Waiting Out Winter
by Kelli Owen
Thunderstorm Books (2011)
When the summer comes, so do the flies. I love the outdoors, but if I never see another mosquito, blackfly, no-see-um, or moose fly in my life, I will not lament the unbalance of nature's food chain. And that's one of the little things touched upon in Kelli Owen's novella, Waiting Out Winter: nature's balance.
Upon returning from their last hunting trip of the season, Nick and his friends discover their hometown and beyond has been deluged by flies. Streets are empty and windows are boarded up. It's only when Nick gets home and sees it too is barricaded that his wife and family tell him about the apocalyptic overrun of flies. That might not be so bad, you might say, if you've ever been in a region that's suffered an infestation of one type of insect or another. But these flies are genetically modified, turned aggressive and infected with a virulent strain of disease that is killing anyone who gets bitten. Originally devised as a way to thwart a nuisance bug problem, these flies have gone beyond their original design and turned a small town into a wasteland.
The paranoia of being bitten and trying to keep the flies out is bad enough, but couple that with the claustrophobic conditions and dwindling resources inside the house and Nick's family unit begins to erode. Oh, and throw in some wildlife roaming the streets for good measure. Bleak is a generous word to describe this town's chances.
While there were periodical jumps in the time line, with weeks being rocketed over with a mere paragraph that I felt a bit jarring, the pace of the book along with the intense conflict Nick has between protecting his family and retaining his sanity worked really well. I also managed to develop a brief aversion to house flies after reading this chiller of a novella. Kelli has a real knack for giving small towns a bit of an epic vibe with the torment she puts her characters through, not unlike her turn with The Neighborhood, which I reviewed earlier this year.
It's creepy, it's crawly, it's a keeper.