Genre: Literary Speculative Fiction
Publisher: Typehouse Literary Magazine
Pub. Date: February 2019
I want to start this review by sharing that the author, Mike Nees, is my son. I promise you that will not influence my critique. Mike has critiqued much of my own writing and he is fond of telling me not to heap praise on an author just because I know him, as this may harm his growth in the long run. He likes to tell me that my reviews often need to show more teeth. With that said, I will share that I am not always fond of Mike’s stories or even his novel. He writes in a genre I have never been able to put my finger on—A bit of magical realism in a dystopian setting with a strong dash of speculative fiction. Or, what he simply calls, “Mike’s crazy stuff.” Often his work is over the head of my non-speculative thinking brain. But just because I am not of fan of his preferred genres doesn’t mean I do not appreciate good storytelling. As a book reviewer, I simply consume too much literature not to be aware of when I am reading good writing. This short story is written with a skilled hand. Glad to know the English Lit degree paid off.
“The Shifts” is an entertaining short that carries a moral message. The title’s name is referring to factory work. The jobs are “a miracle” for the poor. Everyone fit will have work (…) twelve hours of pay, twelve minutes of work. The tale reads like a black-and-white (think “The Twilight Zone,”) mix of sci-fi, supernatural fantasy, and horror. There is also a strong dose of family drama, asking the question: Just what would you do for your child? For me, this is the real catch in the story. It touched my mother’s heart. The characters are unnamed, living in a village in an unmentioned location. (The author does write of a Boujaad rug, if that is a hint, I am not sure). This all gives the feel that you are somewhere in the Fourth Dimension. The author does let the reader know that his male protagonist is narrating his life story to his son. Sadly, even living in another dimension no one can afford their medical bills. Mike does a great job in showing corporate greed. Does “Shifts” read as good as Rod Serling’s best? The answer is no. Sterling’s episode “It’s a Good Life” is based on the 1953 short story written by Jerome Bixby. That short is so wonderful because it cleverly explains more on why those in power often have no moral compass. Still, “Shifts” is a merciless-creepy-good short that explores the tensions of society. Due to the author’s mixing of the genres, I recommend this story to those who enjoy speculative fiction, and to those who do not. The tale even has an ending with a twist that this reviewer didn’t guess.
About the author:
Mike Nees is a case manager for people living with HIV in Atlantic City. He hosts the city’s Story Slam series and has a BA in Creative Writing from Stockton University. His work has appeared in Matchbook Literary Magazine and HazMat Literary Review.
I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) short story from the author at no cost in exchange for an honest review.
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