Title: Earthly Concerns
Author: Xavier Axelson
Publisher: JMS Books
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Length: Novella (152 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Sammy
Review Summary: Two men discover just how steep the cost of love is when that which they hold dear is threatened and they are forced to make a deadly choice.
Between love and loss, there is obligation…
It was a peaceful night when Barrett and his daughter were driving home… then something happened. Something sinister.
Between shadow and light, there is uncertainty…
Now the only person Barrett can turn to for help is Anson, a man gifted with psychic abilities beyond reason. But Anson is also his ex-boyfriend, a man whose heart he’d already broken.
If you can see, you have to help.
As Anson delves deeper into the circumstances surrounding Barrett’s accident, he begins to realize that he’s not only in a race against time, but in a battle against his own broken heart and the terrifying understanding that whatever has taken Barrett’s child is a force of evil beyond anything either man has ever encountered.
And between decision and consequences, there are… Earthly Concerns
“There is no love for you with this man. He is heartache, shadow on top of shadow.”
Anson hears voices…sees images…feels things that, to the naked eye, seem not to exist. He lives with the knowledge that most people do not believe in his “abilities”. In fact, apart from his Aunt Cyn, who also has the “gift”, we are given the impression that his is a solitary existence, often bereft of any companionship or love.
It is with this knowledge then, that Xavier Axelson thrusts us into his novella, Earthly Concerns, and straight into the nightmare of Anson’s ex-boyfriend, Barrett. With one late night phone call, we follow Anson through his painful meeting with an obviously tortured and nearly broken Barrett, who confesses right away that his daughter is gone. Not missing. Not kidnapped. Not lost. Just gone.
She has been taken. Taken by something so malevolently evil that the mere description of it makes you wary of shadows and forces you to leave on the night light, just in case the monster that Axelson describes in his novella turns out to be real.
While driving home from horseback riding lessons with his young daughter, Hilary, Barrett has a freak car accident. Unbeknownst to Barrett, something has followed them; in fact, is stalking he and his daughter and is determined to have one of them for it’s very own. Out of the blue, his car swerves, suddenly out of control, and crashes into a tree. As Barrett lay inside, groggy and clinging to life, the thing, the monster asks him one question: “you or her?” In a brief, agonizing moment Barrett chooses life for himself and resigns his daughter to hell.
As Anson uses every tool he has at his disposal from hypnotism to dream imagery, the race is on to somehow save not only Hilary but Barrett and himself as well. When Anson comes to the horrifying conclusion that it’s Barrett who was responsible for his daughter being “chosen” he must decide whether he can help the very man whose cold and aloof manner has kept them from truly loving one another in the past.
Now the question becomes just how far is Anson willing to go in order to help a man who has previously confessed he could never be the lover Anson desires. It is here that Axelson shows his true mastery over the written word. By making Anson a sort of “everyman”, someone like you or I, he makes Anson’s dilemma our very own. We find ourselves wondering how we would react; how we would have chosen. In that moment, when we fight for our lives, at what point do we finally give up and say, no more…the loss is not worth the gain? And if, in that moment, we choose wrongly to preserve ourselves at the cost of another, how much more would we give to have the ability to take it back…to change our minds and sacrifice ourselves for those we love?
These are the questions that surface repeatedly in this tautly written horror novella. With relentless drive, Mr. Axelson takes us to the edge again and again and leaves us breathlessly clinging to the ereader in our hands. The terror and repulsion the creature evokes in the minds of both Barrett and Anson is so real that you yourself feel that little shiver down your spine; that tingle on your neck that causes you to occasionally take a furtive glance over your shoulder to make sure you are still alone.
Earthly Concerns is a wild ride that leaves you gasping at every turn and praying that everyone comes out alive when the horror subsides. Through it all, the author weaves into the characters of Anson and Barrett a love so beautifully self-sacrificing that you can’t help but hope that somehow it and they will survive.
My only criticism of this intense novella was its abrupt ending. I needed just a bit more. I was left wondering where these two men would go on from here and I felt a little cheated when I discovered that I was not to find out in the end.
However, apart from that, this novella certainly has it all. Were I to describe it in terms of other authors in this genre I would say that it stacks right up there with a Dean Koontz or a Stephen King–yes–it’s that good! So dear reader if you like a good thrill, turn on the nightlight and huddle beneath the blankets and enjoy Earthly Concerns! I certainly did!