories with unnecessary jewelry and gloss when a simple story—simply told—is what is needed. Lucia gives us a refreshing old-school style—not that he can’t throw down the words, but he understands that the story needs to be the star.
Devourer of Souls is available through Ragnarok Publications.