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Aftermath
Chuck Wendig
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Samuel R. Delany
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Charles L. Grant

I Travel by Night

I Travel by Night - Robert R. McCammon I believe that stories need to be the length they require to tell the story. Some novels are over a thousand pages, and some stories are brief enough that they can be told aloud in twenty minutes or less, but so long as that's required to tell the story, I'm fine with it. Long-winded stories or stories that are too brief, though, feel like a bit of a cheat. It seems like the author was striving for a certain length, and, like Procrustes and his bed, either cut or stretched the story to fit that length.

I Travel by Night feels like a too-short story. I remember reading McCammon a lot when I was younger, and what I liked about his stories was his folksy storytelling style, paired with good characterization skills. He still has both of those knacks, but this novella feels more like a pitch story than a completed work. We get a well-enough sense of Lawson, the main character, to care why he does what he does, but the other characters in the story feel one-dimensional or cliched. The crusty harbormaster who shows up about halfway through the story felt more vivid than Miss Kingsley, who was supposed to be another protagonist, but he was just like all the other crusty countrymen we've seen in other works of fiction.

The ending of the story also felt rushed. McCammon did a good job of getting us started on the story and having us progress on the road to Lawson's destination, but once he got there, the storytelling lost what little subtlety it had, and it rolled on toward the end like a train without its brakes. Opportunities to show some conflict in the characters were lost, and the way the plot developed, it seemed like the story should have had the usual structure of the protagonists going up against the antagonist a few times, failing twice before finally defeating it for certain. It lacked that, though, and the ending felt unsatisfying for it. It felt like the story needed more time and more pages to develop into a proper story; as it is, this novella just left me feeling like I wanted more.

To make things worse, the story is actually pretty good. McCammon is still in form here, and still tells a gripping, engaging story that keeps you reading. There was definitely the potential for the story to be more, though, and that's where I feel like it failed. The story feels like it should have been novel-length, and that it was unceremoniously crammed into a shorter length. As I understand it, this was McCammon's return to horror after having given it up in the '90s, so maybe this was more a test run, or a novelty for his old-school fans. I mean, I'll take what I can get when it comes to McCammon, but I can't help but feel like this story could have been so much more.