Welcome to a day in the life of Mark, Jenna, Greyson and Polly. Although, perhaps it’s night. It’s kind of hard to tell when you’re entirely cut off from the outside world.
Everything they could possibly need is provided for them. There’s more than enough food to last a lifetime and alcohol is plentiful. They can laze around the pool, exercise in the gym or explore countless rooms. It sounds like paradise but is it really a prison?
“We all forget things, more and more every day.”
Their memories of before are hazy (there was a before, wasn’t there?) and there’s no one to answer any of their questions about why they’re … wherever they are. They don’t know how long they’ve been [insert your best guess here] or how long this
experiment test captivity refuge whatever it is will last.
With only a daily routine standing between them and their paranoia-fuelled tension, this utopia (if that indeed is what this is) could be coming to an end.
It wasn’t long before the cogs in my head began to whir. I was intrigued by this world that was appearing in my imagination and looked closely for new clues that could help me solve the puzzle.
“We should’ve been told.”
I have this (probably not normal) fascination with stories that drop characters into strange scenarios that they don’t understand – yet. Cube is one of my all time favourite movies, even though I am convinced I would have died there, as well as in the first room of Escape Room.
While I love watching characters piecing together the clues that will increase their probability of survival, I’m even more interested in the psychological fallout. Seeing how different people respond when they’re plonked in the same fishbowl, and wondering how I would react in similar circumstances, is something I can’t get enough of. The characters’ various coping mechanisms and the group dynamics sucked me into this story almost as much as the mystery of What The Hell?!
Fear is corrosive.
If you’re looking for a nice, neat story, with all of the answers waiting for you on the final page, wrapped up in a pretty bow, this is not the story for you. I suspected going into the bunker (if that’s what it is) that I was unlikely to have all of my questions answered and I was semi prepared for the frustration that comes with the unknown.
While my frustration level is higher than I expected, my need to know for sure has diminished greatly. If the author ever provides all of the answers to every question ever, do I want to know? Hell, yes! Did I have fun coming up with my own increasingly outlandish explanations, some of which I’m still pondering? Absolutely!
Mostly for my entertainment, but also for yours if you’re interested, I present to you just some of the many question marks that hovered over my head as I read …
Is there actually an outside world? Are there other people either inside or outside?
Are they underground at all? Are they even on Earth?
Are they billionaire preppers who purchased their survival in an apocalypse? Was there an apocalypse? Was it aliens?
Are they unknowingly participating in a social experiment that’s being broadcast across the world? Is one of the characters a mole?
Do the other three people exist or are they the hallucinations of one person who’s been isolated for too long?
Is this AI or virtual reality?
If any of them do find a way out, what kind of world will they be walking into?
I absolutely love Vince Haig’s cover design. Is that a face I see?
Two final thoughts:
- I doubt I’d ever get the TV to work in this place.
- The cleaning scene is still messing with my mind.
Thank you so much to Undertow Publications for the opportunity to read this novella.
Once Upon a Blurb
Utopia. Four people living together deep underground in a subterranean facility. All their needs provided for. Food, water, medicine. A swimming pool; a gym; a bar. Except none of them can recall exactly how they came to be there, or what they are supposed to do. Dystopia. Where are the others? There must have been others. It’s a huge facility, after all. It must be some sort of experiment. They’re test subjects. How long have they been there? When will they get out? How come there has been no outside contact? Utopia or dystopia. As the questions mount, so does the tension. Who will escape Armageddon House?