Title: Our Own Unique Affliction
Author: Scott J. Moses
Release date: April 26, 2023
Huge thanks to Andrew & DarkLit Press for sending me a digital ARC of this one.
It’s a bit shameful – oh I know – but I haven’t read much of Scott’s work so far. He’s always been super supportive and we’ve interacted a fair bit, but for one reason or another, I just simply haven’t read all of his work yet – only his novella ‘Non-Practicing Cultist’ and a few stories in various anthologies.
With ‘Our Own Unique Affliction’ I was excited to dive in. Not because it’s a vampire story – if you’ve followed my own reviews, you know I can struggle with vampire stuff – but because I was curious to see what it was that Scott was going to do with it, what spin we were going to get.
What I liked: The novella follows Alice Ann, a young girl who was turned hundreds of years ago. She is navigating the new world with her sister, Hannah, and a human who helps ‘guide’ them.
The story covers a lot of ground, we get topical themes, as well as internal issues – guilt, stress, anxiety, dealing with loss and how are we able to go on when other’s we love have died. It’s a lot to unpack and it’s done with a steady hand and some delicate prose.
Alice is doing her best, trying to explore as best she can while remaining unseen, and it works – for the most part – until it doesn’t. And when things take a turn, it’s a sad, startling turn. Moses does a great job of keeping his cards close to his chest before showing his hand and it’s at that point where we see Alice having to grapple with her desire to live with what she is versus her torment over who she is and how it might be better to die. It could easily be seen as metaphorical toward living with chronic pain – or you could take it at face value and accept it as an immortal ‘thing’ detested by those who know she exists longing for an exit strategy.
The ending worked really well and had me so happy with how the events played out. Although, to be fair, it would’ve worked well emotionally for it to go in a completely different direction.
What I didn’t like: I’m not 100% sure I totally got the ‘why’ behind the reasoning of her human guide’s decision they made. I think I get it, but I think I would’ve been happier if it had been made that much more explicit.
Why you should buy this: This novella rips along and even with such a short page count, you’ll fall head over heels for Alice and root for her – especially when she just wants to make a phone call. Moses has really created a truly outstanding novella here, one that grinds at the heart of a question that a lot of us ponder late into the night – what’s the point of all of this and how do we keep going?